Archive for the ‘Habit Change’ Category

Pogo Had It Right!

January 26, 2017

Kurt Vonnegut was a WWII POW in Dresden when US bombs destroyed that beautiful city. He survived the bombing. When he came home, he spent the rest of his life proclaiming to us through his writing: “You’ve got to be kind!”

While it is tempting to find someone to blame for the fear that has gripped the US, I think Walt Kelly’s Pogo had it right: “We have found the enemy and he is us!”

The good news is that all over the US, people are coming together to figure out what we must do to even survive on planet Earth, and be happy in the process. Surveys that document how happy people treat each other are clear on what makes people happier. The overriding concern is that everyone in their country gets a fair share: enough to eat, a roof over their heads, health care, education, and a healthy environment to live in.

It is not that we don’t know what to do. We just do not do it. While the inability to share has been blamed for our dilemma, the root is our avoidance of simple kindness to each other, to everyone.

When we look at all the overlap of the great religions, they seem to be saying the same thing, just in ways that their particular constituents can grasp. Christians have “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Buddhists have “If you can’t say something in a way that the other person feels loved, don’t say it.”  Muslims’ Quiran says you should be living not for your own contentment but for God’s contentment with you.  Modern Jews recognize that every religious discipline contributes some insight or value that others cannot grasp. Bottom line is that we’re all in this quest for life together.

And we seem to have been collectively flunking together, and letting down many species of the Earth that need our collective support. The new wave of small groups waking up may well stimulate us to look at our own individual behavior and clean up our acts. What would happen if we each started listening carefully to each other, each started watching the way we speak to each other and the way we speak about others.

Maybe Pogo had it right! Maybe we just need to figure out how to be kind to each other. Research tells us that happy people are healthier. What might it be like to experience happiness spreading out over our families, towns, states, countries, and over the entire world?  It all begins with each of us and it’s all possible IF….

May this be our Happiest New Year ever!


Holiday Feasting Needs Joyful Exercise!

December 15, 2016

Most of us dive into all the sweet treats our favorite people guarantee they will make for the holidays. Yet, our bodies only need a modest amount of sugar, found naturally in fruits and vegetables.

The problem is that the liver converts added sugar into fat and stores it all over the body as a backup fuel for future energy calls unless…. we burn up that extra energy before it has a chance to be stored where we don’t want it.

The hormone, leptin, takes our appetite away when our fat index jumps. However, leptin has no upper limit on fat intake. Actually, when we binge over the holidays, leptin will just see that we keep our fat index as high as we have binged. That index becomes the new normal for leptin and the reason why we pay dues for every binge, unless…. we get creative.

Holiday shopping is a great opportunity. Park well away from the store, theater, or mall entrance and guarantee yourself a good, brisk walk to and from the car. We make better choices when our circulation flushes our whole system and keeps our minds clear while we cash in on surplus energy.

Brisk walks, daily when possible, keep everything moving smoothly. Include a hill and enjoy the benefits of a good sweat to energize your whole system. Enjoy walks, skiing, skating, dancing, or action games while visiting. Is there a park, golf course, woods or field walk near you? Let your joints move, and you will sleep well at night.

Check out wheelchair-freed people. They are the people who use their wheelchairs to go wherever they need to go. I see them slipping in and out of their cars’ driver seats, out doing errands, or heading for work, skiing on ski-chairs or sit-skis. They have strong arms, erect spines, and sharp intellects from years of figuring out new ways to move around smoothly and energetically. In short, they are keeping everything that still moves moving! And they enjoy radiant health.

Check out folks with artificial limbs who figure out ingenious ways to get around and keep themselves maintaining eye contact, standing tall, energized, and in shape. Their persistence and stamina make them inspiring role models for us all.

Better yet, notice what types of exercise leave you feeling refreshed, and indulge yourself!

May this Holiday Season be a happy and energizing one for us all!

Gratitudes Deliver Happiness

February 13, 2015

Every night before she goes to sleep, poet Carrie Newcomer says out loud three things she is grateful for; “all the insignificant, extraordinary, ordinary stuff” of her life. She finds that she sleeps better “holding what lightens and softens my life ever so briefly at the end of the day”.

Newcomer put her thoughts into a poem, “Three Gratitudes” (available on line). She encourages us to make our own lists for each day.

