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

Mark's Daily Apple

5 Mar

A Monday Moment

Keeping up with the Joneses

I’m always amazed at how far people will go to keep up appearances – or keep up with the Joneses. Truth be told, these days, the Joneses themselves are usually living paycheck to paycheck like everyone else – albeit a bigger paycheck.

The vast majority of Americans carry too much consumer debt. Our average credit score leaves something to be desired. Big mortgages are possible thanks to interest-only loans. I see 21-year-olds with student loan balances rivaling the profit margins of healthy small businesses.

Wow, thanks, Mark. Just what I needed on a Monday. Now, now, before you get too irritated, stick with me. This isn’t to depress you – let’s take a moment to put things in perspective so we can all have a healthy, productive week.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re busting your back just to make ends meet. Everybody is. Even the Joneses (especially them). In fact, give yourself a big break – the Joneses are sweating bigger bullets than anyone.

There are plenty of great blogs out there for financial advice on getting out debt, finding the career of your dreams, staying positive, and so on. The purpose of this post is simply to help you get your head in the right place – a positive, realistic place (they’re not mutually exclusive). The less pressure you feel just to keep up with life, the happier you will be. Happy = healthy.

With years of hard work, intense focus and plenty of practice, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy some nice successes (setbacks, too). I’m grateful for that. One thing I can tell you is that the worst thing you can do is to put pressure on yourself to appear like those you’re impressed by – often, they’re actually worse off than you are. So many times, it’s nothing but a false face.

Much of our stress, resentment and striving could be eliminated by simply accepting that how we live – not how the friends or the neighbors live – is truly good enough. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ambitious or seek rewards, of course. But do ask yourself who you’re putting pressure on yourself for.

Are you driving the car with the hefty payment because you get so much joy from that car, it outweighs the burden of the cost? Or is it because you’ve always felt like you’d be more respected if you could sport around town in a nicer car? Do you live a nice lifestyle but run your bank account down to nothing by the end of the month, anxiously waiting for the next check? And is that feeling worth the hour spent in a nice restaurant eating food you’ll forget about a few days from now?

Only you know what truly can satisfy you and bring you happiness. We all have different stress thresholds and we all view the trade-offs of nice things differently. The key is not getting caught in the fear-greed-fear-greed cycle, because it’s a form of slavery – talk about something devastating to your health.

Financial freedom isn’t easy – it requires major effort and sacrifice. It can take years to crawl out from difficult circumstances. At the end of the day, you may never earn that fat paycheck, and you might not get everything you want – in fact, guaranteed, you won’t. This is true for everyone. That’s the big illusion. Even the Joneses aspire to be someone else. For all you know, they want to be you. So why not aspire to be the one person you can be: you.

Seek to get what you, and only you, really need. At the end of our lives, does anyone say “Man, I wish I’d had the bigger power tools,” or, “If I just had gotten that plasma T.V., my life would have been complete!”? I doubt it (and frankly, good riddance to those poor souls).

The things that really make us happy are intangible: love, friendship, companionship, fulfillment, acceptance, peace, health, trust, confidence. None of those things cost a cent, yet many of the trivial, material things we seek to acquire can create a debit on those priceless gifts. It’s not just interest we pay back.

5 Mar

Weekly Health Challenge

A great way to stay fresh, mentally and emotionally, is to try something new. That could be a new crossword puzzle, a subscription to a new magazine with a different viewpoint from yours, a better toothpaste, or even a new vegetable.

Choose something that is an improvement or a challenge, so you’re not just randomly trying something new. Why not make a positive change now? One little change can create a cascade of wonderful new developments.

2 Mar

Sting-Free News

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites

9 out of 10 taste-testers agree: Today’s wrap contains 100% more flavor than the leading competitor.

What a Headache

The FDA swipes 15 migraine medications off the shelf.

Conspiracy Theorists, Pay Heed

Evil secrets lurk at the farmer’s market…or something. We still think farmer’s markets are better, and it’s usually not difficult to find a good, low-priced one. But everyone’s a critic.

