Sick Today

Today I am sick. My first thought upon waking was that I couldn’t be sick. It’s not that I had so much to do–I finally have week to rest. Still my thought was oh no. Not sick. I can’t be sick. Then I thought, “But I’ve been eating so well. How can I be sick? This disproves everything I’ve learned.”

I gradually let that go. My final thought was that in yoga yesterday we had done all these opening exercises in the chest that are supposed to strengthen the immune system. In fact, perhaps that is why my throat is sore. Perhaps I’ve been harboring something that has been working for months or years that I didn’t know about that is finally being “cleansed” from my body. Cleansing often feels icky but it’s good to get those things out.

Am I sick? Well my throat is sore. I’m not functioning optimally. I’m tired. Probably. Why am I sick? I don’t know. Maybe I ran into a bug. Maybe I got some warm wind on my neck over the weekend. Maybe I ate poorly a couple of weeks ago and lowered my immune system. Maybe I did something in yoga that is cleansing the chest area of my body.

It is not so bad that I require complete bed rest, though I got some extra earlier today. I might even go back for a nap later. I have a good dinner coming this evening and some good leftovers for tomorrow. I’m not writing as much because I just don’t have a good mind for thinking clearly. I’m at a good stopping point for a few days though so that’s good. I want to see where this journey takes me and how I feel tomorrow.

Check out this Post on Adrenal Fatigue

Over at Nourishing Days, the blog writer is discussing adrenal fatigue in a series of posts. While the author isn’t a health care provider, she is offering a very nice, understandable blueprint of adrenal fatigue. What I particularly liked about this post was what the author refers to as “her rant.”

This seems to be one of the primary factors in adrenal fatigue. One of the problems is the hectic modern lifestyle. The lust for more (stuff, promotions, entertainment). The desire to “succeed”.

I’ve been indoctrinated with this “american dream” my whole life. You work as hard as you can to go to college, then to succeed in college, then to find the highest paying jobs so that you can live in the suburbs in a house big enough for four families. You “need” two cars and pay someone else to raise and educate your children so you very rarely see them. All so that they can go to college and start this whole hamster wheel all over again.

We are always going, but never asking “what manner of persons ought ye to be?”

This is so true. I think that this is a major cause of many of our health problems not just adrenal fatigue. If you are interested in learning more about adrenal fatigue, I highly recommend you head over to Nourishing Days.

What We Spend Money on Says a lot About Who We Are

I just read Michael Pollan’s article in the NY Times, Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch. One thing that fascinates me is the observation is that we are watching more cooking shows than ever but we also cook less than ever before. Cooking has become this fantasy for many people even as they rush through the drive through to pick up something to eat.

In the United States we do this kind of thing a lot. We are obsessed with health. On the other hand, we would rather eat cheap food than healthy food. We have no time for relaxation. We complain that we have little time or money for preventative health care that we know we should have.

I was listening to the Ed Schultz Show the other day when Norman Goldman was filling in. Goldman opened a show with a spiel about how what we spend money on says a lot about who we are. If we spend a significant portion of our income on alcohol, we are probably an alcoholic. If we spend it on heroine, we are probably a heroine addict. Taking it farther, there are those will always find a way to spend their money on really nice clothing, at the expense of other things. For me, I tend to be addicted to reading so I’d probably spend my money there.

We are not, by and large, willing to spend our tax dollars on a system that offers health care for everyone. We are also not, by and large, willing to spend money on healthy, locally grown food. We are even reluctant to part with money for those treatments that can help us with our preventative health care, like acupuncture or massage, if our insurance doesn’t pay for it.

Yet, we are obsessed with health. We think we can avoid sickness. We take medications that do nothing more than suppress symptoms so that we don’t need to change our lifestyle. The medications are stopped if the insurance company stops paying for them. There is a sense within the culture of the US that health isn’t something we should spend money on.

When we see those people who are chronically ill, there are judgments about smoking or diet. There is a sense that these people must have done something wrong to get that sick. They didn’t eat right or exercise enough. Never mind that we do the same things. There is a sense that if we blame them and make the different from ourselves, we will never get sick. At the same time we won’t shell out the money required to keep ourselves healthy.

