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So Is It Organic Or Not? And Does It Really Matter?

Is it really organic?

How can you tell if it’s organic?

What is organic, anyway?usda-guts-organic-standards

The word organic doesn’t mean the same thing to me as it did back in the 1970’s when my aunt started organic gardening in her backyard. She had a small garden, so using manure and compost to fertilize, constantly aerating the soil and hand-picking insects from the plants instead of using pesticides, was time consuming but manageable.

Imagine trying to do that on a large scale farm.

Organic refers, not to the quality of food produced, it refers to how it is produced. Organic fruits and vegetables are supposed to be grown in clean, uncontaminated soil using only clean, organic fertilizers (non-chemical) and without the use of any pesticides. They also cannot be treated with preservatives. Organic animal products can’t be raised using medications, antibiotics or growth hormones. Also, organic foods cannot be genetically modified (GM or GMO). Producing foods organically is also considered much better for the environment.

Sounds pretty healthy, doesn’t it?

The way the use of the word organic is used and regulated, leaves most of us confused and often misled.

The USDA uses four different categories in organic food labeling: 100% Organic; 95% Organic- labeled Certified Organic; 70-95% Organic– labeled, Made With Organic Ingredients; and 70% Organic– labeled, Contains Organic Ingredients. You should be suspicious of any products labeled or displayed in stores with any form of the word organic, that is not accompanied by the USDA seal.

We have to ask ourselves, if it’s not 100% organic, is it still worth the increased cost?

Common sense tells us that foods without pesticides; and animal products that were produced without antibiotics and hormones should be healthier for us, right?

Unfortunately, studies show that pesticide residue, though lower in organic products, still exist in them, To date, there is no proof that any of the pesticide residue found in organic or conventionally farmed foods affect our health. There is also no proof that antibiotics used on animal products interfere with the affects of human antibiotic effectiveness.

It is important to know that there are no claims by the USDA, or any evidence that supports the existence of any increased nutritional value or quality in organic foods. All studies indicate that they are comparatively the same.

I’m frustrated to know that there have been very few attempts to even study and compare the health of people eating only organic foods versus conventionally grown foods. The data just doesn’t exist.

It’s also important to note that people frequently become confused by the terms: organic, fresh, natural, sustainable and locally grown. Each word or phrase can mean a totally differently thing. Though the use of any of these descriptions are intended to suggest a healthier and more nutritious  product– that proof doesn’t exist.

So is it worth it?

All currently available research shows no measurable health benefits to consuming organic foods over conventionally grown foods. So is it really worth paying the average additional 40% to 120% increase in cost?

Without clear data supporting it, it really just becomes a personal preference. Many people can’t afford to spend the extra money on a chance that organic is better for you.

Some people claim that organic foods taste better than conventionally grown foods. Yet in my own personal research, I have not found any noticeable differences.

Organic produce isn’t always ‘as pretty‘ as conventionally grown produce and may contain natural imperfections that end up equaling waste. This might also be a deciding factor in the value, particularly when purchasing produce by the pound as opposed to individual item-pricing.

One last thing to consider is that organic foods are not supposed to be treated with any preservatives, leading them to spoil much quicker. This can be problematic for individuals that find it difficult to make frequent trips to the market.

Whether you  decide to buy organic or not, Americans as a whole, do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.

Whichever you buy, the Mayo Clinic website highly recommends washing all produce thoroughly because all of it can contain dirt and bacteria, not to mention possible contamination from handling, no matter how it was produced.

The decision is yours.

A Healthy Lifestyle: What You Eat Is Probably Killing You

Bye-tombstoneThe food you eat on a daily basis is probably killing you. I’m not saying this simply for shock value, I’m saying it because it’s true. You may fool yourself into thinking you’re eating healthy because you only eat organic, are vegetarian, follow a low fat or high protein diet but the bottom line is… our food supply holds many dangers we need to know about.

I hope you’ll read this before you rush to judgement and click away to another page. I’m not a doctor or a scientist– I’m just a consumer that has the same struggles and concerns regarding health and living a good long life, just like you. What I hope to do in writing this, is to encourage you to look beyond the commonly accepted perceptions regarding the food you eat (and other products you are exposed to) and to stay healthy.

The three most important things I have to say are:

1) Educate yourself;

2) Don’t trust the packaging; and

3) Listen to your body.

 

It’s really that simple.

Educate Yourself

Last month another of those infamous reports came out damning high protein consumption and equating it to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. (Seriously? Is that really a logical comparison?) A few days ago another report came out saying salt wasn’t as bad for you as previously stated.

