Summer Springs into Fall

Amazing what can happen in just 14 days (since my last blog).

Chronologically, more or less: I gave my presentation at the International Day of Prayer for Peace and it was well received.  I consider it a major coup that the local Imam requested a copy of it.  There was a good crowd and we ate well.  I had no hummus to take home–and apparently they “tore into” the curry flavored one.

We had a more or less typical week following that, doing the usual stuff although we were both too ill to make it to the chiropractor’s on Wednesday.  I was finishing up antibiotics for a sinus infection and my dearest got something viral.  Did follow up with our administrative duties, making sure that insurance companies, employers and absence management agents were getting the information they needed to continue to provide disability insurance benefits, health insurance and such.  Oops, they weren’t.  So I got on the phone and started calling doctor’s offices then sat and waited for nurses to return my calls.

I also used the juicer to make pure apple juice from about 4 pounds of gala apples.  Let me tell you…it made about half a gallon which did not last long enough to require a pitcher to store it in.  OMG, VERY good.  I saved the pulp and made apple pudding: the pulp, eggs, cream, cinnamon, honey, nutmeg and a little black pepper, with apple slices arranged on top and then cooked over a water bath.  We took that as our contribution to the feast on Sunday when we went out to Delaplane for the Native American event.  Got to meet a lot of people and hope to meet with them again.  Beloved feels drawn to that path, even though he’s pure Polish.  (So even when we juice, the recipe opportunities from the pulp are intriguing–and at the very least, usable for compost.)

So this week began with a letter from his employer saying we can’t wait for the doctor’s any longer, a decision about continued employment must be made and no later than 10 am on Wednesday.  I spent that day and the next trying to find out what was going on with the situation, since I thought I had gotten things in order the prior week.  Apparently not.  I finally got a call from the PCP’s nurse at like 4:30 pm on Tuesday that said he would NOT send the necessary documentation, it needed to come from one of the other doctors involved.  I’d draw you a picture of me freaking out, but it would not be pretty.  Needless to say, I was in hyper-anxious mode.  Thank the gods for a doctor who WILL answer her cell phone, AT HOME.  And who will be happy to help out with an email, assessing Beloved’s ability to return to work (which is NOT).  We haven’t heard anything from his employer, so we’re hoping that was sufficient.  No news is good news and all that.

But the stress and anxiety of that was enough to trigger a fibromyalgia flare up.  Yay.  Took every pain pill I have, every pain pill I can have and still hurt.  Lost my brain somewhere in the process and spend the rest of the week in a fog, with a massive attack of ADD.  Can I have an ice cream?  Ooooh look, a kitten.  Yeah.  That has finally settled down–and btw, I slept 15, FIFTEEN hours Thursday night.  Laid down for a nap at 5:30 pm, woke up at 8:30.  A.M.  Tired much?

Friday I did get the good news that MY long term disability claim agent has FINALLY received all the doctor’s reports.  I only sent the claims form in to her a month ago.  And Monday she will review them and then send them wherever they go for approval.  (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!!!)  So I’m hoping to get a check this month, maybe but next month fer sure.  What small furry animal do I have to sacrifice to get that to go through?  ‘Cause I’ll do it, you know I will!

We have also talked to our landlord to determine the level of necessity for applying for a housing voucher.  Turns out it is very necessary–but if we’re going to use a voucher, we will be moving over to the income controlled section of the housing.  Which is not a bad thing, as we will have to go into a two bedroom apartment–just like the one I used to live in when I was out here with the Lizard, since I met the income requirements at that time.  Now what changes they have made for it to be ADA compliant, I don’t know.  BUT the manager JUST HAPPENS to have one coming available, if this other person does not take it, and it would be available on NOVEMBER 1.  So theoretically, if this all goes smoothly and I am approved for the voucher…I could possibly be moving in 3 weeks.

The only reason that doesn’t make me freak out is because I can’t do it.  Someone else will have to.  And….all we really need is for people to show up with their cars….take stuff and put it in the car, take it about half a mile away and put it more or less in the corollary spot in the new place.  We still have at least half of our shit (you heard me) in boxes, so that’s easy enough–and they all go into the second bedroom for me to bring out and unpack one at a time.  Instead of being piled up in a corner of the living room like they are now.  We can rent the $20 UHaul for the furniture and mileage…will be more getting to and from the UHaul store than it will on the actual move.

