Thoughts on the evolution of the modern family and how our eating habits and health declined soon after

SPOILER ALERT! There are no recipes to tips or hacks in this post. No nugget at the end. This shall be strictly words. A rant if you will. If you choose to read anyway, thank you, I appreciate that. If you decide to close the tab, I understand, and hope to see you again on another post.

Health is like an RRSP.

You gotta buy into it. It’s best to make small, continual investments to see the gains. Start young. You can’t invest everything at the eleventh hour and think things will be ok.

In the not-so-distant past, households, could be sustained comfortably on a single income. This enabled one of the adults in the family to prepare meals for the rest. Shopping was done several times a week and with trips to the butcher shop and green grocer almost daily. You knew the butcher and he knew your name. The green grocer would let you know there were lots of squash coming in the fall as the crop was good this year. You supported one another in the community by purchasing from their shops.

Someone decided that we needed more. No, we more than needed more. We wanted it. Not wanted. Deserved. Yes, that’s it. We deserved it. We deserved more. We deserved bigger, better, faster and stronger. We devised ways to do more with less effort. We wanted a bigger tv, another car, a boat would be nice, Janey wears XYZ brand of jeans, why can’t I, primary school kids have to have the latest iPhone. We needed more money to get these things faster than our parents, so dual income houses became the norm. Meal time became a chore because both parents weren’t getting home until late afternoon/early evening and the kids were starving. We fixed this problem. We created instant food. Not instant like the Bugs Bunny cartoon with the Acme Instant Martian ~ just add 1 drop of water, kind of instant, but food you can have it ready in an instant, or fraction of the time it would have taken to prepare from scratch.

We took our double income family and decided our kid was going to be the next hockey player/football star/doctor/lawyer/dancer/singer/ultimate fighter so we scheduled every waking moment with activities and lessons. We began placing a lot of importance of what our kid was rather than how or who our kid was. This over scheduling compounded our time problems too. Modern kids are more stressed than ever trying to do all the things we have them signed up for. Some training starts early in the morning for ice time, pool time, then a day of class, lunch bag filled with everything in a colourful package and wrappers, then after school care and more training sessions until dinner. Some more practices in the evening and weekends are reserved for games, tryouts, festivals and recitals. School work was supposed to be done in there somewhere. Meals on these nights are often on the fly. It is not uncommon to see a child with take-out coffee, whipped up coffee milkshakes and energy drinks to keep them going during their day. Those poor bodies. The justification is that it is a half-fat latte or a diet pop. We now recognize and are recognized by the drive-thru employees, pizza and chinese food delivery drivers. Weird thought: we tip these folks for bringing us sub-standard food. Why?

 

More and more of our meals came wrapped in plastic or in a cardboard box. We only need add water, oil or margarine. Occasionally there would be a sectioned meal covered in foil and frozen. These icy meals allowed everyone to choose something different for dinner and all could be popped into the oven at the same time. The family could still eat together but with personal choice satisfied. Of course, each choice came with the mandatory dessert of either apple spice cake or chocolate brownie. Inevitably, in the processing/handling stages, one or two of the veg would work their way into the dessert square. This was modern cooking.

Food products now come with extended expiration dates. Food is supposed to spoil, isn’t it. It is not meant to last indefinitely on a shelf. We are meant to get what we need for a short period of time, consume it within its window of readiness and then repeat. This constant replenishing of food allows us the opportunity for different vitamins, minerals and nutrients from our next selection. Variety baby!

Is it any coincidence our health issues have increased in alarming rates in this same time period? Type II Diabetes, or Adult-Onset as it used to be coined, is now becoming common in younger children. We all know cancer stats are rising. More children are battling cancers. I believe the rates are around 1 in 7 for breast cancer. I recall back when I was in school, it was 1 n 20. Increased numbers and varieties of auto-immune diseases. Autistic Spectrum Disorders and other cognitive function challenges are pretty common. As if Alzheimer’s Disease wasn’t enough, we now have Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. This is being labelled as Type III Diabetes. The list seems endless.

What have we done to ourselves? Is it too late? Can humans be saved?

I think so. We are drowning but someone has chucked us a rope. We need to grab it and haul our sorry carcasses out of the water. No one is jumping in to save us.

Is it difficult to read every label? Yes. Is it time consuming? Yes. Can you avoid it? Yes, you can. Buy things that do not come with labels. Shop the aisles of the grocery store. Buy vegetables that are still vegetables. Buy fruit that is actually real fruit. Not crap like blue-raspberry flavoured gummies. Choose proteins like fish, chicken, pork, red meat, and organ meats (if you are game) that are ready for your personal flavour profiles. Write out meals for the week. Buy what is on your list. Prep it. Cook on the weekend. Use crockpots, pressure cookers and batch cooking to your advantage. Get others to help in the kitchen. Teach a child how to snap asparagus. You are teaching life-skills. Talk about the ingredients while you work. Taste things raw if appropriate.

