Monday, March 30, 2009

What I've learned from Elf

We quote Elf so much in our house. From "I'm in love, I'm in love and I don't care who knows it!" to "I'm a human raised by humans," we enjoy reliving this movie in our day to day lives.

Another great one is "Us elves like to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup." I'm glad my kids know that's absurd enough to be funny (although I used to eat that much sugar during the holidays myself -- ugh! :) )

The line my husband probably says most to our kids is "Make work your favorite!"

Here's a clip of that part of the movie:

I was thinking about this line "Make work your favorite" last night when I was pondering this mental shift from being attached to certain eating habits, patterns, or addictions (as mentioned in yesterday's post). I know that sugar and other foods can be addicting. But I don't think it's that hard to stay away from it after the initial separation. Once the sugar is out of your system and better food is in, the brain doesn't crave it as much. The habits and patterns are there of thinking it's fun to eat, but the body truly doesn't desire it as much. So just like Buddy the elf's boss was telling him to stop thinking "Smiling's my favorite" to thinking work was his favorite, I know I can do the same by telling myself that being in control of what I eat is my favorite.

Somehow, just as I was starting this post today, a friend put this picture on Facebook of me dressed as an elf when I was home from college for Christmas. I remember loving doing this, but I've never seen a picture of it. So fun. I couldn't help but share.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jinjee -- Addicted to Discipline

Jinjee is a 41 year old raw food mom who has a website called . I've read her story and love how she is raising her children from the start with healthy eating habits and principles. This photo is of her 10 days after she delivered her 4th baby in 2007. I normally would probably crop the pic to make it more modest and not show so much of her stomach, but I think it's amazing to see how her body reverted to her previous shape so quickly after being so stretched out just weeks before. Her healthy eating sure shows.

A friend of mine gets her e-mail newsletter and shares them from time to time. I really liked this one from a few days ago. I thought I'd post this one since I talk about habits and food addictions from time to time. I'm not sure sometimes where the addiction ends and the patterns and habits begin, but I do know that we get attached to our ways and have a hard time giving them up. Enjoy reading:

The Daily Raw Inspiration - 3/27/09 Addicted To Discipline I have been wondering why we are all so addicted to different foods, even when we get as far as becoming raw vegans; we are addicted to raw cacao, addicted to overeating, addicted to msg. In the store, I was tempted to eat raw cacao, but I didn't. On the way home I felt a bit strange, not having an addiction to satisfy. It felt kind of empty. I am addicted to addictions. What could I replace that feeling with? And then later I felt it - a sense of satisfaction that I had been able to use self-discipline. And then I realized the answer to my question - that discipline is the new satisfaction, replacing the satisfaction of our addictions! Not only is discipline the cure for addiction, it is also the replacement. Not only is it the harsh reality, it is also the soul satisfaction. In Joy! Jinjee

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No Guilt -- Good thing or Bad thing

I was awake in the middle of last night, pondering way too many things. One was what if someone never has guilt with eating low nutrient foods or even damaging foods. Is that a good thing or bad thing? You see it all the time -- the "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry" mentality. Do it today and don't worry about tomorrow. That's not the most healthy approach to be sure.

The more I thought of it though, it comes down more to knowledge in the first place. If someone has an understanding about nutrition and what the Standard American Diet is doing to the health of Americans and more personally to him or herself, then that person will be better able to make healthy choices and evaluate unhealthy habits. Dr. Furhman says that healthy eating isn't about will power, it's about gaining knowledge and using that knowledge to improve your health (and your family's health).

I've always wondered if I could write a short post. I'll try to stop here and see if I'm tempted to add on more later on. Brevity is not one of my strong points.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Guilt -- good thing or not where eating's concerned

Sometimes I wonder if guilt is a good thing or bad thing with trying to improve eating. I know for habitual dieters (focused on weight loss) that if they "mess up" with their diet, the guilt usually doesn't promote better focus and efforts on the diet. It causes discouragement, which leads to more overeating and poor food choices.

In my own experience, I don't know that I've ever thought, "I feel so bad for eating ______, that I'll do better tomorrow." It's more of a conscious decision that I got off track and need to get back on -- no guilt involved. If I do beat myself up about getting off-track (which I have many times), it usually just gets me down and I'm not motivated to improve as much.

I'm not sure why this is the case with eating because with other forms of guilt can be fruitful and helpful in promoting positive change. I remember lying about something when my oldest girls were little. I questioned it at the time, but justified my behavior. When I got home, I knew it was wrong, but shook it off. I didn't want to feel bad about it. It was easier to rationalize and try to forget it. When I got on my knees to pray, the sure knowledge that this was wrong flooded over me. I felt guilty and knew I had to correct the situation. So I went back to the person and admitted the truth. I felt so much better. The guilt had helped me to correct the situation and to improve myself in some small way.

If guilt just festers without promoting change though or if the guilt is improperly directed (I see my kids do this, feeling awful that they've spilled some juice or something that really doesn't matter), then it can just be disruptive to our lives and even damaging.

