Winter Food Shopping

Admittedly, I am suffering from a funk of epic proportions, so I’m not exactly feeling the holiday spirit or excited about much lately, but winter food shopping leaves much to be desired.  Even from an objective standpoint.

Today, I went to the farmer’s market as usual and other than buying a massive amount of yogurt and a few leeks, there was not much to buy.  So selection is a problem.  The other problem is that an outdoor market in this neck of the woods at this time of year means that you’re looking at produce and products that are frozen cold.  I’m pretty sure that my leeks will not be edible and I will have wasted a couple of dollars.  We’ll find out soon enough.

Wintermarket is somewhat better as the market is indoors, but selection is limited.  There are very few vendors and most of them are selling things I either don’t eat or eat very sparingly.  I’m glad that there is a wintermarket, but winter is not a fun season for produce.

This will be my first winter eating paleo and it will be interesting to figure out how to source foods.  I will probably continue my farmers market and wintermarket habit, but those will be quick trips to get one or two items.  In some ways going might not be worth it, but I like the constancy and habit of going every week.  I think there will be a much heavier reliance on the co-op and probably even more grocery store shopping.  Unfortunately, I think that winter might require a heavier reliance on foods from much farther away.  I suppose that living in a cold clime sort of necessitates that.

We shall see what happens.  I definitely appreciate and enjoy the warmer, growing seasons more with the onset of winter.


Stress Management

Holy cow, I have been stressed out lately!  I’m usually sort of stressed out all the time, but this past week has been especially bad.  The problem is that when I get stressed out, every good habit I have tends to fall apart and I end up in a downward spiral that makes my stress worse and not better.  I miss the days when I was younger and stress would just make me sleep.  After a good nap or a long night of sleep, I would usually feel better.  Not so as an adult.  I have come to know the term insomnia over the last year.  Uncool.

So, what are some ways to cope with stress?