What are we willing to spend money on? Those places we spend are money are the things we are giving priorities to. Those are things that are important to us. No two of us will have the same spending priorities. If we, as we like to think, really want to stay healthy and be healthy, then we need to start figuring out why we avoid spending money on those things designed to do just that.

Thinking about the 90% Rule

This last week was very hot. That meant eating out a lot more. Even as it cooled off, I found myself craving some ice cream, which meant eating something else I try and avoid. I was thinking about my 90% rule. I certainly wasn’t 90% this last week. I’m not sure how much closer I’ll be this week either, although I hope it’s at 90% or more.

However, there have been weeks when I’ve been able to stick to my food convictions 95% of the time rather than 90% of the time. I have to remind myself not to go around nit picking everything. Yes, I probably ate within my diet guidelines 40% of the time this time. I have this sense that I want to go and check up for the next few weeks until I work off that “drop” in my compliance. I am forcing myself not to think too much about it.

90% needs to be most of the time–for life. Not just today or this week or this month. It means that there will be weeks like this for me that I am not able to be so compliant. I am sure other weeks will challenge me as well. I need to understand that I should work at being as compliant as I can be as often as I can be and be content with being compliant, most of the time.

Guilt

The other day I talked about working towards a percentage of how often you do something rather than trying for perfection. Perfection just creates guilt in the long run. Guilt then offers an out to working on being successful. This week both my office mate and I have some opportunities to experience guilt.

My office mate is feeling guilty because she is on a strict diet and she had a few strawberries and some cheese. She had stopped loosing weight and one person advised her to do that. She stopped because another person told her she shouldn’t. She went with the second person’s advice because she felt so guilty “cheating” on her diet.

I find myself feeling a little guilty for not working out today. However, today we are having record setting heat in Seattle. Like most people in the area I don’t have air conditioning. My treadmill is upstairs where it’s Hot. Outside is less stuffy but even hotter. The thermostat downstairs is showing 80 degrees and I have opted to not do hot yoga in my house. I might consider it if I had a place to really cool down.

Both my office mate and I were changing up a routine that we had established to assist us in maintaining our health. In neither case is this interruption going to cause ill health. In both cases I expect we will go on and be healthy.

Sometimes we get so attached to our routines that we forget that health is about life. We need to go where life leads us and sometimes that’s out of our routine. I’ll be back to my walking when it cools off. I know–maybe late at night? It was still 80 outside at 11 PM and I was tired!

Why do we need Perfection?

One issue we have about our health and the ways we work to stay healthy is perfection. Some people may feel they aren’t perfect if they get a few sniffles. Anyone who has been really sick for long periods might wish for sniffles. In fact, such a response indicates that your body is working the way it should.

In the same way, rather than requiring ourselves to be 100% about any choice diet, if we strive for 90% we are more likely to succeed. We can always have a 100% day but we’re less likely to beat ourselves up if we slip up and eat something that we shouldn’t.

I had a less than 90% weekend. I am trying to cook most of my own food in order to eat locally, organically and avoid chemical ingredients. I’m feeling so much better! At any rate, this weekend was unseasonably hot. It was also almost our anniversary. We had some errands to run which meant that we were out and about for lunch. We were near a restaurant my husband really likes. I was craving a sandwich, so although the bread was probably not that good for my gut health, I had a sandwich anyway. That night we had our anniversary celebration at Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle.

One of the great things about Ray’s is that even if I had been good I could have still been pretty good eating there. Most of their food is sustainably produced and they work hard to get ingredients that are fairly local. The salmon wasn’t local and was fished in Alaska. The beef there is raised just on the other side of the mountains and is grass fed. The chicken was advertised as local pastured hens. The menu changes from month to month with the side dishes so those are generally foods that are in season. Their portions are reasonably sized and the food is prepared simply and elegantly. My bad for the evening? I had their creme brulee. I always do. I’ve never had the same flavor twice, although I quite liked the blueberry vanilla bean flavor they had this time!

Remember, even eating well can mean eating tasty food. Always allow yourself that 10% non compliance. You’ll feel better for eating well most of the time and you won’t have to beat yourself when you just have to have the creme brulee!

