Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Some thoughts on Chinese Food Therapy

Halloween is here. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And then it's on to Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.  No matter what or how you celebrate, one thing is universally true: we have entered The Food Months.  And I'm not talking about fresh, healthy, whole foods. I am talking about those familiar sweet, high fat, high carb, low fiber foods that beckon to us until we finally give in.  Over and over and over again.  Until January 1st, when we land on the couch in a pile of bloated exhaustion, vowing to "eat better, do better, be better" ... starting tomorrow.

But what is it about the availability of so many foods that tempts us, then promises to satisfy us, then fails to sustain us until they tempt us once again?   Well, there are as many theories as there are foods, of course, but Chinese food therapy is one that actually makes sense to me.

Chinese food therapy is based on the idea that foods generally fall into two main categories: Yang foods, which heat the body, and Yin foods, that have a chilling effect. When we consume equal and reasonable amounts of Yin and Yang foods, the body achieves its natural state of balance, while an excess or restriction of either category leads to an imbalance of natural "heat" and "cold" in the body that can lead to and/or exacerbate disease.

One of the first signs of hot/cold imbalance often appears in the form of a craving. A sugar craving, for example, is not always about a lack of willpower. In fact, a sugar craving (or worse, a sugar addiction) can be - and most likely is - evidence of yang food overload ... and not enough yin. And why? Because sugar is a Yin food. But guess what? It isn't the only one. So while many of us run to cookies and candy to satisfy our perceived "sugar needs" only to find that we feel bloated, nauseus, and needing more sugar a mere ten minutes later, a serving of healthy Yin foods would likely satisfy our physiological needs without the compounding the sugar toxicity and further tipping the Yin/Yang imbalance.

The Yin/Yang diet is grounded in macrobiotic concepts, as shown in the chart below. Although we need 1/3 yang food to 2/3 yin food, the typical American diet is primarily Yang food-based: meat, potatoes, cheese, and wine, for example with minimal Yin foods.  Not too hard to see where the imbalances are coming from or why we turn to the fastest acting Yin foods when the imbalance becomes unmanageable.

Not only a form of nourishment and weight management, food in Chinese culture is also medicinal. Understanding the Yin/Yang food concept is essential for treating "hot" conditions such as Eczema, where garlic, chilies and potatoes may best be avoided. In the same way, it is believed that an over consumption of too many hot foods like " foods like peanuts or smoked fish could cause a rash, whereas too many grapes or bean sprouts could cause digestive problems.

Does any of this ring true for you?  Are you a heavy Yin food eater?  Or do you consume a diet of mostly Yang foods?  If you're considering a holistic approach to diet and healing, give the above list a try and see what happens.  Whether your cravings or rashes disappear, whether your energy or sleep improves, and use how you feel as your measure of success.

Just some food for thought. And balance.

Til next time,
~ Hasky

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

~ Another Wordless Wednesday ~

Happy Wednesday!  

And welcome to your weekly opportunity to do all the talking.

Use the image below to talk about absolutely anything that comes to mind. 

Until next Wednesday,
~ Hasky

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday Post

Happy Wednesday!  

And welcome to your weekly opportunity to do all the talking.

Use the image below to talk about absolutely anything that comes to mind.  

Until next Wednesday,
~ Hasky

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

You shouldn't have to work to be happy. Or should you?

If you do nothing else for yourself today, commit to challenging - and getting out of the way of - those self-limiting stories of the past that you allow yourself to repeat and believe in.

Step 1: Figure out how theses stories are serving you even as they restrict you.  Because even when we engage in self-limiting (and in many cases self-destructive) behavior, we generally think there is something "in it" for us.  Something that is protecting us, comforting us, saving us from pain and sadness and illness and failure.

So, how do you identify one of these little (or big) self-saboteurs?  I've found that they tend to have a few common elements:
  • They often begin with phrases like
    • I always
    • I never
    • I can't
    • I have to/I must
    • I should/I shouldn't
    • I need
    • I won't
    • I don't
  • We often feel a sense of discomfort even as we are engaging in them, a sort of "I know I shouldn't eat this food" or "I always end up in self-destructive relationships."  Yet we pursue them anyway.  Because there is some thing that we believe we are getting from them.  Think about that. See if you can identify a few of these "faux rewards" and think about other, less self-limiting ways to achieve them (without what you have come to see as "just the price I pay for happiness.")
A few more tips and tricks:

Most of us have people in our lives who are willing - and often eager - to share their opinions about all the "unhealthy/destructive/incorrect" things we do, from our choice in careers and partners to where and how we live.  But think about the people in your life whose opinions you trust, who seem like sound, reasonable friends/family members, and (here's the catch) who don't routinely offer unsolicited opinions or advice, but who are generally willing to share their thoughts when asked (and who don't use the "You always/You never/You can't/You have to" phrases in the process.) Certainly don't act on their advice, no matter how well-intentioned, but listen to it.  Log it.  Refer to it often as you examine some of your choices and behaviors.  Don't have people like this in your life?  What about spiritual leaders, writers, historical figures whose lives appeal to you or whose words resonate deeply?  Read a passage or listen to a speech or interview, and really pay attention to the words and their meaning.  I actually enjoyed Gretchen Reuben's book The Happiness Project as a practical guide to self-evaluation and to a gradual, realistic pursuit of personal happiness.

