Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Sticker for the Progress Chart, Please

Ok, I know this sounds silly but I was giddy after I got my bloodwork back on Monday. My doctor was very very happy. It was like being in 1st grade again and getting a sticker to put on the progress chart.

Back in May I was kinda shocked to learn I had high cholesterol. Moi? The doctor asked, "Do you eat ice cream?" No. "Do you eat butter?" No. "Do you eat....." The conversation continued. No, no, and no were my replies. Except when the questioning came to the subjects of exercise and cheese. I don't love working out (I'm just in "like" with it). I love cheese.

So it was then that I began to prep for the next cholesterol test:

* 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5x a week
* Watch cheese intake (darn)
* Eat some oatmeal

I was able to stay on target most of the time. And the dedication paid off:

Lowered LDL (bad cholesterol - think L for "keep it Low") - it was way lower!
Raised HDL (good cholesterol - think H for "keep it High")

I've still got a little ways to go but it was a signficant result. And I finally had an indicator of what healthy habits of eating and exercising can do!


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fun with Needles

After a brief hiatus, I started seeing Eva again.

She's an extraordinary acupuncturist. After checking my liver/lung pulses and tongue (which provided various clues to organ function), she poked me. Based upon a brief update and discussion on health issues, concerns, sleeping patterns, and cycle, Eva chose various points to engage. The needles didn't hurt. I usually can't even feel them.

My sessions are spent in silence or with music, in darkness or light, and sometimes with a heated towel. Last night I started seeing colors, particularly purple. It was like going to the planetarium and seeing nothing but hues moving about the screen. Purple was everywhere!

During my first treatment and all those that followed, I felt like I was experiencing a lengthy savasana (sha-vasana)- the end point of a yoga session where you lie supine to reap the benefits of all your hard work. Acupuncture requires no poses. It's instant gratification!

Like yoga, I find acupuncture to be centering and calming. I also feel more balanced. My friend actually thought I was drunk after one of my sessions! It's that relaxing.

There are therapeutic benefits too. Acupuncture involves tapping into meridians - energy flows of the body. Acupuncture assists in unblocking these pathways and improving imbalances related to organs and their activities. It also stimulates the nervous system and enhances the body's natural regulating abilities.

Acupuncture has been a great tool as I continue to explore the causes of my symptoms. It has most noticeably helped with emotional balance, something that has been more roller-coaster-esque in light of the health concerns.

And of course, I highly recommend Eva!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Broadening Horizons

Last night my aunt, uncle and I ventured into the city for some vegan cuisine. It was a first for us all! I guess you could say we were vegan virgins.

We started out with some alchohol (to ease the nerves). The pomegranate sangria was super yummy.

We then sampled chanterelle and corn chowder and green salad with pistacchio vinagrette. My aunt said the corn chowder was one of the best dishes she's had in her life! It was fresh, wholesome, and mm mm good.

Our entrees included grilled seitan over yukon mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach in a horseradish cream sauce, pan roasted tofu with a mexican flare, and a hearts of palm cake with sweet potato fries and asparagus.

Dessert included white chocolate banana ice cream (soy based) and a tart mojito parfait with coconut. The blueberry tea was a refreshing end to an adventure-filled meal!

Our observations on vegan food - it was flavorful, filling and satisfying! While we ate a lot of food, we felt very light afterwards! Thumbs up!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Read More Into It

Not all "health" foods are created equal. Some are not even healthy!

In addition to my nutritionist's recommendation of adding more protein, I assigned myself some homework. I rounded up my staple foods and recorded their content and value. I was specifically interested in:

* Saturated Fat
* Sodium
* Sugar
* Protein
* Dietary Fiber

I was shocked by some of the results. One of my favorite pasta noodles and the marinara sauce I used with them were LOADED with sodium. Because I used to consume this "meal" regularly, it was particularly alarming. I also never monitored portions.

1/2 cup of my favorite pasta sauce = 540 mg (22% daily allowance) of sodium!
1 serving of my "healthy" noodles = 490 mg (20% daily allowance) of sodium!

I easily used 1 cup of marinara and probably doubled the noodles each time, which nearly accounted for my daily intake of 2,400 mg of sodium! OUCH! I don't even own table salt! I thought I was disciplined. Turns out I was getting more than enough sodium through the foods I purchased!

Most of my foods passed the content test. They were within a reasonable range. But I wasn't surprised by another food item and its integrity. The numbers on paper encouraged me to say "ba bye" for good. The frozen fire-roasted vegetables were yummy but contained 14% saturated fat. The balsamic vinegar infused with butter that came in the packet was delicious but was making this "food" source a little pointless for nutrition's sake. The sodium content of 200 mg (9% per serving) was equally disappointing, given that it pertained to a 1/2 cup serving of vegetables. It's like eating a salad with fatty dressing - is there any point? Maybe once and a while when it's blue cheese :P

I asked my nutritionist about these items. Her advice? Steer clear of any foods with more than 240 mg of sodium! The American Heart Association has a helpful information sheet titled Why Should I Limit Sodium.

Does this mean no more pasta? Heck no! When weighing options, the wheat pasta that was sitting next to the "health" noodles in the pantry were actually healthy. They contained just as much protein (7g), more fiber, more iron, and 0 mg of sodium! No love loss there! I'll find another marinara to gush over. I'll make my own fire-roasted vegetables!

It just means a return to basics - reading labels more carefully, investing in safer foods, and ENJOYING foods that are more wholesome!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

It's the protein, stupid

I may have found the answer to my no-energy issue. For years I had experienced feelings of lethargy. I was beginning to think I was a zombie. My brain felt like it was melting.

Was I anemic? No.
Were the regular headaches causing it? I thought so at first but ruled them out.
Was it lack of regular exercise? Hello! NO ENERGY to do it.
Was it mild depression? Not sure.
Allergies? Hmmmm....
Boredom? Nope.
Was I immersed in a quarterlife crisis? Spare the drama.

I saw a nutritionist two weeks ago and after evaluating my typical meals she found the missing link - PROTEIN. I needed about 48 grams a day. I was getting about 20 at most - if that! I was given the promise that if I upped my intake and had a little protein with each meal - I'd start to feel better within days and really great in two weeks.


The results are amazing. Two weeks into mindful protein eating (the list includes lentils, beans, nuts, nut butter, scallops, a little meat, low-fat yogurt sans high fructose corn syrup, low fat cheese, egg whites, edamame, and soy milk) and I feel better than ever. I think those mild feelings of depression were my body's response to deprivation. I now come home from work and don't need to crash. There's energy for a run or brisk walk, for catching up with friends, for cooking, and for blogging!

Va Va Voom! I found me some good fuel!