Archive for the ‘health’ Category

The Skinny on Fat-Free

Did you ever notice that things that are full of fat taste so good?

What happens when you take out the fat? It doesn’t taste as good.

From a manufacturing perspective, this means fewer people will buy it and less profit will be made. (Don’t be fooled — they don’t actually care what it does to you as long as you buy it.)

So when they take out the fat, they often replace it with sugar.

Make sure you are reading your labels. Most of the time, it’s better to just go with the full-fat version and eat a moderate portion. Or substitute the entire food. Just going with low fat/no fat isn’t going to get you where you need to go.

Look at this package:

Is that healthy? It says right on the front that it’s a low-fat candy! Low fat = good, right??

OK, you might not be duped by something so obvious, but really — compare labels. Take the regular version and the altered version. Compare the nutrition charts. Compare the ingredients lists. Make educated decisions. Don’t make your decision based on the front of the package.

Babies Test Positive For Pot?

Article summary: there are at least five baby soaps that are linked to babies testing positive for marijuana in urine tests.

While this raises quite a few questions or concerns, one in particular is my target today:

How’d it get in the babies’ urine?

There are a whole lot of people who think I’m wackadoo for making my own shampoo and deodorant, for not using lotion or wearing makeup. While the lotion and makeup already just happened to be in my (lazy) routine, the homemades were intentional. It goes back to my “control what I reasonably can” philosophy.

There is a lot of garbage in personal care products. Much of that garbage isn’t harmless garbage. The industry is unregulated. It’s up to consumers to 1- know there are toxic chemicals in these products and 2- search for products that are safe for themselves and their families.

Regardless of what the ingredient is that causes the positive tests, this is what’s happening:

A baby is washed with soap and then rinsed off. Contact time with the soap is easily measured in minutes and is completely external.

Something in the soap is being absorbed through the skin, being processed (or not) by the body, and being excreted through urine.

Are you getting this? Something in a product that is 100% topical and is rinsed off is being absorbed into the body.

What’s in your soap? Or worse, what’s in your deodorant (which you leave on all day)? Or your lotion?

The Environmental Working Group has a database of hundreds (thousands?) of personal care products, where they break down the ingredients and give each a score based on their safety. I love EWG’s work (and am not paid to say that; I don’t think they even know who I am ;)). You can see their cosmetics database here.

I’m not trying to be alarmist, but I think people should know what they’re doing to themselves to they can choose whether or not it’s something they want to do. (Actually, I think toxic products shouldn’t be available…) There are non-toxic products out there. Typically, they cost more (though if you’re going the homemade route for cleansers, it’s WAY cheaper). If the majority of people were concerned and spoke with their wallets, we wouldn’t need to do extra work to find good stuff because that’s what would be available.

In the US, money is what drives everything. If we want change, we need to speak in dollars.

Is this disconcerting to you at all?

My New/Old Journey of Change

138 pounds.

That’s what I weighed this morning when I stepped on the scale. The last few days have been between 136 and 138, so that’s my starting window.

It’s time for the baby fat to go.

When I was pregnant, I had plans for losing the baby weight after The Kid was born. What I didn’t take into account was milk supply. To put it mildly, nursing was … difficult at first. Once we hit a good groove, I went back to teaching (thankfully only part time) and needed to pump. Through all of this, The Kid has been a very enthusiastic eater. It was really important to me to keep up my supply, so I didn’t focus on cutting calories. There was time later for the fat to go.

The time has come.

I’m still nursing, but I rarely need to pump. He’s starting to eat solid food, though he wears or drops more than he eats, I think. But I’m ready for these extra pounds to go. (Oh, and the “breastfeeding helps you lose weight” thing? Might be true, if it also didn’t make me HUNGRY.)

While I am using the scale as a tool, it’s not my end-all-be-all. 120 is my target, but really, my pre-pregnancy clothes need to fit. My arms need to not jiggle. And you need to be able to see my abs. Those were all in place prior to the baking of The Kid.

Here’s the thing, and if you’ve ever gotten into a habit and had it thrown off, you know this already: getting back into the habit of eating well and exercising is hard. Yep, it’s hard for me, too.

There are an awful lot of people who think that these things come easily to me. False. That said, once I’m in an exercise groove, once I’ve kicked the sugar cravings, then it’s easy. But if you could get there, it would be easy for you, too. It’s getting there that’s hard. My advantage right now is that I know how it feels to be on the flip side, to crave vegetables instead of cookies, to be able to tell from my body and not the calendar that I didn’t exercise yesterday. It feels amazing. Energy, clarity, stress levels. a-MAZ-ing. Worth it. Oh, and it’s healthier.

OK, so we’ve established that I’m human and that I’m a step beyond “soft.” What am I going to do about it?

I am running accountability groups, but I see those as something to manage, not something to participate in. My external accountability will be here, on the blog, but that’s just motivation, not a plan.

I already registered to do a triathlon in October, which means I need to train. But that’s not a plan; that’s just motivation.

Here’s my plan:

1- Create an exercise schedule. I’ve been going to spin on Thursday evenings on a fairly regular basis. The plan is to spin on Thursday evenings and Saturday or Sunday mornings. I’m going to swim two days a week, lift two days a week, and run at least once a week. Some of these things will be on the same day, so maybe I’ll spin then run on Saturday, or something like that. (That works well for tri training, too.)

2- Plan meals better. The Big Man and I are pretty good about planning dinners for the week on the weekend, shopping for whatever we need on Sunday or Monday, then following through. What we don’t plan, and where I get stuck, is lunch. I hate lunch. I wish I didn’t need to eat in the middle of the day. But I do. So I’m going to do better in planning lunch, which will give me the fuel I need to exercise in the morning and also allow me not to be famished (and overeat) at dinner. What I think I’m going to do, though I haven’t given it much thought yet, is to incorporate a “rainbow” into my lunches, so no matter what we have for dinner, I’ve already covered the spectrum.

3- Cut the crap. I’ve been off and on with reducing/eliminating sugary foods. My long-term plan is to cut added sugar entirely. I have a post in the works about all the nasty things that sugar does to your body, and when I remember, I think hard about those things when really, I want a cookie. It helps. I’m already off artificial sweeteners, and I already know that when I don’t eat junk food, fruit is sufficiently sweet to take care of a craving almost all of the time. (And when I very rarely eat sweets, one cookie is enough. Talk about liberating and not to be ruled by the cookies!) Regardless, my short-term goal is twice a week. This includes coffee shop chai, which is loaded with sugar. (I’m getting closer to a home-brew that is delicious. In trying recipes, I’ve stepped up from “I can’t drink this” to “This has promise.”)

That’s all. Haha — “all.” But I know that I can manage these three things at once. The Big Man is on board with the exercise schedule. (He needs to be, since he’ll be watching The Kid at those times.)

I am excited to rediscover my old habits and my old body. And with The Kid being mobile now, I’m going to need all of the energy I can get…

What are your short- or long-term goals? Do you have plans to go along with them? (Near or far, come join an accountability group — we’ll help you!)

Whew, Made It

Monday, Tuesday, Nichol, Thursday, Friday

I made it. After a pretty scary couple of weeks, I am feeling better than ever. I took a solitary weekend and vegetated. I read in bed, took two-hour naps, watched mindless TV, and played Xbox. It was amazing.

I just let everything get to me and I got really overwhelmed. I let go of my mottos (happiness is a choice, let go let God) and I couldn’t seem to get them back. I saw it coming and probably could have taken some preventative measures, but I have this undying need to do it all and make sure I know I have done anything and everything before I can relax.

That causes a lot of problems with my mental health. My job, my classes, the books and articles I read all stress self-care. I just have let that go.

Last Tuesday was a huge wakeup call. I had a moment at work where I was thinking, “I literally cannot stop crying. Someone is going to have to take me to the hospital.” Working with psychiatrically hospitalized adults, I know the signs. It’s my job to do crisis intervention and stabilization. I was too busy focusing on them; I forgot about me.

It wasn’t even just about work. It was this whole mess of crap that seemed to crash down at once. And some really trivial things. I was freaking out about money. My bills are paid. But I can’t buy pants…which I need. Literally need. I think my office might take up a collection, which would be awesome…

But I’m good now. Things have worked themselves out and I’ve let go of some things that needed to be let go of. For instance, I’m not willing to take out a $4000 personal loan for two summer school classes and I definitely don’t have the money for even one class. So…no summer school.

So next week, it’s back to health and wellness and mile talk. I just had a minor freak out and now I’m better. Just as I figured I had to be at some point.

Best part, I still mile-d everyday!

Wow… How depressing

Wednesday in Spanish is el dia de Nichol.

I have been feeling so sucky. Not in a sick way, but in a life sucks and people suck and being broke sucks and I’m sucky and fat.

Now, if you have been following along with me, or if you know me personally, I don’t really believe life sucks (usually), or that people suck (most of them don’t suck), can’t argue with being broke, and I definitely don’t think I’m sucky, and I don’t call myself fat. I call myself “fat in transition.”

But the past week I have been struggling like crazy. Crying in front of people who are not my sisters. Crying in front of people who generally only see me cry once in every six months. I’m just bummed.

It’s a whole mess of things that if I listed here, would exceed the blog’s limit for infinity. I know it’s just a blip, I’ve been here before but this has been a little harder to get out of. I think because it’s more than how I look that’s bringing me down. It’s my job. It’s my lack of money. It’s exhaustion.

On Saturday, I had a really scary moment and I could see myself tiptoeing back to the mouth of the rabbit hole. When I say it like that, it sounds like I’m about to start shooting up again. But that’s what it feels like. I’m referring to food. Before I started this whole process, I was addicted to fast food. I ate it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If it wasn’t fast food, it was Doritos, ramen, Mac and cheese… Anything. It just made things better when I was eating it. And it was a freaking hard habit to kick.

I was hungry on Saturday. I went to get something to eat. I pulled into the parking lot of a plaza near my house and came to a fork in the road. Right was Filiberto’s, left was Sprouts. That was one of the hardest choices I’ve had to make in a long while. I turned left.

The other day at work, I ate pizza. Two slices. I wanted a third. The only thing that stopped me was that I didn’t pay for it and I felt guilty.

Food is my addiction. I recognize the triggers, but sometimes it is so hard to ignore that voice that’s telling me that it would be okay to have a six-piece McNugget. No harm in a Taco Bell taco.

I know that this will pass. And I always tell myself, right before I go to sleep, that tomorrow will be better. But I’m struggling this week. Probably more than I’ve struggled in the past 22 months. I know I’ve just got to keep pushing on because I have an issue with not completing something I’ve started, no matter what the cost.

Instant Gratification

Our culture is, unfortunately, very much one of instant gratification.

I got to wondering the other day whether this influences the general denial of the negative effects of “technology” on our health.

GMOs = not good for you. Plastics = not good for you. Processed foods = generally not good for you. Artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners = not good for you. Partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fats) = not good for you. Antibacterial products = not good for you. Dairy/meat from animals treated with hormones/antibiotics = not good for you.

These things are pervasive in our lives. As time goes on, they seem to take up more and more space in our homes and in our foods.

The incidence of disease and other bodily malfunctions is rapidly on the rise: cancer, obesity, autism, ADHD.

I don’t think that any one factor causes any of those things. I think in combination, they cause all of them.

But the effects are slow and not easily visible, so it’s easy to deny that there are links.

People think I’m crazy for not using plastics with The Kid. (I’ve been told so outright on more than one occasion.) But there are so many chemicals in plastics — including but not limited to BPA and its replacements — that I can’t, in good conscience, let him ingest from or chew on plastic toys. There is solid documentation that this is a problem. Sure, plastic is “better” in the short term — it’s lighter, it’s cheaper, it doesn’t break when it hits the floor*, it comes in fun colors. But in exchange for my baby’s health?

So is it denial of the problem that causes people to think I’m nuts? Is denial a result of long-term vs. short-term effects? Belief that we couldn’t buy it if it was actually dangerous? Something else?

What do you think?

*We’ve dropped bottles a few times and none of them have broken so far. Just sayin’.

The Last Piece

Hey, it’s Wednesday! That means Nichol is going to share some stuff.

July 2010. Almost two years ago. I feel like I should start crafting my anniversary blog post now, but I’ll wait. I do want to talk about the goals I had then, and the new goals coming up.

I had only two things in mind at that point.