The question is, how badly do you want to feel better?

 

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Let’s chat about an attitude of gratitude

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When people ask me how I am, my reply is always swift and honest.

I’m awesome. I’m fantastic. I’m like gravy, good with everything. I’m so good, there should be two of me. (for many, that would be a scary concept) I’m on top of the world. (literally, aren’t we all on top of the world? Buried folks not included, obviously)

How? (each day as it comes) Don’t you have days that suck? (yes, but I don’t let that take the wheel and steer my head and heart) Don’t you ever get angry or upset? (yes, but again, I don’t let that take the day from me) Don’t you ever feel crappy? (compared to what?) Aren’t you ever disappointed? (no, what were your expectations in the first place?)

This all becomes a lesson in perspective doesn’t it? A quick flash back to my grade 8 Industrial Education teacher, Mr. Nelson, and that helps refocus my mindset. The post regarding him and how he shifted my outlook at the age of 13 is here. Talk about an epiphany.

Back to that attitude of gratitude. Or mindset if you prefer.

I wake up. Right off the bat, that is a win. Not everyone has that luxury. Some folks pass in their sleep. They are not given the opportunity for another day. I have shelter and an abundance of food and clean water. I have a job. I have been fortunate to create a family of my own. Not everyone can. My family is more complete because we have furry family members who share our lives and keep us humble. My family is healthy. Again, this isn’t a claim everyone can make. My heart goes out to those who have loved ones fighting battles. Perspective. Always perspective.

I was privileged to have known all four of my grandparents until I was well into adulthood. Many of my grandparents even had the chance to meet their great-grandchildren. How cool is that? Some folks never know their own parents, let alone their grandparents. One of my grandmothers gave me a great piece of advice when I was young, regarding less than pleasant tasks. I say this aloud and think on her often.

“Once begun, half done.” Thanks Evelyn.

The mindset that once you begin something you aren’t really looking forward to doing, you are halfway done, is liberating. This applies to cleaning bathrooms, grocery shopping, a long day at work, writing an essay etc.

Focus on positive instead of negative. Is the glass half full or half empty? Doesn’t matter does it? It just means that I had some and now there is room for more. I don’t allow my thoughts to linger on the guy who cut me off on the highway or the lady in the grocery store who is standing in the middle of the aisle, blocking it. I could care less about them. They aren’t my circus and definitely not my monkeys. I have better things to occupy my mind. You never know what those folks are dealing with in their world. Maybe he was racing home to a sick child or parent. Perhaps that woman is in a daze because her husband was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the idea of grocery shopping was the only thing that seemed normal at the moment. You don’t want to trade your troubles for someone else’s.

I’m grateful for my life, what I have, what I have done and what the future holds for me.

Everyday.

 

 

Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

This question had plagued mankind for a long time. A really long time. This can get one into all kinds of deep and philosophical conversations about evolution and genetic changes.

Does it really matter though?

We have eggs and we have chickens. That’s all that counts, right?

Having said that, all eggs are not created equal. A quick read of the grocery store shelf provides you the opportunity to purchase caged, cage-free, free-range and pasture-raised eggs. I just wanted to buy some eggs. The choices can make your head spin. What’s the difference? I’m glad you asked.

I had the opportunity to attend PaleoF(x) 2017 in Austin Texas. This annual event is where the Paleo world comes together to listen to speakers, witness fitness demonstrations, take part in yoga sessions and walk the exhibit floor with some phenomenal vendors. The folks running the booths are not just there to hawk their products. Every person I chatted with was passionate about their product and company. They were willing to spend the time to explain the science and the stories behind their products. A lot of the Paleo commercial consumer goods were born of personal need. These stories were moving to say the least.

One booth had a gal cooking up some eggs. I stopped because they smelled so good. Plus, the t-shirt she was wearing made me smile. C’mon, isn’t this cute?Girls-on-Grass-ladies-front_1024x1024

I relished the humble scrambled egg she handed me. It was cooked in their grass-fed pasture-raised butter. A match made in heaven. I had to know what made these eggs so great tasting.

I interviewed Amanda (on the right) from Vital Farms about the difference between the types of eggs.

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Me: Hey Amanda, we all love eggs but it can be overwhelming at the store trying to choose between all the types available to us. Can you break down the difference between them?

Amanda: Hi, of course! The easiest analogy is that cage-free is like four human beings living in a bathtub. That’s the amount of space the birds have. They have removed the cages but haven’t given the chickens any more space.

Me: Wow, that is really cramped living space. Do free-range chickens have more space? Is it really as free as we want to believe?

Amanda: Not exactly. Free-rtange is the equivalent of two humans living in a bathtub. They have slightly more space than the cage-free birds. They should have outdoor access but is is regulated.

Me: How does Vital Farms differ with their pasture-raised chickens?

Amanda: Pasture-raised is the highest quality you can get in a grocery store. It is like one human living in approximately a 10×10 area. Each bird has 108 square feet of open pasture. The way we set our farms up, the barn is in the middle. The farm is broken up into different sections and we open up two sections at a time for three weeks. We then rotate the birds through the different parts of the fields so they are constantly vegetating on fresh grass, bugs, worms and grubs. Because they eat what we call “nature’s salad”, are exercising and getting fresh air, it creates an egg with more nutrients. This is healthier for the birds and healthier for us.

Me: What can you tell me about the farmers?

Amanda: We partner with small family farmers. We have over 100 farm partners now. The average size of our flock is about 5,000 hens on 2 1/2 acres. Our farmers practice respectful stewardship of the chickens, animals and farms they keep. They believe in the full circle of the cycle.

If you live in an area that carries Vital Farms eggs and butter, lucky you. Go support them. If not, well, you now have a pretty clear picture of the living conditions of egg-laying hens. Think about it. Would you want to live in a tub with three other people?

The decisions we make as consumers can change the way farming happens. We need to support farmers and companies who respect and properly care for their crops, flocks and herds. Bottom line? Choose pasture-raised when it comes to eggs and butter.

Oh and of course I got a t-shirt.

 

Why food quality matters

It’s kind of funny how food has become such a hot topic.

It’s food. We eat it. Shouldn’t really be more complicated than that. Food should be recognizable in its original form when we eat it or at least some semblance of the packaging Mother Nature provided. Obviously we aren’t about to gnaw on the side of a cow or pluck a salmon from the water and bite into it the way a bear would. We are a bit more civilized than that. Zombie apocalypse notwithstanding.

It used to be only the “tree-hugging hippies” who wanted their produce to be free from pesticides and genetic modifications and they were often mocked and ridiculed. Sad thought really. Shaming someone for wanting something better for their body, their children’s bodies and the planet we share. Turns out, they were way ahead of the game. We should have been right beside them, standing up and fighting for our rights as consumers to have explicit ingredient lists on the things we eat. Instead, we ran for the sexy two year shelf-stable meal and opted for super size fries and a large one-calorie soft drink to go with it.

It’s never too late to effect change.

Invest time searching for farmers in your area. Click here to go to Eat Wild. This amazing resource will help you find local farmers who are raising livestock ethically and practicing sustainable farming techniques. You will be amazed to learn who is growing what in your backyard.

Sustainable farming practices and the rotation of crops helps prevent mineral depletion of the soil. Different crops take different nutrients from the soil. Another reason to eat seasonal produce. Eat what is growing for the time of year. Some things grow better together by acting as a natural pest repellant for another crop. Livestock feeds on grasses and then, yes, poops, or fertilizes, the soil to replenish nutrients back into the dirt. Better soil = more nutrients in the vegetables and fruits. The ozone-layer depleting, methane gas horror stories are thanks to the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) methods of raising livestock. Those creatures are standing shoulder to shoulder and knee-deep (figuratively speaking) in their own waste. Remember the video on how canola oil is made? One of the by-products from the production of this oil, is cattle feed. No thanks. I want to be able to eat the food my food eats.

I truly believe we are what we eat. If you are eating garbage, food-like products, I’d wager you are living in a body that is under duress. Maybe you suffer from frequent colds or illness. Perhaps early arthritic symptoms. Poor sleep. Low energy. Headaches. Eczema. GI issues such as constipation or diarrhea. Behavioural issues. The list is endless. Food quality won’t necessarily “fix” everything that ails you, but it’ll certainly help a whole lot.

Time to stand up for yourself. Don’t just eat. Nourish your body with real food. Plan and prepare your meals and eat them mindfully. Put your fork down between bites. Chew and actually taste the food you are eating. Stop wolfing your meal down while sitting in front of the tv. Give your body time to adjust to eating real food. Giving up the convenient, packaged foods comes with a detox period, not unlike that of an addict. You will go through withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, cold and flu-like symptoms. Your energy will tank. Your skin may break out. At this point, you may be thinking “this sucks! I’m supposed to be feeling better by eating better.” It’ll happen. You just gotta hang on.

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I know this first-hand. When I changed from eating a gluten-free diet to a Paleo template, my skin broke out in a terrible, itchy rash. I thought this food and nutrition shift was supposed to be good for me, why is my body reacting like this? Gluten-free does not necessarily equal healthy. There is a lot of crappy food that is labelled gluten-free. So many of these packaged foods are high in sugars and unnecessary carbohydrates. As your body rids itself of the garbage in your system, it puts that trash curb side, or in my case, on my skin. Think of your skin as a revolving door.

Let’s go back to basic biology. Our cells are building blocks. They are constantly moving “food” and energy across membranes, walls and borders to help our bodies repair, function and grow. This system is extremely complex and delicate in nature. It’s tricky enough for the cells to do their thing correctly when given the correct tools. Why would you put something that is completely foreign into your cells and force them to process something they don’t recognize as food? The body does the best it can with what you put in it. What to do with the things it doesn’t recognize? The cells become hoarders and stash the unrecognizable stuff to deal with later. You can only hide garbage for so long before it smells and things start to fall apart.

What goes on, goes in and what goes in, eventually comes out.

 

 

 

Like a Scout, it’s good to be prepared

Every good heist has to be carefully planned. Nothing is ever left to chance. If you want to get away with things and be on Easy Street, you need to plan and prepare for any possible outcome.

Food really isn’t any different. You need to plan and prepare. When you don’t have a well-thought out plan, that’s when things start sliding sideways and you find yourself calling for take-out, ordering pizza or whipping through the closest drive-thru. This is then followed by a lot of regret and self-flagellation. These feelings are neither productive nor conducive to getting back on track. Time to get over yourself and get back to the business of feeding yourself good food.

Flip though your stack of recipe books and jot down meal ideas for the upcoming week. Think of all those food videos you share and like on Facebook and Pinterest. (They all have thousands of shares and views but I wonder how many folks have ever made any of them.) Dinner doesn’t have to be a rut. If a recipe calls for bison and well, you are not willing to shell out the dollars for this particular protein, you have permission to use a different red meat. The flavours may not be 100% as the recipe creator intended, but you have a new dish in your repertoire. Same goes for fish. Use cod instead of halibut. Trout for salmon. Just buy the best you can afford. Wild canned salmon on sale? Load up. You can add that to your salads, mix it with some mayo, make salmon cakes and so on.

Like most folks, you probably shop once a week for groceries. If you hit places like Costco, you might wind up with large packs of meats that look a little intimidating. The solution to the party-pak of protein is portioning (ooh, how I love me some alliteration).

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The five pound pack of ground beef has been weighed into half-pound measures and patted flat. By patting it flat like this, it freezes faster, is easier to store in the freezer and best of all, it thaws faster.

Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are often cheaper than their boneless, skinless counterpart. Be sure to flatten the chicken when you portion it to freeze. Like the ground meat, it will thaw much faster. When dinner decisions are pressing, you want to know things will thaw quickly. If you are paying premium dollar for pastured chicken, you want all the parts. You can debone the thighs yourself as long as you have a good pair of kitchen shears. It really is easy to do. Plus, now you have some bones for stock. Your grandma would be proud. Win-win.

Speaking of stock, or bone broth as it’s called in the trendy circles, portion and freeze that too for quick and easy use down the road.

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I have silicone muffin pans that make baking stupidly easy. They never need greasing. Everything just pops right out as slick as can be. I make my stock and ladle it into my muffin pan in 1/4 cup measures and freeze those bad boys. When a recipe calls for a small amount of stock in a recipe, I pull out as many pucks as I need and melt them in the microwave if I’m short on time.

Bottom line, don’t be afraid to buy in bulk. Spend the time in the kitchen portioning and freezing. This meal prep step will save you from feelings of self-loathing as you hide the pizza box in the bottom of the compost collection bucket.

Having a variety of proteins frozen into meal sized amounts will provide you with a good rotation during the week. You won’t be condemned to a week of chicken thighs because you bought the warehouse pack and they need to be eaten – stat!

At what cost, beauty?

We begin our chemical christening at a very early age.

Babies are bathed in what is touted as a gentle, all-in-one wash. Powder and moisturizer to finish the cleaning regime. No one wants a stinky kid.

Clean smelling laundry seems to be a hallmark of good parenting. Our detergents and fabric softeners are scented. Dryer sheets are scented. Look at all the smell choices available to us in the laundry aisle of the grocery store. Go walking outside (especially in the evening) and you can smell/tell who is doing laundry. Those chemical blankets are being wrapped all over your person and your little people.

Now, we’re grown up and we are in control of our own hygiene rituals. We use scented soaps and body washes. There are scented shampoos and conditioners. There are the ever-popular deep-conditioning products to help replenish moisture to our dry, over-processed hair. Like most, we apply a liberal amount of various styling products. Mousse, gel, pomade, hairspray, hair colour and perm solutions (yes some folks still go that route) Slather on some body lotion or moisturizer, scented of course, because your skin feels dry after cleaning it in the shower. Anti-perspirant or deodorant, again, scented, because who wants to smell like a monkey?

isolated-red-lipstick_wprw9pNow comes the make-up. Moisturizer, concealer, foundation, powder, eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow pencil (?), eyeshadow, blush, lip pencil, lipstick or gloss and a spritz of perfume or body spray. Maybe you need to apply your deodorant a second time at some point during the day for the “sure” factor. Perhaps an extra touch of perfume? Before we go out for the night, we definitely redo our makeup and hair.

What little girl doesn’t like to play in mummy’s makeup and perfume? (we won’t even think about pageant or performing kids)

 

Let’s not forget about hand-sanitizer. Scented and unscented, we find it everywhere. Shopping malls, gas stations, public bathrooms, kids play areas, grocery stores, lunch kits, purses, high school backpacks and lockers. We all know an addict for this stuff. This is now frequently replacing hand-washing protocol. People squirt a good blobby dose of this into their hands, rub away and then chow down on the fast-food burger and fries. Mmmm tasty stuff.

We need to wash all that off before we collapse into bed at night. So out comes the makeup remover designed to melt and strip off everything we painstakingly painted on earlier. Finally, grease up with some night cream to combat what we did to our faces during the day. We drift off to try to sleep for the next 6-8 hours in our “outdoor fresh” scented bed sheets. Wonder why you are tossing and turning all night and often wake up with a headache and stuffed nose or sore throat?

This problem isn’t exclusive to the females. They too are pressured to have nice smelling hair, aftershave, cologne and clothes. Men are exposed to the same chemical onslaught, except most aren’t sporting the same makeup as the ladies.

Remember the revolving door analogy for our skin? All the harsh chemicals in each of those products are transported into our bodies. This chemical storm goes on day in day out. For years. One can’t help but imagine of the cumulative effect of these ingredients in our cells. How can our bodies even begin to battle the chemical warfare we willingly wage? Layer upon layer of toxins are applied to the largest organ of our body. (this doesn’t take into consideration our food choices and what we shovel inside our bodies either) And we wonder why we are getting sicker and staying sicker, longer. Feeling crappy is common. Headaches and stuffy noses are just part of being human these days.

Parabens and phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. Hormones are delicate enough, they don’t need to be assaulted by these things. Sodium laurel/laureth sulfates are common allergen triggers and irritants. These are found in our shampoos, body washes and cosmetics. The best part? They are allowed in our products. Wow.

Be aware of what you put ON your body, the bodies of your loved ones. Read your labels. Make conscious, mindful decisions of the personal care products you choose to use on yourself and your loved ones.

Oh, and if you are that bent on the smell of outdoor fresh laundry? Hang it outside to dry.

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At what cost, beauty?

We begin our chemical christening at a very early age.

Babies are bathed in what is touted as a gentle, all-in-one wash. Powder and moisturizer to finish the cleaning regime. No one wants a stinky kid.

Clean smelling laundry seems to be a hallmark of good parenting. Our detergents and fabric softeners are scented. Dryer sheets are scented. Look at all the smell choices available to us in the laundry aisle of the grocery store. Go walking outside (especially in the evening) and you can smell/tell who is doing laundry. Those chemical blankets are being wrapped all over your person and your little people.

Now, we’re grown up and we are in control of our own hygiene rituals. We use scented soaps and body washes. There are scented shampoos and conditioners. There are the ever-popular deep-conditioning products to help replenish moisture to our dry, over-processed hair. Like most, we apply a liberal amount of various styling products. Mousse, gel, pomade, hairspray, hair colour and perm solutions (yes some folks still go that route) Slather on some body lotion or moisturizer, scented of course, because your skin feels dry after cleaning it in the shower. Anti-perspirant or deodorant, again, scented, because who wants to smell like a monkey?

isolated-red-lipstick_wprw9pNow comes the make-up. Moisturizer, concealer, foundation, powder, eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow pencil (?), eyeshadow, blush, lip pencil, lipstick or gloss and a spritz of perfume or body spray. Maybe you need to apply your deodorant a second time at some point during the day for the “sure” factor. Perhaps an extra touch of perfume? Before we go out for the night, we definitely redo our makeup and hair.

What little girl doesn’t like to play in mummy’s makeup and perfume? (we won’t even think about pageant or performing kids)

 

Let’s not forget about hand-sanitizer. Scented and unscented, we find it everywhere. Shopping malls, gas stations, public bathrooms, kids play areas, grocery stores, lunch kits, purses, high school backpacks and lockers. We all know an addict for this stuff. This is now frequently replacing hand-washing protocol. People squirt a good blobby dose of this into their hands, rub away and then chow down on the fast-food burger and fries. Mmmm tasty stuff.

