Tools to Help You Reset

Today is Day 4 of my health reset process and I am already feeling significantly better. Since Monday, every day has been an improvement. Yesterday I was really good and felt myself turn the corner.  This plan to reset my diet and my habits is not something I just do. I have tools I use that help me keep track of what I am eating, how much exercise I am getting, and how I am feeling. It is important to hold yourself accountable and be mindful of what you are putting in your mouth and how much you are moving your body.

I find it is very helpful to keep a food journal. If you bite it, you write it. It really helps to be able to go back and see where improvements can be made. Contrary to popular belief, if you eat it and no one sees you, it still counts. (sorry!) When I was doing my food elimination diet to determine what foods were causing symptoms, I kept a journal with notes about how I was feeling and any symptoms I had and when. This was very helpful to see trends and keep track of my food sensitivities.

Carrying a notebook around or remembering to log a meal when you get home can be a pain but it is worth it. I have used a couple of online and mobile apps, like Weight Watchers, MyFitnessPal, CalorieCounter, FitBit, and more. My favorite app for logging what I eat is MyFitnessPal.  It contains almost all the foods I eat, most of which are organic and small companies, you can scan a barcode to capture your food, and its pretty easy to add your own food items.  Many of the other apps only contain big popular chains and food products. Plus, on it’s own MyFitnessPal FullSizeRenderhas a built in pedometer and you can manually enter other exercises.  It then adjusts your calorie requirement based on how many calories you need on a daily basis.  The best thing I like about MyFitnessPal(MFP) is that the food data I enter syncs with my FitBit statistics. I do not like the FitBit’s food management program because it had none of the foods I ate, so I was expected to manually enter everything. Synching MFP to FitBit is a nice work-around.  What’s great about taking the time to enter all the food you eat throughout the day is that, at any time, you can see how your IMG_1486nutritional analysis going. Are you eating too much protein and not enough carbohydrates, etc? You can make adjustments as you go and understand how your diet needs to change to be more balanced. You can also log your water intake, which helps me a lot. Many days I get into automode and forget to drink water or I limit my drinking because I am out and don’t want to have to use a public bathroom…then I can’t or don’t catch up. For water intake, I like the FitBit app. Problem with that is you have to have the FitBit. Well worth the money.

I used to have a Up by Jawbone and the battery died on me and was never chargeable again. Plus is was bulky and too manual for me. I would put it into the wrong mode all the time. I love my FitBit HR. It gives me my steps, heart rate, miles walked, calories burned, and steps climbed at a moments notice. The phone app is great too, except for the food logger. You can also join different groups. I didn’t think I would like to join groups and compare myself with others. However, my sister hooked up with me and the competition was on, until she lost hers. What’s even better about FitBit is that there is a style to match for every budget.

What have you found that helps you reset your health behaviors? I would love to hear what tools and resources you find helpful and that you have had success with.

Please comment below and share with all of us ….

 

Links to more information

1. For MyFitnessPal, following this link… MyFitnessPal .

2. FitBit and all the options, click here  FitBit. Too see prices go to FitBit.com or Amazon.com

Home-Cooking vs Fast Food

Back in January I did an analysis on meal planning just for curiosity sake. I used data obtained from the Roche Bros grocery store website and McDonald’s. Even though Roche Bros can be more expensive than a store like Market Basket, I used Roche Bros because I could use their online shopping tool to obtain cost information for comparison purposes. Therefore, results would differ if you got your prices from another store.

Organic vs Standard Home-Cooked Meal

I compared the cost of ingredients for a well-rounded roasted chicken dinner and a subsequent chicken soup using left overs from that meal. I collected and calculated the cost of the grocery bill for both the regular ingredients and the same meal using organic ingredients.   In my search for cost, I did not include condiments, spices, or oils…things that are assumed to be on hand and do not need to be purchased for every meal. I also assume the family can drink water. Mine does and this analysis is based on a typical meal in my house.

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Ingredients: whole chicken, carrots, potatoes, onion, celery, stewed tomatoes, frozen spinach, fresh baked bread.

