Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

23 Apr

School of Athens

“Excess is oppressive.” – Aristotle

Usually on a Sunday night, I like to relax with a movie or a lightweight nonfiction read, but the Nicomachean Ethics stared out at me from the bookshelf last night. (Guaranteed way to a great night’s sleep: just start reading your old philosophy textbooks from college.)

The book fell open to a section on shame, excess and pleasure. I have long admired Aristotle’s views on shame, something many people secretly struggle with like so many weighted bags on the soul. Essentially (and philosophy experts please correct me – I’m a biology man) Aristotle argued that a virtuous, good person should never really feel shame. This gets to the big guy’s distinction between feelings and character. Aristotle felt that feelings were useful for children, who are ignorant and inexperienced, but adults are rational and ought to have sufficiently developed characters (doesn’t mean we repress our feelings; just that they are not always useful for growth). Shame is only a feeling, not a character trait. Your character is such that you would hopefully never do anything deserving of the feeling of shame, because you are steadfastly true to yourself. Shame comes from excess, which is really just dishonesty with yourself. This opens up a big can of philosophical worms, of course!

Then came the quote: “Excess is oppressive.” And it’s really true. I think many times, it is excess that burdens the soul with shame. This means things like exaggerating a story, boasting in hopes of attention, or being too self-deprecating and humble (for this too is a form of excess). In essence, these excesses are dishonest representations of your true self – and that is why they can become oppressive and collect like heavy sandbags of shame on the heart. But, as Aristotle said, we are adults, with no useful need for a feeling like shame. We ought to be sufficiently developed to guide our actions so they are in line with our characters.

Excess is a common way of life in Western culture. We are encouraged, through media, advertising and comparisons with others, to consume. Sometimes I think we’ve become a culture in pursuit of nothing more than “stuff”. When it comes to emotional, physical and mental health, I think part of what is so painful about being unwell in these areas is the underlying shame. That’s terribly unhealthy for a rational, virtuous adult, as I think most people are capable of being and work to be. I am not implying that any case of unwell is always one’s fault – there are all sorts of genetic and external factors that can affect your health, and may be out of your initial control. However, when it comes to issues like fitness, sleep, stress, weight and disease prevention, I think it’s important to avoid the trap of excess. Restaurants tempt us to overeat. There is always something more to do instead of exercise. Consumption breeds debt, which breeds stress and trouble sleeping peacefully. And so on.

Excess is painfully oppressive because it is so insidiously subtle. Excess is encouraged everywhere you look – in talk, in actions, in food, in material goods, in stimulation and entertainment. It not only harms our physical health; it harms the soul of the virtuous adult who seeks emotional health, wellness and balance. Excess tamps us down and oppresses. Simplicity and truthfulness with ourselves, on the other hand, set us free. I think good physical health and wellness cannot help but to follow.

23 Apr

Mi Blog Es Su Blog

This week’s challenge is a piece of cake, Apples. (Hmm. We’ve gotta get a better metaphor going than “cake”. What’s with the carb cliches? Cake, toast, bread. I can think of many things that are greater than sliced bread. But I digess.)

I challenge you to tell me what you’d like to see more of here at the blog. Fitness tips? Information about a particular supplement? Helpful information for a specific nutritional interest? We’re always searching the headlines and journals for the latest nutrition, health and wellness information you can benefit from. I get emails from dozens of you every day with excellent health questions and suggestions (my apologies if it takes me a few days to respond!). If you haven’t spoken up yet, and there’s a health issue you’d really like to see covered, I’d be happy to answer it. Just click on “Comments” below. You’ll be directed to sign in to the forum, where you can quickly and easily post your request. Getting to know my customers better, as well as hundreds of new friends from around the web, has been incredibly rewarding. I look forward to talking to you!

20 Apr

Genius Fuel!

It’s a great time of year to enjoy fresh peas. We always keep plenty of bags of frozen peas around the Sisson household (well, the freezer, anyway). Peas make a quick, easy snack for the kids after sports’ practice or a long day at school that is far more nutritious than processed snack bars but won’t have anyone groaning about eating their vegetables.

Fresh peas are perfect right now, and they are an excellent way to get extra vitamins, fiber and protein into your meals.

A nutritional snapshot:

– One cup of peas contains a third of your daily requirement of fiber (though I personally recommend getting two or three times the 25-35 grams daily that the U. S. government recommends).

– Peas are famous for containing generous amounts of B vitamins, but they’re also rich in vitamin C (a third of your DV) and vitamin K (half your DV).

– Peas are rich in serotonin-boosting tryptophan.

Toss fresh peas into:

Salads: peas work well with many fruits, avocados, and tomatoes.
Stir fries: replace rice with peas for a fiber-rich, veggie-intense variation.
Plain yogurt: add the peas, some chopped walnuts or almonds, and a little balsamic vinegar. (Top notch protein, fiber and fatty acids for quick energy and stress relief.)

peas

This is Ben’s Flickr Photo

19 Apr

El Buzz

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

Catch the clickativity!

Grease the Brain

Another study confirms it: “good fats” (also known as essential fatty acids and Omega-3’s) help stave off Alzheimer’s disease. We recommend eating a “good fat” at every meal. Some favorites:

wild fish

olive oil (or another unsaturated vegetable oil such as walnut, avocado or flaxseed)

nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and filberts

DHA-enhanced dairy and eggs

Avocados

What’s your favorite way to work good fats into your diet?

almonds

HRT Stops, Breast Cancer Drops

It’s all over the news: the drop-off in hormone replacement therapy use after 2003 has been linked to the subsequent reduction in breast cancer cases. This news actually came out months ago (Mark blogged about it in December), but many mainstream docs panned it as a case of jumping to conclusions. Which means that tonight, they shall dine on humble pie.

Have you had an experience – positive or negative – with HRT that you’d like to share with others? What do you think is the best natural approach for women who don’t want to take hormone replacements?

Guess Which Nation Is Deficient in Basic Vitamins?

That would be us, as in US…of A. That’s right – in the land of plenty, where food is so plentiful we make it into furniture*, significant percentages of Americans are missing basic nutrients fundamental to life. Scoot yourself on over to WebMD‘s helpful article detailing which additional nutrients many Americans are deficient in and which five simple switches can change this around.

Note: the article classifies three major missing vits – A, E, and C – as antioxidants. A is actually not an antioxidant, although this belief persists. All the same, you still need it.

Okay, one more note: the article recommends imbibing juice to get your vitamin C. We recommend whole fruit – this way, you get the added fiber, and you aren’t drinking pesticides. Yech.

And just one more note: remember that vegetables have plenty of fiber and far fewer calories than breads and pastas. Plus, veggies come packed with antioxidants and cancer-preventing compounds. Okay, we’re stopping with the notes. Seriously. Next item.

redbells

*By furniture, we mean bean bag chairs. (Something comedian Ted Alexandro has been taking issue with for several years now. Keep fighting the good fight, Ted.)

Cultural Oddity:

There is an actual product, produced by an actual grocery store chain, called Potted Meat Food. It’s for humans, we think. (Warning: this link is not for the faint of heart or sensitive viewers. But we found it so utterly bizarre that a store would actually sell this, we had to pass it on. If you think Spam is disturbing, well…)

Until tomorrow, Apples! The Bees are out.

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple