Moderation

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“Everything in moderation.”  Indeed, one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, expounded on the virtues of moderation.  But what does “moderation” really mean?

Heart disease runs in my family and everyday, I am reminded of, saddened, and humbled by its ramifications.  We may believe we’re doing everything right–eating a balanced diet and working out–but there is still more confusion and contradicting expert opinions than clear and hard evidence.   How much is related to genetics vs. diet and lifestyle is still unknown.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to surmise what a moderate level of a substance or activity when it comes to certain ingredients in our food supply.

When I lived in New York City, I went to a sushi restaurant in downtown Manhattan with some friends, one of whom claimed that sushi is “healthy” and then emphatically stated, “Everything in moderation.”  I am aware that most restaurants likely are using genetically modified organisms (GMO) and artificial ingredients in their food.  At sushi restaurants, I am especially concerned about GMO salmon, GMO soy-based products, and artificial flavors or colors.  Not to mention that I am even more leery of the freshness and quality of raw fish.  There has also been some news about restaurants swapping tuna and salmon for lower-quality, cheap fish (and a lot of these fish have been farm-raised on GMO feed and antibiotics).  So, while I ate my spicy tuna roll without a peep for the sake of being social, a very small part of my brain was freaking out and quietly screaming, “How can GMO salmon be okay in moderation?  Why don’t people know what is in their food? What is moderation?”

When it comes to most restaurant items, unless the restaurant specifies otherwise, there is no way to determine the quality of the food and whether it has GMOs or artificial ingredients.  These ingredients have been linked to heart disease, cancer and obesity and have zero nutritional value.*  However, there is still much debate on the (1) effect and (2) amount of these ingredients that contribute to disease.

Thus, a “moderate” amount of these ingredients in our diet cannot be reasonably estimated.  In other words, a safe level of consumption (if any) cannot be determined with the current data and research.  We cannot say with any level of certainty that any amount of GMO and artificial ingredients are safe once a week, once a month or once a year.  Given the lack of evidence and varying opinions, my personal stance is that the consumption of any ingredients that may be linked to harm and have no nutritional value is not wise, even in moderation (whatever that entails).

I am not saying “don’t go to restaurants” or “don’t eat sushi.”  I am saying that when it comes to consuming GMO and artificial ingredients (whether in sushi, soda or in any other processed foods), “moderation” is not an excuse.  Perhaps “ignorance is bliss” is a more accurate philosophy because it is up to each individual to make a decision about how much risk is acceptable in keeping ourselves willfully blind of our dietary choices.

Even if a particular food has health benefits or some nutritional content, moderation is different for each person.  One may be able to consume two cups of coffee a day, while another may be unable to sleep at night after consuming half a cup in the morning.  One may be able to enjoy a glass of red wine every night with dinner, but half a glass of wine may be too much for another.

Moderation, it seems, is a matter of individual perspective.  However, if we really wanted to be honest with ourselves, “everything in moderation” is often a guise for masking our own willful ignorance.

*See http://responsibletechnology.org/doctors-warn/, http://enhs.umn.edu/current/5103/gm/harmful.html; but see https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2014/09/17/the-debate-about-gmo-safety-is-over-thanks-to-a-new-trillion-meal-study/#18151f9c8a63; http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2015/07/are_gmos_safe_yes_the_case_against_them_is_full_of_fraud_lies_and_errors.html

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Motivation

Motivation

Workout motivation, or as I would call it: gym-tivation, is tough to come by if you are overwhelmed with responsibilities, sleep-deprived or are just bored out of your mind.

After skipping the gym for days, I had a great workout today. Here are some tips to motivate yourself to move (indoors or outdoors):

  1. Sleep.  When I lack sleep, I can’t exercise as well, and when I don’t exercise, I don’t sleep well (bad cycle).  Break out of this pattern by ensuring you get a good night’s rest.
  2. Look the part.  Never underestimate the power of cute workout clothes and accessories.  I am not saying that you must shell out a fortune, but wear something that is comfortable and makes you look good.  When you look good, you will feel good and motivated.  Set out your clothes, shoes and accessories the night before so that they are within your line of sight as soon as you are ready to workout. Even if you don’t feel like working out, put on your workout clothes anyway.  As long as you’re dressed for the part, you are more likely to exercise.
  3. Warm up.  Have some green tea and relax before the workout.  Breathe deeply.  Listen to upbeat music and do some stretches.
  4. Have fun.  Find out what you enjoy to do physically (run, dance, jump, jog, yoga, pull, push).  Take a new class that you had been curious about and try something new.
  5. Do something (anything).  If you are just not feeling it, give yourself some measure or goal to reach.  For example, aim to stay on the treadmill for X minutes, run at least Y miles, or until you burn Z amount of calories.   Even a short workout is better than none.  Reaching an attainable goal will make you feel more productive and more likely to exercise again.  For when you feel really exhausted, try something relaxing like yoga.
  6. Music.  I love listening to music when working out. It’s my chance to disconnect from the world, social media, all sorts of nagging thoughts about what I need to get done, and just enjoy my alone time.  Depending on my mood, my workout repertoire can be either upbeat or relaxing.
  7. Get support.  A gym buddy can either help or detract.  I tend to workout best alone, but I also keep promises I make to other people.  So when I really need motivation to exercise, I ask a friend to join me to go for a walk or take a new class.
  8. Schedule.  Put it in your schedule / day planner.  Not only will it be a good reminder, but when you schedule something, you can visualize what your day looks like and what type of workout fits in with the rest of the day’s activities.  On a similar note, sometimes, scheduled classes offered at gyms or studios help me stay on track.
  9. Make it a habit.  It becomes easier to do something if you make it habit.  You don’t need motivation to brush your teeth in the morning or take a shower, do you?  It’s because those activities have been so ingrained that you don’t question whether you should do them. For tips on how to change or form new habits, see Changing Habits.
  10. Rest.  The frequency and intensity of your workout sessions will depend on your schedule, personality and body.  However, everyone needs some rest.  Allow yourself at least one or two rest days each week to give your body a chance to heal and become stronger.

What’s your gym-tivation?