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health

Aug 31 2015

Falling Off the Workout Wagon

by Camille B

Old-Running Shoes

One morning on my way to work I saw a woman, probably in her late seventies or early eighties, walking. She had on a jogging suit and was pushing her walker briskly around the parking lot of the shopping center.

Well, if that didn’t just put me to shame. You see, like everyone else, I’d had every intention of getting aboard the workout wagon this year and so far haven’t quite made it. (Truth be told I haven’t even been anywhere in the vicinity of the wagon at all.) As if that’s not bad enough, a recent weigh-in showed that I had gained two pounds, which may not be a whole lot, but it’s still two pounds in the wrong direction–up!

Even though it’s nobody’s fault but my own, I was still embarrassed but soon realized that I am not alone. While there are many who have managed to make great strides this year with eating right, exercising more and staying fit, there are just as many (and probably more) who never even started–or if they did, they eventually gave up along the way.

My sister recently accompanied a co-worker to LA Fitness who had been agonizing over the fact that more than half the year had passed and she still hadn’t used her gym membership. While at the gym, they encountered yet another member who was desperately trying to get out of her contract and get her money back because she too had been paying for a membership she wasn’t using.

According to an article on bodybuilding.com, 73% of people who set fitness goals as New Year’s resolutions gave them up. Another said that “…even though the gym will be packed in the weeks following New Year’s Day, many will lose their motivation quickly. More than one-in-ten (11%) U.S. adults who signed up for a gym membership as a New Year’s resolution quit before the year was over.”

So what do we do? Do we continue to beat ourselves up because the wagon has moseyed on down the road without us? Sit in the dust of self loathing, throwing a pity party while we wait for it to roll around again next year? No, I don’t believe that we should.

Personally, I’d call it just a set back. I mean we have jobs and kids and spouses, meetings, shopping, chores, and the list goes on and on. Some of us will probably never be able to adhere to a weekly routine at the gym. So, we should lower the bar a bit, be realistic, and set goals that are achievable for us.

Take me for example. I work in a building that has four floors, and as I’m writing this post I’m thinking to myself: Four floors  mean that I have four flights of stairs at my disposal every day that I can take advantage of instead of using the elevator. This means I won’t have to worry about squeezing in an hour or two at the gym after work. Combine the stairs together with parking my car at the farthest end of the supermarket parking lot as I run in to grab dinner items, and the brisk walk to and from my car, it all adds up.

What do you already do from day-to-day that you can incorporate into some regular exercise? For example:

  • Using part of your lunch hour can be another great way to squeeze in some daily exercise. Walk to go get lunch instead of taking your car. Or if you bring your lunch from home, save 15 minutes for your lunch time for a walk around the parking lot–and maybe enlist a co-worker for support.
  • That treadmill you paid so much money for really wasn’t meant to be a clothes rack. Go on and use it already. Combine it with something else–like reading a magazine, listening to music, watching an episode of Scandal.
  • Wake up 15 or 20 minutes earlier in the morning to exercise, before the busyness of the day clamors for your attention. Not a morning person? Then do it before dinner–maybe some sit-ups or crunches, or even a short workout video.
  • Power walking around your neighborhood is also a great way to get in some exercise every day, or at least a few times a week

Cut yourself some slack. You will never get it perfect every single time, some days will be better than others. Yeah, we all feel bad when we miss a day or two of our routine–but don’t feel so bad that you stop altogether. The main thing is to try and be consistent. And it may seem like small steps, but as the saying goes “more may be better than less, but some is definitely better than none!”

Below are some books and DVDs that I checked out at DCPL while writing this post. They include simple and practical exercises as well as overall healthy living habits that may be helpful to you.

Ageless with Kathy Smith: Total Body Turnaround (DVD)

Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes by Tom Rath

Fit in 5 by Gregory P. Whyte

Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It by James A. Levine

Sit and Be Fit (DVD)

 

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Apr 20 2015

Nose Notes 2015

by Hope L

sneezing

Well, allergy sufferers … it could be worse.

If you’re like me and you think Atlanta has to be the absolute worst place for allergies–what with the yellow blanket of pollen and our scratchy eyes, congested head, runny nose, dry cough, and tissue after tissue–you may be surprised to learn that Atlanta is not THE worst place for allergy sufferers.  At least not according to the  Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s 2015 ranking of 100 U.S. cities, which puts Atlanta at a rather unimpressive #61.  Jackson, MS, took the #1 spot.

Obviously, I was not polled for this vote!  I demand a recount!  Every year I resolutely commit to do something about my allergies.  Problem is, I see many people  coughing, blowing their noses, and making horrible noises with their nasal congestion, some even wearing surgical masks, and it is nearly impossible to get anywhere near a doctor.  My bathroom cabinet is crammed with nose sprays, decongestant pills, cough drops, cough syrup, and yes–last year’s sure-fire solution to my problem–nasal filters, which after one or two humiliating times, were put back with the rest of the other failures into the cabinet.

For a while when I lived in Columbia, SC, I went the way of allergy shots.  I am not even sure if they worked, but I’m seriously considering trying them again.  At least I felt like I was doing something.