I found that the standard roast chicken meal cost 37% less than the organic meal. $40.41 versus $25.37. So this can be a lot when you are buying a weeks worth of meals. The soup made from leftovers cost $20.20 versus $12.68 (extra ingredients were needed to prepare)

It doesn’t take a rocket science to know that the organic meal will cost more in the United States. Why did I do this? I wanted to see in numbers the financial implications of a family going organic who may already have a strict budget. There are ways to save on organics and prices are coming down on these products but it is still a huge hit to the wallet for many families.

For some families, this extra cost is not excessive. People spend $5.00 on a cup of coffee every morning without batting an eye. That would cover the cost of switching to organic for a couple of meals.

McDonalds vs Home-Cooked Meal chicken-6894

The next thing I wanted to know was how does this home-cooked meal compare to the cheapest of the cheap meals…McDonalds. I calculated the cost of a family of 4 buying what my family would buy if we went to McDonalds. I did include extra value meals because they include fries and drinks and are more economical, but I did not do an entire meal on $1.00 hamburgers.

The McDonald’s meal included the following:  Quarter Pounder w/Cheese Meal, Premium McWrap Meal, Chicken McNugget Meal, and Mighty Kids Meal.

The cost for this family to eat at McDonald’s was $26.06, slightly MORE than a regular home-cooked meal.  Hmmmm?

Nutritional Analysis

Now here is the other scary part…the nutritional analysis. I compared a serving of the chicken dinner to two of the McDonald’s meals. Note that the Chicken meal does not include soda which can be 39-108 grams of sugar depending on the size.

 

Meal Planning.xlsx

Click here to go to SugarStacks website to learn more about sugar content in sodas. 

As you can see the home-cooked meal is significantly less in fat, calories and sugar. But you knew that already, right?

Conclusions:

1. Eating McDonald’s (or fast food in general) doesn’t save you as much as you think or if anything at all.

2. Eating at home is cheaper and healthier…duh!

3. For many people, organic is not an outrageous option

4. As a society, we need to find ways to bring down the cost of organic products or find ways make it available to all members of our community. (see Plant A Row For the Hungry) more to come on this topic too

4. Home-cooked meals provide the opportunity for healthy secondary meals and left-overs.

Links for Additional Data 

Meal Planning Data

Plant A Row Brochure

 

Cheerios, Dr Bronners, and Dior?

untitled shoot-6355What do Cheerios, Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap, and Dior Mascara have in common?

They are all products in my house that we use everyday. I was just able to rate how safe they are after watching a very informative video about personal care products sold in the USA.

The 15-minute video is  “Why Beauty Products are Toxic & What You Can Do About It” put out by Mind Body Green. In this video taken, Heather White, Executive Director of the Environmental Working Group, discusses the studies and findings her non-profit organization has been involved with.

Heather presents information about chemicals that are in our products and why they are or may be harmful. She informs about the safety and government regulations, or lack there of, of personal care products.  Lastly, she helps us understand why this is important and what we need to do to ensure we and our children are safe from toxic chemicals.

The EWG (Environmental Working Group) website was full of other great information too.  They have used their database to create some wonderful tools and mobile apps to help you determine your level of risk.

Rate Your Plate: Also, available as a mobile app, Rate Your Plate has over 80,000 products so you can determine how healthy your food is. Better yet, use the mobile app and you can determine this BEFORE you buy.  For example, I do buy Honey Nut Cheerios on occasion….basically, not the best I can do, but not highly toxic either. Click here to see my results.

Skin Deep: The Skin Deep database and mobile app have over 68,000 personal care products for you to research. I put in my Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap-mild/baby version of their Pure-Castille Soap. Great! It got a 1 which is very low for possible toxicity. Then I put in my Dior Mascara. Although they did not have any current formulations, the ones from 2009-2010 were moderately to highly toxic.

Informative Guides: On their home page, EWG has guides on Cosmetics, Food Additives, Pesticides on Produce, Healthy Cleaning, Water Filters, Genetically Engineered Food, Seafood, and Sunscreen. Plus they have information on Farming, Endocrine Disruptors, and Toxic Chemical Reform.

These websites contain a lot of information and most of us cannot remember it all. It can be overwhelming and so many people will just ignore and continue doing what they have been doing. However, companies are not concerned for our welfare and are putting out potentially, and sometimes proven, dangerous products in order to make a profit. Until legislation is in place that protects the public from harmful products, we must do it ourselves.

