health


Or at least things I’m doing that aren’t going to kill the Earth as quickly.

1. My garden. I’m hoping to grow a large percentage of our family’s summer and fall food, and hopefully keep the garden producing through the winter, as well as keeping some of our harvest with root-cellaring. Our house has a perfect room for a root cellar. It’s cold, dark, and if we get a door on it, I think it will be ideal all winter. Plus, I just got a book on four season gardening, from some people in Vermont, so I have to trust that they’re serious about producing even in the winter.

2. Composting. I’m so happy I have my own compost bin, and I will have a separate heap to put all the yard scraps in. That way, when I need some brown to put on top of the kitchen scraps, I can just grab some from the pile. Less goes into my trash, and I have home-made fertilizer for my lovely garden.

3. Cloth diapering. I can’t stand the thought of putting those horrible “disposable” things in the landfills. The funniest thing is seeing how huge my baby girl looks in the giant cloth diapers, though. I had to buy some summer clothes for her yesterday, and I ended up getting a bunch of skirts and some shorts that are the 4 year old size, so they will fit over the diapers.

4. Buying recycled clothes. There’s really no reason to shop for new clothing, since there is so much out there that gets discarded, but is in perfectly good shape. Plus, I have a love-affair with thrift stores. The other day, when I got home from a thrift store spree (there are about 7 thrift stores within a couple of mile of our house), Derek asked me how my treasure hunt had gone. I giggled. But I do love finding treasures that have been cast off for whatever reason, and I feel like I’ve avoided adding to the burden of resource depletion and possible human rights violations. Keeping goods in the loop eases my consumerist mind.

5. Using the local library. I love reading, I love books. I can’t afford to buy all the books I want, but more importantly, I want to avoid using up more resources by purchasing books I will only read once. Which is to say, I still buy books, and I still love them, but I’m buying fewer books. Plus, one needs to support the local library for so many reasons. They have so many books you will never be able to buy, they support literacy, both the boo variety and the computer variety, they have so many community programs, and they are havens of peace and quiet. My sanity would be much more threatened without the local library.

6.Turning things off. I try to leave lights off as much as possible. I try to hang the laundry to dry whenever possible. I encourage my kids to notice when things are unnecessarily ON, and help them understand why they should be OFF. I’ve tried to use as many low-energy things in our house as I could, with all compact fluorescent bulbs, low energy refrigeration (lesser of two evils, as far as I’m concerned. I wish I didn’t have one at all), low energy (and low water) washer and dryer, etc.

7. Opening windows. This spring is so gorgeous, but it’s already started getting hot. I’ve been opening the windows for circulation, rather than turning on the air conditioner. If I do end up desperately hot, I will try to keep the thermostat at something in the upper 70’s, rather than actually trying to make my house cool. Seasons are good for us, and a constant 71 degrees is not good for our dear Earth. During the winter, we kept the heat at 61 at night (I know, we could go lower, but my baby girl won’t keep herself under any blankets yet, and even with two pairs of fleece pajamas, she still got pretty cold) and 64 during the day, except on the days that I just couldn’t take it anymore, and turned it up to 68. I believe in sweaters and wool socks. From the thrift store, of course.

8. Recycling. Yes, I know how cliche all my things are, but I believe in recycling. I recycle everything I can. I want to really reduce how much trash we send to the land fill, so I recycle the things that can’t be used again, use up what can be used, make regular donations to the thrift stores, send the organic stuff to my compost bin, and give stuff away. I also try to purchase things that aren’t excessively packaged. Sometimes I get the large size, sometimes I skip something I want because it has too much plastic on it. Packaging makes me sad, especially when it’s intended to make the item look bigger or more exciting, and when there are multiple, unnecessary layers.