Obviously evil.

Flickr Member Photo

Going Mental

An important new brain discovery will help scientists better understand mental disorders.

Bound to offend somebody...

Diabetes R Us

Many times, dire predictions about global health catastrophes turn out to be a little exaggerated. Not so for everyone’s favorite unnecessary disease. Diabetes is spreading even faster in some western nations than scientists predicted.

2 Mar

Smarter Fuel?

Sara here, with some Big Moo musings for the girls. Dairy is one of those food debates that can go on ad infinitum, with plenty of good points on either side (much like vegetarianism). Raw vs. organic vs. regular vs. low-fat vs. full-fat…you get the idea.

Dairy is just not, um, a black and white issue. I have my theories. I can’t promise that my views aren’t slightly biased due to the existence of things like Humboldt Fog goat cheese (Ben Franklin said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” I think you could easily switch “beer” for “cheese”.) But having experimented with different forms of veganism, vegetarianism and carniveatin’ over the years, and being interested in issues like osteoporosis, cellulite and fertility (what woman isn’t?), here are a few thoughts, subject to change and open to your criticism. Mark’s big on questioning what we think we know – so let’s have at it!

1. In a perfect world, we’d eat raw dairy.

We know raw dairy is theoretically healthier. For one thing, cows themselves can’t survive on pasteurized milk. In many parts of the world, people consume raw dairy (until recently it was next to impossible to get it here unless you happened to live on or near a farm). Many edgier health experts say raw dairy is the only kind we should eat, because it’s truly the way nature made it – full of living and beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Of course, there’s the concern about food borne illness; then again, our mechanized manufacturing standards are arguably a lot cleaner and safer than a century ago, when you had to worry about TB in your butter. (Here’s where the FDA says “Hell no it’s not safer! Pasteurize!”)

2. Go organic or, like, die.

Should we even bother eating dairy if it’s not raw, then? After all, about 3/5 of the world doesn’t even consume dairy and some cultures even consider dairy to be downright gross. We’ve all heard the phrase “cow’s milk is for baby cows.” And it’s true. We’re the only mammals that continue consuming milk after we’re weaned – the milk of another species, no less. It gets further complicated by genetics: evidently some Europeans adapted to dairy consumption around 7,000 years ago, but many people just can’t digest dairy.

So what does going organic do? Well, organic milk and cheese don’t come with antibiotics, chemicals, and added hormones. It’s also supposed to be more environmentally friendly, and I guess the cows are allegedly happier. Then again, I don’t know if any dairy cow is thrilled with being artificially inseminated in perpetuity just so I can have cheddar on my broccoli.

It gets further complicated: cows these days are fed mostly grain, a food that makes them nice and fat but isn’t so good for them – or us. Cows are meant to eat grasses, and not only does this make the cows feel better, it makes their milk taste better.

If you’re perfect, you’ll eat only grass-fed dairy. Make that grass-fed organic dairy. Make that grass-fed, organic, raw dairy. Actually, forget it – cow’s milk is for baby cows.

3. But the hormones!

Dairy does contain hormones which may or may not affect fertility. You might have seen the news circulating yesterday that women who ate ice cream and cream as opposed to lower-fat dairy were more fertile.

The reaction was no surprise: vegans and the not-milk crowd cited the hormones in milk as the cause. Health experts cautioned that no woman should rely on a pint of B&J’s as a fertility plan.

Until seeing some recent research, I’d been rather inclined to trust the hormone argument, but I’m not so sure. For one thing, hormones can be tough to measure accurately. For another, blaming certain health issues on hormones in milk is somewhat akin to debates about the mercury levels in some fish. Does dairy cause girls to develop early? Does mahi mahi cause autism? I just don’t think we can be that simplistic. (But that doesn’t mean such things aren’t very real factors in serious health issues.)

My personal theory about dairy, fat and fertility has to do with what I’ve learned about evolutionary biology (and Mark can tell you more about this than just about anyone).