I looked up research on how the habit of offering up gratitudes can affect our health. It turns out that the more appreciative we are at the end of each day, the better we sleep and begin to show gratitude toward others throughout every day. The idea is that our gratitude itself becomes the measure through which we raise our happiness index.

Here is one of my day’s end lists. Like any habit I enjoy, this one feels so good that I keep adding more feel good thoughts to my list:

I’m thankful for:
A gentle snowfall,
My vest that keeps out all drafts,
Mack’s purr,
Seeing a friend at the grocery store,
A perfectly ripe pineapple,
The memory of Grandpa shucking oysters for me on the back stoop,
My green jacket that keeps me warm even at 7 degrees and wind,
My family’s exuberance skiing,
Perfect skiing conditions,
Leftover lentil soup in the refrigerator,
Plymouth’s new solar electric array,
A fresh column,
The hill through the woods,
The school bus driver’s wave,
…and off to sleep I go.

Whew! Never mind counting sheep! While expressing Three Gratitudes can be depended on to send us off for restful sleep, this habit primes us to express our thanks openly during each day as events occur. Thank you for reading my blog and for your comments.

“Each Other” Includes All Colors

December 12, 2014

“I just did my job. I did what I was paid to do.” These words sent a wave of horror through many of us. Psychologist Martha Stout in her book, The Sociopath Next Door, best describes their impact.

Stout asks us to “Imagine – if you can- not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members…. Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs.”

ABC paid close to a million dollars to Darren Wilson for his interview by George Stephanopoulos. William Boardman called the interview “forty-five minutes of fawning deceit and thruthlessness.” We learn that an unarmed black student was killed and his killer is rewarded for, “Doing what I was paid to do.”

Had a black officer pumped 16 bullets into an unarmed white student, there would have been hell to pay and no ABC interview. Protesters gave a long litany of similar senseless events: the black father who was shot dead at his front door as he attempted to bring dinner home to his family, the black 12-year-old shot dead because he was seen playing with a toy gun, and on and on.

Ferguson, MO seems far away but this kind of treatment happens closer to home. Five years ago, police arrested Harvard Professor Henry Lewis Gates because someone saw him fumbling with the front door lock to his own house in Cambridge.

This holiday season symbolizes our yearning to experience light, often described as an ability to love that overcomes all darkness. Choristers sing about how ancient “people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” We are also a people walking in darkness today. We know we have blind spots and each year at midwinter, we pledge to begin again and do better.

May consciously seeing holiday lights remind and inspire each of us to figure out how we can truly love this earth and each other, so that every person of every color has a fair chance to celebrate life. This is all about keeping each other well

Sugar’s Legacy

January 8, 2014

According to Stephan Guyenet, Obesity researcher at U. Washington, in the US, we are now consuming 100lbs. of sugar a year apiece. The sugar bowl used to be at the center of every kitchen table. That custom is no longer necessary because most of the prepared products we buy are laced with sugar. Guyenet notes that in 1822, the average American ate the amount of sugar found in one of today’s 12 oz. sodas every 5 DAYS! Now, the average American eats that much sugar every 7 HOURS!

 Here is an incomplete list of forms of sugar that are listed on labels, often in multiples: corn syrup, barley malt, beet sugar, cane juice crystals, caramel, dextrin, dextrose, brown rice syrup, diatase, fructose, glucose, honey, lactose, maltose, sorbitol, mannitol, sucrose, sorghum, turbinado, maltodextrin, molasses, palm, xylose, ….

 Here’s an incomplete list of ailments spawned by excess sugar consumption: obesity, dental caries, gum disease, acid-reflux, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, several forms of cancer, stroke, liver disease, osteoarthritis, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, kidney problems, atherosclerosis, depression, attention deficit disorder, ….

So much for the bad news. Here’s the good news: Because a growing number of US citizens have requested organic produce, the produce section in supermarkets is gradually expanding to include what we’re willing to buy. Supermarkets now compete with each other to stay ahead of demand. Natural food markets and co-ops are also expanding. Michael Pollan’s caution to avoid packaged goods with more than 5 ingredients listed on the label is inspiring food companies to provide more choices for those who read labels.

 Corn Refiners Association is trying to change the name of ‘corn syrup’ to ‘corn sugar’ because of the connection the public now understands between corn syrup and health problems. Interesting to note that producers are fully aware of the toxic effects of what they encourage people to consume.

 A return to simple, home-cooked food would stop health problems in their tracks. The challenge is to find the time and discipline to do this with so much junk food cheap and right under our noses. The journey begins with that first small step to read labels, or to try some fresh produce, or to buy as much local as available, which encourages local farmers to grow more. It may begin with one special meal a week. The idea is to keep it simple.

 Who knows? We may start expanding our community good news, and enjoy more good health and strength in 2014.

Pandora’s Box of Processed Food

July 11, 2013

In this information age, what isn’t on the Internet is often available through Inter-Library Loan. Such is the case with Melanie Warner’s book, Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal. It’s the story of how the food industry has attempted to replicate foods by “advancing them through science.”

Unless we shop the perimeter of food stores, we don’t find much food in its original form. Additives in the form of sweeteners, shelf life chemical extenders, thickeners, cellulose de-clumpers, imitation flavors, hormones, antibiotics, and the rest of the scary list make up what’s sold as “food.”

I took a closer look at the Parmesan cheese I brought home and found that it was made up of pasteurized part-skim milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes and powdered cellulose to prevent caking. Only 5 ingredients, so it went into my basket at the store. When I topped my gourmet home-made spaghetti sauce with it at dinner, I found the cheese absolutely tasteless! $5.99 down the drain!

With Warner’s book  still joggling my mind, I decided to look up Parmesan Cheese on the Internet. Come to find out, Parmesan cheese is made from milk produced in the Parma/Reggio region of Italy and there is less than 20 hours from cow to cheese, according to columnist, Larry Olmsted. There are no antibiotics, steroids or growth hormones in the milk. The cows  are not fed silage; they are fed primarily vegetation grown in the Parma/Reggio region. The only ingredients in real Parmesan cheese are milk, salt and rennet (a natural enzyme from calf intestine.) Clearly, what I bought was no relation, yet it could legally call itself Parmesan in the US.

I  wondered  whether food companies count on us to be distracted enough with conversation or rushing to get to some meeting, that we aren’t even aware of what we are eating whether it’s loaded up with sugar, spices, or other flavor instigators, or not.

At the same time, Khalid Hosseni’s  new book,  And The Mountains Echo, paints the picture of  how we are shaped and, in turn,  shape others through the bonds we create. Hosseni’s  gifted storytelling of life in an Afghan village compels us to see ourselves in many of his characters, yet stirs us to break out of our own molds and mindsets.

It’s tempting to rail against the food companies and lobby for labeling but our responsibilities go beyond there. We have much more power than we realize. Given that processed foods have questionable nutritional value and threaten our health, despite what the package says, we can choose to slowly wean ourselves from them with whole foods we grow ourselves or find at local farmers’ markets,  produce,  and pick-your-own stands.

How many wake-up calls do we need?

April 19, 2013

 We were stunned to realize horrific killing and serious injury terrorizing the Boston Marathon. Patriot’s Day has always been a point of pride and joy as people gathered at points all along the road from Hopkinton to Boston to cheer on the runners from all over the world. I well remember the day my father and I watched the marathon from Framingham and my father picked the winner, a man who lightly touched the earth with his graceful stride.  He was from Korea and we were jubilant to hear that he so deservedly won!

 Yet, many of us have wondered not whether, but when, the rest of the world would become desperate enough, after so many US attacks killing innocent people, that they would begin to pay back. Or, how many US citizen protests against continuing wars that have been ignored by Congress, might stimulate some one of our own to cause such an attack in hopes of waking up Congress to start thinking about peaceful means of co-existence with the rest of the world.

 Our massive military offense spending to protect oil and other self interests comes at a time when we need to provide massive spending for research and development of renewable, sustainable energy sources. Instead of impoverishing our country with the costs of war while enriching US corporations who go in to clean up after our attacks, we could be providing leadership to resolve inequities and enrich the health and well being of people everywhere.

 This is not a time to be thinking about getting perpetrators and making them pay. Our religions all yearn for peace and harmony. We need to ask ourselves, how important is peace and harmony to us? Is it important enough for us to be able to show tolerance and respect for people of different religions, sexual preferences, languages, bodies, and life styles?  Is peace important enough for us to recognize that we are but one of the species that needs to be protected in order for the earth to continue to provide for us all?  Do we fully understand that our natural resources must be protected for that survival?

 Do we recognize that to keep everybody healthy, we need to share the wealth and keep people gainfully employed? Do we recognize that we need to stop bombing, killing and torturing people in other parts of the world? Do we recognize that we all need to be re-educated to make this happen, not just school children?

 This wake-up call is about choice and communities pulling together to change course.

Cholesterol Revisited

February 28, 2013

In response to my column on “The Cholesterol Sting”, a reader was kind enough to recommend that I update my references with two important books. Both books were the result of over 40 years of research, neither of which was funded by food and drug companies. They were funded by US taxpayers and results are openly available to us.

 The first is The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Cornell University nutritionist, and co-authored by his physician son, Thomas M. Campbell II. Campbell includes 750 peer reviewed studies to back up his finding that cholesterol levels in fact do cause heart disease and other illnesses. This was true even if the cholesterol levels were high in HDL (High Density Lipoproteins), the so- called  “good cholesterol.”

 The reason China was an important country to study is that their plant-based, dairy-free diet kept the incidence of heart disease and breast cancer at bay in China. Also, when Chinese people emigrated to the US and adopted our diet, they also developed heart disease, breast cancer, and auto-immune diseases. Campbell established that diet, not genes, is the most significant stimulant of conditions.

 The second book is by Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., MD, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. Esselstyn is a surgeon who wanted to find a way to prevent women from needing disfiguring breast surgery, and heart disease patients from undergoing such invasive and life threatening procedures. He found that when he was able to convince patients to adopt a plant-based, dairy-free, fat and oil free diet, they usually did not need surgery: hence, the title of his book.

 He asked doctors to refer to him their heart patients who had exhausted their by-pass and stint procedures and had been essentially told, “we can do no more for you.” When they came into his program, all who accepted the diet plan improved and/or reversed the damage to their coronary arteries.

 Here’s what they had to say about cholesterol that jolted my education. First, total body cholesterol IS an important marker, even if HDL, the good cholesterol, is high. For optimum health the total level needs to be 150mg/dL  or less (not 300, which the USDA recommends or 200, which the American Heart Association recommends.)

 We do need cholesterol but excessive amounts of it end up blocking our arteries. The amounts the USDA recommends appear to be causing more harm and expensive treatments.

 There is so much money to be made by radical surgery and treatment for breast and other cancers and heart disease that there is little incentive for doctors to focus on preventing the diseases. Esselstyn had a long uphill struggle to get referrals from cardiologists but once the word got out that people who went through his program regained their health, people began looking him up.

 Significantly, both Campbell and Esselstyn walk their talk. Esselstyn’s family made the transition when their children were young. They all enjoy robust health. Campbell grew up on a dairy farm. Esselstyn grew up on a cattle farm, but their search for what makes people well superseded  preconceived notions about diet.

 President Clinton attributes both his weight loss and improved health to this diet which he continues to maintain.

 The good news is that there is a growing number of physicians who are committed to keeping people well. That goal supersedes making a lot of money with preventable surgeries. Both books are available at your local library or through Inter-Library-Loan.

 Campbell’s book covers research on a broad spectrum of diet-caused conditions. Esselstyn’s deals mainly with heart and breast cancer and has a long section on the diet itself and recipes to transition for those interested. YouTube has an informative talk by T. Colin Campbell, “Lessons from the China Project.”

 Bottom line is, we can’t lower cholesterol with the American diet, which relies heavily on meat and fat. And, equally important, changes need to be made gradually to be sustainable.


Redefining Pro-Life

February 12, 2013

This preoccupation with calling Pro-Life a child’s right-to-life is totally missing an important part of life’s equation. We do suffer in this country from a blind spot to future responsibilities for our actions. Whether we are talking about water, energy, food, medicine, or life itself, we tend to avoid looking at the long-term consequences of responsibilities we never got around to assuming.

 Children don’t exist in a vacuum. We’re all part of a community. If a child has a right to be born, then that child, in a responsible community, would also have a right to a welcome home, sustenance, and education to prepare for life work. That child has a right to a quality of life which seems to be totally disregarded in the passionate Pro-Life pleas. True pro-life requires a much stronger commitment than simply delivering a child.

