Why Organic Produce IS Worth It

I don’t often write opinion pieces like this, but the recent debate over whether organic produce is any better than conventional has compelled me to speak up.  In a September 4th news post, researchers from Stanford University were reported as saying:

Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides, including for children — but the amount measured from conventionally grown produce was within safety limits.

Really?  I’m not sure I’d like to test this food safety theory, especially on our kids!  Each year, we find out fallacies in what was once thought to be true, safe, and scientifically proven.  How can ANY level of pesticide or toxin be deemed “within safety limits”?  Not to mention that cancers and other serious health issues can arise from a lifetime of ingesting chemicals.  So won’t the accumulation of constantly eating sprayed produce add up to an unsafe limit at some point?

The focus of this particular debate is about nutrition — that organic produce offers no more vitamins or nutrients than conventional produce.  I agree with Marion Nestle’s response in the New York Times that “….nutrients are not the point. The point of organic production is its effects on the health of people and the planet.”

….nutrients are not the point [in this debate]. The point of organic production is its effects on the health of people and the planet.

Here are my responses, as lowly consumer, on the most popular issues with organic produce:

  1. Organic is more expensive.  Depending on the product, sometimes it’s the same price as conventional or not much more.  If the price difference is substantial, I check if the fruit or veggie is on safe end of the EWG’s pesticide residue chart.  I’ll buy conventional onions (49th in pesticide residue) but spring for organic apples (conventional ones are #1 in pesticide residue).  And I figure that my health and the health of my family is more important than saving a dollar here or there.  Check out this post for more money-saving tips.
  2. Organic isn’t more nutritious. Apparently, this is true if you compare vitamins and minerals.  I’m no scientist.  But stop and think for a minute…can organic vs. conventional really be the same — in the way you feel, how your body feels, how the food tastes, etc?  Are you telling me a carrot grown in nutrient-rich soil with no chemicals added really is the same as one grown in pesticide drenched conditions?
  3. Why not grow your own?

    Organic produce is hard to find.  It can be.  But as more consumers demand organic, more farmers are growing organic and more stores and markets are providing it!  The demand will increase the supply. Here are some ways to bring the farm to you, no matter where you live.

  4. “Organic” is a marketing ploy.  I’m sure producers capitalize on organic status for marketing reasons.  But I believe that organic is a way of life.  It affects everyone and everything — farmer, environment, animals, food, consumer.  When I eat organic, I take better care of myself and those around me.  I am a more productive and loving person.  I think better thoughts and exercise more and stress less.  I think organic produce tastes better, so I enjoy and appreciate my food and how it’s nourishing me.  I pay more attention to what I put on my skin and in my home.  I seek out products from companies who are making a positive impact on our world.  So…

Is going organic worth it?  I say, “ABSOLUTELY!” 

What do YOU say?

How to Make Big Changes When You Have No Time to Spare

What if I said that in a year you could learn 365 new words, write a short story (or even a book), learn a new language, increase your body’s strength and flexibility, and improve your sense of well-being without adding any more time to your day?  You’d think I was nuts, right?  Well it’s true!  Although we all have jam-packed, hectic, no-time-for-anything-else lives, we can still accomplish some of those wish list items we have floating about in our heads.  How?  By using those “wasted” moments in our day to focus on our goals.

How could you use your commute to reach your goals?

How much time do you spend in a line, in a waiting room, in front of the TV, or in a bus/train/plane/automobile?  How much time do you take getting ready in the morning, puttering around on your lunch break, walking from point A to B?  Probably quite a bit.  And how much of that time is spent staring into space, listening to music, trying to look busy, flipping through a magazine, or checking Facebook?  Facebook statistics reveal that the average user spends 55 minutes a day on the site.  That’s about 6.5 hours a week!!  Instead of spending all that time reading up on other people’s lives, shouldn’t we be spending some of that time advancing our own?

Now, if you don’t mind spending your time the way you are, that’s fine.  But if you’d like to create more, learn more, and improve more…then use those hours with intent!  Last week I realized I’d gotten lazy with my intentions.  I used to read, write, plan, or try to learn something during my waiting/travel time.  Once I set my intentions to get something done during those moments, that’s exactly what happened.  Over the course of a week, I wrote a poem, lyrics for a song, a passage for my book-in-progress, and a rough draft of this blog post…only while I was waiting in lines and on subway platforms, and while traveling on trains.  Without adding any more time to my day–without adding more stress or complication to my life–I’d increased my sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and well-being…and had tangible things to show for my effort.  I’m excited to see how much I’ll get done in 51 more weeks!

