A Loving Gift

One of the perks about being a guest blogger is that I may contribute my thoughts and perspectives basically only when I feel compelled to do so. Most likely the coming of Valentine’s Day had something to do with my stream of consciousness reflecting about love and gifting, specifically about how the most loving gifts are those that possess significant and lasting qualities. Perhaps because of Cupid’s presence in the air, an insight partnered with an inner voice urged me to involve you in my notions.

I think we’d all agree that gifts are one of the pleasures of life. Who doesn’t enjoy ripping paper off the outside of a box or pulling tissue from the inside of a bag to reveal a special “surprise” that someone who loves us cared enough to look for, decide on, purchase, wrap, and then give? Greater yet is the joy we derive from watching the “I’m loved” expression of someone we’ve gifted. Any gift carries with it the essence of love, but this is especially so when it’s an enduring gift.

Since this is a blog about choosing to live a healthy lifestyle, what could be more loving (or longer lasting) than the gift of health? The Kitchen Remix and this blog certainly are, in a sense, being handed to you to “open” and then reap benefits from by the “blender-full!” The suggestions and tips the Kitchen Remix ladies afford enable you to re-mix your kitchen so that it provides you with better nutrition and ultimately then, better health. Now that’s a whole lot of love!

Ingredients for Health

If The Kitchen Remix could bottle health, what ingredients would be included? How many items would there be? Would they all be attainable by the average person in today’s society? Before viewing that magic list, however, it is important to realize that components of health cannot be listed in order from greatest to least amount as most other product labels have. Rather, the contents (makings) of lasting health are synergistic, interacting with each other in combination to produce something much greater than just adding them together one at a time. In other words, adding greens to your diet to improve your health doesn’t do as much good as combining greens with a positive attitude about your health.

You’re most likely thinking, “Okay then, just what constitutes good health anyway?” Well, to begin with, it must be noted that three prominent parts of human beings cooperatively interact to produce whole wellness: spirit, mind, and body. Yes, we, as human beings, must remember that we’re not just a conglomeration of cells surrounding a bunch of bones. We also have a mind through which we learn and then begin to think for ourselves. In addition, we possess a soul, our inner being that is spiritual. Each of these three distinctive human qualities needs to be nurtured for overall health.
Of the three separate parts that make us a whole person, it’s the body that seems to be the “boss.” Unless our physical needs are met first, it’s difficult to stimulate or influence the mind or spirit. Think back to a day when, for some reason, you had to skip lunch or it was skimpy. Later in the afternoon, you have a meeting or class to attend. As your boss or the speaker begins, your mind drifts (intentionally, most likely, because of the “growling”) to food (or the lack thereof). There’s no ability to focus on processing information through your mind; the body’s need must be met first! Or ask your child’s teacher if he/she can effectively inspire a classroom full of lunch-ready students. The missionary will confirm this theory too with actual experiences of the necessity to provide food/shelter for refugee people before their minds/spirits are open to hearing about God. (Note: In some instances, mental and spiritual needs can be fulfilled before physical needs are met, but it takes someone who possesses an enormous amount of internal motivation to do so. Consider Mahatma Gandhi who assumed the extreme consequences of a hunger strike for a higher moral purpose.)

Body’s Essentials for Health
Because our bodies demand our immediate attention, the remainder of this article will be devoted to addressing the improvement and maintenance of physical health. First, it’s time for a quiz. So, take out a piece of paper…(just kidding), but in some way, think of and then list those factors you would say contribute to optimum physical health. I’m providing a cute little stick figure complete with a happy-face sun to give you hints. (Sorry, my artistic ability doesn’t allow for much more!) Take a minute or two to think, and keep the stick figure in mind as you do so. (You may even want to draw your own little stick figure!)

Stick Figure with Sun

How many different contributors to vitality did you come up with? Did you have at least four or five? Hopefully the stick figure helped you. Maybe you came up with the basic six needs of our bodies that we need to nurture in order to have great health. It doesn’t matter what order you listed them because they are all equally important.
Your Body’s Essentials for Health list should include:

Nutritious Life-Giving Food

Yes, food! Most of you may have thought of this one first. If you drew your own stick figure, circle its tummy to represent this very basic need.

The Kitchen Remix is devoted to promoting healthy food choices through eating a plant-based diet. Their mission statement says it all. These ladies view themselves as stewards of their bodies; they believe that taking care of the body now is a smart investment for the future. They understand that the way they treat their bodies today is the same way those bodies will treat them tomorrow!