9. Making my own. Last night, I made a bunch of flannel baby wipes, and poured some home-made wipe-juice on them. I like to make my own cleaning products, using vinegar, Borax, baking soda, essential oils, and other good stuff. I would love to be a brilliant craftswoman, designing and building furniture and clothing out of reclaimed materials, but I’m just too lazy. Yesterday, I was about to throw an umbrella away. It has been on our porch all winter, and it was a piece of junk to begin with. It was rusty, all the little wires were bent, and it was unusable. When I picked it up, I suddenly thought how it would make a cute (and waterproof!) skirt for Kiki. All I need to do is cut a circle out of the middle and add some elastic or a strip of fabric with a fastener. Then I could decorate it with some ribbon or embroidery. Or maybe some tiny tassels on each of the points. I’ll post some photos when I’m done. And maybe while I’ve got the sewing machine out, I’ll get to those curtains I’ve been meaning to make since last November!

10. Use less. I try to limit the use of things that aren’t totally waste free and non-toxic. I’ve started only washing my hair about once or twice a week, instead of every other day. There’s really no reason to wash your hair every day, since your natural oils help your hair stay healthy and shiny, and also help with the frizzies. Plus, washing your hair often makes your skin produce more oil than it needs, so it gets greasier faster if you wash it all the time. I also don’t put clothes in the laundry unless they’re really dirty. By that, I mean that they have discernible spots or smells. Clothes shouldn’t be laundered often, because each time you wash them, the fibers break down more and the color fades, so if you want your clothes to last, don’t wash them so often. Just because you wore a shirt doesn’t mean it’s dirty. I give my shirts at least two days, and this may be TMI, but pants can last a couple of weeks. After all, that’s what underwear is for: to protect your clothing so you don’t need to wash it as often. (I’ve also found some more environmentally friendly laundry detergent that I love. Seventh Generation makes some that does well in an HE washer, and it smells incredible, like eucalyptus and lavender.)

Happy Earth Day!

It’s been a while since I did a running post, and I would love to find out how everyone is doing. I know a few of you are taking it pretty seriously, and a few are still thinking about it. I’ve been so impressed with the progress you’ve made, especially since you’ve started from the very beginning. Some of you had never run at all until a few months ago. I hope you’re beginning to understand the running addiction. I don’t know how many addictions could be called healthy, but running for sure is.

I’ve been gearing up to do a few races this year. I signed up to run a 10K in Massachusetts, with Elizasmom and her mom, and probably some other bloggers I’ve never met. That will be in the end of March. I get to visit my brother nungnung as well, and it will be my first time in New England. I’m hoping to run it in less than 50 minutes, but we’ll see.

I’m going to run the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon in May. It’s the biggest half marathon in the country, with 35,000 entrants. My cousin Liz and my aunt Barbara will be doing that one with me. I hope I can finish that in less than 2 hours. I finished my first half marathon in 1:47, but the first three miles were pretty steep downhill, so I’m sure I ran faster than I would on a flat course.

I’m also going to enter the Air Force marathon in September. I think my goal for that will be less than 4 hours, but again, we’ll see. I have no idea what it will be like to run 26.2 miles, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be happy if I cross the finish line.

I’m basing my goals on my recent running times, and on the times from races I ran before I was pregnant with Kiki, in 2005. The other day, I ran 3 miles in 26 minutes, which is better than my last 5K, even though I wasn’t racing. It probably made a difference that I was on a track, but it didn’t seem as hard as I thought it would be. Today, I ran 7 1/2 miles in blustery 35 mile an hour winds, and I finished in 1 hour and 13 minutes. I ran some hills, but the wind was really what made it hard. I thought I would get frostbite on my nose, since the wind-chill factor put it at about -5 degrees. I kept putting my mittens over my face until my nose and cheeks thawed. It was exciting. When I got home, I thought I would not be able to move the rest of the day, but now I feel fine.

So how’s your running? I’d love to hear any progress you’ve made, any races you’ve entered, any gear you’ve purchased, anything that makes you motivated, anything that you hate, anything. I’ve discovered that talking about running motivates me, whether the person I’m talking to loves running or hates it. I love running.

