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Improving Yourself From The Inside Out – @shellystins (Guest Writer)

I’ve always been kind of fascinated by people who can change their life in dramatic ways. It’s like one minute they’re living this life that leaves them feeling tired, empty, and lacking. And the next, they’re completely satisfied down to their soul and grinning from ear to ear because they feel so good about themselves and who they are. And what I’ve noticed most about the people who achieve this type of almost miraculous transformation is that it generally involves them altering their lives on both a personal and professional level. In the case of this post, it can occur when changing your diet and also pursuing a career in the field of health coaching.

It only makes sense, really, because when you go through the changes yourself, it puts you in the perfect position to help others who need to go through the changes to reach their own goals too. It gives you the ability to say, “Hey, I’ve been there. I know how it feels, but I did it and I know that you can do it too!” It also enables you to give little tips and tricks that you used to get through the dreaded lack of motivation phase and to overcome the hurdles that threaten their ultimate success.



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Take the story of Jil Larsen, founder and owner of Magic Mix Juicery in New York City, for instance. She was diagnosed with melasma, a skin disorder. Upon doing research about how she could effectively deal with it, she learned that she was eating too much, but not enough of good, healthy, vitamin-rich foods. So she started juicing and eating healthier in an effort to regain her health, which she did—and her melasma joyously reversed. Born from this experience was her desire to help others eat less and eatbetter so they too could experience better health. This is when she opened Magic Mix Juicery and now serves healthy food to people in the Financial District in New York City. 

Of course, one part of achieving this level of life change requires making changes in your own life. How? Fortunately, there are a number of ways. For example, the American Heart Association recommends expending as many calories as you eat, eating a wide variety of foods, and making sure those foods are full of good nutrients. This basically means eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, poultry, fish, and other good-for-you menu items. It also means limiting the amount of processed foods you eat (think crackers, chips, cookies, and things like that). 

But if you need help figuring out exactly what changes can provide you the greatest impact and the greatest ability to change your life, another option is to do what Jil did. Take a health issue near and dear to your heart, maybe one that is affecting you personally. Then, learn as much about it as you can and start making positive health-based changes to help ease, if not eliminate, the condition or concern. You could then become a health coach (or enter a similar career path) to help others in similar situations make the necessary changes in their owned lives to enjoy a better and higher quality of life.

This is the same basic principle behind what makes Cancer Buddies Network such a success. When people can work with someone who has walked in their shoes, who not only struggles with the physical issues they face but the mental ones too, there’s no better feeling. It’s like receiving a hug from a long lost friend, reminding you that everything will be okay.

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Buzzzzzzz

I suffer from indoor, outdoor, seasonal and year round allergies.  I’m also mildly allergic to cats.  And I swell up if I get stung by a bee.  Or get bitten by any type of bug.  I suppose I should consider myself lucky that I’m at least not allergic to peanut butter or gluten or anything else that would keep me from eating the delicious things I love.  As I write this, I am taking frequent breaks to either sneeze or grab a Kleenex to tend to my body’s reaction to the extremely high pollen count in my city.  I feel downright miserable, but this is hardly the worst I’ve been during allergy season, especially when compared to last year.  Instead of popping extra allergy pills and going crazy with antihistamine eye drops as I usually do, this season I’ve been self-medicating with bee pollen.

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Bee pollen contains protein, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and lipids.  One teaspoon of bee pollen takes a bee an entire month to collect, working eight hour days.  Each pellet contains over two million flower pollen grains.  When taken as a supplement, it is said to enhance energy, help prevent asthma, aid in digestion, and boost the immune system.  But most important, it can be used to treat allergies.  Taking pollen reduces the presence of histamine, according to Dr. Leo Conway, MD of Colorado.  It does so by helping the body to build a resistance and immunity so that the body’s reaction is less severe once pollen is swirling around the air we have no choice but to breathe.  For that reason, it is important to find a honey farm locally and purchase bee pollen from them in order to get a source containing local pollens and to check to ensure the pollen granules are many different colors, signifying it contains pollens from many plants.

The recommended dosage is a teaspoon or two per day, every day.  When I received my jar, I began with slightly less than half a teaspoon due to concern over how my body would react.  I’m lucky I didn’t take any more than that; I developed a rash, my breathing was labored, and I felt slightly drugged.  Upon doing further research, I reduced my dosage to one to two pellets per day to get my body used to the pollen.  The breathing issues were thankfully a one time thing.  It took about one week for rashes to stop appearing and two weeks for the drugged feeling to stop 100%.  I began slowly increasing the dosage and playing with how I took it, finally settling on about half a teaspoon a day taken mixed in my tea and water throughout the day.

