“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver” -Mohandas Gandhi

So Much to be Thankful For


Gratitude is so important for your mental and spiritual wellbeing, whatever your circumstances may be.  So today and everyday, please always remember that you have so much to be thankful for.  In any moment of stress or when you have a lot on your plate, just take a step back, breathe, and give thanks!

Azodia..carbon…What? Just Another Chemical in Our Foods

Subway-Picture When you think of the soles of tennis shoes, yoga mats, and pleather (fake leather ;)), you may not think of bread.  But think again.  The tongue twisting chemical, azodiacarbonamide, is used in some breads as a “dough conditioner” to make bread nice and fluffy or in the case of yoga mats, nice and cushiony.  As a result of blogger, Vani Hari, and over 58,000 who brought light to the issue through a petition, Subway has vowed to remove the chemical from its breads.

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Taking Control of Your Health

The main goal of the Gain Great Health site is to assist you in taking back control of your health.  So, what is health and what exactly needs to be re-claimed? Health is not merely the absence of disease or infirmary as defined by the World Health Organization, but health rather lies on a continuum between poor and great.  Where you lie on this continuum is dictated by the choices that you make most of the time (this is where moderation comes in—stay tuned…).  I had a delicious slice of sweet potato pie today with lunch and enjoyed every bite of it, but this doesn’t mean I will enjoy it again tomorrow.

Your health is impacted by three inter-related and oftentimes blurred factors: physical, mental, and spiritual.  The diagram below depicts this relationship, along with the factors that influence them.  

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 6.43.47 PMThese include physical activity, diet, relationships, environment, genetics, and devotional practice (i.e., prayer, meditation).  Although we are all dealt our own genetic deck of cards (aka your DNA), we have control over the foods we eat, the movements we make, the relationships we have, and to some extent our environment.

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Calorie This, Calorie That…blah blah blah

If you’ve been following the Gain Great Health blog in sequence (as recommended), you will note that I have yet to mention any precise figures of what and how much you should be eating.  Some hold the false misconception that eating a healthy diet means scrutinizing each and every calorie, gram of fat, and carbohydrate that you put into your body.  This is certainly NOT the case.  Instead, focus on the quality of the foods you’re eating (along with cooking these foods in a tasty way) and you’ll be well on your way to eating a healthful diet.  

For some, it’s motivating to count calories and how much you’re burning in exercise, etc., serving as a tangible day-to-day goal of achievement.  If this is motivating for you, great, but don’t set unrealistic, 1200-calorie goals and put yourself down if you don’t meet them.  Meanwhile, others may feel overwhelmed with the whole idea of counting every morsel that they consume.  This sentiment is likewise understandable.  The bottom line is to certainly do what works for you, but if you find you’ve “yo-yo’ed” back and forth from calorie-counting to carb-counting to no avail, perhaps you should shift your perception away from how much you’re eating to what you’re eating.  

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Health: Fate or Free Will?

Do we really have control over our health? The question of whether or not the events of your life are based on fate or free will is age old. And this certainly relates to how and when we leave this Earth.  When working and talking with people about their health and diet, a common response ties into this notion of the pre-destiny of our lives and our ultimate fate.  This type of response comes from either a) the individual with an absolute faith in a higher being that dictates all or b) the individual who falls back on a) because it sounds nice (and/or he/she really doesn’t know) and realistically doesn’t want to change their eating habits at that point in time.  Inherent in the work that I do, I do feel that our health is determined by the choices we make everyday and our environment, but whether or not these choices are shaped by our fate or actual free will is beyond me.   

We Are What Our Ancestors Ate: Part 2

SCIENCE GEEK ALERT:  As previously mentioned, I am alarming you before I get into the nitty gritty of nutrition!
Food can be considered an environmental factor to which our bodies adapt for optimal function.  In fact, the relatively new fields of nutrigenomics and epigenetics aim to explore how foods and the environment (respectively) influence genetic expression and what are known as genetic polymorphisms.  Genetic polymorphisms are differences in the genetic code among a given species giving rise to different characteristics.  In our case, examples include blood type and skin complexion caused by differences in melanin production.

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We Are What Our Ancestors Ate: Part 1

This past weekend, I was in the midst of an adamant Paleo-enthusiast who had her 2-minute pitch down pact.  Not to discredit her enthusiasm or anything, but…..The personal trainer by day and sustainable agriculture advocate by night was following the “lifestyle” 80% of the time and 20% of the time downing pizza and burgers to get in her Western-diet fix. She certainly ran a good pitch by including arguments such as the importance of fruit and vegetables, the diminished ability to process the sugar (lactose) in milk in some adults, and the rising rates of gluten intolerances.  And because of these somewhat logical supporting explanations, this diet especially speaks to the hearts of nutrition purists seeking optimal health.  As with most fad diets however, this is one with many restrictions and is based on unsubstantiated evidence.  Although the diet may work for some, it assumes the premise that we are all alike, physiologically and biochemically.

My ‘Beef’ with Beef: Part 2

Adding fire to the flame, conventionally-reared cows are given antibiotics and synthetic hormones.  Cows are highly susceptible to disease and infection not only because they’re confined in feedlots (does this sound familiar; feedlots on a farm-cubicles in an office…), but also because they’re fed a diet for which they are ill-adapted.  Instead of fixing the root of the problem (profitability trumps all), antibiotics are used to combat these bovine diseases.  

Hormones are also injected into cows in the name of profit.  Beef cows are often injected with five different hormones–three natural hormones and two synthetic (read more).  Estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone are the three natural hormones used, and ironically play an important role in the regulation of the menstrual cycle in women.  Unfortunately, these same hormones are ingested when we consume beef; these hormones don’t just disappear (we are what we eat).  Meanwhile, dairy cows are injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) in order to increase the production of milk.  This is just one of many of the genetically engineered products marketed by the biotech company, Monsanto.  Take into consideration that some may eat beef in the form of hamburgers on most days of the week (if not more) and on top of that consume milk from rBST-treated dairy cows, and the potential impacts are startling. Perhaps the growing number of girls beginning menstruation as early as 6-years-old should serve as a signal that something is awry. Although research in this area is limited, medical professionals attribute this shocking occurrence to our rapidly changing food supply and environment as well as the growing rates of childhood obesity.

With that said, I am opposed to the consumption of corn-fed beef and milk from cows treated with rBST.  Perhaps, more suiting, I should title this blog entry, “My Beef with Corn-Fed Beef,” because when the time is permitting, “Moo Moo” the grass-fed, hormone-, and antibiotic-freecow just might end up on my dinner plate in moderation (as in every other week or so, not 2 or 3 times/week).  Besides, beef is a great source of protein, iron, B-vitamins, zinc, and niacin.  AND on top of that (when reared in the appropriate way!), it’s real (more on “Eating Real”).  

Learn more on rBGH in the video below.

My ‘Beef’ with Beef: Part 1

Up until now, I haven’t mentioned much about meat.  But, hear me out for my beef with beef.  As a pescatarian, I don’t eat beef (or poultry, other red meat, or other meat products), but surely loved a juicy Burger King whopper back in the day.  My personal lifestyle choice is in no way an affirmation of the way life should be lived, but for me, it’s the healthiest choice at the moment.  If I was in the position to afford grass-fed beef at $6.99/lb (my overwhelming student-loan debt is not as permitting for this kind of lifestyle), I would certainly eat beef in moderation.  But follow along for my story and my rationale…
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