February is National Hot Breakfast Month


Breakfast served in yellow tableware - eggs, oatmeal, orange jui

(PCM) Most so-called food “holidays” are invented holidays, created to showcase (and boost sales for) one type of food industry or another. We’re okay with that: after all, food is life, food is love and, with good choices, food is good for you.

That said, we present National Hot Breakfast Month with certain caveats. For instance, how important is a hot breakfast, really? Despite conventional wisdom, breakfast isn’t necessarily the cornerstone of your culinary day. And while cooked foods are good for digestion (heat makes nutrients more readily available to your body), you can do just fine with raw fruits and veggies, nuts, breads and spreads, or cold juice and cereal.

On the other hand, there are psychological benefits to eating cooked foods. A bellyful of a warm breakfast can be comforting (especially on a cold February morning). We associate warmth with safety and satiety, health and home.

We’re so often in a rush to start the day that we don’t have time to cook: instead, we rely on what’s easy, which means cold, like a box of sugary cereal, or questionable (we’re looking at you, Mr. Eggy McConvenient sandwich). Perhaps the idea behind National Hot Breakfast Month is to encourage more Americans to start the day in a happier, wholesome state of mind.

However, if “hot breakfast” makes you think of eggs, fried potatoes, and processed meats (bacon!), you might want to chill: as much as we love these foods, we can’t recommend an entire month of them. While they offer some healthy benefits (and taste oh so fabulous), they’re high in cholesterol, fats, sodium, nitrates and other baddies you don’t need on a daily basis. Instead, consider celebrating this type of iconic American meal as the occasional “Hot Breakfast Sunday”.

If, on the other hand, “hot breakfast” means oatmeal, porridge, or grits, to you, have at it! Hot breakfast cereals are a healthy source of fiber and carbohydrates. As part of your regular diet, they can keep your cholesterol in check, fight heart disease, and help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you feeling full longer. Skip the sugar and butter, and boost your hot cereal flavor with fruit, cinnamon or spices, honey, skim milk, yogurt, or peanut butter (for added protein).

Some other hot breakfast ideas to consider: warm bagels, biscuits, or toast (bonus points for whole grains) with healthy spreads like preserves, warm fruit compote, low-fat cream cheese, or sliced avocado. Egg white omelets or scrambles are a fast-cooking alternative: add steamed or gently sautéed veggies, onions and garlic, spices, beans, smoked fish, or shredded meats. And don’t overlook non-traditional breakfast options like rice, pasta or quick-cook grains, reheated repeats from last evening, or even a bowl of classic canned soup.

Eating a hot breakfast may not be a necessity, but it can be nice and easy. Fire up your creativity and your taste buds, and be well. Happy Hot Breakfast February!

The post February is National Hot Breakfast Month also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey to Health, Maple, A Question and an Update

sugarmaple_treeI love maple syrup.  Not the Mrs. Butterworth pancake syrup, but real straight from the tree maple syrup.  It just tastes better than the others and there is more that you can do with it and it is better for you.  The reason I say this is because I did some shopping today at my local market and in the health food section they had a new drink, Maple Water.

There was no question I would buy this.  I didn’t want to as 12 ounces was 2.99 and that is expensive, but I found it again in the already chilled section and the compulsive part of me won.

Maple Water is the maple tree sap not boiled down for syrup.  When maple syrup is made the trees are tapped with a little spigot and the sap from the trees drips into buckets when the buckets are full they are brought to what I believe is called a sugar house.  There it is boiled down into the syrup you find in the market.  So Maple Water skips the boiling down part and is bottled and sold.  And it’s really good.

I have one small issue and that is the cost.  Since the Maple Water skips the boiling down step and goes right to market it should cost less, but it costs more.  I guess this is the American way.  However if they made the cost less I would buy more, but for now it will be an occasional treat.

In the last column I wrote about exactly what I was going through during a depressive episode.  It did pass yesterday, but unfortunately I can feel it trying to come back while I type.  It may stay where it is and it may get worse or better, I never know.

