An Ode To Salad

spinach chicken pomegranate salad

You know how this is going to go. There will be water. There will be the most brilliant colors. There will be crunches and snaps. All contained in one bowl, on one plate, and in one menu selection. The salad. Once the ubiquitous starter to every meal. Now a veritable palate of opportunities to engage with fresh food during every course of the meal. A salad can be plain, as in said starter, composed of vibrant green lettuce, sweating cucumber slices, and a ruby red tomato tossed in here and there. A salad can be complex; an entree bursting with the purple of radishes, the orange of carrots, the yellow of a pepper. There is no limit to the number of ingredients in a salad. A salad with steak is carnivorous. A salad with beans is not. You can eat a salad filled with sweet and luscious fruits for breakfast. You can mix in yogurt or cream to create a dessert. You can even eat a “garbage” salad consisting of all the leftovers in your fridge. A salad is perhaps the most flexible food assembly available on the planet.

And there’s more to a salad than the pleasing colors and fresh taste. A salad arrives holding your health in each and every bite. A salad can deliver a full spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in every serving; Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, calcium, zinc, and selenium, to name a few. The same salad can adapt to satiate your hunger for more of one healthy category than another, as directed by your cravings. A salad can also act as Mother Nature’s messenger, delivering nutrients appropriate to the changing seasons: more Vitamin C in the winter and Vitamin A in the summer. A salads health can morph and change to meet the evolving demands of our bodies each and every day: perhaps more folate for the pregnant women among us. A salad delivers more health in one bite than any other item on the menu.

A salad is, quite possibly, natures perfect food. 

EATING THEIR WORDS: SOCIAL MEDIA’S INFLUENCE ON ORTHOREXIA NERVOSA

Orthorexia & Social Media

Welcome to PamSalvadore.com and my health and nutrition blog. This blog was established to try and bring a semblance of sanity and reason back into discussions about food and your health. Today, we’re discussing social media’s influence on orthorexia nervosa. As you will see, this new eating disorder is fast becoming widespread and I believe that social media has a role in that. But don’t take my word for it. I’ve analyzed several studies to draw my conclusions. Links to these studies are available here and you should use them to draw your own conclusions. I am merely here to bring the topic to your attention. So, without further adieu, let’s discuss social media’s influence on orthorexia nervosa. 

Fully 90% of US adults use the Internet. Furthermore, 72% of those users visit social media websites and 12% of those social media users consider social media their primary resource for health related information. Those are some pretty startling statistics. If you were to apply that to the US population, that means that of the 234.5 million people using social media, 28.1 million people are using social media to find information about health issues. That’s 28.1 million people turning to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube to learn how to treat their bodies in sickness and in health. That’s crazy when you consider the fact that you or I could go onto one of those social media platforms and tell people what is best or worst for their health. You or I!! I am not a certified medical professional. Are you? 

Now, let’s whittle down these numbers and apply them to a demographically targeted disease. Approximately 80-90% of social media users are young adults 18-29 years old. Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, bulemia, and binge eating disorder are the most prevalent among young adults 18-29 years old. Hence, it stands to reason that a good number of young adults are using social media to discuss their disorders and/or find further information about their disorders. Think about that. These are impressionable young adults seeking information about a potentially fatal disorder from a platform populated by users with no requirement for licensure or credentials necessary before posting their advice. 

So why is that dangerous? Eating disorders in general rely heavily on the concepts of body image and body dissatisfaction to produce disordered eating. Social media provides a one-stop shop to gain both anecdotal and medically proven information and images representative of both categories. For the average young user, social media has become the new group conversation where young adults compare notes about the latest diets and fads. However, instead of a small group of trusted friends giving their input, social media broadens the base of participants exponentially and anyone can chime in.

Orthorexia nervosa is quite literally the newest eating disorder on the block. People suffering from orthorexia nervosa are obsessed with eating food that’s perceived to be healthy and rejecting food that is not…to the point of malnutrition and severe bodily harm. 

That leads me to my question: Is there a link between social media use and the rise of the eating disorder, orthorexia nervosa?

FIRST OF ALL, WHAT IS ORTHOREXIA NERVOSA?

