Ghosts, Goblins, and Sugar

I love Halloween. In fact, it’s my favorite holiday. I remember well the excitement leading up to the day, planning my Spiderman or Dracula costume – my two favorite characters when I was a child. I also couldn’t wait for my trick-or-treat bag filled with candy, and being able to gorge on it – I couldn’t resist Almond Joys, peanut butter cups, Butterfingers, and Tootsie Rolls.

Today, the thought of eating even one of those makes me cringe, not only because of the physiological effect that it would have on my body, but also the idea of supporting companies who market unhealthy products to impressionable children. Two billion dollars per year are spent furthering the idea that celebration and reward always equals sugar.

I know, I know: but it’s Halloween, right? I’m being ridiculous! Everything is fine in moderation!

What is moderation? Is moderation binge-eating the equivalent of three cups of sugar all in the name of good fun on a holiday? Is this intake-overload okay as long as it’s constrained to a few days a year? So many people would be much healthier and happier if they were able to separate themselves from this pattern of reward through overconsumption (for children, this is evident in sugar consumption; in adults, usually in drinking alcohol).

Determining how much candy is acceptable for your children (or yourself) to indulge in on Halloween is a personal decision. However, keep in mind these questions:

Am I teaching my child healthy habits?

Am I being a role model for moderation?

Am I allowing my child to overindulge because of peer pressure, or because of my own childhood experiences?

Am I making decisions with my child’s overall health in mind?

Just one sugar binge-eating episode can permanently alter a child’s taste receptors and lead to future cravings. Sugar activates the same part of the brain as cocaine. Sugar addiction is a very real thing and can be as dangerous as drug addiction.

Happy Halloween!

PS If you live in the Los Angeles area and are interested in support for staying healthy and controlling your sugar cravings during the holiday season (often the most difficult time to adhere to your usual diet), I will be co-hosting a series of workshops in December. Sign up for my newsletter for more information, and for opportunities for free or discounted course tuition.

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When You Can’t Stand Your Own Reflection

Not so long ago, I was spending my time on a leaky blow-up bed, surrounded by overflowing ashtrays and empty bottles, in my small studio apartment. Sometimes I felt it was time to throw in the flag, that I had made a shift from human to animal. I had no peace, no calm, and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. The end of the tunnel was the grave.

I would wonder out loud “why can’t I find peace” and “why won’t someone help me”, but those walls stood still and quiet. At one point I covered my mirror in sticky notes, ashamed of myself, like a low-rent vampire trying to avoid his own reflection. I would go days without experiencing sunlight. I would also go days without answering a call from family, friends, or bill collectors. I didn’t care about the heavy burden I was leaving them with.

My neighbors at that time were a father and son duo, living in the studio apartment adjacent to mine. They fought constantly, slamming each other into the walls, often nearly knocking my computer off my desk from the force. In a clearer state of mind I might have called the police, but in some twisted way I enjoyed their disgusting presence in my life. There was a friendly, family-owned corner market across the street, and I would often see the shoeless, leather jacket- and sweatpants-clad father stopping in to load up on beer, snacks, and cigarettes before their nightly fighting. I never judged them; I felt equally deplorable.

I now live in a beautiful apartment with my family, I help others for a living, I don’t drink or smoke. I train in Muay Thai, I have great strength, calm, and peace of mind. I made a decision to crawl out of my self-imposed grave. Now I have no tunnel, only light. I look proudly in the mirror every morning. I dance with my daughter. I’m forever grateful for this freedom. Those days in hell remind me that change truly does come from within.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol, check out this website. Support is crucial.

Be well.

Gaining Weight? It’s What Nature Intended

Oh, Fall, how I love you. Halloween, Thanksgiving, campfires, that crisp air, pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING! For many, Autumn is a pleasant change of season. Here in Los Angeles, the change is mildly noticeable, but quite different than the splendor of the changing seasons in, say, Pennsylvania or Ohio. In fact, the thing I miss most about the Midwest are the gorgeous colors that nature’s natural cycle puts on display. The following season? Not an ounce of my soul misses winters in the Midwest.

