Category Archives: health

Eating Animals

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer is a thoughtful examination of where food, (meat and meat products specifically), come from. Most Americans are quite divorced from the fact that the “meat” in their sandwich, was once an animal. Most of the meat we eat doesn’t even resemble or remind us of its origins. Cold cuts, nuggets, hot dogs, individually frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It’s easy to eat it and forget, but when what we eat affects our health, the environment, other living creatures, and probably grossly contradicts our beliefs, shouldn’t we take the time to remember?

I have been a meat eater all my life, but I still remember the reluctance I felt as a child, seeing the red juices of a medium rare steak on my plate. “Is it blood?” I asked my mother.
“It’s a steak. It’s meat – just eat it,” she answered, waving a hand in the air.
“But, what animal does it come from?”
My mother’s fork and knife clink loudly against her plate. “We don’t need to discuss THAT at the table. Just eat!”

I’m sure many children have similar memories of the first time they realized that “meat” meant “animal”, and feeling revulsion. But like me, most children are told, “just eat”, and we do.

After reading this book, I don’t think I can “just eat” anymore. If the animals we call food were raised and slaughtered humanely, I think my love of meat would win at the end of the day — but in today’s world of “factory farming” and “agribusiness”, animals are raised not as living creatures, but as a commodity. Little thought is given to the miserable lives and deaths they face. Not to mention how the unnatural hormones and antibiotics the animals are pumped full of, end up in our bodies, adversely affecting our health.

Despite my strong feelings after reading it, Eating Animals is not an outright case for vegetarianism. The author takes pains to represent and research every imaginable aspect of the topic, and fairly so. This book is without a doubt, one of the most important books of the year, and a necessary read for all consumers.

I can’t tell you if a week from now I will conveniently “forget” what I have read, if I will file it away in a quiet part of my mind where I can ignore it so I can enjoy the food I love without guilt – but at this moment in time, I see the book as life changing and it’s hard for me to imagine anyone being able to read the book and continue eating mindlessly, with no thought as to where their food came from, and wrestling with that knowledge.

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Zumba!

Zumba book cover The motto of Zumba creator, Beto Perez, is “Ditch the workout. Join the party!” and that is exactly what Zumba feels like.

I am an avid hater of exercise, especially aerobics classes. (I am forever traumatized by the Jazzercise my Mom made me take as a child.)

Zumba is like nothing I’ve tried before. It’s fun, contagious and addictive. I never thought I would look forward to exercise until I took Zumba classes and this kind of enthusiasm is incredibly common amongst other “converts” to the Latin dance craze.

One thing I loved about Zumba was that the instructors are trained to let everyone take things at their own pace. My class was a mix of young sorority girls, stay-at-home-moms, business women, and women old enough to be my grandmother – not to mention we were all different shapes and sizes and at all different levels of fitness.  One woman had a professional background in dance, one claimed to have no sense of rhythm, another hadn’t exercised in years. None of this mattered. Everyone put into it what they were able to and at the end of the hour long class, every single one of us were hooked.

As for the book itself, it’s a great introduction to what Zumba is for those who are not familiar. A short DVD is included which gives brief instruction on a few of the moves and has samples of a few songs on it as well.

The book contains the life story of Beto Perez, which is inspiring, as well as information on Zumba itself and a meal plan with a few recipes  if you’re interested. The meal plan is not the secret crash diet you’ve come to expect from fitness books, but is a very well rounded, sensible diet of whole grains, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, etc. (Basically common sense eating but it may be helpful to have every meal written out for some people.)

If you’re looking to get in shape, or just have some fun, I highly recommend Zumba.

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Get Off Your “But”

getoffbut Get Off Your “But” by Sean Stephenson is a self help book that teaches you multiple techniques to stop making excuses and start living the life you want and deserve.

What is most inspiring about this book is the fact that the author was born with a genetic disorder called Osteogenesis Imperfecta which causes the bones to be extremely brittle. Just the pressure of labor alone when he was born broke nearly every little bone in his body. The doctors didn’t think he would live, but he survived. He grew to only 3 feet tall and is confined to a wheelchair. Throughout his life he has suffered more than 200 bone fractures, (and “No,” he says, you never “get used to” the physical pain of it.)

Despite the challenges he never makes excuses for himself and instead has achieved a level of success and (more importantly) happiness most able bodied people never reach.

No matter what you’re needing motivation for, this book has it all. The life changing lessons can be applied to any and all aspects of your life from health and finances, to career and relationships and beyond.

Below is an excerpt I’ve been authorized to share.

Slowwwwww . . . Downnnnnn . . .
by Sean Stephenson,
Author of Get Off YourBut“: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself

One thing I hear over and over from clients is that they just don’t have enough time. That’s kind of funny, because our world moves fast, and we move fast — you’d think we’d have plenty of time. But moving fast makes us feel as if we can’t catch up. Rushing certainly doesn’t give us physical confidence. When we’re running at top speed all the time, we can’t relax, and others can’t relax around us.

The solution is easy: Slow. Down.Your. Movements.

I’m not talking about moving as if you were running in slow motion; I am simply suggesting that you be more aware of how your body is moving. If you want to be more comfortable with yourself and make others feel comfortable when they are around you, pay attention to the following areas:
  • Relax. Keep your entire body loose. If your fists are clenched, release them. Let go of any tension you’re harboring anywhere in your body.
  • Breathe. if you’re taking shallow breaths, begin taking slower and deeper breaths. Be sure to exhale completely! If you find yourself fidgeting (for example, dipping your hands in and out of your pockets; fiddling with any object obsessively; chewing your nails; playing with your hair; tapping your feet, hands, or fingers), take a deep breath in, smile, gently place your body in a comfortable position — and leave it there.
  • Slow down your blinking. Be aware of your blinking rate. If it’s too fast, slow it down.
  • Bring your head up. Keep your shoulders back and your head up. This will almost automatically keep your optimism up. When we look out at the world, we think about things outside ourselves. When we look down, we tend to go inward. Our mind accesses self-talk and emotions, and that can disconnect us from the present moment. Keeping your shoulders back will also open up your heart chakra and show others that you’re open to giving and receiving love.
  • Adopt good posture. Keep your body relaxed and slightly asymmetric. No sitting or standing at attention, with, shoulders squared and feet together, like a soldier. This symmetric posture conveys the message that you’re ready to attack, whereas holding your body slightly (yet consciously) off kilter conveys you have no intention to cause harm. You’re just there to relax and have a good time.
  • Use a strong tone of voice. Keep your voice under conscious control. if you listen to any good radio DJ, you’ll notice that he never speaks in a slow, boring monotone. He keeps the volume, tempo, and pitch of his voice smooth and controlled. When he takes breaths, he makes the sound intentional.
  • Smile! Please don’t force a big, scary, stiff smile that stays plastered on your face no matter what. Make it a gentle, subtle smile that comes from your open heart and feels comfortable.
  • Be peaceful. The more still and calm you are, the better. Our eyes and ears catch sudden or awkward changes in movements and sounds, and automatically register them as potential threats. The more you can keep your body still and your voice controlled and relaxed, the better equipped you’ll be to keep the peace around you and certainly within you.
Sensory Acuity

If you pay close attention to microchanges in physiology, you can tell when your feelings (or someone else’s feelings) are shifting. Our awareness of these details is referred to as sensory acuity. The following physical cues telegraph your internal emotional condition:
  • Pupil dilation: The larger the pupils, the more open and connected we feel (if not influenced by direct light or drugs, that is).
  • Flushed skin: The more red the skin (specifically in the face), the more uncomfortable, fearful, embarrassed, or sexually nervous we feel.
  • Muscle tension: The tenser the facial muscles, specifically around the eyes, the more uncomfortable we are. Neck tension is a very good indicator of feeling overwhelmed.
  • Quick breathing: The more quickly we breathe (unless we have just done some physical activity), the shallower the
    breaths we take, and the higher in the lungs our breath comes from, the more constricted we feel (and probably are) overall. If we take slow, deep, and fully belly breaths, we’re likely to be more comfortable in the moment.
  • Lip configuration: if our lips are unnaturally pursed and slightly white, we’re likely to be upset or extremely displeased. If the lips are full, smooth, and a deep shade of red, we may be feeling sexually aroused, emotionally excited, or at total peace.

The above is an excerpt from the book Get Off YourBut“: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself by Sean Stephenson. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Excerpted from Get Off YourBut by Sean Stephenson. Copyright © 2009 by Sean Stephenson. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Author Bio
Sean Clinch Stephenson, author of Get Off YourBut“: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself, is one of the leading authorities on the deconstruction of self-sabotage (what he calls getting people off their BUTs). A psychotherapist and internationally known professional speaker, he publishes the international men’s online magazine InnerGameMagazine.com and has a private psychotherapy practice.

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Almond Butter Apricot Cookies

If I had to choose one of my cookbooks to use exclusively for the rest of my life, I would choose The Healthiest Meals on Earth by Jonny Bowden, Ph.D.

