Jul. 22nd, 2009 11:57 am
valancystirling: (Default)
I have got to stop this not caring about my weight/appearance/self thing. It's getting old. I am tired of looking like crap, with my falling apart shoes and clothes, unwashed self, bad DIY haircut, unshaved everything, and FAT. Tired of it.

I'm going to go back to the strictly whole foods diet I was on before I got pregnant with Philip. I felt great, looked great, and just seemed healthy. Which is my goal. It was a nice bonus that I lost a bunch of weight. I want to feel like that again.


More fruits
More veggies throughout the day
Only whole grains, no white flour at all, no store-bought flour
No sugar of any kind
Only a tiny bit of maple syrup now and then
Limit dairy intake
More cultured foods
More legumes
No eating out at all
Splurge once a week on something not on that list but still relatively healthy

Cut back on coffee
Herb tea every day
More water
Vitamins and supplements (Omega 3s, etc)

Daily walk, no excuses!
Daily stretching
Ab exercises, especially plank pose

Typed out it all looks so simple. And it is, really. Except I've had no motivation lately. I haven't cared about myself, haven't care what anyone else thinks (this is a big change for me--I don't even think a high school reunion could get me freaked out about my appearance at this point). But now I'm tired of feeling like a loser, for my own self. I want that feeling of success in something, of taking control of my own self somehow and having it be apparent to myself.
valancystirling: (Default)
My neighbor across the street asked me about transitioning to more healthy food. Of course, I tend to get a little verbose on this subject, so I decided to write some of it out once and for all.

So. General guidelines to incorporating healthier foods.

The goal is to get closer to whole foods in their original forms. Aim for foods with single ingredients, identifiable Prepackaged and convenience foods are definitely convenient, but a quick look at the label will often reveal an endless list of ingredients that are unrecognizable as food. My rule of thumb is, if I wouldn't cook from scratch with that ingredient in my own kitchen, I don't want to buy it. So, for example, since I don't keep bottles of MSG in my pantry...I don't buy packaged foods with MSG on the label.

Gradual changes. I recommend choosing a couple of things and focusing on them initially. Decide what you care most about, and switch to a healthier or organic alternative. A lot of people start out by switching to organic milk. Another good place to start is looking at the Dirty Dozen list, for the top 12 most and least pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables. Choose one or two things per week, or per shopping trip. Remember, though, organic or not, fresher will always taste better, and produce that's in season will be cheaper. So look for local and organic and in season, ideally.

Personal health aside, there are many other reasons to switch to organic. This list briefly discusses some of those reasons, including why organic farming practices are better for the environment. In fact, that entire website has a lot of useful information about organic foods. This article offers advice on how to save money and decide which organic foods are especially worth buying. My personal recommendation for something to switch right away is eggs. I suggest buying pastured organic eggs fresh from a local farm. You will be truly shocked at the bright orange yolks and amazing taste. You'll feel like you had never really had eggs before. Farmers markets and food coops are great places to get eggs.

There's a lot more to healthful eating than simply organic foods. One of the first changes you can easily make is to switch from highly refined grains to whole grains. I swap out whole grain flour for white flour, brown rice for white, and have explored the man whole grains available in bulk at health food and grocery stores. There are great recipes out there for grains like quinoa (a favorite in our house), teff, amaranth, spelt, and the more commonly known wheat, oats, and barley. All of these are simple to prepare, and even easier using a rice cooker--or, I've been told, a pressure cooker. We recommend this rice cooker. I started out by using different grains where I would normally have just used rice. Here is a useful chart for cooking times of different grains.

Another simple step is simply adding an extra serving of fruits and vegetables every day. My kids prefer fresh fruit over anything else, and generally if I offer a cookie or strawberries, they'll choose the strawberries every time. Some especially sweet fruits, like bananas, raisins, dates, mangoes...all these can be given as snacks instead of candies or other sweets. Over an especially long winter, we discovered how many fruits are available dried, and the kids love to snack on banana chips, prunes (!!!), and figs. Fruit leathers are a big hit too, and contain no added sugar in most cases. These can also be incorporated into baking--dates can be pureed and used instead of sugar--to minimize less healthy ingredients.

On the subject of baking, lots of things can be done to add nutritional benefits to baked things. One day I ran out of eggs but wanted to make cookies. I found a mention online of replacing eggs with flaxseed meal, and had to try it. Now i do this all the time, even when I have eggs, just as a way to increase fiber and of course add some of the many known healthful attributes of flaxseeds. As mentioned before, I use whole grain flours instead of plain white, and put oats in a lot of my cookies and muffins. For sweet, I use something like turbinado sugar or sucanat, or maple syrup or honey, and now I'm experimenting with agave nectar. Date sugar is good too, and I've been meaning to try stevia in baking. I thought this was an interesting run-down of some of these alternative sweeteners. To be honest, for the most part I never even remember I've used anything other than plain white flour and sugar. Perhaps I've just gotten used to it, but I remember being surprised when I first made the flour switch, that it was just no big deal at all.

Also available in bulk, we buy a lot of nuts and beans and lentils. We keep a lot of these things in clear glass canisters in our kitchen, and they are very appealing to look at, all the different colors and shapes and textures. There are so many different kinds of beans and nuts and lentils out there, and they all bring something different to the meal. All of these foods have a high fiber content and are filling. Nuts have a reputation for being fatty, but overwhelmingly they are good fats, and it has been widely reported that moderate amounts of nuts are excellent for helping control appetite. Here is some info on the benefits of eating nuts. Since these foods are also high in protein, we have actually inadvertently found ourselves eating less meat, which is also good for the budget!

And speaking of meat. We've cut down on our meat consumption in the past year partially as a result of becoming aware of so many other sources of protein, but also because organic meat is fairly pricey. Or at least, more expensive than conventionally produced meat. And since I feel very strongly that grass-fed beef is healthier (for the animals and those who consume them), I am unwilling to compromise and buy regular grocery store beef. Because my concerns about food are farther-reaching than simply their nutritional composition, I prefer to buy only locally produced meats from people who I trust to treat the animals well and maintain high standards in all their practices. My philosophy is that if I can't pop in on a farm, I am not interested in buying food from them. Also, we avoid any processed meats, organic or not, that contain nitrates and nitrites, which are known carcinogens.

Which brings me to the really fun topic of things NOT to eat. Going back to the whole foods concept, we actively avoid artificial ingredients of any kind. Colors, flavors, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers, fillers, all of it. So many of these ingredients are known to be unhealthy by varying degrees--many are linked to such illnesses as cancer, ADD, diabetes, and many others. I have a little guide I kept with me when I first tarted really reading food labels. I highly recommend something like this to consult while at the grocery store or even while examining your own pantry. One of the more controversial food additives is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I view this ingredient as unnatural, and that is reason enough for me to avoid it. It is worth learning about, as HFCS is unbelievably prevalent in our food system. Read your labels--it's in EVERYTHING. If you don't think it's worth the research, consider how much of it you are probably consuming without even realizing. You'll find that if you actively avoid all these food additives, you'll be well on your way to a very healthy, whole foods diet.

So, where to get all this stuff? Increasingly, I'm seeing organic and bulk foods at regular grocery stores. I buy a lot of grains and staples there. For the fresh stuff, produce and dairy and eggs, I try to get as close to the source as possible. Food coops are awesome for supplying often local healthy whole foods. When they are open for the season, farmers markets are undoubtedly the best source for local, fresh foods, and often organic vendors supply everything from fruits and vegetables to honey to meat and eggs. For the very freshest foods, and to learn all about what goes into your specific foods, make a visit to a local farm. It's exciting to take the kids, and you get a real, visceral sense of where your food is coming from and who is involved in its production. I find it so easy to be truly grateful for my food when I have a relationship with the people who made it happen. To find farms and farmers markets, check out Local Harvest.

Many books and websites address these issues and many more related ones. For an introduction to the concept of food as something worth paying attention to, I highly recommend starting with Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food; and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable Miracle. Michael Pollan's website also has a list of interesting references.

I hope some of this has been helpful and makes adding healthful foods to your diet seem simple and doable.
valancystirling: (Default)
A trial of a few weeks, just to see if I feel better overall. My own personally chosen guidelines:

move closer to the anti-inflammation diet

no processed sugar or grains

only whole grains

unlimited fresh fruits and vegetables

more water

daily walk at least 30 minutes

try to ride bike twice a week at least

taking it easy on my back for a while, to the extent I can with two small kids

Joint Soother supplements for cartilage

Zylamend supplements for inflammation

raspberry leaf/nettle/alfalfa/oatstraw tea every day

no coffee


daily stretching/yoga/abdominal exercise

start taking multivitamins every day

omega 3 supplements

cal/mag supplements

probiotics and fiber supplement

cut back on dairy a bit

This will start as of now, even though I've had coffee this morning. It all seems like a lot of supplements, but really it's not that much. I can mix a lot of them together, and I really like that smoothie idea. I've been on regimens of far more than this at a time.

ALSO, my next door neighbor is a yoga instructor and she has this svaroopa embodyment program, and I'm thinking it's time to get some private sessions with her very soon.

SO. I have a plan.


reduce inflammation and pain
lose weight
build muscle in my core and elsewhere
learn how to relax deeply
achieve overall health
build my immune system up
become stronger and healthier in general, possibly in preparation for a future pregnancy
valancystirling: (Default)
I think the most important thing is that you model whatever food and lifestyle choices you want your child to follow. Then it won't be an issue at all. That's been my approach.