“The fundamental issue with cities is the type of plant or grasses, trees or weeds that grow in the area,” says Daniel Waggoner, MD, an allergist in Mystic, CT, who is not affiliated with the list creation but is familiar with it.  He says that cities with an exceptionally high concentration of trees, grass, or weeds may have more pollen in the air.

From the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI):

“Local environmental factors such as wind, humidity, typical temperatures–and air pollution–also play a role in allergies,” notes Miguel Wolbert, MD, an allergist in Evansville, IN. and a certified pollen counter.

(A certified pollen counter?  I kid you not.  There are also certified mold counters. Below is the information from AAAAI on the certification process.)

National Allergy Bureau (NAB) counters are certified separately as a pollen counter or as a mold counter in order to use a Burkard Spore Trap or the equivalent. Certification is offered to counting stations that agree to provide data on a timely basis to the NAB. Following the required training course(s), the candidate for certification will be required to take a web-based qualifying exam. The exam covers the basics of pollen and fungal spore aerobiology, fundamentals of microscopy, sampler operation and conversion of counts into concentration as outlined on the “Knowledge Base for Counters” developed by the NAB. Reference materials for the exam are also provided. (The exact material for the exam will be determined by the NAB Certification Committee). Following successful completion of the qualifying exam, the candidate will be permitted to take the practical exams using slides.

Pollen Counter
To be certified for pollen, a counter must successfully count and identify grass, weed and tree pollen grains on one pollen slide, which would represent spring, summer and fall pollen types in most of the continental U.S. Once the slide is graded passing, the counter will be considered a certified NAB pollen counter and eligible to count and present data for the NAB aeroallergen network.

Mold Counter
To be certified for molds, a counter must successfully count and identify molds on a single slide. Once this slide is graded successful, the counter will be considered a certified NAB mold counter and eligible to count and present data for the NAB aeroallergen network.

You can get all kinds of additional information about pollen allergy at MedlinePlus from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. As allergy sufferers know, however, nature’s good news is on the horizon–the rainy season is upon us, conveniently arriving in time to wash much of the springtime pollen away.

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Apr 8 2015

National Stress Awareness Month

by Glenda

Stress-month-photo1April is National Stress Awareness Month. Stress is a natural part of life, but it can be harmful to your health. Long term stress can lead to illnesses and even increase your risk of developing serious health conditions like stroke and heart disease. Stress is natural, your Fight or Flight Response kicks in when a perceived threat approaches, your body releases stress hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones increase the heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels. Although this is a good thing when you are avoiding a disaster like falling off a mountain, continuous releasing of stress hormones can lead to serious illnesses.

To relieve some of the stress in your life you may have to change the way you approach stress. If the stressor is out of your control, let it go and move on. Control your reaction to stressors. Relax, this will make you better able to handle stress. Take time out for yourself every day, even if it is only twenty minutes. Take time to exercise to relieve stress. Do whatever you do to unwind–for instance, read a book, spend time with friends, whatever makes you happy.

Source U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,  http://www.foh.hhs.gov/Calendar/april.html

For more information about stress and how to relieve stress, visit your local library and check out these books:

The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living by Amit Sood

10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children–and Ourselves–the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happier Lives by Goldie Hawn with Wendy Holden

The 10-Step Stress Solution: Live More, Relax More, Reenergize by Neil Shah

The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson with Miriam Z. Klipper

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Not everyone will agree with me, but I have often thought that Americans worry about the wrong things. Hmm…I suppose that statement sounds a wee bit judgmental, and maybe it is, but really–are you honestly in danger of being killed by a hurtling chunk of meteorite on any random day? What, truly, are your chances of being trampled by a runaway horse? (Although, come to think of it, I was taking a walk in my neighborhood a number of years ago and was startled to see a horse gallop across Candler Road.) Of course, the world landscape changes ever more quickly and it can be difficult, living as we do in an age of media saturation and a 24/7 news cycle, not to find ourselves wringing our hands and tempted by that always fascinating (and always unwinnable) game of what if….  This recent NPR article  from the news magazine’s ongoing coverage of the devastating Ebola epidemic provides a timely reminder to those of us in the West (and elsewhere) that the thing that is most likely to kill us is our lifestyle.

There. I said it. Our lifestyle. Cardiovascular disease, mainly heart attacks and strokes, is the No. 1 killer worldwide. Worldwide. Much of this has to do with our lifestyle in the Western world and has become a reality for the rest of the globe as they increasingly adopt fast food, tobacco, and lack of physical activity as outsourced computer jobs lock workers to desks for hours at a time.  Although I haven’t smoked in decades and have what I consider a very healthy diet, I received my own wake-up call recently when my doctor diagnosed high blood pressure. My family has a very strong (and stubborn!) genetic component–my mother has high blood pressure as did her father and many of her other relatives–but I am nonetheless determined to bring my pressure into normal range as quickly as I can.

heart_tune_upNone of us, I think, should fret and stew about potential time bombs–but if you’re ready to take some realistic steps toward reducing your risks of cardiovascular disease, DCPL has resources to help.

