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Milk in the Raw – Okay or No Whey?

30 May

So, is milk good or bad for you? The answer to this is both complex and not. As in, yes, it’s good, and yes, it’s bad. That’s why it’s complex. But the reason why the answer is complex is pretty simple. Read me?

The cream rises to the top, and cream is good. (That’s why we have that saying in reference to people, remember?)

Anywhere you look for information about milk and people’s relationship with it you’ll find conflicting information (okay, you already know this, because you’re the type of person who’s reading a blog like this in the first place). Part of the reason why there are so many differing views is not only because people are different, but also because the milk they’re drinking (or eating in whatever form) is different.

You’ve probably heard of raw milk advocacy. But do you understand what the big deal is? If hippies love peace so much, why do they get all high and mighty about certain issues—issues that can inspire federal agents to raid the property of raw milk dealers (after spending tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars subjecting them to surveillance for more than a year prior, then hijacking $70,000 worth of computers, files, cash, and perishable produce, and pouring out gallons of raw milk, even though in their entire twelve years doing this their product had caused no health problems whatsoever)? Perhaps a better question would be why the heck, in our free country, federal dough and energy is being expended on stopping the sale of something that never caused harm before Big Ag(riculture) stepped in…

So those raw milk lovers must sincerely believe that raw milk is amazing, that it shouldn’t be altered from its original form, and that people deserve access to raw milk so they can be healthy and raise healthy kids. Don’t agree or disagree with this until you know at least half as much as they do on the subject. I’m going to try to help us get at least some of the way there.

There is a colossal difference between the milk that our ancestors consumed and the milk that is consumed in the modern world. About 40,000 years ago the human race had a population explosion when they figured out that land that wouldn’t support farming would support grazing animals. This epiphany, that otherwise essentially unusable land, sunlight, and vegetation could be converted by animals into healthy food, changed the game considerably. Humans were no longer dependent on only what small game could survive in particular areas, but could now drink milk and eat meat more often.

Most human bodies switch off the gene to digest lactose after Mom cuts them off from the boob. My own mom claims I bit her so she stopped nursing abruptly, so of course I attribute certain neuroses to this shock – for example, I eat too damn much because I’m afraid it may disappear at any moment.

Interestingly, while some people have a milk protein (casein) allergy, someone who is only lactose intolerant should be able to eat all fermented forms of milk, i.e. cheese, yogurt, kefir, and so on, because the fermentation process breaks down the lactose. In cultures where humans continue drinking milk post-weaning, lactose intolerance is rarely an issue.

But here’s where I’m really going: Raw milk IS superior to the homogenized, pasteurized shadow of milk that is all that’s commercially available now. Here are the aspects of processing that make modern-day milk so blech . . .

  1. Pasteurization, i.e. heat, denatures proteins and kills friendly bacteria, which keeps less friendly bacteria from causing you harm.
  2. Homogenization explodes fat droplets in milk. According to Deep Nutrition, when you magnify a drop of fresh milk on a slide 10,000,000 times, you can see incredibly complex casein micelles. “Imagine a mound of spaghetti and meatballs formed into a big, round ball. The strands of spaghetti are made of protein (casein) and the meatballs are made of the most digestible form of calcium phosphate, called colloidal calcium phosphate, which holds the spaghetti strands together in a clump with its tiny magnetic charge. This clumping prevents sugar from reacting with and destroying milk’s essential amino acids.” To make a long story short, every globe of fat is enclosed within a membrane of sorts. The lipid bylayer within has a lot of specialized proteins that perform particular tasks, and as long as that membrane stays around that lipid blob, “the fat is easily digested, the gallbladder doesn’t have to squeeze out any bile for the fat to be absorbed, the fatty acids inside the blob are isolated from the calcium in the casein micelles, and everything goes smoothly. But if calcium and fats come into contact with one another . . . milk loses much of its capacity to deliver nutrients into your body.” Homogenization has been linked to heart disease as well (and though that idea is refuted by some, they never appear to take the above breakdown into account).
  3. So, not only is high heat and homogeneity in general terrible for humans, it’s also terrible for the milk that humans drink. Once pasteurized and homogenized, those fat globules are all the same tiny size (now small enough to enter your bloodstream and wreak mucosal havoc instead of staying in your belly where they belong) and “lack the sophisticated bylayer wrapping and are instead caked with minerals and tangled remnants of casein micelles.” The high heat has caused the sugar to react with the amino acids, which denatures the proteins and removes the colloidal calcium phosphate from the equation. Your spaghetti matrix becomes ten times as tangled as your headphone cords and is more tightly wound than your boyfriend the day before his thesis proposal is due. That friendly meatball of colloidal calcium has gone on to fuse with those fatty acids and now they form a soap-like goo made of milk-fat. This saponification reaction can not only irritate the crap out of people’s GI tracts but make the very nutrients we’ve been led to believe we should drink milk for pretty much good for nothing, or at least pretty close.
  4. Processing destroys the signal molecules that let your body recognize milk as its buddy, instead causing it to react more like it’s an alien invader, which, after running the past.-homo. gauntlet (is that a nickname that works? or not?) it basically is.