According to Dr. Steven Bratman, orthorexia nervosa is an eating disorder described as the “pathological obsession with healthful eating.” Orthorexia nervosa has also been described as the “maniacal obsession in the pursuit of healthy foods.” Formed of the greek words ortho meaning “straight” or “correct” and orexi meaning appetite, orthorexia literally means correct appetite. The formal definition of orthorexia nervosa is “disordered eating driven by the need to follow an obsessively rigid diet designed to promote good health.” Dr. Bratman was the first to describe orthorexia nervosa to the general public, he coined the term orthorexia nervosa, and he wrote a book about it in 2000. Subsequently, no further mention of orthorexia nervosa was made until an Italian study pursued Bratman’s finding and concurred in 2004. The Italian paper lent credibility to Bratman’s description of the condition and the attention the study garnered brought orthorexia nervosa into the medical lexicon.  The Italian study goes on to describe orthorexia nervosa as a situation in which “purity of food is valued above all else, including deleterious health effects.” The study proposes that those who suffer from the disease “feel anguish when not eating healthfully, obsessiveness with planning and preparing healthy meals, and a sense of superiority over others regarding diet.” Orthorexia nervosa can be diagnosed by the establishment of certain criteria:

  • Does the patient show a preoccupation with eating “healthy foods” focusing on concerns regarding the quality and composition of meals, not the mere quantity?
  • Is this obsessional preoccupation impairing to the patient’s physical health in the form of malnutrition or causing distress in their social, academic, or vocational lives?
  • Is this disturbed eating pattern an exacerbation of another disorder, such as obsessive compulsive disorder?
  • Is this behavior accounted for as a tenant of religious beliefs, a requirement of a professionally diagnosed food allergy, or a diet ordered to mediate a specific medical disease?

There are several more in-depth diagnostic tools to measure the occurrence and/or depth of the disease. However, the following case studies show just how severe the disease can be:

  • 28 year-old woman with severe malnutrition including low protein levels and vitamin B12 deficiency, with a body mass index of 10.7, who was not interested in being thin or looking a certain way. She justified her behavior by explaining that certain proteins and nutrients combined in the same meal had a toxic effect in the body and were to be avoided at all costs. This woman ate nothing more than raw vegetables.
  • 30 year-old man who is bedridden after restricting his diet to 3-4 spoons of brown rice and vegetables per day. He did not report a desire to be thin or change the way he looks. He simply believed that the restricted diet would cure him from a facial tic. This man spent 38 days in the hospital to treat metabolic acidosis, subcutaneous emphysema, a collapsed lung, and pancytopenia.
  • A 33 year-old woman who maintained a diet of only fresh fruits, raw vegetables, and uncooked eggs for eight years primarily because she was concerned that cooking the food would rob it of its nutritional qualities. While she did not express any desire to be thin or alter her looks, she was so obsessed with eating only raw food that she cut ties with her friends and family. At a BMI of 14.5 she required medical intervention. Her bout of orthorexia nervosa eventually gave way to a psychotic break, although her doctors did not feel that the two were related.
  • A 28 year-old man who presented with a BMI of 12.3 due to the consumption of homemade protein shakes and nothing else. The patient believed that his homemade shakes were superior to store-bought brands in that they did not contain fillers and additives. The patient referred to his body as a temple and designed his diet to give it only the “pure building blocks” that it required to be healthy. Once again, the patient did not express any interest in his body weight or the way he looked. 

These are extreme cases, but orthorexia nervosa is an extreme disease. I wish the researchers had a chance to ask these patients where they found the information that led them to such severe restrictions.

It should be noted that, currently, orthorexia nervosa is not classified as it’s own eating disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It falls under the catch all category of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder or ARFID. Bratman and his cohorts believe that orthorexia nervosa should be classified as it’s own disorder because ARFID also includes patients with disorders caused by negative associations between food and adverse events, such as choking, that have nothing to do with the symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Orthorexia nervosa is much more prevalent in foreign countries such as Spain 86%, Brazil 81.9%, and Austria 69.1%. Perhaps the US just hasn’t caught up and shown enough prevalence to warrant it’s own diagnostic criteria and status in the DSM-5. Regardless, much more research is necessary.

NOW, LET’S LOOK AT SOCIAL MEDIA:

According to a recent Pew Research survey, the typical social media user is 18-29 years old, makes good money, is not married, and lives in their own home. The average social media user spends their time among the most popular social media sites as follows:

Pew research sm user profile

Pew research footnote for sm user table

Furthermore, social media users are young. According to the same Pew Research survey, social media is most popular among Adults 18-29, however it is also gaining popularity with older demographics.

Pew research sm users 18-24

These same users are frequent. 74% of Facebook users and 60% of Instagram users visit their respective sites at least once daily.

