Welcome 2014! Happy New Year to all! I suspect many people will head into the New Year with intentions toward a healthier lifestyle.  I am noticing a lot of advertising for the benefits of “cleanse” and “detox” diets.  I am not here to lecture you on the benefits and drawbacks to these types of diet plans, but rather to offer you support if you’ve resolved to try any sort of healthier plan for 2014.  Whatever you have chosen, I urge you to educate yourself before moving forward.  Know also that there is no one right answer to better health.  For every unique individual there are specifics which work better for some than others.  A diet plan that makes your best friend look vibrantly healthy might leave you or me with little wind in our sails.  Try, try and try again- be flexible in your commitment to good health and don’t be afraid to try something new toward your goal of health and wellness.


Now that you’ve heard my preamble, I have to let you know that as much as I support you in any of your goals toward good health, I lovingly encourage you to take smaller steps all year long, versus to take on any major diets, detoxes or cleanses which might be unsustainable and will not see you through to lasting health. Support your body with consistent healthy choices all year long.  I would like to offer five easy steps to begin your trek toward lasting health:


1) Up your water intake.  You’ve heard me preach this before, but it bears repeating.  Water is a building block of life.  Don’t like water? You wouldn’t be the first to admit this to me, so I encourage you to get creative.  Try herbal teas hot or cold, water steeped with lemon, ice water or carbonated water with lemon, lime or other fruit.  Hydrate first thing every day- yes, before coffee! Carry a water bottle or thermos with you wherever you go. Notice how you feel as you increase water in your life.


2) Increase leafy greens, especially greens such as kale, broccoli, bok choy, and cabbage.  Wait- don’t stop reading here! “Cruciferous vegetables contain a number of anti-cancer compounds,” says raw food expert David Wolfe.  He goes on to explain that any other primate on this great earth eats over 100 varieties of plants per year! David wants you to eat raw green veggies- and frankly I do too.  How? Have fun and experiment.  Look for resources on blending green smoothies.  Take it easy at first, a lot of noses are turned up to green drinks, but I promise you that if I can blend smoothies palatable to my children, you can blend these powerful antioxidant-rich power foods to your taste.  Still not convinced? Then ease your way into greens with some creative salads.  Try salads topped with pomegranate seeds and other fruits, sunflower and pumpkin seeds or raw unsalted nuts, herbs, sprouts, artichoke hearts or olives- anything that picks your salad up from lame to lavish.  Know that when you feed your body greens you’re feeding your body life and energy.  Notice how you feel as you add more greens to your plate.


3) Chew.  Ha- you think you’ve got me on this one!  You already do this.  Do it more.  Can you chew each bite of food 50 times? 100 times? In order for us to absorb the nutrients of any of the foods we eat we must begin the process with chewing well.  This is one of the reasons I love smoothies- it helps make the nutrients in the green power foods more available to my body.  However, if you’re like me you do not want to drink all your meals, so notice how much you chew and challenge yourself to do it more.  I hope that this has residual effects for you, too.  It’s about more than chewing, but slowing down and relaxing.  What do you notice during the times you’re not chewing much? What do you notice about how you feel when you try to chew each bite more? Start to pay attention to these little things.


4) Give thought to making some reductions.  Normally I like the idea of adding in.  It’s a powerful thing to see what healthier foods you can bring into your life without stressing over what you should cut out.  Focus on more (good), not less.  That one step alone- adding in healthy things- can change the way you feel, reduce cravings, and help crowd out less healthier food choices.  However, there are some things you might want to give thought to taking in less of and I am only encouraging you to consider it at this point.  What would a day be like with less or none of any of one of the following: meat, dairy, wheat, sugars and sugar substitutes? I am not telling you to lose these things forever, I am simply suggesting you experiment and see what balance feels good to you. Try, try and try again.  Pay attention to how you feel. 


