Category Archives: health

Eat to live; don’t live to eat!

You have probably heard of the saying, “Work to live. Don’t live to work.” Recently it just occurred to me that the same thing is true for food. During an age where the entire globe seems to be obsessed with food, weight and health/beauty ideals, it is about time we realize: We eat to live, we don’t live to eat!

[“Eat to live” also happens to be the slogan and title of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, which explains the nutritarian diet.]

Do you find that your day revolves around your eating schedule? Do you long for the next meal like it’s your salvation? A lot of people are plagued with what they perceive as cravings for a certain food, a sweet, or a caffeinated beverages. What they are most likely experiencing, however, is a feeling of emptiness and boredom that they try to fill desperately by chewing on something. People turn to constant snacking to break out of the routine, to add a little pleasure sensation throughout the day.

There are three things essential to our survival in the physical realm: air (oxygen), water, and food, respectively. Notice that food is only the third requirement on the list. We can survive weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without oxygen. We need to fill our lungs with oxygen and make it available for assimilation by our cells almost immediately. Water makes up about 60-70% of the average human body, and balance must be maintained between intake and output. Food takes a much longer time to be processed and integrated into the tissue and eventually to the cellular level.

The process of digestion and metabolism of the food has been studied extensively but still remains among the most controversial sciences. This, in turn, is responsible for the myriad of opposing dietary theories that float around the media, are propagated by the government in the form of food pyramids and guides, and are taught on all different levels at schools and universities. However, with mixed messages from food and health industries, and a focus on convenience and consumerism rather than sustainability and nature, people are as confused as ever about what to eat. According to Michael Pollen, author of “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” the human body is nourished by only about 1/4 of what we eat, and the rest of what the average person consumes is only detrimental to the health (see interview here).

Industrialized countries in particular have become obsessed with staying healthy and fit and determining the proper eating habits. Third world, countries, on the other hand (which, incidentally, have the lowest rates of psychological illnesses such as depression) don’t seem as concerned.

Even if you genuinely try to eat well and lead a ‘healthy lifestyle’ – the overwhelming presence of food as the centerpiece of our society is evident. We are constantly setting up lunch and dinner work and romantic dates, and checking out the local spots for good food and drinks to socialize. Our schedules revolve around food, and our day is broken up by eating times. We are habitually bombarded with food imagery from the media, and enticed by the smells of food encountered wherever we go. We let our stomachs govern our entire existence!

There is no question about it, food gives us more than just cellular nutrients – it has complex interaction with hormonal and neurotransmitter systems, which make us feel good. This may sound shocking, but here is a consideration: shift focus away from food and towards fulfilling your life with satisfaction on a much deeper level. Think about what spaces you are trying to crowd out by temporary “food highs.” Things like meaningful relationships, a career where you feel valued, a spiritual practice you believe in, physical exercise and ways to express your creativity are all areas of life that are often overlooked. Yet these are the things that truly count, that make us fully human on an emotional and spiritual level. It is no wonder health is defined as the sum total of physical, emotional, and social well-being (WHO definition).

Living healthily entails more than what you put in your plate and into your physical body. Living your life according to your dreams, goals, and values, with the people that you want to share it with, needs to be addressed. Only then can full health be achieved by proper nutrition.

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Listen to your body

Listen to your body
It knows more than you think
Listen to your body
It guides your intuition
Listen to your body
It follows basic instincts
Listen to your body
It is the sixth sense
Listen to your body
It craves what is missing
Listen to your body
It will steer you to balance
Listen to your body
It is your temple
Listen to your body

No time to meditate? Quick tip on how to unwind…

Besides checking in with yourself periodically and making sure you are breathing right (deep, slow inhalations), there are a lot of quick little things you can do to relax and de-stress.

If you don’t have time for a bath with candles, bath salts, and incense, you can easily make an adjustments and create a similar effect in your 10-minute shower session! Instead of fluorescent lights, light a candle. Plug the shower and instill a few drops of essential oil, such as lavender, mint or eucalyptus into the tub. The scent will vaporize while you shower. Voila – you can now enjoy a spiritual aromatherapy shower session, with no extra time needed. Just take as long as you would a regular shower, and enjoy the experience. Trust me, making these little adjustments will make a big difference in how you feel during and after the shower. Try it out and see for yourself.

Shower happy!

Stop. Breathe. Repeat.

You know what we don’t get enough of? Air. We often forget to breathe. We run around all day like wind-up dolls and it takes great effort to bring awareness to what is essential: breathing.

Today I literally stopped what I was doing about every hour to deepen my breath. All day long I was feeling suffocated, like my lungs were not getting enough oxygen. New York, the capital of changing weather 24/7, is in the middle of another topsy-turvy climate – the humid/cold/rainy weather probably had something to do with my condition.

Every time you feel anxious, nervous, or hyper-stimulated, try to bring your awareness back to the breath. Focus on the here and now, breathe all that tension out. Fill your lungs with air by inhaling, slowly and deeply, through the nose and low into the belly. Try to feel your breath moving, and follow it diffusing through the lungs and into the blood, until it reaches all the cells of your body, down to the fingers and toes.

There are breathing techniques that are used for different effects on the body. For example, breathing through your left nostril calms you down, which can be useful during stress or before an exam. Breathing through the right nostril, on the other hand, wakes you up and gives your energy, so you can use this on a long car ride (especially useful for the driver).

We really don’t give enough credit to the power of the breath. But if you think about it, each breath is essential for maintaining our life force, until the next breath. We can go days without water and weeks without food, but we can only survive minutes without oxygen. So oxygen is the number one nutrient to nourish your body; water is the second; and food takes third place. Honor the breath and bring awareness to it periodically to get the full benefit of it.

Reasons to forgive…starting with yourself

In life, there is no right or wrong. There is no black and white. Everything is mostly in shades of color, and is really all about choices. We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we always choose how to react to something. As cliche as it sounds, we have the power within ourselves to choose, and with great power comes great responsibility. Every choice made has its own repercussions, and we can only hope that the consequences will be positive and reassuring. Every time we make a choice, we also have the power to readjust the choice by evaluating which road it has led us down. And that is the greatest power of all – we have the chance to make a new choice based on new-found knowledge from a previous decision.

This means, of course, that the system is not perfect. There will be times when you look back and see that somewhere along the line, your choices have steered to a path you don’t wish to stay on. And you may even look for that one key choice along the web that was flawed and led you astray. You will not rest until you find someone responsible, someone to blame – and it will most always be you. Since you have the power of your own destiny, it must be you who has failed your own self. Inevitably, regret, guilt, and shame will envelope you and convince you that you are not to be trusted with your decisions.

Well, this kind of thinking will just drive you mad! Although easier said than done, you have to overcome these irrational thoughts. They are irrational because you did not know then what you know now. You cannot blame yourself for making an educated choice to the best of your ability, with the brightest of intentions. You didn’t know how things would turn out, but you made the best decision at the time, with a little bit of faith. And a lot of the times, your decisions probably brought you to good outcomes. But you don’t pay attention to all of those times you got it right, it is the less-than-desired outcomes you focus on. That is human nature, to devote more energy to negative thoughts due to an unfavorable phase than to be grateful for the sea of good that has happened in your life.

  1. Be grateful for the things that went “right.” We must re-train our brain to appreciate all that is good, and give ourselves credit for getting us on that good path, most of the time.
  2. Accept that you cannot change the past. To err is human, and from time to time we will prove that we are human. Sometimes we will make a choice with unfavorable outcomes. But what’s done is done, and since no time machine has been invented to date, we must leave the past in the past and deal with the situation at hand.
  3. Take the unexpected turn of events as a lesson, not a curse. Just because you have suffered a setback doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to keep going. Having learned how you got into the mess, and having lived through the experience, you can keep going stronger than ever.
  4. Develop a healthy relationship with yourself. You are the only thing that you can be sure of. You have gotten yourself thus far on your journey, and you have to be able to rely on yourself to get yourself to where you want to be. You are the one living in your body, taking care of yourself, and thinking all of these thoughts. So appreciate yourself, value and cherish yourself, and most importantly, trust yourself. Most of us have a problem with this last point, because we tend to not keep our own word to ourselves. We need to get out of this habit, and make it the utmost goal for our word to matter to the person who matters most – your own self. Start with little things, like “I will go to bed at 10 p.m. tonight, no matter what” or “I will have a salad for lunch instead of pizza.” Gradually build up trust by keeping your promises to yourself.
  5. Forgive yourself. Think about all of the above, realize that you can only change the present and future, and promise yourself that you will do your best. Regret is useless and unfair, because you did not have all the facts back then. Meditate on it, take a bath, or write it down: “I forgive myself. I accept what I cannot change and I can move forward with my new knowledge and experience.”