So think good thoughts because it looks like perhaps the time of being hung over the precipice by the gods and taunted with the sharp spiky rocks at the bottom of the chasm is done and things will actually improve to the point we can stop eating anti-anxiety meds like mints.

We hit the farmers market yesterday and failed miserably at spending less, but we do have some awesome produce.  The plan is for tomato, bacon and basil sandwiches today at some point.  I also intend to make salsa for my beloved man.  Doing my laundry now and going to tackle the kitchen, a little bit at a time as I can–got to get enough done so that The Man can make meat sauce for pasta as dinner tonight.

Synopsis: still sore, but not as bad.  Head is not as fuzzy or I wouldn’t be blogging.  I feel mostly tired and may end up napping–“he” has already gone to lay down.  I need to put my wet clothes into the dryer, which means I will probably putter around the kitchen for a little before coming back out to the computer and sitting/resting for another little while.

This next week looks rather active.  Our friend is coming over to spend the day tomorrow so I will implore her to do the dishes that require hand washing.  Beloved and I have phone calls to make and hopefully one of them will get me an appointment at the VA for the housing voucher, which we intend to go to DC on Tuesday to beg for.  Wednesday is back cracking day and Friday we have doctor’s appointments.  I am also preparing to cater a dinner party on Saturday night for about 8-12 people.  It is a Virginia themed meal, with VA wines being paired up with each course, made with something that is also local.  My friend is a  major wino…I mean, wine lover and has chosen the bottles.  Here is the menu:

Butterkase (German “Butter cheese” or another very mild cheese) fondue, with apple slices (voignier)

Williamsburg Peanut Soup (chambourcin or Cab Frank)

Pork (loin or chops) stuffed with chopped apples, onions, pepitas (squash seeds) and bread crumbs with (fresh) thyme and garlic
(If I can get a loin, I will ask the butcher to spiral cut it so that it would lay flat, then spread the stuffing on it and roll it up like a pork loin jelly roll.  If I have to buy chops, I will get them thick enough to cut a pocket for the stuffing.  If I have to do chops, I am also considering cooking them in parchment paper)  (Chardonnay)

Sides will be quinoa (cooked in the rice cooker and seasoned with butter, salt, pepper and grains of paradise*; looks like couscous and tastes like sweet corn) and whatever fresh green vegetable I find at the market, possibly a cucumber salad.

Dessert: “Apple Pie” (petit manseng)  Wherein the apple is gala, it’s in a custard and may or may not have a crust.  But if it does, it will be a crust made with vodka or apple brandy because that makes it flaky beyond words.

*Grains of paradise: a spice used a LOT in Colonial America, from Africa, also known as crocodile pepper.  Tastes like pepper, ginger, and cardamom.

My friend has a cider that he wants to share, but says that it will go best with something that is spicy, so I may make hot nuts (every kind BUT peanuts) so that as guests arrive, they can munch on those and sip cider.  Incidentally, I intend to use several different kinds of local apples, so that each course that has apples has something different.  And if I can find VA peanuts, I will make the peanut butter that the Williamsburg soup recipe calls for.

I will get the things done ahead of time that I can, so I am able to meter out my ability to do that day–and make it through the meal.  I also want to make cinnamon almonds to take to our doctor on Friday as thanks for helping us out last week.  Guess I’d better get the damned kitchen clean.  Sigh.

I’m still pleased with the cleaning products I have made.  MIGHT have hit on a good recipe for shampoo, but further testing is required.  I have also started the old-fashioned ritual of brushing my hair one hundred times at night.

And another random thought, as it occurs to me: we have been Skyping with my son and his family, but we do not have a webcam.  Well, Beloved will be putting together his father’s new computer (when it all delivers, tomorrow) and in those boxes, there is a webcam for us.  Guess we’ll be talking to the Froggy and he’ll be able to finally see us as well.  Looking forward to it!

So life goes on, with good days and bad days.  The change in seasons means more change in the weather, which affects both of us deeply (literally–in the long bones of my legs especially).  We are still in a bit of a limbo because no final decisions have been made about our status-es.  Stati?  If my long term disability benefits would kick in, that would be at least some income, and of course the housing voucher is a major godsend if I qualify.  I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a plateau with my fibro meds and not sure that they are as useful as they could be.  Will be discussing that with the PCP the 23rd of this month.

