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For the most part we humans are quite alike. We all need to eat and sleep, piss and shit, love and hate, laugh and cry, feel pain and ease. We have unique qualities to tell each other apart; our individuality. We are varied in our shapes size and body chemistry, much of which is determined by heredity. Our weight is also determined by how much food we eat. The food we eat produces energy. How much energy we use and our body's rate of using that energy contributes to our heaviness, thinness or everything in between. We use energy when we are active. We also use energy when we are just sitting around reading, studying or at the computer writing a column. The body image for women in the United States culture has, thanks to Madison Avenue and the medical profession, created a "fear of fat" anxiety. Many cultures throughout history have viewed fatness as sign of prosperity, fertility and ability to survive. Women in the United States still are getting the message that fatness is dangerous and ugly. Ou r society is often hostile and discriminates against those who do not fit the slim trim image. I personally noticed when I was getting heavier, attractive, comfortable clothes got harder and harder to find. This negativism has lead to neurotic dietary programs. The obsessive madness about thin/fat problems keeps our society from concentrating on some of the more important dilemmas such as war, hunger and social injustice.
"If you think a weakness can be turned into a strength, I hate to tell you this, but that's another weakness."
Dieting does not cure fatness! Not only do we vary in body type from person to person, but our weight varies throughout the various stages of our life. We have different dietary needs when we are pregnant. We eat less as we get older. We eat more if we are doing heavy athletics. Remaining mentally flexible and being able to visualize the changes in our food needs is helpful in developing the philosophy of health as opposed to neurotic obsession of healthism. Over the years we become addicted to our eating habits. If we were raised with a high protein-low carbohydrate diet, we tend to find it difficult to make the switch to eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If we are used to satisfying our hunger with a few Twinkies...I still have fond memories of that cream filling...we are less likely to eat a banana. Habits can be changed. You can become addicted to the foods that your body needs in order to function. Once you have changed to new eating habits, you will find it difficult to go back to y our old ways of eating. This does not mean you can't ever have that Twinkie again. Once in a while its probably a good idea to give your body the opportunity to remember why you don't want to "junk food" out on a regular basis. That chocolate doughnut eventually becomes an exception, rather than a rule. Nowadays the idea of a fruit bowl for a snack makes my mouth water.
"If you are an ant, and you're walking along across the top of a cup of pudding, you probably have no idea that the only thing between you and disaster is the strength of that pudding skin."
Muscle weighs more than fat. When I started working out, I did drop from 150 pounds (I'm 5'1") to 113 pounds. This was over a period of a year and a half. I am now a hundred and twenty pounds. I did not get fatter. If you become a scale devotee, you will never get a perspective of your true body image. Do not be concerned with losing weight. Crash dieters often see a reduction of five to ten pounds a week. Much of this weight loss is due to water loss, some fat and muscle tissue loss. When crash dieters go on binges, and they almost always do, they will gain more weight than before. Muscle is not developed, but fat is. Losing weight gradually, one or two pounds per week, is the best formula for dieting success. Check out your mirror, rather than a scale. Go for a strong, tight, lean and shapely body, rather than a skinny, weak and skin-that-hangs body type. Weightlifting is one of the best ways I found to achieve and maintain body balance. You can also do things like walk instead of driving you r car, take the stairs instead of using the elevator and stand up instead of sitting down. Once you are a comfortable body weight, muscle will burn more calories than fat. You will be able to consume more calories and not gain fat. If you feel the need to diet, choose a method that emphasizes exercise. Change your eating patterns, rather than starve your body.
"May suffering ones be suffering free
And the fear struck fearless be.
May the grieving shed all grief-
And the sick find health relief"
There is very little expertise in the medical profession about the link between diet and disease. Only one third of the medical schools have any requirements in nutritional education. Often the attention given to nutrition in schools is cursory. There is some research that shows compelling links to diet and diseases. Though heredity and exercise are important indicators to some disease, here are some research results that strongly supports the disease/diet connection:
Many health problems are associated with weight (eg.diabetes, high blood pressure). We must learn to sift through the fiction and discover the existing facts. Many people have discovered on their own that changing their eating patterns improved their health.
"The other day I got out my can opener and was opening a can of worms when I thought, 'What am I doing'?!"
Understanding the main sources of food energy and learning the basic facts about food components will make it easier to take care of our bodies nutritional needs. Three main sources of food energy are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred energy sources. Three types of carbohydrates: processed, simple and complex.
"If you ever reach total enlightenment while eating a twinkie, I bet it makes the cream filling ooze out your nose."
Processed carbohydrates give you a quick fix. The food energy lasts about 10-20 minutes and then your blood sugar drops. This causes you to feel weak and tired. Low blood sugar can contribute to depression. Simple carbohydrates are a good source of instant energy. Doughnut, cookie, pie, ice cream, jams and preserves are some of the simple carbohydrates. Eating these foods once in a while is not harmful, however for enduring energy the complex carbohydrates are a far better source.
"As I bit into the nectarine, it had a crisp juiciness about it that was very pleasurable-until I realized it wasn't a nectarine at all, but A HUMAN HEAD!!"
Rather than processed carbohydrate, you may consider simple carbohydrates as a quick fix. Fruits, the best source of simple carbohydrates, when ingested go straight to the bloodstream. You get an immediate shot of energy, without the drop in blood sugar. We have an enormous variety of fruits in our supermarkets. Choose from melons, cherries, plums, varieties of berries, peaches, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, oranges and nectarines. Remember some fruits are higher in calories than others. Check this out if you are into weight-loss or weight- gain programs.