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The change, while minor, has been huge for me so far.  Today is the first day I’ve truly felt that my allergies were on my nerves, and since my son gave me his cold, I can’t say for 100% certainty that allergies are fully to blame for how I feel.  I deal with itchy eyes every year without fail, and last year it caused my eyes to become severely dry due to the antihistamine’s drying them out, plus I suffered corneal abrasions and looked like a zombie for months.  Now, instead of spending my entire day either using drops or suffering the itch, my eyes have barely been bothering me at all; I’ve used antihistamine drops twice in the last two months which is probably a record for me.  I’ve gone from taking one to two 24 hours allergy pills per day to get relief to taking no more than one per day, but strictly on an as-needed basis.  In the past seven days, I’ve taken two pills.  Another record for me.

In order to get the full effects of the bee pollen, I will have to continue taking it year round, continue to use a local source, and that should result in me seeing an even tamer allergy season next time around.  Of course, this season has really only just begun.  I still have to deal with the grass pollens filling my office every Tuesday when the grounds crew mows.  I have a lot of challenges ahead of me that I will hopefully get through better than last year.  But for someone like me, who will have crazy sneezing fits out of the blue at the slightest hint of a flower, I feel optimistic about the future if I continue putting trust into bee pollen.

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The Journal of Allergy reports that 73% of patients using bee pollen reported a 75% improvement in their symptoms.  17% reported a complete improvement and were free of symptoms.  Since taking bee pollen orally trains the body to stop producing and releasing histamine, the body’s inflammatory response (sneezing, itching, cough, runny nose) is not triggered and people like me are not suffering.  Now, these are all claims that don’t have a pretty FDA stamp of approval, so one could say that this is as legit as the latest diet pill craze.  But I’m drinking the Kool-Aid on this one.  It’s been helping me and I believe it will continue to help me if I continue to take it.  If I can train my body to stop trying to kill itself any time we’re around a budding plant, and I can do so without drugs that only treat symptoms and not the underlying cause, you damn well better believe I’m going to try it.

As I said, the real test is still coming, but I feel confident that I can handle it and will do so better than years past.  I want to be able to have the windows down in the car without worrying about what is blowing in my face.  I want to open the windows in my home without becoming paranoid about what is flying in the cool breeze.  I want to take my dog for a walk without sneezing fifty times and annoying him while he tries to sniff out bad guys.  I want to wake up and not feel like the first thing I must do is run to the cabinet for pills and drops.  I want to feel normal.  I just hope bee pollen really can get me there.

Zero Water, Zero Help

On March 23, 2014, my husband and I upgraded to a Zero Water filtering system.  We had previously been alternating between Brita and Pur, as we have hard water where we live which makes filtration essential.  Zero Water’s filtration system consists of five stages, which is much more complex than Brita or Pur and should provide cleaner and better drinking water.  It comes with a meter to test your water before Zero filtration and afterwards, which shocked both my husband and I, as we had far too many dissolved solids showing up in our before water.  Having recently installed a filtration system in our shower, we felt confident that the Zero water pitcher was a fantastic next step for us and were very happy with our nearly $40 purchase.

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Fast forward to the week of April 14, 2014, slightly over three weeks later.  My husband began to notice a strange odor in the house.  We cleaned and scrubbed and Febrezed and investigated.  I grew paranoid when my husband sat next to me one day and almost instantly said “what is that smell??”  I was confused when he went into the kitchen one evening and asked if I had made tuna.  And finally, after pouring a glass of water from our Zero Water filter, he found the culprit.  Our pitcher stunk.  It smelled like an old aquarium.  Upon removing the filter from the pitcher, the smell grew even stronger.  It was enough to make us sick.

We began checking our cups to make sure the issue wasn’t coming from another source.  The cups were all fine, the Pur filter we have directly on the faucet was giving us odorless water, and the water straight from the tap was free of odor as well.  I hopped on Google and read this review on Ripoff Report“I purchased a Zero Water Filtration pitcher system about 3 weeks ago. A few days ago, I noticed a fish smell in my kitchen.. So I decided to clean out the kitchen sink pipes.. The next hour the smell was still there.. I poured a glass of water from my Zero Water Filtration pitcher system and found the problem.. The water smelt like a dirty fish tank filter.  I called Zero Water. They told me that where I live has a high amount of materials in the water and the only thing I could do is to change the filter every 2 or 3 weeks to prevent the smell.”  This is apparently such a common problem that they include the following on their official website:

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So, not only is the filter life greatly exaggerated (or grossly misleading at best), but the fishy smell is practically a guarantee once the filter has reached the end of its life span.  My husband and I did some thinking, and are now left wondering if the filter issue that caused the odor is the same thing that was causing me to have migraines, nausea, and caused the water to have an odd taste when it warmed to room temperature.  The FAQ on the Zero Water site, along with common sense, urges the consumer to remember that filters don’t last forever, especially in certain areas of the country, and filter life times do vary greatly.  That being said, I did not shell out nearly $40 just to have three weeks of acceptable water before having to throw my nearly $40 pitcher in the trash can.

