Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ten Things I Learned In California

I got home yesterday after spending 12 days as Aunt Nanny Barb to my niece and nephew. My own kids are much older than 10 and 13, so it was a trip back in time for me.  I only wish we had a swimming pool when my kids were little!  As I traveled home, I was thinking about what I learned while I was there...
  1. Listen to My Own Advice. I was really exhausted before I went and ended up with bronchitis and a touch of pneumonia while I was there. The ironic thing about letting myself get so tired was that I had just done a topic on Rest, Relax, Breathe and Sleep. Ouch.
  2. Make Sleep and Rest a Priority.  Turn off the TV. Close the laptop and the book. I did notice that when kids were short on sleep, they got grumpy just like adults do. Amazing.
  3. Eat at the Table.  True confession. When I was so tired and trying to recover, I just let everyone eat where they wanted to. Not the best idea. That only encourages mindless eating, making it much harder to recognize internal hunger and full signals, let alone trying to stop eating when you're no longer hungry.
  4. Listen to Your Body.  This is a key to good health. I knew I was running on fumes before I left, but I thought I could just keep pushing through and rest once I got to California.  It doesn't work that way.  I ended up with a very clear reminder to listen to what my body is trying to tell me!  Sometimes it really wants me to tell people "no,"that I can't do everything all the time.  It's taking me a long time to learn this one.
  5. Model Good Eating Habits.  My niece and nephew aren't the biggest fans of fruits and veggies, but once I started feeling well enough to prepare food, I served plenty of them anyway. No, I would never force anyone to eat them. But, I hope they noticed me eating lots of them. And they were available if they decided to try some.
  6. Order Two Beverages on the Plane. Make one choice a vegetable or 100% fruit juice and the other a non-caloric beverage.  This is a great way to get a veggie or fruit group in your travels.  I like tomato juice and my husband usually chooses the Snappy Tom spicy tomato juice.
  7. Sometimes Fast Food Wins. OK. I'm a nutritionist.  But it was all I could do to get in the car to drive the kids to their activities let alone prepare meals. As long as it isn't a steady diet, and it is done in moderation, the kids will live...
  8. If You Give Yourself A Cookie, Don't Forget the Milk... When my nephew brought the his buddies in to taste my cookies, I provided watermelon chunks with fancy toothpicks right along with the cookies. It's all about balancing less healthy food choices with those with more nutrient density.  I should point out that all but one boy ate more watermelon than cookies!!
  9. Look At the Bright Side. The walk-in clinic provided great medical care even though they didn't take my insurance, and they gave me a discount.  I didn't end up in the hospital. I got better. I read an entire book. 
  10. Watch for Teachable Moments.  My niece experienced light-headedness and dizziness during her 8 hour color guard workshop. She thought she wasn't given enough water breaks. Since I knew she only ate 2 cookies before it started, I chatted briefly about blood sugar levels and the importance of eating healthy foods including protein before active days like that.  She did admit she was very hungry. I asked her to pick what she'd like to eat before the start of the next day's workshop.  She went off with a grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of milk. Guess what?  She felt much better all day. It worked. And I think she just may remember that.
And, yes, it's great to be back home!

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Health Must Be a Priority

    Health is worth more than learning.     
      -Thomas Jefferson
    I'm sure I was run down. It had been a crazy 2 or more weeks and I was trying to do WAY too many things. Important things, I thought.  Things that really needed to be done, most for other people.  And, I was getting ready to head out to California to stay with my sister's kids while she and her husband went on a trip alone. I was looking forward to that: swimming pool, hot tub, gorgeous yard, great kids and cute puppy.

    I was practicing a healthy lifestyle. Since my back has been healing from a herniated disc, I was slowly getting back into walking---I was up to an entire mile (this, of course, was after being able to run 3 miles.)  I was going to physical therapy, and doing my stretches and exercises. And, I was certainly still eating well balanced, nutritious foods, though occasionally, I'd eat at odd times or be a little more indulgent with sweet choices. What was missing? Rest, relaxation and time for me!

    I was exhausted by the time my plane arrived here.  I started sneezing thinking that must be allergies. Then I started to go downhill. I knew I was sick.  By the third day, I crawled into a walk-in clinic thinking I must have bronchitis. After considerable care and testing there, the diagnosis was bronchitis and pneumonia.

    The good news is the meds are really doing the trick and I am recovering well. The ironic part of all of this?  The topic for the MM Groups last week was: Rest, Relax, Breathe and Sleep. Ouch. I was a perfect example of what can happen when those aspects of health are neglected! 

    And now, I am resting as much as I can, relaxing, breathing (at least one deep breath per hour!) and finally sleeping.

    Lesson learned.

    Health is the soul that animates all the enjoyments of life, which fade and are tasteless without it. -William Temple

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Wash, Rinse, Repeat

    Wash, rinse, repeat. You're thinking shampoo, right?  Here's another thought...