I consider myself pretty well read on nutrition and I think this book provides solid advice on eating healthy. Toss your old cookbooks full of food that doesn’t nourish your body. These recipes reflect modern day knowledge of eating for maximum impact on your health which means choosing foods high in antioxidants, good fats, fiber, vitamins, etc.

When you think of the words “healthy” and “nutritious” you may be turned off, but each recipe in this book is accompanied by a beautiful full color photo that had me drooling. Not only that but I felt the recipes were fresh, creative and most didn’t involve a lot of hard to find expensive ingredients. (There were a few exceptions, but over all, I will use the majority of these recipes.)

With the permission of the publisher, I’m going to share one of the recipes with you so you can see exactly what I mean!

The Healthiest Meals on Earth by Jonny Bowden Ph.D./pg. 168-169

Healthiest Meals on Earth by Jonny Bowden Ph.D./pg. 168-169

Sweet and Simple Almond Butter Apricot Cookies/The Healthiest Meals on Earth by Jonny Bowden Ph.D.

Sweet and Simple Almond Butter Apricot Cookies/The Healthiest Meals on Earth by Jonny Bowden Ph.D.

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Measure of the Heart

A study done earlier this year revealed that one in six women and one in ten men are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s. That leaves a lot of people looking at years of potentially caring for a parent who suffers the frustration that comes with dementia. Many of us will deal with the painful journey of becoming a “parent to our parent”.

In Measure of the Heart: A Father’s Alzeimer’s, a Daughter’s Return by Mary Ellen Geist, we follow Mary who leaves her job as a CBS radio anchor and returns home to Michigan to help her mother care for her father. The book is honest, heartwarming, and her journey will resonate with the millions of Americans who are facing the same obstacles.

Geist not only shares her touching story, but gives practical advice on how to make it through. This is a must read for anyone facing the challenge of caring for an aging parent.

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Last Child in the Woods

I’m reading a book right now called, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.

I have to tell you that it’s completely blown me away. It’s a complete wake up call for parents. It states something so obvious, it’s a wonder we’ve ignored it for so long.

He writes, “Our children are the first generation to be raised without meaningful contact with the natural world.” Read that again. I wonder if we realize the impact that this will have not only on our children, but their ability to care for and connect to nature. I wonder if it will prevent them from taking the proper steps to see how valuable it is and to protect it in generations to come.

In the beginning of the book, Louv quotes a 4th grade boy from San Diego who candidly said, “I like to play indoors better cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” On the surface this quote is funny but the amount of truth it carries is incredibly painful. We are raising a generation of children who are living in an over protected, overly sanitized, man made world. They are not experiencing the simple joy that we experienced – being able to disappear into our own world and experience freedom and thought away from adults.

Even when our children do have the opportunity to experience nature, they are oblivious to it. The book describes a commercial which he says, “…depicts a four wheel-drive SUV racing along a breathtakingly beautiful mountain stream – while in the backseat two children watch a movie on a flip-down video screen.” Does this hit home to any other parents out there?

I could go on and on about the importance of reading this book. It’s one of those books, for me, that will be life changing. It will, and already has, affected how I’m raising my children. Today I plan to take them on a walk in the woods across the street – a place I had forbidden them to go… And after many trips there, when I have built up confidence, I plan to let them go there on their own.

It’ll be baby steps for me, but I am convinced that this will be an essential part of their childhood, who they are, and who they become, and I can’t allow the fear, so common in today’s parents, to allow me to raise them in this child safe, air conditioned, carpeted environment any longer.

Some of my most precious childhood memories are of climbing trees and looking out across the landscape, of using my imagination and building forts, of afternoons spent on my Great Grandmother’s farm chasing cows, fishing with a homemade rod, throwing pebbles in the creek and watching fish scatter, collecting pine cones, exploring fields, discovering the broken light blue shell of a Robin’s egg, and eating blackberries warm from the sun or tasting the sweetness of wild honeysuckle. I want my children to have these memories, too.

The author has given permission to reprint this article. Enjoy.

BEYOND NATURE-DEFICIT DISORDER
It’s Time to Turn Consciousness into Action
By Richard Louv
Author of Last Child in The Woods

Got dirt? “In South Carolina, a truckload of dirt is the same price as a video game!” reports Norman McGee, a father in that state who bought a small pickup-load of dirt for his daughter and friends.

McGee is turning consciousness into action. So is Liz Baird, who keeps a “wonder bowl” available for her children.