No one can overhaul their life in one day. Pick one thing at a time to replace. Each time you go to the store, replace one item with a healthier alternative. It may take years and thats ok. The point is to start.

Baby steps…

Health Magazine

Health Magazine, May 2015 issue

While at Logan Airport, I found a great health-related magazine, Health Magazine. I have never read this magazine before but instantly fell in love. (at least with this issue)

First of all the title and tagline are Health: Happy Begins Here. I love that.

Second, the articles are more in line with my current lifestyle and health beliefs. For example, the May 2015 issue features an article on Tracy Anderson, fitness trainer to the stars.  I thought I would gag. However, she was surprisingly normal and I had some great tips and an inspirational story. The article is titled “Strong is the New Sexy” and I do like that too because it doesn’t necessarily mean physically strong but also encompasses mentally and emotionally strong. Strong does not have to mean harsh, rugged, athletic. People who love themselves and others unconditionally are strong.  People who fight for injustices and for other people are strong. People who are at peace are strong.  Strength comes in many shapes and sizes and that is sexy, beautiful, and wonderful.

Some other articles that appeared in this issue are:

Natural Ways to Pretty Up. I have pretty much switched my skin and hair care products to natural and organic versions. It took a long time to find the ones that worked for me, but I have just about succeeded. This article has some products you can try if you are on that same path. There is information on vegan trends, farm-to-face products, food based beauty products, and label identification.

Get Slim on Autopilot. Now I am not a proponent of changing your diet to lose weight. It focuses too much on the physical appearance instead of being healthy.  If you eat healthy, you will be healthy. However, this article has some great tips on eating healthier. To me, being healthy is the goal and that is also a journey.

#SAVEYOURSKIN, You Could Save a Life…Even Your Own. This article is about skin cancer. It contains great information about what to tell your doctor, common SPF mistakes, what to look for with images, how to check yourself, and real stories that teach and that we can relate to.

Stir Fry Tips. Great recipes for all types of stir fry dishes.

Your Breasts, a user’s manual. This article breaks down the anatomy and physiology of breasts, how to keep them healthy, and how to get the correct fitting bras. It also touches on breast cancer screening, achy boobs, and the things that can increase your risk of breast cancer.

Shy About Your Symptoms? An article featuring those taboo topics you may not want to discuss with your doctor or anyone but sometimes should.

And there was so much more. I do wish they had more ads from natural and organic products instead of the traditional pharmaceutical companies. However, I know that they need the money to keep the magazine going.  Maybe someday, the ads will be more in line with their content.

…Or maybe that’s an opportunity for someone else?

Hitting Reset

I started this blog to share information, insights, and experiences in hopes of inspiring others. However, it is also an opportunity to remind myself how to live better and to inspire myself to continue on this path to well-being. Remember, it is a journey not a destination.

That being said, this was one of the worse winters for me here in New England. I dislike the winter and with record breaking snows and below normal temperatures, I was not a happy camper. It was hard to go outside and walk in the words, I couldn’t reach my grill, and getting around on the roads was treacherous. I continued to walk my dogs about 4-5 times a week and did my best to eat healthy but it is hard when you are cooped up.

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Rum Punch at RumRunners

So, we escaped to St Croix for April Vacation to see some sun and sand. It was just what I needed. However, eating out in restaurants every day has always been hard for me; I don’t feel very well after a couple days unless the food is super fresh. St Croix has a couple great restaurants (note: Rowdy Joes and Eat@CaneBay) but the local cuisine is surprisingly starchy, heavy, and fatty for island living.  I ate fish as much as I could but I definitely indulged in the conch fritters, rum punches and other island specialties.

So now it’s time to reset my habits. I can admit I am not really feeling my best right now. I am feeling a bit lethargic, bloated, and am having more cravings than usual. For me, I need a couple days of eating healthy to break the cycle. After a couple good days, I will start to feel better and I won’t have these bad cravings or symptoms.