So who can you trust? I think most people realize that the results of many of the studies released to the public are funded by companies that stand to gain financially if the results are in their favor. Universities and medical institutions are funded, at least in part, by corporations. So my advice is: Don’t just accept a single report you hear in the news– Do your own research!

Do you know what GMO stands for? You should. (I‘ll be discussing that in the near future.)

Hot Dogs cause Cancer. At least, that’s what we’ve been told. Have you stopped eating them? Do you know what it is about them that was supposedly linked to Cancer? Are you putting you and your family at risk eating them? Do the research.

Don’t Trust the Packaging

Do you pay more for poultry and eggs that are free range? Are you aware that ‘free range‘ is not a term that is closely or specifically regulated? Have you purchased eggs because the package has a picture of a happy chicken in a field running free on the carton? Misleading packaging is not a crime.

I’ll repeat this: Misleading packaging is not a crime.

The way I understand it, it is perfectly legal for companies to use misleading pictures or words like some uses of words like: organic, all-natural, fresh, etc. — In their company name, brand and description because there is no law against it. It only becomes a crime when it can be proved in court that it was misleading and caused documented damages. (Example– all spring water doesn’t come from springs and all cows don’t happily munch on grass under apple trees.) There are regulations regarding the use of certain wording in a product name, or list of ingredients— and this can indicate whether the product is certified, which is where it can really get confusing and misleading.

So are you over-paying for the organic celery over the plain celery,  or purchasing the low-salt or low-fat products because you think it’s healthier for you? Read the label. (I’ll go into more detail about organic foods in my next post.) You could be wasting your money. You should know and need to know that anytime manufacturers takes something out of a product— they have to put something else in just to make it taste good. What they put in– could be worse for you than what they’ve removed!

Listen to your body

Are you gaining weight? Are you dieting but can’t lose weight? Do you frequently feel sick after you eat? Do you take medications to allow you to eat certain foods? Are you always tired or always hungry?

Listen to your body.

It isn’t just about over consumption or specific food allergies. There could be a variety of factors that could be affecting you physically or mentally, based on: what you eat, the amount, or combination of foods you eat… and how your body reacts.

Listen to your body.

I love chocolate. Too much of it makes me sick, as does too many chocolate-covered strawberries or too much chocolate & peanut butter. It doesn’t mean I’m allergic to it— but too much causes a negative chemical reaction in my body so I have to know when enough is enough.

We are all different. As a result, foods are going to affect us all differently, as well. Sure, there are known factors that can affect most of us– but there are also different reactions for different people. This is why I believe the food pyramid and popular diets aren’t helpful to all people. You can use them as a guide but you have to modify any healthy eating regiment based on what your body is telling you.

It’s Up To You

Obviously, we have to eat to survive. I’m only trying to encourage you to make educated decisions when you purchase your foods and not rely on the marketing or trust that every food sold is good for you. Food is a business. Businesses have to make money. Sometimes, the bottom line outweighs the nutritional value of the foods that are sold. You have to make a conscience effort to not be fooled.

 

(In the near future I’ll be writing posts about organic foods, GMO, chemicals in processed foods, contamination of our food supply and more nutritional concerns that affect us all. Feel free to comment or contact me if their is a topic you’d like me to explore.)

One Year Healthier

70 pounds lighter than one year ago.

70 pounds lighter than one year ago.

It’s been a year since I completely changed my diet. I’m 70 pounds lighter and I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to stick to it and it’s now just a way of life. I visited the doctor this week and received a clean bill of health. All my numbers checked out… so for those of you who buy the false claims that a low carb, high protein diet is unhealthy — think again.

Suit pants I wore to a wedding last year.

Suit pants I wore to a wedding last year.

Now that I have more free time, I’m back to working out and hope to at least tone up, if not build a little muscle mass. I still have some sagging skin from the weight loss and hope working out will help eliminate that too. I’m cautiously optimistic as I know I can’t completely fight the aging process.

I can’t even begin to describe how much better I feel– and even more important, how much better I feel about myself. I accomplished an important goal and feel good about my ability to stick with it.

I introduced a few more carbs in to my diet without any weight change but I’m still avoiding any regular consumption of bread and potatoes.

I don’t deprive myself of anything, just really careful to limited my intake or large amounts of carbs. It’s all about moderation. A binge is even okay as long as it doesn’t lead to daily abuse of the rules.

A few months ago I got a Fitbit One, a little monitoring device that can measure your steps, stairs, calories and sleep pattern. I absolutely love it! Even though I’m not measuring my calorie consumption, it does help monitoring my calorie expenditure combined with my daily activity (steps) and stairs climbed. You can sync it with the phone app or your computer to monitor your progress and it’s all stored online for free.

In the suit a year ago before changing my diet.

In the suit a year ago before changing my diet.

