Sunday, November 28, 2010

Political Nutrition

The latest political buzz revolves around governmental regulations of nutrition, particularly in the dairy industry and education system.  Few people have not in some way experienced the self serving promotion of Sarah Palin as she presented grade schoolers mountains of cookies in profitable protest of the Obama campaign to reduce the amount of highly processed sugars used in schools.  One can hardly ignore the obvious cliche that this is a governmental attempt to "take candy from the babies."

Although I highly applaud the efforts of Michelle Obama and other political groups promoting a change in national nutrition to promote wellness, I am afraid that their urgings are falling on deaf ears at best and at worst could backfire completely.  No one wants to be told what to eat and how to eat it.  Even the mailable minds of our youth will balk at a direct order to eat less junk food, especially when it is represented as law or regulations.  It is in our nature as free Americans to want to make up our own minds; to do what we want to do, because we can.

No, I fear that regulating nutrition will have a similar effect as regulating illegal drugs; making it more desirable to those who are attempting to rebel and go against the grain of society.  In an extreme case, nutritional regulations could cause a national rise in junk food consumption, just because it is seen as against the rules.

The only way we can truly create a movement of change in the way we eat as a nation is to lead by example.  The more people who engage in healthful habits nationwide, the more people will begin to see this as the socially acceptable and "cool" thing to do.  It is not surprising to me, (although there is little difference on the surface between the social acceptance of something that is right and something that is cool) that focusing on the negative leads to negative results, whereas a positive focus will procure the desired outcome.  We need to focus on changing minds, not changing government policy. 

Don't get me wrong, I do believe that there is a place for government in nutrition.  It is simply a very delicate topic that needs to be handled with extreme regard to psychology and sociology.  We need to promote healthy living in ways that Americans can easily implement without changing their entire comfort zone. 

Unfortunately at this time, most of my political focus has been on preventing the ban of raw milk and cheese production.  Local farmers who create healthful and delicious dairy products using traditional methods are in danger of being shut down all over the nation.  There are already surprisingly few states that allow the sale of raw dairy for any purpose, and with the national government attempting to sidle in on state nutritional regulations, there is even more danger for these small farms and the farmers who have been making a living taking excellent care of their animals and loyal customers for years.

The FDA's attempt to take the power of regulating dairy production from the states is one example of why the government should not be legislating nutrition.  American consumers have the right to consciously choose a healthful alternative to highly processed and nutritionally ruined pasteurized dairy products.  We have a right to choose to go back to our roots and eat our food the way nature has intended and our ancestors have done for countless generations before.

We also have an obligation to our friends and neighbors to promote healthful living by being a leader in wellness in our homes, our schools and our communities.  We cannot hope to create change without first changing our own minds, our own habits.  Only when we are living in a way that makes us proud will we inspire others to do the same. 

It does not take a presidential figure or celebrity to promote a cause.  The big changes are happening in our own backyards, being led by our friends, family and neighbors.  Help them deliver a message of positive change.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanks Giving

Buddha said, “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

Gratitude is something that is all too often overlooked in our busy modern lives.  We rush from one job to the next, one appointment to another; rush the kids to practice or recital, then home again for dinner.  The television and internet bombard us with the next new gadget that we can’t possibly live without.  We compare our lives and possessions to the Jones’s, and never seem to have enough time or money to fulfill our ambitious dreams.
In a society based on commercial materialism, it is no wonder we have forgotten how to be thankful.  We have strayed so far from our attitude of gratitude, in fact, that we have had to create a special holiday just to remind us to give thanks!  Honestly, how many of us would ever stop to think about all the wonderful things in our lives even once each year if it weren’t for the holidays to remind us?
It has been proven that having a grateful attitude can improve your overall health and happiness.  When we take a moment each day to reflect on what an awesome life we lead, we are opening our hearts and minds to a positive outcome in the future. 
Nothing is more powerful than gratitude.  Even love, our most treasured emotion, has its roots planted deep in the soil of gratitude.  Without gratitude for what we have and who we are, we would cease to lead a meaningful life.  One could even argue that we would cease to exist at all.  What good is something that has no value?
My challenge to you is this:
Create an attitude of gratitude, today and every day!  Take a moment each morning to think of five things you are thankful for that day.  Appreciate the beauty in your life and imagine what the world might be like without all the wonderful things you are thankful for.  You may offer up a smile of thanks to yourself, your family, your god, or your dog... whoever you feel most grateful to that day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Self Destruction

Substance abuse is a constantly growing problem throughout the modern world. The everyday stresses of our lives trigger an unconscious instinctive reaction to reject the way we are living. It creates a sort of self destruct mode within our body, which tells us it is ok to engage in self defeating attitudes and behaviors.  We are literally conditioning our selves to destroy our selves. It is apparent in the news and media, in growing crime and terrorist activities, and even in our own families on a daily basis.

We eat food that causes disease and addiction, engage in self defeating attitudes and reckless recreation, and intentionally pollute our own habitat to near total annihilation. And we do it all without a second thought to our actions. We have become so accustomed to destruction and devastation that we assume this is an acceptable and unavoidable part of existence. When in fact, it may be an undeniable part of life on Earth, but certainly not one that should dominate the scope of our being.

Our own actions have brought our civilization to this brink of natural disaster, but it is our negative reaction to the problems that causes us to turn to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain. It may be easier to forget that we continue to deplete our own resources on a daily basis when we are high, and it is certainly easier to ignore our longing for healthy personal relationships and greater self esteem after having a few drinks. We feel horrible about ourselves and our culture, and to compensate we deliberately partake in substances that will continue to make us feel horrible.

You may argue that smoking a joint makes you feel great, but your body knows better. Even just one beer can cause chemical reactions in your brain and body that are devastating.  Each time we use mood altering substances we are burning up and shutting down brain resources, damaging our liver and kidneys, and weakening our immune system. These reactions pave a clear path for other more disturbing diseases like cancer, heart, liver or kidney disease, autoimmune disorders, depression and even schizophrenia.

Take a moment to ask yourself why you indulge in alcohol or other drugs. Are you lonely, depressed, or bored? Maybe you only drink after a hard day at work. But what could you do instead that would make you feel great while also being good for your body, mind and soul? Do you enjoy sports or exercise, or even walking your dog? Do you love to play with your children, but never seem to find the time or energy? Or maybe you are the kind of person who loves a good book or some insanely loud heavy metal. Whatever it is that turns you on naturally is what you should turn to at the times that you are struggling to feel good and looking for something to help you forget that you have problems.

I firmly believe that occasionally it is necessary to “self medicate” to relieve stress and anxiety, but we must choose our medicine wisely. Instead of turning to drugs, alcohol or calorie filled desserts, lets try to find ways that we can make ourselves feel truly fulfilled. Something that will help us grow and evolve, not become sick and deteriorate. Do what you love, and learn to love who you are.