You got some great new shoes, you made a goal and wrote it down, now it’s time to go running. You should be so excited! You will go running, and it will suck. You will hate every second of it, even if it’s only 30 seconds. You will feel like you’re wearing a lead sumo suit, and your feet will be so mad at you. Hopefully, your lungs will wake up and cry a little. You will question your sanity.

Then, you will stop, catch your breath, and yell into the sky. Yay! You ran for 30 seconds! Or 2 minutes! Yay, yay, yay! You will love yourself a little more for accomplishing a goal. You will be proud that you kept going for the full 30 seconds. You will suddenly feel elated and powerful. Then you will giggle a little that you’re so excited about running for half a minute. Then you will realize that your half a minute is in the past, and another half a minute of running is in your future. You are a runner.

You will want to try again. If you really think you can, go ahead, but don’t don’t don’t go crazy on the first day. Even if you are fit enough to walk 4 miles, running is something different. I believe that if you have a bad reaction in the hours or days following your first run, you won’t ever want to do it again. You might end up thinking that it would be bad for your knees because your knees were overused that first time. Or you might end up with really sore hamstrings, which is actually way more likely than sore knees. You need to be careful, and you need to respect your body, or it won’t want to do what you tell it to. But if you really start small and progress gradually, your body will be so happy.

Step #3: Go Run

Get your comfy running clothes on, and make sure you’re warm enough. (Karee, you know I’m not talking to you. In fact, I’m questioning our decision not to move to Arizona.) Make sure you have gloves and a hat, or at least something over your ears. When I was in my early 20’s, I ran with a folded up bandanna over my ears, like a sweat band. Kinda ghetto, but it worked. Lace up your shoes, go outside, and start walking. You should walk and get the blood flowing for 5-10 minutes as a warm up before you start your run. When you’re ready, get your stop watch, or pick a landmark to run to.

Please don’t try to do a full-out run. That’s for people in races. And mostly only the people who intend to win. I advocate a low shuffle at the beginning, where the main focus is forward motion, not speed. You might not get going any faster than your brisk walk, but that’s OK. It’s all about the motion, the adjustments your body needs to make, and the mental transition. Forget anything you’ve ever heard about how to run. Just let your body do what you did when you were 5. Run for your goal duration.

Slow down and walk some more, and be so happy that you ran! Think about how much you will love running, even though it was hard at first. When you’re done, do some mild stretching. Focus on your calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Stretching helps your muscles recover, so don’t skip it.

Write in your running log that you accomplished your goal. Do some stealth bragging during the day. “The sun was coming up right in the middle of my run this morning. It was glorious!” ” I stubbed my toe while I was running today.” “I’m sorry I missed your call, I must have been running.” “I’d love to meet you for lunch. I go running at 11:30, so I’ll bet there at 12:15.” Also, notice how much more cheerful you are after your run.

Next, Step #4: Mix it up
Running Bonus Tip

All right, you’ve all gone out and outfitted yourselves to run comfortably, right? You’ve got the shoes? If you haven’t, just bite the ugly-shoe bullet, and go do it! Then you can move on to the next step.

Step #2: Make a goal and write it down

You need to have a concrete goal, so that you can see and measure your progress, and thus feel the satisfaction of accomplishment. Your goal should be a running goal, not a weight-loss or dieting goal, or a physical appearance goal, or an anger-management goal, or a goal to begin recycling. It should be one that is within your abilities, but hard enough to make you work for it. And you must WRITE IT DOWN! The writing down seems dumb, but in 3 months, when you see how far you’ve come, and you can look back and tally up all the miles you’ve run, you will be so glad you kept track of your goals and accomplishments. It will be worth it. You will also have a handy record that can help you determine when it’s time to buy a new pair of shoes, since the average pair of running shoes lasts about 400-500 miles.

