Tuesday, May 25, 2010

If nobody thinks it's broken...how we gonna fix it?

This is a post from a health blogger Tony Findlay at Human E.C.O. System. It's a bit long, but I well worth your time...

Ok so over the last week I have seen quite a few news articles on various health stories, ranging from complaints in a lot of countries about their health care systems and a lack of possible solutions, to young school age children eating badly with poor food options from their school canteens, to the availability of "stimulant drinks" now becoming the basic form of low quality nutrient intake in mornings and-- of course-- obesity numbers rising.

It got me to thinking. Do people really care about their own lives?

Contrary to the best intentions of fitness and health professionals, who are trying to restore the health of their populations, it would appear that no, they don't care. You see, to make positive health changes means taking action which would then require people to take personal responsibility.

This seems to be an unlikely result-- and more importantly, a sad reality for the future. The number of overweight / obese members of the global population continues to increase, and this is not exclusive to adults. The number of children around the world has not decreased, meaning a future of overweight adults filled with preventable diseases.

 These "weight" situations brought about by too much body fat lead to other health conditions which, sadly, can be fatal. So I guess there is no disputing from the research that is currently available, that the root cause of a lot of "preventable deaths" could be changed if only the majority didn't have an "over-eating disorder".

Why would someone willingly choose a life that is fraught with pain through disease to then further exacerbate that discomfort by indulging in supposed "comfort food?" Now that is a roller coaster ride that only has one outcome-- bad. Talk about food being a short term "fix" with long term consequences.

In reply to an article in TIME magazine on another professional networking site, one of the groups I am a member of, there was debate about the pros and cons of exercise being used as a way to get thin. I think that a lot of people believe this to be possible.

  This was part of my response: "For the record, exercise doesn't make you thin-- nor should we care. Rather let's learn how to show exercise as a human benefit then we can stop worrying about how we look, and focus on how we better perform in the human race called life."

If we take time to focus on the exercise aspect, then we should equally also address how food plays a role in our lives. It began as a source of nourishment while we avoided dinosaurs-- or so I hear. Then over time and through "marketing," it seems to have evolved through the ages to the point we're at now. Multi-billion dollar weight loss companies overlook the nutrient value and only stress calories to validate using weight values from standing on scales as the net sum of who we are as people. And don't even get me started about TV shows that use "edited emotional footage" to supposedly inspire others.

Compounding this is the marketing by food and drink companies who only "push the good times" in adverts in these shows, but, while it is true they provide low quality versions that appeal to the masses, there is no one pushing each of us to purchase these products.

So we have now come full circle in this blog-- back to personal responsibility.
If no one believes that they are at risk, as being fat isn't an issue until the Doctor says that it is and with Diabetes II on the increase (oh yeah, that is the preventable and if caught early, the reversible one), how we can stimulate people to focus on this simple fact:

Eat less and Move more.

 We the fitness industry members seem to have been unsuccessful in our efforts so far, but if we don't begin to have more luck then it seems that there is nothing but pain on the way for the health systems of every country all over the world. It certainly has inspired medical options as the alternative source of creating a healthy change, but sadly none of these have been proven to beat the original concept of using calories through movement and only eating what we need to survive.
Start today -- be responsible for your own "weight" and lower your fat levels.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cake for my baby

This weekend my neighbor had an outdoor party-- a festive affair with white tents, people milling about, and lots of yummy looking food.

My 4-year old spent most of the afternoon with his nose pressed against the windowpane-- yes, the one that looks over at the neighbor's house. (If he was older he'd run the risk of being arrested as a Peeping Tom.)

He was being so good, wanting to go to the party SO bad, and being the most graceful 4 year old I've ever seen about not being invited (it was a 60th wedding anniversary-- not exactly his demographic). When he asked if he could run over and say hi to the neighbor he adores, I told him yes. I admonished him to stay on our side of the lawn and wait until he saw her, then wave and say hi and come running right back.


The neighbor said he stood there as serious as a little sentinel, hands behind his back, until he saw her and waved her over.