The following books can provide useful information for all of us interested in addressing and preventing potential risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up: A Breakthrough Medical Plan to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Steven Masley

Heart 411: The Only Guide to Heart Health You’ll Ever Need by Marc Gillinov and Steven Nissen

Mayo Clinic Heart Healthy for Life! The Mayo Clinic Plan for Preventing and Conquering Heart Disease bloodpressuredown

Best Practices for a Healthy Heart: How to Stop Heart Disease Before or After it Starts by Sarah Samaan

Blood Pressure Down: The 10 Step Program to Lower Your Blood Pressure in Four Weeks–Without Prescription Drugs by Janet Bond Brill

 

 

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Dec 31 2014

Another One Bites the Dust!?

by Hope L

newyear3Well, another year has come and gone. And because of the New Year, but also because my birthday falls in a week or so, I usually take this time to reflect on my life and ask the tough questions: What am I doing?, Where am I going?, Has life passed me by?, and Should I clean out the basement?

I blogged some time back about how I was thinking of getting older since moving my parents to a retirement home. Actually, it was more of a WHEN DID I GET OLD??!!! meltdown, complete with commentary and suggestions by luminaries like Suzanne Somers and Dave Barry and specialists on memory and aging. I can’t remember what I said, but it could have involved a tantrum or a curse word or two.

Now though, I am sort of looking forward to the New Year. And I have some good news to report. Yes, straight from my current, regular-must-read, AARP: The Magazine (available at a number of DCPL branches–check with your local branch), I just discovered “The Good News About Bad Habits” in the Dec./Jan. Healthy You issue (p. 14).  Let me share some bad habits which can actually be good for you.

Habit #1: Having Coffee for Breakfast (just coffee) – Why it’s not so bad: Breakfast is vital–if you’re bailing hay. But if the most physically demanding thing you do is reboot your computer, you can get away with little or no breakfast. In fact, two new studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition find that missing this meal doesn’t affect weight, cholesterol or resting metabolism.

Habit #2: Obsessively Watching House of Cards (and I’m guilty of this) – Why it’s not so bad: Taking time to see what Frank and Claire Underwood are up to is not only OK, it can stimulate the brain as you keep up with the complex plot, notes pop culture expert Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good for You.

Habit #3:  Occasionally Blowing Your Stack – Why it’s not so bad:  If you get steamed but never release it, you’re eventually going to blow like a shaken can of soda. Suppressing anger isn’t healthy, says Sandra Thomas, a professor at the University of Tennessee. A study she co-authored showed that older women who expressed their anger–albeit in healthier ways than blowing their top–had lower levels of the inflammatory markers that are linked to cardiovascular disease. (WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THIS YEARS AGO?!!)

Habit #4: Sharing Harmless Gossip – Why it’s not so bad: Sharing harmless gossip (You’ll never believe what Bob told Bill…) with friends or co-workers can build social bonds and boost some positive behaviors, according to a recent University of Michigan study.

“Habit #5:  Intending to Cut the Grass, but… zzzzz – Why it’s not so bad: Older adults who take a daily 30-minute nap get a much-needed midday pick-me-up without a trip to Starbucks, say experts at the National Sleep Foundation.

Well, by golly, I think I’ll follow this sage advice and hang onto some good, bad habits. And maybe next year I’ll clean out the basement…

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Oct 10 2014

Fed Up or Fulfilled

by Rebekah B

Hello readers,

When I was a little girl, my mother claimed that tea tasted so much better when drunk out of a beautiful porcelain cup. She would get out her best tea set dishes, Royal Crown Derby to be exact, and she trusted me and my sister to be careful not to break them. Although there are many subjects on which my family and I don’t agree, I think there was a great deal of wisdom in my mother’s approach to the proper enjoyment of tea. tea_royalcrownderby

As I muse over a selection of my recent readings and viewings of films, I find a common theme running through most of them: Fulfillment, health, and finding balance in life. Recently, my son showed me a Buzzfeed article showing school cafeteria meals from around the world. It is interesting to see how various countries present their meals, many of them using “real” dishes, silverware, and glass goblets. Whole foods, prepared with care, and the importance of care and beauty, attachment to traditions…these seem to be aspects of life too often ignored by our culture of convenience in America. What if the quality of care taken in the preparation of our meals, the way we grow our foods, and the way we treat one another actually enhances the nutritional value of the food we eat and the ability of our bodies to better process these foods?

school lunch france

I often feel that it is an integral part of American culture to be (in my opinion) highly competitive and dissatisfied. This state of incompleteness gives us goals, things to do, things to buy to improve our condition and lot in life.  We are all about fixing things without taking into account that perhaps our enhancements are not always needed. Although few of us actually stop to consider this aspect of our culture, there exists a concerted effort by factions of all kinds to make us feel as if we are somehow not good enough as we are right now. Doing and accomplishing is generally considered more important than simply being and joyfully accepting reality exactly as it is. This predominance of masculinity, that in order to be worthy, we must constantly modify ourselves and our environment, weighs me down.

