Opinion

A Different Detox

jomo

My friend Christina Crook wrote a book recently. Called The Joy Of Missing Out (or #jomo in today’s world), it’s how to detox from technology overload and how to use technology as it was originally designed for; as a tool.

Aside from being biased, and I’m very proud of her accomplishing this, it’s a fabulous book. She talks from the heart, about personal experience and doesn’t pretend she’s above it all. The addictive nature of technology is something we all struggle with, much like our compulsion with choosing less than nutritious foods; either because they are convenient or because they are tasty. We know better. So why is so hard to break these habits?

There are so many reasons to break away from technology that I think everyone will find something they resonate with in this book. Mine was in Chapter 12, where Christina talks about the effect our constant surfing has on our children. While I am careful with my eating habits in front of my children – because I know how quickly they can pick up my bad habits, I’m not as good with my phone. Yes, I surf Facebook in front of them. Sometimes while they are playing, sometimes when they are watching TV and sometimes – and this is bad – when they are eating. When I spend so much time going on about the importance of conversation and eating together.

Christina talks about the internet being a tool. She herself lived without it for 31 days and during that time, I remember being with a mutual friend and neighbour one day. We, for some reason that escapes me now, needed to get in touch with Christina. My friend went to pick up her phone to text her, put it down again and sighed as she realized she couldn’t get through the usual way. We are so used to it! It’s quick and easy but there is no actual contact. How many times have you received a message and you have no idea what the person is really trying to say? Words don’t have expression and it’s impossible to read a person simply from a text message. Are they angry? Are they joking? What are they really trying to say? You wouldn’t get this with a telephone conversation.
What Christina really conveys about her journey through 31 days tech-free is that it’s pretty much unsustainable in today’s world to be without the internet. Filing a story she wrote to being included in social events were all bigger hurdles. Never mind the day-to-day things we take for granted; such as looking up a phone number or business or even checking the weather. Everything is online. I take my hat off to her; I couldn’t do it.

What I will try to do, however, is one of her suggestions. Take myself off Facebook for a week. That’s is really my biggest time waster. I’ve already deleted the app from my phone along with a bunch of others that I can’t even remember loading in the first place and I resolve not to put it back. I’ll keep others I love such as Instagram and Twitter that are designed for phones and I won’t access on my laptop. I need to keep Gmail on my phone because as a stay at home mum I need the flexibility to work elsewhere. From the book, Christina has helped me identify my weaknesses and taught me how to use these devices as tools and I believe what I’m doing will work.

Yesterday, as I was close to the end of the book, I left my phone and laptop upstairs and I went downstairs to the basement to play with my younger daughter. Normally, I would keep my phone within earshot and as soon as it dinged, I would reach for it. No matter what my daughter was doing. Always one eye out; she rarely has my absolute full attention. Yesterday, she did. And we had a great time. Puzzles were the game of choice and it’s amazing how her mood changed when I concentrated fully on her. Later, when I needed to do something for myself, I felt no guilt about her playing alone and she went along with that happily. It was a good day.

So here I go; embarking on a healthier way to use the devices I have without switching them off altogether. First off, a week without Facebook to break the habit of checking it way more than I really need leaves me time for other things.

And since March is Nutrition Month, I will use that time to bring you new recipes; something I’ve been neglecting. And of course, more puzzles with my 3 year old. Because she’s way cooler than Facebook.

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My Neglected Blog

I’m a touch horrified to discover it’s been over 2 months since I last posted here. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking of it or even that I haven’t been composing posts in my head, it’s just …. simply …. been ….. nuts. The summer flew by and was filled with much socializing but also by the fact that both of my children were home with me. All Day. Every Day. All Summer.

It was a time to focus on them and that I did. I also enjoyed myself immensely knowing that there were 2 ways of going into this; either with extreme trepidation that I would end up certifiably insane after spending that much time with them, or; with the attitude of not being able to beat them, therefore I might as well join them. (That might have been a poor choice of phrase!).

So, with mindfulness, I discovered a whole new side of me. A side that could let the small things slide and I could get out and enjoy the moment. I’m actually proud of how long I was able to let the cleaning go in my house because that is something that I don’t let go off easily. The winter was long and the summer felt short so I was going to make the most of it.

Ironically, after all that focus, the time now I am enjoying just as much. These strong fall days are spectacular. The already stunning colours, the blue September sky and the warm weather (but cool nights) are just about perfect. I wish it could last forever.

Now I’m done blaming the weather for my neglect, let’s get back to business. The most exciting piece of news I read while I was galavanting around was some damaging news on artificial sweeteners. Everyone loves bad news for their enemy and artificial sweeteners are my #1 sworn enemy. Now there is scientific proof that artificial sweeteners are doing exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to.