My little guy came back with the biggest, most luscious piece of carrot cake I've ever seen.

We wolfed that baby down in about 15 seconds flat.

And then?

I didn't.

Oh yes, I did.

I sent him back for seconds.

Rehearsed with him to ask for a piece of cake for his baby sister.

If you'd tasted that cake, you'd have done the same thing!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where's the beef....from?

Oh, dear. 

Yes, I've seen Food Inc, and King Corn, and Fresh....

And still, there's something inherently horrifying when I see the way modern meat is "grown."

I'm not going to climb onto my soapbox...for now. Summarized here in a few quotes are the BEST reason why we should be eating locally grown, pasture fed beef (from farmers we know by name):

"Sick dairy cows are given medications to help them recover, but if it appears an animal will die, it's often sold to a slaughterhouse as quickly as possible, in time to kill it before it dies.”

"In 2008, Mexico refused a shipment of U.S. beef. The meat exceeded Mexico's regulatory upper limit for copper. The meat was returned to the United States -- where it was sold and eaten.

"Based on our [FDA] review, we found that the national residue program is not accomplishing its mission of monitoring the food supply for harmful residues. Together, Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), FDA, and EPA have not established thresholds for many dangerous substances (e.g., copper or dioxin3), which has resulted in meat with these substances being distributed in commerce."

 (The reason these photos are so small and grainy is because they are take from the air, which is about as close as you can get to being let into an industrial beef lot these days.)

Additionally, FSIS does not attempt to recall meat, even when its tests have confirmed the excessive presence of veterinary drugs.”

“We also found that FSIS does not recall meat adulterated with harmful residue, even when it is aware that the meat has failed its laboratory tests. Between July 12, 2007, and March 11, 2008, FSIS found that four carcasses were adulterated with violative levels of veterinary drugs8 and that the plants involved had released the meat into the food supply. Although the drugs involved could result in stomach, nerve, or skin problems for consumers, FSIS requested no recall."

Well, there is good news left in the world, and happy cows too! 

Numerous communities across the U.S. are riding the wave of local food movements promoting sustainability, local agriculture, natural food and farm co-ops and CSA's. Here is an excellent link of dozens of sites where you can get more information.

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture


Why US Meats Are Horrendous: The Vulgar Truth About What You Eat with that Steak or Burger: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/05/18/american-meat-is-even-more-disgusting-than-you-thought.aspx

The Burger that Shattered Her Life: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/health/04meat.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

Michael Pollan: Discover How Your Beef is Really Raised: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2002/04/17/cattle1.aspx

AlterNet May 1, 2010

FSIS National Residue Program for Cattle (PDF) 

This just made a rainy day better...

I really like this.

Maybe because I've been drinking tea all day.

Maybe because the day is gray and rainy.

Maybe because it's wistful and sweet.

Maybe I don't need a reason.

Monday, May 17, 2010

One of those weeks....

Not a lot of action last week. So many things I "should" do...so many things I didn't want to.

Really just wanted to check out of life for a while and watch all 28 episodes of DVR'd "Friends." (Don't those people ever work?)

I've got writer's block.

Blogger's block.

Work block.

Workout block. 

Housework block.  (Ok, that's not uncommon.)

If I could have mommy's block I would, but it's a little hard because my kids are too dang cute.
 (And it could also be interpreted as neglect by Social Services. No thanks!)

I'm sure it will pass quickly!

(I did find some funky-cool graphics to go along with this post, though...)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Where the Hooter Girls are Dancing

Or, "How I Managed to Lose My Child at the Beach with Ten Other Family Members Within a 20 Foot Radius, aka The Most Terrifying 30 Minutes of my Entire Life."
 Spent a fantastic, wild weekend with six of my nine siblings over the weekend when my older sister graduated in Virginina Beach.

Yeah, you read right. Nine siblings. Six this weekend. Plus the matriarch of the family, three spouses (or spouse equivalent), and five grandchildren.

{How many people is that???}

Four cars, plus my aunt, cousin, her hubby and their son were with us much of the time.