5) Get educated.  Let’s face it, there are countless people out there who want to tell you how to lead your life.  It can be confusing and overwhelming to try to weed out what is best for you when the choices are unlimited.  I have trouble buying socks when the choices are too many! I’m guessing you probably aren’t faced with the same paralyzing sock dilemma, but being human it’s easier to do nothing when faced with too many choices. What can you do to learn more? I suggest reading some books and articles that will give you choices.  Take 10 minutes a day to read a book.  Go online and investigate the PCRM- take their 21-Day challenge http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/kickstart/kickstart-programs.  Watch documentaries such as Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead by Joe Cross.  Read more about what interests you. This year I challenge you to read one more book on a healthy subject than you did last year.  How many books will that be for you this year?


Remember, you don’t have to do anything extreme.  Just incorporate new, healthy habits and notice how you feel.  Remember that health is not only about what you eat.  Relationships, spirituality, work, exercise and finances can all contribute to how healthy you feel.  If you find yourself struggling with any of these, consider finding an expert to work with.  Remember that ultimately the answers to what is healthy for you can be found within you, but only if you try and pay attention to how you feel.


I wish you a joyous and healthy 2014 and hope to support you in your journey toward the life you desire! As always, I love to hear about you- what healthy steps work for you and what are you going to try? Leave your comments here or on A Balanced Life's Facebook page.  Best Wishes!
 
 
When I knew it was time to reach a certain financial goal of mine, I decided to work with a coach.  I already had a vision of what I wanted to do and I knew coaching would help me focus and get there faster.  Today there are coaches for many facets of life: personal life coaches, marriage coaches, financial coaches, health coaches, career coaches, executive coaches, and more.  Interestingly, the word coach has roots in the Hungarian word, “kocsi,” for “carriage.”  In the 1800s at Oxford students referred to their tutors with the slang word “coach,” which implied that the tutor would somehow carry the student through his studies.  Today we are are familiar with coaches for athletes, but perhaps we are less aware of how coaching is available to us and why we might consider hiring a coach to achieve our own goals.  


Coaches are support for anyone working to achieve a specific goal.  A coach is unlikely to remove a shroud of mystery around what you want to achieve, so if you do not yet have a fairly clear idea of your goal, you might have to do some soul searching before going to a coach.  For example, thinking it would be great to get fit in 2014? Decide on how you will get fit.  Do you want to improve your eating habits by cooking more meals at home?  Do you want to explore a new diet? How much weight will you lose and by what date you will shed the pounds?  Your coach will be a support system as you begin your personal journey.  A coach may even challenge you to try something different, learn something new, or help you take a different approach.  You should be able to go to your coach for guidance, support, and resources.  Resources include other professionals.  You’ve heard the saying that there is no “I” in team.  A good coach will recognize where her expertise lies and know that she is not the only player on your team.  When it is time to refer to another professional, your coach will be sure help you with that.


My experience as a coachee has helped me focus on my goal.  I had the drive before I started, but now with the help of my coach I have begun to learn at an accelerated rate.  When I inevitably get bogged down, have questions, or move off track, my coach is there to point me in the right direction.  When you consider a coach, do not be afraid to ask questions before using his or her service.  For example, you will want to be sure that your coach has experience in what it is you are trying to achieve.  Would you ask a person with stage fright how to improve your public speaking skills? I doubt it! Ask your potential coach about her daily practices, her philosophies and her accomplishments.  Where was she trained and why does that give her expertise? Even though you might regard this person as the “expert,” it is still okay to question her.  Remember, you’ll be doing most of the work on your journey toward your goal and your inner voice will guide you. Your coach is there to help you hear your inner voice and it is a good idea to ask any questions you need to find the coach who is the best fit for you.


As I chase down my own goals, I get more excited about the New Year than ever before for two reasons. First, I enjoy looking back on what I have achieved and how I have moved closer to any unmet goals.  Second, I can begin to set new goals for the upcoming year and learn from any unmet goals or mistakes I think I made.  As you move forward in the New Year, whatever you intend to do, I wish you the very best and that you may have another year filled with happiness, health and fulfillment.  Here’s to a New Year!

 

Dream On

11/23/2013

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The amazing day has finally arrived: in your arms you hold the most precious package you could ever have hoped for.  She is perfect, swaddled securely in a blue and pink striped receiving blanket.  Her fuzzy little head is covered by a cozy knit cap, her tiny ears peek out from the bottom.  You study her every expression and feel that you could cover her plump cheeks with a thousand kisses.  You hold her close to your chest and feel her warmth against you and know with all of your heart that this little one can accomplish anything she wants in this great world.


