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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

I Wish I Were Asleep

Monday, March 12th, 2012

As I begin typing this post it is 9:15 on Sunday night.  And if I’m being really truthful, I’d rather be turning out the lights.  Alas, I have made a commitment to post here and so I will stay up and blog.  I make this choice in part because I don’t like flaking out on blogging, and in part because my ambivalence about writing right now is opportune because I’d rather be sleeping, and the topic I’ve chosen to explore is sleep.

Sleep has been on my mind a lot lately – largely because I’m not getting enough of it.  By the time I went back to work after my first pregnancy IEP had dropped back to one overnight feeding.  He was a quick eater and I was typically only out of bed for 15 or 20 minutes and the whole thing was quite manageable.  SSP, on the other hand, is still waking up twice each night.  Like his brother he makes quick work of it and goes back down easily.  Nevertheless, there is something about getting up twice that feels more than doubly disruptive to my rest.

Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that last week was National Sleep Awareness Week and the interwebs were crawling with articles pounding my tired conscience about the importance of sleep.  And on top of that, we sprang forward yesterday, robbing me even more of my rest.  (Thank you, Huffington Post, for rubbing salt in the wound.)

So here I sit, wishing I were asleep, but yet with my eyes fixed on a glowing screen perched on my lap.  And I’m not the only one plugged into something other than my pillow   Computer – and countless other similar gadgets – are slapped with much of the blame for our overall reduction in sleep.  In prior articles I’ve read about sleep I’ve learned that in pre-electricity eras only true insomniacs were sleep deprived.  With electric lights to extend our waking hours, televisions to keep us company in the evening, and smartphones buzzing next to our heads all night long (for the record, my BlackBerry does not sleep on my nightstand) it really shouldn’t surprise any of us that sleep is seen as such a valuable (and hard to come by) commodity these days.

Here, though, is my beef with modern sleep deprivation: isn’t it largely within our control?  Can we not choose to adhere to a bedtime (as Gretchen Rubin suggests)?  Can we not opt to avoid rich and heavy meals late at night that keep our bodies from settling down?  Can we not really walk away from Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest even 30 minutes earlier each night?  I recognize that there are people for whom sleep deprivation is not just the byproduct of silly choices.  For some people – for those who work multiple jobs, or work night shifts, or travel extensively, or have children with sleep problems – sleep deprivation is a harder problem to solve.  But for most of us – myself included – a groggy morning is something we could have prevented with better decisions the night before.  And this matters, because for many people there are more serious health consequences on the line than just a groggy morning.

It is now 9:40.  I need to let the dogs out, move some laundry to the dryer, and get into my pajamas.  If I want the lights out by 10:00 I know that this post needs to draw to a close quickly.  Ten o’clock is later than I like to get to sleep, but per my own inadequacies it’s par for the course around here.  I’d do well to take my own advice – particularly until SSP starts sleeping through the night.

Teetering

Friday, October 28th, 2011

On Tuesday I went to the doctor for my weekly baby check.  I had on black leggings and a grey, black, and white printed top that is less than a dress but more than a shirt, and big enough to accommodate my 38.5 week belly.  I paired it with my favorite grey patent leather stilettos.  During my exam even my OB commented that my shoe selection was impressive for someone on the brink of childbirth.

I chose those shoes because they look nice with the outfit, but also because at this late stage of pregnancy selecting from my usual shoe wardrobe is one of the few things I can do that makes me feel normal.  (I’m lucky that my feet don’t swell during pregnancy and that heels are even still an option.)  But my pride took a dent when I came home that evening and happened across this article which shook its finger at me due to some apparent health risks of high heels.

Most of the risk to a woman’s health is from falling – twisted ankles and the like.  Because I am so gazelle-like I don’t really worry about this.  I’m kidding, though I do tend to be reasonably sure of foot in heels.  And because I work an office job and spend most of my day sitting at either a desk or a conference table I also have less concern about issues of increased pressure on the balls of my feet.  But maybe that’s a mistake.  Maybe these risks are real and I should take better care of my feet and spine.  This, however, brings me to an embarrassing objection…

High heels are so pretty and dainty.  They make me feel so feminine.  They make me taller.  And they are a whole lot of fun!