Pew Research SM daily users

In a recent study of health related users on Twitter, 53% of the 700 Twitter posts analyzed contained a testable claim (supported by medical evidence) and 61% made testable statements. That means that of health related posts curated from Twitter, 61% made testable statements that may or may not contain verifiable facts and/or peer reviewed scientific studies that back that claim. Furthermore, the study found that 56% of users with no formal profile posted health-related content, whereas 61% of health providers (such as doctors and nurses) primarily shared testable claims and news with verifiable links to click on. That’s a broad spectrum of information being presented by a very diverse group of people.

So social media is real. It’s here to stay, and it is perceived as a safe space in which to discover information and provide feedback regarding that information, with no requirement regarding the quality or veracity of said information.

CURRENT DIET TRENDS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Here’s a quick snapshot of the number of posts specific to a particular highly restrictive diet trend on Instagram, as of April 5, 2018:

  • The Whole 30 – 3,517,417 posts
  • ketogenic diet – 1,277,555 posts
  • nom nom paleo – 12,199, 398 posts
  • gluten free – 19,931,783 posts

Remember, these are all posts by users that are not verified and/or credentialed in their assertions. Is it possible that some of these posts informed orthorexic behavior? 

ARE SOCIAL MEDIA USE AND EATING DISORDERS, SUCH AS ORTHOREXIA NERVOSA, CONNECTED?

According to a recent study of 1765 young adults aged 19-34 years old, those who fell within the highest quartiles for social media usage, both in volume and frequency, had significantly greater odds of having an eating disorder. Furthermore, the study suggests that certain social media platforms may be more attractive to the younger generation. Sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat pride themselves on visual content such as picture and infographics. These pictures may expose users to influential visual material, such as those images used to establish body image and self perception, major factors in eating disorders. The social media sites are cognizant of these problems. Instagram even went so far as to ban certain hashtags, such as #thinspiration and #thinspo in an effort to combat images that jeopardize body image and self perception. The study concluded that “a strong and consistent association between social media and eating concerns was found in a nationally representative sample of young adults.”

In another recent online survey of 680 social media users that follow health accounts, study authors, Turner and Lefevre, found a significant relationship between the symptoms of orthorexia nervosa and Instagram use. Additionally, the study revealed a somewhat protective effect against orthorexia nervosa generated by posts on Twitter. After careful consideration of the questions and the manner in which they were presented, the authors concluded that three factors were the most likely contributors to these results:

  • The authors found that the image focused nature of Instagram lent itself well to the browsing activities of food-focused users. It is the authors belief that the ability to see images is particularly motivating, whereas the text focused, character limited nature of Twitter is thought not to compliment food-focused browsing in the same way. 
  • The authors found that the fact that social media allows the user to control what feeds they see, creating a form of tunnel vision in which the user only sees the information they want to and excludes contrary points of view.
  • The authors also noted the prevalence of “eminence-based practices” on social media, wherein users with large followings are perceived to be authorities, regardless of their credentials or the validity of their recommendations. 

This is the first study I’ve seen that definitively claims that social media (Instagram specifically) has an effect on the rising occurrence of orthorexia nervosa symptoms. Of course, further studies need to be conducted, however this is groundbreaking work when you consider that orthorexia nervosa has not yet been validated as an eating disorder via inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

ANSWERING THE QUESTION

Orthorexia nervosa is one of the newest eating disorders to be discovered. It’s prevalence has only increased while, at the same time, social media use has grown exponentially among younger adults. Given these burgeoning studies, I find it fair to say that social media absolutely impacts the instance of all eating disorders and we will likely find that it has a major influence on orthorexia nervosa alone, as we take the time to conduct more research on the growth and prevalence of that new eating disorder. What do you think? Check out the following images. Do they communicate information that could provoke orthorexia nervosa? If someone were to blindly follow the advice being offered, would their nutritional status become compromised? 

 

THE ANTI-ORTHOREXIA MOVEMENT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media’s influence is not only felt in the development of orthorexia nervosa, but in the battle to discredit it as well. A few Instagram users have created accounts that claim that orthorexia nervosa is merely the politically correct way to accept obesity. Here’s what the con side has to say:

anti orthorexia 1

anti orthorexia 2

Obviously, social media has enough of an influence on orthorexia nervosa that contrarians are using Instagram to tout their anti-orthorexia messages. 

