Come On, Get Real!

Modern food technology advancements have made eating cheap and easy, but what exactly is it that we are eating?

Living in the modern day means that life has become significantly more convenient for most of us. Technology advancements in the food industry have been making it easier and easier to get a quick bite. It’s so quick that we call it fast food when purchased from a drive-thru window (so quick that we don’t even bother stepping out of our cars.) Another benefit of it is that it’s cheap, with most fast food restaurants offering dollar menus. Who can argue with that? I’ll tell you who – me.

Eating at [fill in your choice of any fast food franchise] can feel pleasing initially because it’s so fast, convenient, and cheap, and hey, the food fills up the hunger-hole that was once there, so job complete. But does it make us feel good?

For the past few years I have been taking better care of my body, not only physically with yoga but also nutritionally. I try my best to stick to the rules of eating mostly whole foods – foods that are purchased in their original shape and form, not processed into a box or plastic bag. I try my best to eat everything that isn’t quick and conveniently bought at a counter and because my body is more conditioned than it used to be, it doesn’t even agree with fast food or highly processed food.

After eating a combo meal my taste buds are happy because food scientists have designed the food to smell and taste good, but digestively my GI tract is not at all happy. I know that this may not seem like proper writing material, but digestion is a major part of health and it is something that we need to keep an eye on, quite literally – daily. That’s my yoga teacher tangent for the post though, back to what I was saying – I believe that my body rejects processed foods because I have been trying my best to take care of it and feed it real, whole foods.

Quick and convenient foods are everywhere, not just at highway rest stops and strip malls. They have made their way into our cupboards and refrigerators. Walk down every aisle and frozen food section in any typical grocery store or big box store and the “food” that you find there  will be distant cousins to the real food that it aims to mimic. Grab one of those “food” items off of the shelf and turn it on it’s side to have a read of the ingredients.  Good luck trying to recognize or pronounce most of the multisyllabic, chemical words. I’ve heard of a rule that I like to apply to my diet and my cleaning cupboards as well as my cosmetics, if I can’t pronounce it, I look for other options. Another good one to live by is if my grandmother wouldn’t know what it was when she was my age, put it back. Or a favorite of my boyfriend’s is, if we wouldn’t let Freddie (our adorable rescue dog) eat it, then we shouldn’t be using it or consuming it either.

It’s not easy to make the switch to eating better. Fast food and processed foods taste good and some have found that they’re as addictive as cocaine. I know personally that I’ve had a hard time keeping my fingers out of the Cool Rancher bag; no matter how many times I think to myself, “Just one more!” there always ends up being two or three more handfuls. That’s why the best thing to do is to keep unhealthy, processed foods out of your house. Switch to healthier options like fruit or veggies to snack on. Or if you have to have that addictive crunch of a chip, try  whole wheat crackers and humus instead.

A lot more could be said about this issue and I intend on writing a couple more posts on this topic and other ways that you can Get Real in your lifestyle, but for now I’ll leave you with encouragement to make some healthy changes in your diet and celebrate the healthy choices that you already make in the kitchen or when out to eat. It is not easy to be a health nut, especially if you already eat processed foods regularly, but I assure you that once you make the switch you will be glad that you did as your body and brain will be feeling and functioning much better.

Thank You for Your Labors

This weekend is a long, holiday weekend in the U.S. Monday marks Labor Day, generally a weekend in which everyone gets together with friends and family to eat, drink, and be merry knowing that they don’t have to go to work on Monday. Labor Day was started in the late 19th century by union workers  and laborers as a way to recognize those that work day by day. It has been an official American holiday since 1894, always falling on the first Monday of September. This year I decided to get back to the roots of the holiday and celebrate some of my favorite activists, commending them for their dedicated work – on top of the typical barbecues and bonfires.


 

Jamie Oliver

You might just think of Jamie Oliver as a chef with a funny accent, but he’s much more than that. Jamie digs into our modern industrialized food system and delivers displeasing knowledge. (Pink slime is a prominent example.) His primary work was with school lunches in both his home U.K. and also here in the U.S. That’s noteworthy, a famous chef who champions for quite literally the little guys.

Food these days has transformed into chemically-laden, pesticide-pumped, GMO, never-rotting, highly processed science of convenience. Now, do I eat processed food now and again? Yes, but I try to keep it out of my kitchen and my body as much as possible and to educate myself on nutrition and health. Do I think that America’s and the world’s children should be protected from being fed it daily in their homes and public school cafeterias? Definitely.

Jamie had a reality show back in 2009 in which he embedded himself in America’s most unhealthy city, Huntington, West Virginia. He investigated what the children were in eating in their schools and it wasn’t appetizing. The rest of the series Jamie worked with schools and the community to educate them about eating fresh and healthy foods as opposed to quick and easy processed food, attempting to alter the way that food was prepared in the schools and homes in the area.

Since then Jamie has spearheaded a Food Revolution, click on the link and read articles about how to be healthy and current write-ups on the food industry.

 

Safia Minney of People Tree

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“slow fashion” fair laobr

Another Brit is my notable hero – Safia Minney, founder & CEO of People TreePeople Tree clothing, a U.K. based, slow fashion company. I first heard of Safia in a great documentary, The True Cost which is about the horrendous industry that is Fast Fashion. In the documentary Safia is not only inspiring because she is a female CEO, but also because she displays her fluent Japanese, which she uses when working with craftsmen and women in Japan who make pieces of art for People Tree’s clothing. Having a second language has always been inspiring to me. If you get a chance to watch the documentary I highly suggest it as it outlines the problems with the fashion industry today while at the same time giving alternatives such as People Tree.

But back to Safia, she is a woman of power who promotes fair trade in an industry that generally treats it’s labor extremely poorly. People Tree not only pays attention to the way that the people creating the clothing is treated, but they also source traditionally made, artisanal materials that help keep traditional crafts alive. The company also uses organic cottons and other sustainable materials that are better for our bodies and the earth.

Leo & Jin of BAPS

BAPS stands for Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary and is a dog rescue organization in Busan, South Korea. Although BAPS has grown in the years with many expat and some Korean volunteers helping the organization, donating time and money, and fostering and adopting furry best friends; the vast majority of the work done for the completely privately run dog rescue organization is done by two people alone. They are Leo and Jin and what they do inspires me completely. Leo and Jin are a married couple, one expat one Korean, who started BAPS in 2008 and have saved the lives of hundreds of Korean street dogs and abandoned pets.

They not only run the shelter, but they also have a dog kenneling business, and have recently started an international pet travel company although they have been assisting with international travel of countless dogs to their new forever homes for years (including my very own Freddie.)

The Day We Fostered Fred

We instantly fell in love with that little face with big ears the first time we walked him and he kept looking back to make sure that we were still with him.

The kindest, most from-the-heart work that these two do is run a related organization called Wendy’s Last Meals. This is heartbreaking work that I am certain I would not be strong enough emotionally to do. As the name suggests, the work involved is providing a final meal to dogs at a pound in Busan whom have not been claimed or adopted and therefore face certain euthanasia. You can read more about the process and how you can help by donating by clicking here. Before the meals are given, Jin takes pics of the dogs in a last hope effort of getting them rescued, so if you’re looking to find your new partner in crime, then have a look at the beauties that are waiting for you.


 

There is great work being done around the globe to help fight for those dis-empowered to do so for themselves such as school children, laborers working in developing nations to produce our clothing, and dogs left on mountain sides by families unwilling to continue raising them.  I am so grateful for all that they do and am motivated to do my own positive work to make a difference in my community.

Who are you tipping your hat to on this Labor Day weekend that works hard and inspires you?

Yoga Tips for Swimming

I’m fortunate enough to have a boyfriend who likes to learn and study. When he gets interested in something new he learns as much as he can about it. That is what happened with him and swimming – therefore, in our symbiotic relationship I received his skillful knowledge in the pool. Whether you’re a freestyle swimmer in the lane or just want to increase your swimming technique for the beach, I pass these yoga tips and swimming tips along for you to try out and enjoy.

If you’re not a swimmer already  you may want to consider adding a pool session or two to your weekly schedule. Swimming is great cardio that’s much gentler on major joints suffering from strain or arthritis. At first, like any new hobby or exercise routine, i.e. – yoga; swimming can feel frustrating initially. It may feel more like flailing than swimming, but stick with it and you’ll be gliding down the lane before you know it.