Trivial reasons all, but somehow even for a health conscious and educated person they manage to factor in.  The article comments that women wear heels for men, and I’m not so sure that’s always the case.  I know GAP appreciates the added boost in height I get when I wear heels (he’s about a foot taller than I am), but beyond that I’m pretty sure he thinks my interest in shoes is pretty ridiculous (and mine pales in comparison to some women’s).  I suppose I could get all giggly about new flats, but something about them just isn’t as exciting.

I care about shoes – heels in particular – because I like the way they look.  I like the way they can be the finishing touch on an outfit.  I like feeling a little bit fancy when I put a pair on.  But I wonder if I should set aside some of these girlie notions and think more seriously about their health implications.  I will spend most of the next three months in flats, sneakers, and shearling L.L. Bean slippers while I am nestled away on maternity leave.  I think I’ll ponder this issue further then, but I have a feeling that I’ll be back in heels for my first day back to work in January.  We shall see.

Merely a Source of Fuel

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Most of us live life on some kind of budget.  We reconcile our monthly expenses to our monthly income and determine what we can spend on everything from housing to Starbucks.  We are no exception and I make an effort to be mindful of our grocery budget, not to waste food, and to be economical (and healthy) by cooking from scratch.  That said, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thrown out a half-used bunch of Italian parsley that’s gone South, the last fourth of a quart carton of yogurt that has expired, or pitched the final portion of leftovers because it had lingered at the back of the fridge for too long.  I wince with a small amount of guilt every time this happens.  Nevertheless, it still happens pretty regularly.  I am fortunate to be able to afford these sorts of budgetary transgressions, but many people can’t.

Prompted by a meeting at the San Francisco Food Bank over the summer, chef Karl Wilder was inspired to pilot test the very budget that more than 45 million Americans must follow: food stamps.  Wilder determined that a family on food stamps can spend $1.33 per person per meal.  He then calculated that if he wanted to incorporate oil and salt into his cooking he would have to lower his per meal price to $1.22.  That meant he had a total of less than $4 per day for food.  It started as a week-long experiment, but grew into a two-month long project, which he blogged about on his site, Fusion on the Fly.

Wilder’s blog offers daily updates throughout the months of July and August, but it was his article for Huffington Post that tracked him through a week of his experiment that I found to be the most concise and captivating account of his project.  As I read through a week in the life of Karl Wilder I was struck by a number of things, but what I found most alarming was this: feeding yourself on this kind of a budget is an incredible amount of work.  This is a man who is a chef.  He knows how to buy what is in season.  He knows which independent merchants and which food markets offer the best value.  He knows how to effectively utilize ingredients that many people would find obscure.  And as best I could tell, for the duration of this experiment he had no other employment obligations.  Merely sticking to this budget was his whole job.

Consider that most people on food stamps are working multiple jobs for long hours under physically demanding conditions.  Cooking from scratch is likely the least appealing thing at the end of such a day.  Not to mention that most (would “all” be that big an exaggeration?) of them do not share with Wilder the benefit of a professional culinary education and likely don’t know how to make nearly as much of a food stamp budget as he does.

Wilder provides a great amount of detail about the foods he eats, their costs per serving, the tricks he uses to stretch ingredients, and the nutritional profile of his diet.  Having skimmed several of his posts I have learned that he offers little in the way of reflection, though.  As I glanced at the posts from the end of his experiment I was hungry for some key takeaway, some macro level epiphany about how we could help people on food stamps make more of what they have, or some insight into the food stamps existence in general.  He never offers one.  What he does offer, though, is a glimpse into what toll this kind of life has had on him.  He comments in his August 24th post that,

I admit to being bored by [this diet]. I am sick of many of the foods that work in this budget. I am ready for it to be over.

For many who live this way it may never be over. We have few jobs in the U.S. and the jobs we have often pay so little food is a luxury.

When I say I’ve walked a mile in my brother’s shoes I know that my shoes have custom insoles and by comparison are more comfortable.

While Wilder’s second paragraph is more telling when it comes to the nutritional epidemic that is going on amongst the poverty stricken in this country, it is the first paragraph that hits me the hardest.  I suspect that many poor people feel they are helpless to change the distribution of wealth in America (by and large they aren’t wrong about that) so the fact that there is a larger issue at hand isn’t what afflicts them on a daily basis.  What afflicts them on a daily basis is the fact that they are condemned to a diet that isn’t enjoyable.

For most of us food is a significant vehicle for pleasure.  It is what brings us together at the table with friends and family.  It is a means of relaxation and recreation and communion.  But for people on food stamps food is merely a source of fuel; a source of stress and effort and very little pleasure.

I don’t have a solution here.  I wrote this post not because I believe I have anything new to add to the conversation.  I wrote this post because it made me sad learning about Wilder’s experiment, how difficult it was even for him, and how futile it must be for the 45 million Americans who live it every day.  Maybe you were already aware of the complicated nature of this plight.  Maybe you were already familiar with Wilder’s project.  But maybe you weren’t.  Maybe I’ve exposed you to an issue that wasn’t known to you.  If that’s the case then I’ve broadened the general awareness around this issue, and I have to believe that can only be a good thing.

Yoga for the Soul

Friday, October 21st, 2011

“…like yoga for the soul.”  That is how sleep specialist Rubin Naiman describes dreaming.

Sleep fascinates me.  For starters, I’m a big fan of the stuff.  But I am also intrigued by how little scientists actually seem to know about it.  From time to time magazines like Newsweek and Time feature cover stories about sleep, why our bodies need it, how we get less of it now than we used to, and the wide variety of health benefits it affords.  So I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that I was equally taken with Dr. Naiman’s article on the benefits of dreaming.

Naiman discusses our physiological responses to dreaming – the dream-induced paralysis that keeps us from acting out our dreams and the release of emotional energy that channels through our muscles – but it was his explanation of the mental and emotional purpose of dreaming that most captivated me.

Dreaming aids in the formation of memory and in the processing of grief.  Even more interesting, though, is Naiman’s assertion about dreaming serving as some sort of psychological calisthenics.  He comments, “Daily life can feel constraining. Our deeper self is not necessarily comfortable remaining cooped up in a physical body 24/7. I believe that dreaming is a kind of psycho-spiritual stretching — like yoga for the soul. Dreams gently expand, release, soften and open us up again. Dreaming provides a poetic cushion for our sharply literal lives. In our dreams, we are free from the constraints of the physical body.”

This gets a little new agey for me, but I don’t totally dismiss it.  My own experience tells me that there is value in dreaming.  When I wake up after a night of active dreaming I feel more refreshed than I do otherwise.  Perhaps this is because a certain quality and depth of sleep are prerequisites to dreaming in the first place.  But I also feel more relaxed, like there was something cathartic about my sleep beyond its mere restorative properties.  I like this idea that dreaming frees us from our normal constraints, “… like yoga for the soul.”

It’s been several months since I slept through the night without waking.  If my second son is anything like my first, it will be at least another six months before I do it again.  This means that my dream life is in the midst of a big hiatus.  There will be many reasons that I look forward to that golden day when my baby sleeps through the night.  Being truly rested for the first time in more than a year will be foremost among them.  But lingering at the back of the pack will be an eagerness to return to the kind of sleep that facilitates an active dream life.  My dreams are usually pretty amusing, but apparently funny stories the next day aren’t the only benefit they provide.

A Carnivore’s Conscience

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Much has been made in recent years of the costs of factory farming.  The antibiotics.  The sewage.  The animals who die of illness before they can be slaughtered.  Because of these things it is now reasonably easy to find grass fed beef, free range eggs, pastured hens, and so on.  But there is another cost of factory farming that I hadn’t really contemplated until I read this article from The Atlantic on the psychology of factory farming.

Author James McWilliams posits that large scale animal husbandry divorces humans from the unique welfare of individual animals; that commoditizing them eliminates the unhappy business of seeing an animal you carefully raised be slaughtered because the rancher no longer has any kind of relationship with each animal whose demise might cause him guilt or remorse.  McWilliams comments that in the bluntest terms, factory farming allows the rancher “to kill thousands of animals a year and remain a happy person.”

As I pondered the implications of that statement I surprised myself.  I thought that, upon reflection, I would reach the conclusion that the bond between animal and rancher should exist for its own sake; that animals have a right to such a relationship.  Interestingly, though (at least to me…) that’s not where I landed.  I think the psychology of factory farming is dangerous not because the animals are deprived of any relationship.  I find it more important that they are deprived of the byproducts of such a relationship.

When we have a relationship with an animal we treat it accordingly.  We ensure that it is healthy.  We ensure that it isn’t overly stressed.  We ensure that its life is reasonably comfortable.  These qualities translate differently for steers than for lap dogs, naturally.  But they still exist in some measure in both situations.  When our level of concern for an animal relates to its ability to produce a profit, and not to our personal relationship to it we treat it much differently.  We don’t worry about its levels of stress or comfort.  We worry about its health only to the extent that such health affects profit margins.  We allow ourselves to get away with behavior which under any other circumstances we would find abusive.

I believe that in the long run we only hurt ourselves with this approach to animal husbandry.  We poison our land with petroleum-based fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that grow the grain that feeds the animals.  We increase the strength and drug resistance of various bacteria by pumping animal feed full of antibiotics.  We increase the saturated fat content and decrease the omega-3 and omega-6 content of the meat we consume.  And, by supporting an industry that produces meat so cheaply we ultimately consume more meat and animal fat than is healthy.  We lose on every count.

Don’t mistake me, though.  It’s not only about the human fallout for me.  I don’t view livestock as pets, but I still believe that animals deserve some base level of care that is not met by factory farming.  Further still, as humans I believe it is innate to us to develop relationships – with each other, with pets, with working animals, and with food animals.  In the case of food animals our ability and desire to bond with those animals in some sense protects us from ourselves.

With factory farming we have managed to turn a blind eye to one of our basic human predilections and many people think that it’s a win-win situation because hamburger meat costs $1.49/pound.  But the fact remains, we pay the price somewhere, even if it isn’t at the grocery store checkout line.

Many thanks to loyal reader Rebecca at It’s Kili Time for recommending this article to me.  I love getting blog fodder from readers!

Health vs. Beauty

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Sometimes we women just don’t do ourselves any favors.

That was the thought that coursed through my mind as I read this article entitled “Do Women Choose Beauty Over Health?”  According to the United States Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, women are inclined to forego exercise on any given day because they don’t want their hair to get sweaty or to have to wash it.

Really?  We need the Surgeon General to tell us that fitness is more important than good hair?  Unfortunately the answer is Yes.

I suppose when you get into the heart of the issue it’s a little more understandable than it sounds on its face.  Dr. Benjamin explained that lots of women (especially African American women such as herself) spend a great deal of time and money achieving a certain hairstyle.  The thought of going to that time and expense again is a big disincentive to exercise.  She also commented that this is particularly true when we are looking for reasons not to work out in the first place.

What breaks my heart about this phenomenon is that it points to how little we actually count health in our estimation of beauty.  When we see a beautiful woman with glowing skin, white teeth, and shiny hair we immediately want to know about her daily personal care routine and what products she uses.  We don’t wonder about whether whole grains and lots of produce are key components of her diet.  We don’t readily consider what she does to keep her stress levels low and get enough sleep.  We don’t ask if exercise is a regular part of her life.  And yet when we get down to it the things that we find most attractive in ourselves and others are typically the byproducts of a healthy lifestyle.

This outlook holds true on the new website YouBeauty which works to inspire women to live healthy lifestyles through the incentives of improved appearances.  However, in spite of its basic premise the site’s CEO commented that the best way to get women to do anything healthy is to tell them it will make them more beautiful – eat broccoli, work up a good sweat, you name it.