Processed, denatured, adulterated, and then packaged in cardboard, tin, or plastic – how else can we describe what the food industry calls nourishment? We cook nature’s edible gifts until they’re colorless, flavorless, and nutrition-less; then we color them with artificial dyes, flavor them with artificial flavorings, and “fortify” them with artificial vitamins and minerals. We remove the fiber and add a fancy label to make food sound better than it really is. We salt and sweeten foods until their original taste is long forgotten. We irradiate and genetically modify to our heart’s content…or rather to our heart’s demise. What else can we possibly do to the source of our nourishment to make it any more detrimental for our bodies? The sad fact is, much of what we consume is poison to our bodies and certainly does not contribute to health but instead leaves us, at the least, somewhat malnourished. What’s worse, however, is that some “foods” cause “dis-ease” to our hearts, kidneys, blood, digestive system, and on and on.

For the best and most nutrients, eat foods that are as close to authentic as possible. Fresh raw fruits, vegetables, sprouts, microgreens, nuts, and seeds make the finest staple foods, along with whole grains that are best suited for human consumption. If you choose to eat animal products, make sure they are hormone free and organic. Mary Ellen and Stephanie have been sharing numerous recipes with ingredients of this ilk to help you effectively get back to the basics of eating good tasting as well as good-for-you food.

Fresh Pure Water

We might circle the stick figure’s mouth on this one.

Equally important as food for good health, water is actually even more crucial. We all know that a person can survive without food for quite awhile but can last only a short time without water. It is indeed a most precious resource. But alas, even our water supply has become polluted. We have fluoridated, chlorinated, and contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, left-over medicines (drugs) to the extent that what now comes out of the faucet cannot be given to an infant. So the food industry “fixed” that problem by offering bottled water by the gallons in numerous varieties including spring, artesian, filtered, distilled, and water specifically for babies. Of course, all this water in sold in plastic bottles, which can leach harmful chemicals of their own.

So what’s the answer? How can we get pure water? Definitely a filtration system is necessary. There are a lot of products by various brands out there that can be purchased so that a water supply can be stored in the refrigerator. If it is affordable for you, there are also more permanent water systems that hook up at the source of your drinking water supply. With a little effort, obtaining clean, pure water is possible.

Another factor concerning water is not just the drinking of it. Bathing or showering with chlorinated water is more dangerous for your body because the shower steam has a greater amount of chlorine than in the water since chlorine evaporates from water even at fairly low heat. Not only do you absorb the chlorine through your skin but you also inhale the fumes through your lungs. So why is chlorine bad for your body? I mean, after all, it does kill bacteria. But the fact remains: Chlorine is a toxic chemical. It can contribute to or aggravate respiratory conditions, make your hair dry and brittle, cause rashes on your skin or make it dry, flaky, and itchy, and irritate the eyes. If possible, install a shower water filter or have a filter put in where the water line comes into your home. The good news is that chlorine is easy to filter out of drinking or bathing water! For more information, you may want to visit http://www.bidness.com/esd/showering.htm. It just happened to be the first one I checked out for more details, but there are any number of resources available on this topic.

Physical Exercise

The Kitchen Remix ladies have touted the benefits of combining physical activity along with healthy food choices. And they practice what they preach. Let’s face it – our bodies were made to move!

In the distant past, people did not think about movement as an exercise simply because most jobs were manual. Back then, workers lifted, hauled, pushed, carried, etc. with their own arms and legs. They often used animals to aid them, but a lot was done by the worker him/herself. Yes, even the women had it physically tough, often carrying water or loads of washing, laboring in the kitchen kneading dough or canning jar after jar of garden produce that they raised in a garden from seed. That garden had to be tended, and that included planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting along with the cleaning, preparing, etc. Plenty of movement took place from sun up to sun down. I still remember my grandmother and mother working long hours in the garden to produce a sizable amount of winter fare.

Since the Industrial Revolution introduced machines to help mankind with work, our society has become plagued with the ramifications of “making life easier.” We ride to work in motorized vehicles instead of walking or peddling. We step on escalators, push remotes, wheel our luggage, and propel the mower effortlessly (well almost) through the lawn. Most employees today are concerned more about quality of chair they’ll be using rather than the quality of shoes they will be wearing. Of course, there are exceptions to this, but by and large, most work is done from a seated position. It’s no wonder that our society gave birth to workout facilities; obviously that industry has grown faster than the speed of your morning run (if that’s part of your routine)!

As Mary Ellen attested to just recently in her last post, there are a myriad of physical exercise choices in which to participate. What’s important is picking one or two that are enjoyable to you and get moving! Be sure you include some cardio along with something to improve strength, flexibility and balance. Exercise is not discriminate; it works for everyone at all ages. As a yoga instructor, I continually see clients’ conditions improved through deep breathing, stretching, balancing, and building endurance. Try a class or two; most studios offer first one free. If whatever you try does not fit you, keeping looking until you find what works. It may even be just working out with your Wii in the privacy of your own home.

Fresh, Clean Air

Easy one for sure – circle the nose!

