Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Meredith's Hierarchy of Health - Personal Food Pyramid and Random Health Info

On the off chance anyone else who finds this is annoyed with all the random health info out there, I pieced together a system that seems to apply to most people. I go mostly paleo, but as I point out a few times, I don't stress about always following the rules. Just enough to avoid cravings is pretty good, and the stuff that is worst for you (#8) typically stops sounding appealing once you've been removed from it for a while. In fact, I desire fruit far more often than desserts these days.

For a bit of background, I've had trouble losing weight since high school, and developed something of a pot belly that drove me nuts because I used to look really nice! It started when I stopped swimming and had a stressful year of school, but then even without the stress years later, and even with two years of kickboxing, it was still there. Even when I lost weight I didn't feel particularly thin. By the time I was done with college, I felt soft and chubby, which was disturbing because there is a problem with weight gain on one side of my family, and one of my grandmothers has hypothyroidism. Another few friends of mine were diagnosed with that as well, and one of them informed me of her journey with food, and discovering that an appropriate diet (which is more or less paleo) can prevent the worst of it. She also mentioned that most doctors have to sign something that says they won't diagnose hypothyroidism until the levels are pretty bad, and then they only treat part of it. She found a doctor who doesn't do this, apparently.

I am incapable of verifying my friend's story, but this last February I was eating something with bread and realized I didn't really care that much about bread, so I might as well consider that paleo thing. I do have many symptoms of a thyroid problem, and I was told as a child to watch it because it was enlarged. My mother also has several symptoms, and it's her mom who has it for sure, so it seemed wiser to try to fix it on my own before it got off track, rather than spend money going to the doctor, if it is even the problem.

Therefore, I did a bunch of research that took me to which I recommend for anyone interested in the sciencey aspect. Or just anything in general. I don't always call myself a paleo follower, because I'm a bit loose on the rules, but looking at myself compared to others, this is the diet perspective that seems to make the most sense to me.

1) The Base of the Pyramid: Nutritionally Packed Leaves, Stems, Low-Sugar Fruits and Roots
Definitely not grains, not even whole grains, but "vegetables". I'm going with a more botany-oriented version here, because most plants that are botanically similar will have similar nutritional values, and if you really want to be technical, any part of a plant can be defined as a vegetable. But I need to split things up a little more for this, and so you will not see "vegetable" in bold on this list.

The main reason that this is at the base of the pyramid is because the ratio of bad to good is pretty heavy on the "good" side. There's lots of good in most of these and not a whole lot of bad.

Most things you would consider "vegetables" would be on this list, so rather than make a list of what is on here, let's make a short list of what is not on here:
  1. Rice and corn - These are not leaves, stems, fruits or roots. These are starchy seeds.
  2. White potatoes - These are technically stems, I just found out, after years of considering them roots. But it doesn't matter. There is almost no nutritional value to a white potato. Sorry.
  3. Beans and lentils - These are also seeds.
  4. Legumes - These are typically seed pods containing lentils. So still a no for this particular department. No seeds in your base!

2) Unprocessed Meat
Sure, you could plan a decently nutritious diet with very little meat, but personally I feel as though if you are eating unprocessed meats, you are going to be better off than trying to acquire the same supplements from other plants, like legumes. It is good to get a good variety of meats, everything from beef to fish, but to give example, stay away from things like lunch meat, unless it's just finely sliced normal meat, pepperoni, sausage, and anything especially greasy.

3) Fruit
Fruit is packed full of vitamins and nutrients, although it is often packed full of sugar as well. It's perfectly fine to eat lots of it, as long as you pair it with something more grounding, like dessert after a meal of meats and pyramid base vegetables.

This is the last point in which you actually need anything in your diet. #4-#6 are all optional for health, if you are eating plenty of #1-#3.

4) Unprocessed Dairy
Some people have trouble with dairy, so if that's the case, it's probably best to avoid, however, if you can fit it in, it's not really bad for you.

The good thing about dairy is that it contains healthy fats, and can also contain quite a bit of protein. Plus, it is cheaper than meat, and can be easier for grab and go snacks. I can't eat lactose, personally, but I enjoy saving some greek yogurts for a quick thing to grab, or to add into smoothies, and plain greek is a good replacement for sour cream. It comes with a lot of carbohydrates as well, however, in addition to more fat than necessary, so keeping the dairy on the DL is probably best for most of us. But I still eat it with most of my meals, as long as I keep it to cheeses with plenty of health benefits.

5) Nothing But Carbs
Yeah, it's not very nutrient dense, but white potatoes and white rice also won't give you a gassy stomach. If you're prone to digestion problems, it's probably okay to occasionally indulge in white potatoes and white rice every once in a while, just be aware that you're not going to be slimming down any time soon if you have too much. At this point, you are also no longer paleo, but you also don't need to be a stick in the mud when you're out with friends for sushi or mom made fancy mashed potatoes.

6) Seeds That You Can Tolerate. For me: Psuedo-Grains, Some Legumes, and Lentils
This one and #5 are somewhat interchangeable depending on the level of digestive issues you suffer. If you don't suffer from a painful, bloated gut from eating beans or split peas, this might not be a big deal for you. Personally, I am fine with split pea soup but no such luck with beans. I can also have plenty of quinoa, but no on the brown rice. Which is a big bummer because white rice is boring. 

Up until this point, you aren't really running into particularly bad foods. This is the last number with "healthy" food and the rest I would recommend avoiding.

7) Seeds That You Can't Tolerate. For me: Wheat, Corn, Brown Rice, Beans, Anything with Gluten
Let me point out really quick that gluten is a protein. It's not inherently bad, just something that we may have too much of in our modern day meals, and anything with gluten has the same negative effects as corn and brown rice do. Actually, I prefer rice over corn, too, but it all gives me a stomach ache.

And stomach aches are the reason that all of this is down here at #7. Most seeds have natural defenses in place to prevent you from going back and eating more, preventing the plant from reproducing. Cooking seeds minimizes the effect of course, and there are ways to minimize it by soaking and whatever, but who has the time to care about that? It's way easier and healthier to just skip this whole section when meal planning anyway, unless you're used to boxed foods like I was. But once you start cooking, a meat and a veggie dish is all you need and that's kind of a relief, honestly. I hate cooking.

If you're looking for information on why no beans or rice or anything, I recommend searching for further reading. I think the viewpoints there are pleasantly un-extreme, logical, and researched.

Furthermore, be aware that some people simply don't have that many digestive issues and won't even have a #7. There's no need to push your eating habits on them, and there's no reason for you to let them push theirs on you. Just say your stomach hurts when you eat whatever it is that bugs you.

8) Refined Grains, Mystery Preservatives and Added Sugar
The problem with added sugar is primarily that it throws your blood sugar out of whack, which will cause you to crave more. The same thing goes for refined grains, which has no nutritional value on top of including all the same things you don't want in the seeds you can't tolerate. There's just not really any benefit to refined grains at all.

If you're going to eliminate anything from your diet, don't eliminate a nutrition factor like carbs, sugars or fats. Those things are all good for you if they come from the right sources. Going low carb might be good to curb cravings, but no carb can contribute to brain fog, as can low fat and low sugar. You need these things, but in moderation. What you should eliminate instead, are the food products that have distorted your carbs, fats and sugars, as well as products that cause you to crave ridiculous amounts, ultimately leading you to crash.

9) Stress
There's no need to get stressed about your food. The more stressed you are, the less likely you are to keep up with the diet, and you're also less likely to lose the weight. Of course, you'll have fewer stress problems already if you're not dealing with digestive pains, but think of it as a present to yourself, not a problem. Find easy solutions to your problems, such as purchasing steamfresh vegetables instead of cooking them all by yourself. Assuming you don't have severe dietary restrictions from your doctor, there's nothing wrong with eating your produce frozen. Yeah, fresh is better, but maybe you're lazy like I am. Find a system that works for you, and stick with it.

Random Health Lifehack:
I have really bad acid reflux. If you have really bad acid reflux, you've probably heard of a lot of things that help, but I thought I'd throw some extra stuff out there. Any and all points help, especially the fish oil if you've got GERD or similar intensity:

  • Don't eat too close to bed
  • Avoid sugar, especially added sugar (most important)
  • Avoid acid (duh) and ditch the soda completely
  • Avoid grease (less important)
  • Take probiotics - Probiotics are bacteria in your intestines that are supposed to help your body break down food. This can help you to have better reactions to foods and sometimes makes a difference with acid reflux. When we are exposed to lots of antibiotics, especially medicinally, we kill that bacteria that we need, and probiotics can help to build it back up. You can get them in certain dairy products like kefir and yogurt, but I prefer to just take the supplements so I can be sure I'm getting all I need. I get the kind that are refrigerated (so the bacteria are alive when I get it) and then the directions indicate to take for about a month, and then you can stop. You can take them again next time you have to take antibiotics.
  • Eat healthy fats and take fish oil - I get the kind you have to keep refrigerated. It's kind of expensive, but wow does it help. It's got healthy fats in it, which really help your body to rebuild the things that acid reflux destroys. This is the most helpful thing when your reflux has progressed to GERD or is getting in your sinuses, since it repairs the problem areas. 
  • Drink lots of water and get plenty of sleep. Don't stress yourself out. Don't drink water during an attack though, because it'll thin out the acid and make it temporarily worse.
  • If you have other digestive problems, try an elimination diet, where you eliminate all but the necessary things (meat and veggies) and then add other stuff back in slowly. It is possible you are having trouble because of a food sensitivity that is irritating your system.
  • Detoxing by drinking excess water, sweating, eating "real" foods only, and having regular bowel movements can help
  • Decide to like vegetables. They taste better if you pay more attention to their flavors and textures, especially when you're skipping out on #8 of the hierarchy

Monday, June 6, 2016

Why I Defend Cincinnati Zoo's Decision

I'm thoroughly fed up with the bigoted judgements floating around on this topic. I tried not to say anything, but I'm too worked up because this subject hits me in a personal way - I am currently pregnant with my first child, and there was a terrible accident in my family before I was born, that almost declared my parents unfit. So allow me to elaborate on the two most popular arguments.