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

First of all, we should all identify social media posts for what they are: conversation. When recommendations are made in the course of that conversation, always look for credibility. Ask yourself: Is this information credible? Does this statement point to solid scientific research that backs it up? Don’t fall for the old “according to scientific research” disclaimer. Always insist on seeing a link to the exact research supporting that claim and reading it yourself.

show me the science!

Be skeptical of all the social media posts that call for you to take some action without telling you why. Would you jump off the Brooklyn bridge just because someone told you to? No! You would want to know why that person wanted you to jump and what was to be gained by your jumping. Advice on social media is no different.

Reject bogus claims. Unfollow users who post inaccurate information. Refuse to join groups that have their foundations in “light” information. Always insist on seeing the science. No science = No joining.

Did you know that you don’t need any formal training to call yourself a nutritionist? You can go to a weekend lecture then hang out your shingle and start selling nutrition advice. The only people trained and certified to dispense nutrition advice and eating plans are Registered Dietitians and Registered Dietitian Nutritionists. Make sure that you are dealing with a well trained practitioner before you accept what they say as fact. Even with credentials, always expect to see the science. No science = No credibility. 

Be wary of advice coming from celebrity doctors. They are not your physician. They don’t know whether your body is healthy or sick. They have no idea if you are overweight, underweight, or nutritionally compromised. These are all important pieces of information that any healthcare professional needs in order to recommend any kind of eating plan. Assess the authors motivation by asking yourself why they are offering this information. Is it because they truly care about the health of the human race? Is it because they want each and every person out there to be living their best lives? Or is it because they’re selling a book and they want you to go out and buy it? Chances are there’s a less than altruistic motivation behind that inspiring post. Be skeptical. It may be the best way to stay safe. 

IMG_1984                              IMG_1986

Most importantly, do what’s right for you! Make informed decisions from credible information and share your choices with your doctor or medical specialist. Always consider how the information can both help or harm you, were you to put it into practice. Pay special attention to the young people in your life. Are your kids easily swayed by information found on social media? Are you seeing drastic changes in their behavior? You have to remember that social media has become your child’s new “group of friends.” Where parents once met their children’s friends to make sure they were good kids, they now have no way to vet the broader group of people their kids hang out with online. Have open and honest conversations with your children. Teach them to think critically about the information they read on social media. Show them how to be as skeptical and wise as you are.

Exercising rational thought and critical thinking will not only help you maintain your general health, but it will contribute to an overall improvement of our social media environment as well. The less we, as social media users, patronize less-than-credible sources and the more we reject bogus claims the better the standard for information on these sites will be. It takes a mass movement to elevate the status of what we see, but together we can make that happen.

Getting Comfortable at the Spa: A Guide to Spa Etiquette

The Greater Palm Springs area is full of world-class spas offering everything from a dip in local mineral waters to the ultimate in luxury pampering. However, those who have never visited a spa might not know what to expect the first time. Here’s everything you need to know to make the most of your spa experience.

Book Your Services

spa services in greater palm springs

What type of spa experience you are looking for? Do you simply want access to the spa’s facilities, such as the steam room and sauna? Then ask for a day spa pass. If you are looking to combine a visit to the facilities with a treatment, such as a massage, a facial, or a body wrap, then book a spa package. Many spas offer packages combining two or more treatments, but most will allow you to select your treatments a la carte.

It’s always a good idea to let the spa know if you have any special requests, injuries, or health concerns when you call to book your appointment. That way, they can match you with the therapist best suited to your needs.

When You Arrive

two bunch palms grotto in greater palm springs

Be prepared to put the world on hold as soon as you walk through the door. This means that you will be entering a quiet zone, where you will be asked to use your “whisper voice” and either silence or leave your smart phone in your locker. This is vital to ensuring a quiet, relaxing atmosphere for you and your fellow spa guests.

Dawn Ferraro, spa director at The Spa at JW Marriott Desert Springs, also recommends that you tell the front desk if this is your first time vising a spa. She says that staff will go to great lengths to make sure that you are comfortable and informed about everything you experience, from the standard health questionnaire upon arrival to a complete tour of the facility so you know what’s available to you.

Getting Ready

the spa at jw marriott desert springs

Next, you will be shown to the locker room and handed a robe and slippers for use during your visit. While it is implied that you are to emerge from the locker room with nothing on but the robe, rest assured that you only need to get as bare as you are comfortable getting. If you prefer to leave your underwear on, that is completely your decision. Spa staff will work with the level of undress with which you are comfortable.