When Baird was a little girl she would fill her pockets with natural wonders—acorns, rocks, mushrooms. “My Mom got tired of washing clothes and ?nding these treasures in the bottom of the washer or disintegrated through the dryer,” Liz recalls. “So she came up with ‘Liz’s Wonder Bowl,’ and the idea was that I could empty my pockets into the bowl. I could still enjoy my treasures, and try to ?nd out what things were, and not cause trouble with the laundry.”

McGee and Baird are among the thousands of parents who have joined – and are leading – an international children and nature movement. Sometimes known as Leave No Child Inside, the effort is bringing together people from all walks of life, who are creating grassroots regional campaigns, state and national legislation, and changes in their own families to help children become happier, healthier and smarter.

An emerging body of scientific knowledge links nature time to longer attention spans, better cognitive functioning, reduction of stress, and strengthened family bonds. What better way to enhance parent-child attachment than to walk in the woods together, disengaging from distracting electronics, advertising, and peer pressure?

Howard Frumkin, director of the National Center for Environmental Health at Centers for Disease Control, recently describes the clear benefits of nature experiences to healthy child development, and to adult well-being.

“In the same way that protecting water and protecting air are strategies for promoting public health, protecting natural landscapes can be seen as a powerful form of preventive medicine,” he says. He believes that future research about the positive health effects of nature should be conducted in collaboration with architects, urban planners, park designers, and landscape architects. “Of course, there is still much we need to learn, such as what kinds of nature contact are most beneficial to health, how much contact is needed and how to measure that, and what groups of people benefit most. But we know enough to act.”

If you’re a parent who missed out on nature as a child, now’s your chance. Indeed, all the gifts of nature that come to children also come to the good adult who introduces a child to nature.

Young people are acting, too, by becoming natural leaders in the movement. For example, a seven-year-old girl in Virginia rounded up her friends and enrolled them in her own Girls Gone Wild in Nature Club. Together they organize backyard campouts and bug hunts.

In Mississippi, teenager Josh Morrison founded Geeks in the Woods (www.geeksinthewoods.org) for his friends and fellow geeks everywhere. He defines “geek” as a “gaming environmentally educated kid,” and says he and his friends — “tired of being labeled” tech addicts — can have their PlayStations and their outdoor time too: “We could be the generation that makes a U-turn back to . . . a balance between virtual reality and what sustains all life . . . nature.”

FIVE ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TODAY

1. Go for a family walk when the moon is full. There’s a whole new set of animals, sights and sounds out there. Listen to animals calling. Owls and bats are looking for prey. Watch for things glowing, like worms and fungus on trees. And look up at the stars.

2. Help your child discover a hidden universe. Find a scrap board and place it on bare dirt. Come back in a day or two, lift the board, and see how many species have found shelter there. Identify them with the help of a field guide. Return to this universe once a month, lift the board and discover who’s new.

3. Tell your children stories about your special childhood places in nature. Then help them find their own: leaves beneath a backyard willow, the bend of a creek, the meadow in the woods. Let it become their intimate connection with the natural world.

4. Revive old traditions. Collect lightning bugs at dusk, release them at dawn. Make a leaf collection. Keep a terrarium or aquarium. Go crawdadding—tie a piece of liver or bacon to a string, drop it into a creek or pond, wait until a crawdad tugs.

5. Invent your own nature game. One mother’s suggestion: “We help our kids pay attention during longer hikes by playing ‘find ten critters’—mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, snails, and other creatures. Finding a critter can also mean discovering footprints, mole holes, and other signs that an animal has passed by or lives there.”

Adapted from LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS by Richard Louv, © 2008. Reprinted by permission of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

In our families and our communities, it’s time to take action. That’s why the new, expanded 2008 edition of “Last Child in the Woods” contains a “Field Guide” with 100 Actions that families and communities can take, along with discussion questions, a report on the movement, and other resources for parents, educators, conservationists, business people and community leaders.

For more information on the Second Edition of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” go to http://www.lastchildinthewoods.com. To help build the movement, please join the Children & Nature Network at http://www.childrenandnature.org

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Where Did I Leave My Glasses?

Where Did I Leave My Glasses?: The What, When, and Why of Normal Memory Loss by Martha Weinman Lear is a reassuring read for those of us who think we may be losing it – (“it” being our memory, and maybe our sanity.)

This book takes an equally serious and humorous look at memory loss and what is normal, as well as what is not.

Did you ever walk into a room and forget why you had gone there? Are you constantly looking for your keys? Are things you want to say always on the tip of your tongue? This book is for you. (Write down the title before you forget.)

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