Posts tagged ‘priorities’

May 18, 2017

Healthy is Beautiful

Why can’t we see that healthy is beautiful? This week there were radishes in my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box. I immediately thought of my grandmother. As the host of all of our Sunday family dinners, birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving meals, and Christmas lunch, she never molded, garnished, piped or styled anything. She didn’t take the time to weave a lattice top over her apple pie, she just rolled a second crust and put a few slits in the top. Her one nod to beautifying her food was the radish rose. Even those she kept simple, using a few rudimentary cuts. Then she placed them on a china plate – sometimes her pattern and sometimes her mother’s.
radishes
If this leaves you thinking the table was bland or ugly, think again. A simple white on white table cloth held pristine china, real silverware, cloth napkins, and a row of serving bowls down the center brimming with food from the garden — bright yellow corn, red tomato slices, green okra or string beans with new potatoes. Even the stuffed peppers were home grown, and the dark red Bing cherries were picked fresh from a tree in her yard. Gran may not have used the silver service that sat in her china cabinet next to the dining table or made room for flowers and candles on the table, but her table was elegant, inviting and filled with colorful, fragrant, delicious, fresh food.
peppers
What would Gran think of styling or plating food? I don’t know if she’d object. She wasn’t particularly rough around the edges. Her grammar was impeccable, her nails were always perfectly manicured and painted bright red, and she never gave up her high heels. She just had her own sense of priorities and a limited amount of time. That led to practical decisions. Gran was able to discern that fresh ingredients and skilled preparation would trump appearance in the long run so that’s how she allotted her time.

She also shopped and delivered groceries to a disabled man on a regular basis, made regular nursing home rounds to visit old friends, was church clerk and worked 40 hours a week. If you had suggested she style her food rather than perform these tasks, I’m pretty sure she would have stomped her foot and sent you out of the room. That sort of prioritizing just made her mad.

Maybe it’s my grandmother’s influence, or perhaps I’ve just hit that age when lots of things don’t make sense, but our current priorities leave me frequently feeling out of sync. We spend lots of time, energy, and money making things look good on the surface when doing so means sacrificing quality, health, resilience, accomplishment, character, learning, and deep connection. You can see this in play in many areas:
Relationships – Dump this imperfect person for the next imperfect person instead of examining our contribution to the problem
Parenting – Help the child with his homework so he gets a good grade rather than allowing him to learn from failure
Education – Teach to the test instead of teaching how to learn and process knowledge, i.e. think critically
Finances – Spend and borrow so we appear affluent now rather than plan and save for later
Beauty – Starve, cover, augment, inject, fill, and color instead of appreciating the beauty of our natural attributes
Psychological & Emotional Health – Numb with drugs, alcohol, video games, excessive spending, and overworking rather than feeling and healing
Politics – Say what appeals to constituents right now no matter how a policy will affect the country in the future
Nutrition – Substitute packaged, processed, fortified and convenient for fresh, whole, nutrient-rich, minimally processed and variety
Medicine – Treat symptoms with meds in instances when lifestyle changes can be equally effective

The shift in priorities from Gran’s era to now is rarely questioned, but it doesn’t seem to be serving us well. In my city, the homicide total to date is more than double last year’s rate as of this date. The number of nonfatal gunfire injuries has increased 92 percent. Opioid addiction is at an all-time high. Chronic disease is increasing across all age groups. Political divisiveness and hostility now frequently erupt into contentious confrontations. Rudeness abounds. Bad behavior is presented as the norm of the reality TV star. The US barely makes it into the top 20 list of countries with the highest standard of living as measured by the Social Progress Imperative.
flatbread
How many of these problems could we reverse simply by prioritizing basic healthy practices-
Getting enough sleep
Eating fresh, minimally processed food
Finding a way to be active 5-6 days per week
Making time for stillness
Forgiving ourselves
Owning our decisions
Setting boundaries
Showing appreciation
Practicing gratitude
Listening to each other
Showing compassion

Of course, there’s no way to know, but I believe we have the ability to improve anything on which we focus our energy. If we simply viewed healthy as beautiful, it’s clear we’d throw lots of time, money, and energy into achieving a healthy state. Perhaps we can start by pausing a moment to see the beauty in colorful fresh vegetables, fragrant herbs, and listening to each other over a bowl of homemade soup.

With her energy focused on growing and preparing vegetables, making pickles and tomato juice, and keeping the cookie jar full, Gran may not have had time for frilly or fancy, but she certainly provided a beautiful spread. She’s been gone for more than 20 years and we still talk about those meals. We miss them. On Gran’s table, healthy food had lasting beauty.

The lasting beauty of healthy food that contributes to healing – that’s a priority I can get behind!