    We're all in this together.  We want to be healthier: lose weight, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and control our blood sugar level. We don't want to have a heart attack, a stroke, cancer, or diabetes.  We want to live longer.  Live better.  So, why is it that whenever try to make changes in our eating or activity behavior, we end up face first in a huge hot fudge sundae and surfing channels on the sofa---right back where we started from?

    Behavior changes are tough.  Think about how long you've been letting yourself loose; not caring how many chips you chow down or hours you sit.  Every time you do something, that action engraves itself into your head.  It becomes normal and natural to grab the chips and lay on the sofa. We don't even think about it.  We own that behavior. When you set off in a new direction, it's much harder.  You have to think. You have to consciously make decisions, especially if there is a environment that encourages eating and couch potato-ing!

    The best approach is not to think too far ahead.  Take one step at a time.  For example, you might decide to eat 6 fruits and vegetables and go for a walk today.  Don't worry about whether or not you'll be able to do it tomorrow, on the weekend, or when you go on vacation. Don't over think.  Just focus on doing it today. When tomorrow comes, do it again.  Every time you take this new path, it becomes more familiar to you and easier to do.

    If you don't wash your hair one day, you don't just yank it out and wait for it to regrow and give you a fresh start. You simply wash it the next day.  And so it is with healthy behaviors...

    Wash, Rinse, Repeat!!

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    German Potato Salad

    I had a request for a no-mayonnaise potato salad from a MM groupie looking for something vinaigrette based. This salad is a lightened up version of a wonderful family recipe given to me by my husband's second cousin over 30 years ago.  The original version calls for bacon, which he loves. In order to retain the flavor but reduce both fat and sodium, I use half the amount.  If you would like to forgo the pork, just go with the olive oil option. Either way, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one!

     German Potato Salad

    Place in a large saucepan:
          6 medium unpeeled red-skin potatoes
    Cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until fork tender. Drain. Dice while still warm. Add and toss gently with a fork:
          3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
          1 cup diced celery
          4 - 5 diced green onions, including tops
          1 hard boiled egg, chopped
    In frying pan, cook until crisp:
          2 strips of bacon (or use 1 Tbsp olive oil)
    Drain all fat. Add to pan and whisk together:
          3 Tbsp cider vinegar
          3 Tbsp water
          1 Tbsp sugar
          2 tsp flour
    Heat until just boiling. Immediately pour over potato mixture and toss gently.

    And, it's ready! Enjoy!!

    Nutritional Info:
    Serving Size 1/6 of recipe (about 1 cup)
         163 calories, 4 g fat, 72 mg cholesterol, 42 mg sodium, 28 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 5 g protein.  Count as 2 Starch exchanges.

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    The Week of Lemons

    It wasn't the best week...

    The MRI report declared that my back, hip and thigh pain officially stem from a herniated disc. Not what I wanted to hear.  My physical therapist made my orders clear: no bending, twisting or crouching over. Great. That left little on the can do list, and certainly not cleaning the house that was in desperate need of it and not pulling the weeks in the flower beds that had grown taller than small trees. Then my daughter came home for 5 days to seek rest, TLC and air conditioning as she fought what looked like some sort of flu virus. Who gets flu in June? And a sudden death of someone extra special in our church and very well known in the community meant our service group went into overdrive to help with meals, support and services. So important, but exhausting. Though I tried to follow the rules, my back started to hurt more. I woke up yesterday with a migraine that didn't want to go away. I was eating mindlessly; one of my sure signs of stress overload. And, as I was finally heading home last night in ridiculous 5:30 traffic on a 3 lane interstate, my front tire suddenly spewed steam as it blew out...

    I was able to safely pull the car over close to the guard rail.  I stopped.

    I needed to stop. I needed to put a different spin on everything that has been happening.  I needed to start pushing myself in a positive direction. And that's just what I started to do...

    When I feel myself spiraling down the slippery slide of emotional exhaustion, I have found one thing that really helps me. I reach for a pen and notebook and write a list of everything I am thankful for.  This enables me to put a positive spin on what's been happening and helps me put perspective on my life. I want to share a portion of mine:

    I am thankful for...
          -having medical care available to me
          -a wonderful physical therapist
          -health insurance
          -I will not need surgery
          -not needing total bed rest!
          -most of my body is healthy
          -good friends to share everything with
          -my wonderful husband mowing, mulching and watering plants
          -I can hire the teen next door to pull weeds, and he is happy to help
          -I can still see the flowers!
          -I have working air conditioning
          -my daughter calls me!
          -she got over the flu in less than a week
         -I am part of a wonderful church community
         -I was driving in the far right lane
         -No one was injured
         -The car wasn't damaged
         -I have AAA
         -I had enough gas to run the air conditioning on the 92 degree day while waiting for the tow truck
         -I had a new tires with a replacement warantee on them

    ....And that's exactly what I needed.  To put my focus on the good things in these situations.  Today, I am headache free and relaxed.  I even ate my yogurt and blueberries mindfully this morning.  Life is good.  As that old saying goes, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade!