Importance

The topic of nutrition has been brewing in my mind for the past couple of weeks, and then today’s one word prompt of Healthy popped up. Last night I was watching the documentary Sugar Coated on Netflix.  And in church this morning, part of the sermon addressed time; that which we deem important we will make time for.

In the documentary, a clip of teens attending an obesity conference in Canada are depicted. They are from the “fattest city in America.” Guess what city?

Corpus Christi, TX.

My jaw dropped. We are currently stationed here in Corpus. And while my jaw dropped, I didn’t find it altogether surprising. As a fitness professional – I see it every single day. The title of “fattest city,” which surely no one is aiming for, was announced in 2010 in Men’s Health magazine. Reading a Houston Chronicle article about the unwanted title, city officials were quick to point out that since that time, there have been numerous efforts put into place to shake the moniker. Things like bike trails and lanes, pedestrian paths and fun runs. What struck me was that food wasn’t addressed in the pursuit of health. Diabetes rates are TWICE the national average here. Corpus is the birthplace of Whataburger. I also discovered that we have more fast food restaurants per capita than anywhere else. I did an experiment last year when I drove from my house to the local grocery store – a distance of 2 miles. I counted the fast food restaurants. There were 17. SEVENTEEN in 2 miles! That’s insane!

While Corpus may be the extreme –  it’s not just a problem here. It’s everywhere. It’s the fitness industry as a whole. Social media abounds with the basic message: “Overweight? Move more.” Memes that give caloric equivalents to sugary, junk and processed foods. Eat a cake? No problem! Just do 127 burpees and you’ll be fine. (No, you won’t.) Doesn’t anybody find it curious that during the first years in office, First Lady Michelle Obama’s nutrition campaign was quickly shifted over to “Let’s Move!” It is a focus on the movement instead of the food we are putting into our bodies. And it’s a problem.

Food is a big deal. It’s a bigger deal than people realize. It’s a bigger deal than I realized, getting my own wake up call discovering that I was pre diabetic. If you are pursuing a healthy life or trying to lose weight, nutrition is the flip side of the fitness coin. You cannot pursue one successfully without the other.  But the deck is often stacked. The food industry is for profit. The more product people buy, the more money they make. It makes perfect business sense to create products as palatable, even addictive, as possible. It gets us to buy more. Making money is not a problem. Doing so at the expense of an unknowing population is wrong.

What I find when I work with clients, when I watch television and notice advertisements, we are inundated with the message, “There’s never enough time.”

This commercial from KFC is a classic example. Our culture worships busy. We are important because we are busy. It means we have a life. It means we are successful. It means we just simply can’t be bothered to cook. We have to run our precious darlings to football practice, and soccer practice, and dance recitals and swim lessons and on and on and on. A junior high football practice can run for 3 hours! 4-7pm. Right through dinner! When the heck are these kids supposed to eat? Do homework? Have down time? “Oh we make it work,” say parents who regularly run ragged around family members’ insane schedules. Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy? Do you honestly think your kid is going to play in the NBA? (Or MLB, or NFL, etc.)

For this past year I’ve been working one on one with clients, not only do I get looked at like I have two heads when I say “Our family doesn’t eat out very often. We cut out fast food entirely,” but a recurring theme surfaces over and over.
“I’m too busy.”

“Cooking is boring.”

“It’s hard.”

“I don’t know how.”

We don’t know what we don’t know. I’m grateful when clients ask questions. I love it when people realize that the food industry really doesn’t have your health in mind when designing food-like products. It’s a learning curve that isn’t going to right itself overnight.

Here’s the thing, if we are too busy to prepare food to feed ourselves, perhaps we are just too damn busy. 

If we are too busy to teach our children basic life skills such as feeding themselves, then perhaps we are too damn busy.

It’s time to slow down. It’s time to take stock of what is REALLY important. The day has enough hours. We get 24. Make time to cook. Learn what is REALLY in your food. Ignore the front of any package. Go straight to the back and look at (and read) the ingredients. Are they whole food ingredients that you would have in your kitchen? If not, put it back on the shelf!

The more real food we consume (and eliminate the crap), the less health issues we will face in the long term. The more real food we demand of the food industry, the more real food will be provided. Like it or not, they will go after the money.

Vote with your grocery dollar, because the food industry is listening. Vote with your time – what is really important?

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Food Rant: The No Time Myth

Disclaimer: As Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.” Before I get contrary comments, I’m coming out right now and saying that in terms of health and nutrition, there are situational exceptions. Not everyone has had the opportunity to learn these things, factors involving poverty, homelessness, etc. that I am not addressing here. I’m talking to the majority of us who haven’t taken the time to really be conscious of what we are feeding ourselves and our families, were taught but got lazy, or are tired of feeling like crap from eating food out of packages day in and day out.

When it comes to food and meal preparation, it’s no mystery that ours is a culture that prizes convenience. In the documentary Fresh, the quote is that Americans fear nothing but being inconvenienced. In my own experience and observations it rings true. (Even when it comes to other matters, such as a slow internet connection, or traffic lights, we get disproportionately upset by delays and frustrations.)

Here’s my theory: When it comes to food, we’ve been fed the line that “we are so busy,” that we “deserve a break today,” and that cooking from scratch is really hard, labor intensive, and time consuming. We just don’t have time to cook. I call a big fat B.S. If people really thought about it, or were taught how to cook, it wouldn’t be such a daunting task, and more importantly, we would be less apt to buy into the idea that we are just too busy. We’d know better.

Here are a couple of real world examples:

Old Fashioned Oats vs. Instant Oatmeal in a packet (with fruit flavoring, usually)

First off, tearing off the packet, pouring water in a bowl and nuking it in the microwave, takes all of 1 minute, plus 1 more minute of standing/cooling. Old Fashioned oats? They take all of 5 minutes. You’re saving a whopping 3 minutes. Seriously? Boiling water or heating milk and adding some old fashioned oats is super easy, and tastes better. Top with fresh fruit instead of fruit-like flavors made of who knows what. If you need a little sweetness, add some honey, cinnamon, or even a bit of brown sugar. It’s tasty, it fills you up with lasting energy (with no crash later), and it takes 5 minutes. Don’t tell me you don’t have 5 minutes in the morning. Drop the drive through Starbucks coffee and you have more than 5 minutes.

And if that wasn’t enough, check out the ingredients in the apple cinnamon instant oatmeal packet:

Oatmeal Ingredients

First off, sugar is the second ingredient! (the higher up on the list an ingredient is, the more of it there is in the package). Creaming agent? What the heck? Gross! Partially hydrogenated anything – you don’t want! Partially hydrogenated=trans fats. And you’ll notice they put a little note at the bottom that says it adds “an insignificant amount of trans fats”. These man-made chemical nasties in any amount are not good. Peach flavor? I thought this was supposed to be apples and cinnamon. Bottom line: if they aren’t ingredients you wouldn’t cook with in your own kitchen, chances are they aren’t that great for you. Put ’em back and grab the old fashioned oats. They’re better for you, they’re customizable, and no nasty ingredients!

Macaroni and Cheese – the blue box vs. homemade

Boil water, cook the noodles, add orange powder, a bit of milk and some butter. Stir. Boiling water takes a few minutes. (If you’re really cool and have a high-tech stove, it can be as little as 90 seconds!) Start with hot tap water and it takes less time. But making homemade mac and cheese takes THE EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF TIME. You aren’t saving any time by buying the blue box. And in fact, based on these crap ingredients, are losing big time in terms of health:

Kraft-Mac-ingredients

That list is HUGE! What is interesting is that currently, Kraft uses dyes (yellow 5 and 6) that have been shown to cause behavior issues with kids. (What’s shocking is that our kids aren’t glowing after eating the stuff! It’s nearly neon!) This stuff is really bad news. The same stuff sold in the U.K., not so much. Why? Why don’t we care about what we eat? Want to know how to make homemade macaroni and cheese? It’s easy! Boil the water, add noodles (buy whatever shape you like!), cook and drain. To the warm pot, add 1-2 tbls of butter, 1/4-1/2 cup of milk, shredded cheddar cheese and the drained noodles. Stir! Yum! Easy! (If you want go for the gold, you can even pop it in the oven for 5 minutes on 400 or broil with a little shredded cheese on top and panko bread crumbs for crunch!) Add in some diced lean ham or turkey and some broccoli for a complete meal. It’s really just not that hard!

Many convenience foods are like this. You can make them yourself at home, for about the same amount of time, but more nutritious and without ingredient lists that read like a chemistry text book. This doesn’t just apply to stay at home parents. Growing up, I know I was fortunate to have parents who cooked at home nearly every night. But you know what? They both worked full time. (For many years, they both worked multiple jobs, but still managed to put a meal together.) Again, it’s not just for the stay at home parents. Eating real food can be done. Don’t buy the lie that we are all just too busy. If we are too busy to eat – we’re too dang busy! Feeding ourselves is a life skill. We have to eat to survive!

 In my research, I came across a yahoo question from what I can only assume was young person (early teens, I’m guessing) preparing a meal for a 6 year old sibling. The question was, “How do I make oatmeal?” I’m not sure what I was more shocked at, the fact that he or she was unable to read the directions (again, I’m assuming this was a teenager), or the fact that he or she hasn’t been taught how to cook. Even if I hadn’t been taught how to cook at home, which I was, I learned quite a bit in my home economics class in school as well. How are we not teaching people to feed themselves? Am I alone in thinking this is crazy?! Most of us eat everyday, how do we not know how to prepare it for ourselves? It starts with us as parents. We need to teach our kids how to cook. We do them no favors by doing everything for them, or buying it out of a box or a drive through window. 

Thoughts?

An Experiment

I’ve noticed lately that more often than not, I am saying “No.” to the kids. All the time. Or I’m saying “not right now”, “later”, “in a minute”, etc. I don’t want to be that mom. The negative mom that you hear in the store that sounds angry, hurried and just bothered by being a parent.

So I am conducting an experiment: I am going to say “Yes.” All day long. (With the obvious caveat that if they want to hurt each other or go play in traffic, that’s gonna be a no.) But to say yes, and really really do it. Jacob wants a piggy back ride – YES! Hannah wants to play dollhouse? Sure!! Do they really care about the pile of dishes in the sink? They don’t care about my “to-do” list. They just want me. And that’s pretty cool.

To engage and eliminate those negative, not now, maybe laters that never come, and work on being a Yes Mom!

Today that is my aim.

(And get in a run if there is time!)

Time to play….

IMG_3012

Recalibrating

Since June, it’s been a bit bumpy and lumpy around our house. We’ve (I) have been a bit lopsided. This is due to many things, including the following:

*Deployment (duh!) The kids have good days and bad days but 5 months into this – the novelty for all of us has definitely expired!

*Fall/Winter: the “idea” of seasons is great. It brings up feelings of nostalgia and the holidays. Picturesque ideals of the family sipping cocoa around a fireplace after raking the leaves come to my mind. The reality – not so much. I hate the cold. (And since losing weight, I’m cold ALL THE TIME!) I really dislike the “dark at 4:30pm” thing, too. Between living in Pensacola and Hawaii, living in a colder climate has lost all appeal to me. Ive become a weather weinee! All I want to do is sleep and eat casseroles. I don’t. But I want to.

*The kids adjusting: between Jake starting preschool, doctors appointments, dentist appointments, fitting in a race here and there, keeping up with bootcamp workouts, family and friends, etc., it feels like a lot much of the time.

A few weeks ago, I decided to take a step back and recalibrate. 6 days a week of “something to do” is just too much for my kidlets. It would work for me, if it was just me. Staying busy helps during a deployment. But they are tired. It’s time for us to take a pause.

Breathe.

Be.

I started doing my workouts in the evening when the kids are in bed. Some days it’s difficult to walk back down those stairs and get to work when it would be so much easier to just go crawl in bed. But I have yet to regret a workout!

I also got a “blue light”. (Not the KMart variety.) It’s made by Phillips and helps with vitamin D production and the effects of SAD or the “winter blues”. Everyone I’ve talked to raved about how well they work. I have to agree. Although I would much rather experience the real thing, my little blue light does help!