For our Brita and Pur water pitchers, we would fill it from the kitchen faucet that is also filtered by one of their products.  This double filtration system of ours would allow us to get months out of our filters.  Even at the end of a filter’s life, we would notice no odor and little to no change in water taste.  I don’t care how bad the water is in my city, there is no excuse for any consumer to be given fish-water after three weeks of using a filtration system.  I would rather go out in my backyard and drink straight from the pond than drink aquarium leftovers from an overpriced so-called “top of the line” water pitcher.

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According to the Water Resources Authority in Massachusetts, a fishy smell is caused by algae growth.  The public health department of Washington says that organic matter is to blame for the odor.  Plumbing Supply says it could be from chlorine and ammonia used to treat the water supply by the city, or naturally occurring elements barium and/or cadmium.  While I have no doubt that there are all sorts of minerals in my water, I feel 100% confident that my water supply is not to blame.  I have been using the same water supply for over six years now at either my own home or my mother-in-law’s, and have not once had an issue with foul-smelling fish-water until wasting my money on a Zero Water pitcher.
Even positive reviews I’ve read about the pitcher acknowledge the fishy smell.  And while I can’t say for sure, I feel confident that something in the filtration system was making me sick and causing headaches.  I would not pay $5 for a filtration system that is going to make my water and home stink after three weeks, nevermind pay $35 plus tax to get started and $15 for every replacement filter in the future.  Zero Water is a rip off, plain and simple.  I wish I had done more research prior to making the purchase, but I hope that putting this out there helps sway others from making the same mistake I did.  Pur and Brita are fantastic, and I wish I had stuck with what I knew instead of making the switch to a water filtration system that was Zero Help.

Here We Go Again

Today marks the third week in a row of my new commitment to both calorie counting and adding some kind of physical activity to my day.  I have been limited my intake to no more than 1300 per day, ensuring that days I go over are followed by days I go under.  I will allow myself one cheat day per month to go out of control because calorie restrictions unfortunately do mean food restrictions as well (bye bye for now, nachos).  I hate the gym and I’m not a runner, so my physical activity has consisted of doing laps with my iPod around the 1.6 million square foot building where I work five days a week.  Inside of course; I’m not quite brave or crazy enough to go out in the frigid Indiana air.  In these three little weeks, I have no idea how much weight I’ve lost, but my clothes fit better, my hourglass figure is making a mean comeback, and my husband has taken notice on my improvements.

The last time I had to change my diet and drop some pounds was a nightmarish time when I was squeezing into a size 11 and being ashamed of myself.  Right now, I am hovering around a size 7 and nowhere near where I was before, so it’s not quite the annoyance it was back then.  My goal this time is to get back to the size I was when my husband and I got married.  I’m basing it on how I look and how my clothes fit, nothing else.  I don’t care how much I weigh now or how much I weigh when I’m done.  I’m always going to be “heavy” due to the pounds of muscle I carry, so the number is going to be higher than you’d expect as long as I stay healthy and don’t lose that muscle.  I’m making progress and happy with the results.  But damn if it isn’t hard.

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I’ve always been a big believer that diets are not the way to go.  Diet equals restriction which equals frustration and eventually failure.  Tell someone they cannot have any pizza and they are going to want pizza. With calorie counting, I can have pizza and all the other foods I desire, just not in the quantities I may prefer.  The plus side is that my stomach quickly became used to smaller quantities and doesn’t allow me to overeat, making calorie counting much easier.  The downside is that I want to eat cakes and pies and pizzas and tacos and everything else I can get my hands on.  There has been free cake, bagels, donuts, and all sorts of junk food in my office that I want to dive into headfirst and devour until I can’t move.  It’s torture.

My saving grace in the office has come in two forms.  The first is sometimes tiring but very therapeutic; long walks around the square-shaped building, including hikes up and down the ramps.  With my iPod on shuffle and helping me drown out all the noise around me, I get a break from the day while breaking a bit of a sweat.  It also allows me to get away from whatever temptation is being put in front of me, reducing the chances of me cracking under pressure and grabbing some junk food.  The second is a little mean but it works.  All I have to do is get a good look at one of the very out of shape people in this building and the desire to eat junk food vanishes.  The fact that the woman who sits behind me has a habit of ordering multiple lunches per day and having Doritos for breakfast ends up being a powerful motivator for me to eat less and eat healthy.

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This is not the most difficult time I’ve had with a plan to drop a few pounds, nor is it the most extreme thing I’ve done, but for some reason it’s been annoying me more than all the other diets, exercise plans, food restrictions, and various other paths I’ve ventured down.  If not for the fact that I’m seeing results, I think I would have quit.  I imagine that is why many people throw in the towel early on.  But my goal is in mind and it’s a goal that isn’t a year or more down the road, but mere months away.  Milestone One will be March 11th when the husband and I go to WWE Raw, as I want to look good in the shirt I altered for the event.  Milestone Two will be my birthday, where I hope to be at the point where nothing in my closet is off-limits, but the real goal is Milestone Three when I will go bikini shopping.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the right time of year or not; whenever I’m at the point where I get excited to go try on bikinis, I’ll know I’ve reached my ultimate goal.