One question that was asked in the comment section below the last column was, “where was God in all of this?”  I am a Christian so I believe in God and Jesus, but to answer the question, I don’t know.  God seems to disappear when I get in to deep depression.  Mentally I know he’s is there but emotionally he is not.  I pray and ask for help but those prayers seem to bounce off the wall.  I believe, however, that this is why God has placed us in community.

Community is not your town, though it can be, it is more the place that you feel you belong.  The Amish understand community, they help each other out.  A barn needs to be built the whole town goes and builds it.  In our world though we then to have look hard for community, it does not come naturally in our culture, but it should.

I think when you are ill mentally emotionally or physically ill you have to be able to rely on the community around you to help you.  If you belong to a church, ideally this should be your community, the people you can rely on to help to get you through the hard times whatever they may be, and they can rely on you also.  Community is never a one way street; it goes back and forth from every door of the people that belong to it.

I think that is where God should be when I am in a depressive episode, it does not always work out that way, which is why, if you have read my previous columns, you will see me asking emotionally healthy people to reach out to those that are not emotionally healthy on a regular basis.  They need, OK, we need your help.  God dwells in His people and that is where God has to be when I am in a dark place.

Now for a quick update.  Yesterday was the one month anniversary of going off sugar.  Because of the multiple issues with my feet and leg I have not been able to exercise much. I never really described the feet/leg issues.  Both of my feet have no feeling in them at all on the bottom.  The tops are not as bad but are still numb.  My right leg goes completely numb when I stand for more than a half an hour.  After walking for about a half an hour both of my feet swell up, and before you ask, no I am not diabetic, and yes my sugars are checked regularly

I went to see the neurologist that has been following me yesterday.  He is working with my feet and leg as well as my hands, which have slight to violent tremors.  I am scheduled for a second EMG this coming Monday to find out what can be done about my feet and leg.  An EMG was done about a year ago but the results were not conclusive.  The tremors are treated with medication but it does not work all of the time.

While at the Doctors I was weighed.  As you may remember my weight at the beginning of this journey was somewhere between 370 and 390, yesterday I was 360.  So going sugarless has made a difference.  Physically I, in general, feel better.  My mind is certainly clearer now.  So, on the whole I am better than when we started.

The post My Journey to Health, Maple, A Question and an Update also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

February is National Canned Food Month

Senior man looking at canned food

(PCM) Are the short, cold days of winter getting you down? Do you find yourself craving a taste of summer? Wish you could take a big, juicy bite of sunshine? Well, guess what? You can.

February is National Canned Food Month, for good reason. If you live in a cold-weather region, there isn’t much in the way of local, in-season produce right now. What better time to showcase the wonders of canned foods? Here are just a few:

• Cost! Canning is an inexpensive method of preserving foods at the peak of freshness. Canned foods are often cheaper than grocery store produce that’s been shipped cross country (or over oceans) – and more appetizing than food that has wilted in trucks and storerooms for days (or weeks).

• Canned foods are generally as healthy as fresh – sometimes more so , because the canning process concentrates the good stuff. You can maximize the nutritional benefit by choosing brands without added sugars, salts, or preservatives, and/or rinsing off preserving liquids before use.

• Convenience! Since they don’t need to be peeled, pitted, or prepped much, canned foods can save you time in the kitchen. They have a long shelf-life (1-2 years for most fruits and vegetables, even longer for meats), meaning you can access top-quality ingredients whenever you need them. When you don’t need them, they’re compact and stackable and look nifty on your pantry shelf. (They’re also easily transported and fit nicely in food baskets and barrels set aside for the less fortunate.)