That being said, you can expect that others may be naked in the gender specific locker rooms; however, everyone will be robed in the co-ed general areas. Always remember to bring your swimsuit, as co-ed pools and mineral baths require them.

In the locker rooms, you will most likely find the steam and sauna facilities. These wonders of natural soothing and detoxification are generally clothing optional areas. You can wrap yourself in a towel or lie down on the bench in the buff. Again, it’s all about your personal comfort.

In the Treatment Room

L'Horizon Spa in Greater Palm Springs

As you are escorted to the treatment room, your therapist will ask you questions and provide information specific to the treatment you are having. For example, if you are there for a massage, expect the therapist to ask what level of pressure you prefer. Make sure you communicate your desires clearly.

Robert Seibel, director of spa and retail for Two Bunch Palms, recommends open communication with your therapist at all times. According to Seibel, inserting a simple “I would prefer” in front of your request goes a long way toward a blissful spa experience.

When you’re ready to get started, the therapist will step out of the room to allow you to take off your robe and slip under the covers on the treatment table. Even if you’re naked under the covers, rest assured that only the areas specific to the treatment will be exposed. Your modesty will remain intact.

Tipping

massage at two bunch palms in greater palm springs

Spa therapists are skilled in the specialties they provide. Just as you would tip any talented service person, you are expected to tip a spa therapist. Many spas automatically include a gratuity for the therapist on your bill at checkout. This is to make sure that their contributions to the level of bliss and relaxation you feel upon departure do not go overlooked.

If there is no automatic tip included, it is generally expected that you contribute an 18-20% gratuity. Of course, if you’ve had a problem or negative experience, the spa wants to know about it. Raise these concerns and most spas will adjust or eliminate a mandatory gratuity.

The spa experience is one to be savored. Whether on your own or as part of a larger group, walk in knowing that the staff is there to provide quality, personalized treatments in a serene atmosphere. Take your time and soak it all in. You’ll enjoy it and it just may become your “go-to” escape the next time you require serious relaxation.

Ready for a spa day? Don’t miss these summer spa deals in Greater Palm Springs.

 

Pam Salvadore is a freelance writer and contributor to Desert Health®, a free news publication that promotes integrative health care and prevention in the Coachella Valley. For more information visit pamsalvadore.com or DesertHealthNews.com.

The Microbiome Solution: Live Dirty, Eat Clean

A Desert Health Review by Pam Salvadore

The Microbiome Solution is not your ordinary diet book. It’s more of an education in how our bodies work and how we can impact them to produce better health. Health expert and author Dr. Robynne Chutkan honed the information she shares in the book through observation, trial and error in her practice as an integrative gastroenterologist and founder of the Digestive Center for Wellness in Maryland.

Chutkan has made it her mission to help us understand how our body’s microbes influence the state of our health and the power we have to change them for the better. She is a member of the medical advisory board for The Dr. Oz Show and a regular guest covering digestive health. She was the host of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Roundtable Series and a medical consultant and on-air talent for Discovery Health Channel. Chutkan has also been featured on The Today Show, CBS This Morning,and The Doctors and is frequently interviewed as a medical expert for the Washington Post.

In her book, Chutkan defines microbiome as “all the organisms that live in or on your body.” She’s talking about bacteria, viruses, fungus, and, yes, even worms. That’s a whopping one hundred trillion microbes which can be found in or on your body at any given time. Referring to it as “the zoo inside you,” Chutkan explains how this multitude of microbes work together to support bodily functions and the importance of keeping them healthy, happy, and properly balanced.

She begins with how we attain our microbes and emphasizes getting back to nature. The most natural arrival is believed to be that which is imparted to us from our mothers, through the processes of natural childbirth and breast feeding. From there, we pick up microbes from the foods we eat and the environments we come into contact with throughout our lives. Our environment, in particular, plays a key role. It used to be that we picked up these health cohorts when we went out to play in the woods or garden in the yard. Now, children sit in front of monitors and a majority of us sit at desks all day. Chutkan stresses the importance of this contact with nature in keeping your microbiome healthy and diverse. While you can take a probiotic pill she says, it will not come close to providing the complete range of microbes that your body has worked to collect over the course of your lifetime.