But could raw milk be dangerous? Sure, if it’s from any of the millions of unhealthy cows fed a diet of corn and grain that’s foreign to their digestive tracts, who suffer not just from massive amounts of gas buildup (which according to some sources accounts for 1/3 of global warming emissions) but also from painful mastitis due to prolific use of recombinant bovine growth hormone. Painful for the cow and yuck for you (pus and blood, anyone?). Milk from healthy cows is an entirely different story. Your raw milk comes from a cow who is pasture-raised in the sunshine, eating grass and the insects upon it from pasture that is often otherwise untenable for agriculture. And like a thousand generations before you, give or take, people can and do flourish on this whole food. 

Even better, when raw milk sours it doesn’t go rancid like pasteurized milk does, but instead becomes buttermilk. Seriously. Because pasteurized milk has no beneficial bacteria or probiotics left, it just rots. It might be difficult for regular milk drinkers to grow accustomed at first, but soured milk is great for making yogurt, cheese, buttermilk biscuits, plus loads of other options you can find all over the internet on blogs like The Healthy Home Economist. Plus, you can use it to soak your grains in to break down the phytates that negatively affect digestion as well as add it to other foods to render them more digestible. Yep, soured raw milk is actually better for you than it was before, and, just like other fermented foods, is terrific for your guts.

So, if you’re lucky enough to live in one of the eight states where you can buy raw milk on the shelf of your local natural food store (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, New Mexico, and Washington – though I’ve yet to see it at corporate groceries), go forth and get it! And if you live in a less-free state, ask around, google it, check with your local or nearby WAPF chapter. If you don’t yet want to take the plunge into sour milk recipes and want to go the slow intro route, freeze it in separate jars and use it a little at a time so it doesn’t ferment while you’re easing into the idea. And if you want to take a little more control over the souring process, you can buy starters from Cultures for Health to do just that. You might just turn into one of those raw milk advocates yourself.

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Beautiful Commercial with a Dumb Message

7 Feb

Or, Why Canola Oil is Terrible.

Here’s a commercial from the Danish butter company Lurpak. There’s a decent amount of quality butter here in the United States that easily competes with their product (like KerryGold, which is actually from grass-fed cows, unlike Lurpak), but for some reason we have this Danish brand shipped over here to charge not-so-savvy gourmets a small fortune for it.

I found this on the NPR website, which talked about how Denmark (of all places) is following in the footsteps of the U.S. and trashing butter. Lame. Lurpak makes a visually stunning commercial glorifying the beauty of vegetables, and tops it off with their new product, which is a processed veggie oil and butter blend.

Why?

Vegetable oils are cheap, and not nearly as good for you as fats that are stable at high temperatures. When companies tell you that saturated fat is bad and processed junk like “Smart Balance” is good, and you buy into it, you’re paying MORE for a product that costs far less to produce and is actually causing you serious damage over the thousands of meals you eat it in. Polyunsaturated fats are fragile and oxidize easily at higher temps. When you cook with canola oil, corn oil, or other polyunsaturated oils you’re putting cartloads of oxidized fatty acids into your body, increasing your risk of all inflammatory diseases. Not only that, but before these oils ever enter your body they’re subject to extraction processes that often render them rancid and nutritionless.

From Wikipedia: Extraction- “The ‘modern’ way of processing vegetable oil is by chemical extraction, using solvent extracts, which produces higher yields and is quicker and less expensive. The most common solvent is petroleum-derived hexane. This technique is used for most of the ‘newer’ industrial oils such as soybean and corn oils.”

