Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sugar, sugar

For the last two weeks, I have tried to stick to a sugar-free diet. I came across the 30 day challenge to remove sugar completely from my life and have been working at it every day. I thought I would start by drastically reducing the stuff and gradually wean myself off, and for a short time I thought I was doing okay. But last night I failed. But what was interesting was the effect that the sugar had when I did eat it after cutting out the majority of it from my diet for the two weeks. The challenge is to cut all sugar and everything that acts like sugar in the body for 30 days. This means all table sugar (which I rarely ear anyway), high glycemic starches, and artificial sweeteners.

Last night I ate a homemade fiber bar that I had made a while ago made with marshmallow creme and sweetened condensed milk. I still can't believe the effect after consuming that bar; I was shaky, dizzy, and felt horrible. I noticed this about a half hour after I ate it while I was making dinner and all through dinner my hands were shaking and I couldn't sit still. I felt bloated and slightly nauseous. The rest of the night I felt out of sorts and basically crappy. This morning I feel better, but I still feel a little dizzy. It's really weird. I guess I was/am really addicted to the stuff.

According to the authors of the 30 day challenge in the book Sugarettes, processed sugar is the worst thing you can put in your body and is more addictive than heroin. Over the last half century as our foods have gotten more and more processed, sugar has been put in all manner of foods. They are not just talking abotu the white refined table sugar that we all know and love. This includes high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Nutrasweet, and the ultra-refined grains that breads and snacks are made with. If you read the labels when you shop you will definitely agree that there is all manner of stuff in our foods. The challenge makes you eat only unprocessed, natural food, which is far better for you anyway. For the last few decades of my life I have tried to eat a healthy diet and tried to stay away from a majority of processed foods, but I have consumed tons of artificial sweeteners. I won't say that I don't eat any processed foods; everyone does, but I usually don't eat lots of cookies, cakes, and candy on a daily basis. I will admit that I have also been known to eat my fair share of pre-packaged foods and commercially prepared, time-saving mixes and canned goods. But in the last few years I have tried to steer myself, and my family, more toward fresh cooking with fresh ingredients and home prepared foods. It's tough on a busy schedule.

I was intrigued with the principal of the book and realized that if you look at the overall health of this county and the type of foods we eat that there is a definite correlation between the time frame these types of foods have been available and the declining well-being of our citizens. The food industry is killing our people. Yes, they may buy fresh ingredients from farmers, but after it's gone through the factory it has the nutritional value of cardboard. So, from now on I am going to try to stick with the saying; "if its made from a plant it's okay, if it comes from a plant stay away." It's not easy, but my health depends upon it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Remembering Uncle Clyde

On Wednesday of last week, my Uncle Clyde passed away. For the last five years, he has been on his own since my aunt died, and last year my oldest cousin (his eldest son) passed away suddenly. Needless to say he slowly slipped away over this time.

As a child, I remember him as a large imposing figure. He and my aunt and their three boys lived in the house that my mother and aunt grew up in. It was an old rambling house with many rooms and had a good amount of land. I loved going up there for family get-togethers such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. My uncle, who was a OBGYN, had a very strong personality with a quick temper, which was well feared by the nurses he worked with. Once such example of his infamous temper occured one Christmas when I was a child. Uncle Clyde had been given an electric knife, and my aunt had cooked a turkey which looked all brown and beautiful when she pulled it out of the over. However, she had forgotten to thaw the bird before cooking it and when my uncle tried to cut a piece, the knife siezed in the frozen flesh below the skin. In a fit of anger, he flung open the back door and hurled the turkey, knife and all, into the snow. At the tender age of 6 or 7 I was stunned and ran into the livingroom to announce what had happened to my mother and all the guests. I remember a large commotion as everyone jumped up and ran into the kitchen to help fix the situation. My uncle jokingly gave me a hard time for "telling on him".

My uncle an accomplished woodworker, welder, electronics technician, potter, silversmith, skeet marksman, and auto mechanic to name just some of his talents.. For my 21st birthday he made me hammered silver cuff bracelet, which I occasionally wear. In his apartment at the retirement village, there are many pieces of furniture that he made that are indistinquishable from pieces one would see in a furniture shop. His artistry with wood is well known in the family and everyone considers themselves very lucky to have a piece crafted by him. He also loved St Bernard dogs and had several as the years went by. I always get a chuckle when I see one photograph of him dressed in a knight costume for Halloween with one of the dogs, which was displayed in the livingroom at their house.

Since my aunt died about 8 years ago, my uncle has lost some of the vigor he exhibited. I don't know if it was a result of old age or the realization of his own mortality. He still "told it like it was", but his inner light was somewhat faded. He did get quite ill with cancer, which he beat to some extent, but then last year when his oldest son died, he really began to go downhill. I can only imagine the anguish that caused and I can understand that his whole purpose for living would take a huge hit. My oldest cousin was the most vibrant of the three boys and made such a difference in his community that it was not only my uncle who lost something that day. In the last few months his decline was swift and his death was really a blessing to ease his suffering. His ashes will be buried Saturday with a memorial service to follow.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The English Language

I read an editorial a while back about people saying "oh my God!" and the writer thought it was very bad. He, being a Christian man, was highly offended. It never occurred to me that it could an objectionable expression. However, the other night I watched an episode of Extreme Makeover - Home Edition that feature a woman from Jamaica who had her house, and her whole neighborhood, renovated. At the end of the show she and her family got to go through the house and marvel at the transformation. They went running through the house and all the said was "oh my God!" over and over again whenever they went into the room for the first time. As I was watching, I thought about editorial I read. I wasn't necessarily offended by her outbursts, but after a few times, I really got tired of hearing it. It began to grate on my nerves so I changed the channel and turned my attention to something else.
My late step-father had his doctorate in English and would often remark that Americans by and large have a very limited vocabulary. He would say that there are so many words in the English language and we use about a tenth of them. Some of them aren't even in the proper dictionary! I think that he blamed the education system mostly, but he also lamented that people are just plain lazy.

It's hard to learn a new word. You have to remember the word, remember how to use the word properly, and then think about when to use that word again. When you write, you can always cheat and use the tools in your word processor to help you find another word in its place. But when you are speaking you have to remember that you already said that would and it's hard to not say it again. In a situation when excitement takes over, you are overwhelmed and your brain can get stuck on the same phrase over and over again. It's easy to become repetitive without realizing it. I suppose if one is more versed in their vocabulary, one might be able to vary one's speech. But in the heat of the moment one finds themselves blurting out the same expletive over and over again without thinking about it.

I often wonder about the origin of language. How did it grow from the simple utterances that the very early humans made? How did the early human realize that they had the ability to form words and decide that "milk", for example, means a white liquid that comes from mammals? I find it fascinating.