My last couple of posts have been a little on the heavy side. So, with the holiday season upon us, I decided to turn my attention in that direction. Some of you may be thinking: “How is that a happier direction? I am under so much stress, time pressure, financial strain, and an overabundance of family togetherness, I’m pulling out my hair. Arrrgggghhhhh!” Okay, maybe no one is actually thinking that, especially the “Arrrgggghhhhh!” part. But still, I know the holidays can be a bit stressful.
One particular stress that my husband and I encounter around this time of year is the transformation of our lovely, funny children into a pack (can you have a pack of two?) of ravenous “gimme” monsters. That is to say that sometimes they get a little too caught up in Santa and wish lists and shiny advertising. We’ve been able to combat this a bit by trying to emphasize the more spiritual aspects of the holidays. We like to remind them that traditions, letting the people in your life know that you love them, and just being together are the true gifts of the season (and DO NOT have to involve cash and prizes). We have also cut off a major source of the gimme’s, commercial-based television. But, apparently among the six and eight-year-old set, water-cooler (or playground) conversation topics often include what Legos are hot and how many My Little Pony ponies one owns.
My husband and I are not perfect and neither are our children, but we do okay in our efforts to keep the gimme’s at bay. Fortunately, there are some interesting books at HCLS to help, or at least provide some perspective. Juliet Schor’s Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture examines the materialism, commercialism, and consumerism of our society, especially as it is aimed at children. Schor also gives some ideas on how the battle these powerful (and calculated) influences.
There is also the sometimes chilling Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover Childhood by Susan E. Linn. And if your kids are older, you may want to check out (or better yet, have them check out) How Does Advertising Impact Teen Behavior.
There are also some excellent ideas in Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success by Madeline Levine (and Levine takes on way more than the gimme’s—definitely worth a look). And Rafe Esquith’s Lighting Their Fires: Raising Extraordinary Kids in a Mixed-Up, Muddled-Up, Shook-Up World will make you want to do right by your children in every way—not only learning to fight off the gimme’s, but to grow into a person of uncompromising character (and we could use of few more, don’t you think?).
Or you may also want to relate to your kids on a level they’ll understand. Read something to them like Betty Bunny Wants Everything by Michael B. Kaplan, and they may just figure out that they have to learn to fight the gimme’s a bit on their own.
(P.S. Betty Bunny is featured on HCLS’s Choose Civility book list for children.)
Posted by hclibrary on Nov 28, 2013 in Health, Reviews | 0 comments
Last year, I shared the thankful reflections of local cancer survivors, caregivers, and cancer awareness ambassadors. Their thanksgivings echoed the gratefulness of a community touched by disease and motivated to make a difference despite cancer diagnoses. Dr. Harpham’s book, Happiness in a Storm, argues that an attitude of gratitude when managing chronic illness fosters healthy survivorship. And as a young woman navigating my own journey with cancer, the simple exercise of giving thanks and nurturing hope has proven to be a useful tool for acknowledging my progress, visualizing future successes, and putting it all in perspective.
This year, I wanted to explore the thanksgivings of my HCLS colleagues and Facebook users (via a public post) as it related to general health and wellness. Participants were asked to complete a sentence beginning with “I’m thankful/grateful–.” Below are a number of the responses I received.
“that I’ve made yoga a regular part of my morning routine. It sets the stage for an awesome day!” -Gigi, 49, Woodbine
“for my family and friends that helped me reach my goal of becoming an Ironman. With family and friends supporting you, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.” -Bryan, almost 50, Columbia.
“I wake up (mostly) pain-free and without illness. Sometimes we take things for granted, but good health should not be one of them.” -Carmen, 39, Columbia
“for my friends who motivate me to go to the gym on a regular basis.” -Helen, Ellicott City
“for my two dogs who keep me company through several hours of walks a week, and make me laugh every single day.” -JB, 58, Columbia
“for motivational support from my friends in getting me active. I wouldn’t have joined the gym without their encouragement!” -Julie F., Ellicott City
“that I have wonderful friends and relatives to talk to when I need a release valve for stress or just a listening ear. I hope they feel I can help them out in the same way.” -AC, 55, Columbia
“for all the great friends I have made over the year. When I left my marriage, I also left what few “friends” I had. It is nice to have a amazing support system now.” -Larry, Elkridge
“for every day I get to spend with my family.” -Eileen, 38, Hobbits Glen
“for having been a LIVESTRONG Leader for two years to help spread the word on cancer advocacy and support.” -Bryan, 49, Columbia
“that oatmeal is wonderfully cheap, easy to make, healthy, and delicious as it is the high point of my every morning.” -Aryn Dagirmanjian, 26, HCLS Miller Branch
“to my dog for walking with me. I’m grateful to live in a county with so many people who love to read. I’m thankful for my daughter’s boundless positive energy. She disrupts my stress spiral every time.” -CT, 49, Columbia
“for the time I am able to take in the mornings to take a walk, enjoy the quiet, and listen to a book before I start my day.” -MH, 41, Ellicott City
“for Reiki. Learning and practicing has enriched my life and allowed me to help others. I’m thankful for walking my daughter to school. It’s great exercise for both of us and gives me a few quiet minutes on my walk back to meditate and center before the rest of the day.” -Jessica, 33, Savage
“for the group of women that became my “running buddies” when I began the walk/run program “Females in Training” with the HoCo Striders. They inspired and cajoled me to a place of wellness and peace.” -Mikie, Kings Contrivance
“for my body’s amazing capability to nourish my son.” -Allison, 30, Glenwood
“for the ability to run for those who can’t!” -Anna, 49, Ellicott City
“for my physical therapists whose leg-strengthening exercises have enabled me to finally move past the pain of knee surgery. I do my exercises every day, Denise!” -Jean, Central Branch
“for a husband who knows how important it is for me to be able to go to the gym, even though that means two more nights a week that he’s the cook!” -Julie, 41, Ellicott City
This simple project revealed more than I had anticipated. I realized what I had was more than a heartfelt compilation of healthy-reflections, I had a sample population of people indirectly sharing their attitudes and definitions of “health.” As I combed through their responses an overwhelming theme of “support” emerged. Could it be that our attitudes about health are influenced by the kind of support we receive?
If attitudes frame our beliefs, or, at least, filter the messages that we receive from friends, family, and society, we should pay close attention to the kinds of attitudes we’re perpetuating. Laurie Edwards writes about the significance of attitudes in her 2013 title, In the Kingdom of the Sick. Edwards notes that we’ve cultivated a caste system between the healthy and the sick. The sick are blamed for causing their illnesses and are considered to have weaker characters, whereas those deemed “healthy” have the power to shift the meaning of wellness and dictate the treatment of the sick by reinforcing these negative attitudes via social media. Edwards does take the time to explore possible solutions on a much larger scale (e.g. societal, medical industry) but I am more interested in what we can do now and simply.
Let’s change our attitudes. Instead of bullying people into being more healthy, let’s choose to empower those who’re working toward their health goals. The submissions above are a good example of what a positive attitude toward health can bring. People who’ve never really exercised before find themselves loving to run. Many find themselves making their way to the gym or practicing healthy coping skills to decompress because they have the support they need. The attitudes we hold and the attitudes others express impact our health.
I propose we broaden our idea of health to extend beyond the physical. Healthiness should also include mental and emotional well-being as well as safe and loving relationships. It’s essential that we recognize that wellness is not a destination, but a way of life. A healthy lifestyle covers every dimension of wellness and requires a great deal of support from family, friends, and medical professionals. Being healthy means more than taking care of our bodies, it means taking care of our person.
Finally, as we prepare for a day filled with food, football, volunteering, and Turkey-trots, I’d like to take a moment to give thanks for your readership. Thank you for being an integral part of the success of Howard County Well & Wise. Our writers and guest contributors do their best to share meaningful, relevant, and informative material with you. We’re also honored to have ranked #3 as Best Organization Blog in Baltimore Sun’s 2013 Mobbies. Your votes and continued support is invaluable and we are sincerely grateful. And whatever you choose to do today, may it keep you healthy, well, and wise.