As she grows you enjoy countless moments with her.  Sometimes you struggle, as all parents do, but regardless the journey is fulfilling.  You applaud her successes, ache over her heartbreak, and believe in her endlessly.  She is smart, capable and loved.  One day she shares her dreams for the future with you.  She has found what she is passionate about and has a bold vision for her life.  Your heart soars when you hear her dreams.


Then one day your sweet baby tells you that someone said no to her dreams.  Someone said she could not do it.  Someone said, "Be realistic."  What do you tell her? I imagine you tell her to pay no attention to that person.  You tell her she is capable and smart.  "Go after your dreams," you say.  You feel the heat of anger in your core with the idea that anyone would discourage her.  If only you could shield her and her dreams from the naysayers.  Even if you are not a parent, I am willing to wager you can imagine this scenario.  If you are a parent you can probably relate to the desire to protect the dreams of your children.  Now, what about your dreams?


So often as adults we put our dreams aside or let the negative thoughts of others get to us and we convince ourselves that we are not the capable smart people we actually are.  Naysayers unlock the door to our fears and then we pull the door wide open.  How is it that we allow our own dreams to be subject to the scrutiny of negative people in our lives, but the tiger in us emerges when we imagine anyone putting down the dreams of our children?


Imagine again that baby I described.  Envision her again, tiny fingers, bitty toes and a lifetime ahead of her- but this time she is you.  What do you tell her? Tell her to protect her dreams.  Tell her that she is smart and capable and that she should go for it.  Nevermind the naysayers, just envision the dream and go for it.  As you would for your child, protect your dreams.  Be selective about who you honor with the privilege of knowing those dreams.  Share your bold vision with those who support and nurture you.  Allow your dreams to flourish and thrive in the supportive environment they deserve.
 
 
Do you know who Kim Kiyosaki is? Most of the time, she is introduced with mention of her very famous husband, Robert.  Robert is the face of the “Rich Dad” brand and even though you might not yet be as familiar with Kim, I believe (especially if you are a woman) you should be! Financial intelligence is undoubtedly necessary for a balanced life, and personally I am building my own financial intelligence.  I have found Kim’s “Rich Woman” books inspiring in this journey and promise you “Rich Woman” is worth a Google search.  


For now I will leave the discussion of building personal wealth to Kim, but beyond wanting to encourage you to take ownership around your financial life, I wanted to tell you about finding your “why.”  In Kim Kiyosaki’s book, “Rich Woman: a book on investing for women,” she prompts her readers to discover their “why” for achieving financial freedom.


Have you heard of this exercise before? Discovering the “why” behind your goals can be a very empowering practice.  Knowing exactly what motivates you can help you achieve something that could be difficult initially, but will pay off in the long run.  In Kim’s personal experience related to her journey toward financial freedom, hardships came up that might have made a different person want to quit.  Her “why,” or the vision that motivated her to succeed, was such a powerful force and reason for perseverance that she was able to push through what she called the worst period of time in her life.


Your “why” is not strictly reserved for your audacious financial goals. You can define your “why” for anything you take on.  Whatever you wish to achieve can be aided by your clear understanding of what is driving you.  This self-knowledge gives you fuel to make it through the toughest of times or the power to right your course if you find yourself adrift.  Conversely, when you struggle to find the reason why you want something then it may be time to rethink things- do you really want it as badly as you thought you did?


Simply put, I believe that our “why” provides us with the deep, emotional connection to our journey and goal, and can make the difference in what we achieve.  Sure, some things are easy to define.  Most of us would not stumble over the “why” behind raising our children.  Although at times our motivation is clear, most often it takes some thought to articulate.  So when you are not totally sure of what drives you, when your reason for going after something does not make you feel hungry for the prize, then it is time to define your “why.”  Go ahead and ask yourself, why?
 
 
Recently I had a birthday.  Despite having hit all the really exciting birthdays- every single one from birth to 15, the driver’s license, the right to vote, and legal drinking age- I still love birthdays.  I try to forget the fact that my next “big” birthday might involve images of gravestones and jokes about being over some hill and needing a walker (actually it had better not I’d like the theme to be “Fabulous”) and I instead embrace each birthday as a time for reflection and self-appreciation.  How have I reached or gotten closer to my goals? During this last birthday however, I felt off-track and was having some difficulty seeing the progress I have made towards the things I want to do.  


It is easy to set goals and even easier to fall off track, especially when you feel as if life has presented you with new challenges.  Sometimes I think I am on top of everything and suddenly I am presented with a curve ball.  This year on the verge to feeling sorry for myself, which I am getting too old for, I realized that it is when one is NOT making progress that there are no curve balls.  If I were not in the game, if I were not  in motion, if I were not taking action, then no new challenges would arise.  After this occurred to me I thought longer about where I was on my last birthday and slowly things began to come to me- achievements, positive changes, and accomplishments.  It dawned on me then that maybe I was not feeling instantly gratified and that was the source of my unrest.  Truly though, if the progress I make feels too slow or there are things I did not achieve, then I need to look back at why and take some lessons with me into my new year.  What do you know? Every year life gives us gifts: more lessons to apply to the rest of our lives.


What you do with the lessons is, of course, up to you.  I know now that when I feel off-track, when I feel like my activities do not aid in the achievement of my goals, I need to check my compass, figure out how to alter my course and look again for my north star.  Where do I want to be? What do I need to add to or subtract from my life to get there? Who am I in this process? Do I still want what I thought I want? It is never too late to evaluate and begin again, in fact every day on this earth is a chance to do that.  Material abounds on setting goals.  When you start to feel like you might not be reaching yours you can look to those ample resources and seek motivation and enthusiasm to help yourself get excited about your goals and in the game once again.  I have heard people say that you can not take one shower and expect to stay clean all year, so when keeping motivated the same applies.  Getting excited and motivated once is not enough.  One must find motivation and excitement on a daily basis to climb that mountain of dreams.


So, here’s to another year to up the ante, create bigger goals, meet more challenges, and jam-pack whatever I can accomplish into this year and the next, and the next... before the gag gifts start coming!



 
 
The poet has the gift of seeing the beauty and emotion in everyday life and putting that into verse.  I have not tried my hand at poetry since my early days in college during a creative writing course.  To satisfy one assignment in that class I wrote a poem warning against onion breath, which probably explains why it has been so long since my last Haiku.  Yet, the beauty of everyday life does not escape me and recently I found myself particularly moved.  

Of all the unexpected places to witness something deeply moving, I happened to be at a community pool.  This particular pool is equipped with a special chair to assist those who are less mobile into the pool.  With me on that occasion was my youngest son who was very interested in that chair, particularly because the lifeguard had to hook it up to a hose in order to operate it.  Holding him so that he could observe this process, I took note of the lady who was being helped into the water.  Clearly physical activity had become difficult for her, she lacked muscle tone throughout her body.  Her skin appeared fragile as it does with age and her face showed little change in expression.  Do you ever find yourself wondering about a person, their life and their situation?  I admit to being curious about her then.   

As we watched the chair lower her into the water, an older gentleman with a bit of a hunch to his shoulders, similar seemingly fragile skin and a balding head, descended the stairs of the pool.  Swiftly he made his way to where the woman would enter the pool, his eyes on her the whole time.  Though he probably did it instinctually and without thought I noticed the way he held his arms because it was the same way I hold my arms when I am near one of my children as he climbs something steep or balances precariously.  The man did not let his arms drop into the water, or rest them near his sides or across his chest, but kept them elevated above the water just so, as if ready to catch her at any moment.