• Variety. In addition to fresh fruits, veggies, and tuna, you could feed a family for months on canned food alone – you know, if you were hunkered in a bunker or something. Nuclear winter aside, it’s just good household business to stock up on quick meals and must-haves; think soup, broth, beans, poultry, cured ham, curries, juices, gravy, sauces, chutneys, pickled anythings…

• Cans (almost invariably made from steel) are fabulously energy efficient and sustainable; steel can be recycled without any degradation to the material. According to industry research, more than 67 million cans per day are recycled by American steel companies.

• You too can can! As many a grandmother will tell you, canning is a rewarding do-it-yourself project: save money and savor the satisfaction of your summer harvest with just a small investment in supplies and time. There are many how-to resources for home canning available online or in bookstores, though chances are you know someone whose shelves are lined with their own handiwork. Ask around!

• Whether store-bought or home-wrought, canned food is safe as long as you keep some guidelines in mind. Stow your cans in a cool, clean place away from humidity or extremes in temperature (such as over a stove). Do not use cans that are leaky, bulgy or broken, or eat anything stinky or funky. Abide by expiration dates and follow instructions to a tee if canning from home.

Don’t settle for iffy produce or give yourself scurvy waiting for garden season to roll around: get yourself a can opener and celebrate National Canned Food month today!

The post February is National Canned Food Month also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey To Health, Inspiration

sunrise-(1)(PCM) Inspiration!  In a journey to health we must have help along the way, something outside of ourselves that keeps us going toward the goal.  I would use the word inspire to describe this need.

To inspire means to stir up the emotions and animate the mind.  Inspiration is a tool that we can put to use to help us get to the goal of a healthy life.  It is important to take a moment and describe what I mean by a healthy life.  It is a healthy mind, body and spirit and if even one of these is not running well the rest are also thrown off.

There are all kinds of health issues these days.  Addiction, depression, obesity, cancer, mental and emotional issues, diseases and viruses, a total lack of a spiritual life, all of these, and many more, are our enemies in becoming healthy.

What can be used to inspire us to move forward in our personal battles?  Let me tell you about my own inspirations and maybe they will help define yours.  Remember too that inspiration can come from anywhere so don’t limit yourself to what I write about here.

The first and foremost inspiration is God.  God is my father and he wants the best for me, even if he and I don’t see eye to eye on that all of the time.  Mother Theresa once said that (and I am paraphrasing) “Jesus was her husband and they argue a lot.”  The church itself is the bride of Christ so Jesus in the husband to all Christians and I don’t know of any that don’t, every once in a while, have angry moments with God.

But that doesn’t mean there is no inspiration here.  Psalm 23 says “I walk through the valley of the shadow of death and you are with me.”  The valley of the shadow of death is not death itself, it is the feeling of death when you desperately want donuts or you want the substance that you have been using for years but you know you can’t use any longer.  Your whole body is yelling “GIVE ME WHAT I WANT!” But you say NO!.  And God is with you comforting you and encouraging you to move forward.  This is inspiration.

Inspiration also comes from the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus being fully man chose to die a humiliating death for me.  If he can die for me, literally die.  Can’t I stop putting bad things in my mouth so I can live?

Then there are people that inspire me.  I have a new friend whose name is Steve.  He is a vegan, and I don’t want to go that far, at least not now.  But in his life I can see what can be done, that the changes can be made.  That eating right doesn’t have to be a burden.  I am very grateful for that.  Someone who lives it can inspire us to live it too.

My small group leader, Caleb, has shown me through example that you can live free.  I am still grasping the meaning of that, but I am learning to see the things of life much less of a burden in fact I am learning that there are burdens I don’t have to carry that have been laid on me by others.  But Caleb doesn’t just talk it.  You see it in his life.

I am inspired by my editor Joe, who keeps going no matter how hard things get and has patience with me when I just can’t figure out how to run a computer correctly.  He praises when deserved and gently corrects when needed.  Because of the way he is I want to do better.