Finally, sit down in a quiet place (ideally a beautiful room with a burning fireplace and soft music and unlimited time to think and write - but realistically a coffee shop, your car, a bathroom stall, wherever you can steal a few minutes with just yourself) and finish the following Happiness Statement

"I would be happiest if ______________________"

As you answer this, I strongly encourage you not to censor yourself.  You can answer this in one sentence or fifty + pages. Don't consider money, time, current or past obligations and schedules and lifestyle.  Yes, those are all considerations, but for now, to determine your happiness goal, just write.  And think.  And write some more.  In other words, don't limit.  Not just yet.  And remember, "Happiness" is not a goal we reach, but a never-ending journey we walk, twisting and turning, changing direction, speeding up and slowing down, not so much eager to arrive as we are content to remain on the path.

Care to share your sentence here?

Til next time,
~ Hasky

For more about happiness (and to help you write your own happiness statement):

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wordless Wednesday Post

Happy Wednesday!  

And welcome to your weekly opportunity to do all the talking.

Use the image below to talk about absolutely anything that comes to mind.  GO!

Until next time,
~ Hasky

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Happiness and Health and ... Woody Allen?

Woody Allen once said: “You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.”   And as with most things Woody Allen, I absolutely agree.  Though Allen is arguably the master of turning pain and suffering into humor, I always find some thought-provoking reality in words.

I often think it is Allen's ability to capitalize on the absurdities of life that provoke laughter, even in his most cynical moments. And although so much of his work is dark and depressing, almost always self-defeating, and usually centered around death or the human instinct we all have to somehow escape from it, his quotes are so memorable and so timeless that the above graphic immediately brought the opening Allen quote to mind because, as usual, it so perfectly illustrates our never-ending belief that we can be happy or we can be healthy, but we can't be both at the same time. What's more, it is the effort we put into achieving a simultaneous kind of health&happiness that lends humor to the graphic and (at least in my opinion) makes pretty much every single Woody Allen line so laugh-out-loud funny.

Clearly the message above is - just eat the apple.  It's nature's medicine, it's not likely to create more problems than it solves (individual digestive system situations notwithstanding), and rather than treating a condition, it works to prevent many illnesses from occurring in the first place, if eaten on a regular basis.  In fact, a good friend of mine told me just last week that she read of a study where "healthy, middle-aged adults [consumed] one apple a day for four weeks [and] lowered blood levels of oxidized LDL - low density protein, the 'bad' cholesterol."  Sure, these same people could have lived apple-free lives, then turned to the latest cholesterol-lowering medications when their levels finally turned their bodies into living, breathing stroke risks. But what if, just this once, Woody Allen's statement wasn't entirely accurate?  What if we could actually live to be a hundred, not only despite indulging in all the things that made us want to live that long, but because of them?  Just some food for thought.

How do you combine pleasure and health to create your own individual "lifestyle"?  Do you consider things like massage, physical fitness, spending time in nature or engaging in artistic pursuits unnecessary indulgences? Are organic foods and regular vacations pure luxury items, or do you consider them part of your overall healthcare/self-care regime?  Feel free to share here!

And while we're at it, when was the last time you ate an apple?

Until next time,
~ Hasky

Friday, October 5, 2012

Ballet and Perspective

This morning, I woke up angry.  I don't know why, and I don't think the "why" matters.  It happens to all of us, I guess.  I was tired.  I was feeling burned out and stressed out and just plain tapped out.  And yes, anything and everything that could go wrong did, not only because I burned breakfast and had a coffee explosion and was dealing with a finicky dog and a traffic jam and a late arrival at work all before 9am, but because I simply woke up, as they say, "on the wrong side of the bed."

I don't know about you, but on days when I feel like that, I realize (once I calm myself and gain some perspective) that it wasn't really about "everything going wrong" so much as it was about my looking for things to support my bad mood and confirm it.  Yet the reality is - my Keurig isn't evil and my oven doesn't have it in for me.  My dog, challenging though he can be, bases his behavior on meeting his needs, and not some sinister plot to destroy me.  I can laugh about it now, this overblown sense that such minutiae really does signal the end of the world, but going through a morning like that can sometimes set the tone for the entire day.  If I let it. So there is some personal intention in "bad days" - the way we label them, the way we often revel in staying stuck in them, even in the way we often curl so comfortably inside our own familiar misery and refuse to come out.