If we didn’t have the uncertainty, we would not be unhappy with our lives.  In fact, things aren’t really bad, other than no income.  Hope to have that solved soon.  In the meantime…we just go on, one step, one day at a time.

Namaste!

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Ch-ch-ch-changes….

Turn and face the strange…

So I blame my son.  He has been kind enough to let us share his sign in for NetFlix and Beloved has been watching documentaries.  Lots of them.  On a variety of subjects, but many of them are about food.  And he is (justly) inspired and eager to try some of these new ideas about eating in our own diet.  Me, I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all.  Raw food, Vegan agendas, making juice, eating 6 times a day.  Good grief.  As I told him, I’m NOT spending my whole day in the kitchen.  Oh and green products for cleaning.  We’ll talk about that in a minute.

Part of the problem is that I do agree with him on a great deal of these changes.  We need to eat organic–in fact, if you didn’t know, here’s the hierarchy for buying your food, especially produce: organic over non-organic.  Local over imported organic.  Local organic trumps all.  Pastured beef, pork and poultry, including eggs.  Organic meats are not necessarily the same as pastured; organic means they can’t pump them full of antibiotics and they’re probably not all piled on top of each other.  Pastured means that animal walked and grazed, you know, like back in the olden days, before industrial food.  In other words, the animal is eating what it was designed to consume, making it healthier and therefore better for you.

Beloved has been a sponge, absorbing lots of information.  Most of it good, some of it questionable, some of it … well, not agreed to.  After much discussion and negotiation, here’s what we’re going to do add, one small step at a time–because trying to add it all at once makes it unsustainable.  And this is about sustainability–both for us, in our habits of eating, and in the foods we eat being sustainable and healthy in their production and (lack of) processing.  We are going to eat more raw food, aiming for 51% of our food (by weight) to be raw or at least not heated above 110 degrees.  This does not include just fruits and vegetables.  We are both very fond of sushi and rare beef (even to the extreme of steak tartar) so there will be some raw animal flesh in our diet.  We have a juicer now (thanks to his mother, who got it as a gift and never used it), so we will make juice out of the vegetables we cannot consume in sufficient quantities to get the nutrition from them, such as leafy greens.  Beloved has a problem with leafy greens because of his lap band surgery.  The idea is to juice the vegetables and then use that as the liquid in the Vitamix blender, adding fruit for a more nutritionally complete smoothie that is easier to drink than one made all in the blender, which has been too thick from all the pulp.

The pulp that we are separating out with the juicer can be used as an additive in cooking, or I can just compost it, so all that rich plant matter does not go to waste!  And we will benefit from all the nutrition that is in the juice, which we have not been getting.  We’re looking more closely now at vitamins and minerals, in addition to things like protein, carbs and fat counts.  We take a multivitamin because we’re not getting all of our nutrition from our food–in fact, no one is.  The food we eat today is nutritionally deficient to the same types of food from 1950.  Why?  Because of industrialization and commercial preparation of most of our foods.  Let’s talk about this for a moment.

99% of all the corn grown in this country is NOT eaten by us.  It’s also not shipped overseas to be eaten by any human.  Instead, it’s processed.  And processed.  And processed.  Into things like High Fructose Corn Syrup, Xanthan gum, ascorbic acid, maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, caramel and caramel color, polyvinyl acetate, stearic acid, and so on.  Hundreds of products, not many of them look like food.  But they are IN your food.  If you really want to freak out about corn, watch “King Corn”, a documentary that will make you flip.  And stop eating corn products.  You CAN eat CORN–but it must at least look like what we all think corn looks like, or obviously come from corn, like pop corn, tortilla chips and etc.

Monsanto (http://www.monsanto.com/Pages/default.aspx) is quietly genetically modifying all kinds of foods–and has been for years–without any idea what that will do in the long run.  It’s more about making produce that won’t spoil before getting to market, plants growing to a uniform size with uniform sized fruit or vegetables so that they can be commercially (mechanically) picked and handled.  Like the long stemmed roses you buy, you get one thing but not two–the roses have long gorgeous stems, beautiful flowers…and NO smell.  So these genetically modified foods are also lacking, usually in taste and often in both taste and nutrition.  Most of Europe refuses to have Monsanto products and in fact, Poland has completely banned them–but here in the US, most consumers don’t even know who they are and how very much they are affecting our health.

