Thursday, May 30, 2013

So What's the Deal with GMOs?

So what's the deal with GMOs? Why is everyone mad about them, why don't companies want us to know when we're eating them, and what's the big deal? Well, here's the deal.

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms, which are plants or animals that have been engineered using DNA from bacteria, viruses, or other plants or animals. GMOs are man-made or manipulated to meet the increasing demands of the food marketplace. Since genetically modifying food makes it produce a higher yield, be more resistant to drought and infection, and better tolerate the addition of nutrients, this type of science makes a lot of sense for food companies because they can make more food faster, which makes them more money. And remember, food companies are corporations, not human health service organizations, despite the smiling pictures of friendly neighborhood farmers on their packages of chips.

But what's good for a corporate budget isn't always good for humanity. More evidence is showing increased health problems and environmental damage as a result of GMOs. When I say health problems, I mean that GMOs have been linked to thousands of sick and dead livestock and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals. The reason is because genetically modified food is not food. It is a food-like substance. And the human body was created to eat food, not food-like substances.

GMOs are so serious that most developed nations, including Australia, Japan, the European Union, and dozens more, restrict or ban the production and sale of them. Why has America not taken the same position? Read the second paragraph again.

The reason why people are up in arms about GMOs these days is because we are becoming increasingly convinced that eating food-like substance is bad for us, and that we have a right to know whether or not what we are eating is food. Back in the good old days, if you wanted to eat healthfully you could do what I did when I started eating clean: focus on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, and avoid packaged foods. With the prevalence of GMOs, even these foods may not in fact be foods.

A lot of people think that we have a fundamental right to know whether we are in fact eating food, or if we are eating something that looks a lot like food but is in fact a man-made product posing as food. But, the United States does not require GMOs to be labeled, which prevents us from knowing the origin of our food unless we grow it ourselves. There are some enterprising and hard-working people out there who are willing to do this, but it is not a realistic option for most of us.

So what's a food-eating human to do? Well, food companies might not be required to label whether their products contain GMOs, but a few organizations have done that research for us:

The Non-GMO Project was created to give consumers an informed choice. They verify products and list them so you can be aware of which boxes on the shelf contain food and which do not. Check the list of Verified Products on their website before you head to the store. 

If you forget that list at home, no fear! This handy phone app, Buycott, lets you scan a barcode and see whether it contains GMO ingredients. When GMOs stop being profitable, they stop being.

And, you can take action as well by signing the Just Label It petition. Seriously, folks, this is about our food. Its our sustenance. Its what we feed our kids, and what our future depends on. We will most literally and completely die without it. You have a responsibility for your own health, and if you're going to choose a battle, choose this one.

Now, a note of reality - just as with the certified organic seal, foods that are listed as non-GMO are not necessarily healthy for you. There is plenty of sugary candy food out there bearing the organic and non-GMO labels. GMO-free only means that it is pure, natural, and real. Not healthy. There is a difference.

Get out there and get healthy today, even if it means you have to get all up in arms about food quality. That battle is worth it, because you are worth it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Long Weekends = Big-time Triggers. Here's how to stay on track!

Holiday weekends can be major trigger times for emotional and distracted eating. I used to spend three-day weekends in a no-man's-land of food, not sure where my structure was and how to keep that wayward Monday from turning the whole week into a mish-mash of bad decisions.

Here are a few tips that have always helped me stay focused: 

1. Wear a bracelet or a watch to which you can assign magical protective powers. When you reach out for food you don't really want or need, you'll see it and remember your goal. It just might be enough to keep your hands by your side. Or in your pockets. Or in someone else's. Or wherever they need to be to NOT be filled with food.

2. Become the party historian and stay busy with a camera. It takes two hands to take a picture (at least a good one) so keeping your hands full with photography duties is a great way to avoid standing around with a plate! Plus, you'll capture some great memories as well.

3. Drink lots and lots of water. Like, a gallon. Seriously! Get a water bottle, assign magical powers to it (I hereby decree that this water bottle will protect me from potato salad, cheese and crackers, and the third beer!) and then fill 'er up. The water will do wonders for your body since most of us walk around dehydrated anyway, and you'll quench at least some of your appetite as well.

4. Use a mantra. Your brain is the biggest fitness tool you have, and mantras are incredibly powerful when used correctly. Some popular ones are, "Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels," or "I am worth it," or "I deserve better." A mantra should be personal and meaningful, so think of something that will actually help you stop mindless munching. Don't worry if it sounds stupid, you don't need to tell it to anyone else!

Remember, the goal of these tips is not to prevent you from eating, but rather to keep you eating healthfully, which means eating healthy food in appropriate portions. So if you're going to a friend's house, bring something you can eat without stress. If you're hosting a party, use your power for good and not evil. You know your limits. Don't tempt yourself unless you want to wreck yourself.

Have a great weekend, and a great Monday! Get out there and get healthy, even on a weekend.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bread Snob Bakery: Homemade Bagels!

Well it is no secret that I am a food snob. Not a foodie, a food snob. There is a difference! I don't need fancy food, I just need good food! And, the height of my snobbishness is with bread. 

Bread these days usually can't even be called bread anymore. With dough conditioners and preservatives designed to extend the shelf life of breads, some of which have even been found to cause cancer, the bread aisle is probably the most confusing section of the grocery store. 

We deserve better bread! I love nothing more than a good burger (okay, maybe good pizza), but countless potentially epic cheeseburgers have been ruined by being served on a nothing bun out of a plastic bag. I pack my own homemade hamburger buns in ziplock bags to use in restaurants when I feel the bread is inferior. Yes it embarrasses my husband but I don't care. Its not like I wave it around and tell everyone! I'm cool, man, I'm just super passionate about bread.

Well you can read all about my homemade hamburger buns (which this week feature minced onion), but this week I am making bagels. I tried this last weekend and sent them to my husband's office on Monday. He came back with raving reviews so I am making another batch today for our Memorial Day weekend trip.

You'll need a bread maker! Here's the recipe:

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1 tbsp honey
3 cups bread flour
1.25 tsp salt
1.5 tsp dry active yeast
You can also add cinnamon, onion, garlic, poppy seeds, whatever you want!

Put all of the ingredients into the bread maker and select the Manual or Bagel Dough setting. 

Ignore the time on the bread maker and take the dough out after 50 minutes with lightly floured hands and separate it into 10 equal pieces. 

Roll each piece into a ball and poke a hole in the middle to make a bagel shape. 

Place each bagel onto a greased baking sheet and allow to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes or until double. If the hole in your bagel has closed up, just poke it out again. No biggie.

Boil some water in a big pot (2 quarts should do) and drop three bagels at a time into the boiling water. You want to leave enough space for them to swim around freely. After 15 seconds, flip them over and let them boil for 15 more seconds on the other side. Then, remove with a slotted spoon and let dry on a baking rack.

Once they have all been boiled, transfer them back to the baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until toasty on top.

Enjoy the aroma of good, simple, wholesome bread in your house for the rest of the day!

This process takes about an hour and a half from start to finish, with about 20 minutes of actual working time. You can do this. And more importantly, you should. Slow down, take your health seriously, and make time for better bread.

You deserve it!

Get out there and get healthy today - eat good bread!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mona Lisa's Yoga Smile

I've been taking a yoga class on Tuesdays after the recommendation okay order of my doctor. I went to her very stressed out and hyper-focused, and she suggested I learn to quiet my mind through yoga. "But not a yoga DVD in your living room surrounded by reminders of your busy life!" she wagged her finger at me. "A yoga class. Real yoga!"

I agreed. I'd always wanted to learn yoga - not just take yoga, but really learn it - and what better time than now, when my doctor was literally ordering me to do it? As luck would have it, there is a free yoga class at my church, less than a mile from my house, every Tuesday morning. Jackpot! 

Well I don't have to go on and on about how much I love it. I knew I would, and I do. I'm learning a lot, and pulling those lessons into the rest of my life as well. One of my favorite parts of the class is the end, when we're quieting our minds in corpse pose, and our instructor Catherine invites us to let the ends of our mouths turn up into a slight smile. I've found, happily, that it is absolutely impossible for me to be stressed out, worried, pent-up, or annoyed when I am smiling.

When I was a kid I used to play a little game with myself. When I saw someone with a distinct expression on their face, usually when they didn't realize anyone was looking at them and they looked just how they look, I would try to mimic it. I'd do my best to make the same expression, and when I nailed it, I'd notice how my mood changed as a result. I would almost feel like I could feel their thoughts, mood, and disposition, and it helped me feel like I understood them more. As a result, I was able to be more empathetic towards them if we should ever interact.

Every walk through wellness is unique, but rarely are they on completely new paths. We all know someone who has been in our shoes, or someone in whose shoes we have been. Listening to them tell about their journey is like yoga for our brains - we can reminisce similar times, anticipate experiencing the same thing, and be inspired by the achievements of our friends. 

This week, get out there and get healthy by tapping into the inspirational community of wellness around you. Listen to a weekend warrior story, cheer on a friend, support someone else, and allow the ends of your mouth turn up into a slight smile. The results are 100% guaranteed.

Now get out there and get healthy!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Does the Scale Matter?

Have you ever heard someone say that if you want to ruin a perfectly good day, step on the scale? I can relate! Sometimes those three little numbers can shatter the highest of highs and leave you feeling betrayed and confused. I know I have felt that way many times, and that's why I stopped weighing myself.

The battery in my scale has been dead for a while now, and I'm not all that concerned about it. I'm tempted every now and then step on and let it run its little diagnostics on me, finally flashing my self worth in little red numbers and either confirming that yes, I am justified in my happiness or no, I was kidding myself and am actually quite miserable.

I used to live by the scale. I weighed myself every day, and even brought it on vacation. Yes. I took my body fat religiously, and if I didn't see a change in the numbers at the exact moment that I expected them, it didn't matter if I had just run a PR or lifted a new weight or cleared a building in a single bound: I was a failure.

Over time, I started eliminating things from my life that made me feel like a failure, when in fact I had lots of evidence to the contrary. Negative people, jobs, habits, and eventually the scale, made their exit. But sometimes I still wonder.

Last week I wondered.

And then I asked myself, does it really matter?
  • I can fit into my clothes.
  • I can run for a long time.
  • I can finish an Insanity workout without too much trouble.
  • I can lift heavy things.
  • I like my legs and arms and back and shoulders.
  • Does it really matter what I weigh?
Well, a little bit. It is true that people who weigh themselves regularly experience higher success at losing weight, maintaining that weight loss, and sustaining a high level of fitness. Just as tracking food and exercise helps build awareness and lead to healthier behaviors overall, being aware of your weight is useful information. And, if you are actively working on losing weight, then yes, weighing yourself is one of the ways you can gauge whether your efforts are working.

But, if stepping on the scale fills you with anxiety, if the result dictates your mood for the day, or if you are simply happy with how you feel and how your clothes fit, then there is no reason why you need to know. 

I remember as a teenager reading a story about the volleyball player, Gabrielle Reece, and seeing her weight of 160 pounds. I was astounded. The lean, muscular, athletic woman I saw surely didn't match my perception of what 160 pounds looked like. That's when I learned about the difference in fat versus muscle, and began to understand that the number on the scale is just one part of a larger picture of health. 

What say you? Do you weigh yourself religiously? Do you find your mood being dictated by the result? Get out there and get healthy today, even if the batteries in your scale are dead!