"Worship the potato? The idea seemed silly to me. But then I thought, what else is more deserving of worship? It's simple, it comes from the earth, and it can kill you if you disobey it."
With complex carbohydrates there is a gradual release of energy as they break down to simple sugars. The advantage to this is a continual energy for working out or daily activities. Be aware that eating too much of a good thing is often counter productive to your health goals. As simple and complex carbohydrates convert to glucose it is used by the brain, nervous system and muscles. The body then stores a reserve in the muscle and liver. It is stored as glycogen. Any more excess is stored in the body as fat. Eating too many potatoes will increase fat gain. Along with potatoes, other good complex carbohydrate energy sources are: Peas, carrots, green beans, squash cauliflower, spinach, tomatoes, lettuce, rice, pasta and whole grain breads.
"If you're traveling in a time machine, and you're eating corn on the cob, I don't think it's going to affect things one way or the other. But here's the point I'm trying to make: Corn on the cob is good, isn't it."
Protein is made up of elements called "amino acids". Our bodies produce fourteen of the twenty-two amino acids without any outside food source. The other eight essential amino acids must come from outside sources. Foods that have all the essential amino acids are called complete proteins. Food that contain some of the amino acids are called incomplete proteins. Most complete proteins come from animal sources. In the United State we have access to a great variety of complete proteins such as poultry, red meat, fish, milk and milk products. In countries where complete protein sources are not available, combinations using rice and beans with corn and milk make up complete protein intake. Vegetarians must be careful to make up for the lack of complete proteins in their diet. Vegetable and fruits contain proteins in such minimal amounts, that it would be impossible to glean the supply needed for nutritional balance. Nuts and seeds are another source of incomplete prote ins. Protein intake should be balanced with carbohydrates and fat. Excessive protein intake causes a condition known as "phosphorus jitters". High phosphorus content combined with low calcium content causes an imbalance that can make us nervous and irritable.
"I hope they never find out that lightening has a lot of vitamins in it, because do you hide from it or not?"
Fat is not an enemy. Though overdoing fat intake is not healthy, we do need fat. Fat helps the body to absorb vitamins A, E, K and D. It is also responsible for the absorption of calcium by our bodies. If your diet is too low in fat, your bones and teeth could suffer. Fat also cushions internal organs, keeping your heart and lungs from being injured with movement. Fat will also keep your body from losing heat too quickly. The going word is "moderation".
"Here's a good tip for when you go to the beach: A sand dollar may look like a nice cracker that someone left, but trust me, they don't taste like it."
Cholesterol is not present in water. I have crackers that say they are cholesterol free. Of course some of us are not affected by our cholesterol intake, because our body works just fine and breaks down the cholesterol with ease. If you are planning to follow an exercising program and follow good eating habits there is no need to concern yourself with cholesterol intake. As you workout your body will as if by magic reject a high cholesterol diet. Cholesterol is present in saturated fats. It is also present in red meats, cheese and butter. There are reports that a glass of wine with a high cholesterol meal will help break down the cholesterol. I'll drink to that!
Sodium is not present in distilled water. I have bought crackers that say no sodium. Sodium is a necessary mineral. It regulates a fluid balance in the body and prevents mineral deposits from building up in the blood stream. Sodium assists in balancing blood chemistry and aids the digestive process and body purification of carbon dioxide. Without some salt our bodies would experience difficulty in muscle contraction and expansion and nerve stimulation. Since almost all foods contain sodium, salting foods is really unnecessary. Learn to use spices when cooking. You will find foods actually can taste interesting and delicious, without what we in Minnesota fondly call "Swede" spice.
"For mad scientists who keep brains in jars, here's a tip: Why not add a slice of lemon to each jar, for freshness."
Water intake should follow any discussion of sodium. Some people think drinking water will cause them to retain water. Quite the opposite is true. Drinking water allows your system to flush itself out, however if you eat a high sodium diet you will be apt to retain water. Retained water is more often obtained from the foods you eat, rather than the water you drink. Water also lubricates your skin, cleans your internal organs, transports nutrients and maintains body temperature. A glass of water before eating can also curb your appetite. I don't really like plain water much, though I drink it when I'm thirsty. Some people say put a slice of lemon in water. I have to admit I've tried it and enjoy the tang it gives to an otherwise bland drink. I probably get most of my water from juices and coffee.
"What is it about a beautiful sunny afternoon, with the birds singing and the wind rustling through the leaves, that makes you want to get drunk? And after you're real drunk, maybe go down to the public park, stagger around and ask people for money, and then lie down and go to sleep."
Alcohol: A brief word. A glass of wine with a meal is refreshing and can enhance the enjoyment of your meal. However the operant word here as with fat is "moderation". Alcohol is a nonnutritious, processed carbohydrate. In the long run alcohol is a depressant. Excessive drinking often leads to eating foods that you would ordinarily shun. In my youth I found myself drinking and eating Stewart sandwiches and Slim Jims. Alcohol can have a negative affect on your energy level. If you ever try working out at the gym, after a night of drinking, you will notice the difference. The good news, if you work out, is you will find your body tends to reject excessive drinking.
"The food which we are about to eat
Is Earth, Water, and Sun, compounded
through the alchemy of many plants.
Therefore Earth, Water and Sun will become
a part of us.
This food is also the fruit of the labor of
many beings and creatures.
We are grateful for it.
May it give us strength, health, joy.
And may it increase our love.
There are some good reference books that I have found helpful. One is The Nutrition Desk Reference-Second Edition by Robert H. Garrison,Jr. and Elizabeth Somer. The other is The Complete Guide To Women's Health by Bruce D. Shephard and Carroll A. Shephard.
So eat, drink and be merry. And be healthy and happy.
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