Here are some examples of goals you could end up checking off that wish list:

  • Increase my vocab – Get a dictionary app on your smart phone and learn one word a day.  To really make it stick, repeat the new word with the definition in your head throughout the day and try to use it in a sentence during a conversation.  Maybe save those really long words for family and friends:)
  • Increase my strength and flexibility – While watching TV, do squats, tricep dips, abdominal crunches, and finish up with stretching.  If you have a bike or cardio machine in your house, get on it while you watch your show.  Even if you’re a bit of a couch potato, you don’t have to look like one!
  • Increase my literary or language knowledge – On long commutes, listen to audio books, or learn a language on CD or mp3.  I recommend the latter only if you’re in the car to avoid stares or bothering others.
  • Increase my confidence, attitude, and sense of well-being – While you walk from the car to the store, from your desk to the water cooler, or while you look at yourself in the mirror (the point is you can do this anywhere) repeat affirmations you’ve created for yourself.  You’ll feel and see the changes they bring, and others will too.

So now it’s time to ask yourself: What can I accomplish if I just used those “wasted” moments with intent?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Achieving Health and Wellness Resolutions, Step 3: Choose Better Thoughts

Laugh often...it's good for your health!

Once you’ve experienced the benefits of Step 1 (Choose Better Food) and Step 2 (Choose Better Behaviors), you’re primed to incorporate Step 3, Choose Better Thoughts.

You know the proverb, You are what you think.  What you say to, and think about, yourself shapes the person you are and could become.  It’s not easy to change the way you think, but choosing positive, supportive, health-inducing thoughts is the only way to make health and wellness a successful and permanent part of your life.

The following “Better Thoughts” were integral in my breaking free from food and body image issues.  I hope they can support you in achieving your health and wellness goals.

Be your own best friend.

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

What do you see when you look in the mirror?  Your best friend or your worst enemy?  We’re taught to treat others with kindness and respect, but many of us don’t extend that courtesy to ourselves.  You would never tell someone you cared about that they’re stupid, fat, or weak.  So don’t tell yourself those things either.  Sometimes those messages aren’t intentional; we’re so used to saying them that it doesn’t seem like a big deal.  But the messages you tell yourself every day have an effect on you, whether you realize it or not.

Monitor the thoughts you have about yourself.  Practice turning negative messages into positive ones.  Maybe try supportive affirmations until those replace your old, negative mantras.  If you can’t love your body for the way it looks right now, love it for its function.  For example, I’m not a big fan of the way my arms look, but I can love how they’re strong and give really awesome hugs.  When you concentrate on what you love or appreciate about yourself, you’re much happier when you look in the mirror.  And in supporting and nurturing yourself, you’re more likely to reach your health and wellness goals.

Forget diets, a.k.a the “quick fix”

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

Dieting doesn’t work.  (This post explains more.Think about the quality of the food you eat, instead of basing its merits on calories and fat grams.  Why?  Because calories and fat grams are not all equal!  A piece of fruit vs. a fruit roll-up; olive oil vs. margarine; freshly juiced apples vs. commercial apple juice; raw cheese vs. cheese whiz….these pairs are not equal, even if the calorie count and fat grams say they are.

When I used to only focus on calories and fat grams to evaluate food, I wasn’t considering nutrition.  I chose a lot of artificial food.  And I was miserable.  When I turned my focus to quality and nourishment, the obvious choices were the least processed ones.  They also were the most satisfying, so I ate less.  Maintaining a healthy weight became rather effortless, which let my mind concentrate on more important things, like enjoying life!

And may I offer a reality check that will help you big time?  A slice of cheesecake will not lead to your undoing.  Nor will missing a day at the gym.  That’s dieting mentality, and I won’t stand for it!  Life happens, we’re human.  Accept it happened, take responsibility, and get over it.  Tough love lesson has now concluded.

Rather than looking at eating healthy as depriving yourself from the less-than-optimal food you love, think of it as offering yourself more nutrition.  There’s a big difference between “I can’t have that” (deprivation and judgement) and “I’d rather choose something with more nourishment” (support).  It was a huge mental hurdle for me, but once I disentangled myself from the habit of short-term thinking, I was able to see big changes in my health.

Know Thyself.

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

Learn to listen to what your body tells you.  We are born with bodies that have innate wisdom.  They know when we’re hungry or full;  what foods work with our bodies and which ones don’t; when we need to slow down and recuperate.  After ignoring and overriding those instincts from years of dieting and trying to keep up with cultural standards, we can lose that wisdom.  The good news is that our bodies doesn’t lose their wisdom…we just have to relearn how to listen to and interpret their messages.

Closing thoughts

This month I’ve introduced you to the 3 steps I think will help you achieve your health and wellness resolutions.  While these steps are simple, they’re not necessarily easy.  Be patient with yourself.  Instead of getting overwhelmed trying to put everything into action, focus on what food, actions, and thoughts will benefit you.  Choose ones that are within your comfort zone.  When those are a part of you, choose better ones.  And so on.  You wouldn’t consider climbing Mt. Everest on the first try.  You’d have to plan, prepare, and practice, while making a bunch of mistakes along the way.  Don’t think of the finish line right now.  Just the next step forward. 

In choosing better food, behaviors, and thoughts on a consistent basis, you’ll make your health and wellness resolutions a way of life.  Enjoy the journey to whole body nourishment!

Achieving Health and Wellness Resolutions, Step 2: Choose Better Behaviors

Once you’ve been choosing better food (Step #1) on a regular basis, choosing better behaviors comes more naturally.  You’ll find you want to choose actions that support health and wellness because the food you’re eating is already doing so.  You’re seeing the difference in how your body feels, performs, and looks.  You’re feeling the difference in your energy, mood, and outlook.  So why stop there?

Choosing better behaviors, like choosing better food, doesn’t have to be radical or painful.  Once again, consistent, small actions and steps lead to permanent change.  You weren’t born with the habit of brushing your teeth twice a day were you?  But now if you didn’t brush your teeth in the morning, you just wouldn’t feel right…right?

After choosing better food and behaviors become part of your lifestyle, you’ll feel out of sync when you don’t.  Your body and mind will crave nutritious food and supportive behaviors because they’ve enjoyed the benefits–they feel the difference–and prefer health and wellness.  You won’t just achieve your health and wellness resolutions, you’ll go beyond by living them.

Move your body. Every day.

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

While lengthy and/or intense exercise is necessary to strengthen your heart and build up your cardio endurance, you don’t have to go to the gym to feel the benefits of moving your body.

Chase your kids or pets around the yard, dance through the house to your favorite music while you clean, do a few easy yoga moves you remember from class, go outside and stretch your arms up to the sky a few times.  Do something that feels good.

When you are officially working out and not particularly enjoying it, concentrate on the benefits that moving your body gives you…circulation of oxygen and blood, firming of muscles, flow of happy endorphins, reduction in stress, and better sleep at night.

A body that moves every day is more flexible, powerful, and energized.  You’ll be surprised how those qualities will carry over to your mind.  Our bodies and minds are connected, so treating your physical self well will also benefit your thinking self.

Feed your body every 3 hours.

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

Yes, you heard me right.  Every 3 hours.  Eating small meals more often revs up your metabolism, maintains your blood sugar level, and tames hunger so that you’re more likely to make better food and behavior choices later.  It’s a heck of a lot easier to maintain balance and moderation when you’re thinking clearly and not starving.

Making this change in my eating behavior made a huge difference in my health and wellness.  At first I was dubious when my personal trainer boyfriend (now my husband) suggested it to me.  I was worried I’d gain weight eating so often.  Not only did I not gain weight, I actually lost weight…without ever being hungry and eating more food in a day than I ever had on a “diet.”  Any time I tested his theory by going back to my old dieting ways, I was miserable because I was depriving myself and my weight would creep up.  It only took a few tests to convince myself his way was better!

Most of these small meals are going to be snacks.  Just a little something to keep you going, like a piece of fruit, handful of almonds, or a protein shake.  I always have a bar in my purse or bag.  My first choice is one with simple ingredients, like LARABAR.  They’re made of raw fruit, nuts, and spices that combine into delightful flavors like Ginger Snap, Carrot Cake, and Coconut Cream Pie.  No soy, no weirdness (also no gluten or dairy).  When I start to feel hungry and I’m on the go, I take a bite of my bar and keep going.  Eating smart snacks keeps you fueled up and on the right track.

Feed your soul.

Photo by K.C. © 2012 Kristin Conroy

Primary nourishment is just as important as food nourishment.  Primary nourishment fulfills your mind and soul.  (Click here for a post I wrote on this subject.)  Taking a relaxing bath, talking to a good friend, receiving a warm hug, communing with nature, fulfilling your creative side…these are all ways to feed yourself, to completely nourish yourself.  You are not just your body.  When you fulfill your need for primary nourishment, you’re less likely to continue or adopt “bad” habits or behaviors.

If you feel guilty about taking time to relax, recharge, or re-inspire because of your responsibilities, think of it this way:  You can’t give 100% to others if you’re not at 100%.  If you take care of your needs, you’ll be a better friend, spouse, parent, employee…you’ll basically be a better person all around!

Seek balance and moderation in everything you do.

Photo by Anatoli Styf

This was one of the hardest concepts for me.  I had a tendency to be O.C.D.–Obsessive, Competitive, and Down-on-myself.  I still have those tendencies, as they’re part of my personality, but it’s rarely a problem when I focus on maintaining balance and moderation.

Our bodies and minds are like nature; too much of anything (and not enough of something) throws off the delicate system of balance, harmony, and synergy.  Too much food, too much activity, and too much stress lead to imbalance and has consequences we can feel.  Too little food, too little activity, and too little stress (in this case, stimulation) also leads to imbalance and has consequences we can feel.  So you see, it’s not just about what you eat (choosing better food) and do (choosing better behaviors).  It’s how much that matters too.

3 Simple Steps to Achieving Health and Wellness Resolutions

It’s the first week of January.  A brand new year.  You’ve got your resolutions in hand, or on your mind, and you promise yourself this is the year you’re actually going to achieve all of them!  Are you?  I’m not trying to be rude, just practical.  It’s common for people to be excited about their resolutions on January 1st but want to run for the hills when they hear any word beginning with “res” by January 31st.

Discarding, forgetting, or ignoring resolutions can happen to anyone.  Are you a procrastinator and don’t know how to begin taking steps toward your goals?  Are you an overachiever and have so many, or such difficult, resolutions that the pressure of checking them all off your list makes you feel slightly queasy?  Are you somewhere in between?  Whatever your personality style, perhaps I can help with your nutrition and health goals.

I’ve trekked a gazillion miles on the roads called Nourishing Nutrition and Loving Food & Body, so I have some experience in these areas and can share what’s worked for me.  Yes, it is only my point of view and not scientifically proven.  But if someone like myself, who suffered severe food and body issues for over 10 years, could come to a place of health and happiness, I think you can too.

My philosophy to achieving optimal health and well-being can be stripped down to 3 simple steps:

  1. Choose better food.
  2. Choose better actions and behaviors.
  3. Choose better thoughts.

Why these three, and in this order?

Step #1: Choose better food.

I found that when I began eating better quality food, I felt and saw a difference in my body and mood.  Seeing those changes encouraged me to make better choices (actions/behaviors).  Eating nourishing food also elevated and stabilized my mood and energy level, so I was able to think clearly to make better choices more easily.  Like they say, “You are what you eat.”  Positive health changes begin with food.

Step #2: Choose better actions and behaviors. 

When you’re eating well, you naturally want to continue on that healthy path by making positive choices of action and behavior.  Like going to the gym regularly, reading instead of always watching TV, and cutting down the portion sizes of your meals.  Small actions lead to big results.

Step #3: Choose better thoughts.

When I chose better actions and they became new behavioral habits, I noticed my thoughts and self-talk turned more positive, caring, and supportive.  There’s also wisdom in the saying, “You are what you think.”

These three steps combine to transform your body, mind, and spirit into a house of health and well-being.  Now wait, don’t concentrate on the big picture of total transformation at this point!  You’re likely to have a panic attack or give up before you’ve started.  All you should focus on is tackling one step at a time, starting with food.  Don’t worry, I’m not leaving you on your own yet.  In the coming weeks, I will break down each of these steps, providing examples and simple ways to improve your health and well-being.

Have any thoughts or questions about your nutrition or health goals?  I’d love to hear from you!