So let’s look at the average American’s circle of life:
1.  The agribusiness, industrialized farms produce fruits and vegetables that are deficient in many nutrients.  They are sprayed with petrochemical pesticides and weed killers; in fact, some of the plants themselves have been genetically modified to exude pesticides from every surface (which in at least one case has led to human male sterilization after ingestion of same).  They are harvested by machine without regard to optimum ripeness, shipped distances and kept long enough that any nutrition they might have had is generally gone before they are sold.

2.  The industrialized meat production is worse.  Animals are packed together in spaces so small that they must be mutilated (chickens have the top half of their beak cut off; pigs have the tips of their tails removed) to avoid damage from attacks from their neighbor.  This closeness increases the incident of disease, so that 80% of ALL the antibiotics made in the US are given to animals.  It is in the meat and we ingest it, increasing OUR resistance to various antibiotics and we wonder why.  The animals live a life of squalor and torment and are killed in a state of terror, which floods their bodies with all kinds of chemicals, affecting the taste of the meat–and the nutrition it might–MIGHT–have.

3.  This industrialized is sent to factories for further processing into convenience foods, or shipped to your local grocery store.  Either way, when you buy it, you have no idea how much nutrition it really has, what other chemicals it might contain, and what it is going to do to your body if you consume it.  Americans also have no idea what real serving portions look like, so are generally eating way more of this stuff than they are supposed to.

4.  You cook dinner or you eat out.  You try to be healthy by having a vegetarian or even vegan diet, but you’re still buying stuff that is industrially produced.  And then you can’t explain why you feel tired all the time, why you’re always sick, why you’re fat or not losing weight…well, the next bit is going to make you scream!

Everybody lives with stress, right?  What does stress do to your body?  Apart from the obvious things we all know, stress and the “fight or flight mode” we all tend to live under destroys your body’s vitamin C.  NO WONDER we all get sick!  So to counter stress, take mega doses of Vitamin B-3 (Niacin) and MEGA doses of Vitamin C.  I mean mega, above and beyond the RDA, like 2 or 3 times the amount at least.  You CANNOT overdose on Vitamin C.  Large amounts of niacin can cause flushing, like hot flashes from menopause, so go easier with that.  Just try it for a week and tell me I’m not right.

We have found it makes a difference, and Beloved’s sister bought her vitamins on Sunday and then texted him on Monday that she didn’t think it would work that fast.  Just saying.

We had already made the switch to organic and pastured food wherever possible.  Adding raw is less of a problem for me, who was subsisting on veggies in a bento box long before we met…HE, on the other hand, will have to learn to eat them.  Leafy greens as mentioned are a problem; other certain vegetables can be an issue as well so it will be a lot of trial and error to find out what works and what doesn’t.  We’re also looking into spirulina (blue-green algae) as an additive, plus hemp powder and flax seed/oil.  I have discovered that he will eat chopped salads, regardless of what is exactly in them. (Made one with chopped zucchini, onions, tomatoes and an Oriental style dressing).  He and I both will eat summer squashes (zucchini, yellow) that are hot but NOT cooked–so stir fries and barely steamed.  I don’t mind winter squashes (pumpkin, acorn, butternut) cooked and mashed.  I also like root vegetables (turnips, rutabaga, parsnips) either raw or cooked and mashed.  Now I’ll have to figure out how to sauce them to add interest and variety for us to eat them.

We’re eating Raw Revolution bars and prefer the lemon flavored one.  One of them can serve as a snack; two would be a meal.  Probably the single largest change for Beloved will be learning what is really a serving.  He has years of his mother serving a large plate, filled with protein and carbs, with a small little plop of vegetables (that he often wouldn’t eat since she cooks everything until it’s beyond dead).  He’s discovering that 3 or 4 large scallops are actually a serving and that 1/4 pound of salmon is, when presented properly, almost more than he can eat.  (Meat portions should be 3 or 4 ounces or the size of a deck of playing cards).  So we are going to try to live with a more Japanese approach to food: small plates, measured portions, more fish then meat.  (Side note: yes, the fish costs more, but you are buying less.  6 – 8 ounces of good quality fish, depending on what kind and we like tuna and salmon, runs between $7 and $20 per pound.  So even at $10 for 6 – 8 ounces of the most expensive, it’s actually only $5 per person and that makes it incredibly cheaper than buying that same fish if someone else cooks it for you. And it’s healthier.)

