Posted in food, mindset, physical health, tips

Getting a handle on food “treats”

First, let me just say that I hate that the word “treat” is used in describing food. We’re not dogs! I prefer healthy/unhealthy or something else less emotionally charged.

(Also, this post might push buttons and require a visit to the disclaimer post…)

We often talk about treats with regards to food. Some variation in how we define it, but for many people, sweets are treats. Sometimes fried or greasy food. Sometimes alcoholic or otherwise caloric beverages.

“Sometimes foods,” as they’re sometimes referred.

So in the context of how often we consume “sometimes foods” where we’re praising ourselves for not indulging often, most of the time, each item is being counted separately.

“I only have ice cream once a month. And beer just after running club. Wings only when we’re watching football. Cake just at parties. Pie at holidays. Chocolate for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and whenever someone gifts me some.”

For some of us, that would clean up our eating. And I’m not here to say that any of this is double-or-nothing. But if you’re deep enough into this process that the above describes your typical pattern and you’re not happy with how you feel, it might be time to tighten that up a bit.

Lump the treats.

ALL the sweets are one, so “once a week” means anything sweet once a week. (That includes the holiday AND the day after in the same week…)

ALL the fried and greasy are one, so “once a week” means anything fried or greasy once a week.

ALL the drinks are one, so “once a week” means any caloric beverage (beer, wine, milkshake, frappuccino, soda, sweet tea, and on and on) once a week.

If you’re already there and you’re not happy with how you feel, lump some of them: ALL the sweets AND fried/greasy are one, so “once a week” means pizza but not a cookie.

If you’re already there and you’re not happy with how you feel, lump ALL of them. Help your kids do it, too.

Or—

Keep them separate and lengthen the time between. Instead of once a week, once every two weeks. Once a month. Only meaningful foods at meaningful times. (My grandmom’s pie at Thanksgiving but not any of the junk at the Superbowl party.)

(The less you eat them, the less tempting they become over time. And many of them eventually don’t taste good any more.)

 

 

 

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Posted in exercise, food, know better do better, mindset, motivation, physical health

It’s normal. But is it good?

At some point recently, my Facebook memories claimed this quote:

“I have eaten a lot (for me) of junk food in the last week or two, and I feel like crap. It is amazing to me that how I feel right now used to be ‘normal.'”

If we’ve never been on a path with decent health habits (food, exercise, sleep, stress, connection), we have no idea how much better we could feel.

I had no idea.

How we feel is normal. But “used to it” and “good” aren’t synonyms.

Sometimes (read: usually) taking the first steps to healthier does not instantly yield the results we want. I know countless people who were completely sedentary, started exercising, and complained bitterly that they were exhausted and it was a myth that exercising gives you more energy.

It’s not a myth. But it’s also not a 5-hour-energy drink. Give it a couple of weeks or a month.

Any time I don’t feel like exercising and go out and do something anyway, I felt better after. Always. As a general rule, I feel better when I exercise regularly. I’m not an outlier in this.

Most of us know we feel better with a good amount of sleep. (What “a good amount” is varies pretty wildly.) It’ll take a week or more of regular, sufficient sleep before it yields results.

Stress is a huge weight. I go through periods where I’m able to relieve myself of some of it and feel much lighter. I’m working on managing what’s left better in hopes of maintaining some of that buoyancy when I’m dealing with situations that I can’t get off my plate.

Food plays an enormous role in mood and energy level (which are themselves linked). A reasonably healthy diet on a consistent basis is better fuel for your body. When you have good fuel, you run better. But again, it takes more than two days (or two meals haha) of eating well before you feel it. And if you’re eliminating allergens or irritants, it could take a month before it’s all cleared your system, depending on which food.

If you’re running on low energy, I challenge you to start tweaking your basic health habits and see how they help you. Start with just one.

Change your normal.

 

 

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Posted in mental health, mindset, physical health, thoughtfulness

Relaxing vs. wasting time

I’ve had so many conversations with people that follow this general path:

“I was laying on the couch and reading but couldn’t help but think about all the other things I had to do and how I was wasting time.”

We can’t “be productive” all the time.

In muscle strength building, the time spent strength training causes lots of micro-damages to the muscles. We get stronger when we rest; the muscles have time to repair the damages which makes them stronger. Over time, the muscles adapt to the increased demand: increased strength.

Our daily lives cause lots of micro-damages to our spirit (or soul, psyche, self, or whatever you want to call it). We need rest to be able to recover, just like our muscles.

It’s not wasting time. Preparing healthy food, getting enough sleep, exercising are all not wasting time (though they definitely use time); relaxing isn’t wasting time, either.

For me, the difference seems to be intent.

If I’m fooling around online, reading articles, watching videos, playing games because I’m procrastinating, I don’t feel rested when it’s done—I feel stressed, kind of ashamed, and somewhat drained because I have all this stuff to do and I’m wasting—or wasted—time.

On the other hand, if I decide that today I’m going to spend an hour just reading articles and watching videos or playing games, I feel OK about it.

As a small tangent, I feel the best when my down time isn’t on a screen. I think that’s because I have spent so much procrastination time doing these things that there’s a subconscious connection between emotional fatigue and non-productive work on screens.

So. Schedule yourself some down time to spend in a way that helps you relax and recharge. I would love for this time to happen daily, but given life as it is, that’s just not feasible for many of us.

That said, if you take 15 of the minutes you spend on email and social media to power down, suddenly, there’s time on more days than we thought.

My main go-tos are reading, coloring, playing ukulele, and drawing or doing calligraphy (which I just started and am subsequently still really bad at). With the hammock back in action, just laying in it for a while sometimes hits the spot. Occasionally, a massage is in order.

How do you relax? Are you able to set aside the to-do lists for a while?

