What is a Paleo Diet?

In my last post I mentioned the term “paleo diet.” Paleo is short for paleolithic, and refers to the type of diet our Stone Age ancestors ate.

Credit: cavementimes.com

Credit: cavementimes.com

Following a paleo diet today means we eat the modern-day equivalent of what a caveman ate. For example, rather than dine on pterodactyl, we might eat chicken; and beef or bison, rather than wooly mammoth; collard greens instead of tree leaves. You get the idea.

The rationale is this: while modern foods (think Little Debbie snack cakes or Big Gulps) have changed radically in the last 100 years, the human body has not. It works essentially the same way as it did in the Stone Age. So ingesting things like sodium benzoate, red dye #2, or GMOs is confusing to it. Our bodies don’t know what to make of these foreign substances. At best they excrete them; at worst, they find them toxic and store them in fat cells (to insulate them from the rest of the body) or the immune system attacks them.

Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, so a paleo diet focuses on meats, fish, seafood, and vegetables. Anything that was introduced during the agricultural revolution (grains, legumes, dairy) is out.

Benefits of a paleo diet include weight loss, relief from allergy symptoms, and healing from disease, for many. Interested in learning more about a paleo lifestyle? To get started, read this or check out these excellent blogs: www.thepaleomom.com and http://nomnompaleo.com.

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Every Body is Different

It’s a confusing world of health advice out there. If you have an interest in wellness or nutrition, you may be frustrated by all the conflicting guidance available in publications, on TV, and online. A svelte former model claims she maintains her youthful appearance through a strict vegan diet and yoga. A famous actress eats only raw food and swears by weight training with a personal trainer. Testimonials from an Olympic athlete claim a paleo diet is the key to his success and stamina.

Fresh_cut_fruits_and_vegetablesWho’s right?

Answer: they all are.

When it comes to an optimal diet, there is no “one size fits all.” Every body is different, with a unique genetic make-up, past health history, and specific physical demands that contribute to the body’s needs.

What this means is that finding an eating plan that your body responds best to will probably involve some trial and error. You want to lose weight? The diet that worked for your co-worker may not give you the same results. Heck, even the diet that worked for you in your twenties may not work anymore once you hit your forties.

My best friend Harmony simply glows on a vegetarian diet, but when I tried it, I felt weak and hungry all the time. My body craved meat and works best when I feed it that.

You may want to start with an assessment of some kind – nutritional typing or the doshas, for example – and then go from there, tweaking your personal diet.

One thing I can recommend for every body is whole, natural foods. Real foods. Sure, people may lose weight eating pre-packaged diet meals and powdered shakes, but it’s almost never a long-term solution. Highly-processed items with artificial, unpronounceable ingredients are not good for any body.

You may find that your needs change over time. A damaged body, given the proper foods as medicine*, can often heal; and when that happens, the optimal diet for that person may change.

For example: someone with severe intestinal damage (like ulcerative colitis) may only be able to eat well-cooked, pureed vegetables until their gut heals enough to tolerate raw fruits and vegetables, which contain more nutritional value than their over-cooked versions. But if that person tries to eat these healthy raw foods in his debilitated state, they will do more harm than good! It all depends on where you are, health-wise, at the moment.

Someone with an autoimmune disease may do best on a restrictive Paleo diet; but perhaps someday, after years of remission, they might be able to exist on a modified vegetarian eating plan.

So don’t be discouraged if the latest eating craze isn’t working for you. Keep searching until you find the fuel that’s right for your chassis–at this very moment.

*Hippocrates, the father of (Western) medicine, is often quoted as saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

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Easy Health Tip: Chew the Fat…and the Carbs

Want a super easy tip for improving your digestion and losing weight? Chew your food!

I’m serious. Very few people really chew their food well. Digestion starts in the mouth with saliva, which contains enzymes that break down carbohydrates. Molars are designed to crush and pulverize food. Together they ensure that when the food hits your stomach, it’s a liquidy mush.

If you rush through a meal, swallow large chunks of food, and wash bites down with water or soda, you are circumventing nature’s plan.

A Better Way to Eat

Take small bites and chew each mouthful 30-50 times – more, if you think it needs it. This will also serve to slow down your meal, allowing your satiety center to catch up with your mouth and help you feel full before you’ve gone back for seconds or thirds.

Try not to drink any liquids with your meal…or only a small amount of water, if necessary. Not only does it wash away the enzymes in the stomach intended to further break down the food, but it makes it too easy to wash down pieces that aren’t sufficiently lubricated with saliva.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

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Be Your Own Health Advocate

It’s just not normal.

Many of you may be thinking this about some aspect of your health. Have you become more forgetful? Are you bloated after every meal? Eyesight worsening with age?

Just because others around you are complaining of similar maladies doesn’t mean it’s normal. Medical doctors may even tell you it’s part of the aging process; but it doesn’t have to be. There are people—and even whole ethnic groups—that stay vital, strong and healthy well into their 90s and beyond. Physical deterioration and disability does not necessarily come with age.

In the U.S., I believe it’s caused by our lifestyle. The Standard American Diet (better known as SAD) is high in substances that promote inflammation in the body, causing it to age prematurely. Things like beaucoup grains, processed sugar, food additives, and trans fats.

Likewise, our high-stress lifestyle and isolation from nature put us at risk. We spend most of our time indoors, trying to do it all, skimping on sleep to pursue our career goals. It’s no wonder our bodies start to show wear and tear.

Have you noticed it? Now’s the time to take action. Don’t wait until a “cardiac event” or cancer diagnosis comes as your wake-up call. Listen to the gentle whispers now. Those creaky knees…forgetfulness…or frequent bouts of diarrhea are trying to tell you something.