Happy Thanksgiving from our families to yours.
Since my husband has gone vegan, it has been a challenge to prepare a vegan Thanksgiving meal to satisfy both sides of the meat divide. In the beginning days of my husband’s vegan lifestyle, we ordered an entire Thanksgiving meal from Roots Market in Clarksville. My sister’s Thanksgiving table was half vegan, half omnivore that year, with two versions of cornbread, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie (among other items). It was a lot of food for eight people. And while it was a cozy Thanksgiving gathering, there was a subtle line between my vegan husband and everyone else.
Thanksgiving should be about inclusion. That’s why this year we plan on making vegan sides of roasted garlic mashed potatoes and cornbread to share with everyone. Also, bringing these two sides should help with the burden my ambitious (and pregnant) sister has placed upon herself to prepare the Thanksgiving meal. If these dishes had previously failed to meet my sister’s standards for taste and quality, she would not have relinquished the responsibility for these dishes to us.
When it comes to a satisfying, no-fuss holiday entrée, I recommend the Hazelnut Cranberry Roast En Croute from the Field Roast Company. This is usually available in the freezer section of your local health market. Everyone at last year’s dinner table enjoyed the En Croute. In fact, when a colleague at work mentioned she was having a vegetarian guest for Thanksgiving dinner, I happily offered the En Croute suggestion unsolicited. It’s an easy-to-prepare foolproof meal.
Finally, the following are the recipes for cornbread and mashed potatoes from 500 Vegan Recipes and Vegan Cooking for Carnivores. Have a happy and healthy holiday!
Sweet Skillet Cornbread (serves 8)
You may use a 10” cast-iron skillet or a round, nonstick baking pan to bake this cornbread.
1 T nondairy butter
1 C all-purpose flour
¾ C cornmeal
3 T raw sugar
2 ½ t baking powder
Equivalent of 2 eggs (Ener-G)
1 C plain soy milk (or other nondairy milk)
¼ C canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 C yellow corn kernels
- Preheat oven to 400F. Add the butter to oven-safe pan/skillet. Place in the oven to allow the butter to melt. Remove pan and swirl melted goodness around to coat the pan evenly..
- In a bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
- In another bowl, mix Ener-G, milk, and oil.
- Add the wet solution to the dry ingredients and combine. Fold in the corn, but do not over-mix.
- Pour batter into baking pan/skillet and bake 20 – 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes (serves 8)
This recipe was originally Roasted Garlic & Chive Mashed Potatoes. I omitted the chives and replaced the cashew cream with soy milk & apple cider vinegar.
1 whole bulb garlic (8 large garlic cloves)
¼ t extra-virgin olive oil
4 large, organic russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4-6 T vegan butter, melted
⅓ cups soy milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
salt & pepper
- Roast the garlic. Preheat oven to 400F. Slice ¼ inch off the top of the garlic. Rub garlic with olive oil, wrap in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake 30 – 35 minutes. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out the cloves in a small bowl. Mash into a paste and set aside.
- Place potatoes in a saucepan, add one-teaspoon salt and cover with cold water. Bring potatoes to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook until soft, about 15 – 20 minutes.
- Drain potatoes, place in oven-safe baking/serving dish and pop in the oven for 3-5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine soy milk with vinegar to create “buttermilk.”
- Remove potatoes from the oven.Working quickly, mash the potatoes and add the garlic, buttermilk, and butter to taste/desired consistency. Salt & Pepper to taste.
Many thanks to Greatist for the use of their work on Well & Wise.
The holiday season is upon us and with that comes Thanksgiving dinner, holiday gatherings, and an abundance of sweets and extra helpings. It can be challenging to practice portion control during this festive time of year (understatement).
Our first contributor to those extra holiday pounds is Thanksgiving dinner. You stuff yourself until your stomach surrenders, waddling away from the dinner table only to go back for a second round later in the evening. And for some, the preparation for Thanksgiving tips-off the seasonal non-stop grazing of all the goodies that seem to be around. Following this indulgence is Christmas and many interspersed holiday gatherings brimming with assorted meats, cheeses, cakes, pies, cookies, eggnog, and other calorie-laden beverages. Then, there’s the self-dialogue. That conversation you have in your head justifying the extra piece of pie or the third helping of mashed potatoes and gravy, “It’s the holidays! They only come once a year! Enjoy yourself!” We’re all guilty of some holiday indulgence and those extra calories add up and can negatively impact your body.
According to a report published in The New England Journal of Medicine, a study from Tufts University wanted to see if the commonly touted assertion that “adults typically gain 5 or more pounds during the 6-week period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s” was true. What the study found was that those who were already overweight were likely to gain more weight over the holiday season versus those who were considered average weight. This may not seem like much, but this increase in weight is a significant find for adults who are already overweight and a reminder that we’re all susceptible to holiday weight gain.
Dr. Steven A. Schnur’s book, The Reality Diet, affirms our susceptibility further: “ the holidays can be stressful for people and one of the most common ways to deal with stress is to eat. And with all the holiday food lying around, it’s all too easy to indulge in this method of escape.” Dr. Schnur recommends finding other outlets for your seasonal stress in order to curb overeating at holiday parties or while cooking holiday meals. He suggests some simple exercises like sipping water, chewing gum, or deep breathing.
Another factor that may contribute to weight gain around the holidays is seasonal affective disorder (or SAD), which is a form of clinical depression brought on by winter’s shorter days. The founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin, said in a previously published interview, that “there is a small percentage of the population who is predisposed to this condition [SAD] specifically during the winter months…people who show symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder may have trouble with overeating due to changes in mood and lower serotonin levels in the brain.” So how do you come up with a strategy during the holidays to manage your portions and minimize weight gain?
Here are some tips that may help prevent holiday weight gain:
- Exercise daily. Exercise releases those “feel good” chemicals, endorphins, and boosts serotonin levels. Also, exercise after a meal can help better regulate your blood-sugar levels, especially after a large meal. Take time for a walk or some running around with your friends or the kids an hour after your feast. You’ll feel better.
- Manage your holiday stress. The Blood Sugar Solution suggests “Anything stressful can trigger hormones that activate cravings. Adopt a daily relaxation routine and stick to this routine during the holidays.”
- Eat before a meet & greet. Get ahead of your cravings by eating something healthy and filling before you go to that holiday gathering. When you don’t eat before a party, you’re pretty much sabotaging yourself.
- Plan your meal(s) in your head before you arrive at dinner and swap out the junk for the good stuff once you see what’s available. If you don’t have enough options, portion-control will be your best friend. It’s also a good opportunity for you to bring a delicious healthy dish to the party too. When you finish your meal put your napkin on your plate to signal to yourself, “I’m done.”
The greatest bit of advice I can give you is this: have a plan. Sometimes you can’t avoid holiday stress, you don’t want to eat at home before the party or the big dinner, and you don’t have any time to exercise. These are all excuses. If you have a plan you can make time to walk with your loved ones, practice healthy coping activities to avoid stress-eating, and be prepared for what’s going to be on the dinner table. Make a plan and stick to it!
This is the season of food. Lots of it. Try to focus on the togetherness aspect of the holidays this year. Remember that food is fuel for your body. You wouldn’t put sugar in your gas tank, so don’t put junk in your body. Make the conscious decision to be well and stay healthy in your food choices this holiday season. The healthier choices you make today, the less weight you’ll gain and the more likely you’ll be around next year to celebrate with your friends and family.