We need to wash all that off before we collapse into bed at night. So out comes the makeup remover designed to melt and strip off everything we painstakingly painted on earlier. Finally, grease up with some night cream to combat what we did to our faces during the day. We drift off to try to sleep for the next 6-8 hours in our “outdoor fresh” scented bed sheets. Wonder why you are tossing and turning all night and often wake up with a headache and stuffed nose or sore throat?

This problem isn’t exclusive to the females. They too are pressured to have nice smelling hair, aftershave, cologne and clothes. Men are exposed to the same chemical onslaught, except most aren’t sporting the same makeup as the ladies.

Remember the revolving door analogy for our skin? All the harsh chemicals in each of those products are transported into our bodies. This chemical storm goes on day in day out. For years. One can’t help but imagine of the cumulative effect of these ingredients in our cells. How can our bodies even begin to battle the chemical warfare we willingly wage? Layer upon layer of toxins are applied to the largest organ of our body. (this doesn’t take into consideration our food choices and what we shovel inside our bodies either) And we wonder why we are getting sicker and staying sicker, longer. Feeling crappy is common. Headaches and stuffy noses are just part of being human these days.

Parabens and phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. Hormones are delicate enough, they don’t need to be assaulted by these things. Sodium laurel/laureth sulfates are common allergen triggers and irritants. These are found in our shampoos, body washes and cosmetics. The best part? They are allowed in our products. Wow.

Be aware of what you put ON your body, the bodies of your loved ones. Read your labels. Make conscious, mindful decisions of the personal care products you choose to use on yourself and your loved ones.

Oh, and if you are that bent on the smell of outdoor fresh laundry? Hang it outside to dry.

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Let’s talk about love

Love.

I’m not talking about the Hallmark stuff. I will not be running out to buy a card which would sit on the table or mantle for a week and then get environmentally put in the recycling bin. My family knows I’m not the card type.

Love is in the small things you do everyday. Love is not February 14th. Love is getting out of bed early on your day off and making coffee and breakfast without hesitation. Love is putting the lid down on the toilet. (this also ends the seat up/seat down debate once and for all)  Love is rubbing someone’s feet or shoulders after a long day at work. Love is filling up the gas tank. Love is making someone’s favourite meal and doing the clean up. Love is a walk. Love is silence. Love is giving away the last cookie. Love is understanding and supporting those around us daily. Love is a journey. Love changes along the way. Love can be for a pet. Love can be for a sibling. Love can be for a significant other. Love can be for a child. Love can be for a parent. Love is vital for yourself. Love overlooks the little things. Love understands we are all different. Love supports the honest endeavours of those around us, even if those trials don’t align with our own views. Love doesn’t mock or belittle. Love embraces and nourishes. Love teaches. Love crosses time and space. Love is global. Love isn’t a card.

Love yourself. Love your family. Love your home. Love your environment, your planet.

Love yourself. Feed yourself well. Good, healthy food. Real food, things you can pronounce. If it has more than four syllables and isn’t cauliflower or romanesco, you probably should skip it. If it was created in a factory, again, you probably should give it a wide berth. The best stuff to nourish and love your precious body with should be recognizable in it’s natural form. Don’t eat “food-like” products. Love yourself better than that. Don’t smoke. Really, don’t do it. Feed your brain. Read. Read for fun. Read to learn. Learn something new everyday. This helps you grow. Laugh. Smile, it’s good for your heart and soul. Rest. Protect your quiet time. Practice deep breathing. Sleep in a dark room. Take time to your own thoughts. Move daily, be it a walk, 8 kilometres on your treadmill, kickboxing, dance lessons or tai chi. Don’t lose sight of your own importance.

Love your family. Put down your phone. Turn off the screens. Put a timer on the router to turn the internet off while you sleep. (no more kids up all night glued to devices.) Read together. Be together. Go out together. Create memories. Too quickly, we get older and our lives take us places other than where we want to be. Talk. More importantly, listen. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn from others. Eat at the table. Be the one to offer to pick them up late at night. You’ll sleep better knowing they are safe. Bake with little ones. Give children and teenagers basic cooking lessons so they aren’t condemned to a life of eating Ichiban-style noodles and macaroni and cheese when they move out of the house. Embrace the mistakes and revel in the successes. Plan meals. Everyone makes one meal suggestion. Have dinner for breakfast. That age old question of “what’s for dinner?” will become a thing of the past. Plan, prep and portion your meals on your day(s) off. If you do this, when you get home from work during the week, you just pull out your prepped meals and heat them up. That extra time can be spent doing something important, like reading with a child, walking the dog or meditating. Planning your meals also cuts down on wasted food. You plan your meals, you shop for what you need, (fewer impulse purchases of the warehouse sized jar of pickled banana peppers ’cause you were hungry), and you use what you buy. Get the whole family involved in the planning and prep stages. Shopping online also makes it easy for everyone to help shop without having a meltdown in the cookie and sugar-coated cereal aisles.e5fa0-honest_labels_600