If you bring your concerns to your doctor and she dismisses your complaints, or rules out a few things based on some basic lab tests, don’t stop there. Be your own health advocate. The great thing about the age of Internet connectivity is you have lots of resources at your fingertips. Look up your symptoms online. If you already have a diagnosis but your doctor says you have to live with it, join an online support group to see how other sufferers are managing their symptoms.

Make these a priority: a proper diet, meditation or a spiritual connection, adequate rest, and even play time (a.k.a. exercising for fun). Make some healthy changes today to ensure a vital, active tomorrow.

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B.R.A.G. Medallion for “Bluff”

Bluff with BRAG stickerI’m super pleased to announce that the detective novel Bluff, which features your truly, was recently awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion!

The B.R.A.G. Medallion website is operated by indieBRAG, LLC, a private organization consisting of a large group of readers located throughout the United States and in ten other countries. B.R.A.G. stands for Book Readers Appreciation Group, and “indie” refers to self- or independently-published. IndieBRAG’s mission is to “discover new and talented self-published authors and help them give their work the attention and recognition it deserves.”

According to their website, all ebooks brought to the attention of indieBRAG, LLC are subjected to a rigorous selection process. There is an initial screening to ensure that the work meets certain minimum standards of quality and content. If it passes this preliminary assessment, it is then read by members drawn from their global reader group. They judge the book on a comprehensive list of criteria, including

-plot
-characters
-dialogue
-writing style
-copy editing
-cover and interior layout.

One final factor is whether or not they would recommend it to their best friend.

On average, only 10% of the books they consider are awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion and  presented on their website. So if you want to support independently published authors and be assured of getting a quality publication, check out the BRAG site for your next read.

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Out with the Bad in the New Year

I found the perfect activity to prepare for the new year – purging my kitchen of unhealthy food.

Sugar Dish

Sugar Dish (Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass)

I accidentally stumbled upon this the other day when I was getting some herbal tea from the cupboard. There, in the back of the same shelf, sat an old jar of Nestea ice tea mix (the powdered kind), proudly proclaiming “with NutraSweet” on the front label. Ugh! NutraSweet. :P I gave up artificial sweeteners many years ago, so I could only imagine how long that thing had been around.

Now, I’m not one to waste, so my first thought was to bring it in to work, since I know there are others who do not adhere to my rigid dietary standards. But then I told myself no one should be using artificial sweeteners (stevia is a great no-cal, natural alternative), so I dumped out the contents and rinsed and recycled the jar. There. Now there was more room for real tea.

Later that day I reached for something in my fridge and noticed an unfamiliar bottle in the door, behind some other things. I pulled it out and found a very weird product that I must have thought sounded like a good idea at one point in my life. In fact, it’s so weird I don’t even know what to call it, other than “flavoring.” You’re supposed to add it to a glass of milk (hot or cold) to create a coffee shop beverage. Why not just make a pot or cup of coffee? This odd product didn’t have a single natural ingredient in it, so out it went, down the drain.

That felt so good that I opened the refrigerator again to see what else I could find. I had just been planning how I would clean up my diet in January, after months of holiday overeating. This was a great start.

Aha! There, behind the extra virgin olive oil, sat a bottle of spicy brown mustard. Now, mustard is fine, but this bottle expired back in 2006. And the scary part was, it looked and smelled perfectly fine. I can only imagine how many preservatives were in that thing.

Out it went, too. This process continued and spread to other areas of my house: the medicine cabinet, my closet, my spice cabinet. The great part is, you don’t have to set aside a large amount of time to do it. While you’re waiting for a friend to arrive or water to boil, you can open a random cupboard and see what old, moldy items might be lurking there. Then toss them while you’re feeling strong, and you won’t be tempted  to use them sometime when you just need a little mustard on your sandwich.

Out with the old and in with the new! A happy, healthy new year to one and all.

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Holiday Furlough Poem

When the federal government shut down on October 1, I blogged about it. Now I’d like to share a holiday poem with you, recalling those furlough days. It was written by Susan (this website’s creator) for a Christmas party she attended this weekend on Capitol Hill. The party had a furlough theme, and the guests were asked to create a furlough song or holiday poem to share at the party.

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

English: Thomas Nast’s most famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus”, from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus’ current look with an initial illustration in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, as part of a large illustration titled “A Christmas Furlough” in which Nast set aside his regular news and political coverage to do a Santa Claus drawing. The popularity of that image prompted him to create another illustration in 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘Twas the night before shutdown and all through the House

Not a staffer was happy – and man, did they grouse!
 
The House pushed the Senate as far as they’d dare
In hopes of abolishing Obamacare.
 
Republicans, with all the words they could muster,
Had just settled in for a long filibuster
 
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
Security ran to see what was the matter.
 
And what to their wondering eyes should appear
But a big honkin’ sleigh and eight hairy reindeer
 
With a little old driver so chubby and cute
That several folks there were reminded of Newt.
 
He pushed past the guards and went in the front door;
He strode to their chambers and then took the floor.
 
“You’ll all ruin Christmas…and Hanukah, too
“If you don’t pass a budget before this night is through.
 
“Thousands the federal government employs
“Won’t have any money to buy their kids toys.
 
“So stop all your fighting or this I will vow:
“Each one of your names will come off my list NOW!”
 
With panic and fear on each congressman’s face
Back to the drawing board they did race.
 
The level of teamwork was never so high;
The budget they drafted passed on the first try.
 
When Congress is naughty, just take my advice
And call Santa Claus to get them to play nice.
 
I tell you this story so all will now know
How we could have avoided a shutdown furlough.
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