Archive for ‘Lifestyle can be a Piece of Cake’

May 8, 2017

Let Yourself Be Surprised

Sometimes it’s best to let yourself be surprised! I write a lot about planning, being prepared, and managing expectations. When you have to follow a specific dietary plan, those are important concepts. It’s hard to stick to a gluten-free regimen without preparing in advance. While that’s a reality, sometimes it’s nice to drop the preparation and let the universe provide.

When circumstances require us to focus on what may be missing, lacking, detrimental, or dangerous, it’s easy to slip into a perpetually defensive posture. For some of us this will feel like hopelessness, futility, or defeat. For others, it may feel like anger, stress, or frustration. Whatever its manifestation, the more time and energy we devote to seeing what’s wrong, the less we see what’s right. This can eventually erode our sense of safety, well-being, contentment, and happiness.

Perhaps it’s an innate desire to protect ourselves from this eventuality that leads patients newly diagnosed with celiac disease to respond in overwhelming numbers to the diagnosis as if it were worse than cancer. That brief glimpse down the road of constantly being on guard every meal of every day for the rest of your life – that’s overwhelming. To top it off, often while you’re still trying to get your mind around the idea, some medical professional is telling you it’s hard to follow a gluten-free diet.

Holy crapoly! How are you supposed to deal with all this stressful news when you’ve just been told to eliminate your favorite comforting cookie, doughnut, brownie, cinnamon roll or cupcake?

A large number of patients choose to ignore the diagnosis, or partially comply with a gluten-free diet. While this may alleviate some of the immediate stress, it ultimately creates more misery as the autoimmune system continues to assault and damage the body. It is especially important for patients who do not experience or attribute their symptoms to celiac disease to recognize that by the time they understand the importance of being gluten-free, they may have developed irreversible damage and/or have shortened their lifespan.

But what about those of us who feel so much better without gluten that we’re not tempted to cheat, but sometimes get weary from always trying to stay one step ahead?

Having to round up a snack hours in advance to make sure you won’t get too hungry if your after work event doesn’t serve gluten-free food can affect your sense of well-being on an already overbooked and stress filled day. By itself, packing that snack is no big deal. On top of a series of pressing deadlines, that snack can mean the difference between feeling content and feeling overwhelmed.

One way to help balance, and even offset, the weariness of wariness is to occasionally let your guard down and trust the universe to provide. The risk is that you’ll miss a snack or a meal. The advantage is, you may discover a new restaurant, convenience store, or product you’d otherwise miss.

I just finished two back-to-back road trips. Although I had a night in my own bed in between, I was home less than 24 hours. Because the second trip had come up suddenly, I had little time to prepare. I threw a banana, some almonds & some raisins in the car and headed out.
Three hours into the trip, I was hungry. I needed something more substantial than a banana. I stopped at a convenience store resigned to the possibility I might just need to finish off the almonds. I walked over to the refrigerated cases looking for water, and discovered an unfamiliar gluten-free snack – CHEESEWICHTM.

All four CHEESEWICH options contain one piece of salami sandwiched in between two pieces of cheese. A 2.5 oz serving has 0 carbs, 16 grams of protein, and 210 – 260 calories depending on the cheese flavor chosen. The product comes vacuum packed in a peel apart plastic package that’s convenient for travel or packing a lunchbox. Ready to eat as is, the combination can also be put between pieces of bread or placed on top of a cracker.

The salami is paired with your choice of Mild Cheddar, Colby Jack, Provolone, or Pepper Jack. I saw the cheddar first, so that’s what I grabbed. I ate it on the road because it was late in the day and I didn’t want to be too tired before I arrived. The CHEESEWICH was easy to hold with the package and eat without any mess, and the protein gave me plenty of energy.