So here we go, beginning runners. If you can walk for 30 minutes at a brisk pace without falling over dead, you should be able to run for 2 minutes. Does that sound so stupid and tiny? It’s not. Running is hard at first, and you need to teach your body how to do it. If 2 minutes sounds intimidating, start with one, or even 30 seconds. You need to start with small distances, so your muscles can learn how it’s done, so your heart and lungs can learn how to cope, and so your mind can learn how to think while you’re running. If you do too much at the beginning, your whole system will overload, and you will never want to do it again. And you will have wasted $100 on those ugly shoes.

I guess we should also discuss what constitutes running. If you are moving forward, and at least one of your feet is always in contact with the ground, you are walking. If you are moving forward, and there are alternating moments when you have one foot on the ground, and then you’re airborne, you are running. It mattereth not how fast you are moving forward. Shuffling is fine, at least for the first few months. Your goal should not be to run fast, but to move forward and get your heart pumping more than it typically does while walking.

Your goal that you write down this week will be a weekly goal. Decide how many days this week you will run, and the duration of each run. You may wish to alternate days of running with days of some other activity, so your muscles can rest and repair themselves. You can tally your goal durations, so you have a total target duration to strive for. For example, my goal for this week is to run for 14 minutes for 6 days, and 28 minutes on the seventh day. I don’t have a rest day planned because I’m trying a new regimen of daily running that I don’t think I can explain and still sound rational. So my goal for the week is 112 total minutes of running. I currently run at a pace of about 11 minutes per mile, so I will have gone about 10 miles this week.

If you skip a day, or do something else, just cross out your running goal for the day and write in what you actually did. I usually keep a tab of running minutes/miles and walking minutes/miles. You can shuffle your days if you go off track, or you can just stay on schedule and not worry about the lost day. The most important thing in getting going is to not skip more than 2 days, and ideally, not more than one. That means that you should be running at least 4 times a week, if you really want to become a runner and enjoy your running.

If you run for your 2 minutes and find that you feel good enough to run 2 more, first walk for a few minutes, then run another 2. After my 2nd and 3rd babies were born, I got back into running very slowly, with 2 minute runs for the first week or so. During the second week, I would run for 2 minutes twice per workout, then the next week, 3 times. This approach may not work for you. You may find it easier to just increase the one run by a minute or two each week. Each time you increase, you will probably feel like it’s pretty hard, but by the time you get to 10 minutes, you will remember thinking how 2 minutes was hard, and you will feel so good about yourself. Then, when you can run for 2 hours, you will laugh at the thought of running for only 2 minutes.

Next, go see:
Step #3: Go Run
Step #4: Mix it up
Running Bonus Tip

By popular demand (OK, only one person has requested), I am going to do a series of posts that can help people start out running for recreation or exercise. I don’t want to overwhelm, because that inevitably leads to quitting. I also want to add this caveat: the only reason I think I’m qualified to issue this advice is because I’ve done it many times. That is, I’ve started running form the beginning. It’s easier every time, because I’m not learning new movements and I’ve got the muscle memory, but the fitness level part is lost if you stop for a long time, such as the requisite 9-18 months during and post-pregnancy.

So you can take my advice with a grain of salt. I love running. I believe that anyone can get to the point where they love it, but that point might not come for months. I encourage you to try it, and get to where you can run 3 miles in one go before you decide whether or not you love it. The first part always sucks, so don’t give up.

Step #1: Get the right clothes.

You will not go running ever again if the first time is so uncomfortable that you’re left with welts anywhere because of chafing, or if your feet hurt (or your knees or hips) from the wrong shoes, or if you feel like you can’t get used to the jostling. Here’s an email I once sent to someone who asked about what to wear while running:

I just think the biggest problem with running is that there are too many things that can be uncomfortable. If you can eliminate as many of those as possible, you’re more likely to continue, and to love it. So you NEED good shoes that fit right. If you are just starting, go to a running shoe store and get fitted. You should have running shoes that are about a full size larger than your dress shoe size. Also, shoes are so specialized that if you get your gait evaluated, you can get the right shoe for how your foot hits the ground, how heavy you are, etc. And you need comfortable clothes. Thrift stores have lots and lots of workout stuff, if you have the time to check them. I get my clothes from REI, Sierra Trading Post, and Road Runner Sports. They all have similar stuff, so I shop for sales.