Undervalued Rest

As a society, we really undervalue rest. Everyone must always be busy. This doesn’t matter if you are sick or well. This doesn’t matter who you are, you must always have something to do. Resting, really resting and just taking a break isn’t considered productive.

From a health care provider’s perspective, rest is one of the most important things you can do. Rest allows your body to heal after the assaults of a busy day or busy week. Rest can help heal stress. Rest is important. After a good diet, rest can be the most important and loving thing you can do for your body.

Find time to just do nothing for awhile. Read a book you’ve been thinking you wanted to read. Watch the birds. Enjoy.

Baby Steps: or how to Suceed without Really Trying

I have patients who know there are things they should change but feel overwhelmed by the changes. I have one woman who only gets back pain while she’s at work. She doesn’t really like her job but it’s what was available while she searches for a more appropriate job. Her work, however is taking it’s toll.

Considering that she needs a different job is a huge burden. Yes, she knows this position is pretty temporary. It still doesn’t stop her body from screaming in pain whenever she works at it. She is still stressed by going into the job. A better way to look at the problem is to focus on the positives. This job does pay her bills for now. She has a plan to get out of the job. She even has a reasonable time line for what she would like to do.

She might consider looking at exactly what she doesn’t like about the job and see if there are specific tasks that she has to do that makes the job more frustrating. In many jobs it’s the office politics that cause problems. Perhaps learning to play the game might be a reasonable way to go. Looking at office politics as a game, even one that you aren’t good at, might be make the “game” less intense, as you consider that you will fail sometimes as you learn the ropes.

Focus on small manageable steps, even if they seem like nothing can be very empowering. It can also be very health promoting.

No Time

One of the big issues as an acupuncturist is seeing a patient who is living a life that is contributing to their lack of well being. Discussing this issue with patients, they are often overwhelmed at the thought of making a change. A big change most patients could make is to eat better quality foods. However, most patients will tell me that they don’t have time to eat better or to eat at home more often than not.

There have been several posts around the blogosphere that discuss a study that shows that convenience foods save an average of ten minutes a day. For myself and for a number of my patients the bigger difficulty is not in finding those ten minutes a day, it’s in planning for cooking and eating.

The vast majority of people find that they are reacting to circumstances rather than planning for things. They constantly feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done and planning ahead for eating or for exercise is just one more item. Additionally going out often feels like a treat because then you don’t even have to clean up the kitchen.

I would love to see more people out there who can help these same people with their planning skills. They can plan to exercise (and make note of those things that interfere with their plans or not). They can plan to eat at home and make sure they purchase their foods on other days. Making one larger meal with left overs is a great way to cook once and eat it twice.

While learning to cook may also be an issue for some people, learning planning may be a more important skill. Such a skill crosses over from the kitchen to daily life in a way that can create places for rest and relaxation that are sadly lacking for so many people.

I have recently been trying to eat all food cooked or baked in my own kitchen. I have a few exceptions and I haven’t quite gotten to making my own condiments (too many in the kitchen to just toss out). I find that I am constantly obsessed with food–planning when I can make this or that or thinking about what I have so that I can plan a good lunch or dinner for myself and my husband. I know on Saturday by the time I get back from the Farmer’s Market what I am going to be eating that week. We have a small kitchen garden that supplements vegetables to the items I purchase at the Market. I can also easily run to PCC (a large food cooperative in the Seattle area) or if I don’t want to go quite so far, Whole Foods.

All of these trips require planning in a way I never bothered with before, but I find that my health is better. I also find that there are far worse things to obsess about than what am I going to do with all those leftovers?

The Problem of Obesity

Grist has an article that talks about the problem of obesity. The author blames people for over eating and thus causing the problems of obesity which is correlated with higher incidences of diabetes and heart disease. He contrasts the slow deaths of those who over eat with the quick deaths of those who starve. It’s this sentence that I take exception to.

The vast majority of people who are obese are actually nutrient starved. Their bodies are starved just as much as those who get no food at all. The difference is that those who are obese have something to eat that seems to be food, although it has little nourishment left in it.

I think that solving the problem of obesity has more to do with the way we produce food in this country and educating people on kitchen literacy.