So why did our government tell us for decades that butter was going to fill our arteries with food-grade concrete? How was the connection made between saturated fats and cholesterol and heart disease, when for centuries the human machine has been consuming these deadly foods and still building empires? For a few simple reasons: They were paid to. They could continue to be paid to. They like money.

Or maybe they just love yellow flowers.

Here’s an interesting piece of info about how rapeseed oil became the gigantic commodity that it is today:

“….An initial challenge for the Canola Council of Canada was the fact that rapeseed had never been given GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A change in regulation would be necessary before rapeseed could be marketed in the U.S. (The word “canola” was created from “Canadian oil low-acid” for obvious reasons people didn’t think a product with the word rape in it would fly off the shelves). Just how this was done has not been revealed, but GRAS status was granted in 1985. Why? Because the Canadian government paid the FDA the sum of $50 million to have rape registered and recognized as “safe” (Source: John Thomas, Young Again, and others). One informant in the publishing industry divulged that, since the mid 1990s, major publishers would not accept cookbooks unless they included canola in the recipes. Did those publishers issue this demand because they were receiving money under the table from the Canadian rapeseed industry?” (-find more about it here.) Here’s an article about how this guy is sure that canola and soy consumption cause macular degeneration and glaucoma, as well as mad cow disease. No kidding.

I’ve posted this video (from the movie Fat Head) before, but it’s terrific and a quick and painless way to learn about how the scientific method can often work, regarding matters like human health.

Remember to assume that if the government tells you it’s good for you, figure out why first. History shows that the why usually has everything to do with dollars, and little to nothing to do with your actual health. If you want to learn more about why I cook with butter and coconut oil, read my Fat is Fantastic blog.

Let me know what your favorite veggie plus fat recipe is. The more, the better…

Dear Deer, …

2 Feb

Thank you for being so incredibly tasty. I’m truly sorry (what does it mean to be truly sorry, anyway?) that you had to (well, YOU didn’t have to, I guess) die to put meat on my plate. Thank you for being oblivious enough to the lethal intent of humans that you failed to hide from them all. I’m also sorry that apparently your mom witnessed your death, as did your twin brother. I heard that she’s running around with a broken leg right now but seems healthy otherwise, still eating and all. Shay, who shot you, said he recognized her by the bald spot on her rump, plus your brother was with her. And the other night we fed three people on your backstrap, which was cooked medium rare and covered in portabellas and onions sautéed in butter and deglazed in red wine.

The months I spent in the Red River Gorge this year doing canopy tour construction meant a good bit of time around deer. Every day we were out in the woods, rain or shine or sleet or snow, and often young deer would wander up to my crew to check us out. A woman who lives nearby takes in hurt or orphaned deer, meaning they become accustomed to humans being a source of food and scratching. This also means when they wander off the property, and thus off of “wildlife preserve” space, they are easy targets. Sad. I still can’t imagine killing an animal myself unless I’m in dire straits. I think of a lot of you meat eaters feel the same way, and I’m not saying that attitude is or isn’t okay, but it’s just reality. 

Being an animal-loving meat eater is difficult (poor us, right?) because you can feel hypocritical a lot of the time. I kill other animals to feed my cat (though to be fair, his meat comes from the King Family Farm in Ohio, and is happy chicken offal that most of us probably wouldn’t eat, anyway, but he loves it). I will go far out of my way to help a dog or cat or hell, even a cow or pig or chicken, who is in pain or lost or separated from its owner/protector. I do this because I believe that no animal should suffer. Nothing that can feel pain should be made to feel it if at all possible.  And here’s where it gets complicated. Even the tiny fraction of food animals that come from farms that care to ensure that their charges are healthy and comfortable still have to have their animals slaughtered, and this is where it can get ugly. I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals last year and it made an impression, and a pretty nauseating one at times. Foer is a vegan whose wife was pregnant and who wanted to know if he could conscionably raise his future kid as vegan, so he went out to make his research (not “do” because he went out on the front lines, finding activists who would help him sneak/break into massive factory farms that have a policy of NO OUTSIDERS (warning sign #1). He learned that even those farms who care about happy animals still have to have their animals slaughtered in inhumane ways, because the more humane mobile killing units (that bring a trailer to your property and take the animals in there for the process) are fewer and farther between because they can’t afford to stay in business.