From this point on, you can look at life as a series of choices, experiences, and lessons. Some will be more rewarding, others will be more teaching. In order to avoid harsh teachers, reevaluate your choices often. As soon as you see yourself veering off the desired path, make adjustments. Make another choice that will get you back on your true path.

The “true path” is different for everyone. Hence one decision may work for one person, and not work for someone else. We have to accept this and respect the right of others to choose. We can advise them to the best of our ability, but in the end, it is up to an individual to choose. And they have to reevaluate their own choices later on. The universe and karma usually help with showing the outcomes of a decision. If that’s not enough, when they are ready, they will seek out advice and that’s when other people can really help.

[ZeroToHero]

[Inspired in part by Still Standing.]

Happiness

DailyPrompt

Happiness. That thing we all strive for, the end goal to live, what we wish each other on birthdays and holidays. But what is the definition, really?

Wikipedia defines it as “a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.” But the concept of happiness has a lot of connotations depending on the context, and can mean different things to different people. Some view it as an emotional “high” or intense feeling of pleasure, that can only be achieved from time to time (some attempt to hold on to it longer by recreating it via drugs/behavior). Others view it as a long-term state of being, that which gives us a deep satisfaction with the way we have led our lives.

I read somewhere that happiness is a general state of mind, that will more or less stay the same throughout a person’s lifetime. Sure, levels will fluctuate during periods of intense joy, or horrible tragedy – but, on average, every person will have a certain homeostatic happiness level. Some people are depressed even though all objective characteristics are favorable. Others may suffer from being crippled and still maintain a positive outlook and happiness level. I forgot the source of this theory, but this article has some really good explanations and pointers as well.

Happiness is different for everyone. Happiness is seeing someone you love smile. Happiness is feeling lucky to be exactly where you are. Happiness is feeling comfortable to be in your skin, and reluctant to give it up for anything. Happiness is dancing in the rain. Happiness is laughing your heart out. Happiness is realizing you can snooze for an extra 10 minutes today. Happiness is going to sleep and waking up next to someone you love. Happiness is having support when you need it most. Happiness is feeling like you are constantly moving forward and progressing in life. Happiness is being grateful for what you have while striving to become a better version of yourself. Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

John Lennon once said, “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life” (GoodReads).

Waste not, want not

Zero-to-Hero

You know what nobody likes to talk about? Waste. And I’m not just talking fecal matter, I mean any kind of waste. We humans leave behind waste everywhere we go, without a second thought, as if there’s nothin’ to it.
Maybe it’s because I am an immigrant, or maybe because my parents taught to me to value things, but my heart breaks from America’s wasteful attitude. Nowadays, things are not built to last, which explains why they often need to be disposed of after minimal wear ‘n’ tear. But when you grow up saving and reusing stuff, it just becomes second nature. Think of all the containers that are wasted in the food making/takeout industry. All those plastic containers can be saved and reused for home lunches! Instead, they wind up in the trash, and eventually litter the streets…

Sure, there are some loose guidelines about recycling, for example in NY. But who really enforces them? My family can recycle all they want (and we do try), but our recycling is not even a drop in the bucket compared to industrial waste, or even waste from small businesses. How hard is it to separate paper and plastic/metal/glass from everything else?
Then there are those that postulate that even if they separate recyclables, garbage collectors throw everything in one bin. Following that logic, why bother at all?