When the couple met in the water, the man took the woman gently from the chair and with the help of the water he lifted her and carried her in the same fashion that a groom carries his bride over the threshold.  Together they enjoyed the freedom the water provided and he was her chariot.  In the few moments of watching the pair I was struck so deeply by all of this.  The image of the man’s gaze, his protective stance, and the way he tenderly carried the woman have stayed with me and I think of that scene occasionally.  I wonder if anyone else in the room saw the poetry that I saw on that day- the fragility of the woman and the fragility of life in general; the loving concern of one person for another; and the closeness two people can share in this short lifetime.  That day I felt that in barely two minutes I watched something so meaningful, such a testament to love.  It was something that could have been so easily overlooked, but before my eyes on that day beautiful, touching poetry unfolded.  Like me you may not be a poet, but the poetry of this life lies before us each day.  It can be only moment, but seeing the beauty of that moment is part of what this life is all about.  



 
 
During a break at work I sat outside of the building.  A man walked past me followed by a little girl pushing a baby in a stroller and behind her a skinny little boy with glasses, maybe about five years old.  The boy smiled at me as he walked past and of course I returned the smile.  With a wave he then marched on clearly enjoying whatever adventure he was taking part in.  He was absolutely adorable, his endearing innocence made me think of my own kids and then children in general.  A child’s smile is truly a gift.  That evening I began to think about qualities children possess and how as adults we should retain some of these “child-like” qualities.


The first quality is curiosity.  My two year old explores his environment with such a thorough and discerning eye.  He examines every knot in the floorboards as we move down the stairs, he pumps the bicycle pump by the front door on our way out then looks carefully for the results of his actions, and when we are finally outside he collects acorns and pebbles until he has to start handing some to me to carry. Day after day he finds wonder in his world and is eager to explore and learn more.  

The second quality is good humor.  Despite my best attempts to discourage the belly laugh-inducing charades of two little boys as they brush their teeth at night, part of me wonders if there is any way that I could experience uncontrollable laughter during my oral care routine.  Or, like my two year old, find hilarity in the funny faces and sounds someone makes.  What if, like my five year old, I could sometimes fall into unstoppable fits of laughter over a game of keep away?


The third quality is genuineness. Children have not yet encountered situations where they feel they need to pretend to be someone they are not, or hide their true selves.  They are honest with their opinions, likes and dislikes.  Kids are who they are without apology (and rightly so).


Each day I learn from my own children about who they are as people, about the nature of children, and even about myself.  As a busy adult with a grown-up’s agenda, concerns and ambition, I often have to remind myself to embrace the qualities my children so easily display.  Stay genuine, allow for curiosity and keep a good sense of humor.



 
 
Something I give a good deal of thought to on a fairly regular basis is what I put my energy into.  Learning to manage energy is tricky.  How are our efforts, not to mention our time, best spent? I saw a great demonstration about time and energy involving a jar of nuts, a larger jar, and some oranges.  The oranges represented major life goals and the nuts represented tasks.  The large jar signified a person’s life span.  When the large jar was filled with nuts first, not too many of the oranges could fit in at the end.  Yet, when the oranges were placed alternately into the jar with the nuts, somehow they all managed to fit in the jar together.  This showed that thoughtful use of one's time and energy to complete major goals and small necessary tasks (and sometimes not so necessary tasks) allows for the completion of both those things, versus always allowing the tasks to take precedence and never making time for big goals.  Powerful stuff.


Despite this point being abundantly clear to me, it can be hard to get past the tasks.  Personally, I can not work on a major goal if the environment around me is messy, so I first have to engage in the task of cleaning up my space. With four young children at home, I could potentially not ever move beyond that task! So, the question was presented to me recently by a caring individual, “What can you compromise on? What can someone else do, or what can you let go of?” She could probably see the wheels turning in my head- and they haven’t stopped.  I thought I had done very well in making room for my most valued goals by paring down some of the activities which take up a good deal of my time.  When it was brought to my attention, however, I realized that the tough process of letting go of some activities I was involved in was only a baby step in managing my energy.


I wish I could say that I’ve thought of some good answers since this question was presented to me a few days ago.  In thinking about energy my mind has considered circadian rhythm and how much sleep I’m getting (not enough, I can tell you since I recently pointed to a carrot in a board book and told my two year old it was a rabbit), ultradian rhythm and my natural capacity for staying engaged, and finally engagement.  When I first began to write this post, I had a little trouble because I wanted to detail my train of thought and explain the importance of all these things and how they relate, but a final epiphany helped me realize that what is most important to me in the results of my thinking is the one thought I want to share above the others.


