Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Debating Tips for the Holdays

This post is inspired by the Atlantic Article called "If You Must Talk Politics at Thanksgiving, Here's How: 10 Unsatisfying Rules For Disagreeing With Friends and Families Over the Holidays."

Their suggestions are good advice for any time of year,  although I'd recommend avoiding any and all serious discussion during a holiday if you possibly can. It's a time to be welcoming our nearest and dearest, not driving them away.

Still... I am aware that some of us have friends, neighbors, community members, or relations who just cannot be discouraged from venting at our political affiliation, religion, or other differences. Then you have but few (angelic) choices: refuse to discuss it, defend yourself respectfully, leave or ask them to leave (if it is your house.)
photo from Wititudes

If you find yourself tempted into the fray, then may these tips be of some help to you. This is how I try to approach such discussions (though I'll admit I don't always handle it perfectly either.)

The basic strategy here boils down to respecting the person even when you don't agree with them at all. This may mean ignoring what can seem like a personal attack on your status in the group and your personal worth. Even if a personal attack is exactly what is intended, it never helps to point this aspect out.  It's not about who is right or wrong, but surviving until dessert is served. You need a fire extinguisher, not gasoline.

My tips:  It is helpful if you make an effort to acknowledge all valid points from the other side, and accept in advance that the most you are ever going to do is sow some seeds of doubt in the 100% rightness of their position. Never even hope you can change the other person's mind entirely, as that way endless debates and acrimony loom. The other side assumes that nothing will do but their total submission to your incredible wisdom, and that just ain't gonna happen, Hoss.

Stick with demanding a little respect for your differences - and let the rest go. Say what you think is the most important parts of why you believe/live as you do, back it up with what facts you have, and (ideally) look for the earliest moment to end the debate in a way that is respectful to both sides...without retreat...without hard feelings. Grit your teeth if you must, but realize this is the best gift of peace and love you can offer to everyone at the gathering. It is the wise thing to do.

Family fights are memorable but NOT great for cozy holiday memories, which is why debates like this should be avoided whenever possible, and ended quickly when they arise, as long as this doesn't steamroll others' self-worth.

Opinions are like noses, everybody has one and they all drop *ahem* less than delightful offerings from time to time. Yeah...eeeeewwww
 (and a tissue box)

A Gentle Plan for Dietary Improvement During the Holdays

A lot of us are gearing up for the holidays, and dreading the usual resolution to improve our diet afterward that invariably follows.

I have a different idea. Don't skip your goodies, especially don't skip the turkey, but do try substituting healthier varieties of the goods you adore as you make your holiday meal plans. That way you will be already working toward your healthier body when the New Year begins.

I was inspired to discuss this when I saw this article for changing your diet to an all healthy alternative one week at a time. My family would have found this a lot less workable than the plan we created for ourselves. So then I figured, I'd share what we actually did. Maybe it would help somebody else. Now I am realizing our plan is actually doable during the holidays too, because all I asking of you in step one is to choose between varieties of the same foods you were going to buy anyway.

IMO their plan makes huge changes that are hard to master in a week. Huge dietary changes work better if you cut the worst stuff first, and let everyone agree that it is a livable change before you move on. Also note that it often takes two-three weeks to stabilize any permanent change in diet (or any other habit.) Don't push to the next step until you have adapted to the current one. We initially worked more from this list than theirs http://www.booksforbetterliving.com/jillian-michaels-tips-slim-for-life/

Please note the items on it to specifically avoid when you can. Even processed foods/frozen dinners vary in quality. When these are your only option, pick the ones with the fewest bad ingredients. Even that much change can help quite a bit!

MY suggested list of other changes comes from various warnings from health-concious friends and groups (mostly other Moms and herbal/food therapy fans.)

We've also absorbed the ideas of Gary Taubes, and so far we've combined the lessons about old/modern grains, excessively sugary foods, and chemical toxicity with his findings about stabilizing our endocrine systems to lose weight safely, easily, and naturally. The resulting resolutions has resulted in these steps. Swelling in the liver area is way down. Digestion is much improved. We rarely have heartburn now. Seems to be working for us!

Step 1: Cut out High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and diet sugars but allow as much natural sugar as you want the first week, then cut back on adding sugary snacks as the cravings ease up in the following weeks.

