Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Health is a Battlefield

Many moons ago my mom gave me some advice concerning relationships. She said, “Sarah, pick your battles.” I looked up at her naively, “But mama, I am never going to have a fight in my relationship, it’s going to be perfect.” Little did I know, even prince charming is going to piss you off once in awhile and now I know what she meant: Not every fight is worth fighting. Sometimes, you just have to let go and give in. Pick the fights that mean something to you, or rather, pick the ones that mean the most something because they will all mean a little something.

I feel the same way about nutrition.

There are so many do’s and don’ts. There are just so many. Can you even digest them all? There is so much information out there and I am reading it every single day. I know you are too. Sometimes you even read it from me. J That’s why I pick my battles.

Stay away from canned foods. Stay away from processed foods. Eat coconut oil and salmon. Don’t eat salmon. Don’t eat tuna. Take more vitamin B. Don’t eat meat. Eat meat. Don’t eat anything with a name you can’t pronounce. Eat fiber, no really, eat more fiber, and why not take a fiber supplement. Coffee is evil. Tea is good. Wine is good. Only drink luke-warm Brita water and food that came from a farm down the street and fruit that wasn’t picked but merely fell from a tree and chicken made from soy that tastes like beef and never forget to eat your acai berries. Or wait, was it blueberries? And for Heavens sake stay away from artificial sweeteners. I am sure you can think of about 800 more.

Do you really want to fight all those battles? Maybe you do. Maybe they all mean a little something to you. But do they all mean a lot of something to you?

I think the way that you mediate between the a lots and the a littles is by figuring out why you are worrying about them in the first place.

Are you trying to lower your cholesterol? Is the number one priority on your list to lose weight or have strong bones? Are you trying to gain weight or muscle? Are you worried about your heart or your lungs? Are you trying to prevent cancer and other illnesses? Why are you worried? Is it because you saw an ad on TV that told you to be worried? Is it because you read a book that said, “be afraid”? Is it because your doctor told you or you read about a study in science daily? Is it just an innate sense of health that keeps you wanting to strive to be the healthiest you can be, or do you just want all around general good health?

All of these questions will yield a different battle.

My battle is with an inflamed wrist that seems to act up when I eat too many processed inflammatory foods. That is a battle worth fighting for me. That means that I am not really that concerned about whether my water is filtered or my vegetables are organic. What I am concerned about is how much sugar and processed chemicals I consume. I recently watched Food Inc and it scarred me for life so now I will only eat organic meat and dairy. I am fighting that battle all the way to the bank (man organic meat is expensive) but I am not worrying about the cholesterol in said meat. I am eating it anyway, fat, cholesterol and all. I love, love, love vegetables so I eat them in abundance every day. As for the processed foods, there are these ice cream bars chock full of chemicals that I absolutely adore. Do I refrain completely because of said wrist? No, sometimes that is a battle I'm not going to fight.

I do not have the time, wallet or fear to eat all organic, stop eating meat, alcohol, coffee or aspartame completely. I eat food out of cans; sometimes I drink soda, most of the time I am pretty healthy…except when I’m not.

See what I mean? Being healthy doesn’t mean fighting every food battle. Sometimes we need to give in, read: eat skinny cow. Sometimes we need to fight and we need to say, no, I will not be having seconds/eating that non-organic potato/drinking that diet soda/eating while watching TV.

The point is that we need to figure it out for ourselves.

We know what we can and want to do. We are the only people in our relationship with ourselves and so we are the only ones who know which battles are worth the fight.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


While on a trip to Santa Monica a few weeks ago I learned from a rather adorable almost 2 year-old how to live a healthier life, but what I haven’t told you is how that adorable girl’s parents taught me to make eating a sacred event.

Mimi and George say grace before eating and while I do not consider myself a religious person I am fully adopting the habit.

“Grace is the name of any short prayer said or intentioned prior to eating as a way of thanking deities for the meal at hand or imparting a blessing on the meal and those partaking it, thus sanctifying the food.”

It used to be that food was pretty scarce and when you had a meal, it was kind of a big deal. Taking a moment to thank the Universe for providing it and praying that it didn’t make you sick were a little more obvious. Now we (thankfully) don’t have that problem. Food is in abundance (at least for most everyone reading this) and it’s not such a big deal to order a pizza or cook up a chicken. This is of course fortunate, and sometimes unfortunate. We’ve forgotten how freaking cool and important it is. I think we need to look at food as something a little more sacred. It is, after all what gives us energy and life.

This does not mean that I think everyone should go home, steeple their hands and pray to God before they eat. Grace does not have to be a religious thing. What about making grace a human thing. Before I ate my lunch this afternoon I took a moment to be present in the moment and thank MY God (this can be whomever you want, God, Allah, Buddha, the Universe, your mother, yourself or Yoda). Recognize that it is wonderful and special to be here on earth and have the ability to fuel your own body.

Take a moment to think about what you are putting into your body and give some thanks for the greatness that is your sandwich.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Baby, Baby

Many of you know that I have been in LA for the past week helping a dear dear friend with her two handfuls of joy. She has a 17 month old and a 17 day old. Basically I am tired and in heaven at the same time. There are so many pieces of inspiration for me this week that it has been difficult to choose which bit I want to write about; difficult but not not impossible.

The 17 month old is a little girl named Bela, who might just be the cutest little girl I have ever seen. I know I am unbelievably biased, but honestly, she is. Bela is also the healthiest person I have ever met. I'm not even being biased here, it's true.

And so this update is about how if we could all be a little more like Bela (or many other babies and toddlers) we would all be a bit healthier. Here are my top three reasons why she is my new guru of health.

She sleeps for 12 hours every night and has a 2 hour nap every day. Ok, I know that is probably a bit excessive for the average grown-up but it certainly couldn't hurt to try and get a little closer to the toddler schedule. I mean would it be so difficult to go to bed 15 minutes earlier? Bela doesn't always want to go down, she cries and says no and then promptly falls asleep. That is exactly what would happen to you. A few tears, a little fuss but if you make yourself go to bed, you will eventually sleep. We train ourselves to sleep at a certain time. If you start going to bed earlier, it will start to become a habit.

She gets upset and then gets over it. Let's say she's upset because she has to put on shoes (isn't that a bit of a pain for us all?) she stomps her bare feet, lets out a little moan and then goes off looking for her favorite toy. When she has to come back inside after playing, she gets a little flustered, bursts out a bit of a cry, walks through the door and looks at you expectantly as she asks for some apple. Out with the old and in with the new. Wouldn't it be great if when something bad happened, we just got upset and then let it go? I'm not saying you shouldn't get upset; I am all for getting upset. Let it out! Then let it go!

And Bela's number one awesomely healthy behavior? She eats when she's hungry and stops when she's full!

Can you believe it? I know, it's amazing, but it's true. She will never finish something just because she's sad or distracted or angry. If she's sad or distracted or angry, she is just that. She is incapable of eating while feeling those feelings. Next time you want to raid the fridge at midnight, ask yourself, are you feeling something and mistaking it for hunger or do you really want that pint of ice cream?

There are so many more too, a couple of my favorites that didn't make the top three are:

She laughs all the time
She exercises for AT LEAST an hour every day
She is inquisitive about the world
She loves to read

This week let's all try to be a little more childlike in our outlook on health. Come on, be a big baby with Bela and me.