Whatever the task or goal, engagement matters.  In this fast-paced world of distractions (smart phones), it is very easy not to be engaged.  As this has come to my attention over time I have tried to stay aware of it so that I am fully present and focused.  Even though my kids do not have Facebook or Twitter accounts yet, they will one day and I really do not want Twitter joining us as we try to enjoy our family dinner (well, unless the meal I make is just that fabulous, then we should probably “Instagram it,” too).  I realize that behavior I want to see from my children, must first be modeled by me.  Beyond that, I strongly believe that you and those around you get more out of life if you are fully engaged.  Imagine a baseball player at bat who does not have his head completely in the game.  I cannot imagine too many grand slams from a player like that.  Similarly, we need to have our heads in the game of life.  When working on things or with people who truly matter to us we need to be fully present.  For me, that means continuing to get clear about what are “nuts,” or tasks, and what are “oranges,” or goals.  If that is true for you, too, then consider this as well: are there times when we confuse the nuts with the oranges and the oranges with the nuts? I think those of us with the best of intentions do, but it comes down to understanding what is most important and when working on those most important things, or spending time with those most important people, we must be 100% present and engaged.

Have any secrets for managing your time and energy? As always I welcome your comments.  

 
 
​Last week I fessed up about my sugar addiction.  This week I come clean about another habit, a guilty pleasure! I love the reality TV series, "Big Brother."  I am a little behind in watching it, I catch up on episodes saved on our TiVo when I am in the mood.  If you watch the show then you will already know all about the house guest named Amanda.  If you do not watch the show, then you need to know that it is a strategy game involving a number of people cut off from the world, living in a house together, who are filmed 24/7.  They compete for privileges and power, and over time they vote each other out.  In the end evicted members form a jury to decided on which of the finalists was the best player and award him or her with the grand prize of a half million dollars.  Back to Amanda.  Amanda has played the game in such a way that she has not had to win competitions, but she is still In a strong alliance and convinces the other house guests to nominate and vote to evict whomever she has a vendetta against.  Some in the house call her a bully, others say she is, "assertively honest!" 

​Now, what got me thinking about this one reality television star, is a particular statement she made.  During an interview she looked directly into the camera and stated, "I always get what I want."  I practically groaned when I heard it, because my personal opinion of Amanda's behavior (or how CBS portrays her behavior) is that it tends more toward bully.  I couldn't help but feel for the underdogs playing against her.  It just got under my skin that someone sometimes so seemingly out of touch with others' feelings always gets what she wants.  Maybe it is a front, maybe it is good editing, but darn it if it doesn't just seem like we all know a few people like that! Have you not ever felt like there was another person always getting what he or she wanted? A promotion? A better house? A super vacation? A nicer car?

​Look, if you think I am about to say that we should play the game of life like this Amanda character plays Big Brother, that is not what I am getting at.  I truly believe that if you play life in an "assertively honest" fashion, your house of cards will come tumbling down eventually.  What I do believe about people like Amanda (or her character in the show, who really knows?) or even people who are a little more gentle in their approach to getting what they want, is that they share a common thought pattern: they have unwavering belief.  They just cannot see life any other way.  

​People who achieve their goals believe that they deserve what they are after.  They can envision themselves reaching their goal, they know what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, and smells like even before they get it.  They have a vision and intention.  It is unwavering belief that leads them to their desires.  With unwavering belief in yourself, I believe you can accomplish anything.  You do not need to be a bully, pushy, or manipulative, but if you set your mind to achieve something, do not picture it any other way.  Imagine, write down even, what the future will be like for you.  Envision it vividly: the year, the month, the day.  Who is with you, what are you wearing? What does it feel like? 

​When I first heard this sort of advice, I found it extremely hard to vividly describe what I wanted.   I even doubted the exercise.  If I closed my eyes and pictured a clean bathroom would some fairies appear and scrub our toilet? Over time I have come to see that having a clear vision of your future does yield what you want.  However, as you see from my bathroom example, the vision and belief are not the only piece of the puzzle.  The other thing that differentiates people who get what they want from people who do not is that they take consistent steps to reach their goals.  That clean bathroom? Well, the fairies need to stay on top of it, no coming to call once in a while.  Consistent, focused effort will win.