Today is day 1. I went for my first run in a LONG time and I started my breakfast on the right foot.  Exercise in the morning usually helps me make better food choices too.  But right now, those cravings are kicking in. It’s all mental that I want to eat everything…the cashews, the chocolate covered cranberries, salami, cheese, cantaloupe, left over risotto, etc.  I have slipped, I will admit. But I remind myself to stop and try to curb the damage.  Having setbacks is okay but it is also possible to still salvage my day and keep moving forward.  It also helps to stay busy and today I don’t have a lot of plans and don’t have the energy or the focus to tackle those things I should be doing. For me, I know this is because of my diet and how it’s affecting my body and mind.

To add to the mix, I am also taking a friend out for lunch for her birthday. That will be a tough one but I have a plan in my head and I know I can enjoy lunch without feeling like I messed up my reset plans. It’s about celebrating with her and not eating like a pig.  I will enjoy my lunch, have a light dinner, and make sure that the next two days I am set up to succeed.

For some this sounds like torture but this process that works for me when I have gone off the rails. Two days of exercising and eating well will reset my cravings, how I feel, and my emotional outlook.  This is also not about weight. It’s about feeling good, feeling healthy, having energy, and being able to think clearly and creatively.

So my reason for writing this is twofold…1. to hold myself accountable during this reset and 2. to let you know that I know I am not perfect nor do I pretend to be.  I have the same struggles that everyone else has. I do believe that sharing our experiences and what works for us will help others.

If you have a health tip that helps you reset your bad habits, please share.

Learning From a Bad Situation

In my last post (Kindness Matters), I described an incident in which a grown man told a little boy to “F— Off” and the importance of not perpetuating that energy by  internalizing and letting it ruin your day.

However, there is another side to situations like these. It’s what we can learn from them. It’s about turning something bad into something good. Sometimes these negative people are not strangers, but may be acquaintances, co-workers, friends, or even family.  Friends and acquaintances can be removed from your life or at least you are able to minimize the interactions. Family is a little more difficult.

I have learned some things about these people who bring such difficulties into our lives.

IMG_14741. They are a mirror of ourselves.  Sometimes, the behavior we most dislike in someone else is also very present in our own personalities. We just don’t see or acknowledge it. It’s called projection.

Wikipedia defines psychological projection as “a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against unpleasant impulses by denying their existence in themselves, while attributing them to others.[1] For example, a person who is rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude.”   Click HERE to go to the quote on Wikipedia.

2. They have something to teach us.  There is something about this person, the interaction, or the situation about which we must learn a lesson. It can be a lesson about ourselves, as in the mirror discussion, or it can be a lesson for us about how we handle a particular situation. The situation can be teaching us to be more tolerant or to be more aware of our actions. For each person, this lesson is personal. The more we search for the lesson, the easier it becomes to find a lesson in all our difficult interactions. This doesn’t mean you have to keep this person in your life, but you can find the lesson that was meant for you.

3. We need to establish boundaries. It is important in all relationships to establish boundaries. Love yourself enough to communicate on your own behalf. For example, if you do not like family stopping over without calling first, then it is up to you to communicate that wish. You cannot expect anyone to know the boundaries if you have not communicated them. You may think they are obvious or standard etiquette, but everyone has different views and experiences that shape their beliefs. Check out the article 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries on PsychCentral.com about establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.

I like to believe that there is always an opportunity for good in every bad situation.  You just have to look for it. It can be the difference between crumbling and rising in the face of diversity. It takes practice but it is possible.

 

Kindness Matters

Today, I went to the Townsend Earth Day Craft Fair to support the business endeavors of my friends, Carol, Kathleen and Sarah.

Carol was selling her crystals and crystal jewelry.  Check out 3Sisters to see a sample of her incredible necklaces and crystals/stones. I love her necklaces and with so many unique designs it was hard not to buy all of it.

untitled shoot-6209Kathleen is a Reiki Master Teacher and an Oil Mixologist. She was debuting her brand new line of fragrant and healing oil blends.  You can check out Kathleen’s offerings at Jivana Reiki and Oils on Facebook. Although, to really appreciate these natural oil blends you gotta smell them in real life…awesome!

untitled shoot-6207Sarah was there helping out her friends but is very creative in her own right. Her handmade metal work is beautiful. Although, she has not taken that leap to start a business, we all think she should. She designs beautiful necklaces and earrings then just gives most of them away. Her designs are Sundance Catalog quality and style without the high price tag (when she sells them).