Not only did I feel reinvigorated, I felt provided for. It was a great reminder that I often find what I need when I quit worrying about not having it. Reflecting on this makes me feel safe, positive, and calm.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. I once flew into Canada spur of the moment. We parked the plane, rented a car, and headed out with no food, no hotel reservation, and no Google. About the time I thought we’d be sleeping in the car, we happened upon Pond’s Resort. There was dinner with a prominent New Brunswick resident, a room, and world class fly-fishing awaiting us. And that’s not the only time travel flexibility has delivered a great experience.
Even with this recent reminder that I can relax my efforts, I won’t stop planning altogether. That’s not the way I’m wired. I do intend to carry forward the good feeling that comes with letting go of expectations then being pleasantly surprised…at least until I need another reminder. Then I’m sure the universe will provide.

December 29, 2016

Environment Affects Healthy Habits

new year
It is clear that environment affects healthy habits. I’m in my hometown for a holiday visit with family. Funny thing is, there’s not much family left here so I’m not running from party to party with no time to spare. I’ve had time to notice how quiet it is in this little town. It reminds me of a snow day when there’s no traffic and a blanket of white absorbs the noise.

There’s a wonderful new restaurant in town. I eat there every time I’m here. Last night when I finished eating, the manager walked me to my car. It was about 7pm, but really dark outside. There were more bright stars visible in the sky than you can imagine. The whole scene struck me as ironic. In a town so small that I can see every star in the sky, the restaurant manager is courteous enough to make sure I get safely to my car…at 7pm.

This stands in sharp contrast to a recent experience in the neighborhood where I live. After a concert at a highly touted restaurant, in order to reach my car I had to walk past two men who had rolled out a mattress in the parking lot where they were openly smoking crack and talking to the car next to them. The car was empty, but the alarm had gone off causing the men to loudly admonish it. There was no security guard and certainly no restaurant volunteer to walk with me.

This is not the first time I’ve encountered a crack-encumbered man outside of an upscale restaurant in my city. One night on the way to my car, another man who was flying high hugged me after I told him I wasn’t going to give him money. He could just as easily have shot me.

I felt pretty sure a gold-toothed man I encountered at a gas station was going to hurt me whether I gave him money or not. I don’t go to that gas station any more, but I don’t think my instincts were wrong. Four people have been shot and killed near that intersection in the past year. And so it goes where I live. In the past month, a two-year-old and a 3-year-old were shot and killed while riding in cars.

You might dismiss this as a large inner city problem, but I don’t live in a large city. The population is under 200,000. You might dismiss this as my choice of neighborhoods, but I live 5 blocks from the governor’s mansion. In an even more affluent nearby neighborhood, two women were recently robbed at gunpoint in a grocery store parking lot. My daughter-in-law had just left that store moments before.

Today I’m left pondering the contrasts – a small town that is often called ultraconservative, redneck, closed-minded, uneducated, bigoted, and the most racist small town in America where a total stranger wants to make sure I’m safe on a short walk to my car vs a small city that is considered more sophisticated, diverse, educated, inclusive, and enlightened where it is commonplace to encounter danger and uncommon to encounter concern for my welfare.

If I had grown up in the community where I now live, would I believe that I would live long enough for healthy habits to matter? Would organic produce seem important when I’m rolling off the couch into the floor to crawl away from external walls because I hear the rapid-fire shots of an AR-15 and the screeching tires of the car out of which it’s being fired? Would I be more likely to seek comfort in a high carbohydrate, endorphin releasing meal?

I can answer one of those questions. The most recent drive-by shooting at my house was within the past year. Nothing seems more important than hitting the deck when you hear gunfire outside. Period. You’re not going to make sure to grab your phone so you can call the police. You’re sure as hell not going to make sure you grab a salad while you wait for your heart to stop pounding.

If there’s a way to import the attitude of community concern I experience in my insular hometown, sans bigotry, to the city where I currently live, it’s sorely needed. Self-care begins by giving our bodies good nutrition, adequate sleep, plenty of movement, and enough stillness, but the feeling that we are worthy of self-care begins when we feel valued. That feeling comes when our environment provides safety and responsiveness to our need for food, warmth, comfort, and touch.