Love your home. Open the doors. Get fresh air inside your home. Declutter. Do you really need that nic-nac? Probably not. Make your purchases count. Invest in real furniture and basic pieces. It will last longer, look better and likely won’t end up in the landfill in two years when the leg breaks or the “wood-like” paper finish peels. Stick with simplicity and your furnishings won’t be out of style. Take pride in your home. Have pictures that make you smile. This is your castle, your sanctuary, be it a 4,000 square foot mansion or a mobile home on a rented trailer pad. Pick up any garbage that blows on your yard. Have pride in your home. Once you close the front door, this is your safe place. Your haven. Keep it clean and keep it safe.

Love your environment. Love your planet. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Take your shopping bags with you to the store. Take your reusable mug to Starbuck’s, David’s Tea or Timmy’s or wherever you get your caffeine fix. Think twice about fast food. Think about the garbage generated from that convenient meal. (remember when McDonald’s had styrofoam containers for their burgers? We’ve come a long way, but the road stretches out far ahead of us.) Pack a lunch in reusable containers. Buy local. A local farmer or artisan feels the impact of your dollar more than the big chain stores. Your purchase can be a difference in his or her livelihood. Your dollars stay closer to home in your community. Buying local allows the farmers and artisans you support, to employ other workers, which in turn reinvests those dollars back into the community. Staying local also can reduce the global shipping of consumer goods. We all know this is better for the environment. Know where your purchases originate from. If you can, choose Canadian made goods. Let’s cut down on as many imports as we can. Turn out the lights when you leave the room. Turn the heat down when you go out or go to bed. Put a timer on the furnace. This helps keep the dollars in your pocket. If you need to use the dryer, use dryer balls instead of liquid fabric softener. They are less expensive, and there are fewer chemicals going down the drain. Sunny day? Put the clothes on the line to dry. Let Mother Nature help with the laundry. Plant flowers that attract bees and butterflies. Don’t use pesticides. Embrace the odd weed in your yard. Grow some vegetables, fruit or herbs if you can. Chilly? Put on a sweater or cuddle up under a blanket. Blankets are far cozier when shared with someone.  Mend your socks. Use your buying power to state that you want local and sustainable goods. Catch and release spiders and flies who accidentally find their way in your home. They too have important jobs outside in this big world. It’s all about love. Love is, indeed, a many splendored thing.

Love.

Maybe The Beatles were right.

All you need is love.



I’ll take skin for the win, Alex

Hey, your epidermis is showing.

Let’s look at our organs for a moment. We care for our lungs by not smoking and trying to minimize our exposure to pollution. We care for our liver by trying to limit our alcohol consumption. That glass of red wine last night was for medicinal purposes, I swear. We care for our kidneys by staying well hydrated. (Don’t worry, I won’t itemize each one.) By eating good, nutrient rich foods and drinking clean water, we take care of and nourish all of our inner squishy bits. Now what about the organ everyone sees? Your skin. What are you doing for that?

It’s not just wrapping paper to all the muscles, blood vessels, bones and other sinewy stuff that makes up a body. Think of your skin as a revolving door. Let that visual sink in. What we put on our bodies is carried inside (to be handled by the inner organs and systems) and what we put in our bodies is excreted through our skin. We often slather all strong scented soaps, lotions and chemical laden products on it without a second thought.

You apply that beautiful lipstick  isolated-red-lipstick_wprw9p(complete with red dye number 666 – I know that isn’t a real ingredient, but you get the message) onto your lips. Not only are you absorbing all those chemicals through your skin, you are also now consuming said chemical cocktail. Mmmm, not as beautiful as it seemed.

Skin is amazing. It breathes. It grows with us. It stretches around developing babies and the occasional keg of beer. It sometimes snaps back. It heals when we scrape it. Skin forgives. Over time, it tells a tale of laughter and smiles (or pain and misery). Skin tells the tale of your health and your life.

You need a good canvas to write a good story. (yes, I know, you paint on canvas, you don’t write on it)

There are many clean ingredient skin care products out there today. Beautycounter is the one I absolutely fell in love with. They are transparent in the list of ingredients they use and those things they will NEVER use. This aligns with my views on food. Just as I want to know what I’m eating, and (ideally) what my food eats, I want to know what I’m absorbing into my body through my skin. The whole reason I started this food and wellness journey  was an attempt to heal some fantastic eczema.

 

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I don’t want to cause problems with my skin from the outside in, now that I’ve healed it from the inside out. You can read about that first step here if you haven’t read it already. I chose to act as a Beautycounter consultant to help spread the importance of safer skincare.