Chutkan goes on to explain how illness and obesity are quite possibly the result of an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in our microbiomes, known as dysbiosis. This imbalance allows the bad bacteria to take over, forcing good microbes and bacteria out and resulting in disease. Dysbiosis is the most common disorder Chutkan sees in her practice and she believes that it very well may be the underlying explanation for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. She is also convinced that dysbiosis could provide an explanation as to why so many people have trouble losing weight. Adamant about her theory, Chutkan even went so far as to conduct a nutritional study among twelve of her patients as a means of addressing their Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis symptoms, and it worked! Her study found that dietary changes restored balance to her patients’ microbiomes and significantly relieved their symptoms. Addressing dysbiosis could well be the most simple and profound treatment for a variety of medical conditions. 

So how do we regain this delicate microbiome balance? Chutkan’s “Live Dirty, Eat Clean” plan recommends two basic tenets: first we need to “re-wild,” meaning that we need to restock the good bacteria lost to years of neglect and sanitation. Re-wilding is easily attained by stopping the bad behavior that’s killing off your bacteria and throwing your microbiome out of whack. Stop medicating your bacteria, stop scrubbing your skin every time you come in contact with an unfamiliar environment, and get outside more often. By stopping the behaviors that kill microbes, your body will be better able to regain what was lost and foster the growth and strength of the good microbes you need for optimal health.

Second, we need to feed our bacterial friends the foods that will keep them in balance, so they are able to support our health. Start eating prebiotics, foods that feed your good bacteria and encourage them to do their jobs, and stop eating junk. These two simple steps can restore harmony to your microbiome, therefore restoring overall health.

Chutkan’s “Live Dirty, Eat Clean” plan is a realistic and well thought out lifestyle program that’s full of information, recipes, and steps that allow you to take back control and influence your health for the better. Her mantra is “live a little dirtier and eat a little cleaner.”

The Microbiome Solution is an insightful, well-written and easily absorbed book that provides the education and tools to influence your health for the entirety of your life. I strongly encourage anyone interested in better health and living well to indulge in this educational insight in lieu of trendy diets that vilify, restrict, and berate food and lifestyle choices.

Pam Salvadore of La Quinta is a nutrition journalist. For more information from Pam visit her blog pamsalvadore.wordpress.com The Microbiome Solution is available at national book retailers and online. For more information visit Chutkan’s website, www.gutbliss.com.

 

Click here to read this article in Desert Health.

Closing the Door on 2016

by Pam Salvadore

As we wake to another bright and sunny desert morning, a sense of calm has settled over the valley as it is finally 2017, a new year that brings the promise and hope of things to come. 

As 2016 came to a close, the online world had much say in the usual “Year in Review” commentary. If you looked online, the world was coming to an end. Politics destroyed us and violence abounded. Despite what the great feedback loop in the cloud (AKA social media) portrayed as a world gone mad, I had a lot to be thankful for in 2016. Sure, we suffered the loss of legends David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, John Glenn, Gene Wilder, and the great Arnold Palmer, to name a few. However, as with all great losses, we will carry a piece of these pioneers forward in our hearts so we can pass their joy along to future generations. 

And, yes, there were many who proclaimed the 2016 presidential election as the most contentious of all time. However, that contention opened the eyes of a great many voters and got them involved in the process as never before. As a people, we reinvested in the governance of our nation which serves us well moving forward. 

A visit to the real world (i.e., talking to live human beings) further exposed great things that happened in 2016. A casual poll among friends came up with all kinds of good things to remember the year by: The Cubs finally won a World Series. The Coachella Valley provided the backdrop for two historic weeks of Desert Trip. A shy folk singer won the Nobel Peace Prize for communicating the thoughts of generations through his songs. Medical studies advanced our knowledge of the inner workings of the brain, opening the door for possible cures to many diseases. We fought for human rights – here at home and around the world. The Rolling Stones played a free concert in Cuba! These events made history in their own right…good history. 

As we look forward to the New Year, let’s take a collective deep breath. Ask yourself how you want to remember 2017 at this time next year. What amazing things will we accomplish both privately and collectively in the New Year? Let’s set our intention to create more good and to reject the bad. Let’s consider the perspective with which we view others. Let’s listen to others and really hear what they have to say. Let’s come together as a whole and show the world what we stand for, both as an individual and as a nation. Let’s advance progress in fighting disease and share that knowledge with all who are ill. 

In the end, these intentions will restore our faith in each other and give the Internet only good things to say. Each of us is inherently a good person. We need to let this goodness shine through and eliminate the nastiness. Goodbye, 2016. It’s been real, and we are all moving on.