Art in many forms inspires me.  Frodo Baggins, from The Lord of the Rings, the smallest creature in his world takes a dangerous weapon into enemy territory and destroys it.  Sam Gamgee, Frodo’s friend, when Frodo is too weak to carry the burden alone, picks Frodo up and carries him.  Frodo destroyed the ring of power, can’t I destroy the fat of death.  Sam carried his friend; can’t I carry my friends when they need help?

Music can be inspirational.  When I am really down, if I remember, you will find me singing My Favorite Things, from the Sound of Music.  The lyrics and music that comprise the song bring bright pictures in to my mind and help to battle sadness.

The Theme from Chariots of Fire, is exhilarating to me,  I Gotta Crow from Peter Pan is motivational for me and Look To The Rainbow from Finian’s Rainbow is a song that brings hope for a good ending.  And Somewhere Over The Rainbow is always a reminder that no matter how bad or hard things get there is a real better place waiting for me.

I am inspired to joy when I see Van Gogh’s Starry Night, I am encouraged by Snoopy in Peanuts, I know that good health and good attitudes can be won if we work hard when I read The Secret Garden.

These are things that I find inspirational.  They may not be what you find inspirational.  But look for those things.  Hold on to them.  Go to them (people) look at them, read them or listen to them when you feel like giving up.  You will find the strength to go forward.  Don’t give up.  Not ever.  You and I are walking this path together.  You can do it.

Below this article there is a section for making comments.  Some people have a hard time finding something to inspire them.  Please take a moment and write what you find inspiring.  What get’s you thru the day or helps to renew your energy to reach your goals.  If you wish tell your story.  What you faced or are facing, and what kept or keeps you going.  And please have mercy and don’t tell me it’s a dozen donuts and Death by Chocolate that gets you through.  Who knows, your words may help someone else.

The post My Journey To Health, Inspiration also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey To Health, SUGAR

Archie-3.1“Sugar, ahhh honey, honey.  You are my candy girl and you got me wantin you.”

Sugar is one of the hardest things to walk away from in the American diet.  It’s in almost every form of processed food available.  Peanut butter has sugar, ketchup has sugar, and breakfast cereals, even the ones marked healthy have sugar.  Most frozen meals have some amount of sugar added to them.  I just checked two different brands of bread, one, a store brand whole wheat, and the other a name brand oatmeal bread, both have sugar listed in the first couple of lines of ingredients.  White processed sugar is everywhere and we don’t even know it.

In the 1700s when the English abolitionists were doing their best to free the English slaves, they had a boycott on sugar.  Sugar at the time was harvested and processed by slaves killing many of them during the production.  But in the 1700s sugar was not used how we use it today.  Food was made at home, breads were baked at home and meals were cooked at home.  There was candy and cakes and pies but those were not central to the diet and most if not all of the food at the time was now what we call organic.

Sugar today, however, is in so much that you cannot escape it at all in your daily diet.  I just watched a documentary titled Fed Up.  If you have Netflix it is available there and you can rent it on Amazon.  This was mostly about the amount of sugar that is in what we are consuming.  It was said that soon a huge percentage of the population is going to become diabetic because of the amount of sugar consumed.  The saddest part was watching the children who were embarrassed by their size, one a young teenager that underwent bariatric surgery to get the weight off.  This both saddened me and frightened me.

Obesity is climbing to almost epidemic levels in the USA.  People are going so far as to call it a non communicable disease, or virus.  This is no longer just about self control and exercise, this is about how are food is produced and how we choose to eat it.  This reaches into how families interact and even what’s on the menu for school lunch.  One school I know of has a fully functioning McDonald’s on the premises.  This could be looked at as good as the store is run by the students, but the food is also eaten by the students.

Families which are either traditional or non-traditional are highly impacted by processed food.  Most parents work and most do not want to make a full meal when coming home, so processed food becomes second nature.  Snip open a bag with prepared vegetables in a sauce, add another bag with prepared meat, pour it all into a pan or a large microwavable bowl and dinner is ready in minutes.  It looks pretty; it can be colorful and full of vegetables but take a look at the ingredients on those packages.  They are not what you think.