A few snapshots:

Friday evening, grocery shopping for dinner. We decided to make tacos & burritos. 5lbs of ground beef, 2 lbs. of refried beans, a lb. of tomatoes, head of lettuce, 24 oz of soure cream, and a JUG (don't know how big it was) of salsa. Oh yeah, plus torillas and taco shells.

And a gallon of sangria!

In the middle of dinner preparation, two sisters and I are doing an intense P90X plyometrics workout. My mom (a manager at Curves) is correcting our form. Madhouse. Babies underfoot, and I think Natalia got stepped on at least once or twice.

Saturday morning. AMAZING. Entire family out of the condo by 7:15am for 9:30am graduation. Loaded into the cars and on the road by 7:30am.

I am not sure there is a miracle greater than that.

There are over 1,000 graduates at the ceremony. We can't keep track of our own 15 peeps. Sergio heard rumors of cookies and juice, and off he goes with a couple of kids. I text him after a while, "Where are you and the boys?" His response, "Where the Hooter girls are dancing." (This is Regent University, after all. One of the most conservative Christian schools in the U.S., possibly the world.)

Saturday afternoon, off to the beach. It's a friggin' sandstorm. The kids are crying and getting sand in their eyes, but eventually they acclimate to the sting of sand whipping them and get to playing.

Then the worst moment of my life: my 4 year old vanishes.

Vanishes. Into thin air. surrounded by cousins, aunts, uncles, parents. He is simply gone.

One valuable thing about a big family is they make one hell of a search party-- off we go in all different directions. 10 minutes later we haven't found him, and I call 911.

What follows is the longest 10 minutes of my entire life. I stay in one place, waiting for the police to show up, while my family and some other families continue to search. Each second is torment.

And then I get the text from Sergio: "They found him at Pier 30."

We are at Pier 20. He walked ten blocks, following a little friend at first, then looking for us and wandering away. A family found him, wrapped him in a towel, gave him a lollipop and called the police.

Any distinguishing characteristics? Why yes, Officer. He's wearing a blue Batman speedo, Brasilian style. "Yep," the Officer confirms. "We got a call about the blue speedo kid."

We are all crying when we're reunited. I can't imagine how parents go through this without ever finding their children. It's the most horrible experience I've ever known, and my heart bleeds for those who have endured worse than I. When we wrap him in our arms, Little Sergio is half-sobbing and half excited, saying he was scared and yet trying to explain to us about the police car where he got a ride. It's a sweet moment.

Well, after that everything is just dandy. On Mother's Day I awake to a sumptuous breakfast in bed. We spend a couple hours at the {fenced-in} pool and then we're off, headed back home.

Wild, wild East. Yippeeeeeee!

Here's photographic evidence:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What would they say?

It's highly likely that most of us has lost a loved one at some point in our lives.

Today I'm feeling keenly the loss of a good friend who perished during the earthquake in Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, 2010. He'd given all of his professional life-- over ten years-- to serving the world's most fragile populations in the most horrific places. 

Bosnia. 1999-2001

Kosovo. 2001-2003

Gaza. 2003-2005

Haiti. 2005-2010

I think about his young children: a preschooler and a toddler.

I think about his wife of 7 years.

I think of how swiftly and unexpectedly tragedy strikes.

I think of the words we never say.

Who ever thinks that they will get out of bed in the morning, foist themself into another "regular" day, but never walk back in that door to kiss their spouse or hug their children?

Was he in a good mood? Did he have a bad day? Was he looking forward to taking his kids to play after work? Was he excited about spending a quiet evening with his wife? Was he satisfied and content with the magnitude of improvements he was making for the people of Haiti? Was he looking towards the next chapter of his life, and what that might hold for himself and his family?

When I read the following poem it seemed a very fitting message. Maybe it's what my friend is telling me, the message he's sending across time and space. I'll take it to heart.

In loving memory of JP. 1974-2010

Look well to this day, for it and it alone is Life
In its brief course lie all the essence of your existence:

The glory of growth
The satisfaction of achievement
The splendor of beauty

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is but a vision
But today lived well makes every yesterday a dream of happiness...
And every tomorrow a dream of hope

Anonymous, 50 B.C.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It takes a forest...

From Eco Cycle: Working to Build Zero-Waste Communities

More than 41.5 billion pieces of mail advertisements were produced and distributed in the U.S in 2005, according to the Worldwatch Institute.  

It took more than 100 million trees to create all this bulk mail – that’s the equivalent of deforesting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months. 

Even though most junk mail can be recycled, 5.8 million tons of catalogs and other direct mailings ended up as trash in landfills or incinerators in 2005. 

And all this comes at a cost to our climate as well: The production and disposal of junk mail consumes more energy than 3 million cars
 Each of us will spend an average of eight months of our lives dealing with junk mail. It's time to reclaim our resources, our time and our mailboxes by stopping junk mail early and often!

Follow the link for ten easy steps on how to stop the flood of junk mail: 


(Don't have time for the ten steps? Go right to number 9: Hire someone to do it for you! For forty bucks a Junk Mail Removal Service will handle it. Now that sounds like a good use of some green...)

 Other sources: http://www.41pounds.org/

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

And if you were wondering...

...about the previous reference to Whole Foods, take a peek at this video about their veggies which are imported from China.

Just do the homework, dear readers. Purchase food from local farms where you can visit and get to know the growers. Better yet, try your hand at creating a small garden in your own backyard!

 Durham Farmer's Market, Durham NC

 And since this blog would be such a drag if we never included any good news, here is a fun, quick video about the value of eating organic:

You call that "natural?"

My kids know that grocery store = snack time. It works well for us. I buy serving size portions of something yummy & juicy and while we're shopping, we nibble on a healthy junk food I normally wouldn't buy and bring home. (Maybe that's why the old groceries had a soda fountain built in? So you couldn't haul the whole thing home and pig out on soda and ice cream. Hmmmm-- I think they were onto something.)

Let me admit here: I am a SUCKER for salty snacks. Which is why I don't bring potato chips or popcorn or pretzels or cheese curls back to the house because they will be sucked down my goozler in a split-second (especially if there is sour cream in the vicinity).

Last week, however, potato chips were on sale in the health food section. The good kind. Kettle brand, as well as another I hadn't seen before called Boulder Canyon. Mmmmm. New York Cheddar with Herbs and Parmesan & Garlic. Oh, yeah.

My kids looked at me like we just won the International Potato Chip Lottery, and we dug into those babies like it was our Last Supper.

Got home after shopping....putting stuff away... and for whatever reason, I decided to take a peek at the label.

Disclaimer: I am a rabid label reader. If there was a group called Label Readers Anonymous, I would be at every meeting. I've even got  Sergio reading labels now. (It's only taken 5 years, so ladies...don't give up hope.)

And then, dear readers, I saw it. Plain as day, clear as the zit on my face.


Now, if you know me, you know there are five additives that I will not buy if my life depends on it. They're like the Dirty Dozen, but so insidious and evil that all twelve awful qualities are wrapped up in just five.

1) Sodium nitrite
2) High fructose corn syrup
3) MSG
4) Artificial sweeteners (that includes YOU, Splenda)
5) Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil

And what, you may ask, did I find on the label of those natural potato chips? Any of these five? Not at first glance.

But you see, what makes me really crazy is that "natural" food companies can be just as deceptive as any other company. (Don't even get me started on Whole Foods-- I'll address that later.)

Check out the advertising: 

Kettle Brand:

* 0 grams trans fats
* No artificial colors or flavors
* No preservatives
* Non-GMO ingredients
* Gluten-free
* Absolutely nothing artificial
* Only real food ingredients

Boulder Canyon Natural Foods:

* All Natural, Gluten Free, 0 Trans Fats, 0 Cholesterol

The smart rats know we're becoming more savvy about the additives & preservatives in our food. So they come up with different names for the nasty chemicals they stick in "natural" products! Oy vey!

Yeast extract, ladies and gentleman, is a kinder, gentler sounding label for MSG.

Monosodium Glutomate, ladies and gentleman, has been linked to many debilitating & chronic illnesses, including addiction, stroke, epilepsy, degenerative disorders, brain trauma, neuropathic pain, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression -- all associated with the "glutamate cascade.

MSG is a neurotoxin, potentially toxic to everyone -- even to those people who do not respond with adverse reactions such as migraine headache, asthma, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, disorientation, and depression. 

Here is a helpful list of ways MSG is disguised in your food, courtesy of msgmyth.com:

MSG Gelatin Calcium Caseinate
Monosodium glutamate Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) Textured Protein
Monopotassium glutamate Hydrolyzed Plant Protein (HPP) Yeast Extract
Glutamate Autolyzed Plant Protein Yeast food or nutrient
Glutamic Acid Sodium Caseinate Autolyzed Yeast
Vegetable Protein Extract Senomyx (wheat extract labeled as artificial flavor)

Obviously, the best way to avoid MSG and other additives is to eat whole, raw, natural, unprocessed foods. However, when the mean munchies do hit, just make sure you're familiar with the new & improved ways MSG is sneaked into your "all-natural" junk food.

Even (especially) the natural foods you think you shouldn't have to check.

Label Readers Anonymous, anyone? It may be a lifelong condition, but not one I want to get rid of.


P.S. I've sent emails to both Kettle Brand and Boulder Canyon-- I'll be sure to let you know what I hear back from them!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Happens to the best of us...

Ok, so the whole fam went down in flames last night with pollen or allergies or Lord-only-knows-what. I went from 60-to-zero in an hour with an obstinate sinus headache & throat so sore I couldn't swallow. Finally two Tylenol at 3am (horrors!) just to get a couple hours' sleep.
Sergio was so miserable he came home from work early for hugs. Natalia took two naps. Little Sergio got to sit in front of the tube all afternoon-- I'll be making a sizable donation to PBS Kids in the near future. And I renamed all three children Snotty, Sneezy and Grumpy. 
I've taken about 40 alfalfa tablets today, so now I'm feeling slightly human again. Plus gobs of vitamin C, B-complex, zinc, a couple of probiotics, and my regular multi. But honestly, the alfalfa is what always gets me out of the hole. For more about this mah-velous plant (it is magic, I swear!) check out http://www.alfalfa.org/ and http://www.shaklee.com/products.php?sku=20153.

P.S. I would include a picture of Natalia with boogers and snot smeared all over her face & hair, but it's just too disgusting and I'm fairly certain it would show up as her year book photo in 17 years. So this miserable child will have to do. Yeah, he pretty much illustrates all of us right now except his face is far too clean.

Life in Abundance

A beautiful expression of purpose...  
Life in Abundance

The supreme prayer of my heart is not to be learned or "good," but to be Radiant.

I desire to radiate health, cheerfulness, sincerity, calm courage and good-will.

I wish to be simple, honest, natural, frank, clean in mind and clean in body, unaffected--ready to say, "I do not know," if so it be, to meet all men on an absolute equality--to face any obstacle and meet every difficulty unafraid and unabashed.

I wish others to live their lives, too, up to their highest, fullest and best. 

To that end I pray that I may never meddle, dictate, interfere, give advice that is not wanted, nor assist when my services are not needed. 

If I can help people I'll do it by giving them a chance to help themselves; and if I can uplift or inspire, let it be by example, inference and suggestion, rather than by injunction and dictation. 

That is to say, I desire to be Radiant--to Radiate Life.

Elbert Hubbard Courtesy of the Elbert Hubbard Roycroft Museum 

Elbert Hubbard was one of the most influential forces in American business as the new century opened and the Roycroft artisan community that he founded in East Aurora, New York was the first and most successful purveyor of Arts and Crafts in the nation.
Storming onto the national stage with a look that screamed artist and writings that preached a mixed message of rebellion and conformity, Hubbard captivated the popular imagination while promoting the ideals of industry. A prolific and widely read writer and publisher, he influenced popular culture and thought for nearly two decades.
 For more on Hubbard, visit http://www.pbs.org/wned/elbert-hubbard/index.php