We are also using the European shopping method–although we’re not going quite daily on what we need for that day’s meals, but we will be shopping for less items more often, to ensure that we’re getting fresh fresh fresh!  This serves a dual purpose–aside from getting food, we will have impetus to shower and dress and go out more often.  It’s very easy to just sit around in your robe day after day without realizing that’s what is happening.  So having to go out to forage will be a valuable part of our stated desire to walk more.

I did say that we would talk about green cleaning products.  The documentary to watch for this is called “Chemerical” and it convinced us that getting rid of commercial cleaning products would benefit us, especially me with my fibro.  It’s an accepted fact that housewives have a 54% higher rate of cancer than other groups–because of all the contact they have with those household cleaners.  I was a stay at home mom for 13 years, so I’ve had my share of exposure.  Beloved believes that if we can reduce the chemicals, both in our food and in our environment, we can reduce the inflammations of my disease, perhaps even to the point where I might not require medication and wouldn’t that be amazing?

I will leave it to you to do the Internet research for more information about green cleaning products, but I will tell you what supplies you need, to make your own and you’re going to be shocked when you see how simple it is:

Tap water
White and Cider Vinegars
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
20 Mule Team Borax (by Dial Corporation)
Glycerine
Isopropyl Alcohol (Disinfectant/Sterilization)
Hydrogen Peroxide (Mold and mildew killer)
Castile Soap (Dr. Bronner’s)
Liquid Castile Soap (Dr. Bronner’s)
Tea Tree essential oil (Disinfectant; kills virus, germs and fungus)
*Optional: Lavender, lemon and/or peppermint essential oils

From those things you can make each product you need to clean everything in your house, including you and your clothes.  I have already begun with a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar as a spray kitchen cleaner.  It does not leave a vinegar smell, which I thought it would, and everything I wipe is amazingly clean and smooth.  I am using liquid castile soap to do the dishes and they are really “squeaky” clean, with no detergent haze.  I am using the borax/washing soda/salt mixture for the dishwasher and putting white vinegar into the rinse aid receptacle.  It’s doing a bang up job.  I can hardly wait to make the laundry soap.

I know I sound like a hippy convert, but…we did just fine back in the day with the natural ways of growing our food and cleaning our house.  There’s too much money in industrial food, industrial cleaners and the healthcare BUSINESS for the corporations to be concerned with minor things like nutrition, sustainability and keeping us healthy.  Far more money can be made if we stay sick than if they cure what ails us.  Fibromyalgia is a relatively new disease, and there are other diseases that we never heard of before the Industrial Age…why is our country, with its ability to grow food, the pollution laws that limit what companies can put into the environment, why is our country filled with sick people?  Have you LOOKED at the size of the medication aisles in any store?  Lots of things to treat your cold or your allergies, but no cures.  Why not?  All this time scientists have had…where is the cure for the common cold, for AIDS, for diabetes…oh, that’s right.  Not enough money is curing, much more to be made in treating.  Have a pill.

So we’re making our choices, one step at a time.  I feel better when I’ve had my niacin then when I haven’t.  I like the idea of cleaning the house with products that won’t send me into asthma attacks (like chlorine does).  We’ll try all the things he’s learned about and we’ll keep the ones that work for us.  And do you have any idea how completely pissed I will be if I could come off of my meds while I am in my own home because my nutrition is correct and I’m not breathing in volatile compounds from cleansers?  If it’s the industrial world around me that’s making me sick?  If it’s the industrial world that’s making all of us sick–and we don’t have to be except that someone, somewhere is getting rich off of it?

Sorry, don’t mean to rant but it’s dreadful to think that somehow there is this conspiracy to keep us fat dumb and happy–and ill.  I can only do what I can for myself and share this blog with you so that you can, perhaps, choose for yourself a better way–not even necessarily MY way, but to know that there are options and choices for how to treat your fibro, things you can do that may make you feel better and isn’t that worth it?  This does require a commitment to being even more hyper aware of what’s going into us, adding being aware of what’s going on around us and generally choosing to live a life that is healthy, sustainable and makes us happy.

Namaste, and I hope you find what makes you happy!

 

 

You Are What You Eat…So What Are You?