Obesity kills more people than cancer does.  A recent study showed that 598,000 people are killed by obesity every year here in the United States, while cancer kills 575,000.  The funny thing is that sugar feeds the growth of cancer cells and so, though the specific cause of death was cancer, what went into the person’s mouth played a part in the death too.

It has been proven over and over again that reducing the amount of processed sugar will slow cancer.  It is also rare that cancer patients get adequate nutritional counseling according to some sources.

And what really ticks me off is we don’t really know this.  How many people are aware that obesity is a major cause of death?  How many people know it out ranks cancer?  Stephen Amell, TV’s Arrow, works with a group called F____ Cancer when maybe his main concern should be F___ Obesity.  I am not knocking Mr. Amell.  In my opinion he is one of the very few celebrities that uses his status for the better good.  He has worked and raised money for many organizations and loves his fans.  Follow him on Facebook.  He has taught me a lot.  I do wonder though what he knows about the obesity statistics.  That obesity is killing children.  He would fight, at least I believe he would.  We need to fight too.

I have been asked by my psychologist to go sugar free.  I agreed to this and have begun the journey.  I thought this would be easy.  No soda, no cake, no candy, no chocolate, no pie, donuts ect…  I began on the first day of January and as the month moved on I began to realize that this was not the walk in the park I thought it would be.  (Ok I never thought it would a walk in the park, but I didn’t think it was going to be a trek across a never ending desert.)

I had been living on processed food.  It was easier than cooking.  Pop a dinner in the microwave and eat it.  No fuss, no bother, no dishes.  And I liked it.  Boston Market’s Swedish Meatballs are really tasty.  Hungry man friend chicken, Marie Callendar Lasagna are just a few of the things I enjoyed eating and they all had sugar in them.

I had become hooked on Coca Cola, I was going to say coke but that would have given the wrong impression.  This was not too hard to get away from because I always liked fruit juices as well, but I came to find out that fruit juice, 100% juice, is not digested in the same way that whole fruit is digested and is just about as bad as sugar.

I also learned that 160 calories of fruit is not the same as 160 calories of chocolate, because they digest differently.  The chocolate is going to go to fat the fruit is going to burn off.  I am saying this quickly as I am not sure of the whole process.  But the bottom line is 1 calorie of a certain food is not the same as1 calorie of another food.  So the idea of burning off more calories than you take in is not always a working model for weight loss.

So what does it mean to go sugar free in the 21st century?  It means taking a trip back in time.  It means we simplify our diets.  It means whole grains, real fruit, real meat and fresh vegetables.  It means read the label of every canned, jarred boxed or frozen food you buy, to see what is in there.  I like the rule of thumb that says that if there is an ingredient in a food label you cannot pronounce, you probably shouldn’t eat it.  If there is sugar in it look for something else.

This is really brief.  I don’t know all of the facts about sugar.  I am just waking up to them and what I have written comes from a mind that is being opened to new thinking.

We don’t live in the 1700s where a cup of tea and a scone may be all the sugar you see all day.  We live in a world where sugar has become a dangerous enemy.  Where it is tearing the lives of our children apart and where it can kill.  Be aware of what you put in your mouth.  Read labels and back off of processed food as much as you can.

I am not saying this is going to easy.  It will not be.  For me it isn’t and walking away from sugar is giving me a kind of withdrawal which my doctor is guiding me through.  But the benefits will be loss of weight and the hope that somehow it will help decrease the intensity of depression.

Research sugar on your own; ask questions at your local health food store.  Most employees at privately owned health food stores are a fount of knowledge on this subject.  One piece of sound advice, if you choose to read research papers on anything, check and see who funded the research.  If Hershey funded the research on the benefits of chocolate you need to take the information with a grain of salt.