Holiday Meals for the Paleo Lifestyle

By Pam Salvadore

Walker provides healthy recipes to replace holiday traditions in Celebrations

New York Times bestselling author Danielle Walker has a lot to celebrate in her new cookbook Celebrations, a collection of tasty holiday recipes she’s reformulated for those who live the Paleo lifestyle. 

Fresh-Cuisine-walkerWalker’s story is an empowering example of taking control of your body and health through nutrition. In her early twenties, she suffered an incredible battle with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease causing abdominal pain and deficient nutrient absorption, which inspired her popular blog Against All Grain and three subsequent cookbooks. Each compilation outlines the dietary changes and recipe conversions that put her disease into remission. While Walker won’t dictate “rules” to her readers, she encourages them to identify their own trigger foods and balance those with the realities of their lives. 

I recently had a chance to chat with Walker about the steps that brought her to where she is today.

DH: There are more than 200,000 new cases of ulcerative colitis (UC) diagnosed each year. Are there any long-term consequences to the condition?

DW: If symptoms are ignored, UC can lead to colon cancer and even death. You have to be proactive about taking care of yourself and cannot allow your body to stay in a flare [inflamed state] for an extended period of time. It can also cause prolonged anemia and malabsorption which can result in a host of other side effects. 

DH: Changing one’s diet can be hard for families. What has been your experience?

DW: When I first changed my diet, I was having a hard time sticking with it because others in my family were still eating things that I loved that I knew I couldn’t eat. It wasn’t long before my incredible husband decided to eat the same way I did in support of my health. He would occasionally have a burger or pasta when he was at work and would later complain that he was so tired, and how his stomach was bothering him. That’s when he realized he had a gluten intolerance. Since then, he has been 100% gluten-free and Paleo 90% of the time.

DH: More and more people are experiencing that. Do you think that certain intolerances could be the result of genetically modifying food?

DW: Absolutely. The way that certain foods are produced and modified in America is so different from other countries. I’ve heard stories of folks with celiac being able to tolerate pastas and breads on trips to Europe because the wheat is so different there. I also think a lot of it has to do with what we are spraying on our crops here in America. 

DH: Your cookbooks encourage people to cook with real ingredients. Do you find that the proliferation of gluten-free and Paleo foods on store shelves helps or hinders good health?

DW: I think it’s amazing that so many stores and restaurants are becoming more aware of food sensitivities and allergies. That being said, there are many products being marketed as gluten-free which give people the misconception that it’s healthy for you. I think that people need to realize that processed gluten-free foods should be consumed in moderation, just as you would with any snack. I love that I can find Paleo treats or snacks for my family on the market shelf, but I still make sure to check the ingredients because I find some still include additives or gums. My advice: always check the label, and make it homemade if possible. 

DH: The secret to a Paleo or gluten-free lifestyle is being aware of substitute foods. Is there any one recipe conversion that stumps you?

DW: Many people ask for a substitute for coconut flour in recipes either because they are allergic or simply don’t like the taste. Unfortunately, that is one of the hardest things to substitute as coconut flour is extremely absorbent and really unlike anything on the market. Some say you can substitute in other grain-free flours like almond flour or arrowroot starch, but I find it really does not mimic the same texture that coconut flour can provide.

DH: What is the number one thing you would encourage doctors to ask patients in similar situations to yours?

DW: I would love to see doctors begin to recognize the anecdotal evidence of so many patients finding health from a Paleo style diet and recommend that their patients give it a fair try prior to recommending some of the harsh medications. Diet may not be able to cure all, but it certainly can help prevent and manage many ailments people are popping pills for.

Celebrations is an all-encompassing guide to entertaining for holiday celebrations, large and small. Not only does Walker provide healthy alternatives to traditional trimmings, such as her apple pie and maple pumpkin pie recipes, but she also adds new twists with recipes like the vegetable bacon parcels that accompany her stuffing-filled turkey breast. In Celebrations, Walker presents the tools and encouragement to all of us who find it hard to stick with necessary, but strict, nutritional guidelines…a particularly daunting task at the holiday table. 

Walker’s books Against All Grain, Meals Made Simple, and Celebrations are available through national book retailers, Costco, and online. For more information, visit her blog at
http://www.againstallgrain.com.

Contributing writer Pam Salvadore of La Quinta is a nutrition journalist. For more from Pam visit her blog pamsalvadore.wordpress.com.