 

The FDA recently suggested a reduction in the acceptable level of lead in cosmetics. A suggestion, not a rule. The article states nothing about reducing it from hair dye or other cosmetic products. Beauty does indeed have a price. I get and understand cross-contamination and how it is almost impossible to keep anything completely “clean” in terms of ingredients. I’m not expecting perfection in this, but accountability and responsibility would be a good place to start. So much is up to the consumer to do their due diligence. There is apparently an acceptable level of rodent hair and other unsavoury items in chocolate and that certainly doesn’t stop anyone from shoving that down the pipe (it never stopped me anyway; I used to eat four chocolate bars a day, no exaggeration).

As I move into the second half of my potential century here on this green and blue planet, I’m re-doubling my efforts to care for the meat-covered skeleton I’ve been given the privilege to operate, the best ways I can. Clean, safer food and clean, safer skin products. Years ago, I think it was L’Oreal that had a buzz-phrase “Because I’m worth it”. Now, more that ever, the phrase is appropriate but perhaps should be reassigned to humans in general and their own outlook on quality and ethical choices we make regarding our food and skin care.

 

Floss ~ the other F-word

Do you swear to tell the tooth? The whole tooth? And nothing but the tooth?

We are going to chat a little bit about oral health. That in itself almost sounds dirty, but it isn’t. Or it shouldn’t be.

Just a few basic dental facts so we are all on the same page. We’ll keep this simple.

Typically there are 20 baby (or milk) teeth with up to 32 permanent (or adult) teeth. I say up to because that includes wisdom teeth. Not everyone develops these. Now, having stated these numbers, there are always those folks who grow extra teeth and those who never form some. We can chat about this another time.

Teeth are composed of layers:

  • Enamel: hardest substance in your body, mineralized outer layer covering the top or crown of the tooth
  • Dentin: is almost like a bone and makes up the majority of the tooth bulk  and is protected by the enamel for the crown (and cementum on the root, not labelled in this diagram)
  • Pulp or pulp chamber: the middle of the tooth and has the “live” or “vital” connection via blood vessels to your jaws (yes, teeth can die)

normal-tooth_1

Plaque (you’ve heard of that before) is the film (microbial biofilm) that builds on your teeth during the day and at night. It is usually colourless but it is responsible for bad breath (halitosis), red, irritated gums (gingivitis) and if left undisturbed, can harden into tartar. It commonly forms at the gum line and can work it’s way under the gums, down the root of the tooth. Plaque feeds on sugar (from foods we eat, such as carbohydrates) and produces acid in the mouth. This eventually leads to. . . (dramatic pause) cavities. This is why removing plaque daily, is critical.

Removing plaque is a two-step process. Flossing and brushing. Flossers, in my over 20 years experience in the dental/orthodontic world, fall into several categories.

  1. Those who do it daily
  2. Those who do it when they get something stuck between their teeth
  3. Those who do it a day or two before seeing the dentist/hygienist to try to fool them into thinking that they actually floss every day (doesn’t work, we can tell)
  4. Those who do it for a few days after seeing the dentist/hygienist as they feel motivated by a good pep talk/lecture

Those of you who do it daily, congrats! Pat yourself on the back. You are ahead of the game.

Those who don’t floss daily, well, that’s kinda like not cleaning the underside of the toilet seat. It’s gross.

I get why you don’t do it. When you finally break out that tortuous string, it hurts. Even if your technique is good. Your gums bleed. They get really red. They swell up twice or even three times their normal size. They throb (kinda like when you work a muscle you haven’t used in a while). And at that point, you throw that hateful minty thread into the garbage and vow never again! I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. Join the flossers. Drink the proverbial Kool-aid.

The fact your gums bleed when you clean them should cause all the alarm bells to go off in your head. If you washed your hands and they bled, you’d be pretty concerned right? Gum tissue isn’t any different.

Get your floss, waxed, unwaxed, plain or flavoured and get to it. If you opt to use a floss pick, please wipe the little piece of floss before moving on to the next spot, otherwise you are just moving your plaque from place to place. Don’t get me wrong, a floss pick is better than not flossing at all. There are no rules stating you have to floss in the bathroom. If you aren’t offending anyone, do it while watching tv. Do it in the shower (don’t let the floss go down the drain though). Like Nike says: Just Do It. That first time? Yes, it will hurt. Yes it will bleed, maybe even a lot. Yes your gums will puff up and throb. Get over it. It falls under the heading of “suck it up buttercup” and you do it again the next day. And the next. And the next. Keep showing up to your floss date. In a few days, the bleeding settles down and maybe even stops. The puffiness and redness settles down and you may notice your gums are a lighter shade and are hugging your bone more. Hooray! That throbbing or pulsing sensation is likely gone now too. Guess, what? Your breath smells a whole lot better too. Next time you see the dentist or hygienist, you won’t get a lecture either.