You must allow the sugar cravings to drop naturally before you can get serious about permanently cutting back sugars in your diet (while still enjoying your food.) If you want improvement to last, start by replacing everything in your cabinet to non-HFCS alternatives. Watch out for breading products, cold medicines/cough drops, juices, sodas, and convenience foods with HFCS or fake sugars in them. Especially get rid of condiments, - like ketchup, pancake syrups, sweet relishes, jellies - that have HFCS as the main sweetener. There are sugar alternatives for every one of these. You just have to look carefully. Sometimes it's another brand name, sometimes its the generic that turns out to be safer. The best regular pickle relishes in our area right now are from the dollar store!  What we found was, that once we re-adjusted to the cane sugar, agave nectar, or honey versions, we felt like what we had regularly ingested before was way too much sugar. The explanation we received was that our bodies can 'see' natural sugars better. HFCS and diet sugars confuse the body and leave you hungry. So when you eat/drink only natural sweeteners you end up cutting down on them. Then you can start working in less sugary options as your finances and cravings allow - more unsweetened fruits/juices, more peppery relishes, real maple syrup (you use syrup less once your leptin levels improve) etc.

End goal is to cut down on total sugar usage and therefore improve how your body uses and recognizes the calories you eat, which reduces hunger, which reduces overeating. Take daily steps to get there. Excessive fructose in your diet is believed to strain your liver, which messes up that whole process. Its about 45 minutes in, but this explains. (Fructose is at 57 minutes,  (this explains why concentrated High Fructose Corn Syrup is a bigger problem, even before you get into how it is made) -  but you need to see the comparison for glucose and ethanol.) Fresh-pressed juices and whole fruits don't do this to us. I think there is probably something extra that helps there to help digestion besides the fiber, but I can't prove that one. All I know is that I can eat several oranges, apples, or other fruits and I don't see internal swelling like I do with even a tablespoon of a HFCS filled ketchup. BBQ sauce, relish or pancake syrup. Not kidding.

Step 2: Warnings about 'grain brain' and 'leaky gut' have encouraged a lot of people to cut out grain products entirely, or at least use only 'gluten free' options. We acted on the warning in "Wheat Belly" about triticum aestivum and found that just cutting down on 'modern' breads/wheat products gave us a large benefit.  Just shift from 'regular wheat' to less modified grains. Eat more barley, oats, kamut, quinoa, spelt, millet, organic potatoes, and/or rice in place of 'regular' noodles, biscuits, or crackers made from the usual triticum aestivum. Durham/semolina noodles are better than noodles that just say 'wheat' but better still are noodles made from beans, rice flour, or at least an older wheat variety than the usual. Use King Arthur Flour or Bob's Red Mill products(or equivalent) for baking, making pie crusts etc If you must buy sliced sandwich bread, try getting those that at least blend in other grains (like oats or millet). Nature's Own is definitely one of the better commercial brands right now because it avoids HFCS and several other bad ingredients, but I don't know if the wheat itself is better. If it becomes necessary because of your particular health requirements to shift to gluten free or away from grains altogether, this will be a gentler transitory step.

Your gut will start feeling so much better once you've made this shift!

Step 3. Commit to eating more local/organic fresh fruit and veg every week. Seriously plan it in - and keep bananas around. They may be a little starchy but they make excellent snacks compared with what you ate before. Those fancy baby spinach salads are surprisingly filling, our favorite baby spinach salad so far also has organic sliced apples, nuts, raisins (or organic grapes)... Plan to make a taco salad rather than using flour or corn tortillas. Bake sweet potatoes at least once a week. You can find reasonable ways to serve fresh veg in ways your family will eat it.

Step 4.. everything else... Steadily working in most of the usual recommendations when you can will do good things for you. Eat/drink organic meats, organic dairy, more nuts, fewer foods with nitrates, fewer fried foods, and fewer processed foods/mixes. Avoid hydrogenated oils when you can. Avoid MSG and Sodium Benzoate. Avoid fake sugars, GMO's, and 'lite' foods.

Also try to walk a little more whenever you get the chance. It doesn't make you lose weight, but its good for the functioning of your digestive system. Take extra laps around the grocery store or mall. Whatever works for you. You'll enjoy those cookies and pies much more after a little exercise anyway. ;)

Don't give up on eating healthy when you must eat out. Many restaurant chains do have their menu ingredients online. Choose carefully from the relatively safe choices when eating out. Watch out for their salad dressings and other condiments!

VERY Important Note:: Please don't develop an 'all or nothing' mentality. If you just have to eat hotdogs or bacon tonight, then eat them, but don't give up on the idea that your overall diet is going to stay healthier now.