I'm thinking that what happens with eating is that (like I mentioned before), the guilt either overwhelms and brings the person into an emotional state that leads to wanting comfort through food. Or the person just wants to shut off the guilt and resort to black & white thinking, "If I messed up here, I'll just have some of that too while I'm at it. I'll get back on track after the weekend (vacation, holiday, etc.)" There's also the physiological aspect that putting unhealthy foods into our bodies doesn't help us think as clearly when it comes to the next choice of what to eat. I know for me if I start eating refined sugar or flour (especially breads and cookies), my body stops desiring whole foods and wants more, more, and more. There's no room for any other thoughts. I wouldn't feel guilty about that until late that night or a day or two later. I'd have to get the "sugar rush" out of my system first.

When I used to read Marilu Henner's Total Health Makeover books (her books were the first to introduce me to eliminating dairy), that one of her 10 steps is actually about the opposite of guilt. It's Gusto! She says that if you end up eating something not as healthy, to not feel guilty about. Her idea is that if you might as well enjoy it then get back to your eating plan afterward. If you feel such guilt, it will interfere with your digestion, your state of being, and will make you less likely to get back on track later on. This isn't a free pass to get off-track all the time, but is healthy advice for not spiraling down and getting farther away from healthy eating habits instead of continuing to improve.

I'd love to hear from any of your experiences because I'm still pondering this. It would be interesting to hear if any of you do actually benefit from guilt when it comes to poor eating choices.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Deathbed Requests for Food

I don't know if this is common or not, but when I started eating healthier, I was known to make deathbed requests for food. Every so often, I'd tell my children "When I'm on my deathbed, I want you to bring me a Haagen Dazs Ice Cream bar with the chocolate and almonds on the outside." I had memories of how heavenly that was and knew it would cause me problems (allergies, asthma, you name it) if I ate it now. But I figured on my deathbed, I'd be on my way out anyway, so let me enjoy it one last time before I go. I made many amendments to my deathbed request list. I know I requested a few kinds of pizza. I've had many thoughts about the kind of pizza my friend Gaylene's mom made when I was growing up. It was the king of homemade pizzas! I learned to make it in high school -- maybe my mom could do it, but if I outlive her, then that wouldn't work too well. I could teach my kids how to make it, but do they need all that meat piled up on top? Not really. They mixed ground beef, sausage and onions, put it under the cheese, then put thick chunks of pepperoni on top. The thought now actually makes me shudder. I don't think I could eat it even on my deathbed. But I do have good memories of how great it tasted then.

Back to the Haagen Dazs bar, that was my first request I had come up with. A year or so later, I was on vacation with my youngest daughter (we'd taken my older daughters and their friends to a youth conference and had all week to do whatever until it finished). We went swimming at a different pool each day. My daughter had just learned to swim and where we live, we don't have hot summers, so outdoor pools are a rarity. When we go on vacation, we're like magnets to outdoor pools. We love to go swimming outside -- to experience getting so hot that we want to jump in the pool -- getting tired and wanting to dry off in the heat of the sun. During this time, she started getting comfortable with the diving board. I told her that if she jumped off the board many times, I'd let her pick out a treat. She chose the Haagen Dazs bar. We'll, it's not much more money to buy a box of 4 than it is to just buy a single (and not all places even sell singles). So we bought a box.

It was August and I used to justify eating dairy in August because my allergies and asthma stopped bothering me by mid-July and really didn't start up again until September. August was my dairy window. So I had the Haagen Dazs bar. I couldn't even finish it. Sure it was tasty at first, but it was so rich that I couldn't keep going. I had to cross that off my deathbed list.

I used to request certain flavors of ice cream for my deathbed too (in my initial deathbed painting, there would be a big truck outside with the back open, ramp coming down, men with dollies dragging the crates of food into my bed). But the last time I had an ice cream cone, it felt like someone was coating my insides with thick paint -- it was way too creamy and didn't feel good at all. A few more requests no longer desired.

I guess it was kind of like when the Boutenko kids (Sergei and Valya, now young adults) started eating all raw foods with their parents -- they would dream up what they'd eat once they turned 18 and didn't have to follow their parent's ways anymore. They eventually loved eating just raw foods though and have since written books, teach seminars, etc.

If I really ever do get on a deathbed, I doubt I'll even want any of the unhealthy foods I've given up. I'm scanning my brain for any right now and can't come up with any. I used to think cheesecake was the end all, but the last time I took a sample of that at Costco, I got a buzzing headache within about 10 minutes. It wasn't worth the few seconds of taste.

When I was really sick a few weeks ago, a friend of ours asked my husband what sickness I had. At that point, it hadn't even gotten to my lungs, so we weren't sure what was going on. I was just weak in bed for days with aches, pains all over, and couldn't do much of anything but stare at the wall and hope the time would pass. When night came, I felt like crying, because I hadn't been able to sleep during the day and struggled with it for more than maybe 20 minutes at a time at night. Each day I'd think "Well, tomorrow will be a little better" and it would somehow be worse. My husband answered our friend with "She has deathbed sickness," not meaning that I was on my way out, but that this must be what it feels like to be on your deathbed. It was partially his dry humor emerging, but I thought that was a pretty accurate guess of what it would feel like to be on a deathbed.