 The very voices espousing Pro-Life politically, are the same voices that want to cut taxes, education, and health care. If we do honestly care about the life of a child, it begins before conception and continues throughout growth and development. Without that commitment, who has the audacity to demand that every conception be brought to term?

 While there are success stories of women who have chosen to carry their children to term and placed them for adoption to loving homes, there are too many other stories of children who were not wanted, and were raised in a home that resented them, or an adoptive home that abused them.

 In their book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women, Kristof and WuDunn quote a Muslim woman who said, “You think we’re victims, because we cover our hair and wear modest clothing. But we think that it’s western women who are repressed, because they have to show their bodies- even go through surgery to change their bodies- to please men.”

 Pro-Life/ Pro-Choice cannot be taken out of the context of all of life. We’ve taken baby steps towards women’s rights in the US but the current debate lets us know we have much work to do to define, encourage, and support a quality of life for all people.


The Wonder of Glucose

January 18, 2013

Media hype doesn’t warn people to avoid refined sugar if they want to prevent or recover from flu. The media does promote flu vaccine and handwashing. There are even bigger production plans for vaccine to meet anticipated needs for next year. Bear in mind that vaccine production means big profits for pharmaceutical companies. Gels for handwashing also make a profit. Sugar laced drinks bring in massive profits. However, the only people who benefit financially by reducing or eliminating refined sugar to stop the flu are people like you and me. 

 It is no accident that we don’t hear about sugar research on the radio or TV. The food and pharmaceutical industries bought them out long ago. Lest anyone think that there is no difference between our bodies’ use of natural as opposed to refined sugar, read on.

 It’s not as though research has not been done. Weston Price, an Ohio dentist, was curious as to what caused dental cavities. He traveled the world in search of the healthiest people so he could learn from them. He found them in several pockets of the world. Their one common denominator was that they ate natural, unrefined food from their own locale. His book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, came out in 1939.

 William Dufty traced the history of the sugar industry in his best-selling, Sugar Blues (1967), including the industry’s suppression of any research on the harmful effects of refined sugar consumption. Significantly, as far back as 1665, the Bubonic Plague hit only the wealthiest in London. The poor could not afford sugar then and didn’t get sick, but the wealthy overindulged to their own demise.

 Our bodies do need glucose; every cell uses it. Natural sugar found in the fruits and vegetables we eat is absorbed slowly along with the vitamins and minerals also present. These are the main nutrients we need for energy, general functioning of muscles, organs, blood, etc, and repairs (robust health.) We can’t overdose on the sugar eaten this way.

 Refined sugar has been stripped of all nutrients and is so concentrated that it stresses every place it goes. Our digestive tracts were designed for natural sugar that would be slowly absorbed in the small intestine. Salivary enzymes in the mouth are there to begin breaking down complex carbohydrates. When refined sugar is taken in, by sheer quantity, it is so acidic that it eats away at tooth enamel. In the stomach, it stimulates the satiety index’ desire to eat. The pancreas senses overload and shoots  insulin into the duodenum to tone down sugar’s absorption rate, and on the sugar goes through the intestine to the liver. The liver converts an overload of sugar to fat and stores it all over the body. Sometimes the liver becomes swollen with the overload. When this onslaught happens too regularly, people develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Unchecked, this condition moves on to diabetes when the pancreas can no longer supply the necessary insulin. The GI tract begins to deteriorate and other diseases start manifesting themselves. We become susceptible to everything that comes down the pike. Every organ is affected. It becomes harder to concentrate. Sugar then becomes a full fledged addiction.

 The language of addiction then reflects shame, anger and blaming of others. It’s really about loss of power and control and the need for more euphoria. The fact that sugar is not identified in the news is an indicator of the sugar industry’s current hold on its consumers who will continue to claim that refined sugar’s no different than natural as far as our bodies are concerned.

 The sugar industry opposes food labeling, contributed most to defeating the bill in California. The industry continues to hide sugar in foods as dextrose, maltose, dextrin, corn syrup, maltodextrin, saccharose, sucrose, sorghum, fruit juice concentrate, barley malt syrup, and many more. The order in which ingredients are listed is important. Greatest quantities are listed first. If you have several sugars listed in a product, they add up.

 Bottom line is: What kind of health do you experience? Do you eat simply enough to know the difference? For most of us, it’s a matter of starting over, and over again. Hopefully, we will encourage each other for all efforts.