A study has found that the replacement for sugar, artificial sweeteners, might be making a problem that they were designed to prevent, actually worse. The results found that volunteers (and mice) had increased blood sugar levels which is a marker for a higher risk of diabetes. The effect seems to be concentrated in the gut bacteria. Like sugar, artificial sweeteners appear to increase the “bad” bacteria in the gut which kills off the good bacteria and compromises the immune system.

Artificial sweeteners have been a source of controversy for many years. I have written about them a few times mainly in respect to weight. This link to the post Deceptive Labeling: Which Sugar? includes a list of which brands falls under the “artificial sweetener” umbrella. I would love to see this “food” banned altogether, this is a small step in the right direction.

In the end, it all goes back to the same thing. Let’s ditch the magical replacements for those deemed foods”unhealthy”, such as butter and sugar and instead focus on creating ourselves a diet that includes all the whole foods we’ve been eating for centuries but in realistic proportions. A diet that doesn’t have room for chemicals.

And while we clear out all those chemicals and get back to nature, make sure you get out in the next few days to enjoy the stunning weather.

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A Vent on Serving Sizes

I’m reading about the FDA’s plan to change serving sizes listed on the nutritional profile panels of packaged foods. The initial reaction is …. good. It’s about time they updated those 20 year guidelines and got with the times. Nobody actually eats the old serving sizes.

Image provided by gizmodo.com

Image provided by gizmodo.com

When we look at the nutritional panel, we can see the actual calories (fat, sugar, sodium etc) rather than be convinced that we aren’t eating as much as we really are.

But I’m not sure this is actually a good thing. When I first came to Canada, I remember looking around and thinking “Well, if they eat that much and look bigger, it’s ok for me to do that too”. No, it’s not! We aren’t sheep and we should be working to raise the bar on health, not bringing it further down.

Awareness on actual intake is definitely a good thing but much like house prices, perhaps we’ll just get used to consuming 400 calories in one coffee drink. If that becomes the norm and accepted, then we really are in trouble.

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Image provided by Ergonomics Plus

Instead, how about going back to packaging the food in smaller containers? Instead of making a serving size of pop 20oz, let’s put them back in the old 8oz bottle. Or move back to calling a small size an actual small size. I went out for ice cream last night and ordered a small gelato. Which wasn’t gelato, it was ice cream but that’s another story. I swear I ended up with about a half tub of Haagen Daz sized container on a waffle cone. It was so good I had trouble stopping but eventually did let the last part go to my husband who complained his stomach hurt after eating his “small” and the rest of mine.

If I ask for a small, is it possible to actually get a small?

ice cream

Image provided by Health.com

And here’s a really crazy idea. Eating whole foods that don’t even come in containers. Fruits, greens, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. You know the things that actually keep us healthy throughout our lives.

 

 

Why I Love the Seasons

Cycling through my favourite trail this morning, I was overjoyed to see the trees and plants in full bloom at last. To have my cycle path back and to be free of a multitude of layers of clothing.

Spring Cycle Path

 

Maybe one of the reasons I was so happy to be here and see this is the fact that it’s been so long since I have seen it. Oh, so very, very long. Initially I was excited about the upcoming winter and a season of Christmas, snow, skiing, skating and cosy nights but it went on too long and was a touch too cold. The snow is great, the ice …. not so much. Asides from skating, it’s more of a hazard than anything else. So I’m ready to break out the summer gear and embrace the change.

Spring, once it kicks in, has to be the best time. Long evenings and cooler temperatures are perfect. And after all, we do need a little transition from the extreme cold to the extreme heat!

My brother and his family moved to Singapore just over a year ago. Since they’ve been there, every day has been the same. Initially I was envious of them in shorts every day, swimming and hot temperatures. But as time went on, I find myself less envious. I know I would tire of the humidity, the constant heat and the monotony of the same weather. God grief, what would we talk about if we didn’t have the weather fluctuations?!

Now, I’ll enjoy reading on the porch, yoga on the back deck, cycling on the paths and above all, built in entertainment for my kids at the playground. Happy Spring everyone!!

 

 

Fighting the GMOs

About a year ago, I posted about GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) and how prevalent they are in processed foods. Since then, the awareness of GMO’s keeps increasing and there is starting to be a strong mainstream opposition to them.

You can read the background of GMO’s as well as the concerns in this post “Eating GMO’s”.

Recently, the GMO opposition celebrated a victory when Vermont approved a bill to enforce all products to contain labels alerting consumers that their product contains GMO ingredients. The enforcement date is set to begin July 2016. I feel like we are in an crucial hockey game where we are up 1 goal but the game isn’t over yet. Why? Because the biotech firms, specifically Monsanto and DuPont, are so incredibly rich that they can fight this bill to whatever extent they want to. Vermont is doing a valiant thing, taking them on with their taxpayers money. It has been reported that they have put aside $1.5million for legal costs in the anticipated legal case but it may not be enough.