I’ve addressed the issue of vanity in a couple of different posts recently (here and here), and I’m not quite sure why it’s resonating with me so much right now.  I suspect it has a lot to do with the fact that at 31 weeks pregnant I’ve had to sacrifice much of my vanity and focus much more heavily on my health.  My baby needs me to be healthy, not beautiful.  What interests me about this is that it’s not at all uncommon for pregnant women to find renewed energy for a healthy lifestyle.  When we are growing another life we take great care of ourselves.  We eat balanced diets.  We are willing to gain weight.  We go organic.  We drink more water and rest more.  We give up caffeine.  These changes and sacrifices are not insignificant.  We do all of these things for our babies, yet we are disinclined to do them for ourselves.

This makes me sad because it means that what effort we go to is always for someone else.  Whether it’s a husband or a job interview or a 20th high school reunion, the fact remains that we are certainly willing to jump through all sorts of hoops for our looks.  But by and large those hoops don’t benefit us.  In a perfect world we would all eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day, sleep eight hours each night, exercise for an hour five days a week, and drink 64 ounces of water daily.  We would do these things for ourselves – to live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

I’m not here to say that superficial indulgences aren’t perfectly acceptable from time to time.  (This is the part where I confess that the zippered makeup case in my purse contains at least 20 different seasonally updated shades of lipstick, gloss, and liner at any given time…)  But those indulgences should be the frosting, not the foundation.

Ladies, healthy is beautiful.  If we’re going to go through contortions for our appearances, let’s at least go about it in ways that benefit our health.  I’ll go to the gym if you will.  Deal?

Vegetarian Update: The New Normal

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

I did it.

Well, almost.  Provided I make it through today without caving, then I can say I did it.  But given that I’ve made it this far I think I can count on myself to complete the day without wrecking my vegetarian experiment in its final hours.

When I last reported on the status of this project I was hitting some proverbial bumps in the road.  I was drooling over the smell of meat on grills, and puzzling over the nearly immeasurable role that food plays in our cultural landscape.  Since then I’ve bounced back a bit, thankfully.

My second book of the month, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals was an interesting read.  If Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma felt like a fascinating lecture from your best college professor, then Eating Animals feels like a freakishly well-sourced rant from your smartest activist friend.  But all of the propaganda was studded with incontrovertible facts that I couldn’t have dismissed even in the context of the most vitriolic rhetoric.  Nevertheless I think the strength of Foer’s bias ultimately proved counterproductive for me.  Not that it undermined his premise altogether, but I think I would have found his positions more compelling if presented in a more objective way.  He draws comparisons between people and animals that I believe are quite a stretch.  Many of his arguments ultimately rest on the assertion that animals are entitled to the same rights as humans, which I don’t believe.  I believe they are entitled to a respectable degree of welfare and a life free of suffering.  But I do not believe they are equal to humans.

One thing I did appreciate about Eating Animals was that Foer included passages from other stakeholders in the food industry.  In their own words he represented the arguments of a factory farmer, two family farmers, an agribusiness man, a PETA worker, and others.  These voices, alongside Foer’s own, painted a more complete picture of the competing perspectives in the larger food source landscape.  These are complicated problems and while Foer certainly pushed a particular agenda, I appreciated that he turned a few of his pages over to the voices of others.

So, where does this month leave me?  The short answer is, I’m not entirely sure yet.  Inasmuch as this experience has affected me throughout its course, I’ve tried very hard to prevent myself from drawing long-term conclusions prior to its close.  Now that I am here I have some mulling over to do.

