Saturday, October 2, 2010

Golden Blood

As I sat at the blood donation center a few weeks ago, filling out the form that asks a hundred questions about  risk factors, I looked around at the other people who were doing the same.  One woman came at the same time as I did.  We parked next to each other.  She got out of her car slowly.  I guessed her age to be in her early 60's.  As she walked slowly (seemingly in pain) to the door of the center, I noticed a cup in her hand--McDonald's coffee.  I wondered what she was answering on her form.  Across the sitting area from me was a man, probably in his late 40's or early 50's.  He was quite large around the middle.  Fifteen minutes later, I was set up on a recliner to have the blood drained from my arm.   Across the room was the Mc'Donald's lady and already being drained was another woman, probably in her 50's.  She looked healthy enough, but I still thought to myself, my blood must be healthier than these peoples'.  That may sound snobby, and I suppose it is, but I know I'm not average in the way I eat and take care of my health.  The average person eats too much sugar, artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, trans fats, and other food that isn't organic.  The average person is inactive and overweight by at least a few pounds.  And as much as I've dedicated my days to pointing this out to people who know this isn't good for them, there are still millions of more people who are going about their lives not giving it a second thought.  And some of those people give blood. 

You are what you eat.  Literally.  If you haven't really thought about it before, consider this.  Whatever we eat gets broken down by our miraculous body into all of its nutrients, vitamins and minerals.   As David Katz, M.D. explains, "The nutritional content of what we eat determines the composition of our cell membranes, bone marrow, blood, and hormones. Consider that the average adult loses roughly 300 billion cells to old age every day and must replace them. Our bodies are literally manufactured out of the food we consume."  Scientists and doctors don't even know the half of it as to what our bodies do with all the phytonutrients and vitamins that we ingest.  Probably some really amazing things. 

So, considering what I eat on a regular basis, my blood is made up of some really good stuff.  The majority of my diet is fruits and vegetables.  I stay away from all artificial ingredients and chemicals and I eat very little refined sugar.  My blood tests are stellar.  My antioxidant levels are almost off the charts.  I've worked hard to get here--I'm banking on having a very long and productive life.  So, if you were the one who was receiving blood, wouldn't you want mine?  If you had the choice between mine and the McDonald's lady, whose would you choose?

But people don't get the choice, of course.  Of course they test it for disease or infectious agents.  But they don't test it for its quality, or its antioxidant levels.  This made me think, shouldn't my blood, in a sense, be more valuable than the McDonald's lady's?  Shouldn't there be levels of healthfulness, where blood like mine would go to an infant holding on to her last breath getting a blood transfusion while the McDonald's lady's goes to a adult junkie who needs a transfusion for anemia because of his unhealthy lifestyle?  I imagine graded donation centers where you go according to your healthfulness.

I'll put that image into the collection of other images of a healthier world that I store in the back of my mind.   And for now, I'll just give my blood, knowing someone somewhere is getting the gold standard and I'll assume that person really needs it.  It was meant to be.  But that won't stop me from asking the phlebotomist next time about blood quality, even though I already know the answer.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

An Image

When I was going to school at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a health and nutrition counselor, Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, came to speak.  I hadn’t read the book, and what he said about the industry of fast food surprised and disgusted me.  Though it had been several years since I ate or stepped in a McDonald's or Burger King, I regretted any business I had provided them in the past.  At one point in his talk, I got overwhelmed and decided to take a break in the restroom.  As I got up from my seat, an image came to me.  I smiled, and made my way to the bathroom.  There was another woman in there, seemingly doing the same as I was.  “It’s overwhelming.” I said.  “Yeah,” she agreed and rolled her eyes with a breath of release.  “A weird thing happened to me as I got up just before,” I said, sensing she’d be open to what I was about to say. (The school’s students were almost all open-minded people, often leaning toward alternative ideas and practices.)  “As I got up, an image came to me of my children all grown, telling their children (my grandchildren) about this place called McDonald's that was around when they were young.”  “Oh my god!” the woman said all excited,  “I had the same exact image!”  We stared at each other for a moment smiling in disbelief.