Struggling with weight is one of the most frustrating and annoying struggles that the average person has to deal with.  It’s also one of the most easy fixes out there.  Unless you’re one of the very few who have a medical condition that causes extreme weight gain or prevents weight loss, it’s simply a matter of burning more than you consume.  Doing that isn’t the impossible feat that many make it out to be.  Yes, it’s frustrating being surrounded by donuts and having to take a pass, but it’s worth it when you can look at yourself in the mirror after a shower without cringing in disgust.  Have some self-control and self-respect, choose reasonable goals, and stick to a plan that works for you.  Easy.

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There are always going to be people out there who tell you you’re doing it wrong.  Eat more carbs and less dairy.  Eat no carbs and drink green tea.  Drink only black coffee and eat lots of carrots.  Plan X worked for me; you should try it.  Workout video Y is amazing; want to borrow it?  Receive their advice with a smile and get right back to your own plan.  If something works for you and is giving you results, be them big or small, it’s in your best interest to shrug off the unwanted advice.  But don’t be afraid to talk about what you’re doing just because you want to avoid advice.  Speaking up doesn’t just keep people informed, it can connect you with others who are also trying to get in shape or lose their Christmas weight.

At the end of the day, it’s about you and only you.  What you want for yourself.  Where you see yourself in the future.  How happy you want to be with who you are.  How comfortable you wish to be in your own skin.  With weight loss or with any type of self-improvement, you have to be doing it for you and no one else.  If my husband had been the one to encourage this weight loss, I wouldn’t be as motivated as I currently am.  I’m the one in this body and I have to do it for me.  I have to know that I can succeed and I have to be willing to make sacrifices to get there.  And most important for me, I have to find ways to cope when it feels like it’s too hard.  Like writing this entry, for example, as it kept me from searching for candy.  Thanks for listening.

Surviving A Pitch In

My office, like many offices, loves to have pitch-in luncheons.  To those of us who count calories, are on a diet plan, or simply trying to be more mindful of their weight, pitch-ins can be hell.  Tons of great food is brought in; chips and various homemade dips, pulled pork, chili, meatballs, all kinds of casseroles, vegetable and cheese trays, sandwich platters, dinner rolls, potato and macaroni salads, and more.  Then you have the desserts; cookies, pies, brownies, and other decadent treats.  The employee who lacks in culinary skill will bring an array of sodas, punch or sweet tea.  I gained a pound just writing that paragraph.

The seemingly simple solution is to skip it, however this is not looked kindly upon in some offices, especially when the pitch-in is organized to say farewell to a beloved employee or to celebrate a promotion.  You don’t want to be the guy who didn’t care that Mike was leaving after 25 years and couldn’t be bothered bringing a plate or eating with the group.  The other solution I see recommended a lot on various health and wellness websites is to load up on fruits and veggies.  Sure, you could do that, but it’ll be at the expense of missing out on Becky’s famous baby back ribs and having to explain over and over why you couldn’t be bothered to try them.  Instead, let’s try some practical solutions that can allow you to enjoy without stretching your waist band.

HYDRATE.  Drink a full glass of water, diet soda, or anything low to no calorie immediately before the pitch-in begins.  After you fill yourself that way, make sure you drink throughout your meal.  This will help you feel full quicker and hopefully cut down on the amount of food you consume.

TAKE YOUR TIME.  Don’t rush to be first in line, although it is tempting to do so.  Let the vultures go before you and squeeze yourself in line after them and before the stragglers.  Putting yourself towards the end of the pack will prevent you from being the person who is sitting around, done with their meal, but still wanting more due to their coworkers chomping and munching around them.  As you’re eating, people will be going for seconds.  Take a minute and feel good about yourself for not being part of that pack.

SKIP THE BREAD.  Dinner rolls are amazingly delicious, especially Hawaiian rolls.  They are also loaded with carbohydrates and calories (90 calories for a regular Hawaiian roll, upwards of 200 for certain dinner rolls and burger buns).  As these will rarely come into your pitch-in in any other form than store-bought, you won’t be offending anyone by passing over the bread.  If you are being served burgers or hot dogs, just skip the bun.  The meat is just as great bun-free.  Also try to go easy on chips and crackers.

PORTION CONTROL.  One cup of potato salad is, on average, about 400 calories.  One meatball, floating in sauce, is about 100 to 150 calories depending on how it is made and how large it is.  If you don’t want to miss out on either, have a single meatball and aim for a quarter cup of potato salad (about the size of a golf ball or a chicken egg).  For half cup servings, aim for tennis ball or light bulb size.  Stay away from large portions of rich foods, such as cheese dips.  Use one standard size plate for your trip and stop filling it when you reach the point where adding any more would require you to pile food on top of food.