But today when I got to work, there was a link to a Youtube video on my Facebook page.  It was of a little girl named Clara Bergs doing ballet.  Though I don't often watch the endless videos and movie clips that hit my various social media platforms every day, there was something striking about the look on this child's face - it was intense and inviting - so I clicked "play."  What struck me immediately was that little Clara was not just doing ballet the way most ten year-old little girls do ballet in their living rooms.  She was literally mirroring the choreography of a professional ballerina dancing the title role in Copelia.  What's more, Clara suffers from autism and the genetic disorder DiGeorge Syndrome and has spent her short life so far beating all medical odds about her predetermined capabilities.  She was so graceful, her movements so precisely times with the professional on the television screen that it was as if they were working together.  And I believe, in Clara's mind, that is precisely what they were doing.

As I watched, I felt my mood shift from the anger and exhaustion I had felt less than an hour before to something like contentment.  Inspiration.  Perspective.  And it wasn't about comparative pain, or about chastising myself for feeling my feelings or allowing myself to acknowledge my desire to hide away from the world for a day rather than face it.  It was about seeing such pure, uncomplicated beauty in a little girl whose life, at times, must be indescribably complicated and scary and challenging beyond belief.  I wish I could thank this little girl for reminding me, with her graceful love of something outside herself, that no matter what, your day - and your life - is really what you make it.

Thank you, beautiful little Clara.

Until next time,
~ Hasky

Thank you Jennifer Livingston

Few topics lend themselves to a "Lighten Up" theme as obviously as weight.  Body weight.  That thing we all measure on a little square box - otherwise known as the bathroom scale.  While some people profess to have not a single care about body image and express no concerns or anxieties about what or how they eat, what they weigh, or how their jeans fit, the reality is, for a lot of us, body weight and body image are heavy issues, and it doesn't help that we live in a world that prioritizes physical appearance over physical (and mental) health and wellness.

When the video of Wisconsin new anchor Jennifer Livingston went viral this week, the collective reaction seemed to be one of praise and gratitude. Yet a few days later, it became clear that there were just as many negative feelings about Ms. Livingston's response as there were positive ones.  After a viewer sent Ms. Livingston an email in which he referred to her as "fat" and "obese" and "a poor role model" -- an assessment he based purely on her physical appearance, with no regard to her profession or her status as a mother, wife, and professional --  Ms. Livingston used her on-air access to the public audience to respond to what she defined (and correctly so) as bullying.  And, more specifically, cyberbullying. On a personal level, I was grateful that she turned a discriminatory and disparaging email into a lesson - for her own young daughters, and for anyone who was watching.  And hopefully listening.  Ms. Livingston herself was the first to admit that though she is overweight, and that on a doctor's chart she would likely even fall into the "obese" category, this unsolicited email did nothing but state the obvious and seemed motivated by nothing more than an intent to harass and harm.  

Yet her response to it all was inspiring.  Rather than stay self-focused, she turned this moment into an opportunity to remind us all that October in the United States is both National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month and National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Finally, it seemed that someone - and a strong, articulate woman, at that  - was standing up not only to bullying, but to weight discrimination which, as someone recently pointed out to me, "is the last acceptable bigotry."  I would even argue that if "Fatism" isn't yet an accepted (though certainly not acceptable!) term, it should be.  Because it exists in ways that oppress and victimize millions of people every year, regardless of the numbers on their bathtoom scales or sewn into their clothing tags.  Fatism is at the root of many forms of violence and abuse, and even employers have admitted to hiring thin people more often than their overweight counterparts. What's more, shows like The Biggest Loser, while they seem well-intentioned, are so poorly titled, as if word play could somehow erase that deeply engrained societal message that fat = loser. And I don't buy arguments about "taking the word back to make it less damaging."  The day Oprah tried to do that with the word "Bitch" I vowed to never watch her show again. In the same way,  I believe that the word "loser" is always negative, no matter how much money you attach to the biggest loser of all at the end of the season.

Yet with all this talk about weight and speaking up and bullying and fighting the bully, I think the most disappointing thing to come out of this story has been the criticism of other media outlets and countless viewers who believe that Ms. Livingston blew this man's email out of proportion, misused her position as a public figure, and/or is simply in denial about the reality of her size.  When I hear comments like this, I often wonder if I am even watching and reading the same versions of things that other people appear to be referencing.  But clearly, we are all reading the same page, we just don't happen to all be on the same page

But here's the deal:  This woman is in a position of power.  And yes, she used that position to shed light on a serious issue that is neither about her nor about "fat" per se.  It is as much about the destructive power of words as it is about their empowerment. It is also about the fact that we live in a world often dictated by fears - some of which we can't even identify or define.  We are just fearful, on a global scale, of anything we do no understand or anything that feels personally threatening, either because it is so different from our own lives, or because it is too close for comfort and is forcing us to confront what we judge in ourselves.

But my ultimate question is this:  How many people, when given the chance, use their access and their power to speak about issues - whether or not they, themselves, are directly impacted - and how many of them choose the politically safe, non-boat-ricking alternative of silence and complacency instead?

So my only response to Ms. Livingston, after all this, is a very simple "Thank you."

Just something to think about until next time -

~~ Hasky