All I know is, if things keep going at this rate, there will be more waste on this planet than anything else! What are we going to do with all this garbage – there is physically no space for it anymore! Instead of making grand plans to send it up to space or bury it, perhaps we should steer our attention to conserving our resources. We should make things out of natural, durable materials, that can be reused and eventually recycled/biodegraded. And if science does allow for this, the much harder part will be to change the attitudes of people. Cherishing our environment and planet should be a priority for everyone, instilled in us from childhood! It should not be our instinct to waste and spit on our planet that gave rise to so much life and beauty….

See recycling ideas at earth911.com.

Back to Basics

Growing up, I was always reading. I was fascinated by the ability of writers to master a language and create a whole new world within the pages of a book. Now, everything is digital and almost everyone is a writer – just look at the amount of blogs out there!

Using all the resources available to us now, we have expanded the ability to communicate beyond what is physically feasible – people can reach each other across the globe with the touch of a button! With that said, the human element has somehow gotten lost in translation.

I’d like to raise questions and invite people to think about what we are gaining and what we are giving up. The culture today is all about instant gratification, without taking the time to getting to the root of something and finding the best solution. The media and industry has a stronghold on all aspects of our lives. We are being brainwashed without realizing it, every time we watch a show, ride the subway, read a nutrition label, or put on a brand of clothing. Healthcare is running on autopilot: diagnose, prescribe medication, dispense, bill insurance. Our bodies are abused rather than being nurtured.

The world is on the precipice of something – values are shaking up and people are awakening as if from a deep slumber. We are the the masters of our own destiny. If we are careful, we can find a balance with nature and live in harmony, within and without.

My intention for this blog is to organize my ideals for what it means to be human, and inspire people to find their own ideals. Everyone is different, but we must each embrace our individuality in order to stay true to ourselves. Looking within is the key to living a happier, healthier life. I will also post tips on health & wellness, spirituality, nutrition, and living green.

Namaste, to those who are reading and following.

Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry

Continuing my observations from my last entry, I was linked to another site through my research initiated by Story of Stuff. The author’s friend, Stacy Malkan, has written a book called “Not Just a Pretty Face” and it is dedicated to exposing the Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. Apparently, companies are not required by law to list all possible hazardous processes involved in production of cosmetic products. They justify this by saying we don’t actually ingest their products and hence don’t need to worry about slathering potential carcinogens and other nasty byproducts onto our hair, skin and lips. Yeah, I feel much better about that!

Anyway, according to the Not Just a Pretty Face blog written by the book’s author herself, even organic companies are take part in these charges. Man-made carcinogens are introduced to cosmetic products and no one is held accountable! She writes, “The Organic Consumers Association and author David Steinman shook up (and hopefully shook awake) the natural products industry with their report that 46 out of 100 brands of ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ body care products contained 1,4 dioxane, a probable human carcinogen that is the byproduct of a nasty petrochemical process involving the known breast carcinogen ethylene oxide.”

Another threat is the use of mercury and lead in personal care products. Both are well-known toxins, the latter of which has been denounced for its use in number two pencils. So it has been recognized because it is so harmful to kids, who may accidentally ingest it, but it is still being put into lipsticks. According to a comment to this entry, when confronted about this trend, an organic company has claimed that this is due to the fact that some of their organic earth minerals naturally contain trace amounts of lead. L’Oreal, which makes 6 of the top 11 most contaminated lipsticks according to the site, is shirking the responsibility of cleaning up their act. It even defends this production due to the fact that there are no FDA regulations prohibiting the process. So if lead is so harmful by ingestion to kids, how do these companies justify their ingestion by women of child-bearing age, who put the toxins right on their lips?

The blog also discusses the nationwide effort to make breast feeding safe, because breast milk samples were found to contain perchorate, a component of rocket fuel. Making Our Milk Safe, MOMS, is dedicated to preventing breast cancer at Safemilk.org. If you are interested, check out more info on Cosmetic Database and on Not Just a Pretty Face.