Let’s talk about food.  In fact, let’s start with one food in particular.  Corn.  Not the sweet crisp yellow stuff that you eat in the summertime, as part of the family barbecue.  Not the creamy yellow stuff you add to lime beans to make succotash.  Not the brown kernels that you heat and make into popcorn.  Nope, we’re gonna talk about industrial corn, stuff that you can’t even eat just picked off the stem.  That should be your first clue that this is something that is not good for you.

In order to have this conversation, I’m going to ask you to watch a movie–this movie: King Corn  (No, really, I mean it.  You NEED to see this to understand the rest of this blog.  Please go watch it and then come back.  I’ll be waiting.)

(As we have this conversation, I have included a couple links to some sites for information that you should click on to get a better idea of why I am even going on about industrial corn.   Industrial corn is the term I will be using to differentiate it from truly edible corn.  Industrial corn is BIG BUSINESS and health is not anywhere on their list of concerns–they only care about the profit margins.)

Corn is all around and Americans eat a lot of it without even realizing what they are actually ingesting because industrial corn doesn’t look like corn at all.  It’s in our meat, salad dressings, candy, drinks…60% of what we eat is industrial corn.  (Remember that percentage from the hair sample testing on “King Corn”?)  What’s even more frightening is that there are more than 4,200 different uses for corn products, and more are being found each day.  BIG BUSINESS has a completely selfish reason to keep finding new uses for their industrial corn–to increase their profit margin by keeping the demand for the corn high, high, high.

It would be very hard to find things to eat that don’t have corn in them.  That sugar free, no calorie lemon drink has no lemon in it.  The sour taste is ascorbic acid–made from corn.  Xanthan gum?  What the hell is that–sounds more like some science fiction ingredient than what it is, a thickener for things like syrups or spaghetti sauce.  There are even an impressive amount of things that aren’t even food that have ingredients derived from corn!

The one particular corn product I would like to really focus on is High Fructose Corn Syrup, or HFCS.  It’s in so many things I can’t even begin to tell you what they are–although I did find a pork sausage that listed HFCS as an ingredient.  Why the hell was there HFCS (aka “sugar”) in a meat product?  My husband and I have completely cut it out of our diet at home; eating out is a bit more difficult to manage the absence, but we do try.  We have discovered that if we do eat more than just a small amount, we end up with migraines that would kill a horse.  And there’s an interesting study out that suggests eating corn syrup makes you dumb.  Not to mention the weird feeling you get in your mouth after eating or drinking something with HFCS in it.

The corn industry (read: ConAgra, Corn Products International, Corn Refiners Association and so on) will try to tell you that corn syrup (high fructose or not) is “just like sugar”, and that “your body treats it the same way”.  Ask any diabetic if that is really true.  Your body doesn’t really know how to handle HFCS and it overproduces insulin to handle it–which is a good way to become diabetic.

The part of “King Corn” that really frightened me and led me to make the changes to my diet that I have is the part where they talk about the cows.  It takes about 3-4 years to get a calf up to market weight for butchering.  If that same calf is fed corn, corn byproducts, sillage and so on, all corn based…it will get to market weight in about a year.  BUT if they don’t slaughter it within a narrow timeframe, it will develop massive ulcerations in its stomachs and die.  Yes, die…from eating corn.  Cows aren’t made to eat just corn, and certainly NOT industrial corn.  80% of the antibiotics in the US go to animals–partly because of this business model of feeding industrial corn to the “meat units”–not even treated with any dignity or considered a live being at all.  Just a number on a ledger page, part of the money you can make.

Guess what?  Chickens don’t eat corn exclusively either.  They eat bugs and greens as well if allowed to forage on their own (the term is “pastured” rather than free range; “free range” may just mean that you’ve got 100 birds in a 4 by 4 square foot area, rather than each one in a cage that allows little more than stretching the neck out to peck corn.  Don’t even start me on chicken farms, it’s disgusting and you’d give up your KFC or Popeye’s faster than lightspeed if you REALLY knew how your fried chicken lived its life.

And really, that’s what this (and following blogs on lifestyle) is about: knowing WHERE your food comes from, HOW it’s handled, and WHAT it’s fed.  That includes the plants–are they organically grown, or industrial units to be gotten to market in the shortest time possible from germination?  What kind of pesticides are used?  What kind of treatments are used to make them appear ripe (like picking tomatoes green because they can be handled rougher and then gassing them to make them turn red)?

