Monday, March 15, 2010

0 Hmmmm, Interesting.....

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It looks like the article I posted yesterday, "My Definition of Healthy Food," has created something of a stir.

Well, good! It was meant to make people think. :)

I will say, however, that, not surprisingly, I think that some of what I wrote was misinterpreted &/or taken out of context. Please note that the below explanation of my point of view is motivated by a desire to promote further understanding. That is all. I am not motivated by petty concerns, fear, or the opinions of others, nor am I being defensive. :-D

Let me be crystal clear about some things that I thought I'd made perfectly clear in this earlier article & on this blog in general:  First, I think I stated fairly plainly that the lifestyle I chose to lead is my own & no one else's, nor am I seeking to force my own personal eating habits on anyone else. This is what works for me. I've illustrated that philosophy time again & again, both on this blog & the running blog. (Of course, if you only read just that single post, you might not realize that about me.) As one example, see an earlier article I'd written that discussed two very different approaches to eating -- calorie-counting & menu-planning (metric, left-brained approaches) versus other alternate (right-brained) approaches. For some people, the former method works best & for others, it's the latter. It's not a matter of right & wrong in that case; it's a matter of what works for the individual.

In other words, I am clearly NOT here to tell people that my way, when it comes to my own specific personal eating practices, is the only way. However, what I am advocating is a change in the public mindset at large when it comes to demanding better standards of health in this country, & around the world.

We all make choices, & in doing so, we all face the truths we are ready to face. :)  Sometimes these choices are based on logic & scientific evidence, while others might be based on whims or cravings. :)

Personally speaking, I would like to think that the majority of my health practices are based largely/primarily on logic and science, versus emotions & hunches.

Furthermore, I would like to state for the record that I have a fairly "normal" relationship with food. In other words, I'm not extreme or self-torturing in my eating patterns, nor would I freak out & tank my nutritional plan for the week should I eat one too many brownies. :) If my eating should stray from its intended course, I'd simply just press the reset button, & keep moving forward. Literally, as in, I'd run it off. :)  I believe that emotional self-flagellation & wallowing in one's mistakes serves no use. My motto: Just take the useful bits & discard the rest.

And like a normal-thinking healthy-minded person, I do splurge & have the occasional potato chip or brownie... or two. :-D  As they say, everything in moderation. I'm not sure that this point came across in the previous article, but that's the reality.  
I don't have an ascetic bone in my body, & instead revel in the joys of life -- meaningful connections with others, good food & atmosphere, & physical exercise, among other activities & experiences.  I think this is fairly self-evident, as I wouldn't be continually concocting new recipes that emphasize both gourmet flavors & health if I was an uptight, no-fun, stick-in-the-mud. :-D 

Those of you who've been longtime readers of this blog &/or my running blog already know my position on things of this nature. I'm all about moderation and balance. I've probably used those two words in conjunction with each other a zillion times on these blogs & elsewhere.

Likewise, I never said that I was perfect or a health food saint. Having said that, my personal overall guiding principles & reference points are still predominantly health-focused. I've been that way for a long time.  

Thanks to our mother & father, our family grew up eating healthy foods  -- foods low in fat & refined sugar, limited red meat, zero soda & coffee, almost no processed & fried foods, & lots of whole grains, fruits & vegetables, etc.  I ate healthy foods without a second thought. What's more is that I enjoyed eating this way. To me, this is just a normal & happy existence.  It's as natural as breathing.

To be honest, I didn't really feel like I was missing out because the meals my mother cooked were really delicious. Sure, I ate some sweets from time to time; I was kid. But it didn't rule my life.

I'm truly happy that our parents raised us this way. Heck, it certainly made things a lot easier for us later on in life. In many ways, my parents were well before their time. They could be called trailblazers, doing back then what a lot of people had to adapt to doing much later in life. And while none of us in our family claim to be perfect in our habits, it's certainly one less area in our lives to fuss over, as healthy eating/cooking is one healthy habit that's pretty much on autopilot by this point.