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Time To Diet: The ups and downs of finding the right fit.

by Pam Salvadore

A diet that doesn’t fit your lifestyle can lead to less-than-desirable results.

As you may recall, my most recent article discussed weight gain associated with alcohol intake during menopause (I Need a Drink, Desert Health May/June 2016). While the article was enlightening, writing it did nothing to burn the extra twenty pounds I’ve accumulated through this hormonal roller coaster that is “middle-aged.” 

So, I found myself faced with the harsh reality that it was time to go on a diet. 

Having been down the diet road before, I was not looking forward to tracking calories, exercising when I didn’t want to, and giving up my favorite foods and beverages. Subsequently, I set out to audition different diets in hopes of finding a more satisfying, yet effective, option. The four diets I explored were either new twists on old science, radical elimination set-ups, or back-to-basics calories in/calories out plans. 

First, I tried the Paleo (or “caveman”) diet. I ate pasture-raised meats, vegetables, seafood, eggs, drank bone broth, and dabbled in fermented foods (kimchi). Grains, legumes, added sugars, and dairy were strictly prohibited. On the plus side, the Paleo diet handed me a great foundation for a healthy, sustainable diet that eliminated all processed foods. The downside was that cavemen didn’t drink alcohol, and they didn’t need to shop at the local supermarket. I found the Paleo diet to be inconvenient in that I had to buy different foods for myself, while maintaining our original fare for my husband. I also missed my glass of pinot in the evening and found that I really don’t like coconut milk enough to put it in my tea. Discouragingly, at the end of my two-week Paleo audition, I’d actually gained weight!

Next I tried the Atkins diet, the infamous plan in which you eat meat and fat, but decrease your intake of carbs to less than 20 grams per day. I figured this would be easier to manipulate, as I could eat the meat and fat portion of whatever I served my husband and simply steer clear of the carbs. While eating an unlimited amount of meat was a plus to me, the downside of Atkins was that in cutting carbs, I ended up cutting out one of my favorites: fruit. After two weeks on Atkins, I felt incredibly deprived and, for this reason, found it was not a sustainable diet for me. (The scientist in me also noted the resulting nutrient imbalance from eliminating that rainbow of carb-rich fruits.) While I didn’t gain weight auditioning the Atkins diet, I did find myself constantly obsessing over what I would eat at my next meal. The fact that food was always on my mind told me that too much of it was missing from my plate. 

At this point I decided to loosen things up and simply downloaded a free caloriecounting app. I chose the Fat Secret app for its massive database of nutritional information and endless choices of foods. Unfortunately, the plus of unlimited choices turned out to be my downfall. Fat Secret was a little too permissive. Additionally, I was the one calculating how many calories I should eat in a day. That becomes a nebulous number when faced with dessert at the end of a conservative meal. Needless to say, I gained weight as well in my trial period using this unrestricted model. 

Finding a diet that works for you – and sticking to it – is the key to success.

While I had no interest in the monotony of being on a diet, I knew that Weight Watchers (WW) had worked for me in the past. I decided to see if it would work with my presently reduced metabolism. The upside of WW was that I could eat anything I wanted as long as it fit into my daily allotment of points. This allowed for a piece of chocolate after lunch and a glass of wine before dinner. WW also gave me weekly bonus points that I could use for special occasions or an evening out. I found that WW steered me toward making healthy choices, as fruits and vegetables are free, meaning I could eat them all day if I wanted to. WW also encouraged activity by rewarding it with activity points. On average, I earned 3 activity points for every 30 minutes of light exercise. I found it motivating to know that I was earning something. The downside I found with the WW program was that it required an electronic tether. I needed to access the website every time I put something in my mouth, which took the spontaneity out of eating. Then again, that spontaneity is what added the twenty pounds in the first place! WW was the only diet I tried and actually lost weight.

Overall, I found WW to be better suited to my personality and lifestyle because it provided a realistic environment that directed me toward a healthy, balanced diet. It allowed for splurges and rewarded effort. While I once thought that I had ceded all dietary control to my menopausal hormones, WW gave me back that control. In the end, I found that each diet has its own unique criteria that speak to different people for different reasons. I’m going to continue with my WW plan. 

If you find yourself in a similar position, don’t give in to the hormonal shifts in your body. Take the time to consider if you should address these hormonal changes with dietary changes of your own and find a diet that works for you. 

Contributing writer Pam Salvadore of La Quinta is a nutrition journalist. For more from Pam visit her blog pamsalvadore.wordpress.com.