The post My Journey To Health, SUGAR also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey To Health, Depression

depression-in-menDepression is not something you just get over.  Since being diagnosed with severe chronic depression almost 20 year ago, I have heard every possible good natured “cure” imaginable.  “You can just get over it.”  It’s just feelings.”  “Have you prayed about it”.  “Other people have it worse than you do.”  “Be a man.”  “Read your Bible more.”  The list does go on and some of them even work for a short period of time, but not for long.

First the disclaimer; I am not writing this for me.  I am not looking for attention of any kind.  It seems in my experience that people who don’t deal with severe depression really have no idea what their friends or family may be going through.  As self serving as some may think this is, my hope is, that anyone who reads this helps others with a gentler heart and a patient spirit.

Right now my own form of depression is light.  So I am going to explain to you in my own way what the worst feels like.  Imagine that all of your friends died in a car accident and your house burnt down the same day with all of your family in it, then times that feeling by ten and you will have an idea.

Severe depression incapacitates you.  I literally, at 370 pounds, get myself into the fetal position and stay there for hours.  You lay there and you hope that something will happen that someone remembers you’re alive. That someone cares that you’re alive. That somehow you will find hope, but it doesn’t come.

And it hits out of the blue from nothingness.  I can be at one end of an aisle in a store and more or less ok, and by the time I reach the other end it’s like lightning has struck.  I have to fight to keep myself together.  I have to get out as soon as possible.

Some of you may be asking “what about medications?”  There are a lot of medications out there, and most of the time a qualified doctor has to mix and mingle them and experiment with them until they find the right combination that helps you.  It is hit or miss.  I have been experimented on for almost 20 years and the right combination has not been found.  What I do know is that if I stop them things will get a lot worse.

There really is no science to anti-depressant medications.  Yes someone cooks them up in a lab and they are supposed to work.  You may have heard that anti-depressants raise the serotonin levels in your body.  The problem is that this is more theory than fact.  There is no test to check serotonin levels and therefore no way to know, for sure, what is happening.  No one taking anti-depressants get any blood work for them, this is why it is a hit or miss game.  Unfortunately in this game instead of being the player you are more like the ball,

Briefly let’s discuss side effects I can only speak on some of these from a male point of view.  Some side effects such as drowsiness or an inability to concentrate can be overcome with practice, but there are others.  For men the inability to ejaculate is a side effect of one medication, erectile dysfunction is a side effect from another.  The worst one is after you take the pill for a while your penis retracts into your skin and you can’t pull it out.  It also slows your urine down to a trickle making you wet yourself at least once a day.  These are known side effects of different medications I won’t name them as I do not want a law suit.

Medications are good if the right combination is found and the side effects are minimal. The problem is the amount of time it takes.  I had one psychiatrist, after treating me for a year, and nothing working, tell me I had better get used to what I was as there was no more he could do.  I fired him, and now am being experimented on by someone else.

Those of you reading this that do not deal with depression but have loved ones that do, what can you do?  Call them regularly, visit regularly.  Don’t tell them to call you.  When depression is really bad you have no good feelings about yourself.  You believe you are a burden on the world and you won’t ask for help.  You believe you don’t deserve it.  You believe you are not worth it.

When I am on my way down, I can ask for help, when I hit bottom I can’t.

Now this is not to say to feel sorry for the person.  Let them know you love them but do all you can to make them move.  Get them out of the house and stay on them about getting out of the house.  One friend of mine continues to do all he can to push me forward.  This friend has had to teach me how to interact with others.  He has helped show me my worth, and he said four words to me that have helped me more than anything else.  He didn’t say I love you, to be honest, I don’t really trust those words.  He said, “Mike, I’m your biggest fan.”  He then told me to go into the other room and start talking to people.  I don’t know that he even remembers the incident, but it changed me.

Rosalind Russell, one of the great ladies of the stage and screen said once that acting was “like standing up on a table with a room full of people and turning around very slowly,” Writing this today had put me up on that table and I have never moved more slowly in my life.  Be careful where you aim the tomatoes.

The post My Journey To Health, Depression also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

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