It is ideal when that responsiveness comes from our parents and extended family in our first moments, but it can be healing even when it comes later. The violence and divisiveness in my community exposes a huge need for healing. Extending a hand may require courage. It could make us vulnerable. But if we don’t begin to summon some courage to reach out, we all become more vulnerable anyway.

As I move into the new year, it is with an acute awareness of the unhealthy environment in which I live. No matter what I do within my household, I am still affected by my neighborhood and the community at large. I must decide how I can best take care of myself while best contributing to the larger community. It is the ideal time for reassessment and reevaluation.

The extent to which I am willing to face my failures, own my weaknesses, understand my limitations, enforce my boundaries, and feel my shame will determine the extent to which I am effective in contributing to healing, health, peacefulness, and joy.

In 2017, I hope you will join me on a journey to create an environment for ourselves, our partners, our children, and our communities in which we can all become healthier as well as more whole, peaceful, and joyous. We may not solve the world’s problems, but when we show concern and kindness one walk to the car at a time, we will make a difference.

Happy New Year!

Additional Reading:

September 6, 2016

The Devil, as they say, is in The Details

faceAin´t it the truth…the devil is in the details! I have a friend who´s starting a business with a partner. My friend has no funds, but provides the talent & is a draw for clients. The two have formed an LLC, but have no operating or member agreement. When I ask questions like: Who will keep the records for the required (in his state) annual report; do you have to pay franchise tax; are you insured; are you going to file your federal taxes as a corporation or individual; how much compensation will each of you get and how will it be distributed; what duties are expected of you for that compensation; or can you work for other entities simultaneously, I am met with an angry, irritated stare. That would be no big deal except that my questions are in response to his request to help him get the business off the ground well.

His response is not that uncommon. It sounds exciting to talk about having your own business. You´ll be in control, you can decide when you’re going to work and when you´re not, you can create the kind of product you´d want to buy, you can be the boss you´ve always wanted to have, and you can make a lot of money…. And all of that is true.

What´s also true is that it make take a long time to make a lot of money and when you do, it will be subject to self-employment tax of 15% right off the top of your profit or to an employer social security, medicare, and unemployment contribution. Then there´s income tax that has to be paid in quarterly estimates eating into your cash flow. If you are in a service business, you will have to make some tough choices regarding accepting business vs taking time off, how hard to push when you´re collecting unpaid invoices, when to hire, and when to fire. And inevitable market or regulatory changes and/or competition will force you to innovate to remain relevant and continue to profit. While it may sometimes look like it from the outside, coasting never lasts long.

So while it feels really good to say you´re starting your own business, the actuality of being in business may turn out to be less appealing. There is no way to know whether you are well suited to the entrepreneurial world if you choose to ignore the details of running a business. The best way to ensure success, is to be willing to look at both the good and the bad, outline the details of agreements up front, negotiate in specifics, make deliberate choices in which you decide how much you are willing to lose in the short term in order to gain in the long term.

I mention this because it is the same with a workout program, a dietary lifestyle, a friendship, or a relationship – the devil is in the everyday reality of the details.

I love to swim. A couple of years ago, I swam 3 or 4 days per week for about a year-and-a-half. This meant getting up early to beat the other lap swimmers to the pool, jumping in cold water before I was even awake, and dealing with a less than friendly facility staff. For many months it was worth it. Then the pool became so crowded I always had to share a lane. That was enough to take the joy out of it for me. That one little detail made me dislike the effort it took to pack my bag, make the drive, postpone coffee and the newspaper to the extent that I quit swimming as a workout.

This isn´t uncommon. According to Statistic Brain, 67% of people with gym memberships never use them. The question is, do those gym members find a different workout and stick to it or are they lacking a commitment to finding a workout that fits them? That commitment is the critical detail that will affect their health.

Deciding to give up dairy because it makes your face swell may sound easy until you realize how many foods you eat with cheese. Planning to give up sugar may seem like no big deal until you start reading the labels on your favorite cereal, protein bar, chili seasoning, or chicken stock. Limiting carbohydrates may sound easy until you realize that all fruits and vegetables are carbs. Then you have to determine whether you really want to limit all carbs or just specific types of carbs.