What we eat is literally killing us–as a nation, Americans are becoming more obese (fattening up on the hamburgers made from the cows fattened up on corn?) and diet-related diseases like diabetes and gout are on the rise.  Heart disease is also increasing in men AND women.  Children are being diagnosed with high cholesterol.  Other countries don’t have these issues because they aren’t using industrial corn and industrial corn products.  Just us.  We need to educate ourselves and take control of what goes in our mouth.

I can’t tell you how to do it for yourself, but I can tell you the changes my husband and I have made.  I will also tell you that my beloved is a large man and he has lost almost 75 pounds or so over the past 2 years eating this way.  I have also lost 50 pounds myself.  Without exercising and without feeling deprived.

First and foremost, you must understand this: a diet is not something you do to lose weight.  Your diet may help you drop pounds, but the truth of the matter is, a diet is what you eat.  That simple.  Your diet is what goes in your mouth every day, the food that you consume for each and every meal (and snacks!).  To be healthy, you need to have a healthy diet.  Without going into details for specialty diets, such as those for heart patients or diabetics, let’s talk about how you can make healthier choices for your meals.

READ THE LABELS.  Let me say that again: Read the freaking labels.  Understand what you’re reading.  RDA is Recommended Daily Allowance and isn’t really accurate, but it’s a good starting point.  Carbs means sugar.  You probably want more protein than carbs–especially since most women do NOT get anywhere near the necessary amount of protein in a day’s eating.

Scientific explanation: You eat protein.  Your body goes, “oh, good, nutrition” and digests it into its nutritive parts, fueling the various systems.  Very little actually gets made into fat.  You eat carbs.  Your body goes, “Oh good, sugar.  I can store this for later” and promptly turns it into fat.  BTW, every fat cell has a blood supply, which is part of the reason losing weight can be so hard–and once you’ve got those fat cells, they are yours forever.  (Barring actual surgery to remove them.)

Read the list of ingredients, which are in order from the item that is the highest percentage in the food down to the least.  HFCS usually shows up within the top 5.  BAD.  Also, if what you’re eating has more than about 6 or 7 items, or if most of them are polysyllabic gobbledygook, then reconsider buying/eating them.

EAT FOODS IN THEIR PUREST FORM.  That means that you should try to eat things as close to their natural state as possible.  Limit the amount of processed foods you eat and you automatically cut out things like HFCS and salt.  Industrialized (processed) foods have to have something in them to make them taste good and it’s either salt or sugar (or HFCS).  Buy organic because frankly, organic foods taste like your brain thinks they do and will satisfy you quicker and in smaller amounts than the same thing in industrialized food.  It’s sort of like the roses you get from the florist–in order to get those long, long stems and the beautiful colors, something had to go and it was the aroma.  Industrialized food has to give up something to be able to be mass produced, packaged and stored, handled by machines in an assembly line fashion–and it’s usually the taste.  They try to mimic or replace it with chemical additives, but because it’s not natural, your body is not satisfied completely until you’ve overeaten, trying to get that taste.

LIMIT THE “WHITE” FOODS.  This means switch over to whole grain versions of bread, rice and pasta.  Don’t eat potatoes; have yams or sweet potatoes–or some of those gourmet purple potatoes instead.  Generally, the whiter the food, the more processing it has been through.  You’d be surprised at the weight you can lose just giving up white.  Oh and this includes sour cream, mayonnaise, cream and yogurt (which is surprisingly high in fat) or anything made with them that is predominately white or light in color.  And yes, it means ice cream.

ORGANIC FOODS ARE USUALLY HIGHER QUALITY.  They take a little more time and care and I repeat, taste like what you think they should.  They are also usually handled by humans and are not mass produced.  Higher quality means that even though they cost more, you can actually eat less and be more satisfied, both on the tongue/palate and in the stomach.  However–when buying, get organic over non-organic but buy local over imported organic.  The difference for pastured/grass fed meats is amazing.  Also get organic eggs–they are just so much better and since the chickens are catching some bugs in their grazing, the protein count is higher.

With the growing demand for organic food items, there is an corollary increase in the availability of those foods in all kinds of stores, like WalMart, Target–even Costco and BJ’s wholesale stores!–and your local grocery store.  Farmer’s markets and local butchers are still a good source, but you can have organic without living out in the boonies.