Interestingly enough, the only food I ever wanted was fruits or vegetables. At first, I only ate one or two fruits a day. I couldn't eat much more -- didn't desire much more. One night I woke up and couldn't breathe (the nebulizer was no help) and I had 1/2 an orange by my side. I ate a few pieces very slowly and was able to go back to sleep. A few days later, I craved some vegetable soup. I couldn't eat much, but it was nice going down. A few days more of just a few pieces of fruit, then the thought of steamed veggies and brown rice sounded amazing. I didn't have all the goods in the fridge, but when my friend Cherie called (who cooks that all the time), I made a special request and she brought me some. I never once wished I had ice cream, pizza, or even chocolate. That was the furthest thing from my mind. I still don't want it (okay, maybe I want chocolate -- not this second, but late in the afternoon, it always sounds good). So maybe I'm growing -- ever so slowly at times, but in a healthy direction at least.

I'm off to the store to get some food for our family. Like old Mother Hubbard, our cupboards are bare! I really need to get serious about planting a garden (and getting our fruit trees to produce more) so I don't have to run to the store so often. We go through a LOT of fruit. Hopefully we'll all learn to go through a lot of veggies someday too. TTFN!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels

I've seen that quote attributed to a few different nutrition or raw food experts. I'm not sure who said it first. But the idea is compelling. "Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels." Do you agree with that statement?

Since I've changed my eating over the past few years, I've had many friends or relatives say "Well, I couldn't live without eating . . . " or "If I had as many health problems as you do, maybe I'd change how I eat, but . . . " I probably would have said similar things 5+ years ago. It's hard to give up certain foods that we love, even if we know they are doing our bodies damage. Often we don't even see the damage it's doing until it's too late. It's also hard to know what being healthy feels like when we get used to our ailments, even as simple as fatigue or headaches. When I'm feeling my best, I never need a nap and am full of energy all day long.

I haven't written on here for a few weeks because I've been really sick, sicker than I've ever been in my life. My children all took turns being sick for a few weeks and I cared for each one of them. I held off on being sick myself by eating the best I could and resting whenever I felt run down. Then Valentines Day hit and I thought I was doing well by eating "good" chocolate from the health food store, but I ate far too great of quantities to ever do my body any good. (First I bought my husband a big bar for Valentine's Day -- bought an extra for myself so I wouldn' steal from his after giving it to him. Not only did I eat mine before Valentine's Day, but I ate his too. Then I had to go back and buy him another -- bought myself another too -- ate that until I was sick of chocolate. It just didn't taste good anymore). I started getting sick the next day. I was in bed for 2 weeks not long afterwards, feeling absolutely miserable.

Lessons learned?

1) Too much of a seemingly good thing is still too much.

2) My health is fragile -- I need to be more careful.

3) Eating "healthier" versions of junk from the health food store still isn't as good for me as whole foods. Dr. Fuhrman talks about this in his Eat for Health book. He talks about how a nutritarian (someone who eats for nutritional excellence primarily from high nutrient plant foods) is different than a vegan or vegetarian. Many vegans or vegetarians are not much better off health-wise than those on the Standard American Diet if they are eating processed foods (soy products and cereals included), sugar and flour.

I remember a few summers ago when I went to a Raw Food Expo with my cousin (who wasn't even interested in being a raw foodist, but wanted to spend time with me and thought the event would be fun. She was cute -- she skipped a class mid-day to go eat an omelette across the street). I remember something she said to me in the hotel room the night before. She talked about a friend of hers who had decided to clean up her eating and to eat much healthier. Her friend started shopping at the health food store, but would come home with bags of junk food -- just the healthier versions. Sure, if you want a Ritz cracker, it's better to buy the Classic Rounds by Back to Nature or the Late July version. (They don't have any hydrogenated fat and use organic ingredients). But that shouldn't be the norm of what you eat. Those crackers provide little nutritional value. I saw myself in her statement. It wasn't uncommon for me to walk into the health food store to get some groceries and to come out with chocolate bars, a variety of Clif bars, potato chips, cookies, soy ice cream, etc. -- all very low on the nutrient density scale.

So, yes, I've gotten away from many refined foods. I'm still working on moderation with the health food versions too. I'd say I'm doing better than a year ago on this. But hopefully next year will be even better because I'd rather feel the full effects of good health than spend another day of my life sick. I'd love to say goodbye to my asthma problems forever. I've learned to avoid asthma much more than I used to, but once I get it, it gets severe pretty fast.

I'm still not completely better and I don't enjoy writing as much when I'm not feeling well for some reason. But I'm on my way back and I'm more determined now than ever to feed my body well and to give myself optimal health.