Get some spandex. For me, there is nothing else to run in. Only the pants, though. I’m not so much into the leotard look. But tights or biking-type shorts (without the butt-padding) are the way to go. For these reasons:

1. They never ride up. I always feel sorry for those people who run in regular shorts, but they’re riding up the middle, so they have to do that side-stepping yank to get the shorts out.

2. If you get black ones, you can’t see if you’re sweaty. Another thing I don’t really like is seeing people who run that are all sweaty down the middle. On the shirt, that’s fine, but not on the lower half. It makes them look incontinent.

3. They’re oh-so-comfortable. Nothing flapping around, nothing pinching. I’m a little knock-kneed, so my knees bonk together. But with tights, they just slide past each other. It’s easier to stretch after a run, too.

4. In the winter, it’s really easy to layer if you have tights on the bottom. Just get some thicker tights one size bigger to put over them when it’s really cold.

5. They dry faster than cotton. So you don’t get the chills as bad after a cold run.

6. You get to show off your sexy legs, if you have them, and if you don’t, you get to proclaim that you don’t give a hoot what anyone else thinks about your legs.

7. No chafing. Cotton is the worst in this area, but with spandex, all your chafing woes are eliminated.

I also don’t wear cotton shirts for running because of the chafing and the wetness. I get the polyester and polypropylene running shirts. They have special seams so there are no raw edges against your skin, and they dry really fast. Some are mesh, so they help keep you cool in hot weather, while still covering the important stuff.

I think I got all the reasons. I have been wearing tights to run in since my freshman year in high school, when my mom made me a pair out of neon yellow fabric with neon green polka-dots. She sewed a hot-orange lightning bolt down the side of both calves. Those were awesome. I recommend you try them. I can’t even bear the thought of running in anything else.

And from another email regarding the jostling issue,

My trick for running, since sports bras do absolutely NOTHING for me, is to get a good quality underwire sports bra, like lunaire, in 34DDD or 36DD (a tiny bit too small helps), or even a regular but old underwire bra that’s comfortable, AND wear a speedo racing swimsuit over it.

It sounds ridiculous, but it works, and I don’t get my shoulders rubbed raw from the sawing, or any other bad chafing either. Although, when I go on long runs or more than 40 minutes, I also use an anti-chafing silicon roll-on in the high-friction areas. But the combination of sports bra and swimsuit really does minimize the bounce.

So is that enough to make you want to give up already? I suppose it’s OK to go running for the first few times in your regular walking clothes, but please just trust me, and get the right shoes first thing. Ask the salesperson lots of questions. Tell them where you plan to run, sidewalks, roads, trails, etc., and how long you will run at a time. If you’re just starting out, you will run about 2 minutes at a time, about 4 times a week. You will build up from there. And let me remind you, there is absolutely nothing shameful about running for 2 minutes, or even 30 seconds. At first, your bones and muscles will need to get used to it, and if you go out too hard at the beginning, pain and frustration will ensue.

For more on running:
Step #2: Make a goal and write it down
Step #3: Go Run
Step #4: Mix it up
Running Bonus Tip

Boo-hoo. Boo-hooo-hoooo. Whine, whine whine. Consider yourself warned.

I feel like if I could just lose 5-10 pounds, I would be able to run farther and enjoy it more. If I could just stop bull-dozing every scrap of edible matter in my path, I could lose those crappy pounds. I have no strategy. I keep thinking it would be so easy to simply eat less. And then I get so overwhelmed with loneliness, sadness, boredom, avoidance of responsibility, inertia… that I can’t face the idea of not seeking out any and every simple and complex carbohydrate within a 5 mile radius.

Also, since I started running again last December, after the requisite 6-week recovery period (which for me is actually at least 8 weeks) after childbirth, I haven’t found my groove. I remember running for a couple of hours at a time and loving the freedom, the strength, the meditation, all that goes with distance running. I miss that liberated feeling. I remember the need to brag to everyone I met about my 12 mile run that morning. I remember pushing myself, but having it not be that hard.