Then this happened…

When I was there my friend’s young son was trying to encourage patrons to come check out his mom’s products. He is a young sweet little boy who was enthusiastic to help. He tried to show something to a grown man and this man told him to “F— Off”. Of course, he and his mother were disgusted and shocked. However, knowing how sweet and kind-hearted both mom and son are, I know they will not allow this offensive behavior to affect them for longer than a nano-second nor will they perpetuate the meanness.

Personally, I was disgusted and saddened by this event too. How can a grown man or women (or anyone) be so crass and cruel to a young child who was just trying to help.  Only someone who is deeply hurting. This “man” may think crystals and oils are weird but that is no excuse to treat someone so poorly, especially a child. I am sure this is not the first time this “man” has treated someone like this.

However, life is like a web. When you send good things out, good things come back. When you send bad out, bad things happen. Along the way, the negativity and positive energy affect everything in it’s path. Take F-man. He was probably treated poorly sometime that morning and then perpetuated that hate. In many cases, the next person would feel bad, then they would lash out at the next unsuspecting. This can go on forever.  This is why it becomes even more important to stop, let it go, and not allow the misbehavior of others to taint your own. There is enough anger, polarization, hatred, and judgement out there, we don’t need more.

What is REALLY important is to be kind to each other. During those times when kindness is not shown, we have to make sure not to let the hate into our hearts. We cannot allow this negativity to be perpetuated.  Let it go and stay positive.

I know my friends who were witness to this harsh behavior are spiritual, earthy, and very kind hearted.  They also believe in peace, love, and kindness. Sounds a little cliche but you really couldn’t ask for more genuine souls. I am so very lucky to have women like them in my life. Life is so much better when we surround ourselves with good people who are positive and loving.

If you find it hard to let go of these events or if you allow people to steal your happiness, you probably need to learn to center and deflect. I found this cute little article on protecting yourself from toxic people.  Give it a try.

In the meantime, be positive and don’t let others steal your joy!

Kindness matters

Come to the Edge

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“Come to the edge,”
“We can’t, we’re afraid!”
“Come to the edge,”
“We can’t, We will fall!”
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”

― Guillaume Apollinaire

I have had this poem on a little piece of paper since the day I met my husband. He was one of many guys living in a house at UMass Amherst and it was a typical college dwelling. But in his room he had this little piece of torn paper with this quote typed on it. I was so intrigued and drawn to this little piece of wisdom. He let me take it home. I have kept it in my wallet ever since. That was 1993.

I have often reflected on this poem during times of change, when I have needed to take a leap of faith, or when I just needed to take a chance.

Fear of failure is a strong motivator to stay put and never change your life. But that is so boring and I know we were not put on this earth to live a life of fear and monotony.  The more you fight change, the more difficult life becomes.

Think about it. What would happen if you succeed? What wonderful changes can come to your life when you take a chance and follow your heart? If it doesn’t work out you can always go back or change direction. Worse case scenario, you learned something or you grew in some sense.

I have learned that life is always changing. We are not really meant to stay the same person or do the same job all our life. Some say we change every 7 years, some say every 5. Embrace this opportunity.

Come to the Edge and FLY!

 

Little Moments Inspire Great Memories

Little moments

I love photography, so I try to bring a camera with me as much as I can. Luckily, my phone is always on me, so in a pinch, I always have a camera.

I know many people who are not into taking pictures. I try to remind them that photography is about capturing a moment you will never get back. It can be a simple moment or it can be a grand event. Either way, when you look back in 5 or 10 years (or more), you will be thankful you have that picture to remind you of that time in your life. Maybe you will appreciate yourself and your life more…but that’s a topic for another day.

The bad side is that when I am behind the camera I am distanced from the actually event or moment. Studies have shown that when people are taking photos they are missing other things that are going on and they remember less about that moment. We don’t want this either. For those that can be snap happy, try to balance the image taking with the memory making.