So, you’ve been thinking about growing some plants. Preferably functional plants – something you can eat and enjoy (with more than just with your eyes). But what if fruits and vegetables seem too difficult? If you’ve tried to grow plants before and had them all die on you, I feel your pain. I, too, was a serial plant killer. Luckily, I’ve redeemed myself with growing herbs. Herbs are the perfect starter plants! They are easy to grow inside or outside, in hot or cold climates, and they’re functional. Herbs can be used for a whole range of purposes. Many of us use herbs to add a bouquet of flavor to our favorite dishes, while others use herbs for homeopathy. Herbs have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, and today, we’re still discovering the benefits of these incredible plants (e.g. Johns Hopkins’ recent study on the benefits of tumeric). Herbs are amazing and you can bring them into your life with a little courage and know how.
My first herbs were grown from seed (daring, I know!), and were fun from the first day their little sprouts reached up toward the sun. The easiest and most useful herbs for me have been basil, sage, rosemary, and catnip. Starting them inside in little sprout pucks made it simple, and a small plastic greenhouse let them thrive until I could plant them outside into little pots. If you’re tight on money, a single long plastic pot works great for various herbs together. It has the added bonus of looking equally cute hanging on the side of an apartment balcony (where mine began life) or sitting on the railing of a deck (as pictured above).
Your Backyard Herb Garden, by Miranda Smith, is a useful guide for those interested in growing just herbs. Smith meticulously describes how to grow herbs and explains how to use them once they’re grown. You will find all kinds of new uses for your herbs in teas, as health and beauty products, and cleansing foods. This book is capped off with a directory detailing 52 different herbs and their intricacies. Similarly, Homegrown Herbs by Tammi Hartung, is a more modern guide to herb growing. The best parts of this book are the recipes which showcase the herbs used, both for eating and medicinal purposes – think insect repellent or aromatherapy.
Go ahead, give it a shot! You can get seeds from lots of different stores for only a couple of dollars and nothing beats growing something from nothing. If that’s not your cup of tea (which you can make from lots of herbs, too, like mint or lemon balm), try starting out with a small plant from the farmer’s market or any garden center. Best of all, you’ll know exactly where your herbs are coming from. Once you’ve tasted your first harvest of herbs, you’ll know you’ve taken another step toward living well. Give it a try and never look back. Gardening can be for you, too!
“We live in a very tense society. We are pulled apart… and we all need to learn how to pull ourselves together…. I think that at least part of the answer lies in solitude.”- Helen Hayes
A daunting task I seem to find myself faced with more often than should be allowed is simply finding time for “me.” When I’m not at one job, I’m at the other. When I’m not at either job, I’m trying to spend time with friends and family. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending my free time making dinner with my friends or visiting a museum. However, this constant activity and plan-making leaves little to no time for ME and I am a strong believer in solitude.
Taking time for yourself allows you to think without distractions. I often feel as if my thoughts are coming and going so rapidly that even a road runner couldn’t catch them. When I’m alone, I can give those thoughts their much deserved attention and write them down.
Being alone also allows me to practice guitar, create something, clean my room, read a book, watch a movie, or just relax. When I don’t make time for myself, there are consequences: I become overly tired, moody, and less motivated. I feel anxious, like I’ve forgotten something very important. And what I’ve forgotten is making time for myself.
The Mindfulness Solution has simple steps to help you make time for yourself and balance it all.
It’s especially important to tell those around you when you need time to yourself. When I feel pressured (or obligated) to spend my “me time” with other people, I remind them (and myself) that I need that time to myself in order to remain balanced, happy, and healthy. Solitude is important. The Mindfulness Solution provides insight and simple ways you can take time for yourself throughout your day to help you work through your problems or help you reconnect with how you’re doing daily. When I take time for those moments of solitude, I find that I’m able to work through problems that would otherwise keep me stuck. Being able to think deeply encourages creativity and problem solving.
Tying into my last post, alone time offers many opportunities for us to grow like facing fears of attending movies or eating out alone. These experiences can be quite rewarding and comforting. I’ve purposefully attended concerts, shmoozed at events, and dined alone only to discover how enjoyable it all was. I’m even more determined to make the time to do that more often.
Spending time alone provides you with an opportunity to relax, think and reflect, discover, and reconnect to yourself. Grounding yourself daily, taking time for solitude is essential to a healthy lifestyle. I invite everyone reading this to seek solitude. You deserve it!