Obviously, you can never know everything up front and you can over think anything to the point of paralysis, but in general exploring the details up front leads to more informed decisions. When I make an informed decision I find I can accept any resulting negative consequence, failure, or difficulty with much more ease. Accepting undesirable results as a risk I signed on for, allows me to let them go immediately because I am at peace with my decision. I don´t have to be at peace with the results.

Since we can never control the outcome of anything with certainty, being at peace with our decisions can reduce the stress in our lives. We just have to be willing to stare down that little devil – the details.

August 9, 2016

World Breastfeeding Week

SidebabyWorld Breastfeeding Week just drew to a close. What? There’s a World Breastfeeding Week? Well, yes there is. It’s coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and began about 15 years ago.

WABA’s core partners are the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), La Leche League International (LLLI), and Wellstart International.

This year, in addition to encouraging women to breastfeed, WABA focussed on raising awareness of the links between breastfeeding and Sustainable Development Goals along the following themes:
1)Nutrition/food security
2)Health, well0being and survival
3)Environment and climate change
4)Work productivity, empowerment, social protection, and
5)Sustainable partnerships and rule of law

That sounds lofty and idealistic, but in the US, there’s a huge gap between our lofty breastfeeding goals and our actual practice. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding babies nothing but breast milk for the first 6 months of life. When moms arrive at the hospital to give birth, the majority say they are planning to follow this guideline. Three months later, 43.3% are exclusively breastfeeding and 29.3% are supplementing with formula. By 6 months according to the CDC, the percentage of exclusively breastfed babies has dropped to 21.9% and 35.4% of nursing mothers have supplemented with formula.*

Rates of Rates of breastfeeding declined in the US between 1911 and 1972 when only 22% of women initiated breastfeeding. While the rates have increased since 1972, they remain low in spite of the known health benefits to both infant and mother. So it seems that our tortured relationship with healthy food in this country literally begins at birth and for many of the same reasons adults cite as impediments to healthy habits – convenience, lack of social support, confusing messages from the medical community, and advertising that reassures us a product is healthy (the closest to breast milk).

When it comes to convenience, I feel like we often think of things in a topsy turvy manner. What could be more convenient than always having milk ready and at the right temperature when a baby gets hungry? It becomes inconvenient when women feel they must go back to work quickly to support their families or believe that they’ll get behind in their careers if they take off a few years to raise children. While this is sometimes the reality, other times it isn’t, but the belief has become so ingrained that we rarely challenge it.

We don’t always run the numbers to see if our jobs really cost more than they bring in, especially if we have more than one child in day care. We appear to forget that added trips to the doctor for either baby or mother who has missed out on the health benefits of breastfeeding take time out of our schedule.

Nor is there much social support for breastfeeding in public places in many communities in the US. You may have seen the recent video of a man telling a breastfeeding mother in Target how disgusting she is. This type of experience has been reported by 25% of breastfeeding moms.

This seems kinda crazy to me considering the number of reality TV stars who run around with half of their boobs showing all the time. Is it the addition of a baby that makes seeing a breast disgusting? I guess that could make sense. Babies are kinda gross sometimes.

Almost 20% of US babies receive supplementary formula within the first two days following birth. That means it’s often being fed while mom and baby are still in the hospital. When you combine this with the formula samples and ads that are often sent home with the mothers, it can appear like a medical endorsement of formula. Studies show that leaving the hospital with formula samples reduces the duration of breastfeeding.

While it’s easy to brush all of this off as insignificant as long as our life expectancy remains the same, the rise in chronic diseases is making our lengthy lives of lower quality. Perhaps someday soon, we’ll recognize that quality can be as valuable as quantity. We’ll see that we don’t have to rush to accumulate, achieve, or hit some arbitrary target to bring value to our lives, our communities, and the world.

In the meantime, I wish you the courage and perseverance to give yourself and your children the best nutritional support available even when it’s not as easy, convenient or well-supported as you believe it should be.

monkey hand

*Based on most recent CDC statistics available (2012)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”