THERE ARE GOOD ORGANIC PROCESSED FOOD CHOICES.  Target carries a line of products from “Archer Farms” which are organic and very tasty.  Trader Joe’s markets have all kinds of processed or semi-processed foods available and I haven’t found any that I do not like.  We also shop at the local Asian market and while a lot of things are (obviously) imported, we read those labels and choose things that don’t have HFCS or MSG.  We both also prefer the fact that imported sweets aren’t quite as sweet as the American versions.  (A matter of personal taste, but still worth knowing.)

HALAL MEAT IS AN ACCEPTABLE SUBSTITUTE FOR GRASS FED / PASTURED MEATS.  Halal is the Muslim version of Kosher; the animals are treated humanely while they are alive (given the right things to eat) and then are killed in a peaceful way.  An animal that dies peacefully doesn’t have all the stress chemicals coursing through its body as it dies–which does affect the quality of the meat.  So if you can’t find organic, look for a Middle Eastern store that carries meat in your area.

PORTION CONTROL IS VITAL.  Measure it if you can’t eyeball a portion.  You should eat meat servings that are about the size of a deck of cards.  NOT the Jumbo Gargantuan Hamburger O’Death.  If you’re eating quality meat, that deck of cards is sufficient to satisfy your taste buds and fill your stomach–which by the way only holds about 2 cups.  Even chewed, that’s not really a lot of food at one time.  Theoretically, you should eat from 4 to 6 SMALL meals each day–and when I say small, I mean like half a sandwich, 1/2 cup of nuts, an apple…a 4 ounce serving of protein (that deck of cards thing again).  You can eat just about all the vegetables you want as long as you’re not dragging them through fat (sour cream, mayo or yogurt based dips and my personal bete noire).  Be careful about fruit because it’s still got a lot of sugar–but it’s fructose, not HFCS and your body knows what to do with it.  Buy containers to portion out your meals; use compartmentalized plates–and the largest section is for vegetables.

When you go out to a restaurant, the minute they deliver your meal, divide it in half and ask for a to go box.  Put one half into that box and set it aside.  Then you may eat the rest.  Try to find places that are doing the “farm to fork” and organic on their menu.  Again, it’s a little pricier, but well worth the knowing you are getting a truly nutritious meal.  Surprisingly, one of the fast food places has started putting grass fed beef into their hamburgers–yes, Burger King is really trying to use fresher, more local ingredients.  The “toppers” are a good way to get some decent protein, even at a fast food joint–just remove the bottom part of the bun and eat the rest to cut down on the carbs.

SATISFY YOUR CRAVING.  If you are really jonesing for one particular thing, even if it’s in the “bad” list–has HFCS or is high in fat, salt or whatever–then have it.  Have a small portion of it.  Don’t try to find something else to eat because that won’t satisfy your desires and you’ll end up eating lots more trying to assuage it rather than admit you want a slice of Pizza Hut pizza and just eating that one thing.  Try not to have cravings very often…and if you’re eating foods that are better choices, I believe you will find that you don’t want industrialized food as much.

Remember that injunction against ice cream?  If you really gots to have it, then get organic or high quality ice cream (like Hagen Daz “5 ingredient” flavors) and portion out the correct amount.  Did you know that one of those little buckets of Hagen Daz or Ben  Jerry’s is actually FOUR servings?  And frankly, some of the HD flavors are so intense and rich, you just can’t eat much of it in one go.  We actually get ours from the local dairy bar, from local cows that are grass fed.  The ice cream is soooo rich and heavy, one scoop is almost too much.  That’s a good indicator of quality–how much air is stirred into the product versus how much product you are actually getting.  And watch out for the evil HFCS and Xanthan gum.

CORN.  Only eat corn that is as close to its natural state as you can: corn on the cob, frozen or canned corn, hominy, pop corn, corn chips, corn meal…not the processed and industrialized stuff made from corn.  If you are able, get heirloom corn which has a larger protein germ than the hybridized versions of modern corn, which have a larger starchy part.

You spend time and effort picking out a car, a house, jewelry.  Those are only things.  Your health and well being have no price, no way to improve them except by the choices you make about what goes into your body and how you live your life.  Making better (different) choices for food can open up a whole new world of taste and satisfaction, maybe even start you cooking new foods and learning new cuisines, which makes for some wonderful dinner parties.  Improve your food choices and improve your health.  Be a knowledgeable and discriminating consumer and be good to yourself.  And those you cook for.

Namaste!