Foer tells us that about ten percent of pigs are assumed lost from the beginning because they are so consistently terrified that they drop dead before they can go to slaughter. Another ten percent is written off because the pigs that almost drop dead, but just make it long enough to be loaded in the truck and shipped out, have such intense and sustained adrenaline surges that their muscles turn into inedible mush.

Sounds a little incredible, right? Well, two days after I read that I was digging through my fridge and I saw a big grocery store-labeled pork loin. I asked my boyfriend where it had come from, because he and  I hardly ever buy meat, and when we do it’s from sources we trust, and he surprised me by saying that he had bought it for the ten guy friends of his who had crashed at my house the previous weekend to go to our local climbing festival. The weekend had been so full he’d never gotten around to cooking it.

Well, I said, we better cook it or it will go to waste. As far as I’m concerned that’s one of the ultimate sins –  meat thrown away and an animal dead for no reason. So I called up a couple of our buddies and invited them over for a pork dinner that night. And it was really good. So good, in fact, that I went back for seconds. I sat back down on the porch swing, took my first bite, chewed it, furrowed my eyebrows, swallowed, and looked down at my plate. There was something wrong with this pig. I smelled it, and it had a fragrance faintly reminiscent of blue cheese. But that wasn’t the most disturbing part. The consistency of this meat was like paté, soft, and um…mushy. Oh, no. This was the very thing I’d read about. I had just ingested the meat of a tortured animal, who lived a life in fear and no doubt died in pain. And now, not only was I a part of that hellish cycle, that sad energy was now going to play a role in shaping my cells. The first part of the loin we’d cut into was normal, but an entire third to a half of it was not at all normal.

I feel like when I tell people that the energy of the meat that goes in your body is important, that they think I sound like a hyper-spiritual hippie, that the bad juju of factory farming will somehow curse my body and my offspring for seven generations. But here’s what I mean. The emotions animals have, just like the ones we have, cause chemicals to be released. These chemicals cause real physiological changes. For example, the release of adrenaline triggers the fight or flight response by causing particular blood vessels to constrict and other ones to open in order to facilitate survival (an interesting side effect: ever get scared and have to poop? – adrenaline causes smooth muscles to contract, meaning your body wants to drop the poop in order to lighten the load and even potentially distract a predator) (so maybe a good cure for constipation – besides more fiber, of course – is a quality scare). If a constant onslaught of adrenaline can cause muscle to eventually turn to mush, imagine what other chemical damage is going on that we don’t even know about.

Also makes you wonder what four cups of coffee and its resulting adrenaline surge could do to you after a couple of decades, right? Not to mention what kind of damage consistently taxing your adrenals can do…anyway, sounds like a good subject for another day.

So, though I wasn’t really intending to go in this direction when I started writing today, here we are. I believe there are a lot of us who can’t really do all that well without meat. Sure, there are some people who do just fine, but everyone is different. I tend to develop muscle easily, and I crave meat. I feel like a million bucks after a plate of sashimi. Not so much after a plate of pasta (particularly once I realized that I needed to go gluten-free). One of my favorite references is Sally Fallon’s incredible cookbook Nourishing Traditions, which bases all its premises about what’s best for human development on the studies of a dentist who traveled the world studying bone structure and tooth decay in isolated cultures. These isolated cultures, who were deprived of the brilliance of processed foods, had no cavities, wide faces, straight teeth, and easy births. Their diets were composed of meat and organs from healthy animals, oily fish, full-fat unprocessed dairy, and fermented foods, and were high in saturated fats. Without fail, as soon as processed foods and vegetable oils were introduced into a populace, bone structure in the following generations seemed to literally cave in. The most obvious sign of this was a narrow palate (the space between your upper teeth) resulting in teeth that were crowded. What does this really mean? It means that the rest of the body fails to fully develop, too. Hips are narrower, meaning more difficult births. Skulls are smaller, meaning less room for developing brains. All internal organs have less room to grow.

It came as a relief to me that a lot of the foods I already ate were on the good list, like salmon and sardines, eggs and saturated fats from healthy animals. However, there were plenty on the bad list. Not only that, I’d been missing out on all of the incredible benefits of eating fermented foods, which make your digestive system super-functional and capable of absorbing all of the good stuff you need from food, and soaked grains and legumes, which are FAR easier for your body to take advantage of.