Yoga Tips for Swimming

My pool regime consists of gentle warm ups and then goes straight into a few laps of freestyle. Let’s break down freestyle (you know that style that most everyone uses, arms circling up over head, face in the water, legs kicking behind you) from top to bottom of the body parts utilized in terms of yoga warm ups and swimming techniques.

  • Swim Breath: Typically when swimming freestyle you inhale on the surface of the water by twisting your head to one side, through your mouth. Then you slowly exhale through the nose or mouth (I prefer nose.) While still on land, practice slowing down your breath only through your nose and then workshop the breath specific to Bound angle poseswimming. In a comfortable seated position, turn your head gently to the right and inhale through the mouth, allowing your mouth to open just slightly. Then slowly return the head to center and exhale through the nose or mouth – emphasis on going slowly here – count the exhalations at either a 3 count or 5 count. Turn your head to the left at the end of the empty breath and inhale through the mouth in the same manner as you did the first time. Return the head to center and exhale to your count of 3 or 5. Continue this simple, relaxing breathing technique for a few minutes. Eyes opened or closed.

 

 

  • Shoulder Openers: Of course the arms and shoulders are a major component of freestyle swimming, so be sure to safely warm up your shoulders before getting into the pool, especially if you have any shoulder issues. To warm up your shoulders, place your fingers on the tops of your shoulders, elbows pointing out at your side. On an inhalation roll both elbows in towards each other aiming to almost touch them together in front of your face, continue the roll to point the elbows up towards the ceiling keeping your fingers on your shoulders. On the exhalation, roll the elbows back behind you lifting your chest up. Continue to move with the breath and after 10 sets as described switch the direction of the elbows this time inhaling the elbows behind and exhaling them down in front of you for 10 more rounds, adding to 20 total.

 

  • Twist it Out: After you get in the pool and start your freestyle swim allow yourself to get used to the stroke and breath work attempting to take your inhalations from right and left, which is why counting the breath to a count of 3 or 5 is key. By counting your exhalations to an odd number your inhalations will alter which arm is extending and entering the water, alternating right and left and therefore alternating to which side you turn your head for your inhalation. We all have a dominant side and it’s tempting to breathe in from that dominant side only, but practice inhaling from both sides for balance in your swimming. As your body moves through the swim it will automatically twist to the side that you inhale from, or the side of the back arm that’s exiting the water, elbow up as the other arm is reaching forward and entering the water in front of you. To better understand this movement try it now, seated or standing, begin “swimming” with the arms only and notice how when you reach your right arm forward and pull your left elbow back your body naturally twists at the trunk/core to the left and vice versa when the arms are switched. To increase awareness of twists in the water, warm up outside of the pool with simple yogic seated twists – parivrtta sukhasana. Sit cross legged, spine erect, inhale center and exhale twist to the right placing the left hand on the right knee and right hand behind you to aid the twist. Hold for a few breaths. Return to center on an inhale and exhale to the left. Hold and continue for 10 sets.

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  • Front Body: The front of our hips and lower torso are often pretty tight from sitting, driving, cycling, and other such activities where the knees are bent and thighs parallel to the floor. Swimming counteracts the sitting position because the legs are extended back behind you, but due to our tight muscles in the fronts of the legs, finding correct form in a freestyle swim can take some time and patience. When you get in the pool, try not to overly bend your knees in your kick. Before jumping in, open your front body by standing feet hip distance with a little micro-bend in your knees. Place your hands at your low back and on an inhalation start by pushing your thighs and hip bones forward extending the stretch up your front body to your chest. Lastly, on the same inhale breath, gently, gently release your neck, careful not to mindlessly drop your head as far back as it goes, but instead keep some control and if it is painful on the neck then keep the chin tucked in the entire time. Start by holding the back bend for 2-3 breaths and slowly come up on an inhalation. Increase the hold as comfortable.

 

Have fun reigniting or introducing a new, healthy habit into your week. For better success get yourself a pair of decent goggles and a swim cap to keep pesky hairs out of your eyes, and a sporty one piece as opposed to one with cut outs or a bikini, you don’t want to be adjusting in the water. Save the two piece for sun bathing.