GO EASY ON THE CONDIMENTS.  Avoid mayonnaise on your sandwich (and avoid dishes that contain it if you can).  Don’t add sauce to items already cooked in a sauce.  If there is salad, pick a light dressing and try not to be tempted by the think French and Honey Mustard dressings.  Regular mustard is your friend; at around 5 calories per teaspoon, you can add it to burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches guilt-free.

DO NOT GET SECONDS.  If you can, survey the table prior to food being ready for service.  Pick out what you absolutely must have and make a plan to just get those certain items.  Once you have cleaned your plate, you are done.  Do not go back for a second sandwich or a second scoop of baked beans.  If you forgot dessert, that’s just too bad.  And speaking of dessert…

DO YOU NEED IT?  Do you normally have dessert with your lunch while at work?  Are you even hungry after finishing your meal or just tempted by the tiramisu sitting a few feet away on the table?  Don’t grab dessert just because it’s there.  Wait an hour or longer, see if you’re hungry, and if there is still some left and you’re dying to have a bite, go for it then.  If you have the option to cut your own dessert portion (brownies, cakes, pies, etc), cut a piece no bigger than a hockey puck.

IT’S OKAY TO BE A LITTLE WASTEFUL.  You have some macaroni and cheese on your plate right next to a bit of pasta.  The problem is, the mac and cheese is horrible.  Unless you have really creepy coworkers, no one is going to notice if you don’t clean your plate.  If you don’t like something, don’t finish it.  Don’t stuff your face simply because the food is in front of you.  When you feel done, be done.

Happy eating.

Teeny Tiny Sodas

I’m sure by now, most of you have heard about New York’s new ban on soda sizes above 16 ounces in an effort to help with America’s growing obesity problem.  The ban will apply in fast food restaurants, movie theaters, Broadway theaters, sports stadiums, delis, cafeterias at work, and most other places selling prepared food.  It will not cover beverages sold in supermarkets and most convenience stores.  The rule would not apply to lower or zero calorie beverages, such as water or diet soda, or to alcoholic beverages or drinks that are more than half milk or at least 70% juice.

I may be in the minority, but I am a huge fan of this.  Throughout the years, I’ve seen fast food cups morph in size; the drink that was a large years ago is now a small or medium in most establishments, with grossly large cups taking the large and super sizes spots.  When I lived in Connecticut, I gained about fifteen pounds in a short amount of time by drinking regular sodas rather than a low or zero calorie substitute.  I’ve watched children (whose parents I was acquainted with) become overweight at early ages because mom and dad didn’t mind if they had a Coke or Mt Dew with their meals and snacks.  We are a fat and sloppy country and I appreciate efforts such as this one to try to assist our citizens.

The majority of businesses that will be affected by the ban are establishments that offer free refills, either by self-serve or by asking a cashier.  This ban is not saying “You are NOT allowed to consume more than 16 ounces of regular Dr. Pepper with this meal!”  It’s simply making it more difficult for you to access those empty calories and damage your health.  When eating fast food, you’re packing on the calories as it is with a burger (300 to 600 calories on average, although it can often push 1000) and fries (anywhere from 250 to 600 on average) or onion rings (400 on average), plus any dipping sauces you choose to use with your side (15 calories per tablespoon of ketchup, but zesty onion ring sauce nets you 150 calories per serving).  It makes sense to try to cut out the empty calories by attempting to get consumers to take it easy on the soda.  In no way is the ban stopping you from getting refill after refill; the trips to the counter will burn some of those unnecessary calories anyway.

At the movie theater, if you are like me and never willing to step out until the movie wraps, perhaps this will push you to order a different beverage at the counter.  I prefer the 20 ounce Dasani bottled water at the AMC theater to accompany my popcorn.  If I’m in the mood for a soda, I’ll spring for a diet, but both my husband and I are always sure to avoid the regular sugary sodas.  A small buttered popcorn at Regal Movie Theater will net you 670 calories (unbuttered is 485) while a large at AMC with a reasonable amount of butter puts you just over 1000.  If you must have a regular Coke, it makes sense to give you a smaller size, limiting the amount of calories you pack on while sitting immobile for two to three hours.  I’m also not above bringing in my own drink if I must; a Vitamin Water Zero is a nice way to cut through all that popcorn butter and salt without giving me thunder thighs.

Restaurants have slowly begun to put calorie counts in clear areas on their in-store menus or on display elsewhere on site rather than just on their website or in a forgotten pamphlet in the corner.  They are not tweaking their items (for the most part, although some have tried cutting down on the size of items) but simply making sure the consumer is aware of what they are about to eat.  It makes the intelligent consumer see that if they have the 1/3rd pound Hardee’s burger with fries, they are consuming half of the calories they are meant to eat per day.  They may be pushed to substitute a salad for the fries, skip the mayo on the burger (one tablespoon nets you 90 calories, lite mayo nets about 35) or make sure to eat very lightly for the rest of the day.  This soda size restriction is a bolder tool to educate consumers, but a tool nonetheless to reduce the amount of obese people and to show people how many calories they are sucking down blindly with their already calorie laden meals.  It puts up a tiny barrier between the consumer and an increase in pant size, but it’s not a barrier they cannot easily step over.