​Is there something you have been thinking about doing? Want to lose some weight? Want to eat better? Want to take a nice vacation? Want to learn a new skill? Envision it with great detail, write it down, and try to figure out the steps necessary to reach your goal.  Do that and you can get there.  You will not even have to play the part of the bad guy, you can simply be yourself- nice, consistent and with a clear picture of your future.
 
 
Wow! This week has been full of schedule changes and new beginnings with the kids getting back to school.  With so many activities to keep track of, new schedules to adjust to, things to remember, and exhausted little ones, the whole week has left me feeling like my head is spinning.  Without a doubt, if it is tough for the kids to adjust to these changes, it is also tough for me.  


On the way to school one morning the boys and I were discussing milk, which is always on sale for the students to have during school lunch or snack.  I ask the boys to always choose the white milk, as students have the option of chocolate milk as well.  My kids endure a lot of "health food talk" from me, so they understand that I do not want them having the extra refined sugar in the chocolate milk.  What is really hard for them, and I understand when they express this to me, is that while they are drinking white milk they watch so many kids around them drinking chocolate milk.  I tried to explain the dangers of a diet high in refined sugars, but I have a feeling that for now it might be lost on them.  It might sound extreme, but I even likened refined sugar habits to cigarette smoking, to which one child responded, "Yeah, but I don't know what cigarettes are like." That's right, mister, don't you ever! His point was not lost on me, though: all he knows is that sugar tastes good.


Frankly, I have to agree with him.  I fight sugar addiction on a daily basis, especially during weeks like these when I feel tired and stressed.  No time for a run, but plenty of brownies to buy in the cafeteria at work! Some may say I am taking this a little too far with my claims to addiction and comparison to cigarettes, but consider this: eating refined sugar leads to craving more sugar, and abruptly ending sugar consumption makes you suffer headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue- a.k.a withdrawal (credit due to Joshua Rosenthal, founder of Institute for Integrative Nutrition).  Sugar is an addictive substance which is craftily added to many processed foods and that is no mistake.  How profitable for the companies who manufacture those foods, you literally cannot quit them.  Even some foods one would not expect to find added sugars in are loaded with them, like baby foods or foods advertised as healthy.  


Yet, I know there are people out there who will roll their eyes over denying my children chocolate milk.  What exactly is the concern? First, refined sugars, unlike the natural sugars found in sweet vegetables and fruits, carry absolutely no vitamins, minerals, enzymes or protein.  In fact for your body, or your child's body, to process refined sugars it must use stored minerals and enzymes, creating a deficiency.  All that hard work coaxing your kid to eat his broccoli is down the drain! Of more concern: the rapid rise in the rate of what used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, or Type 2 Diabetes.  In Type 2 Diabetes the body's cells become immune to insulin, the substance responsible for letting the right amount of glucose in from blood to cell.  It is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. (again credit to Rosenthal) and the rise in diagnosis in both adults and children proves just how addicted this country is to refined sugars.  After all, we are the largest consumers of sugar in the world, averaging about 100 pounds of sugar eaten per year.  100 pounds- thats more than twice the weight of my dog and pretty darn close to my own.


Even for me, already knowing the dangers of refined sugar in the diet, reading these facts was a wake-up call.  I would never knowingly feed my children an addictive, disease-inducing substance, but that is just what sugar is.  Sugars are laced in our children's breakfast cereals, drinks, snacks, daily meals, and obviously  their desserts, but in general our country seems to be blind to the dangers of this.  My question is, are we blind to it, or are we as adults also just too addicted to want to change things? I know for now I might get some funny looks for not wanting my son to partake in chocolate milk or in every birthday cupcake shared in his classroom, but I hope that eventually there is a new trend- a trend away from rising rates in diabetes and towards a decrease in the amount of refined sugar Americans are consuming each day.  

What do you think? Hippie hype or fair fight? As usual I welcome your thoughts!

 

    Jennifer Loebel

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