So, though I’m an animal lover, I come first, and so do any potential offspring I might have in the future. I want to be sure that I’m shaping myself into the best person I can be with whatever resources I have (and I still have a long way to go, for sure), and that I give every potential opportunity possible to my children. I don’t want kids with shrunken heads and puny brains. I also want to make sure that the animals I eat have gone through as minimal an amount of suffering as possible, because when I eat them or what they produce, I become them. I get the majority of my protein from eggs, and after that, sardines (yep, I love them). I eat a lot of beans, soaked overnight, and lots and lots of vegetables. I try to eat kim chee and miso and drink kombucha and kefir whenever I can. I take fish oil that’s certified PCB-free. If I eat meat, it comes from the local farmer’s market, or local shops that stock meat from local farms, or, like deer, it comes from the wild, or I buy it from local restaurants who promise that they source local meat.

So, as long-winded as this post may be, I know it’s just scratching the surface. Let me know where you stand.

 

What Scares You Most About Aging?

23 Jan

What scares you most about growing older? Disease? Dementia? Disability? And what exactly are you doing to make these all less likely to happen to you, or to the ones you love? Do you tend to automatically dismiss the majority of aging preventatives, like dietary restrictions, regular physical activity, periodic checkups (out loud, or quietly, in your own head, or after a day or week or two of attempting them)? Have you instead gone out of your way or deep into your wallet to buy expensive face lotion, shampoos and conditioners, or even Botox or plastic surgery?

I’m not saying any of these last options should be off the table if that’s what makes you feel good. However, the vast majority of the aging that is visible in the mirror is a result of what’s going on under your skin – in your connective tissue, joints, vital organs, bones, in every cell of your body. Before it shows up on the outside it’s being manifested within, and within is exactly where you need to go to prevent all of the potential specters of age-related decline.

Sure, you kind of knew that already, you say, but there’s another part of you that says that another day of just fleshing out the details of a health plan won’t hurt, that another slice of pie can be worked off tomorrow, or what most people like to throw out every once in awhile in exasperation, when yet another friend or family member gets cancer or diabetes or Alzheimer’s – “We’re all doomed, anyway!” or “Everything gives you cancer,” or “We’ve all gotta die of something, right?”

My mother likes to refer to her friends with degenerative diseases as if they never did a thing to deserve them. Of course no one out there “deserves” them (well, I could think of a couple of people, but details, details). And sure, there are certainly plenty of people out there with diseases or disabilities who were born with them, or were so predisposed to them they probably couldn’t have done a thing to prevent them, or who were unknowingly exposed to any number of environmental toxins that are naturally occurring or the result of industrial pollution. But really, do you think we as a human race evolved to do such incredible things with our minds and bodies in spite of being somehow overwhelmingly predisposed to degeneration?

I don’t think so.

The majority of us live in an environment that has an overwhelming influence on how we treat our bodies – from what we feed it to how we make it move to how we pharmaceutically manipulate its chemistry – and most people assume that if it’s on the shelves of our local supermarkets that it’s not bad for us, or that if everybody else moves likes this (or doesn’t move at all, really) that it’s the way we’re meant to move, or that if the FDA or the WHO say it’s fine to ingest then it’s harmless, or far better than the alternative.

The truth is this, though. U.S. residents are in decline and more so every day. Our grandparents are outliving our parents, and my generation is set to die even younger, in SPITE of having an incredible array of drugs, so-called health foods, workout gyms, classes, DVDs, and generations worth of nutrition data to draw from. So when people roll their eyes at the idea that what the government and the FDA are telling you should eat – i.e. a low-fat diet high in grains, soy, corn, and vegetable oil, as well as dairy and meat from tortured sick animals – is actually not only less than ideal, but is what is actually causing every successive generation to become sicker, ignore them, and LEARN for yourself. Learn about the realities of our Standard American Diet. Look around you and truly notice how people have changed in just the last couple of decades. Then, figure out how YOU can avoid the fate of the majority. What bodily issues have been bugging you? Headaches? Stomach aches? Depression? Bad PMS? Frequent colds? Skin conditions? These annoying pains in the wherever can often be ignored for months or years, but they’re not normal simply because you’re accustomed to them. They’re actually indications that something in your body needs attention, and they can be symptomatic of more serious issues, particularly the longer you wait to address them. A body that struggles daily with gut pain can indicate a digestive system that is stressed by dealing with proteins (like gluten or casein) that it’s not able to process, a lack of good gut bacteria (from using antibiotics to not eating fermented foods), or simple sensitivities to common foods like dairy, soy, or wheat. When the body has to mount a daily battle against something you’re ingesting that it can’t handle, it makes sacrifices on other fronts—meaning an immune system that doesn’t have the capacity to fight off infection or remove toxins from your bloodstream. A few decades or so of this, and having a disease becomes infinitely more likely. Here are a few simple things you can do today, before you start doing your own research or figuring out what personal nuisance you’re first aiming to squash. If you start with just a few simple tweaks, you’re already way ahead of your average Standard American Human.