1. Eat healthy.
CHECK! For the most part this has gone swimmingly. I have not eaten one iota from my former regular dining establishments (McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King), and my intermittent dining establishments (Wendy’s and others I can’t think of right now). I ate at Chick-fil-a once, and Panda Express twice. I have had soda once. And it was on Friday at Rock the Zoo. I thought I was tasting my friends dark beer, turns out I took a big swallow of root beer. I still drink coffee, and I have a newly acquired Peace Tea obsession, but mainly I drink water (and beer…and wine…and vodka).

2. Exercise regularly.
SEMI-CHECK. I did great until summer 2011. Then I slacked, big time. Even with a mini-triathlon thrown in, I really stopped doing a lot of activity. I went from 4-5 times a week, to once or twice. But since January 1, I have exercised EVERY DAY! (Yes, I count one mile walks through Target and Barnes and Noble). There was a period of three days when I had the flu (102 fever) and I still walked. I’m going to brag about that forever.

New goals (just started or about to start)

1. Exercise every day.
Already been discussed. Next.

2. Every meal and snack will be planned, and include at least half fruits/veggies.
This worked really well the week I had spring break. It’s harder now for sure. This weekend I will try the make it and freeze/refrigerate route. I’ll let you know how it goes.

3. More water, less coffee/Peace Tea.
Stash tea bags are my new obsession and I get a new flavor almost every time I go to the store. I’m going to make an effort to bust one of those put when I’m craving a Peace Tea.

Here comes the big one:

I love to smoke. I really do love it. But I’m kind of over it. It’s expensive. It smells. And it doesn’t help me run. My asthma doesn’t like it much either. I am also taking suggestions on this.

So that’s basically it for this week. It’s getting to the end of the semester so I’m swamped with class work, projects, and presentations. But I’ll see you next week. Same bat time, same bat channel.


That’s me and my buddy Nirit from last week. My second hike with her, my third up Mormon Trail.

“Legitimately Tasty”

The more I read about sugar and all of the nasty things it does to your body, the less I am OK with eating it. So my long-term goal is to cut foods with added sugar. I’ve already cut foods with artificial sweeteners (chewing gum was the most difficult!).

When I don’t eat a lot (or any) junk food for a while, fruit is a whole lot sweeter and easily satisfies my sweet tooth. I’m slowly trying out recipes without it to see what I can make that is legitimately tasty. What is “legitimately tasty”? Let me give you an example.

When I was dairy-free for a while, I had an ice cream sandwich made from soy ice cream. It was fine, but it wasn’t an ice cream sandwich. That falls under the category “not legitimately tasty.” In other words, it was not a product I would seek out unless under special circumstances.

I also would mash frozen bananas together with pieces of pecans, or with berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries — doesn’t matter). Legitimately tasty. I have eaten this many times now. Frozen, slightly sweet, creamy (if I mash it enough), very tasty. Also an excellent way to save bananas that aren’t going to get eaten before they go bad.

This is a standard I keep for all foods that are somehow taking the place of a food that I don’t eat any more. In general, I’m not a fan of mock meats. Mock meats leave meat as the main event in an entrée, which isn’t really how we should be eating (whether we actually eat meat or not). They are rarely as good as their real-deal counterparts, though I have found a few that I find quite tasty. And they’re full of garbage ingredients. Different garbage (mostly) than what is in their meat counterparts, but garbage none-the-less.

I know a lot of people on restricted diets for a variety of reasons: veg*n, gluten-free, soy-free, casein-free, dairy-free, corn-free. Everyone wants food that they can eat that tastes good. The fewer ingredients, the better, most of the time. All ingredients recognizable tastes better most of the time. (I can’t think of an exception offhand, but I’m sure there is one somewhere…)

Of course, you don’t need to be on a restricted diet to be faced with plenty of food that is “fine” (or less). Most of the junk food that is left in the break room isn’t tasty enough to be worth the calories.

I hope that we work our way back to food that is real and healthy and away from food that is cheap and full of garbage. It won’t be quick or easy, but as more of us do it, more companies will notice.

What have you found as far as food/food substitutions and tastiness?

A Pound of Fat

This picture has been circulating. Thought I’d share it in case you missed it.

Video: Blood pH and Weight Gain

This is an excellent video on how your diet affects your body, and why diet soda doesn’t keep you (or make you) skinny.



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