References:
http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/ADHD-Nation/Alan-Schwarz/9781501105913
http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/apr/29/meeting-to-address-lr-crime-20170429/
http://www.arkansasnews.com/news/arkansas/doctor-warns-epidemic-opioid-addiction-arkansas
http://www.fightchronicdisease.org/sites/default/files/docs/GrowingCrisisofChronicDiseaseintheUSfactsheet_81009.pdf
http://www.businessinsider.com/19-countries-with-the-highest-standard-of-life-according-to-the-social-progress-report-2016-6

Resources:
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/69402.The_Essential_55
https://traumahealing.org/
https://www.onsiteworkshops.com/
https://fearlessliving.org/

July 12, 2016

What We Eat Reflects Our Priorities

scaleLooking back at the horrific events of the past week reminds me that our actions always reflect our priorities – even what we eat reflects our priorities. No matter what we tell the world, what we do sometimes belies our words. Not only can this sometimes confuse those around us, it can hinder us from reaching our goals. No change can come until we have the courage to stare the facts in the face.

There are millions of choices when it comes to food and health. What works for one person may be detrimental to another. We each have a unique ecosystem within our bodies. The only way to know what works for you is to become aware of your body’s signals and educated about the foods you choose to eat.

Keep a food journal for a month and you’ll learn a lot about yourself and your priorities. Sometimes when we express a priority, what we really mean is we feel we “should” focus on a particular thing because of peer pressure or a doctor’s recommendation. It often turns out to mean much less as far as our everyday behavior. Not only does this make us feel bad, it becomes an impediment to making positive change. For example:

If your stated top priority is to limit the sodium in your diet, but you don’t take the time to read the labels on your salad dressing, sandwich meat, cheese, packaged soup, and whole wheat bread, then you will not be able to achieve your goal because you won’t know whether you’re within your limit.

It could be that limiting sodium is not a top priority, but instead falls below work, screen time, working out, or whatever it is that keeps you too busy to read labels. That’s okay. Once you recognize the facts, you are in a great position to make the best choice for you.

muffinsIf your stated priority is to avoid sugar and you continue to eat bread, breakfast cereal, frozen pizza, muffins, ketchup, barbecue potato chips and Ranch dressing, you are choosing foods that contain sugar. Once you recognize this you can decide to: 1)Eliminate these foods and all others that contain sugar, 2)Limit sugar by not eating dessert or “sweets”, but stop trying to avoid it 3)Eat as much sugar as you want.

Any of these choices is okay. Only you can decide what’s right for you. Once you look at the facts, you’ll be able to see how to achieve your personal goals more easily.

If your stated priority is to avoid processed food, but you eat at fast food or fast casual restaurants every day at lunch, then a revision of your stated priority or a change in venue may be appropriate.

If your stated priority is to avoid carbs, but you eat potato chips, drink beer, consume commercial smoothies, or coffee drinks, eat bagels or yogurt with fruit on the bottom, then it’s time to review your priority. It could be that research must take precedence while you learn more about carbs or it could be that you decide you don’t want to avoid carbs other than those from added sugars.

asparagusIf your stated priority is to feed your children real, unprocessed food, but you grab the Lunchables®, packaged mac & cheese, or fruit roll-ups more often than the broccoli, black beans, sugar snap peas, carrots, cauliflower, squash, green beans, and asparagus then perhaps it’s just a goal and not a priority or maybe you believe education, sports, or dance are more essential building blocks for a good life and have prioritized those over real unprocessed food. If so, that’s okay and only your stated priority needs to change.

This flight of fancy may seem unimportant to you, but choosing and owning our choices is the only real power we have in life. You cannot control other people. You cannot control nature. You cannot control what foods make you feel bad. You cannot control all public policy. You cannot control feelings that come rushing from a subconscious trigger. You can control when and how you act on your feelings and you can seek help if prior trauma leaves you doubting your perceptions.

Ultimately, it is our choices that allow us to create the best possible life we can have no matter what uncontrollable or tragic circumstances we encounter. This is true when it comes to diet and health. It is also true in relationships, finances, on the highway, and in a job situation. Changing our lives for the better is always within our power, but it will not happen until we have the courage to observe the facts and tell ourselves the truth no matter how ugly or difficult that truth is. It is at that point that it becomes possible to give up excuses and blame in order to craft the lives we desire.

When I can embrace and accept the things about me about which I feel the most shame, I begin to treat myself as though I matter, my priorities matter, my health matters, and my heart matters. While I hope that this will be valued by everyone I encounter, I know it will not. When my values run counter to yours, I can make a choice to argue with you, bully you, harm you, dismiss you or hear you, inspire you, and have compassion for you. I will not always make the ideal choice. It is then you can have compassion for me.

I wish us all the courage to become our best selves.