Also, alcohol consumption wasn't really part of my parents' lives, and still isn't. While I do enjoy the occasional glass or wine or beer, or a cocktail every now & then, it doesn't play a predominant role in my life. Sure, I enjoy learning about varietals, etc., but for me it's about the taste & not about the alcohol. I'm a mature grown-up who's got nothing to prove to others about my alcohol consumption. :-D What's really funny is that while I don't drink very often, what little I do drink -- i.e., maybe an occasional glass of wine or beer, or a cocktail every several months, unless I'm in training mode, in which case I tend to abstain -- is probably more than my parents typically drink in a few years' time. Haha!

Again, that's their choice, & this is mine. And neither party judges the other on that count, just as I don't judge my parents or my sister on what they choose to eat or not eat. I eat what I want to eat, & they do the same. And even though we all are healthy eaters, we each have our own ways of defining what that means to us as individuals.

I understand that what is normal to me is probably not "normal" to someone else, as not everyone was raised in the same manner nor did they grow up with the same conceptions of what healthy food is. That's precisely why I wrote the article: I was defining what healthy food is to me. Not what it means to someone else. Got it?!  This is how I am, & I don't expect others to be "mini-me's." :-D

Also, I do realize that what I consider to be "normal" healthy practices in my own sphere -- that is, amongst my family, active/athletic friends, the running & sports nutrition communities, etc. -- are not necessarily measured by the same yardstick outside of these communities, & sometimes, not even within them. Clearly, there is a divergence of thought -- from both within & without these specific communities -- on many of these issues.

However, I am far from "extreme."  Maybe some people think I am, but that's their own reference point. First, let's compare apples to apples & oranges to oranges.  If you consider my reference point, that of other running coaches & runners/athletes, I have no doubt that you will find that my practices are actually fairly typical/commonplace, & furthermore, sanctioned/advocated by others in my field as well as medical & health professionals. And let's take that reference point to an ever more specific reference point: If you line my health habits up to the average female runners/athletes/running coaches, you will actually find that within this frame of reference, my viewpoints are far from extreme.  If anything, I am more moderate as compared to a lot of exercisers who obsess about weight-loss to an unhealthy extreme.

I have never been shy about my stances on any health-related topic, & am not about to start apologizing for my point of view now.  My main focus has always been on complete health & preventative care -- and yes, healthy eating & exercise are a large part of that picture. However, I do recognize a distinction between my own viewpoint on health matters at large & the specific choices that I and other health-focused people have made. Again, let's look at apples & apples, not apples & oranges.

Most of you who read my running blog & follow me on Twitter & Facebook already know that my bone of contention is primarily with those people & organizations who advocate unhealthy lifestyles & actively work -- both indirectly & directly -- against the public's welfare in both private & legislative capacities (read, special interest lobbies) to ensure that these standards stay "the norm." Yes, these entities do exist. And you can be sure that I will go head-to-head with them, both personally & professionally. I will fight these people in my own local community, and also on national & global levels as well.

I have no doubt in my mind that those who seek to block the efforts of others seeking to 'raise the bar' of health & food safety standards in this country will ultimately fail. They are fighting a losing battle. The truth will always find a way to be free. Those who act out of ego & fear, & are blinded by short-term profit motives instead of doing what is right and just.

So, it's on, baby! I'm not afraid of conflict, especially when trying to reverse the efforts of those who seek to keep the public ignorant of health & safety concerns or food industry practices.

And that includes the multi-million-dollar diet industry & any multimedia outlets (i.e., fashion rags, etc.) supporting their unsound practices. It's not secret that I have an ax to grind with them as well: I'm vehemently opposed to those who advocate crash diets, diet pills, etc., & the dieting-mentality in general. They have wielded a huge cultural influence, & it's time for them to start being responsible. The exercise, diet, & food industries need to turn that ship around & there are many in these industries that need to wake the hell up. To these people, I say stop endorsing short-term results & obsessively focusing on weight-loss as the sole goal. It is not the only pinnacle or point of healthy eating & exercise. What about the sublime satisfaction in the movement of our bodies -- the sake of the pure joy of physical motion for its own sake? That's the part that health & exercise professionals should promote. Not some unrealistic pipe dream of a perfect existence without effort, error, experimentation, or adversity.