Who knows if that moment was pure coincidence?  After all, we were similar in age and obviously had shared interests since we were both at IIN.  But it was a little magical, I must say.  And it gave me hope.  For those of us who have always been a little different from everyone else, believing in things most people don’t consider and doing things a lot of people think are hokey, I was feeling that the universe was shifting.  And it is.  Ever since I started seeing clients, I’m amazed at what people know and are getting information about concerning health and nutrition and movements against the mainstream tide.  I’m becoming not so different these days.  The majority of people I come across know about acupuncture and reiki.  Some of them use a chiropractor, and not just because of a painful back.  A lot of people are spending a little extra on organic food, and are trying herbs or alternative practices instead of taking medicine or seeing a doctor.  As absurd as it seems right now (still) with McDonald's all over the place with no sign of waning business, I do believe that one day it will be something in the history books.  Maybe not for my grandkids, but perhaps for theirs.  I just have to stay healthy enough to live that long, because, boy, do I want to see that!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Body: I'm listening . . .

I've been in a lot of pain lately. Lower back, left hip, right trapezius.  I don't sleep well, and I wake up cranky and in pain.   I think I know what's going on--at least partly.  One problem is that I'm not practicing what I preach.  I work with clients every day encouraging them to take care of themselves, yet here I am neglecting my body. Oh, the eating part is good--almost always is.  That's easy.  What's not so easy is the exercise (time) and the wellness care (money).  And so I go without, and my body talks to me through restless sleep and sore muscles.

I know I need to exercise--take walks, do my push-ups and sit-ups, garden, rake, jog once in a while.  I enjoy all of that, as long as I don't think of it as "exercise."  It's making the time.  And I can do that pretty easily if I just make it part of my schedule.   I also know that it will relieve most of my pain and restless sleep.  So, you say, JUST DO IT!

And so I will.  Because I need to walk the talk.  Especially now that I made it public.

I read a poem recently in The Sun magazine written by Sybil Smith titled "I'm Going To Quit Smoking."  One stanza really spoke to me:

Like a faithful friend, the body went on
hoping the mind would come to its senses.
And it did, finally.
And, lo and behold, there was still a body,
a strong body there to do the work of life.
And so I discovered God was not in my mind,
but had been hidden in my body all along.
God was in the cells that healed themselves,
and in the neurons and in the muscles,
the heart, especially the heart,
that beat and beat though not instructed to do so,
that beats now without prayers or offerings,
through every sin and misgiving.

I often think about our miraculous body--how it trudges on despite the trespasses, despite us taking it for granted.  We poison it, we abuse it, we try to stop its natural functions (plucking, waxing, smothering, dyeing, medicating, relentlessly cleaning).  And still, it faithfully tries to keep the homeostasis--an impossible task considering the aforementioned.  And when it finally breaks down or causes us pain, we get angry, as if it's betraying us.

So, I dedicate this writing to my beautiful, faithful body, and I vow to take better care of it, so it can do its job in taking care of me.  And with that vow, I will now get up off my chair, step away from my computer, and stretch my tight, sore muscles and send them gratitude.  Namaste.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Thoughts on Exercise (for me)

I have a confession.  I haven't exercised in quite a while.  Oh, I know that's no big deal to you.  Perhaps you can top me.  Maybe you never exercise, or haven't in a year.  But, part of my job is to inspire people to be healthy, and part of healthy is exercising.

But this is good, you see, because I FEEL it.  I definitely feel worse for depriving my body of regular activity.  I won't go into details, but let's just say I'm feeling closer to my 40 years than ever, and I pride myself in feeling 28 usually.

So, this morning as I turned the page of the calendar to organize my March, I noticed that it starts on Monday.  How appropriate.  And since it's a Monday, which begins the work and school week, and since March is when the earth moves into spring, I thought, let's get back to exercising.

I don't believe (for me) that exercising means working out every day, making sure to get every muscle in my body stretched and worked.  I don't believe (for me) that exercising means I have to sweat and make my heart feel like it's going to leap out of my chest.  I don't believe (for me) that exercise means I need to do it five days a week for at least 45 minutes.  What I do believe (for me) is that I need to get my heart rate up a bit every day, that I need to stretch and breathe, and, most importantly,  that I need to enjoy myself.

I often tell my clients that our exercise should mimic what our activity was like 10,000 years ago.  That 10,000 year thing comes up a lot in my discussions.  And though I'm no scientist, I've read enough on the topic to say confidently that our bodies have evolved little if any since then.  We have prehistoric bodies doing very modern activities or not doing any activity at all.  So, what was it like 10,000 years ago?  I don't  really know, but I can guess that humans didn't work out vigorously and continuously every single day, exercising every single muscle.  They hunted and gathered.  They carried things, pulled things, pushed things, reached for things, ran, walked (a lot) and jumped.  Some days more than others.

I just read yesterday in the newspaper that "Short intense exercise gains experts' support."  That only justified my assumption of our hunter gatherer type exercise being what our bodies are designed to do.

So, Monday will start my spring exercise plan.  I will start by going for a brisk walk and then I'll do some cleaning around the house.  I'll probably throw in some jumping jacks, pushups and stretching just for fun.  I'm actually looking forward to it!  And having written this will give me that extra bit of motivation, just knowing  people have read about my plan.  If you did, be sure to ask me how it's going.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

To Beginnings

It was January 1, 1622 that the Gregorian calendar was adopted by Europe, making January 1st the first day of the year as opposed to March 25th. I read this in the newspaper on New Year’s Day and thought to myself, “that’s too bad.”

It was changed for the purpose of when Easter should be celebrated—making Easter fall during springtime (since, at that time, most of Europe was Catholic). Many countries rejected the change, including the colonies of the future United States, who eventually adopted it in 1700.

I wish it weren’t so, though. To me, it makes much more sense to start the year in springtime. Spring is the beginning of so many things. And it feels like the beginning. The middle of winter sure doesn’t feel like a beginning. No wonder so many resolutions fail. We need that energizing spirit we have in the spring—that indestructible, non-stoppable motivation we have. Besides, our moods are often lifted too. What better a time to make changes, to start anew?

Ah well, it is what it is. And here we are at the beginning of the calendar year, trying to keep warm, trying to motivate ourselves to keep our resolutions.

I don’t mean to be a downer—it really doesn’t matter what the calendar says or what it’s like outside. We have the power to change our mindsets or habits simply by thinking differently. Let’s try and look at it as Dan Custer, author of The Miracle of Mind Power and motivational speaker, sees it:

Every morning is a fresh beginning. Every day is the world made new. Today is a new day. Today is my world made new. I have lived all my life up to this moment, to come to this day. This moment—this day—is as good as any moment in all eternity. I shall make of this day—each moment of this day—a heaven on earth. This is my day of opportunity.

It’s true. As I have learned listening to Eckart Tolle on my iPod, we only have the present, so why not make it the best present there is?

I don’t make resolutions, normally. And I never really have, though my reasoning has changed over the years. I used to just not bother—why waste my time thinking of what I need to change? Besides, I never wanted to do what everyone else was doing. I still don’t. Then it was that I didn’t want to make a promise to myself that I was bound to break. More recently, it is just that it seems cliché and contrived. I’m making changes throughout the year, whenever I notice one is needed, so why wait until January 1st to do it? Sometimes it’s too late. And other times, I just don’t know what needs changing yet.

And so, today is my beginning. As will be tomorrow and the day after that. For today’s beginning, I decided to write for my blog (it’s been a while). And to not eat sugar. Today. And, you see, I’ve already ended one of my beginnings since you're reading this. I’m sure I’ll think of another one sooner or later. Who knows what the next minutes and hours will bring? I’m looking forward to finding out. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy what I’m doing right now.