I’ve taken a break from the routine. Just because its on the calendar doesn’t mean we HAVE to do it. Sometimes I struggle with this, as if I have to entertain the kidlets all the time. I think there is this “hurry hurry – go go go” feeling lately (and always during the holidays) between “workout!” “Get fit!” “Eat this!” “Don’t eat that!” “Make this Pinterest craft!!” “Post that to Facebook!” “Be The best parent by next Tuesday!!!!” “Save the Earth in 543 easy steps!” “Do 78 things simultaneously all while cooking dinner, looking fabulous, and have that smile on your face!”

It exhausts me.

I get caught up in “I should be doing this… or that” instead of just focusing on what I’m doing right here. Right now. In this moment.

Recalibrating. Focusing on what really matters, being in a thankful, quiet, sort of mindset with a minimal amount of “busy” is very appealing, particularly at this time of the year.

What do you do to recalibrate or reset life?

Square Peg in a Round Hole

Some days (weeks, months) are just like that. Disjointed, out of whack, trying too hard to get my to-do list checked off, bull-in-china-shop yuckiness. Like cramming a square peg into a round hole. And when the dust of the day starts to settle, all three of us pay for it with crabby Patty attitudes, tantrums and tears.

I’m sitting in the car with a sleeping two year old while the almost 4-year old is at preschool. All I want to do is shop for his birthday presents (without him being present!) Sitting in the quiet moment with this precious baby girl softly snoring, all I can think of is that dang to-do list as I mentally check off all the things I COULD be doing.

Then I stop. She isn’t going to want to sleep on me before too long. I AM doing something in this moment. I may not be spinning my wheels looking busy, but I am doing something. Something good. Something that matters.

As a type-A, production-oriented person, I have to constantly remind myself that just because I have fewer tangible items on that list with less visible “results”, it by no means equates with doing “nothing”.

I am mothering. And that is what I am striving to keep at the top of that list.

Love, Expressed

For about half of our marriage, Eric and I do this thing where I ask him the following question:

“Why do you love me?”

He responds by saying:

“I love Lori because…., by Eric. I love Lori because…….” and then lists for that day and whatever may be going on between us. And then we switch and I do “I love Eric because…., by Lori”. So mine might be something like this:

I love Eric because he loves our kids. I love Eric because he loves chocolate chip cookies (and makes them better than I do!). I love Eric because he did the dishes last night just because….etc.etc..
You get the idea. Some days the lists are long, some days its just one or two things. This is one of our corny little “us” things that we do to say more than just “I love you”. Sometimes those three little words can be said without much thought, more out of habit, much like the way we ask someone “How are you doing?” with not really wanting an answer of any depth. “Oh Good, and you?” And then that’s the extent of it.
By listing specifics, I’ve found that it gives me clues as to what Eric values, such as my time, my doing odd jobs or projects that save him time, making his favorite meal, etc. It’s love, expressed. And done so in a very specific and tangible way. And who doesn’t love to hear why they are loved and delighted in?

I’ve started doing it with the kids, too and they LOVE it. They devour it, and ask for more when I’m done. I decided to do it with both of them at dinner the other night. Not only was it great conversation, (because seriously, they are 2 and 4 – the conversation can be lacking at times!) but it was a great way to get them to sit at the table and eat just a bit longer than they would have otherwise. It was a side benefit I never saw coming! After our “I love Jacob because…by Mommy,” and “I love Hannah because…by Mommy,” they then launched into “We love Mommy because….” And my heart, much like the Grinch, grew three sizes! I love these kinds of mommy moments.

While doing the dishes after our corny love-fest dinner, I was reflecting on their responses of why they love each other, but more importantly, what do I want my kids to know? If they learn nothing else from me, what 1 or 2 things do I hope they take away from me as their Mom? And as it usually happens, that 1 or 2 items eventually grew to become more of a list.

So here it is. If they learn nothing else about life from me, I hope they know this:

How to love, and express it. Know that love is a verb, an action word. It’s a decision everyday to care about someone even when you don’t “feel” the feelings all the time.

To have faith. Through trying times, tragedies, and just life – faith is what gets you through. It’s what gets me through. I honestly don’t know how people get through the rough stuff of life without faith.

How to have a sense of humor and laugh. And be able to laugh at themselves. With faith – a sense of humor can carry you through rough stuff as well! That and it’s just good for your soul. And your face!

How to develop a lifetime love of learning and reading. As Dr. Suess said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” We recently got a library card and I’ve taken the kids a few times now and I hope they love it as much as I do. The library system in our country is one example of how knowledge and education really is within EVERYONE’S grasp, regardless of race, socio-economic status, religion or any other category, so long as there is a willingness to learn.

To choose a spouse wisely. This one decision can be 90% of your misery or happiness for a bulk of your lifetime – choose carefully.

That what you do, matters. Little things like the way you treat people, your occupation, your diet, to exercise or not, all of it. It ALL matters. It all has far reaching consequences even when it seems that you are the only one a choice is affecting.

To not be afraid. To not be afraid to be themselves. So what if not everyone likes you? That’s ok. Be who you are. Be transparent and open. You’ll know better who your real friends are and it is much less exhausting keeping up with a fake version of yourself.

That’s my list….anything you would add?

Amputation Part III

Well, I did it…..I cut off the cable.

This decision has been something that has been brewing for a few years. In fact, some 5 or 6 years ago, Eric and I started discussing our television viewing habits. We started small by removing the television from our bedroom. It wasn’t like we felt we were “bad” or that we think that television is “evil” or whatever. This isn’t a judgement thing. Just an “our” thing.

We noticed that with the television in our bedroom, more often than not, one or both of us were falling asleep to a show or the news. We would watch our favorites, but then find ourselves not talking to each other. This is not to say that we were in a bad place in our marriage, or that we weren’t communicating. It just seemed like a bedroom should be a place to rest, have peace, and have the ability to lock the world out. The world will still be waiting when we walk out the door tomorrow. So we did.

And I think I can speak for the both of us when I say we really haven’t missed it. What we discovered is that those evening conversations (especially since having kids) are some of the best moments of our day as we relate funny things the kids have done, highlights from our days, and just some time to have a conversation without the kids – even if they are the topic! The other thing we discovered was that we slept much better. (Many studies actually support this.)

I have lived without cable before I was married and didn’t really miss it. We have had cable all 13 years we have been married. I do love television. I LOVE a great movie, a funny show – and for those of you that know me well, I can still quote lines (entire scenes) from the sitcom, “Friends”. I grew up with The Cosby’s. I remember when we got our first VCR and as a family watched All My Children FOR YEARS! As a teen, I had a television in my room – AND LOVED IT! I would watch In Living Color and Saturday Night Live each week. As a couple we have loved shows like CSI, Law and Order, and The Office. But after becoming parents, something shifted. It’s hard to watch some shows for various reasons when little eyes and ears are becoming more and more aware.

There is a part of me that will definitely miss it.  This may very well be a temporary amputation….my husband is on deployment. He has promised to “discuss” it when he returns. He has had ESPN forever and I think that is what has held him back from making this amputation sooner. There are also other options, like Netflix, Hulu, and others that may be good alternatives (which will most likely be much cheaper.)

My main reason for the final cut is time. While Eric is deployed, I find I’m spending my alone time in the evenings watching various shows that I’ve recorded. It’s enjoyable, and it passes the time. But really, do I need to watch 2-3 hours of television a day? Not really. Is it doing me any good? Not really. Are there other things I could be doing? Of course. And while I did attempt to quit Facebook (numerous times, don’t laugh – it sucks me back every. single. time.) and even attempted to amputate my iPhone! I feel like this little experiment is a step in that same direction (even though the iPhone experiment didn’t go as I’d planned – I was able to cut out a lot of the time I was wasting on it.)

In addition, with Eric gone, I find I am relying too much on the television for the kiddos. Yes, Jake likes cartoons. Hannah loves them also. But do they really need to watch so much of them? Of course not. I have a feeling there are going to be moments (hours, days, weeks) that I’m going to feel like this wasn’t such a great idea, but over the long haul, I think the kids and I both will be better off. Not to mention not watching all the ads. Jake has just recently become very aware of commercials directed toward kids…”I want that Mama!” “Oooh! Can we go buy that?!” Yeah, I don’t need any “help” in that area!

So I did it. Today I cut off the cable. I have a feeling that after a while I’m not going to miss it. And I’m probably going to get a lot more done!

Have you ever considered cutting out cable, Internet or cell phone use? Were you successful? Other thoughts?