1. Avoid sugary beverages, which include soft drinks, fruit juices, and syrupy coffee drinks. Your taste buds will quickly adapt accordingly. Here’s a terrific New York Times article  about why fructose is the unhealthiest form of sugar.

2. Eat more vegetables. (See my “Simple, Cheap, and Tasty Meal Ideas” blog for how)

3. Don’t eat processed foods. Nothing in a box, shelf-stable, or with more than a few ingredients.

4. Exercise half an hour a day, even if it’s just walking.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes for a side dish that’s perfect for winter potlucks, with a combination of textures that I love in food – soft and crunchy at the same time. I first found this in the cookbook Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair and have probably made it thirty times since because people beg me for the recipe at every potluck I bring it to. The lemon juice, garlic, cilantro, and olive oil combine to create an insanely delicious aroma as soon as it’s mixed into the warm quinoa. Conveniently, this is also the kind of dish that doesn’t show a few missing spoonfuls when serving, so in-depth taste testing is encouraged.

Lemony Garlic Quinoa

1 cup dry quinoa
1¾ cups water
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup carrots, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped (the original recipe calls for parsley, so you can use either or both, but I greatly prefer cilantro’s flavor)
¼ cup sunflower seeds (I prefer to buy these raw but then lightly toast them in my toaster oven at home)

Dressing:

3-4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons tamari (I prefer tamari to soy sauce because it’s made without wheat and has a more complex flavor. The soy is fermented so it’s not as problematic as regular soy).

Always rinse quinoa before serving to wash away its natural defenses, the saponins which make it bitter to pests. You can do this with a fine mesh strainer or in a pot (swirling it around and draining it most of the way a few times). Try to buy quinoa (of any color) in bulk as it’s far cheaper. Place the rinsed quinoa and water in a 2-quart pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer 15-20 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Tip the pan to the side to make sure all the water has been absorbed. Let stand for 5-10 minutes then fluff with a fork.

While quinoa is cooking, prepare the dressing in the same bowl as the dish will be served in and chop your carrots and cilantro. I like carrot pieces about as big as my pinkie nail and I chop the cilantro pretty coarsely. After you have combined the dressing in the bowl you can add the seeds, cilantro, and carrots. Scoop the warm quinoa over the top and mix it until ingredients are uniformly distributed, and try to resist being overwhelmed by the incredible lemony garlic scent.

New Year’s Revolution

19 Jan

Though I’m a couple of days later than some, I’m thinking it may be good for me to resolve to accomplish a few things this year that will improve my general journey through life, without actually calling them resolutions. I never actually made resolutions, anyway. I just figured I’d commit to whatever moved me to do so, whenever it did. So maybe I don’t accomplish as much as some of those who set more concrete goals, but hey! –maybe I do.

First!

I will have a garden that’s at least double (but preferably four or six times) the size of mine from the previous two years (particularly last year’s, as we were gone so much it wound up producing only the most independent veggies). I will be more thorough in planning it, in weeding out what has failed in the past and investing in new plants and previous years’ successes, and in enlisting help. As of right now, I have a friend who is a champ at farming who is planning on moving in this spring to help start a larger-scale garden with me. You will bear witness, I promise that.

Second!

I will write this damn blog as much as my scattered brain will allow. I’m aiming for two posts per week. Feel free to harass me about this if it seems that I’m slacking. I love external motivation (and so do YOU! Right?). This way we can really start figuring out together what I need to focus on health and food and fitness-wise, and you can clue me in on what you need in those areas, too. Yee-haw.

Third!

I will work on food photography so I can make this blog beautiful for you to look at and the recipes tempting to try at home. That will involve investing more money in food, time in preparation and figuring out quality recipes, and in burning more calories so I have more room to eat all the terrific food I plan to make.

Fourth!