Around the MDA, we’re just not afraid of fat. Fat serves an incredibly important function in our cells – even saturated fat isn’t the bad guy it’s made out to be. Though the FDA still recommends a low-fat dairy, high-grain diet, Mark believes this is nothing short of disastrous. For a refreshingly different – and incredibly logical – point of view, you should check out THINCS or simply run a Google search for the ever-brilliant rebel scientist Dr. Mary Enig (props, Mary).

Hormones in milk might affect female fertility and development; but given that this is incredibly difficult to determine, I think we should consider an idea that, to me, seems pretty darn obvious:

Fat is, nutritionally-speaking, very dense. Our bodies are designed for fat metabolism – far more than glucose. Fat is great for your brain, your skin, your level of nutrient absorption, and so on.

Doesn’t it make sense that a woman consuming adequate fat would send a signal to her body that it’s safe to reproduce? Women need between 10 and 15% more body fat than men. Fat distributed around the hips and buns is there for a reason – it’s rich in a balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fats. When a woman has a baby, the body relies on some of these fat stores. Ladies, you need a little junk in the trunk.

While I wouldn’t advocate eating ice cream for good reproductive health, I get really concerned when I see women avoiding full-fat dairy like it’s death in a glass. Fat is not only not a bad thing, it’s necessary – especially for women. Moreover, most low-fat dairy products simply replace the fat with sugar. I think you can make a pretty good case that low-fat dairy, being higher in sugar, is actually worse for packing on the fat than regular old fattening butter, milk and cream. Sugar does funny things to cells, especially fat cells. It makes them bigger, it attacks them, it wears them out. Natural fat (both Omega-6 and Omega-3), on the other hand, doesn’t do any of these things. So long as you don’t exceed your total calorie requirements, and the fat you consume isn’t refined or trans fat, you’re not doing yourself any favors by choosing low-fat dairy.

Then again, you may not be doing yourself any favors choosing dairy, period.

Thoughts, Apples?

2 Mar

Surgeon General’s Warning

The Sisson Spoof

Here’s what I want to know: why is it that alcohol and cigarettes must carry surgeon general’s health warnings, but obscenely deleterious foods don’t have to?

We’ve looked at the Cheesecake Factory’s one-pound slices of cake and Chili’s 2,700+ calorie onion. And it’s not just restaurants. Consider Pop Tarts and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. What if, instead of being allowed to (respectively) slap “good source of calcium” and “No hormones” on these products, these sugar slingers had to tell the truth:

Pop Tarts

Warning: This product contains high levels of sugar, artificial ingredients and refined fat which are known contributors to obesity, diabetes and, oh yeah, death.

Ben & Jerry’s

Warning: The pint you are about to ingest contains two days’ worth of fat and your entire day’s caloric requirements, because, let’s face it, no one eats just one-fourth of this little carton. We might love our cows, but we don’t give a flying fig if you get diabetes, which you probably will if you eat enough of these bad boys.

Straight Outta Compton with My RDA

Of course, I’m sure the Surgeon G. can come up with the appropriately-uninspiring medical terminology.

But seriously, I want to know: why do known contributors to obesity, diabetes and heart disease get to make health claims on their packaging? A bottle of wine would never have “Loaded with antioxidants!” plastered on its label (let’s hope). Cigarettes packs aren’t about to feature “Enhances mood and relieves tension” seals. These products do have benefits (why else do people enjoy them and often get addicted). But they also carry major, life-threatening risks.

How is a pint of ice cream different? How is a rectangular donut different? Just because they’re “food” doesn’t make it any less disingenuous to trumpet meaningless health claims. Humans can become addicted to food just as easily as beer and smokes. If you think the cumulative effect of years of eating junk is any different from the effects of excess alcohol or cigarettes, think again. Far more people die from food addiction than drinking and smoking.

But don’t worry – Pop Tarts provide 9 essential vitamins and minerals.

With 2% of your daily iron requirement, what's not to love?

© 2015 Mark's Daily Apple

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