I feel like if they have a strong foundation of good food and healthy habits/balance at home they'll police themselves, so to speak, when they're older/out in the world at school. At least, this is how I was raised and how I am raising my kids. It's easy to have these good intentions, but I'll be the first to tell you that over time you simply have to make choices on how to handle those situations when your kid might be the freak of the group. I wanted desperately to live with my kids in a bubble, controlling every detail of their lives, and it's just not possible. My kid is 3 and has never heard of a happy meal, and the only junk food she eats is what I make from scratch with all organic ingredients. This is not to say that it's all healthy--it's organic and free of additives and artificial anything, but I use butter and sugar and there you go.

The key is to have a set of standards. Truly believe in them, live them yourself, make them a nonissue, and teach your child WHY you make the choices you do. Then in the end, even if they don't make the same choices, they'll understand and respect yours and have a grasp on the thought process required to MAKE choices, which I think is far more important than any of the rest of this.

So, decide what elements are really important to you, make that your foundation, and then don't worry so much when they go off to a birthday party and eat crap, because you know it's a blip and they'll come home and pick right up where they left off with the good stuff.

This hasn't come up for us yet, but I like the idea--instead of forbidding things, let the child indulge in something when they specifically request it. Like twinkies. I would never in a million years buy twinkies, but if we're at someone's house and they want one, I might consider doing something like letting them have it, but explaining to them that they might feel yucky afterward and it's not something we choose to buy for our healthy house. Then stand back and see how they feel--let them learn for themselves. But my real feeling is that the stuff I bake at home is so freaking awesome that a twinkie really is crap in comparison. My kid is enough of a foodie to figure that out for herself even at three.
valancystirling: (Default)
OMG Topie has mono. I didn't even know the ped was testing for it! You'd think Topie would be less energetic and sleeping more, but no. Well, she HAS been sleeping in the car again, which I thought was a thing of the past. Poor little thing. It's likely we all have it. Maybe that's what I have been so tired. My thyroid test showed nothing out of the ordinary, so who knows. Jake is going in tomorrow to discuss the results of his cholesterol test. Yikes. I don't like to think of Jake having to worry about things like cholesterol or prostate health or ANYTHING. He's my invincible superhero ninja Jake.

We might actually be going in a good direction. The past two mornings have been amazing. Yesterday we all sat around reading Topie's new waldorfy story book, then we spontaneously found ourselves acting like a family--singing Old MacDonald of all things, while Topie threw in things like dinosaurs and monsters and snakes and bees and lions. Some farm. The rest of the day was so pleasant, and I've been reading The Creative Family and being so inspired, that I suggested we do our main family time in the mornings. For so long, Jake lingers at home in the morning, gets home 7-8:00, we're all tired and at each other's throats, and I generally hate it. But this way, we're all raring to go, at our best, in a good mood, and it's been fun. So this morning we got up and Jake and I talked for a few minutes before the kids woke up. Decided to do art this morning, all of us together. So he got coffee started, I got Topie up and she used her new egg beaters to make us all scrambled eggs (impressed Jake with her egg-cracking skills) and Jake cooked the eggs while I made beds and tidied up and made my to-do list and plan for the day. Then Topie set the table--her little table--and we all ate together while Philip crawled around watching us. Then Jake and I read to the kids from the Tiptoes book again. Then Jake had a shower, I got some more dishes washed, set up the art table, and then we did drawing together. And we were all happy, and I was thinking how incredibly blog-worthy all this was. Then we said goodbye and Jake went to work. Then I made some phone calls, put on a movie for the kids (I always had a rule about no TV in the morning--now it seems arbitrary and we're all much happier) and here I am on the computer. So far it's been really great and I am so hopeful that we're making long-lasting improvements. It's hard not to be enthusiastic when we're all getting along so well trying something completely different than what I've always pushed for.

Philip is a little explorer. He goes about his business, which is poking into every nook and cranny, and we cross paths once in a while. It's sickeningly adorable. I can't believe how much I'm loving this family life lately. With Topaz, I had no idea what to expect, it was all so new, I hadn't really adapted to being mommy instead of just me, and I was a nervous anxious wreck half the time. This time around, it's all so much fun, and we kind of know what developmental leaps are coming and we look forward to them. I totally understand the whole birth order concept so much better now that I'm on the parenting side of it. Of COURSE we are different with different kids. With Topaz, we were like, OMG you CRAWLED! WIth Philip, we're like, yeah, it's about time you got around to that! I mean, still exciting and worth applause and mention in the journal, but not the huge life-altering thing it was with Topaz.

RIght now I can't stop myself from thinking that life is really good. And I'm so excited about the holidays.

OH, and Topie's lead test was something like 3.5, where 10 is unacceptable. This is considered fine, but seriously, the idea of my kid having ANY lead is a bit upsetting.


valancystirling: (Default)

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