Can you believe it’s already 2019? Time sure flies when you’re having fun. When I was a child, the days seemed interminable, but now I’m a seasoned senior, I can’t seem to find enough hours to do everything I have in mind. I’m either slowing down or time is moving faster. I’m thinking it’s the former! Or there’s some weird Doppler effect that falls around our aging bodies, but doesn’t affect the younger generation among whom we live. Then again, I may have just decided to live at a slower pace because I want to and I no longer am constrained by outer forces such as schedules, paychecks, or responsibilities.
CAN WE TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS?
A new year is always a good time to turn over a new leaf. Contrary to popular myth, a dog’s capacity for learning generally doesn’t decline during the aging process. In fact, older dogs may have a more developed attention span than puppies, which can actually make the training process a little faster. They might need extra training to unlearn bad habits, but they can acquire good ones in their place.
KUNG FU MASTERS
Since human beings are smarter than dogs, we can all change behaviors that drive us or our loved ones to distraction. As a survivor of decades of broken resolutions, I think picking one specific behavior on which to focus is better than choosing a general goal, such as “I’m going to get healthy this year.” This overgeneralized goal has too many moving parts to it. Bruce Lee, or some Kung fu master, might be able to pick a whirling ninja throwing star out of thin air in mid spin without slicing off any bodily appendages, but we ordinary mortals will be riding in a speeding ambulance, hoping for a five star surgeon at the end of the route.
SHORT TERM GOALS
When I sold insurance, I would focus each week on a specific goal. For one week only, I would be the best cold caller, and the next I’d give the best service, followed by the next week of setting the most future appointments, and the next week of closing sales. In a month, I’d hit every skill and then I’d repeat the cycle. I was always fresh, always excited, and had a short term goal to accomplish on the way to the long term goal of making a living helping people while being paid on commission.
MAKE LONG TERM GOALS INTO SHORT GOALS
Many of us work in occupations with long term goals. These are difficult to meet, but having short term goals along the way to celebrate helps us keep our attitudes positive. When we look at the long year looming ahead, we might be overwhelmed. It we take one day at a time, or a week at the most, Life is more manageable. If we want to “be healthier,” we can chop this goal into several parts:
1. Sleep 7-8 hours per night
2. Drink 8 glasses of decaf non-sugared liquids a day (half water)
3. Eat more fiber, vegetables, and whole grains
4. Eat less processed foods and more home cooked foods
5. Exercise 30 minutes to an hour daily or a minimum of 150 minutes weekly
6. Reduce our sugar intake (sweetened beverages)
7. Quit smoking or reduce our nicotine use
8. Limit our alcohol to 1 drink daily for women or 2 drinks for men
If we were to attempt this entire change all at once, we might last at most a week, unless we were under lock and key, or offered a giant reward in some “Survivor: New Year’s Resolution Island” spin-off. However, we could achieve at least one of these goals if we worked on them just one week at a time. If we make to week 8, we can feel comfortable adding in some of the other week’s behavior goals, but not all at once, when we go for months three and four. The whole purpose is to change and transform a person, not to institute a structure from the outside which they will resist or reject the moment life gets in the way.
THE ART OF PICKING A GOAL
Trust me, at some point in 2019, life will throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans of everyone. It always does. This is when we discover if we’ve made new habits, or if we’re just play acting. By Valentine’s Day, 80% of New Years resolutions will lay beside the road of good intentions. I think this isn’t because we are failures, but because we pick the wrong resolutions. Pick a small, achievable, and measurable goal instead.
“Losing weight” is a lesser goal, since it is measurable, but it may not be achieved in a healthy manner. Drinking red pepper water isn’t healthy. Eating only 500 calories a day isn’t healthy. We have to eat enough to cover our basic metabolic needs.
“Writing an hour a day” is measurable and attainable, and it serves a purpose. We don’t have to be paid for everything we do. Our spiritual and mental health may depend on this hour well spent! Whatever goal you pick, give yourself permission to come close on most days and to try your best on all days.
GOALS AND GRACE
Some days the monkey wrench will mean 25% is all you can give as your best. Give yourself permission to celebrate achieving that much, pick yourself up, and try with God’s help for better tomorrow. We always get a fresh start at the dawn of a new day, for each sunrise is a new beginning, as if it were the first day of the rest of your life. Therefore, every day is a little new year, for there’s 365 days to follow it! Rabbit! Rabbit! Happy New Year!
Joy and Peace, Cornelia
Archaic Torso of Apollo
By RAINER MARIA RILKE, 1908
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
Rilke was secretary to the artist Henri Rodin in 1905-1906.
From Ahead of All Parting: Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell and published by Modern Library. © 1995
This is the Japanese zodiac year of the Boar. Instead of my usual rabbits, I’m celebrating with a poem in homage to Ancient Greek art as well as Japanese art with New Year themes.
Toyohiro Utagawa: Tai no yume Ebisu no soroban or The red snapper’s dream: Ebisu using an abacus.
Why do we choose the food on our plates? Some of us eat traditional foods from our childhoods, our cultures, or our homelands to connect us with our history and our stories. Others of us may choose alternative menus, to change our story line or to rewrite a troubled or fraught past. In this way, “what we eat proclaims who we are,” even as it nourishes the person we are becoming in the flesh.
Yet the extreme carnivore fat shamers have no problem what so ever in singing the praises of a huge, fat riddled hunk of ribeye steak, preferably rare, and eagerly devoured as a testimony to their peak powers and dominance traits. They often mention bitcoin’s luster or their own wellness ventures if the conversation goes much past hello. I’ve often wondered if the inanimate aspect of the slab on the plate allows them to connect more deeply with their food than they can with an actual human being, who has feelings and might speak back. Better to devour both of these, and stay unaffected by the outer world’s complexities.
However, the world always intrudes. We find no sanctuary, for we tear down the very walls which we build about ourselves. If we choose the extreme course, we’re on a path to self destruction, unless we change our lives. The ancient Greeks were wise to say, “The middle path is safest and best.”
Our choice of menus, diets, or eating plans is also a form of tribal signaling, as we send out signs for others to recognize and to respond accordingly. Fat shaming is a negative form of signaling by those who overvalue outward appearances. Those whose bodies are overly generous in size need to disregard this crowd’s disgust. Instead, discovering their personal value and worth is more important so they can be proactive about their own health. To enjoy life, to live as well as possible, and to be a blessing to our family and the community, is important for each of us.
WHAT IS TRUTH?
With all the competing claims out in the world today, how can we know what is truly healthy for the long haul? Since anyone can get on the internet and make any claim they want, until someone gets hurt and the legal process shuts their scam down, how do we sort out these “Truth Claims?” The accepted way is a RCT, or randomized controlled trial, which enrolls a large number of persons and follows them over many years. This is the “gold standard” of science, rather than “I use it and it works for me, plus listen to these testimonials!” In between is the single paper, not published in a major journal, with only a small sample of 50 to 100 subjects studied for a brief period. (If someone still believes “all these truths are equal,” I may know a friend with a friend with seashore property in Arizona to sell you, but I’d recommend a lesson in logic first.)
The Lancet Public Health Journal, August 18, 2018, published a major prospective cohort study and meta-analysis of dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality. The study followed nearly 16,000 adults in 4 different US communities for 25 years and they added in published research results from 7 multinational prospective studies. They did some big number crunching, so if you want to read the whole paper, the link is at the bottom of the page. It is a real RCT study, and deserves space for commentary.
MORTALITY AND FAT SOURCE
As the wag says, “men live longer if they don’t mention the extra weight their sweet cake is carrying on her hips.” It must be true–Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s photo is connected to this quote (meme worthy, for sure!).
When my mother made meatloaf, it had breadcrumbs and an egg to bind it together. She laid two strips of bacon on top of the loaf in the pan so it would get extra flavoring. Today people wrap the entire meatloaf in two pounds of bacon before they grill it on the outdoor BBQ pit. That pork fat goes into the food we eat and stays in the arteries to clog those vessels. We might be able to live higher on the hog than our parents, but we won’t live longer, not even with a good medical plan.
LIFE EXPECTANCY AND INCOME
Fifty years has passed: we eat worse, exercise less, and we our life expectancy has quit increasing. Back in 1966, men and women could live on average to age 67 and 73. Now those numbers are 76 and 81 in 2016. Back in 1933, men could expect to live to age 61 and women to 65. At least we aren’t going back to those “really good old days” when life was harsh, medicine lacked modern advances, and sanitation was poor.
Today poverty often impacts life expectancy due to food deserts in neighborhoods, lack of health insurance, and low incomes. The wealthy live longer. The poor in some cities — big ones like New York and Los Angeles, and also quite a few smaller ones like Birmingham, Ala. — live nearly as long as their middle-class neighbors or have seen rising life expectancy in the 21st century. But in some other parts of the country, adults with the lowest incomes die on average as young as people in much poorer nations like Rwanda, and their life spans are getting shorter.
CHOOSE YOUR FAT WISELY
This Study of Dietary Carbohydrate Intake and Mortality explored how the source of fat affected deaths in the group. The more meat fat a person ate, the more it impacted their life span for the worse (table 2).
The low-carb group was split into two separate groups:
1. The plant-based low carbohydrate dietary score was associated with higher average intake of vegetables but lower fruit intake (appendix p 11).
2. By contrast, the animal-based low carbohydrate dietary score was associated with lower average intake of both fruit and vegetables (appendix pp 9, 10).
3. Both low carbohydrate diets were associated with higher fat intake in exchange for carbohydrate, although the plant-based low carbohydrate diet had higher average polyunsaturated fat and lower saturated fat intake compared with the animal-based low carbohydrate diet (appendix pp 9–11).
ANIMAL FATS VS. PLANT FATS
People choosing an animal-based diet had an overall, higher, total protein intake. Five foods differed most significantly between the highest and lowest quantiles of animal-based and plant-based low carbohydrate dietary score (appendix p 9):
1. The animal-based low carbohydrate diet had more servings per day than did higher carbohydrate diets of beef, pork, and lamb as the main dish; beef, pork, and lamb as a side dish; chicken with the skin on; chicken with the skin off; and cheese (appendix p 10).
2. The plant-based low carbohydrate diet had more servings per day of nuts, peanut butter, dark or grain breads, chocolate, and white bread than did higher carbohydrate diets (appendix p 11).
3. Both low carbohydrate diets were lower in average regular soft drink intake (appendix pp 10, 11)
DEATH BY GIANT RIBEYE STEAK
Exclusionary diets, unless for medically necessary reasons, are not the best choice. Just because we want to jump off a cliff doesn’t mean we should do this! Someone who wants to eat only white food, as my child did for a time, is going through a phase. An adult who won’t eat anything white is missing out on some food groups, or doesn’t want to spend the time learning about food. If we have time saving machines all around us, why don’t we have the time to care for our embodied selves in this spare time? Do we value our work more than the worker? This devaluation of people is a slippery slope to other ills, not only to self harm but to disparagement of others or outright hatefulness.
1. In the ARIC cohort and in meta-analysis, increased consumption of animal-based protein and fat instead of carbohydrate was associated with a significant increase in all-cause mortality (table 3). Eat more animal fat and die sooner.
2. Alternatively, increased consumption of plant-based protein and fat instead of carbohydrate was associated with a significant decrease in all-cause mortality (table 3). Trade animal fats for healthier plant fats from nuts and seeds, such as olive oil. Use in moderation.
3. The animal and plant-based findings were consistent for cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular mortality (appendix pp 3, 4). Both heart disease and other diseases are made worse by animal fats. Let’s eat leaner, greener, and add more plants into our menus.
4. Similarly, in the meta-analysis, mortality increased when animal-derived fat and protein were substituted for carbohydrate, and decreased when these substitutions were plant-based (table 3). Eating more plants would do us better.
THE SWEET SPOT
The model for carbohydrate caloric intake is about 50% of total calories per day. It seems to be a sweet spot for life expectancy. In the diabetes world, most of us work to control our blood glucose readings by diet, so many of us will reduce our carbohydrates until they’re minimal at best. We may get good readings on our glucose meter, but what about our heart health? We don’t have a home health test for this. Since people with diabetes also have high rates of heart disease, we need to think of our whole body as one interconnected system, and not focus only on one symptom. We are complex and wonderful, so finding a balance for our finely tuned instrument is important.
ALL CARBS ARE NOT EQUAL
What carbohydrates we choose are another factor. If we think a bag of potato chips is equal to a baked potato in calories and nutrition, we have another think coming. Learning to read nutrition labels might cure us of this delusion. In the meantime, avoiding the snack aisle at the grocery store can keep us from bringing this ersatz food product into our home.
In “Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association Clinical,” the trials that used polyunsaturated fat to replace saturated fat reduced the incidence of cardiovascular disease. In contrast, trials that used mainly carbohydrates to replace saturated fat did not reduce CVD.
CHOOSE CARBS WISELY
However, the types of carbohydrate-containing foods were often unspecified and typically included sugar and other refined carbohydrates to maintain energy balance. When carbohydrates from whole grains replace saturated fat, evidence from prospective observational studies indicates reduced CVD. The two best interventions for menu modification are DASH and the Mediterranean Diet.
The other way we can help keep our blood sugar in range is lifestyle modification. This is the most difficult of changes most of us have to make. Exercise, meditation, journaling, adjusting recipes, cooking meals, making menus, and setting a bedtime or wake up schedule all seems like too much at once. Of course it is! And if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, no one would blog about it, and there’d be no great 25 year long studies to tell us not to wrap two pounds of ground beef in two more pounds of fatback bacon.
Actually, Aristotle, the Ancient Greek philosopher, spoke about the “golden mean.” Moral behavior is the mean between two extremes: at one end is excess, and at the other deficiency. Find a moderate position between those two extremes, and you’ll be acting morally, or rationally. This was his goal in life.
If we were to pick only one of these lifestyle modifications per week to work on, then in the next, do another one the best we can, and do on in the following weeks. Soon we’d all be more comfortable with the routine, and all of us would be doing them all without even realizing it. This is how you sneak in your learning! Before you know it, you have a transformed life. No one waved a magic wand over you, but you grew into your grown up shoes slowly but surely.
Best wishes for a better life, with more exercise and more joy!
The Lancet Public Health Journal, August 18, 2018
Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association | Circulation
I remember the first time I used a computer. Yes, I belong to the predigital age, an era when dinosaurs roamed the earth and people lived in caves. Maybe it wasn’t that long ago in the hoary past, but I do still own a black body Nikon camera with 35 mm film. I take seriously my antique credentials and flaunt them. You’d be surprised how many folks today have never seen a “real camera,” since they only have one on their phone.
Changing the film on the steps of the Acropolis in Athens, I happened to draw a crowd. You’d think they would be more interested in a building from 2,500 years ago than in a tool from 50 years ago, but technology moves so quickly today, many had never seen a film camera. The tourists saw two archaic sights in one site that day.
My first experience with a computer was as a teacher when I had to input the class grades. Finding the ON button was my first challenge, but after twenty minutes, I discovered it hidden on the back. “If they want us to use it, why not make it easy to turn on?” Perhaps only those with secret gnostic wisdom are allowed access to this strange machine, but we didn’t have the internet of things yet. Openness wasn’t a theme.
Once inside, my 1982 brain could easily make the data entry to fill in the blanks of student names and grades. This was just typing in another format. I took typing in high school because I would need it in college and in business later on.
Over the years, I’ve learned the computer skills for word processing, spreadsheets, blogs, page making, newsletters, bookkeeping, and photoshop. If I needed a new skill, I went out and acquired it. Most of the time, I downloaded the program and began working in it. I learned as I went. Taking a class was too slow or not available. The online tutorial was good enough for me.
I happen to be an early adopter of media because I have confidence in my learning abilities. Since I was a teacher, I teach myself. I figure I can’t mess it up. And if I do, it’s not the end of the world. Besides, I practice frequent “saving.” This means I’m always able to revert to a prior good version of my work. (What? You don’t do this? Maybe you should! You can learn something from us old dinosaurs.)
My local Kroger now has the new Scan Bag Go system. I tried it for the first time a couple of weeks ago and came back for a second go round. I found it easier this time, perhaps because I’d had some practice. Also, my store had been rearranged on my first visit, so I had to travel every aisle to find my usual items.
On my second visit I cut 30 minutes off my original time. I usually take an hour to 90 minutes because I chat with folks. I’m not a task focused shopper as some are. I tend to socialize and offer help to people I meet. It’s part of who I am, and anytime I can help add to the well-being of our community, I’m glad to do it.
The little ray gun is fun to zap the bar codes of the foods I put into my grocery cart. I have my Star Trek fantasy as I put my phaser on stun and immobilize the vegetables before I take them over to the weigh scale. When I shoot the bar code, the scanner tells me to put the broccoli on the scale, it determines the weight and price, asks if I want to pay this amount for it, and I click YES. Then I weigh the next fruit or vegetable the same way. I engage the engines of my starship and take off for another part of the galaxy or my local Kroger.
I have friends who will not ever use this system, since they think real people will lose jobs. The checkout clerks I talked to think they can be used for higher and better purposes, such as pulling groceries for people’s click list orders, helping people in store, stocking, and customer service. My friends who won’t use it are mostly people who don’t like technology or aren’t familiar with technology. They’re also middle aged or older. Younger people see the writing on the wall–they know they need to train for flexibility and change in the world to come.
In the last 40 years computers have changed our lives so much. Once we waited until the newspaper landed on our front porches to hear the news. Now we know in minutes when Twitter blows up with someone’s rant or a school shooting happens. While news can happen instantly, we cannot process it immediately. Our lives cannot heal from the trauma of the pain to which we’re exposed daily.
As we age, one of our tasks is keeping our brains limber by learning new skills. Neuroplasticity is the scientific term used to describe the process of maintaining, repairing, and creating new neural connections in the brain. Keeping to the same old path is a recipe for losing our minds, or dementia. If we want to live with a positive attitude, with our minds intact, adopting new technology as it comes down the pike is one way to train our brains for keeping a healthy outlook on life, even if we cling to our old fashioned cameras.
I overslept by a lot! I’ll be goin from one silence to another, having missed worship, breakfast and morning lecture. On a spiritual retreat, as on the spiritual journey, god always provides food. I’m drinking coffee, eating peanut free peanut butter, and an apple.
God knows what we need and God provides. Most of us go on doing for others rather than taking care of our own body’s needs. This self sacrificing is counter productive, however, for then we’re both unable to care for others and we destroy our own bodies which are made in the image of God. This overwork leads to burnout or physical complaints. Either one of these can shorten the years of effective ministry of either a clergy or a lay person.
Taking time off, surrendering our need to be in charge or to be in control, is one of the blessings of the Academy. You participate as much or as little as you need to. The hope is each person disconnects from the busyness of life at home and connects instead into the stillness of the life of God. This way when we return, we have an ingrained memory of the path to this still place in the midst of whatever storm may arise.
Jesus Stills the Storm
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.
And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”
~~ Matthew 8:23-27 (NRSV)
The Better Way isn’t the easy path, it doesn’t promise quick results without making changes, and there is no magic pill or drink supplement to transform us into a different person. The people who sell us these items only change us into poorer or less wealthy persons, and we don’t get the results they promised. In ancient times they were called snake oil hucksters, since no one knew exactly what was in their potions.
Today is Sunday, the first day of the week. This makes it an auspicious day to begin anew the journey to the person you want to be: the whole person who is healthy in body, mind and spirit. At Cornie’s Kitchen, we believe in “Whole Food for Whole People.” Of course, we realize most of us are “going onto wholeness” just as my Methodist brothers and sisters have faith we’re “going onto perfection, by god’s grace.”
Throw out those fad diets, green tea pills, and super low calorie diets (anything under 1500 calories per day puts your body into starvation mode and resets your metabolism to gain weight). Take up an exercise program: walk. This is weight bearing and uses all your muscles. Go down the block or down the driveway if that’s as far as you can make it at first. My first attempt was around the block before I threw in the towel. It’s a starting point.
You mark your progress from there. You can only improve.
If you get sick, like I did one year, you lose ground. Then you find the new base level and start over from there. You can only improve. Illness is only a setback. Learning the hard way for many of us is just a series of setbacks. We now have a new baseline from which to start anew. This time, let’s do things “A New Way.”
Oh! We had snow this morning! It didn’t stick of course, but it’s just barely above freezing outside. This magnolia blossom is wrapped up in her heaviest sweats & wool sox. So, I went to inventing. Cold weather brings out the mad scientist or the crazy cook, or I just get tired of my same old recipes and want something fresh to please my palette. Change. Gotta have it sometimes. Can’t keep cooking the same old diner’s greasy menu and expect a Michelin five star delight to appear on the table.
Like everything else from the kitchen here, it’s plum healthy. Click on the nutrition link provided in the recipe. If you cook real food, you are eating yourself healthy from the inside out. I started this journey of using food as medicine because I had been using food as my narcotic. I was an ice cream and cheese cake addict. That is to say, I stuffed my unpleasant emotions with sweet tasting goodies until I looked like a puff cake myself. Now, five years after hitting that medical wall of dangerously high blood pressure, rising blood sugars, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels, I’ve got my metabolic syndrome fairly well reined in.
I had to make a wholesale change in my life, however. Perhaps I benefit from my faith background, for I believe that God can make all things new, even as God can make everything out of nothing but his word. With that kind of power working in me, I knew I could change and become a new creation. I just wouldn’t get there by the same old paths that I had worn so well before. I could hear god saying to me, “go to a land I will show you.”
Learning to cook, eat and exercise healthy isn’t as easy as you would think it might be. Big Food loads our processed meals with fat, sugar, and salt in scientifically researched proportions to create the proper bliss points to keep us coming back for more. My friends all cook like Mamma used to cook. I’ve been to way too many pot lucks. I knew I’d changed when I looked at a restaurant plate of food and could see the fat glistening on it. I was no longer excited, but grossed out. I like my food simple now, not all covered up with cloying sauces and gooey cheeses. Vegetables take up most of the plate and lean protein gets its due. The spices flavor the food, not the salts.
Sometimes I have to force myself to exercise. Today is one of those days. I got out and did errands all morning, in this bitter cold and then I decided I’d really rather blog. And cook and create. Yes. So, I’m still going onto perfection, even if I haven’t arrived yet. Perfection is something we will achieve by faith, not works. In any event, I think we will come closer the more we surrender our will to God as we understand him. When we are in harmony with our god, the world may be falling apart, but we will be in the still center of peace.
Have a taste of something new & different. This is Black Bean & Pumpkin Soup. I like the velvet texture across my tongue. Enjoy it and be happy today.
Benefits for the health conscious person:
Low Sodium–under 250 mg per serving
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