urgency

After living in France for nearly 18 years, and after 10 years in the U.S., I have realize that France seems a much more balanced yet more conservative culture than ours. The conservative aspect is the feminine, an attachment to tradition and rituals of life that keep the people and the country stable and fairly happy. The attention to the quality of food, of conversation, and the devotion to agricultural traditions, preventive health care, abundant vacation time, and family life are all aspects of nurturing that counter-balance the rush of modern life and the constant changes brought about by science and technology. Both aspects of life are necessary for balance.

kids playing

In the United States, our mainstream culture has cut most of us off from many of the nurturing and artful traditions that fulfill us and that connect us to nature, to our ancestors, and to our own nature as human beings. Without a constant connection to our inner source–which can be personal or collective–we may feel untethered, and the results of the imbalance are evident throughout our primarily masculine-driven society. Anyone who watches the evening news will observe an excess of violent and anti-social behaviors, and if you look around your neighborhood, more than likely, you’ll observe a growing lack of community. People are addicted to work, to sugar, to their electronic devices. Everyone seems to be driven to perform, and yet no performance ever seems good enough. Social media promotes endless chatter, and yet there seems to be little or no time for real conversation, for cooking or eating meals together as a family, for finding meaning in the simple acts of daily life. Instead, we are offered entertainment to distract us from our discomfort and sense of disconnection. Convenience reigns, yet disease is also equally prominent. Our American lifestyle is out of balance.

While I personally believe that culture is not the answer to everything, and that there is no ideal collective or individual way to be or to live, I do find it interesting to observe and to compare how various societies deal with what it means to be human. As creative and complex beings, it is challenging to be human, as we are continually required to reinvent ourselves. The biggest challenge of all is self-awareness and self-love. In the meantime, why not try to use your best dishes every day, celebrate any occasion with a long dinner around the table, without any scheduled activities or events, and observe what it’s like to simply enjoy whatever happens during your day, without any expectations.

Here are some of my recent reads and views…some in progress:

Fed Up, a 2014 documentary by Stephanie Soechtig with Katie Couric.  I definitely recommend this film for viewing by all parents and anyone who feels concerned about the obesity epidemic, the omnipresence of sugar in the diets of our children (and adults), and the state of public health in the United States.

Year of No Sugar: A Memoir, by Eve O. Schaub.  The story of a mom who grew up with a deep and abiding love of home-baked desserts and for whom sugar was the chemical equivalent of true love. She basically transformed her own life and that of her family after viewing a documentary about the evils of sugar in our diet. She decided to embark on a year-long experiment to mostly ban all added sugar from her family’s diet, with the exception of a monthly treat and birthdays. The book details the emotional roller coaster of the experiment. What impressed me in particular was that new family closeness grew, as well as creativity and cooperation. The children seemed to adapt well for the most part, and they learned to cook and create new recipes. When the year came to an end, to some extent sugar was re-incorporated in various ways into the family’s diet. All of the family members were transformed by the experience of trying to find ways to compensate for their sweet tooth.

Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size, by Julia Cameron, 2007.  This is a book for the creative person who feels that he or she is not sufficiently fulfilled creatively-speaking, and who is probably compensating for that frustrated feeling by eating too much.  Ms. Cameron noted in many of her other workshops that participants were leaner going out, and she began to examine the connection between frustrated creativity and weight gain. She explains that the more we express our feelings with the written word, the less we are driven to eat for unhealthy reasons. The fulfillment that comes from expressing the inner self satisfies the hunger, and the weight is lost without real effort.

Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, To Near Death, To True Healing, by Anita Moorjani, 2013. This book is a highly personal account of one woman’s inner transformation. Ms. Moorjani grew up in Hong Kong. Exposed to multiple cultures in her youth, she was pushed to conform and to repress her individual dreams and desires for her life. She describes how she believes fear (specifically the fear of cancer) and repression (of herself in order to obtain approval by her family and peers) led her body to rebel, causing her to develop lymphoma, from which she very nearly died. After all of her organs began to shut down and she drifted into a coma, Ms. Moorjani was not expected to recover, and yet she experienced a miraculous withdrawal of the disease which doctors had given a terminal diagnosis. The experience also transformed her thinking and freed her to live according to her true nature and personality. I was personally more drawn to her choice to fully love and embrace herself and all of life without judgment–and to her realization that heaven is not a place, but a state of being–than to the near death experience and healing, of which I have read many similar accounts. I have observed that people who have touched the extremes of human experience enjoy a refreshed view of the real. While it is not necessary to experience near death in order to live life with the awareness that we are all inter-connected and that everything we think, say, or do affects everything and everyone else, it is nice to know that there are others who are able to appreciate life and reality for what it is, simply and without judgment of self and others.

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Sep 19 2014

Eating Right…The Debate

by Dea Anne M

Battling a cold virus recently, and suffering defeat, brought me to wonder–can the way we choose to feed ourselves really help to keep us healthy? For myself,  when I feel the very first ticklings of a cold coming on I can sometimes fend it off by eating dishes heavily laced with garlic and ginger. Even just slurping up good old chicken soup can help. Sometimes. Maybe.