    1. Take a bath – It is totally worth the effort of cleaning/rinsing out the tub for a bath.  I like to add an aromatherapy bath packet or some bubble bath for extra fun.  It doesn’t need to be a long soak.  (Let’s be honest, I’m much too fidgety to sit for long.)  Just long enough to let the warm water relax you and to let your mind take a break.  For extra points, light a candle (I leave mine on the counter or some other safe place.  The side of the bathtub is not a safe place.) and turn out the lights.  
    2. Take a nap – Sometimes you just need to get away from your life.  I managed to take a nap today and it was well worth the time invested.  Between the sleep deprivation and my overactive brain, I needed that time out.  This is not as easy to accomplish as it once was, but it is still a great way to catch a break when you can manage it.  Even 20 minutes is helpful.
    3. Get a massage – Most people I talk to are amazed that I get massages on a sort of regular basis.  The most common complaint I hear is that they are expensive.  Well, I’ll tell you this – massages are cheaper than visiting the doctor and they are a lot more enjoyable.  I think that they are well worth the investment.  I am a terrible sleeper and after I get a massage, I get the best three nights of sleep that I’ll have until my next massage.  I have a massage therapist that I go to and I like having that relationship in place.  However, if you are really crunched for money, try snagging a Groupon or Living Social deal for massages.  Using those coupon services is also a great way to try out massage therapists without investing the full amount of money.  You can also ask for people to buy you gift certificates for massages.
    4. Clean –  Being of the fidgety type, cleaning is usually very soothing to me.  Usually sweeping is pretty calming.  Cleaning also clears visual clutter, which can help your mental state.  I always feel more stressed with a messy environment, so cleaning can really help my stress levels.
    5. Talk to someone – Call, text, IM a friend or family member.  Venting can do wonders for stress.  I thought I was going to lose my mind the other day when my plans suddenly changed on me and affected other people who were counting on me.  I ended up taking some time to vent to a friend online and a friend happened to text me during that stressful period and chatted with me over text as well.  I got through that stressful period and I managed not to lose my sanity.
    6. See a therapist – Not everyone likes the idea of seeing a therapist.  Everyone has their reasons.  However, a therapist can be immensely helpful at helping you learn coping skills and helping you gain insight into what might be causing you stress in your life.  Unlike your friends and family, they have a more objective view of what is going on in your life and they have specialty training to help you through stressful events in life.  If you feel stuck or want to make some changes in your life and don’t know where to start, try a therapist.  If you’re attending school, most schools offer counseling services for free or for a discounted price.  The other thing to keep in mind is that therapy is not always a long and drawn out process.  Sometimes all you need is a few sessions.  
    7. Start saying no – You would be surprised at the number of things that you don’t have to do in life.  Usually, I have a running list of things I should do in life.  Turns out most of those things are not shoulds and I don’t need to do them.  So, start saying no and simplifying things.  You’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll feel.
    8. Socialize – When I’m stressed, I tend to isolate myself.  Sometimes I need time alone, but sometimes the distraction of socializing with other people is what I really need.  Socialization helps me also realize that the world won’t end and that other people have problems, too.  Socialization that involves a drink or two can help the stress levels as well.  I’m not advocating heavy drinking, but one or two drinks can be relaxing on occasion.
    9. Hugs – In college, there was a lot of hugging and it was good.  Getting or giving a hug to someone can bring down your stress levels.  I know that there have been studies done on hugging, but I can’t remember where those studies are on the Internet.  Just trust me on this one.  Get a hug from someone you like or give one to someone and instantly feel better.
    10. Go for a drive – I like driving and sometimes the only way to clear my head is to get out of the house and go for a drive.  A drive is good when I need to get out of the house, but I’m not interested in seeing people.  It’s a good way to get some space to think away from the environments that are stressing you out.  You can also turn on some music and sing on the top of your lungs if you want to.  Although, sometimes a quiet, meditative drive is in order.
    11. Seek out some nature – This is something that I crave when I’m stressed.  I have some parks that I know are peaceful and quiet that I like to go to.  I like places with water, but whatever works for you, go for it.  I try to avoid noisy or busy parks because that’s just more stress.  Your backyard can work, too, if you have one.
    12. Drink some tea – There is something inherently relaxing about drinking a hot drink.  You can’t drink it quickly and so you’re forced to take your time.  Of course, if you don’t like tea there is also coffee, hot chocolate, and hot apple cider.  Take your pick and breathe a big sigh.
    13. Take deep breaths – Speaking of sighs, take some deep breaths…preferably clean outdoor air, but sometimes you don’t have choices.  Deep breathing can be very relaxing.  Just make sure you’re sitting or laying down because you can get dizzy (or maybe that’s just me).
    14. Exercise – Sometimes you just need to work your stress out.  A good sweat session can help you release some energy and get some endorphins going.  What’s not to like?  When I’m frustrated and angry, I like boxing and sparing, but really even a good weight lifting or cardio session will do the trick.

All right, I’m ending the list here.  I was trying to make 10 items and then the ideas kept coming, so I kept going.  By now, you’re probably stressed from the length of this list.  Just take one or two and start getting that stress under control!

I’m off to blow off some steam with some socializing (number 8).

Happy Weekend!

Please Consult Your Physician – Part 2

I saw this video and watched it at That Paleo Guy.  Right now, this video is all over the paleo world and I’m late to the party.  I usually am.  I like to make an entrance.

I know that there are a lot of people cheering about the fact that paleo and primal thinking is slowly infiltrating the medical community.  I’m happy, too.  There is still a long way to go, though, and I think that Dr. Wahls’ story (here and here) highlights the damage that conventional medical knowledge can cause to a person.  In the medical community, we call it iatrogenic problems.

What is striking to me about Dr. Wahls’ story (here and here) is that she is on the faculty of a major medical university and in all likelihood due to her professional standing has access to the best that medicine has to offer in terms of medical interventions.  However, her condition, multiple sclerosis (MS), got progressively worse and not better.  It was only after she did a lot of digging on her own and through “non-medical” sources, that she was able to heal herself.

Now, through her own experiences, she has developed a protocol that is being tested in clinical trials.  Hopefully, the results are promising and will prompt other people in medicine to consider the advice they are giving about eating habits.  I know that the people that I meet and discuss my eating habits with are often skeptical at best.  Usually, they don’t much care.

If you’re like me and hate videos, you might not have even bothered to watch the video at the top.  I encourage you to take 20 minutes and watch the video.  This is paleo eating advice from an M.D.  Not only is it exciting stuff, but it’s good to hear and for those who are out to heal the world, a must watch.