Included in the effects of “making life easier” through the use of motorized vehicles and machinery, is the tainting of the source of life that is even more vital than water or food. Survival without air is limited to only a few minutes. If it’s foul or laden with pollutants, then the body suffers. Oh, perhaps not immediately, but eventually breathing impure air will take its toll on internal organs as well as on our external and largest organ, the skin. Factories manufacture products that suit our lifestyles, but often we pay the price for their production in the air we breathe. We feel compelled (and almost righteous) to condemn cigarette/cigar smoking in public areas, yet not think twice about spraying our bodies with toxic loaded perfumes or cleaning our homes with poisonous cleansers. Farmers find that profit margins increase when they control weeds and insects with preventatives dispensed in the form of sprays. These deadly toxins spewed forth from planes harm (and even kill) more than just the intended targets.

What to do? Inside: create a living environment that is as non-toxic as possible. Get rid of harsh chemical cleaners and make use of plain vinegar or lemon juice. Once again, there are companies devoted to making “user-friendly” products that have no dangerous side effects. Whether it’s in the laundry room, kitchen, or bathroom, protect the air you and your family breathe by eliminating caustic fumes. Perhaps an air filter may be necessary if you live in a particularly bad air setting.

Outside: Of course, unless we take to living in a bubble, we live and work in areas we cannot control. When possible, avoid areas with contaminants – busy streets, manufacturing plants, sprayed fields, etc. Wear a protective mask when necessary. Do your personal part in keeping the air pure and life enhancing.

Rest and Sleep

Since both usually involve closing the eyes, that’s what to circle here.

In our busy stress-filled lives, we often “burn the candle at both ends.” One area of health that generally gets neglected is sleep. Our minds keep our bodies awake. Ironically, although our lives have been made “easier”, we seem to be busier. Yes, you may say, that’s the way things get done, dreams become reality, inventions are created, books are written, and you’re right. However, it’s all about balance and choices we often make. It requires much discipline to be self-disciplined, to get things done in a timely fashion and to choose those things that are actually important to complete.

We could probably include the ears on this one too. In order to rest, most of us need quietness. There’s a lot of “noise” in the world, and even though pollution of this type doesn’t seem to directly affect our health, indirectly it does if we cannot attain an adequate amount of rest and uninterrupted sleep. Making time to close the computer, turn off the music, close the eyes, get still, quiet the mind, can be part of that spiritual health referred to earlier. It can even be part of your exercise program, especially if it includes some yoga.

For ample rest and quiet, carve out some time in your day to do just that. We are thinking creatures so inevitably thoughts will come; however, think of them as clouds floating by or a ship sailing away, and just let them go. Focus instead on breathing and just letting your mind be filled with peace. Perhaps this time may become for you an opportunity to pray.

Maintaining adequate sleep often is a by-product of getting enough physical exercise and eating healthy foods. It’s also that matter of time management, making sure you get yourself to bed early enough to get those eight hours if that’s what it takes for you to be your best throughout the day. Of course, there are always “things” that come up – a deadline, a crisis, a sick child, a friend who just needs to talk. Just know those are the exceptions in life (and often the memory makers). Vow to get back on schedule as soon as you can.

Adequate Sunshine

Did this one have you stumped? It’s usually the last one considered. (Even the smiley sun was a clue!)

I’m sure you are thinking, “Now wait a minute, the sun is our enemy. It is to be shunned; we are to be protected from it.” We have evidence that you are correct in plain sight on the Health & Beauty Aid shelves of department stores everywhere. Sunscreens abound with numerous skin protection factors, the higher the number the more shielding. Move to the Cosmetic Department, and you know you’ll find the same story. Most all face and lip moisturizers, considered to be of any benefit, all advertise that they include a sunscreen. We’ve all seen skin leathered by the sun and decided then and there not to let that happen to us. So we lather on the defense and go on our merry way, oblivious of the fact that our Vitamin D supply is slowly being depleted.

The sun is the best source for supplying our bodies with this nicknamed “sunshine vitamin.” The secret is not overdoing sun exposure. As little as 20-30 minutes a day in the sun can give us the Vitamin D we need to keep bones healthy and ward off depression. During the winter, it is a challenge to get the sun our bodies need, but do your best. Sneak in a mid-day walk or do your work in front of a sunny window. Not only will you satisfy your body’s sunshine need, but you’ll also find that time in the sun lifts your spirits, warms you inside and out, and can help heal wounds and injuries. Don’t be afraid of the sun, but learn to respect it. Have you ever noticed how animals like to sun themselves? Dogs and cats both will often find a sunny spot and just sit or lie there soaking up the warmth. Remember, it’s from the sun that we receive the essence of life on earth.

(As a side note, tanning beds, sprays, and lotions all carry with them potential health risks. Get your glow from the real tanner, not from fake tanning.)

Well, there you have it – the ingredients for health. As you celebrate Valentine’s Day, perhaps you’ll let a little of your love be channeled towards becoming healthier. Perhaps you’ve gleaned an idea or two to help you internalize that focus. Perhaps you now realize that taking care of this gift of your body is a true act of love.

Resources – Facts:
http://www.ewg.org (Environmental Working Group)

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