Now, I feel like I’m made of cement. My feet don’t want to come off the ground, my legs don’t want to move. My ankles ache on the days I don’t run. My belly pokes out more than it did when I was 4 months pregnant. My stamina is gone, and the motivation to get out and run 4 times a week is severely lacking. I wake up with a headache every single morning. But I do it, and I’m happy if I get in one mile.

When I was closing in on the finish line during my first 1/2 marathon, I came up behind a woman who had stopped to walk. She seemed like she had given it everything she had, and had come up short. I was creeping along at 10 minutes per mile, so as I passed, I encouraged her, “It’s only one mile to go! That’s your very shortest run! 15 minutes at your slowest.” She girded her loins and started shuffling along with me. After a couple of minutes, she said thanks, and took off. I think she beat my by 3 or 4 minutes.

And now, I can barely push myself those 15 minutes. I did make it a whole 30 minutes on Saturday, with a short walk after the first 15, but by the end, I felt hammered. I really, really want to love it again. I want to be able to do 2 hour runs on the weekend. I want to do a 1/2 marathon in the spring.

Can anyone help me?

Update: I just signed up for the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon in May. Anyone wanna join me? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? 

I sit, eating “Chocolate Devastation” ice cream and contemplating the myriad health, human rights, and animal rights issues attached to the contents of my bowl. Where do I even begin?

Chocolate? With the fight for living-wages paid to chocolate farmers in South America, but the ever-growing demand for products made from the cocoa bean, especially since there have been so many new claims of health benefits from eating something everyone loves anyway, I would love to choose fair trade chocolate over conventional agri-business chocolate. When other humans are kept in poverty because the affluent North Americans and Western Europeans want to buy and consume chocolate often, but want it to be cheap, I start to lose my taste for it. I am guilty of buying the worst offending mass produced chocolate that sucks the lives from the farmers. I’m guilty because I’m not poor, it is readily available, and I’m gluttonous.

High fructose corn syrup? This ubiquitous sweetener is typically sweeter than table sugar, but a fraction of the cost, so it is in nearly every form of processed or packaged food, from candy, soft drinks, and cookies, to bread, crackers, “fruit drinks,” and dairy products (check your yogurt). HFCS is made from corn, and thus can be mistakenly thought of as “natural.” It has been linked to growing rates of obesity and diabetes, especially among children. It has also been suggested that HFCS is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is not natural.

Milk and cream? I have met some of the cows that produced my ice cream, so I know they are not in as poor a situation as some of America’s dairy cows, but they still didn’t know about pastures, they still had to stand around in piles of their own excrement until someone hosed off their concrete yard, and they are, like most of the country’s dairy cows, injected with growth hormones to boost milk supply, and antibiotics to treat the mastitis infections that result from excess milk. It has been suggested that these growth hormones are a factor in early puberty among girls, and that the excessive antibiotics in dairy products reduce human tolerance to disease. It has also been suggested that the bovine hormones have no effect on the human body, but recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is banned outside the US.

Hydrogenated oil? I pronounce this with the emphasis on the Hy, so it sounds like hydrogen-ated. This is adding hydrogen (H2) molecules to unsaturated oil and turning it into a saturated fat. As we all know, saturated fats are factors for coronary heart disease, but it seems that trans fats, which are a result of this hydrogenation, are especially unhealthy. Most fats are beneficial to humans in varying quantities, but trans fats are not. And yet partially-hydrogenated oils are preferred for processed foods. They are solid at room temperature, have a nice reaction with flour, which gives baked goods a pleasant texture, and are slower to go rancid than unsaturated oils, so they have a much longer shelf-life.

It seems that my ice cream may not have been worth it.

This post is not meant to be informative, it is just my reaction to all the things I’ve been reading here and there. I don’t have sources, but I think if you wanted to find out about any of this, it would not be very hard.

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