1) Gorilla or child? 
I'm under no delusion about human innocence, nor even the innocence of a child. Children are not innocent - they are naïve. The child who crawled and fell into that pen was a naïve child, not an innocent one. The gorilla, like all animals, was innocent and behaved according to the way any gorilla might while being screamed at from all sides. I feel bad for Harambe. He didn't deserve death.

However, this is the very reason we cannot stand by to leave the child to fend for itself in mortal peril. Children are born helpless, trusting and as I said, naïve. In foster children, especially those who frequently return home to give fallen parents a twelfth try at being their guardian, trust is a difficult thing to earn. Foster children often suffer poorer grades when at these homes. The lack of structure due to being tossed between their biological parents and their foster parents is devastating to a sense of stability, and in destabilizing the environment for these kids, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to become healthy and productive members of society, and especially of a household. Chain reactions of bad treatment are passed down generation to generation in some cases, all because they were broken as children. Often, rather than being shown mercy, these kids are harshly judged.

What does that have to do with Harambe and the three year old? Trust. The moment we stop defending human life is the moment we become incapable of trust, toward so-called security, toward each other as humans, toward God if you had any to start with, and even toward nature. Ask yourself what it would do to you to watch a three year old ripped to pieces or smashed by a wild animal. Would your sense of trust and security be shaken? You bet, and deeply too. Now you want to know why that's a bad thing: fear is what replaces trust. If you really need to know why fear is so bad for you then read any history book ever and notice how your evil dictators get everyone to follow them into despicable actions. Most of the worst atrocities in history start with fear, and the evidence is not hard to find, so maybe before we jump to the conclusion that the gorilla should have lived because of human faults, we ought to also consider the kind of mental meyhem that would have caused, and the reason why we do form societies and protect other humans, especially our moldable children.

In making the decision about shooting the gorilla, I don't give a crap if the parents were negligent. That is completely irrelevant in the matter of whether or not to save the child's life.

2) Were the parents even negligent?

I have a personal story to share here. Approximately one year before I was born, my mom was preparing the bath for my older brother. Briefly, she had to turn away and in an instant, my brother, 10 months old at the time, had turned on the water. He had turned it all the way up. I think my aunt owned the house they were in, or something, because she was responsible for the fact that the water heater was also turned all the way up (not sure if she did this, or a previous occupant - she may not have known). My brother was severely burned because my mom turned away for twelve seconds.

Since this incident, my brother received more than fifty surgeries - my mom lost count after that - and still has scar tissue covering a large percentage of his skin. His right hand was not circulating blood after the burn, and so the figers were amputated. Although an attempt to place new fingers there was tried, he still can't do a whole lot with that hand.

Shortly after this nightmare, my mom also withstood several trials, culminating in her being the only individual capable of making decisions in my family. First was of course my brother and his surgeries. Then she became pregnant with me but found out she had a gallbladder problem that required surgery. Then my father was diagnosed with brain cancer. And then I was born and had a bunch of ear infections. And then of course, there was the fact that despite being cleared in one state and by the Air Force, the state of Arkansas where we lived at the time, tried to take custody of my brother away. 

I didn't learn about this fact until after I was married myself, but it gave me pause. I had always looked up to all of my family members for how they endured everything thrown at them, and had wondered how my mom dealt with my brother being burned on an emotional level. Honestly, she didn't even have another child to be distracting like the mother in the Harambe incident and my brother still got burned. One time I did have someone try to claim she was a bad parent and I berated them for assuming they knew everything, because I can't imagine life without my brother or my mom. I probably overreacted to that person but no one had ever said that about her and they couldn't be more wrong in my eyes. Sure, I argue with my mom, and we don't always see eye-to-eye, bt she was a great parent. Both my brother and I grew up knowing we were loved and secure. He is even thinking about working in the burn unit as a nurse, where he would no doubt connect with many of the patients there in a positive way. In fact, my brother and my mom have an even closer bond than I do with either of them. Instead, I bonded most with my father, whose strong influence has made me into a gentler, and more confident human being. Furthermore, seeing the strength of his relationship to my mother has wizened me to understand what love truly looks like. Frankly, what they have taught me would be far too much to list here, but to stay on topic, they especially taught me the lesson of Job.

No human being is innocent or perfect. Everything we have is a gift, though we do at times misuse our gifts. Primarily though, strife falls upon everyone equally. Just because you worked hard doesn't mean you will get what you worked for, even if it increased your chances. Just because a kid stole your bike doesn't mean you will get justice. Just because you never take your eye off your child and have surgically removed any need to blink doesn't mean they won't come to trouble. The fact is, you can't be perfect, parents can't be perfect, the world isn't fair, and you never know what can be born from the ashes of a bad situation if only you have the endurance and wisdom to recognize it.

Romans 5:3-4 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Furthermore, Jesus has quite a bit to say about pride against your fellow human being, that really transforms into common sense: 

Luke 6:37-38 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

Matthew 18:21-34 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed."

Don't leap so quickly to judgments. Your heart is no less corrupt than another's, and and you will be judged by your own words when the time comes for you to make a devastating, regrettable mistake.