Monday, February 25, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

In my family of origin, the environment is one of the most important voting issues around.  We vote to protect the environment.  We direct angry thoughts (and sometimes words) toward those who do not.  We believe in Global Warming.  My dad carries a small trash bag with him in his pocket when he takes walks so that he can collect any stray cans and bottles he may find, even though they are not worth a dime (or a nickel or penny, for that matter) in Idaho.  He gives money to The Nature Conservancy.  He considers four-wheelers a vehicle of pure evil and proudly reports anyone he sees riding one in a restricted area.  We are not in favor of drilling for oil in Alaska.  We are in favor of higher standards for fuel efficiency.  We are happy that Dan's new employer uses biodegradable plastic products made from potatoes (and not only because my name is Potato Girl).  We would love to buy a Prius.

But we humans are complex creatures, are we not?  In addition to all of this love for the earth, my family also has a great love for being thrifty and finding a bargain.  Take me for example.  I whole-heartedly support the principles behind organic farming, and for many years I have wanted to buy organic food, but the bottom line always gets in the way. I hate "wasting" money on one thing if I could get something similar for less (apple v.  more expensive apple that looks the same).   It is hard to decide which is more important to me: being green, or being thrifty.  When Dan was still in school I used to promise myself that as soon as he had a "real" job I'd start buying organic.  Then he got his real job and I felt poorer than ever!  I just haven't been able to bring myself to pay twice as much for organic as I pay for conventional. 

Things changed for me in February when I read an article about non-toxic living in Cookie magazine ("Toxic Shock" by Alexandra Zissu), that included paragraphs on cleaning products, organic food, drinking water, building materials, plastics, and toys.  I followed several of the links recommended in the article (try Environmental Working Group or National Resources Defense Council for starters) and did a lot more reading.  I eventually found a column about eating organic on a budget.  The author suggested starting with The Dirty Dozen, something I'd never heard of, and avoiding processed, packaged food.  She pointed out that even buying the organic versions of some products is better than nothing, and as February draws to a close, I am about to finish my first month of organic grocery shopping.  

So, have you heard of The Dirty Dozen?  In the world of organic produce, this refers to the 12 fruits and vegetables that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found to be the most contaminated by pesticide residue, even after washing (and in some cases, even after peeling).  Many people recommend that if you can only afford to switch some of your foodstuffs to organic, you start with these items, listed with the worst first and the "badness" rating out of 100 in parentheses: peaches (100), apples (96), bell peppers (86), celery (85), nectarines (84), strawberries (83), cherries (75), lettuce (69), imported grapes (68), pears (65), spinach (60), potatoes (58).   

I'm not ready to go from 100% conventional to 100% organic, but focusing on The Dirty Dozen has helped me to find a starting place.  I've also added milk, eggs, chicken and beef to my list of organics, although I'd like to switch over from organic to grass-fed beef soon (more on that another time).  The 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the lowest levels of pesticide residue will probably be the last things to go for me, listed here with the best first: onions (1), avocados (1), frozen sweet corn (2), pineapple (7), mango (9), frozen sweet peas (11), asparagus (11), kiwi (14), bananas (16), cabbage (17), broccoli (18), eggplant (19).  
The environmental working group is the source of these rankings.  You can see their full list of 44 fruits and vegetables here, ranked in descending order from worst to best.  

Another thing to consider when you're buying produce is where it was grown and how far it has traveled to get to you.  Produce grown outside of the United States (sort of like recalled toys) may have been treated with far more poisonous pesticides than those allowed in this country, so in general it is a good idea to stick with domestic fruits and vegetables.  I still haven't figured out if that applies to organic produce grown abroad.  If something grown in China says it is organic, can I really trust that?  It seems a bit naive to trust the Chinese government these days, but that is another story too.  In Michigan in the winter, locally grown produce includes things such as ice and snow and not much else, but as we get closer to summer (Summer.  Is that really a seaon?  I'm beginning to wonder...) there will be more and more options.

The other small change I've made this month to help the earth is this: I've purchased a three-pack of gi-normous reusable shopping bags from Costco and now take those to all of the grocery stores with me in lieu of plastic or paper.  If I forget and leave the reusable bags in the car, I just tell the cashier that I don't need a bag, take my groceries in the cart out to my car, and put them in the bags there.

Well, I hope I haven't made any of you four-wheeler enthusiasts out there unduly upset.  I sometimes imagine my dad meeting his demise at the hands of an ATV operator when they realize he's reporting them to the BLM.  If you are of the camp that does not believe in Global Warming, you are welcome to take this post and crumple it up in your hands and throw it in the wastebasket.  But if you've been thinking you might like to do something to help the earth, more power to you.  Remember, a small step is a hundred times better than no step at all.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Being Wasteful

Many years ago, when I was doing Weight Watchers, I had a group leader who loved cannoli. She would always tell us that if she were going to save up a bunch of calories to blow on a dessert, she wouldn't blow them on anything less than the perfect cannoli.  

I think I applied this principal successfully yesterday when Dan brought home two half gallons of ice cream for the family.  He brought me a bowl with some of each flavor in it.  I tried the first flavor (cherry cheesecake) and thought, as I was digging in to the second bite, "hmm...not so yummy." After the third bite it occurred to me that I was eating millions and millions of calories that weren't even that good.  So I stopped eating the less yummy flavor (!) and switched over to the other flavor (Mackinac Island fudge).  It was yummy, and I finished it.  Then I left my bowl on the counter with most of the first flavor still in it!  I just let all that "perfectly good" ice cream melt, and then this morning I washed it down the sink.  I am an ice cream bowl licker by nature, and it is unheard of for me to let ice cream "go to waste."  But as my friends Lisa and LL pointed out today, eating calories you don't need is even more wasteful than throwing those calories away.   Now that's something to think about.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Salad Rule

I have a new rule I'm trying to follow when I find myself at a fast food place.  The rule is: order a salad.  I find that when I'm faced with a menu at a place like McDonalds, I want to order the cheapest thing.  That is never a salad.  It bothers me to pay $4 something for a salad when I could get a burger for $1 something.  It seems like I'm not "getting my money's worth", whatever that means.  But I've finally decided that it is better for me to shell out the "big bucks" for the salad than to be "thrifty" and get the lard-bomb hamburger with no redeeming value to speak of (other than price).

This rule has made ordering much easier for me.  Today at Mo's, for instance, there were only two salads on the menu, so I hardly had to think at all.   Not only was my decision easier, but my meal was yummy and I didn't feel sick afterwards.  

Do you have any rules that help you when you're eating on the go?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Napoleon Dynamite Boots

I thought I had my goal-setting class at the YMCA this morning.  Because my sister-in-law Jody was visiting, and because Adam wanted us to come to his school for NAAPID today, I decided that I would just have time to go to my class and then go straight to Adam's school.  So I left my swimming bag at home and went down to the Y in my regular winter footwear, a pair of black shearling Merrell boots.  When I arrived at my classroom, my teacher was in there with a big group of other people having a meeting.  I didn't know what to do.  Esther was playing happily downstairs in Child Watch, Jody was upstairs running on the track, and I didn't have my swimming stuff or any exercise clothes or shoes to wear.  I thought about my boots, and decided that if I can walk the boys to school in them on snowy days, I could walk around the track in them.  So I went up and did some fast walking for 50 minutes.  I felt sort of silly on the track in street clothes and winter boots, but more than that, I felt proud.  It seems to me that in order to fit exercise into my daily life, I have to be determined, flexible, and resourceful.  I have to make it one of my very highest priorities.  I sometimes have to be sneaky.  And today, I had to wear Napoleon Dynamite boots.

How do you fit exercise into your daily routine?  

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chance #3

A few days ago I received a phone call from a woman in the Westland Stake who attended my talk in the Canton Ward.  She asked me to speak at their upcoming stake women's conference on April 19.  I feel very grateful to have yet another opportunity to think about depression and how to best talk about it with a group of LDS women.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Victory at Costco

Today I went to Costco with Janie.  In the past, I have always purchased myself a yummy (read fatty) lunch at the Costco food court after shopping.  A month or two ago I decided that for my health I would try to follow a new rule of only buying the Caesar salad at the food court, instead of my usual chicken bake or pizza.  After a few of those salads I realized that I didn't like them enough to waste the $3.79, and since then I haven't been buying anything at all.  Today Janie bought a chicken bake and I didn't buy anything!  Yay!  She offered to buy one for me, but I wasn't really hungry, so I said no thanks!  Yay!  I came home and had a spinach salad instead.  

Have you had a healthy victory recently?  Write in and let me know about it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Getting Plastered

Last Thursday my friend Annie brought me some key lime pie from Applebees.  The first bite or two was really yummy, but then it started feeling a bit too rich and sweet and my stomach was sick.  I'm strong, though, and I was able to keep right on eating until it was all gone.

A day or two after that I was at Janie's and she had just made a big batch of white chocolate chip orange cookies.  Again, the first one I had was amazing, but I probably had another 5 or 6 (sorry Janie).  By the second or third cookie I was feeling sick but I kept eating them anyway because they were yummy.  But not as yummy as the first one.

On Sunday I was at Julie's and she had made M & M cookie bars for dessert. Again, I kept eating and eating them well past the point of feeling sick.

Last night I was remembering those cookie bars, so I went to the store at 9 p.m. to buy the ingredients to make them.  They came out of the oven around 10:30, and by 11 Dan and I (mostly I) had eaten half of the 9 x 13 pan.  They were nowhere near as yummy as Julie's, but I just kept eating them.  We finished them off this morning for breakfast.  I've felt sick all day from eating them.  But if there were more in the pan right now, I'd go put them in my mouth.

So what is the deal?  One thing that I've been trying to learn is that I need to keep desserts out of my house.  Even something as innocent as a bag of chocolate chips in the freezer or a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch on top of the refrigerator is not safe.  I cannot stop eating sweets until they're gone, even though they make me sick.  And until the sweet food is gone, I won't eat anything else.  If I can keep from buying the yummy stuff at the store, I do pretty well.  The problem I have with that is when I tell myself that I am depriving my children (or husband), and that I need to make (or buy) them a special treat to show them I love them.  I end up eating almost all of the treat and they hardly get any. 

 Then there are always the kind friends that bring over a plate of cookies, or the lunches and dinners at other people's houses, complete with dessert! Not to mention refreshments at church events, Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. etc. etc.  

It feels sort of like I'm an alcoholic who can't control her drinking.  Some people can have just one, but I have to get plastered.  Is there a way I could learn to eat just one serving, and then stop, really stop, or will I have to learn to refrain completely?  Bingeing on desserts does not fall under the heading of healthy lifestyle practices.  Has anyone else out there had this problem?  Have you found anything that helps you?