Please Consult Your Physician

I’ve said it myself on my blogs – disclaimers of seeking advice from professionals and not taking my blog words as the gospel – and so does just about everyone else, but I want to say something here.  We, meaning the collective blogging public, put up these type of disclaimers claiming no responsibility for other people’s actions and to consult professionals for mostly legal reasons.  It would be irresponsible not to.  I’m not disagreeing with putting up disclaimers.  In our litigious society you should continue to put up disclaimers.

Yet, I’d like to point out that everyone is of their own free will.  We should be educating people so that they realize that every action they choose or don’t choose in life is a risk that they take for their life and their life alone.  This cannot be blamed on others.  Yet, we all put up this notices that we are not responsible and please consult your professional of choice, most often physicians (at least when we’re talking about health and food).

Physicians have gone to lots and lots of school, carry malpractice insurances that cost more than your house does (this is part jest and part true), and the buck stops with them with just about everything.  Your child isn’t doing well in school?  Off to the doctor for an ADHD evaluation and maybe some medication.  Your nose is running and your eyes itch, off to the doctor again for some allergy medicine.  You need a physical to be cleared to attend work or school or you need a note to be absent?  Again, off to the doctor.  So yes, your doctor is the gatekeeper, the buck stops here, the fountain of knowledge, the healer, the medicine prescriber.

However, I’d like to point something out here.  What if you want to eat primal or paleo and you do the “responsible” thing and consult your physician.  You make that dreaded doctor’s appointment, sit on crinkly paper in an ugly gown, and talk to your doctor about this new “diet” that you want to try.  In the 10 minutes that the doctor has allotted for his/her visit with you, s/he checkes your heart and lungs, ear, nose, and throat, and pushes on your stomach.  Then s/he orders some blood work and when you bring up this “paleo diet,” the doctor either tells you to follow the dietary guidelines set out by the government, tries to nonchalantly disregard your questions, or if you’re lucky, will actually ask you some questions about this eating that you want to embark on.

I have heard that there are physicians out there who are hip to paleo and primal eating habits.  Some even eat that way themselves.  However, most physicians will have no clue about primal or paleo eating habits.  So, should you consult your physician and follow his/her advice if they tell you not to eat paleo or they tell you to follow the U.S. government’s dietary guidelines?

Maybe, the disclaimer/advice to consult your physician is actually a bit misled.  I think it is.  It is your life and I encourage you to think carefully about the choices that you make.  You have to fight for yourself.  Sometimes it’s tiring work.  I think it’s tiring to find physicians who are willing to admit that they don’t know something or who are willing to be challenged by their patients.  Healthcare professionals are more apt to think of patients who don’t follow advice or the norm as weird than they are to take a close look at something that they just don’t have awareness of.

So what I’m telling you in this rambling post is that physicians don’t always know best.  Most of the time they probably do.  They went to a lot of school and training to do what they do.  However, when it comes to being healthy, I would wager to guess that they spent less time learning about maintaining health than they did about what drugs treat what illnesses.  If you ask your doctor about food and food quality, they can probably tell you that fruits and vegetables are good for you, that fish has omega-3 fatty acids, and that saturated fats are bad for you (I’ll tell you a story about this last part in another post.).  Beyond that, most physicians I know are clueless.

Most healthcare professionals that I know and have interacted with eat copious amounts of sugar laden foods, a lot of wheat products, and low fat food products.  They often eat out and most are in the process of trying to lose weight.  Are these people healthy?  Not even close.  Not only is their diet terrible, but their sleep is terrible and their stress levels are through the roof.  Are you going to take their advice about eating?  Or even leading a healthy life?

I’m not saying to argue or even fire your doctor, but I’m asking you to consider the advice that you’re being given and whether it’s wise to just follow advice just because a person has some letters after their name and are called “doctor.”  Your physician is going to know more about things like drugs and diseases than you are.  It’s their job to.  They will have access to and read more technical and scientific literature than you will.  Those are the facts.  However, they will not know everything.  So, please do consult your physician, but in some matters, you might want to take his/her advice with a grain of salt.


Winter Blues

**Disclaimer: The following is just a discussion about what I do and what I think is helpful in regards to maintaining a healthy body.  This is in no way intended to be taken as  medical advice.  Please seek professional advice and opinions – i.e. see your doctor for information and guidance in the matters discussed.**

To me there is nothing worse about winter than the darkness that descends as the days get colder and summer turns into autumn.  In my childhood, I never really understood the concept of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  I mean, who cares!  I was a night owl through and through.  The darkness didn’t really bother me and winter meant snow!