If you are a stubborn person who absolutely has to have 36 ounces of Mt Dew in front of you as you tear into your meal, then order two drinks.  If you are going to ignore all the health risks involved in overeating and consuming more calories than your body is built to handle, why not have it hurt your wallet?  Health care costs are up, in part, because of the expanding number of obese people in this country and the many health issues that come with carrying around pounds of fat your body is not built to carry.  We make smokers pay more for cigarettes that will most likely give them health problems in their future, so why not do the same with people who play Russian Roulette with their health?

I understand that I’m being extreme here, but underneath the surface, they are both the same exact thing.  If a person wishes to damage their health, after receiving the education to fully understand what kind of damage their doing, then they should definitely be inconvenienced in life and in their wallets.  How many frequent fliers have been annoyed by an obese seat mate and had their space encroached on for the entire flight?  How many people have had to deal with a rude smoker going through cigarette after cigarette at the table close by while trying to enjoy a meal?  Why is it wrong to be concerned with the rights of people living healthy rather than the “rights” of people treating their bodies like trash?

I do understand that there is a lot of upset because it feels as though the government is sticking their hands where they shouldn’t in controlling what we can drink.  But they are not controlling what we can drink.  Sodas aren’t all being switched over to diet.  Establishments aren’t getting rid of all regular sodas, Icees, and other non-diet options.  You can still go to the grocery store and get a case of regular Fanta and drink it all in one night if you wish.  All this ban is doing is making it more difficult for the general (and sometimes uneducated) public to blindly damage their health and bodies.  Is that so wrong?

Bloomberg spokeswoman, Samantha Levine, stated “we’ve heard these claims of pending apocalypse before when we proposed bold public health initiatives, and they have been proven false.  Critics predicted the end of tourism and that businesses would sink when we banned smoking in bars and restaurants, yet we’ve grown tourism to record levels and the restaurant and bar industry continues to grow.”  Some will hate the ban, some will frequent food joints less, some will just buy two drinks, and some will declare it all a failure.  Some businesses will see a slump, some will see an increase, and some will notice no change.  Life, as always, will take this ban and treat it as the small speed bump it is; we will learn to take a tiny bit of effort and just roll over it, finding that we’re just as good on the other side.

Snipped, Stuffed, Tucked, And Sucked

Sometimes I read something in the news that just makes me sad for the state of today’s society.  Sometimes it’s unspeakable acts of violence, sometimes it’s tragedy, and sometimes it’s just ridiculous, moronic garbage like chinplants.  Yes, chinplants, the new plastic surgery craze sweeping the nation!  For those of you who have had to suffer the embarrassment of seeing photos of yourself on Facebook with a dreaded double chin, there is finally a solution!  No more weak-jawed moments and no more lost confidence because chinplants will save your life!

I’ll be honest, it frightens me how easy it is to get virtually any surgery you desire in order to alter your appearance in a wide variety of different ways.  A woman unhappy with her breast size can receive a reduction and ease her back pain or receive implants, as large as she desires, so she can finally have the cleavage she always wanted and the attention she so desperately craves.  If you have not been blessed with a voluptuous rear end, a doctor can repair it for you and give you an ass to rival Jennifer Lopez.  They can change your entire face, can implant silicone into your abdomen to give you a 6-pack or into your legs to give you stunning calves, and suck the fat out of all your problem areas.  All that stands between you and perfection is the proper surgeon.

I’m not against plastic surgery in general by any means.  If I could get breast implants and increase one cup size and be guaranteed that I’d never have to replace them, would have little to no problems with them, and wouldn’t have scarring, I’d probably get it done.  I would love to have something done to get rid of the stretch marks I was gifted with after the birth of my son.  At one point in my life, I hated my nose and wanted to change the shape of it to better suit my face.  I also can’t stand the bags under my eyes.  That being said, I spent a lot of time growing up and even many of my adult years becoming confident in my appearance and being happy with myself.  My flaws are part of who I am and some of my complaints about my appearance throughout the year were trivial, were about things I’ve grown to love about myself, or were things I eventually grew out of.

There have definitely been times in my life where I see someone and think to myself, “I wish I had their _____.”  The problem arises when people go to a surgeon and think it’s like playing with a Mr. Potato Head; add these lips and this nose, put this chin here and add these breasts, reduce this down and plump this up.  We’re taking features of other people because we enjoy how they look on that person and assuming it will make us look amazing as well.  While it would be nice to announce that you desire Ms. Jolie’s lips and have them look perfect on you, the reality is that you’re going to end up looking like a fish in  the end, not Brad Pitt’s next wife as you had wished.

Plastic surgery creates plastic people.  There are the fortunate ones out there who end up with fantastic natural looking results, but there are also quite a few who get a bad surgeon, get an infection, or go overboard and get a few too many procedures.  Surgery is a serious thing and it’s being treated like a game because people are too lazy to work out or too insecure and childlike to be comfortable with the body and features they were born with.  It would be a challenge to find a single person out there who is honestly and truly 100% happy with their entire appearance.  There is always going to be some flaw, some imperfection, and it’s wrong to run to a surgeon every time you look in the mirror and aren’t perfectly happy with your reflection.

Obviously if you have some sort of deformity, plastic surgery is justified in order for you to live a happy life and not be ridiculed.  And sure, it’s not that big of a deal to increase your bust size a bit, especially if having children shrank your girls a bit.  But when you get into lip injections, chin and calf implants, lowering the ears, and liposuction, you’re gone too far.  If I want to lose weight, I’m going to have to eat right and exercise, not get the fat vacuumed out of me because I’m too lazy to do the work myself.  If I’m insecure because I think my lips are too thin or too fat, that’s just an internal battle I’ll have to overcome, not something to get a consult about and get repaired.  Plastic surgery is fine in small doses or in large for those who truly need it.  But for those of you who feel all sad and mopey about your “weak” chin?  Get the hell over it already.

Cancer Sticks

I had my first cigarette when I was around 14 or 15 while trying to impress a friend.  I smoked on occasion during my senior year of high school, hiding cigarettes in an Altoids container so no one at school or at home would know.  One I started college, I began smoking Marlboro Reds on a regular basis; I used my meal card three times a week to get a Cafe Mocha from the Starbucks on campus and would have two cigarettes with my coffee before my 8am class.  My college boyfriend disapproved of my smoking and asked me to quit, but instead I promised him nothing and adjusted my habits and simply didn’t smoke when he was around.  I smoked anywhere from two to five per day depending on what I was doing and who was around me, often quitting entirely during the winter months.  When I began waiting tables for the first time, my smoking increased to around half a pack a day.  I quit when I had my child but started immediately after he was born; I blamed stress at the time but in reality I was simply too weak to resist.  When my husband and I got together, he told me that he wouldn’t be with me if I continued smoking so I threw away my open pack and, other than a night in New Orleans and a couple stressful spring break days, we have both been cigarette free for nearly four years.

Quitting smoking is one of those things that you have to do for yourself.  You choose to start and you have to choose to stop.  No amount of scary advertising and warnings will get a smoker to drop the habit if they don’t want to.  I didn’t quit until I had good enough reasons to; those being my pregnancy with my son and my desire to marry my husband.  I realize that I was wasting my breath when I attempted to preach to people about the dangers of smoking during my off-times.  I have no doubt that the dangers of smoking are no mystery to anyone anymore and it’s just not my place to tell someone else what to do, especially those who aren’t a vital part of my life the way my immediate family is.  As long as those who smoke are respectful and don’t light up in my home or car or any other inappropriate setting, it doesn’t bother me and I keep my lips shut.

When I began my current job, a coworker asked me if I smoked.  When I responded that I did not, they told me that the job would get me started on them soon.  It was an odd thing to say, but I didn’t think much of it.  Throughout the sixteen months that I’ve been here, I’ve frequently been asked if I smoke and lately I’ve been getting some odd reactions when I respond in the negative.  The conversation goes something like this:  Person: “Do you smoke?” Me: “No.” Person: “Why?”  Me: …….

For some reason, lately I’m being asked to give an explanation for why I choose not to smoke.  Upon telling one person that I quit a few years back, I was asked why I don’t start up again.  I’ve been feeling as though people expect me to justify myself to them as to why I don’t smoke and it’s nonsense.  If anything, they should have to explain to me why they choose to smoke in the parking lots and force me to walk through a cloud of smoke.

I’m no stranger to alcoholic beverages and I could never see myself asking someone why they don’t drink.  I know fully well how alcohol can damage the body and the negative effects it has on both the individual and their family, so it’s pointless to ask someone why because I already have the answer.  Even so, sometimes I find myself wondering why a particular person isn’t drinking when the rest of the group is.  I’m not going around asking people, but in a way I’m being just as bad as those who question my non-smoking habit by the thoughts I’m having and not knowing their situation or lifestyle choices.  I shouldn’t be critical in voice or in thought of people avoiding a harmful activity.  It would be absurd for me to begin asking people if they did meth and demand a reason why if they say they don’t, yet it’s okay to question why people don’t pursue other harmful things simply because they happen to also be legal?

It’s odd to look at some of the things that we consider normal behavior and see how we ignore the side effects they do have and ones they could potentially have.  I’m not the only one guilty of judging someone for not drinking at a bar and the people I work with aren’t the only ones giving attitude to non-smokers.  Maybe there is something deep down in all of us that causes us to strive to be part of the group and questions those not like us because of this inner urge for uniformity.  I’ve bonded with strangers over a loaned lighter or cigarette and I’ve befriended coworkers simply because we were able to take smoke breaks together.  It’s such an easy thing to have in common and it saves you from the judgment of people who don’t share in your habit.