One huge difference I’ve noticed is that since losing my job (and the stress), my sleep pattern has greatly improved. My boss had made things so miserable for me, I was waking up an average of 11 times a night! That has dropped down now to 3 times a night. A huge improvement! Just goes to show you how stress can have a negative impact on your health.

I feel good now and have so much more energy than I did before. I sleep less, waking up naturally without that groggy morning feeling I used to get. All in all, it has been one of the best decisions in my life.

I still get so many people asking me how I lost the weight and if it was hard. It really wasn’t… and it’s not that hard to maintain either. You just have to make the commitment… to yourself and to your health. Excuses will never equal results.

Anyone… and I mean ANYONE can do it!

Caught with my pants down. 70 pounds lighter. I lost ten inches off my waistline!

Caught with my pants down. 70 pounds lighter. I lost ten inches off my waistline!

Happy and healthy!

Happy and healthy!

My 2012 Weight Loss Challenge: The Unveiling

IMG_0674I’ve been anxiously waiting and counting down the days until I could write this blog post. Believe me, when I say that I was surprised  with my progress and final results. Even two months ago I couldn’t have predicted the final outcome. The most important thing I’ve been reminded of — We can all do pretty much anything we want, if we truly have the determination and desire to see it through. We tend to forget that. At least I know I do. I want to share with you what I did, how I did it and hope that maybe it will help just one person to find their own strength to challenge themselves. Whether it be achieving a weight loss goal or healthy living, pursuing a change in career or living situation or even starting or finishing a project you’ve put off for too long– you CAN do it.

Before After Blog

The Beginning. I would have to estimate my weight back in March 2012, when the first photograph was taken, at somewhere around 255 pounds. I was at my heaviest point ever and even XXL clothing was somewhat tight. I was starting to feel embarrassed by my size but I didn’t let that stop me from eating. It wasn’t so much the quantity of what I ate as it was the quality of foods. I lived primarily on fast food. I usually only had one meal a day during the week, and if I did eat anything else, it was always something like chips or ice cream. That one meal a day was always a high calorie, high carb binge-fest of fast food.  It got to the point I couldn’t do anything without it affecting my breathing, I’d get severe acid reflux, and I was tired all the time. Sure, I thought about losing the weight but I had no motivation to change my eating habits. It’s so easy to find excuses and place blame. The fact was I was just too lazy.

Between March and May, Michael and I started talking about losing weight and even started to cook more. We lost a few pounds but without a complete, radical change in our diets we weren’t going to see the results we needed to see. It wasn’t until we started planning my 50th birthday trip that we got serious about eating right. We decided to primarily follow the rules of the Adkins diet because it had worked well for us in the past. (We just didn’t continue to eat healthy after it.) Every diet isn’t right for every person and every person’s results may vary but the low carb diet definitely works for achieving significant weight loss and then can be easily adapted for long term, healthy eating.

IMG_0615FACT #1 It’s not always how much you eat but the combination of what you eat.

FACT #2 The Food Pyramid is wrong.

I put these two together because they are interrelated. Your body processes different foods, well, differently. When you eat foods requiring different processes, it confuses your systems and ultimately stores much of your food as fat. Your body processes proteins and fats in one way and sugars and starches in another.

FACT #3 Large quantities of Milk, Bread (Grains) and Potatoes are not good for you.

Have you ever heard the saying, Cows milk is for baby cows, not people? Most of our bodies don’t process it well. It’s no wonder so any people are lactose intolerant. Bread and potatoes contain large amounts of sugar and components that the body turns into sugar; and then the body stores it as fat.

These are staples in fast foods. When you go to a restaurant, the first thing they bring you is bread and one of your side dishes is almost always potatoes (or rice). They are cheap to serve, filling, and your bodies loves to turn them into fat. I love french fries. I haven’t had any for six months now. Honestly, I can’t say that I haven’t really missed or craved them like I thought I would. I also love bread. Sandwiches, burgers, and particularly, yeast rolls are my downfall. I love them– but my waistline does not. One slice of bread or half of a burger bun has more carbs than your daily allowance when you start a low carb diet. (It’s no wonder so many children are obese when sandwiches and burgers are a regular part of their eating habits.)

FACT #4 Dieting and Alcohol Don’t Mix.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known that talk about how they can’t lose weight and go out and drink on the weekends. Alcoholic drinks contain loads of sugar and the alcohol breaks down in to sugar that turns to fat. If you’re serious about weight loss — stop drinking. I’m not much of a drinker, so this was easy for me.