These companies are so powerful that they can override even the best intentions.

Hence the reason I write and report this fight. It’s a fight we have to win. As an advocate of natural foods, there is nothing natural about GMOs and they will convert the natural foods we eat. Eventually there won’t be any whole foods left and we will be at the mercy of the Food Industry entirely.

I will keep you posted on this progress. Go Vermont!!

A food guide worth following

I’m a little late on this piece of news but it’s not because I don’t think it’s incredibly inspiring.

You may, or may not, have heard that Brazil recently revamped it’s Food Guide. In a totally revolutionary way because it top lines general guidelines that everybody can follow instead of specific numbers, portion size and food groups that Food Guides traditionally outline. The main focus is on socialization and the art of preparing meals in the home. As people work longer hours and spend more time away from home, there is less emphasis on whole foods and more emphasis on ready-prepared meals.

There is no question that we suffer from this in Canada, probably even more so than Brazil. It wouldn’t hurt us to reach for our own Food Guide. So why don’t we? Because it spends so much energy addressing the needs of all Canadians, that it results in not addressing anybody. Our vast range of ethnicities, customs and activity levels mean very different diets in themselves. Not to mention the vast landscape of our country that result in different climates and versions of what “local” might mean. Finally, the different diets that are available now mean no two families eat the same any more. We’re in a state of total confusion and our current Food Guide doesn’t give us any reprieve from that confusion.

Canada’s Food Guide is not something I discuss often with Clients. In fact, I would go as far to say that I rarely bring it up with them. Instead, I guide them towards a healthier attitude to food, focusing on whole foods, eating as a family and being mindful around food. Precisely what the Brazilians top line in their new food guide. I totally salute their approach. The details are still available should you wish to read the full 87 page report (you’d have to speak Portuguese though, it’s not yet available in English) but these 10 points are the main focus for the everyday person:

  1. Prepare meals from staple and fresh foods.
  2. Use oils, fats, sugar and salt in moderation.
  3. Limit consumption of ready-to-consume food and drink products
  4. Eat regular meals, paying attention, and in appropriate environments.
  5. Eat in company whenever possible.
  6. Buy food at places that offer varieties of fresh foods. Avoid those that mainly sell products ready for consumption.
  7. Develop, practice, share and enjoy your skills in food preparation and cooking.
  8. Plan your time to give meals and eating proper time and space.
  9. When you eat out, choose restaurants that serve freshly made dishes and meals. Avoid fast food chains.
  10. Be critical of the commercial advertisement of food products.

In this list, Brazil is clearly addressing the lifestyle that their citizens are adopting. Brazil recognizes that we are rapidly losing a vital life skill and is working hard to reestablish that before its lost forever.

Excellent job Brazil. We can learn a lot from you.

Home is where the heart is

A few days ago, I had a strange visitor. As I was cleaning up the Christmas decorations, I noticed an older man standing on the curb looking, no, staring, at my house.

I asked if I could help him. He told me he was reminiscing. That his grandmother used to live in my house and he spent a lot of time in it while he was growing up. He told me a little about the house in his day, about 50 years ago, and after a while, I invited him into the hallway to see what it was like today.

Crossing the threshold, tears welled up in his eyes and rolled down his face. He was suddenly taken back in time and for a few moments, the house no longer belonged to me but to his tiny Scottish grandmother, the lady that lived here and cooked up huge family meals in the main room for so many years. The house’s original features came to life as he told stories of the family that lived here, the renovated parts, such as the kitchen, melted away. As if I didn’t love my house before, I loved it even more after he left leaving his best wishes that we accumulate as many happy memories in this house as his family did.

We have lived here for almost 3 years and it’s only recently that it’s truly felt like home. It was a difficult transition coming here. We moved only a few months after living overseas and I had been craving my own home back for much of the time we were away. Suddenly after being back in the house I longed for, we sold it and moved here. Then 5 days later, my youngest daughter was born arriving almost a month earlier than we had been expecting her. The emotional upheaval of being away, moving to a new and unfamiliar neighbourhood, giving birth and then dealing with a baby who would rather scream than sleep at night sent me into a form of postpartum depression. It was an extremely tough time, a period of our lives that would continue for the next year and a half.

But after time, the baby settled down, I recovered and we finally were able to look at our surroundings. We couldn’t have moved anywhere better. The neighbourhood and community around us is a part of what makes this home so special, we have something unique in the city and we are so fortunate. But the house itself has a warm, inviting feel and I know now that is thanks to it’s history and the happy memories contained in it’s walls.

For a while, when asked where I lived and I answered, I was very often told “oh, you live in so-and-so’s house” To the extent, I would use this as a description of where I lived. Eventually, I realized, that this was wrong. It wasn’t their house anymore, it was mine. It’s taken time but the effort (from everybody) to make it our home was worth every step.

“There’s no place like home”.