Fall offers up the most delicious harvests of the year; artichokes, persimmons, apples, winter squash, pomegranates, potatoes, cranberries. If you’re wondering what the best harvests in your region are, check out this Regional Produce Seasonality Guide for the United States.

Not only is it important to know which foods are in season around you, it’s incredibly important for you to actually eat those foods!
Foods change with the seasons for a reason and have a specific macronutrient ratio of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. You will notice that fall offers many starchy carbs and fruits high in sugar. This is not an accident; these types of carbohydrates can fatten you up and give you energy. It’s all in nature’s plan, see: the beautiful colors draw you to the fruits and vegetables. The days are shorter, thus restricting energy expenditure. This results in more rest and weight gain designed for the coming winter months. Cool, huh?

Typically, people gain the most weight between Halloween and January 1. Hopefully the preceding information helped to explain why. It is completely natural to gain weight during these months. EDIT: it is completely natural to gain *healthy* weight during these months. Keep in mind that this is also the time of year when many people turn away from nature’s offerings and ingest more sugar, white flour, and all-around heavy foods. Sorry, but pumpkin pie doesn’t come out of the ground and those tasty pumpkin-spiced “everythings” are usually LOADED with sugar. Gyms absolutely love this time of year, because when January 1 rolls around, people are ready to lose the weight that they’ve gained. Again.

So, let’s all try something new this year: truly eating seasonally. Let’s also realize that a little weight gain is nature’s plan and that restricting your diet, and over exercising, can actually do more damage through injury, stress, nutritional deficiencies, and failure. Let’s also realize the difference between what the earth offers and what a restaurant, coffee shop or your grandma’s kitchen offers in the way of proper nutrition.

If you want support in this most important time of year, stay tuned, as I will be offering special programs and workshops to to empower you to change, sustainably.

Being Part of the Whole

Do you live with regret? Do you recoil at the fact that you “wasted” years of your life being a person you never wanted to be, doing things you loathed, caught up in addictions or self-destructive behavior, living for other people? Are you there right now?

When I was younger, I would shout from the mountaintops that the pretty houses, picket fences, nice cars, important jobs, kids, college, joyful holidays were “all a lie”, all things set up by “the man” to force us into subservience. I was convinced life was little more than toil, taxes, and eventual death by cancer or something even more insidious. So, I went all out and did whatever I wanted: art, music, drugs, alcohol, poetry, sex, anything to go against “normal” existence. I was convinced the life I chose to live was more interesting, edgier, and more underground. But much like skinny jeans, it’s no longer edgy when everyone is doing the same thing. I unknowingly assimilated myself into the “new normal”.

Today, I think some of the realest risk-takers are those who actually have their shit together, people who lead happy lives and care about their well-being, and people who care about the families, friends, and communities. I guess love and compassion will never be in style, so in a way, I guess that fact makes it “punk rock” (or metal, or bluegrass; it’s all the same in the end, anyway).

If you’re under the age of, say, thirty-five, you may think this is utter nonsense. That’s fine; I would have thought so too. It never seems fun to do what’s expected, and hell, a little anarchy and answering to the call of the wild can add some interesting experiences to your life. But eventually, hopefully, love, kindness, and compassion will take precedence.

Speaking as someone who cheated death at a young age, and cheated life for many years after that, I implore you to grab hold of what you love and make your life count. Give a hug to your mom next time you see her. Give your dad a kiss on the cheek, even if it makes him uncomfortable. Call your grandparents and tell them you love them. Stop yelling at your kids. Attempt to understand the people around you, regardless of their shortcomings, and provide them everything you can. Realize there are greater forces at work, but don’t judge others. Go easy on yourself and don’t worry about “wasted” years; they only add to your story. Choose your own adventures. Realize that the smallest moments are significant. You’re part of something bigger than yourself.

I challenge you to be grateful today.

I challenge you to practice self-care.

I challenge you to help someone in need.

I challenge you to be spontaneous.

I challenge you to be inspired.

I challenge you to better yourself.