I love Coke!

If you know me personally hopefully you’re shocked at this title. Yes, true confession, I love Coca-Cola™…but only for laundry. We learned a trick in massage school. Washing your massage sheets in Coca-Cola™ every once in a while can help strip out the oil residue that can build up in the sheets. It’s the phosphorus that does the trick. We don’t buy pop to drink in our household, but sometimes we bring home a can or two from a potluck or party. If my husband doesn’t drink it right away, I sneak it over to the laundry room and treat my massage sheets to a drink of the fizzy stuff. So, if it’s good for stripping sheets of oil build-up, do you really want to drink it?

I’m lucky in that from a young age I never really cared for the taste of pop. My family drank plenty of pop and we always had it in the house. My son used to despise pop, thinking 7-Up™ was like medicine, only to be drunk when you’re sick and Coke was a yucky drink that only stupid grown-up’s drink like coffee and beer. Then, after a trip to Argentina he changed his mind – delicious was this exlicir he was surrounded with and offered at almost every meal. Yikes! Now we’ve slipped a bit in the pop department.

Originally pop was sweetened with sugar. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is now the main sweetener in soda. I browsed through a fascinating book recently called Sweet Deception by Dr. Joseph Mercola & Dr. Kendra Pearsall (Nelson Books 2006). In it, the authors unpack the story of artificial sweeteners and their rise in our diets. I personally try to avoid artificial sweeteners, but I read with interest the first chapter about straight-up sugar. Turns out it’s harder to avoid artificial sweeteners than it used to be.

They argue that foods and drinks that contain HFCS don’t “stimulate the mechanisms that normally induce satiety, which would signal you to stop eating. Without these appetite-control mechanisms, your appetite has no shut-off signal. You can drink a sixty-four-ounce Big Gulp full of HFCS and your body will not let you know that it is full, or that you’ve eaten much at all. If you were to eat a similar amount of calories of real food, you would feel stuffed. For this reason, many researchers think that the ever-increasing use of HFCS is one of the primary causes of the obesity epidemic.” (p.16)

As summer approaches sugar has been on my mind. Sugar and healthy eating. I know I’ll be hanging out at home more and that scenario can easily translate into poor eating habits for me. I contacted my friend, Jill Brook, a nutritionist who works in La Cañada for some advice. I put to her this question: what advice would you give someone who might possibly be thinking about considering decreasing her intake of sugar? It takes a lot for me to warm up to the idea (like years, really). Here’s her response.

For many people, sugar is like crack cocaine, so moderation is harder than abstinence.  In my experience, the people who fail to conquer sugar are the ones who fail to treat it like an addictive substance.  The science is in.  For many, it’s addictive.  Food companies have trained us to think that sugar is an important, wholesome, harmless part of holidays, celebrations and everyday enjoyment.  That makes it hard for people who struggle with it to treat sugar as a serious health problem.

Here’s a link to her food tips blog, with a search criteria of sugar-related articles. Inspiring reading, let me tell you!

Have you noticed, like I have, that recently some products have been touting “made with Real Sugar”? What about real sugar? Did you know that it’s estimated that we consume, on average, 158 pounds of sugar per year. That’s per person!

Making a link between sugar and insulin, Mercola & Pearsall state:

Without a doubt the best way to prevent aging and degenerative disease is to keep your insulin levels in a low but healthy range. Every year, billions of dollars are spent in the antiaging industry when the most effective (and inexpensive) thing you can do to slow the aging process is keep your insulin levels normal by restricting your intake of grains and sugars and engaging in sufficient cardiovascular exercise. (pages 10-11)

There are some good reasons we crave sugar. Sweet Deception outlines 3 I’d like to highlight here:

  • sugar and other carbohydrates equal quick energy which we need to survive
  • sweet foods are safe foods (as opposed to poisonous foods)
  • and this gem: “Research studies indicate that sugar may be similar to morphine and heroin in its ability to increase opioids in your brain that produce pleasure. This increase in opioids is a major part of the physiology that fuels your addiction and the craving for sugar, which is why the sugar consumption rates are climbing each year.” Sounds like what Jill Brook was saying.

So back to my summer sugar-careful plans, here are some of my ideas:

  • load my kitchen counter with fruits
  • prepare quick vegetable and protein snacks & require myself to eat these first
  • make a batch of fruit-flavored but unsweetened tea each week to satisfy my sweet tooth
  • keep refreshing cold water handy to fill my tummy instead of boredom-eating
  • plan to eat a sweet every so often so that I’m not eating sweets all along the day

Any ideas you can throw my way? Please share your favorite sugar-curbing advice in the comments below. Happy summer!

P.S. Can’t resist sharing this from Sweet Deception. Describing saccharin (the first artificial sweetener introduced into the marketplace), the authors throw in this gem that made me laugh. Ever heard of these companies?

In 1901, a company called Monsanto was formed for the sole purpose of producing saccharin. By 1903, Monsanto began producing saccharin for an obscure new company called Coca-Cola. (page 21)

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the amazing disappearing body act

Please follow these steps carefully.

1. Close your eyes.

Wait, this is not going to work. Too bad you can’t read with your eyes closed. What I’d like to draw your attention to today is a phenomenon I call the amazing disappearing body act.

I consider myself someone who is very aware of my body. I work with bodies, so it comes with the territory. But, as I work I am constantly aware of my own body and I strategize how I can be as comfortable as possible while I work. I lean over a lot in my line of work. This necessitates all sorts of posture accommodations as I support the big head I’ve been blessed with. A trick we used in massage school comes in handy in my effort to maintain good posture and overall comfort. The trick is to close my eyes while I work. Taking visual input out of the equation allows me to check in with my body in a very helpful way. What I usually find is that my head is way out in front of my body and my shoulders are hunched forward. Why I’m less aware of these dynamics when I’m working with my eyes open remains a mystery. But regardless, closing my eyes, even briefly, can allow important bodily input to make its way to my brain.

So, here’s the translation for you (since I assume you’re not a massage therapist!). When you’re working away at your computer, pause and close your eyes. You should be able to immediately scan your body and find something that could be positioned differently to be more comfortable. Perhaps your shoulders are up by your ears. Perhaps your neck is screaming and you didn’t realize it. Perhaps your wrists are beginning to burn. When you eliminate the visual input, briefly, you can really pay attention to the body below your head – your amazing disappearing body.

When you close your eyes you might do one or more of the following:

  • shift your weight into a posture that feels more comfortable
  • take a deep breath
  • stretch a muscle that has been static for a while
  • contract and relax a major muscle group like your gluteals
  • move your eyes in a circle or two under your eyelids

Then open your eyes and resume your computer work. Voilà! Your body has re-appeared in your consciousness and you can better take care of it – congratulations! If you kept typing while your eyes were closed, please use spell-checker!

Aim High…in all things

I can still remember the driver’s ed teacher yelling at me during my parallel parking lesson. I’m not sure what logic led him to believe that yelling at me would somehow assist me in overcoming my quite sufficient anxiety about parallel parking. Perhaps yelling had aided other students in being able to squeeze a car into a parking spot…but not me. To this day, parallel parking is not my favorite. I’d rather walk a block from a nice wide-open spot than stress over getting into a tighter one.

But some advice I learned in driver’s ed still rings in my head in a positive way and has useful applications behind the wheel and outside the car. One of my favorite slogans was “aim high in driving.” If you haven’t heard of this one, it’s encouragement refers to keeping your vision far ahead of your car so you can be aware of what is going on, especially on the freeway. Spotting an accident or even a dangerous driver 1/2 mile ahead can give you time to adjust, change lanes or take other precautions.

Aim High has come to mind recently in relation to other modern activities, like texting. Often I see someone texting with the phone in the lap. Texting is often done on the sly. We may not want to draw a lot of attention to the fact that we are texting. But this often necessitates a severe flexion of the neck.  I have been experimenting with texting up in the air, where my neck can be comfortable. Of course, this isn’t for those times when you probably shouldn’t be texting anyway. But when you can, try texting at a more comfortable angle.

Aim High came to mind on my walk this morning too. How often do we walk, examining the ground as if it held some secret of great magnitude? Experiment with a walk where you look to the end of the block, end of the trail or end of the meadow. You’ll have to look down on occasion to make sure you don’t step into anything unpleasant or miss a tripping hazard. But get your chin up and feel the ease in your neck. Add some arm swinging and really give your spine a treat. The weight of your arms swinging, even gently, can activate some of your deeper back muscles responsible for rotation and vertebral articulation. Movement is great for spine health and what could be easier than swinging one’s arms on an enjoyable walk?

Aim High leads me to daydreaming. I feel new things stirring and hope summer will afford me some time to dream big. Any big dreams on your mind these days?

P.S. The last bit of memorable advice from driver’s ed: Never try to merge onto the freeway while lighting a cigarette and changing the radio station because inevitably a bee will fly in your window at just that moment causing you to lose control of the car and crash. I can safely say I never do this.

summer’s coming…are you ready?

If you’re a parent with young kids, there’s often a mixture of feelings swirling around you as summer approaches.

Good feelings:

  • a break from making lunches
  • a break from dragging kids out of bed each morning
  • getting to see those little angels more
  • family time away and at home

Bad feelings:

  • how do I work while I have my kids all summer
  • will expenses far outrun income?
  • why is summer so long?
  • why do I resent summer when I used to love it?!?
  • Argh!

As a 1-person, service-oriented business, summer can be challenging for me. My highest priority is to take care of my current clients rewarding their loyalty with my best availability. However, the phone still rings and new people want to come in for appointments too. Gift certificate recipients like to be able to schedule an appointment within a reasonable amount of time, redeeming the super nice gift someone gave them while they have some free time. So, summer can feel like juggling.

This summer we have 2 weeks away planned, one early, one late. Our son will be in a science camps 2 weeks and a cub scout camp 1 week. Thankfully in La Cañada there’s a great drop-in camp called Buff Buddies that he can go to when needed. Check out Buff Buddies – the program and facilities are really great. With no family in town, summer can be tricky to navigate. But…I have to remember life is not all work and having fun together is not to be forgotten in the hustle and bustle. Legos, Yu-Gi-Oh!, bike riding here I come!

How about you? Are there any other parents who find themselves with a mixed outlook on the summer ahead? It’s June and school’s almost out! Share your thoughts in the comments below.