My regular diet is fairly omnivorous and marked by ongoing attempts to get as many vegetables into it as I can. (I’m glad I like them!). But is there really an optimal diet for human beings? Leaving aside issues around unequal distribution of wealth and resources, industrial versus sustainable farming (which my fellow blogger Rebekah has written about quite admirably here), and the possible moral issues posed by the consumption of animals and their products, is there one correct way to eat in order to maintain health? As with so many things, there’s more than one opinion about this question and plenty of advocates for any stance that you can imagine. Let’s investigate some of these through resources available at DCPL. Be aware that some of these titles refer to weight loss, but I suspect that this marketing slant may come more from the publishers than the authors. The primary emphasis in these books seems to be the restoration, and maintenance, of optimal health through a “correct” diet.

First up is the Traditional Foods diet. This school of thought advocates a return to the diet of our ancestors and incorporates pasture-raised meats, wild fish, and organic fruits and vegetables along with whole grains. The idea is nourishingto eliminate from our diet all overly processed food and, basically, anything that–as Michael Pollan would say–our grandparents (or great grandparents!) wouldn’t recognize as food.  A typical meal of Traditional Foods will probably look a lot like your childhood Sunday dinner–that is, if you grew up as I did with a mother and grandmothers who cooked from scratch. Where the advocates of Traditional Foods may lose some people is with their emphasis on organ meats. That can be a hard sell if you didn’t grow up consuming them–as we don’t much in this country. An even more controversial aspect of Traditional Foods is its advocacy of raw milk consumption. The Food and Drug Administration warns that raw milk can pose serious health risks and retail availability of raw (i.e., unpasteurized) milk for nourished kitchenhuman consumption is strictly controlled in most states with many banning it altogether. Raw milk’s defenders argue that processed milk lacks key nutrients and helpful bacteria that keep people healthy.  In any case, the debate rages on. If you want to find out more about the Traditional Foods diet, you would do well to start with Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. This book is encyclopedic in scope and depth and includes not only many recipes, but also a vast amount of background information to help get you oriented. For an updated approach to the topic, check out Jennifer McGruther’s The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle. The author lives in the mountains of Colorado and her specific approach and choice of local ingredients will vary from what is available here and in other parts of the world. Regardless, the book is very informative and is packed with stunning photographs.

A subject of recent debate is the Paleo diet, which seems to have as many passionate detractors as defenders. The Plaeopersonal diet takes the idea of eating only what our ancestors ate even further back than the Traditional Foods diet does. Basically, if an ancient hunter-gather didn’t eat it, then you shouldn’t either. The diet guidelines call for meat, fish, non-starchy vegetables, berries, nuts, and seeds. A strict interpretation of the diet eliminates all grains, potatoes, and dairy products. The lack of processed food in the diet seems more than laudable, but the sometimes staggering quantities of animal protein might give some (including myself) pause. If you think the Paleo diet might be for you, pick up Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life by Chris Kresser. Kresser’s approach is a bit less strict than some and his guidelines allow you to tailor your diet to include some grains and dairy. For a somewhat stricter interpretation of the Paleo approach, try The Primal Blueprint Cookbook by Mark Sisson with Jennifer Meier.

The central tenet of the Raw Foods diet is that any food cooked at 115 degrees or above has lost much of its nutritional value and may actually be harmful to consume. Advocates for this way of eating recommend raw, or minimally bradprocessed, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Some variations of the diet can include eggs, dairy products, fish, meat and some fermented foods like sauerkraut or kefir. The diet sounds great for those of us who adore fruit and vegetables. Less entrancing, at least to me, is the idea of consuming raw animal protein. I consider myself a relatively adventurous eater, but I have never summoned the courage to order steak tartare and I find the prospect of consuming sashimi without its usual pillow of rice more than a little daunting.  Still (and keeping in mind that most raw foodists do include a small percentage of cooked food in their diets) boosting our intake of vegetables and fruit is probably a good idea for most of us. If you’d like to try this approach, check out Brad’s Raw Made Easy: The Fast, Delicious aniWay to Lose Weight, Optimize Health, and Live Mostly in the Raw by Brad Gruno for an in-depth look at the thinking behind the diet and tips on using it successfully. Also popular with the Raw Food crowd are the books of Ani Phyo. Wellness coach and host of the popular YouTube show “Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen Show,” Phyo presents her take on the Raw Foods lifestyle in Ani’s Raw Food Essentials: Recipes and Techniques for Mastering the Art of Live Foods.

How do you eat for health? What are your thoughts about an optimal diet?

 

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Sep 12 2014

Ready for Fresh AND Affordable

by Rebekah B

un climate summit 2014

At DCPL, if you haven’t already taken note, we have a wonderful collection of documentary films.  A lover of the cinema and an eternal student, I am always eager to check out new additions to our collection.

As world leaders calling for restoration of ecosystems prepare to convene at the United Nations Climate Summit this September 23rd in New York City, the largest people’s demonstration on climate change is also scheduled on the morning of September 21st. In the spirit of environmental awareness, I am trying to do my part to make our society, economy, and food/health-care more sustainable. Although I am unable to attend the NYC march, I can write, watch relevant movies, exercise, buy healthy local foods, recycle and re-use items instead of buying new, travel less…and much more!

Fresh_flyer

One of the films that I recently watched and found noteworthy from our DCPL collection is Fresh: New Thinking About What We’re Eating, produced and directed by Ana Sofia Joanes in 2009.  With an outlook intended to be as objective as possible while supporting the sustainability and local food movement, the film features visits to industrial or conventional farms and to sustainable organic farms and lightly touches upon the problem of food deserts.  The film also includes interviews with farmers from both ends of the spectrum, some of whom had begun their careers as conventional farmers, later converting to organic farming, as well as urban farmers, activists, and smaller businesses promoting locally produced foods.

By visually demonstrating and comparing the processes, output, economics, and attitudes of industrial and sustainable farming, I was able to observe for myself as well as to learn from the experiences of these Americans who have devoted their lives to farming, producing and distributing food.  There is a lushness and beauty to the farms where animals and humans share information about living in harmony with nature that is so harshly lacking in the feedlots and chicken farms, where the animals appear stressed, their coats and feathers dull or literally hen-pecked. Prior to watching this film, I did not realize that industrial farmers clip the beaks on their chickens and that pigs’ tails are trimmed.  Bored and frustrated, the animals often attack one another in close quarters, where they never see the light of day.

anajoanes

Organic farmer Joel Salatin of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia demonstrates how he pastures his herd of about 300 cows in fields in which over twenty different types of grasses and wild flowering plants flourish. Conventional farm feedlots group together thousands of animals in close quarters. As in nature, in which cows naturally move to different areas over the course of a day or week to graze, Joel rotates the cows (and pigs) to varied pasture lands from day to day.  Bringing in chickens to the pastures where the cows have grazed, the birds earn their keep by picking the fly larvae from the cow manure deposited throughout the field, allowing the cows to soon return and avoid infection by parasites.

Mr. Salatin explains that sustainable farms are much more efficient and clean than industrial farms.  The animals are healthy, yet they are given no medications, and the veterinarian is almost never needed.

russkremer5

Conventional farms produce huge amounts of pollution growing grain that does not feed people, but cows (who are by nature consumers of grasses). It is expensive to produce this grain, which requires huge amounts of water and enormous quantities of pesticides.  Groundwater and soil are polluted and depleted by this process, and the natural variety of grasses that would ordinarily populate and regenerate the soil is suppressed.  Feedlot animals are regularly injected with antibiotics and consume pesticides through the grain they eat.  Their feces accumulate in large quantities and cannot be recycled because of contamination by the drugs and pesticides.  Additional pollutants are created through the gases produced by the waste.  The continuous use of low-grade antibiotics causes bacteria to mutate, creating strains that are antibiotic resistant, affecting animals and humans alike and creating risk of untreatable infections. The meats produced by grain-fed cows and pigs are also unhealthy because of concentrations of pesticides, antibiotics, and omega 6 fats accumulating in the meat from the high carbohydrate diet.

ChickensInBatteryCageslg

Conventional farmers interviewed in the film complain that they have difficulty finding people to work all shifts in their plants, particularly in the processing areas, because of unhealthy conditions.  It becomes clear that going against nature is expensive, inefficient, unhealthy, unpleasant and sometimes life threatening to both people and animals.

Today, we face a quandary.  Large industrial farms receive federal government grants to raise grain that does not feed people.  These single crop farms threaten plant and animal diversity and are creating an environmental disaster.  By producing local food even in urban areas, we can lower the costs of creating sufficient, healthy, fresh foods and make them affordable and available to everyone in the country, including low income families in urban areas.  By watching this film, while already convinced of the necessity to make healthy and local foods available at reasonable cost to our entire population, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location, I feel the urgency to help people become more aware of the environmental consequences of conventional agriculture in this country.

industrial vs conventional farming

As consumers, the film notes that each purchase we make is a vote, a demonstration of each of our voices in the democratic process. By purchasing local foods, we are supporting the sustainable movement.  By supporting organic farms that produce quality products, we are supporting our economies and producing jobs in places where people enjoy their work and are well paid for the work they do.  Animals who are raised in accordance with the laws of nature are happier and healthier, and the interconnected process of sustainable farming ensures sufficient food for everyone at a lower cost with infinite benefits for all.  The rear panel of the jacket of a documentary new to DCPL, Fed Up, reads: “This generation will live shorter lives than their parents. By 2050, one out of every three Americans will have diabetes.”  If this is not a wake-up call to change your family’s eating and buying habits and to take action to change the American way of life for the better, I don’t know what is!

basket of veggies

Industrial agriculture and feedlots are responsible for the production of more greenhouse gases than the burning of fossil fuels, to the order of at least 18% (in 2008) according to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  An Indian economist and vegetarian, Dr. Pachauri recommends a reduction in the consumption of meats as an important personal contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases and the global warming effect.  Choosing to eat grass-fed organic meats or organic poultry is also a good choice. Whatever decisions you consciously make in this direction contribute to the return to balance of man’s relationship with nature.  Your stomach will thank you!

A selection of documentaries on sustainable living and health, the environment, and climate change in the DCPL collections:

Fed Up  2014

Hungry for Change 2012

Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic? 2010

Plastic Planet 2009

Burning the Future: Coal in America 2008

Carbon Nation  2011

Children of the Tsunami 2011

Garbage Warrior  2007

No Impact Man 2008

Food, Inc. 2008

Blue Gold World Water Wars 2008

Car of the Future 2008

Farmageddon 2011

It’s a Big Big World. The Earth Needs You: Recycling and Caring for the Environment 2007

Freeze, Freeze, Fry: Climate Past, Present, and Future  2007

The Science of Climate Change 2014

Sustainability in the 21st Century 2008

Tapped  2010

The Garden 2008

Fast Food Nation  2006

Business Advice for Organic Farmers 2012

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Jul 18 2014

What Are You Hungry For?

by Rebekah B

hot pepper

Hello readers,

Deepak Chopra’s “not a diet book” What Are You Hungry For: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul is, by consensus of Goodreads readers and reviewers, a common-sense holistic solution to weight loss.  Don’t eat when you are not hungry, learn new habits by re-training your brain and increased mindfulness, eat quality foods, get enough sleep and exercise, and find ways to self-fulfillment by doing satisfying work, maintain a positive attitude, and relish meaningful social connections.  Dr. Chopra recommends eating foods from all six taste groups as recommended by Ayurvedic tradition: sweet (includes grains and meats), salty, sour (acidic–citrus and fermented foods), bitter (green and yellow vegetables), astringent (tea, coffee, beans, apples, berries), and pungent (spicy). The variety of flavors inherently creates a balanced nutritional intake.  An appendix includes a variety of recipes utilizing the entire range of recommended flavors.

wayhf

What Are You Hungry For focuses primarily on personal commitments to change, which makes sense in that social revolution begins with our personal decisions and choices. This book is a helpfully refreshing holistic approach to health and diet.  I do appreciate how the author repeatedly insists that deprivation will never work when it comes to diet, as we are all ultimately best motivated by pleasure, and most of us are at least somewhat terrified by the shame of cellulite and the tantalizing guilt inspired by the likes of chocolate cake or ice cream sundaes.  Dr. Chopra shares comforting strategies on how to handle sugar cravings in the most gentle of manners. However, he does not seem to spend much effort discussing how our culture is devoted to keeping us unfulfilled and permanently dissatisfied…in order to stimulate the economy.  A lack of self-love is necessary for this process. The pressure to keep feeling guilty is very powerful and deeply seated.  This includes pushing individuals to neglect personal talents and desires from an early age, and to conform to social and economic expectations in choice of careers, in particular.

baby with spaghetti

While small children intuitively understand how to enjoy life by being playful and by being themselves, adult humans have been molded to conform to a certain mindset and sadly most often lose this ability early on in life. Adult life would be so much more enjoyable for all of us if each individual were embraced from the start as a unique and valuable asset, born with specific gifts, talents, body type, and personality quirks, then raised to be a responsible steward of these gifts. What might our world be like if our societies were built upon that simple principle: to support the need for each person to feel happy, energetic, and an active contributor to the group by being him or herself!  We organize our societies in a manner that is not balanced, and then we work hard to tease people into thinking that by buying a wide array of products and services we will become more attractive, successful, healthier, etc.

As Mr. Chopra explains in What Are You Hungry For, balance is a necessary and natural part of being alive. All of nature seeks balance and intuitively knows what to do to acquire this agreeable state of being. Fulfillment and balance are not quite the same thing. Balance can include suffering, loss, and grief. Achieving your individual destiny does not mean you will be happy or successful.  It just means that you will have led a life of meaning and purpose, using your individual skills, character, and integrity (or lack thereof) to fulfill your personal potential.

creating balance

Being human is not easy, nor is it always pleasant.  We all struggle with conflicting desires, and our personal wishes are not always in harmony with the group ethic or plan.  So how do we get to a place of peace, in spite of all of the complexity?  I do think that simplifying one’s life, as Dr. Chopra suggests, is a good start.  As more individuals begin to choose wanting less stuff and less confusion in their lives, it just might get easier to see the bigger picture.  We just might feel hungry when our bodies actually need nutrition.  With simplicity will hopefully come more time to enjoy real, flavorful and home-made meals, prepared lovingly with savory, locally grown ingredients.  Perhaps people will take the time to sit down together and delight in excellent conversation.  What feeds the heart and soul is meaning, connection, and beauty.  When we are disconnected from ourselves, from other humans, and from all of life, we lose balance, and we feel lost, alone, anxious.

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While Dr. Chopra discusses strategies to right the feelings of emptiness and to find balance in life and diet, I feel that a greater movement is necessary to help people feel connected, useful, and loved.  Food is often used by parents to reward children for good behavior, and food is also something that is readily available in order to reward ourselves when we feel lonely, drifting, sad, or without purpose.  Food does not abandon or betray us…most of the time.  It is comforting and an anchor in a busy, fast-paced world that often seems not to care.