I’ll make greater efforts to avoid buying/eating food that doesn’t benefit me, i.e. those cursed ripple chips and French onion dip, sugary foods, starchy foods, too many carbohydrate-bomb gluten alternatives (but they’re always on sale!), alcohol, and meat from unknown sources. I’ll work on eating and making more fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and kim chee. I’ll try to resist joining in when my main squeeze enters sugar-seeking mode, instead of feeling like it’s only fair if I participate, too.

Fifth!

I’ll exercise AT LEAST thirty minutes every day. Even if it’s only through cranking my stereo and jumping around my house, and even if I have to mainline a little caffeine to help me get moving. Also, I’ll work harder on rehabbing my screwy shoulders so I can climb harder, and more, too.

(Hmm, I didn’t know I had so many things I was going to write down…)

Sixth!

I’ll become a sharp-shooting triple threat. My mom gave me a shotgun for Christmas and my boyfriend gave me a compound bow. No, I wasn’t expecting either of those things, and no, I don’t hunt, but yes, I want to scare my shadier neighbors who do things like cut my fence and steal my barn wiring, and yes, I want to be able to hunt should I have to. Mainly I really want to learn my way around a gun so if I ever need to use it I can do so, and do it well. Side note: New Year’s Eve Day about ten people I know went out in the woods with twenty guns, handguns, shotguns, AR-15s, even a 1937 Czech Mauser. A couple of the guys had found five mannequins at a local thrift store, and so the lot of us were able to shoot all of each other’s guns at real fake people. And yes, it was a psychologically healthy thing to do and we laughed a lot (though not insanely, relax). It was loud and fun and a bit painful (I think my hand is bruised from the .357), and the first time I’ve ever done anything like that. I like Ohioans more every day.

Seventh!

I will focus on improving self-discipline in all areas. Have I already kind of said that? Well, this is me putting it down explicitly. I will invest in my future self a hell of a lot more than I’ve been doing. And that’s one thing I hope we all share in doing.

If you have something to add, please say so, though I’d prefer you tell me about the future self you’re investing in instead of telling me more things you think I need to improve. But hey, I’m sure I could use the input…

Just Putting It Out There…

19 Jan

Before we go any further together I want to clear some things up for those less acquainted with me.

I am flawed. I eat ripple chips and french onion dip. Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my stomach, and my stomach hates me for it. I make less than stellar decisions. I have occasional entire days where I see barely a vegetable. I make bad jokes. I forget important things. I am sometimes scattered, indecisive, and unmotivated. But – this shouldn’t scare you away. Instead, relax a little knowing that your own sins are forgivable, even understandable in my eyes (the dietary ones, anyway, can’t speak for all of the others).

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Having gotten that out of the way, you should now feel a little more at ease with me. I know that transition is often plodding and difficult, but the rewards are worth it. I’m searching for a life free of disease, frailty, and limitations, and full of energy, movement, and freedom, and there’s little point in me having one of those lives if I can’t drag as many people along with me as possible so that I can enjoy it in good company. I’ve also changed particular aspects of my lifestyle over the years that vastly improved how I feel and function (just think, I used to be all those flaws above and more!), and all of it was inspired by other people. At the very least I want to be what those people were for me – a resource for information and motivation.

I’m both an optimist and a realist. I am certain that there are simple things that every single person I know can do to improve their lives to some degree, no matter their finances, living situation, location, or current state of health. The ultimate aim is to become superhuman, and even if we don’t quite reach that, we’ll be better off for having worked to arrive there. Self-experimentation – nutritionally, physically, and mentally – is crucial to understanding what works best for your particular body. The world of health in general is fraught with conflicting information and absolute statements (fat is bad! fat is good! fruit juice is good! fruit juice is bad!), and the reasons for it being so are sometimes complex and confusing, but know that only you can truly determine how you feel when you eat a certain something, take up a particular pursuit, or try something at all different.

Lydia in Grocery Store

Yeah, there’s a lot I don’t know, but a ton I do have to share, and if I knew it all it would be difficult for me to take others along for the ride, anyway. In short, I love a few things. Food. Being outside. Rock climbing. Traveling. Reading. Learning new stuff. The people and animals in my life. Practical jokes.

I’m not sure what the meaning of life is or what in particular it is I want out of it. But I do know that the best way to figure it out, if such a thing is even possible, is to remain capable of adapting to my environment, by striving to be strong and flexible and healthy and educated. That doesn’t mean I’m always the best example but I’m working on it. Your input is appreciated, too.