Those people who question the habits of others, or lack thereof, are possibly doing nothing more than projecting their own hangups and feelings onto that other person.  There may be some resentment towards me from the people who don’t understand why I don’t smoke because they don’t understand how or why I quit and walked away from cigarettes and maybe they wish they could.  Maybe they just think I’m stuck up.  Perhaps I feel guilty about drinking that extra drink at the bar and that’s why I silently judge the guy sipping nothing stronger than a diet coke.  Whatever the problem is, it’s not the fault of the person being interrogated or shunned and more of us, including me, need to learn and remember that fact.

Diagnosis: Fat

When the thyroid gland is underactive, improperly formed, removed, or incapable of producing enough thyroid hormone, a person is hypothyroid.  Symptoms of hypothyroidism are a slowdown in metabolism and can include fatigue, weight gain, and depression.  – About.com

Cortisol is the “stress hormone” because excess cortisol is secreted during times of physical or psychological stress. This disruption of cortisol secretion may not only promote weight gain, but it can affect where you put on the weight.MedicineNet.com

Polycystic ovarian syndrome, also called PCOS, occurs due to a dysfunction of a woman’s ovaries, leading to a hormonal imbalance.  Women with PCOS develop a hormonal imbalance leading to weight gain, or difficulty losing weight. – Livestrong.com

Well, it’s their fault they’re fat. They ate too much. Those are the rules. I got fat because I ate too much. I knew why I was getting fat. I didn’t think I had a tumour up my backside. I thought it was because I ate cheese and pizza every fucking night.Ricky Gervais

I work in a building where the obese get to cut to the front of the security line so they have a shorter distance to walk, after they mash the button for the automatic handicap door.  A building that has a room full of electric scooters so the obese can roll up and down the halls, only having to use their legs in the restroom or to get in and out of their office chair.  A building where temporary handicap parking permits are issued to the obese so they can save a few hundred feet of walking distance from their car to the doors.  The same thing happens outside this building, really everywhere you look.  I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point during my life, being obese became a disease and a handicap.

Before you get angry with me, let me acknowledge that there are a few diseases out there that cause fatty deposits, generally tumor like or concentrated in certain areas of the body.  Those diseases, however, don’t explain the 34% of Americans who are obese, having a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or higher.  People are fat because of how they eat, not because of some disease. Using a medical condition to explain away obesity is just a cop out.  It’s used because it sounds a hell of a lot better saying “I have a thyroid problem” than it does saying “I love Big Macs and milkshakes, I eat them for breakfast!”  Fat happens when you eat poorly and don’t exercise or try to stay active at work and/or home.

Need proof?  Start writing down everything you eat, just what kind of food and where it’s from or who it’s made by.  Do that for a couple of days.  After you have at least two days of food recorded, go back and look up the caloric values for everything you ate and drank.  It’s potentially frightening.  I never realized how quickly you can get to 2000 calories until my husband and I began counting calories to lose weight.  The Fiesta Lime Chicken I love at Applebee’s weighs in at 1160 calories, while the Santa Fe Salad I adore is 1240.  A delicious Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks is 470 calories, and the Caramel Mocha from Dunkin Donuts isn’t much better at 340.  A shot of vodka is about 65 calories.  A typical serving of chips is about 11 for 160 calories, but I don’t know many people who rip open a big bag of Doritos and count out 11 chips while they’re playing on XBox Live.  IT ADDS UP.  When you exceed the amount of calories your body needs to function and you don’t exercise or move around enough to burn it off, you gain weight, plain and simple.

Does anyone really feel too bad for the guy who chain smoked for 20 years and then gets diagnosed with throat and lung cancer?  Probably not; he chose to smoke like a chimney and now he is paying for the damage he did to his body, damage that could have easily been prevented had he quit smoking.  But unlike cancer, which can affect people who live healthy, you can’t just catch FAT from breathing in second-hand fatness or simply from being unlucky.  Fat happens when you can’t quit the large order of fries and the regular sodas, when you would rather get dropped off at the door than walk a couple hundred feet from a far off parking space, when you slip in too many snacks or put extra butter or dressing on everything.  Fat happens because pizza tastes better than salad and you can’t resist the temptation.  Fat happens due to poor personal decisions and a lack of willpower or desire to change.  It’s not a disease and I’m tired of seeing the world cater to those people out there who are simply too damn lazy to do the work to lose the weight.

Save the scooters and handicap parking tags for people who have actual disabilities.  Quit taking short cuts, the few extra steps could do some good.  Have enough pride and respect to stop trying to pass off your enormous backside as a medical condition, start doing something about it, and I guarantee you’ll feel a hell of a lot better and live a whole lot longer.  What’s more important, having a Double Whopper with cheese for lunch or being able to walk more than 10 steps without having to stop and catch your breath?

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