Archive | February 2013

Dedicated To Those Who Dance in the Rain . . . But For Us Realists . . .

Feeling depressed lately?  Wondering if winter will ever turn cold, greyish overcast days into tulips and songbirds?  You’re not alone.  Weather can drastically affect our moods, causing sluggishness and depression and it’s been a very long, tough winter.  In your heart you know many are far worse off and God has blessed you richly, so you ask, why am I so moody lately?

Psalm 3:3, “But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.”

I’ve dedicated this post to my friend who longs for overcast, rainy days because she literally goes outside and dances in the rain!  Now that’s an upbeat faith-based attitude! She obviously produces more serotonin than most. I need sunshine!!! I admit overcast days make me grumpy and sad. There are ways however to fight depression simply by modifying our diet!

Whenever I see someone depressed, I wonder what are they eating? Have you ever met anyone from Latin America or the Mediterranean who isn’t vibrantly alive?!  I believe that inner vibrancy originates from the foods they consume. Another advantage; they have more sunshine! Vitamin D, derived from the sun as well as foods, improves temperament. So if your spirit changes on overcast days as mine does, I’d advise changing your diet or moving to Capri . . . but changing our diet is easier.

Mediterranean residents consume nutrient-dense garlic, onions, olive oil, fish, cayenne and other spices! (One reason why I consistently recommend a Mediterranean Diet!) Hot spicy foods release mood elevating endorphins, so load up on the tabasco sauce, horseradish, curry, chili peppers and wasabi! How it works: These spicy foods send false pain signals to the brain, stating something’s amiss, possibly a threat. Then tiny chemical firemen run to our brain, hosing down those spicy signals with serotonin, which improves positive brain chemistry. Voila’, happy again.

Do you crave sweets on cloudy days? There’s a perfectly good reason for that. Sugar distributes feel-good endorphins which the body subconsciously craves to improve biochemical balance. Simple carbohydrates dispenses serotonin which calms and boosts feel-good chemicals . . . at least for a little while. But too much sugar releases too much insulin, quickly crashing our mood by making us acidic, sullen and irritable! Remember carbohydrates will only last in our system for 1-3 hours, so reach for slow releasing insulin, high-fiber carbs for mood stability, adding a little lean protein. Eat every 4 hours to stabilize blood sugar.

For best results. start your morning with soothing, B vitamin packed, calming oatmeal.  Add cinnamon, (an insulin regulator) raisins or other dried fruit. Consider adding walnuts, almonds or pecans. This combination of the feel-good amino acid tryptophan, is the precursor of the neurotransmitter serotonin.

In addition, practice these definite mood boosters!

  1. Garlic contains nearly 100 nutrients that work together to boost health and mood!
  2. The much maligned egg contains nutrients B12, D and choline, necessary for cheerful brain function.
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids: salmon, tuna, anchovies, are also rich in vitamin B12, another mood booster.
  4. B6 balances estrogen/progesterone levels, so consume chicken breast, pork, wheat bran, nuts during ‘down’ times.
  5. Turkey contains the amino acid, tryptophan, the precursor to helping the body make serotonin.
  6. Include Vitamin C foods. Red peppers contain more per unit than oranges. Also eat cantaloupe, broccoli, strawberries, cabbage, spinach, and baked potatoes.
  7. Dark Greens, bananas, flounder, oats and other whole grains are rich in folate, B6 and magnesium which increase dopamine levels. Magnesium deficiencies impair estrogen metabolism which causes moodiness. Think PMS.
  8. Increase low-fat, calcium rich foods and Lactium which reduces anxiety and irritability. Combine with magnesium foods for better sleep.
  9. Serotonin can be released in other ways besides eating. Go outside! A daily walk and fresh air also releases serotonin.

Take positive steps to overcome temporary moodiness. Remember, God is your stronghold!

Psalms 42:11, ” Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

Standing Up To Temptation

Let’s face it, Satan does NOT want you to succeed. He will do anything in his power to steer Christians away from reaching positive goals. He doesn’t want us to honor our temples of the Holy Spirit!  And don’t be fooled, Satan isn’t the ugly red monster with horns and a pitchfork. Satan is a beautiful, enticing creature – the Ben Affleck of angels. He’s attractive and very tempting, literally.

Don’t be mislead however, Satan is not as powerful as God.  He’s not omnipresent or omnipotent!  He cannot read our minds, he’s just very attuned to human nature.

Satan discerns our weaknesses, so whether it’s  self-pity, fried chicken, chocolate cake, being a people pleaser or prograstination, that particular temptation will “suddenly” appear when we are at our most vulnerable. If we fall to temptation, we feel discouraged, worthless and a failure. That’s his favorite part.  He loves to whisper in our ear that we are a total failure, so why botherHe wins when we give up!

So how do we learn not give in to temptation?

First, study Scripture! Quote I John 4:4 “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” Believe that as a Christian, you inherit your own power to overcome temptation! God wants you to succeed!

It’s easy to fall into a trap of  justifying your behavior. “Well, I’ve been so good, maybe God wants me to have this Butterfinger and Ellie did say anything was fine in moderation.”  Sure, but not if it’s trashing your temple of the Holy Spirit; your health depends on it and there are some perfectly good grapes in the fridge!

James 1:13, “When tempted, no one is to say, “God is tempting me” For God cannot be tempted with evil, nor does he tempt anyone, but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”

You know what to do! Flee youthful lusts! Memorize 2 Timothy 2:22 and 1 Cor. 10:13.  Talk yourself into success but heaven forbid, if you give in, forgive yourself and go on. It’s not the end of the world, it’s a learning experience.  Visualize Satan laughing and keeping score if you fail. But he hasn’t won yet!  How many teams have been behind at the second half but come back to win?  It’s not how many times you fail, but how you react to failures that builds character and success.

Just imagine if you were driving your family to Disney World for a vacation. You mistakenly take a wrong exit. Now what?  Do you turn to the back seat and state, “Sorry kids, Dad made a mistake, guess we have to give up, vacation’s over.” Of course not! You’d turn around, get back on the right road and continue toward your destination. You’re not a failure if you make a mistake. You’ve only discovered the correct road to get to your goal, which is Disney World.

Suppose you gave up? Can you imagine the howls of protest you’d hear? How could you consider disappointing your family?  In the same way, your dedication to healthy living  should inspire your entire family.

  1. You’re providing life lessons on self-denial, personal strength, fortitude and character.
  2. You’re demonstrating examples of overcoming challenges to reach a goal.
  3. You are a living example, showing them how to never give up on their dreams.

Corinthians 6:19  “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

Honor your personal temple of the Holy Spirit and be strengthened. Continue to strive for excellence!

A Short Hodge-podge of Healthy Tips:

We were invited and privileged to view Tucson’s Accenture Match Play Golf Championship from a beautiful corporate tent yesterday. I praise God for that luxury, it was a great event! With little time to produce a blog however, I’m hoping a few random thoughts will suffice today.

Ecclesiastes 7:25a “So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things”

  Water:

1.  Sometimes we simply need to make drinking water more interesting!

   I highly endorseSpoiled Fresh with her blog on specific flavored water you can create easily: http://spoiled-fresh.com/2013/02/07/how-to-get-yourself-to-drink-more-water-fancify-it/ and Sanaa’s “Fit and Fancy” posts located at http://fit-n-fancy.com/2013/01/08/diy-naturally-flavoured-infused-water   Excellent ideas with instructions on infusing water with flavor and nutrients!

2.  To make increasing water consumption fun, a marked half-gallon of water in the refrigerator will tangibly track your daily intake.

Eating:

1.  Instead of pouring sugar over your breakfast cereal, place a half teaspoon of sugar in your milk, stirring it around, then add cereal.  There’s naturally occurring sugar in milk so after a while you’ll be so used to eating less, you won’t go back.  Another tip is to consume berries or bananas in your cereal so you won’t miss sugar. And I’m amazed how many place sugar on sugared cereal making your insulin level go crazy!! Divide the # of sugar grams by 4 which indicates how many teaspoons of sugar you’re consuming.

2.  Don’t be fooled by breakfast foods advertising 100% daily vitamins. Vitamins only last for a few hours in your system, not the entire day.

3.  Consume fiber at every meal. Fiber allows insulin to be released more slowly throughout the day, making you less hungry.

4.  Bought low fiber cereals (4 grams or less) by mistake? Add a tablespoon of chia seeds for an additional 6 grams, milled flaxseed for 2, or strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries for 3 or more extra grams of fiber.

5.  Brown your hamburger, then place in a small hole colander. Rinse with hot water to remove excess fat and place back in the pan. Fat coats the tongue, so now your chili or pasta sauce is more flavorful!

6.  Ditch the sodas which deplete valuable water-soluble vitamins, your bone structure and teeth, as well as messes with your insulin production.

7.  Make your mantra: Eat for Nutrients, not Calories!!! Is your plate colorful? If not, increase green, orange, blue and red foods for flavorful  nutrients.  All calories aren’t equal.

8.  Cut your food into the smallest pieces possible and chew. Chewing breaks down enzymes for proper metabolic distribution, allowing for additional weight loss.

9.  Placing your food on smaller plates and eating slowly, will make you think you’re consuming even more.

10.  Paint your nails. It’s difficult to get into bags of chips with wet nails. (Sorry, this is of course targeted toward women. Guys, maybe you can give me an equivalent tip?)

11. Found this excellent post on manipulation, verifying my post Wednesday!  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html

exerciseExercise tips:

1.  Establish Mind Games: Tell yourself you’ll only do (fill in the blank) for ____ minutes – then talk yourself into continuing two minutes more and keep moving.  This is an excellent tip for walking, lifting weights, aerobics or zumba.

2.  If you walk one way straight for ten minutes, add another few minutes and you’ll have to walk back the same amount, (duh) which is simple way to increase exercise.

3.  Listen to music, language training or an audio book while exercising. Time is relative but it speeds by while concentrating on other things.

Proverbs 9: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”
I hope these lifestyle tidbits help you.

Avoid Being Manipulated Like Lab Rats!

100 years ago, people didn’t eat like we do today. Beyond that, we worked harder without the benefits of machines. We mostly walked everywhere and ate sensibly. Then something changed.

Manufacturers  began adding chemical additives to foods, extending product shelf life, hormones accelerated animal growth, dyes added color to foods making them a feast for the eyes. Advertisers perfected the art of persuasion, promoting specific products. They dared, “Bet you can’t eat just one,” and we took up that challenge. We slowly became conditioned to manipulation and never realized it. The proverbial frog in a frying pan.

1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.”

Have you ever seen someone chow down simply with a bowl of sugar? Dig into a pure bowl of butter? Place teaspoons of salt into their mouths? Probably not, but combine these ingredients and voila’ you have the perfect rewarding combination of brain-manipulating, chemically induced food! The greater the fat/sugar ratio, the greater the reward and with it, loss of mental control.

Remember Pavlov’s dogs? How they became so conditioned to reward that as soon as a bell rang they began salivating, expecting reward? Oh, we’re too smart for that, aren’t we?! No, we’re not. There was a time, many years ago, when as soon as the Jeopardy theme song began, my husband would turn to me and ask, “Hey, ya want some popcorn, hon?”  I became so accustomed to his asking, that I began to count off, “1, 2, 3 . . .” and would turn to him just before he asked. Yes, humans can be just as attuned to habit-forming signals.

Today, advertisers spend billions to manipulate the public into purchasing particular brands based on Pavlov’s methods. As soon as we walk into the supermarket, we smell coffee which prompts the cue,  “I’ll pick up a cake for dessert.” Upon entering the mall, Cinnabon calls our name. Or on TV, we hear the jingle, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” and our brain reminds us that there just ‘happens’ to be one in our fridge.

It’s not wrong to desire sweet, salty or fattening foods every now and then. I eat them. But please understand, subconsciously we are being manipulated to fall for advertising half-truths! Stand firm and resist!  It’s nothing new. Eve was manipulated by Satan in the garden. He spoke and she believed the half-truths he spewed.

Genesis 3: 4-5 ” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Good and Evil. Yes, some foods certainly taste good, but ask yourself, “is this actually good for me?  Splenda tastes good to some people but certainly isn’t good for us!  This artificial chemical sweetener isn’t even less caloric! (sugar: 16 calories/teaspoon, Splenda: 20) Studies suggest it manipulates brain chemistry, increasing insulin while depleting B vitamins, which convert carbohydrates into energy! The best defense against half-truths is education. Don’t allow Satan to manipulate you!

Another truth: remember the phrase, “it’ll melt in your mouth?” Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, chain restaurants also want food to easily melt in our mouth. Dinners that tend to digest in our mouths without chewing are consumed faster; meaning we’ll spend less time at a table. Even five fewer minutes per table means more revenue for the restaurant.  Chewing is important!  Chewing releases enzymes, transporting nutrients to the proper bodily areas for maximum metabolic productivity. Therefore less chewing, less enzyme distribution. Eating out isn’t wrong but relax, socialize and chew slowly when doing so.

Do you enjoy being manipulated? I don’t, so stay smart, aware and in control!

Remember: A Cookie Can’t Hug You!

Cold, overcast days bring back comforting memories of baking cookies or icing a cake.  That’s one reason why when it’s cold, I love to bake, do you?

It’s great to reminisce, isn’t it? But let’s face it, sometimes a cookie isn’t ‘just a cookie’.  Sometimes cookies represent warm memories of childhood, feelings of comfort, family closeness and fun –  all of which time has passed by. Today we live in a stressed-out world where work pressures pursue us, children nag us, time constrains us and oh, how we long to be once again, in that sweet innocent bubble called childhood. Unconsciously you reach for that gooey, soft peanut butter cookie and are magically transported back to an age of guiltless pleasure.

Really??? Is that true?!  As we age we tend to build on memory, making childhood recollections greater than they actually were. We conveniently forget the fights with our family, being bullied by the school terror or that awkward puberty growth spurt, right?  Sometimes stuffing painful memories deep into our subconscious is protection. Perhaps even today you find yourself routinely turning to candy, ice cream or anything sweet to tranquillize that pain, discouragement or fear inside you. It’s called ‘unconscious’ eating.

Unconscious eating pacifies our mood. It provides soothing perceptions of security within our subconscious. Food releases chemicals that quiets our anxiety. It wraps completely around us, providing the same protective shelter as a mother’s arms when we’re too big to sit in her lap anymore.  It’s a comfort during long weekends when your husband is away on yet another business trip. It calms   fear while waiting for a teenager to return on an icy evening.

First, recognize how you feel at the time. Then self-analyse, creating awareness and developing strategies that practice positive reactions.

It’s important to understand that you control your feelings, feelings shouldn’t control you! Don’t apologize – they are after-all, your feelings and everyone should be entitled to feelings. If you suppress them, they will be released in unconscious ways; anger, depression, sarcasm, etc.  Recognize and overcome them. You have inner power – seize it!

1 John 4:4, “You dear children are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

During moments like this, what do you find yourself craving?  Craving crunchy? Potato chips, pretzels or nuts, indicates suppressed anger. Or lonely? Chocolate seduces you. Containing Phenylethylamine, it’s the same chemical emitted when you’re in love. Sad? Creamy foods such as ice cream or mac & cheese are comfort foods.

Perhaps you’re not even hungry. Ever go from cupboard to pantry to fridge, looking for something and not finding what you’re really hungry for? Don’t know, can’t decide? Most likely, you are craving water.  Your brain is saying it needs water, which is found in all foods. So before you give in to temptation, try drinking a glass of water first and waiting about fifteen minutes.  Usually the craving will pass.

Bored? Read a great mystery novel, watch an adventure or chick-flick, create a blog, take a walk, give yourself a facial, a bubble bath, go though old photo albums or begin writing your memoirs.

Lonely?  Go to a public place like a library, antique mall, craft fair, department store or for a downtown walk. Exercise and fresh air release endorphins that provide feelings of goodwill.

Sad, feeling sorry for yourself?  Volunteer at a local shelter, food bank, pregnancy center or hospital and count your blessings while cheering others.

You can overcome this. God cares, so you’re in great company:  Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Good Relationships Are a 3 Ring Circus

Along with the  flowers, chocolate and romantic Valentine cards yesterday, did anyone ask the provocative question; what is the secret to a happy relationship? What make some work and others not?

Personally, I feel a good relationship is like a 3 ring circus.  Visualize a circus with a large center ring with two smaller side rings.  The large ring represents all the activities a couple should be doing together and the side rings represent the hobbies and pursuits of either individual.

In a strong, loving, balanced relationship, a couple should allocate more time together than apart. Therefore never stop learning and growing! It’s exciting to discover new activities together and share them in the extensive memories of life!

Sometimes however, relationships become unbalanced.  A relationship invites trouble if the center ring becomes nonexistent and only two individual large rings remain. Becoming ‘ships that pass in the night’, you have nothing in common anymore. Discovering and sharing mutual interests keep the relationship fresh!

The relationship is also unbalanced if someone relinquished their smaller ring for the sake of the other. It could be that one finds a time-consuming interest like running, sewing, golfing or fishing, excluding the other . . .  or perhaps the spouse is working, never home. Now you find yourself sacrificing your own interests to spend more time with your significant other or you’d hardly see each other anymore. It’s not selfish to save time for yourself. Individuality makes you interesting. It’s what attracted someone in the first place! Never lose your uniqueness!

But now you’ve lost your identity; you don’t know if the spouse cares about the relationship or is attracted to you anymore. You feel unimportant, boring, stale, unloved.  Something must fill that emptiness. When food begins to fill that void, comforting you; you gain weight, eat unbalanced meals, making you irritable and not much fun to be around.  Lonely, you gain even more weight, making you feel even less attractive but you find yourself unconsciously eating to fill that ‘love hunger’. It’s a downward cycle. Feeling helpless, you don’t know where to turn. Turn to Jesus.

I can tell you it takes commitment, patience and having the Lord as the center of any relationship to ensure its longevity. Sadly, many marriages are disposable in this throw-away society we live in. “If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just trade ’em in for a new one, haha.”  I absolutely realize there is justification  in a marital split sometimes, since I come from a broken home. I also recognize that if my violent father hadn’t abandoned our family, I don’t believe I’d be here today. Living through the tough times made me a much stronger person and I ultimately found a compassionate Father, our LORD God. Praise Him!

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Recognize pitfalls. Only God can repair relationships.  Nagging never rebuilt one, but prayer certainly has. God knows you have value, trust Him!   It’s extremely hard to let go of our controlling spirit and let God’s Will Be Done. That takes a great deal of Faith! Pray fervently that God will open the other’s eyes to priorities in life and God will improve your relationship!

Lastly, how would we feel if God gave up on us? “Oh that Ellie, I’m so tired of her, she’s not worth fighting for anymore. I think I’ll trade her in for someone in Boswanaville.”  No God is COMMITTED to us.  He’d never abandon us!!  He desires a strong relationship for us and with us! He walked in the garden with Adam and created the institution of marriage before the church or government. Strengthen your Faith through His Word.

Deuteronomy 13:8  “It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Romance in Books – A Guest Blogger Invite

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and romance is in the air.  Here’s a suggestion: instead of giving your Honey a box of fattening chocolates, how about presenting her with a romantic book?  Perhaps one of romance bookpoetry which you will read to your Beloved over strawberries and champagne . . .  just planting ideas  . . .  After all, as it states in Proverbs 15:17,  “A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate”  aah, that King Solomon could sure spew romance.

I’ve asked my friend Liam of  http://thelifeofathinker.wordpress.com  to guest today on a subject he knows well.  Please check out his site because I guarantee you’ll enjoy it!  Besides, when he’s world-famous, he’s promised to thank the ‘little’ people (me) who gave him all this attention. 🙂

Romance in Books: Is it everywhere, and what can we learn from it?

Hello, it’s Liam from The Life of a Thinker here, and I was fortunate enough to do a guest post for my friend Ellie on this blog. So, I’m a writer (I write novels, poems, and articles) but an interesting question came my way recently which ties in very well with this blog, and the date…

Romance… Is it in every book, and how can we use it in everyday life?

To answer it briefly, in romance books, yes. But what about other genres? Like sci – fi, mystery, horror, for example? Another yes here. Personally, I believe it’s required in every book. Some form of relationship creates empathy between us and the characters, and is very important in a story, as that’s what gets them turning the page!

Romance, or any type of relationship, consists of friendship, trust, and telling people how you feel (which can link with trust). It is a great connection that allows other people to gain an insight into your thoughts, and offer possible advice which may be useful.

But it’s not just close relationships. It can be friendships too, any form of trust is useful for people. Trust is a useful thing in life. So today, value your friends, as well as your lovers…

The Blog Event:

Thanks for reading the post, I really appreciate it. But I would just like to say a quick word about my upcoming blog event – called “imPRESSive”. I aim to give some blog tips and inspire people to set up blogs. It starts on the 23rd February, so there’s plenty of time to get involved! Here’s a couple…

1. Like “The Life of a Thinker Blog” on Facebook, and confirm you are “going” to the event “imPRESSive”.

2. Follow @lifeofathinker on Twitter, and tweet the Hashtag: #DocPRESS

3. Follow my blog, where I will be posting more nearer the time!

Thanks!

Liam