– Lydia

Fighting the Tide of Resistance

18 Jan

Fight the Tide

My friend Heidi wrote me an e-mail today to tell me of her recent trip to visit her family. Here’s what she shared:

“It’d be really cool if my family were on the same page with me on dietary philosophy – when I visited back in August, I told my mom and sister what I was eating and doing and had a few confrontations with them because they completely ignored what I told them – second day I was there – Mom made spaghetti w/ meatballs, using regular pasta, lots of frozen processed meals, et cetera,  sister took me out to eat at a pizza place in downtown Houston, and the list goes on – I ended up eating a crab cake & fresh fruit while I watched her noshing on her pizza… and they both fussed at me for choosing to eat a larger salad or veggies with my meat instead of eating the pasta or rice or potatoes they were serving with meals.

‘THAT’s your problem! That salad is HUGE. You just need to eat small portions.’ ‘Aren’t avocados loaded with fat?!!’

Eff that – I was craving greens so I made myself a nice salad with arugula, fresh herbs, cukes, bell pepper, onion, and avocado, and used minced garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil to season. I ate the salad with each meal since they were cooking with pasta and rice and sugar and processed foods.”

In spite of knowing that Heidi was diagnosed by her doc as pre-diabetic and is currently on prescribed medication for it, her family ignored her fresh preferences for a healthier lifestyle, even telling her that really the only thing she needed to do was eat smaller portions. They went on to imply that the size of her salad was likely the root of her problems. And avocados! They’re full of fat! She must be asking for it, right?

What Heidi’s dealing with is NOT rare. Often family and friends are so resistant to change that they criticize you when you make moves toward a healthier lifestyle. It’s as if it’s personal –“Well, if you want to be different, then you’re criticizing my choices, and I can’t stand that!” This of course applies to change of any kind, whether it’s emotional, physical, and even spiritual, though here the issue is Heidi’s health. This means that, like most people, Heidi’s family would rather dismiss her new lifestyle than be excited about her making choices that will greatly increase her lifespan, her energy, her resistance to all disease, and her ability to simply move through life with ease.

Of course it’s a little more complex than simple resistance to change. Ignorance is also at the root of most resistance, and individuals have to choose to learn, choose to be aware and awake, and choose to make an effort. We also live in a society that gives us a truckload of misinformation on a daily basis. Avocados have saturated fat in them, sure, but saturated fat is good for you.

Here’s a tidbit from the California Avocado Commission:

Avocados provide nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, B-vitamins and folic acid. They also act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit.

It’s difficult to blame the average consumer when our grocery store shelves are loaded with foods that will literally kill us if we consume them long enough. How can we blame Americans (and the rest of the world that lets in our influence) for being so fat? For eating more and more food with a nutritional void and becoming bigger and bigger while they become more malnourished? It is our very own government that trembled with joy at the idea of cheap replacement fats like Crisco, margarine, and corn oils because it is them who ultimately profited from their subsidization. The people who produce these “foods” become richer while Americans pay the price in higher taxes and human lives.

Check out this short video clip I found on Sarah Wilson’s blog from the documentary “Fat Head” for a super-quick synopsis of why saturated fat and cholesterol became vilified in the United States:

Heidi has lost thirty pounds since she was diagnosed as pre-diabetic in April. She added exercise to her healthier diet, and her happy doctor says that her blood sugar levels are normal again and she’s on her way to getting off the meds.

So. What are you to do when you decide you want to make a little change but are worried some of your family or friends might make it difficult for you? You find support elsewhere. Talk to your healthier, fitter friends. It’s scientifically proven that you become who you hang out with, physically and emotionally. Ask them to help encourage you, even if it’s just by saying to them, “Man, I really envy your glow (or your toned arms/legs/abs)! How do you do it?” You can tell them you’re trying to avoid certain temptations and seek out new healthier ones, and to please help you resist when they’re around you. Subscribe to blogs that have great content about healthy food, and make a point to read them several days a week. Find a health coach who can guide you and hold you accountable for your choices. Most importantly, know thyself. Figure out what drives you, whether it’s looking hotter for your next class reunion, being able to fit into your high school jeans, becoming healthy enough to get pregnant, running farther, climbing higher, feeling happier, or not following in your family’s footsteps.

Here are a couple of my favorite blogs for healthy food-motivation:

http://glutenfreegirl.com

http://www.nourishingmeals.com

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