The greater question that needs to be addressed is how to create a world that does care?  Our post-industrial global society has been built on the values of efficiency and profits (for a few), and it has largely neglected the well-being of most.  A turn-around in core values will be needed before the hunger of the first world will begin to be satisfied, and for a return to balance that we all instinctively crave.

Suggested reading on your path to fulfillment from our DCPL collections:

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, 2010

“Tony Hsieh–the widely admired CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos.com–explains how he created a unique culture and commitment and service that strives to improve the lives of its employees, customers, vendors, and backers. Even better, he shows how creating happiness and record results go hand in hand.” (book summary)

Survival of the Nicest: How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along by Stefan Klein, translated by David Dollenmayer, 2014

Klein synthesizes an extraordinary array of material: current research on genetics and the brain, economics, social psychology, behavioral and anthropological experiments, history, and modern culture. Ultimately, his groundbreaking findings lead him to a vexing question: If we’re really hard-wired to act for one another’s benefit, why aren’t we all getting along?

Klein believes we’ve learned to mistrust our generous instincts because success is so often attributed to selfish ambition. In Survival of the Nicest, he invites us to rethink what it means to be the ‘fittest’ as he shows how caring for others can protect us from loneliness and depression, make us happier and healthier, reward us economically, and even extend our lives.” (excerpt from description on Goodreads)

The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling by Dr. James Hillman, 1997

Plato and the Greeks called it ‘daimon,’ the Romans ‘genius,’ the Christians ‘guardian angel.’ Today we use the terms heart, spirit, and soul. To James Hillman, the acknowledged intellectual source for Thomas Moore’s bestselling sensation Care of the Soul, it is the central and guiding force of his utterly compelling ‘acorn theory’ in which each life is formed by a unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny, just as the mighty oak’s destiny is written in the tiny acorn.(excerpt from description on Goodreads)

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May 21 2014

Old Lady Blues

by Hope L

hopscotch-ladies“You can only be young once.  But you can always be immature.”  Dave Barry

I woke up this morning and looked in the mirror and saw an old lady looking back at me. When I was a youngster, let’s say a pre-teen, I thought  “old” was around fifty.  And fortyish was middle age because most people live until age 80-85.

But now, having turned 51 this past January, I notice I’m feeling older physically but my mind still feels quite young–juvenile even.  But I remember the truth when I see my AARP card.  Or my gray hair.  You get the idea.

Suzanne Somers, yes, the creator of the “ThighMaster” (or Chrissy, as those of a certain age will remember) says the key to slowing the aging process is, among other things, bioidentical hormones.   In her book Ageless: The Naked Truth about Bioidentical Hormones, she claims:

“By adding back to my system what stress and toxins have depleted, I am reversing the aging process by making myself younger on the inside.  I am staving off disease so that even while growing older chronologically, I am restoring and preserving internal youth and energy.  The number of my age has become irrelevant.  It’s about having young energy.  I have it … you can, too!”

Young energy!  That’s what I’m missing!  Bring on the hormones.

Oh, and also my memory is slipping.  Can’t Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research by Sue Halpern compares ordinary age-related memory loss to diseases like Alzheimer’s:

“Here are some numbers:  Eighty-three percent of us are worried about not being able to remember one another’s names.  Sixty percent are concerned about our tendency to misplace the car keys.  Fifty-seven percent of us are disturbed that we can’t recall phone numbers a few minutes after we’ve heard them.

“When researchers from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands queried four thousand people, one in two people over sixty-five said they were forgetful.  While that may not be surprising, the researchers also found that one in three people between twenty-five and thirty-five reported memory problems, too.  Invariably, though, the younger folks attributed their lapses to stress, while the older ones thought that they were caused by disease.”

OMG!  (The juvenile in me coming out.)  Just last night I was getting ready for bed and started to spit mouthwash into the trashcan instead of the bathroom sink. I knew immediately it was a mistake, of course, definitely not an old-age thingy (juvenile language, again!). Perhaps I was just tired or preoccupied. Maybe getting old is on my mind lately because I just helped my parents move into an independent living facility here in Decatur.

I’m convinced, though, that exercise is the answer.  In Fitness After 50 by Walter H. Ettinger, MD,  Brenda S. Wright, PhD, and Steven N. Blair, PED, the authors claim the benefits of exercise include:

“Increasing physical activity improves longevity, flexibility, function and independent living, bone strength, restful sleep, weight control and well-being.  Increasing physical activity decreases risk of heart attack, stroke, developing type 2 diabetes, some cancers, fractures, depression, obesity, memory loss and dementia, and gall bladder disease.”

That’s why I see septuagenarians and octogenarians at the gym tearing it up!

“Old is always 15 years from now.”  Bill Cosby

Now, I don’t want to sound dumb, but the one good thing I must say about getting old is that some things are finally making sense.  For example, in my younger days I never understood why the signs on 285 sometimes said north, south, east or west–but now I know it is because it is a circle.  Hence the name “The Perimeter.”   I’ve also just learned that not only are both “baldfaced” and “boldfaced”  lies  acceptable terms for shocking behavior, but that actually most Anglophones in the world  use  “barefaced.”

By age 80, I might just get algebra …

“In youth we learn; in age we understand.”  Maria von Ebner

 

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