In the last few years, however, the darkness and shortened daylight hours have started to bother me.  Whether it is due to living further north than I have ever lived or due to stress, the shortening hours of daylight, the weaker sunlight, and the colder days seem to prompt an urge to hibernate.  I kid you not that I was ready for bed at 6:30 PM.  I managed to shake myself out of that stupor to cook some food, but I really considered going to sleep.

When I started to feel blue last winter, I decided to take some action against the winter blues.  The following is a list of things that I have tried and my thoughts on each intervention.

    1. Light Therapy – I had considered getting a light therapy box for years, but never took the leap.  When I found one being sold at Costco, I immediately bought myself one and tried it out.  I like my “happy lamp.”  Although I’m not a fan of it’s fluorescent glow (I much prefer my yellow colored halogen and incandescent lights), I think it helps to sit in front of the light during breakfast or while doing some work at my desk.  A friend of mine has one that is an alarm clock that wakes you by gradually getting brighter like a sunrise and she loves it.  I still have yet to invest in an alarm clock one, but it’s something on my wish list.
    2. Outdoor Exercise – Call me crazy, but last year I was outside freezing my butt off running with a friend at the park in all sorts of winter weather – sleet, snow, and ridiculously cold.  You name it, we were running in it.  Now, I’m not telling you to run in dangerously cold weather or in dangerous weather situations (like white out blizzards); we definitely had days that we deemed “too cold.”  However, I recommend trying to make it outside as much as you can.  For one thing it helps combat cabin fever, for another, getting outside keeps you connected to nature.  You get to breathe some fresh air and when we ran in snow, the quiet outside was a nice break from my regular life.  Being outside also means you’re getting some natural light exposure, which is worth getting no matter how little you think it is.  You’d be surprised at how helpful it is to try and get as much outside time in the winter.  The light is much brighter than you think.  So far this “winter,” getting outside has been quite tricky.  The working hours that I’m keeping are preventing me from getting any outside time.  What’s worse is that there are no windows!  Hopefully, this situation will change.
    3. Consider taking vitamins and supplements – Now, I am all for healthy, responsible eating, but sometimes you can’t do it all through food.  The vitamin of concern during the winter at more northerly latitudes is vitamin D (see this fact sheet for more info).  Last year, I bought a bottle of vitamin D supplements to take because I thought that maybe my blues were due to vitamin D deficiency.  Guess what?  I looked at the bottle of my multivitamin and found that I was getting more than enough vitamin D.  So, my recommendations?  First, if you’re worried, be smart and get your vitamin levels checked by your doctor with a blood test.  If you are not really worried, find a good multivitamin and just take that.  Personally, I take a multivitamin, vitamin C, and omega 3 fish oil capsules.  Honestly, I think that smart eating and a regular multivitamin should keep your nutritional bases covered.  (**P.S. Like I said above, none of this is actual medical advice, just a discussion of what I do and what I think is a good idea.  Please be smart and if you have concerns or want to change something up, see your doctor!)
    4. Eat smart – Continue to eat well in the winter months.  Remember your green vegetables and try to eat what’s in season as much as possible.  I find it a little more challenging to eat in the winter.  This is my first year eating paleo during the winter and well, I have been finding the farmer’s market getting sparser and sparser every week and I am getting less and less interested with my food.  However, I am a firm believer that what you put into your body deserves examination.  How you nourish your body will affect how your body feels and functions, so keep that in mind and eat well.
    5. Schedule fun winter activities – I used to love to ice skate.  It’s something I forgot about until someone asked me to go.  I still haven’t gone, but I plan on getting out there this year.  I also want to try snowshoeing.  My favorite winter activity right now is probably snowboarding.  I’m not very good at it and I’m afraid I’ll break something one of these days (most worrisome being my head and/or neck…I wear a helmet all the time and you should, too), but I love to get out there.  Even if I am only getting down the easier slopes.  I’ve got fun, outdoors, and socialization built right in.  Let’s hope I can get some slope time in this year.

Those are all the tips that I have for now.  Give one or two a try (in a responsible way, please!) and add to the list in the comments.  How do you keep your winter from getting you down?