IMG_0603The Progress. In the initial few weeks of our diet, Michael and I didn’t weigh ourselves and we were very strict in limiting our carbs. We primarily stuck to proteins and fats (meats and cheese), having very few vegetables and taking vitamin supplements. We drank lots of water and cut back on caffeine. I wasn’t willing to give up coffee altogether if I didn’t have to– and soon found, for me, caffeine wasn’t having much affect on my weight loss progress.

After about a month, I started weighing myself daily. This can be tricky when you are trying to measure your progress. I found my weight can easily vary around five pounds depending on the time of day and the amount of fluids I’ve been drinking.  The best practice is to weigh yourself at the same time of day to accurately measure your progress.

We also started eating salads with nearly every meal, or the salads were the meal. You can make salads interesting by adding lots of low carb veggies such as celery, cucumbers, broccoli, mushrooms and green onions and of course all the meat and cheese you want. We only used small quantities of tomatoes and carrots for flavor because they are higher in sugar than other vegetables. Broccoli slaw is also a nice crunchy addition. Most ranch dressings are only 2 to 3 carbs per serving but you have to read the labels. Italian and vinaigrette dressings are not as good for you as you might think. Many have large amounts of sugar. I can’t tell you how much I love salads now and I never thought I’d say that.

One of our other favorite meal solutions was soup… Don’t even think about soup from a can, they really aren’t good for you. Once or twice a week we made a huge batch of our own using a prepackaged beef stock (which is often salty and can be watered down), meats such as sausage, beef and chicken, and vegetables such as celery, green beans and mushrooms. The best thing is to add fresh chopped green onions and shredded cheese when you’re ready to eat it.

IMG_0643Exercise. I didn’t start working out until three months in to our program. Obviously, an important part of good health is exercise and physical activity. I started out going 3 to 5 times a week but my workouts only averaged 45 minutes to an hour on a regular basis. My goal was to get the exercise and begin to tone and build my flexibility, not build bulk. Especially when losing a large amount of weight in a relatively short period of time, toning your body is crucial. Excess fat stretches your skin so as you lose, you want to help firm up that body.

I’ve only been going to the gym about once or twice a week for the past month with my schedule but I’ve been getting my exercise through my daily routine at home and work.

FACT #5 You aren’t going to achieve your desired results through exercise alone.

I’ve watched friends become obsessed with the gym but do nothing about altering their diets. Though this may work for some people, it doesn’t for most of us. You need a good combination of healthy eating and exercise to see your desired results.

FACT #6 It’s okay to cheat.

Cheating is okay. Sometimes you find yourself with a craving or in a situation where you can’t stick to a strict diet. Just remember that cheating may set back your progress– but if it keeps you from giving up in the long run, it’s a good thing. I can actually name all the times I’ve cheated in the past six months. I had one piece of cake, pizza twice, a small helping of scalloped potatoes and two yeast rolls. (Spread out, of course, not all at once.)

The saving grace for my sweet tooth has been the Adkins Bars. They are available at most grocery stores and I’ve gotten the best prices at Target and Walmart. They have been my morning and afternoon meal replacements and my snacks. I average two to three of them a day. They are really delicious and the perfect solution to sugar cravings. You can’t really substitute other diet or energy bars. Most are extremely high in sugar and carbs.

IMG_0510FACT #7 Attitude and Determination are EVERYTHING!

I can’t stress enough how important it is that you are really ready and committed before you start any weight loss plan. If you go in to it halfheartedly, you’re going to fail. You can’t let yourself be discouraged during those periods when the results seem to be stagnate either. Stay committed. Stick to the course and you’ll see the results.

One of the reasons this diet has worked so well for me is that though I do have to watch what foods I eat, I don’t have to count calories, points or measure food portions. I’m not disciplined enough to track those things necessary to achieve results on those other diet plans. I can honestly say I have never been hungry or felt like I was depriving myself (or starving) on this diet. It’s overall, been a relatively easy path.

I feel better. I look better. I have more energy. What more can I ask for? I’m reminded everyday how much better I feel and how much easier it is to do simple tasks. I’m much more productive and I feel alive again!

LOVE YOURSELF! You’re worth it!

One more thing– Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. Yes, the drive thru or a sit down restaurant is easier. Once you get into the swing of preparing your meals at home (if you don’t normally), it just becomes part of your daily routine. The thought of it is more harsh than the actual cooking can be.

Final Results. Here are the final statistics from my six-month weight loss journey, on my road to better health:

My Weight Loss Update: 12/23/12:

IMG_0633Started: End of June 2012

Goal Date: December 25, 2012

Goal Weight: 185 lbs.

Starting Weight: 245 lbs.

Starting Waistline: 38″-40″

Starting Shirt Size: XXL

Current (Final) Weight: 178lbs.

Current Waistline: 30″

Current Shirt Size: MED.

Total Weight Lost: 67 lbs.

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