As we head into April vacation, bring your camera and force yourself to take some pictures. They do not have to be good, they don’t have to be of anything spectacular and you don’t have to take a lot. They just have to capture the memory of what you were doing April vacation 2015 or what interested you in the Spring of 2015 or how you celebrated the great New England thaw of 2015.  It can be pictures of your yard, your neighborhood, your travels, or your friends and family. It doesn’t matter. Remember that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Capture today so you can enjoy it tomorrow.

You will be grateful that you did.

 alaska-3188 alaska-3318 cc2013-0270 CI-6930 Funyak_J&E2 kittens-2796 MV2013-0134

Tick Season 2015

Well, tick season is here in New England. We all need to protect ourselves with information.

First of all, ticks are most active when it is 55 degrees like a perfect spring day in New England. Just because you dont see mosquitos and other bugs, doesn’t mean ticks aren’t out in full force. In the summer, ticks are in the shade, specifically the weeds, bushes, etc.  (Fleas like it hot!)

Second, do whatever you do to protect your yard and pets from bringing them into the house, do personal tick checks when you have been outside (especially on children) and wear long pants/socks when you are in the woods. I am not going to get into the debate between hardcore repellents and natural ones. I think this is a personal choice. The key is to repel them and prevent lyme and the other tick borne diseases.

Third, if you get Lyme disease…protect yourself with information. Lyme disease is hard enough to properly diagnose and many doctors still treat it insufficiently. The life cycle of the tick is 30 days. Veterinarians treat dogs with a course of antibiotics for 28-30 days. Local doctors, including the CDC, recommend a course of treatment of 14 days. I have been told this is NOT long enough. You can imagine my doctors do not like discussing this with me. Now, you are armed with this conflicting bit of information. Do with it what you will.

My experience with Lyme:  My husband contracted Lyme when we first moved to Harvard. He was given 10-14 days worth of Doxycylcine. His Lyme symptoms subsided but he was bothered with lingering joint pain.  He went to see Sam Donta, MD….THE most well-respected and experienced Lyme specialist in the area at the time. Dr. Donta explained that 14 days was not long enough and that once you stop taking the antibiotics, the remaining virus hides in the cells where it can no longer be reached. Consecutive courses of antibiotics will not help. In order to further the treatment, seriously harsh drugs must be administered to the patient to “open” access to the cells then treat with antibiotics for an extended amount of time. Dr. Donta explained that this course of treatment is so harsh that most patients choose to live with the lingering Lyme. My husband tried the treatment and couldn’t take it.  However, Dr. Donta and many other Lyme specialists have been able to successfully treat Lyme disease. It is always best to treat it right from the beginning if you have the chance.

I have also heard from other people who were misdiagnosed and they were told they were crazy and needed therapy, only to discover they were suffering from Lyme the whole time.  I am sure many of you could write your own story here. If this is you, please don’t give up. Keep searching!

Also, keep in mind that children do not always manifest symptoms of Lyme disease like adults. They do not always get the bulls-eye and many times the virus mimicks other diseases. When in doubt, rule it out!

Check out this list of Lyme symptoms from the Lyme Disease Association click here.

Now, I am seeing lots of posts on Facebook about a new tick borne virus that’s reaching Connecticut called the Powassan virus. According to the this CBS news report (Powassan CBS), Powassan is similar to Lyme but more severe and there is no treatment, other than supportive care.

This does not bode well for the folks in New England. It’s hard enough to get treated properly for Lyme, can you imagine if you get this new disease?

PREVENT, PREVENT, PREVENT!!!

For more information on ticks and the diseases that they carry you can go to the CDC and read their handout on tickborne diseases.

My favorite websites for cutting edge information on Lyme are the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) and the Lyme Disease Association. They have been on the forefront of Lyme information and treatment for as long as I have been researching it.

Also the University of Rhose Island has a great website about ticks, how to identify, treat, remove, etc;  including the ability to send them a picture of a tick and they will identify it for you. Check out URI’s Tickencounter for more information.

If you live in New England, you need to be armed with the most current information on tick borne diseases.  If in doubt, ask to be tested. Lyme should always be ruled out when you get sick in the warmer temperatures or if a diagnosis is not definitive.

Stay safe this Spring…Keep those ticks away.

To find out current tick activity, click here.

lifecycle tick_sizeshttp://www.cdc.gov/ticks/life_cycle_and_hosts.html