If anyone was trying to sell you "smoke & mirrors," it's these guys. Please note that I'm NOT talking about everyone in the industry, just the kooky ones that have no clue. :) Remember the adage, "if someone's trying to sell you something that sounds to good to be true, it usually is"? Well, it's common-sense, really. If a diet-system were another purchase, let's say a timeshare rental property, wouldn't you think twice & scrutinize their offer more carefully before signing up?! And really, exercise & healthy eating are an investment in the health of your body. What could be more important?!

Lose the remaining 30 lbs. in 2 weeks? C'mon. Whether or not it's possible isn't even the central issue here. But your health surely is. Most of us know that rapid weight loss is almost always temporary, & very unhealthy to boot. However, the concepts of knowing something & acting upon that knowledge are often clearly two entirely separate things. :)

A short-term diet-&-exercise focus is a recipe for disaster/failure. It's been proven again & again, & yet some people refuse to face the evidence staring them in the face. Want a recipe for success instead? Apply the following basic, common-sense principles: Gradually increase your levels of physical exercise. Eat & exercise for long-term health. versus a sole focus on weight-loss. While maintaining healthy body fat percentage is clearly important to one's health, I think that there are still way too many people who obsess far too much about the superficial aspects of losing weight when they should be focused on healthy eating & exercise, with weight-loss as a by-products of those actions. The irony is that when weight-loss is a by-product, instead of the end-goal, one's efforts & newly formed behaviors tend to have a lasting effect. Take baby steps towards your exercise goals, & literally put one foot in front of the other. Seek moderation & balance, instead of quick results.

As I've stated/written before on numerous occasions, there are still far too many ads & articles in the media that are focused on the wrong end of the process of getting fit & maintaining a healthy body weight. And yes, that includes those ridiculously unsound ads on late-night TV. Of course, a lot of these ads are shown at all hours of the day & night. I've even seen some of these ads on FitTV -- you think as exercise professionals that they'd know better!

In general, I'd advise thinking twice before buying into anyone's diet-&-exercise system.  Because you're buying into a mentality & a philosophy as well. This careful consideration applies to anything from exercise machine purchases to meal-systems. It's not just the obvious stuff -- like diet pills & the like -- that I'm talking about here. Do your reading & talk to certified health/fitness professionals who promote medically-sound health ideologies.

If people literally stop buying into the impractical nonsense that the diet industry is selling, they will be doing a great service to themselves & to society at large. Bad health ideas can only be perpetuated if people keep supporting them. Instead, let's make our lives healthier by supporting realistic, long-term solutions & demanding better standards from ourselves, our businesses, & communities.

There's no time like the present. We can generate new ideas & incentives, & be passionate about putting those ideas into action. It's no secret that this kind of enthusiasm attracts people, people who will want to become involved in the energy of creating & implementing solutions.

So interact with your elected representatives. Let them know what you think about these issues. Don't just complain. Offer solutions. Think creatively. Meet with other health-minded people; brainstorm with them, & put those ideas into motion.

Talk to your place of work about how making their workplace green can save them money, & suggest ideas for doing this. Companies without gym facilities can still work in conjunction with sports facilities to offer employee discounts for gym memberships, etc. See if your business can provide incentives for their employees to choose healthier lifestyles -- healthy employees who stay fit & take advantage of their vacation benefits are less likely to take sick days, which in turn, saves the company money in the long term. What can benefit an employee can also be beneficial to a company; it often just has to be phrased in the right way to make the management to see the light. Or, if they can't see the light, then maybe it's time to find that light elsewhere. And while this choice isn't necessarily for everyone, you can also consider re-aligning your vocation with an avocation you are passionate about. That's what I did.

Together we can address the clear & pressing need for healthy food options in this country -- in our homes, schools, & workplaces, etc.  We can make this a reality through specific local action in our communities. There are several organizations -- both nonprofit & for profit -- that offer opportunities to participate in activities that promote health & truly make a monumental difference in the lives of others.

When you take action like this, you create a ripple effect. Your personal actions & choices inspire others. This is how one person can move a mountain. Choose to be an embodiment of good health, & you will be its ambassador.

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