 

 

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Posted in about me, differences, exercise, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health

I am a runner, but…

I’m here today to give some confidence to the slow and less enthusiastic among us.

I’m a runner. I’m slow. Lately, I’ve been running 12- to 12.5-minute miles. At the fastest I’ve ever been, I ran 5K in 29:20 (or something close to that). Once.

(I had only one other 5K under 30 minutes. It was a Komen run. I’ve long since learned about the dark side of the Komen organization and I don’t patronize their events. But I couldn’t get rid of my only sub-30 bib, so I trained to be faster—something I nearly never do—just so I could break 30 minutes again, have a new bib, and get rid of the Komen one. Also in that race, I placed second in my age group, something I don’t anticipate happening again unless there are only two of us.)

Anyway, I’m slow, but I get the job done.

Also? I don’t like running long distances. On regular evening runs around the neighborhood, I’ll go between two and four miles. Four was more common when I ran with running club. I just ran four this morning for the first time in probably two years. (I did a 10K last winter, but we walked a fair amount.)

Two half marathons taught me that I don’t like running half marathons and, until further notice, don’t need to run another. (I’d walk one, if someone was interested in walking together.)

For a while, I had stopped listening to anything while I ran. That turned out to be good, because I could use the time to clear my mind. Most of the time, I still run without music or podcasts, but every now and then, I don’t want to be all up in my head and take something to listen to. Sometimes The Climbing Daddy and I run together and talk.

Also? I don’t love running. I’ve never had a runner’s high. After a couple of miles, it starts to feel tedious.

But I love (and need) the benefits that come from running. Nothing is a better mood stabilizer. Can be done nearly anywhere. Just need weather-appropriate clothes and decent shoes (and good socks, if not in Vibrams).

So, to the people who run without loving it, who don’t run far, who don’t run fast—I am one of your people. If you need a running partner for a dose of anti-depressant, let me know.

 

 

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Posted in cancer, education, know better do better, parenting, physical health

If it’s carcinogenic, why is it for sale?

I wrote the other day about how I believe it’s prudent to be mindful about what we purchase, use, eat, drink because of negative health implications. It’s easy to be overwhelmed because there are so many carcinogens (and that says nothing of all of the crap that’s causing other adverse effects.)

So if we know there are problems with all of these things, how are they so widespread?

The short answer has two parts: 1- profits; 2- no oversight.

The FDA has rules about most foods (meat, eggs, dairy are largely under the jurisdiction of the USDA), but not about much else that’s useful to us in a direct-consumer context.

From the cosmetics page of FDA’s website: “Cosmetics are not subject to FDA premarket approval. It is the firm’s responsibility to ensure that its cosmetic products and ingredients are safe and properly labeled, in full compliance with the law.”

If you’re trying to avoid phthalates (like I do), sometimes they’re on labels, but “the regulations do not require the listing of the individual fragrance ingredients; therefore, the consumer will not be able to determine from the ingredient declaration if phthalates are present in a fragrance. Also, because the FPLA does not apply to products used exclusively by professionals–for example, in salons–the requirement for an ingredient declaration does not apply to these products.” (source)

(I do my best avoid everything with general categories as an ingredient, including fragrance, natural or artificial colors, natural or artificial flavors. There are long lists of all of the things that word/phrase can include, and none of those lists is all things I’m comfortable with.)

From the dietary supplements page of FDA’s website: “FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.”

Household cleaners are marginally regulated by the EPA and are required to list ingredients that are potentially harmful or active disinfectants. According to Scientific American:

“The government only requires companies to list ‘chemicals of known concern’ on their labels. The key word here is ‘known’,” she says. “The fact is that the government has no idea whether most of the chemicals used in everyday cleaning products are safe because it doesn’t test them, and it doesn’t require manufacturers to test them either.”

She adds that the EPA, under the terms of 1976’s Toxic Substances Control Act, “can’t require chemical companies to prove the safety of their products unless the agency itself can show that the product poses a health risk—which the EPA does not have the resources to do since, according to one estimate, it receives some two thousand new applications for approval every year.” She cites a recent study by the non-profit Environmental Working Group, which found that the EPA approved most applications within three weeks even though more than half provided no information on toxicity whatsoever.

So basically, companies can use anything not already known as unsafe, whether it’s known to be safe or not.

We’ve already seen how difficult it is to get something that is GRAS (generally regarded as safe) to be taken out of food and other products when they’re shown to be not safe. (see: cigarettes, BPA, glyphosate, flame retardants, and on and on…)

Testing for these things—when it’s done—is typically done in high doses over the short term. So adverse affects are seen in quantities much higher than our consumption. We’re told that this is evidence of their safety.

The problem is, there’s no testing for consistent, long-term, low-dose exposure. There’s no testing for how these things react to each other, or how we react to all of them together.

There is, however, an explosion of cancer, of neurological disorders, of hormonal disruptions. (I need to write about hormones one of these days…) Correlation isn’t causation, but some causation has been shown, but it doesn’t apply to us because the quantities needed for those effects are higher than what we consume… And here we are again.

As far as children’s products go … there are rules, but the rules don’t stop products from hitting the shelves—they just instigate recalls. Which are mostly voluntary. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) oversees children’s products, among other things. But here’s the catch: the CPSC starts to look into a potential problem with a product after consumers or companies report issues. The whole chain is reactive.

And so, carcinogenic crap is everywhere. Because there aren’t safeguards in place at a systemic level. Which is why the burden is left on us to know what to look for, to read labels, and so on.

My opinion (if you didn’t already know it) is that it’s flat-out wrong. Getting products on the shelves quickly isn’t more important than consumer safety, in my opinion … but I’m not the one (or one of the ones) in charge.

I could rant for a long time about profits, about conflicts of interest, about lobbying… maybe another day.

 

 

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