There are some things I know for certain, and other things I haven’t yet worked out.  As for the things I know for certain:

  • The old maxim about 21 days to break a habit is true.  I hit a rough patch around two and a half weeks, and then things got much easier.
  • It is quite a challenge to get enough protein without meat.  Meat is a highly convenient protein source.
  • I will not forego meat altogether.
  • I will be much more selective in the meat I choose to eat.  I will try to find locally raised organic meat that was not subjected to factory farming methods.
  • I will select vegetarian options in most restaurants.
  • I will cook more (but not exclusively) vegetarian meals at home.
  • I sort of agree with Michael Pollan’s quote of the old French custom that any dietary restriction is bad manners, and will graciously eat any meal that is prepared for me by someone else without quibbling over its source.
  • I will not beat myself up if I occasionally slip and purchase/eat food that I can reasonably suspect was raised in a factory farming environment.
  • I will also pay more attention to the produce I eat, choosing regional or locally grown organic fruits and vegetables when possible.

As for the things I haven’t quite worked out yet:

  • How much am I willing to inflict my new beliefs system on my husband and son?
  • What impact would be brought to bear on our budget if I tried to buy only organic food?
  • How inconvenient will it be to change my shopping habits?  Is this a change I’m willing to make all of the time, some of the time?
  • How can I convey the importance of this issue to other people without sounding like a goody-two-shoes or a pushy evangelist?

So, yes, I have some thinking to do.  The last thing that I know, though, is that I’m glad I did this experiment.  I’m glad I know that I can go a month without meat and not feel too burdened by it.  I’m glad I’ve explored the dark side of the food industry and can make my decisions based on greater information than I did in the past.  And I’m glad that I’ve seen this project through and can feel satisfied with my (albeit minor) accomplishment.

I’d love to leave you with some pearl of wisdom; something poignant that will make you want to explore this topic for yourself.  But there are a couple of problems with that.  1) I have a very low tolerance for evangelism and I believe that what we put into our bodies is a highly personal decision.  What I’ve learned this month makes me believe that we are facing a system-wide problem that calls for broad attention and action.  But my little voice in the blogosphere is all I’m willing to offer.  You must decide for yourself what your beliefs are and how to comport your life accordingly.  2)  I’m still working much of this out myself and I don’t feel qualified to close this post with any statement so definitive when my own thoughts are still in their nascent form.

So I will close this post by saying, I’m glad to have learned what I learned.  I’m honored that you’ve followed along with me.  I hope I’ve sparked your curiosity on this topic.  And I hope you’ll explore it further on your own.

Eat Your Veggies

Monday, March 1st, 2010

When I started this blog exactly two months ago I had a few goals in mind.  The most significant goal was to shift my paradigm; to look at the world in new ways and keep my mind fresh and engaged.  To keep myself accountable for that goal I stated it clearly and on the record.  At the same time I offered up some smaller resolutions for the year in front of me.  And as it turns out that large goal and one of the smaller resolutions are about to jump into bed together.  Or, perhaps more accurately, into the kitchen together.

Throughout the past several years our culture has paid increasing attention to our food sources.  A whole punditry of dietary and nutritional hawks has emerged.  In 2001 Fast Food Nation was written by Eric Schlosser.  Morgan Spurlock tackled the dubious challenge of eating nothing but McDonald’s for a full month in 2003’s documentary Super Size Me.  Michael Pollan further explored our food sources with his 2007 book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  And 2009 brought us another documentary, Food, Inc. from Schlosser and Pollan, as well as the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.  In addition to these larger works, a smattering of magazine articles on related topics has also been published, such as this one in TIME about the real costs of food, this one in the New York Times Magazine about our cooking habits, and this one in Rolling Stone about the putrid realities of hog farming.

As a girl who loves to cook, a girl with a wee bit of an earthy streak, and a girl who grew up hearing the refrains of Wendell Berry echo through her home, I’ve started to feel a bit guilty about the ways in which I contribute to crimes committed by big agriculture and large scale food distribution.  Couple this guilt with the paradigm-shifting purpose of this blog and my resolution to eat more fruits and vegetables and you get:

Gale is becoming a vegetarian for a month.

(For the record, GAP is not excited about this…  Supportive, but not excited.)

Starting today, and throughout the month of March, I will abstain from all meat, including fish and seafood.  I will continue to eat eggs and dairy, though.  Veganism requires more fortitude than I can muster at this point.  (And I have a soft spot for milkshakes.)  To keep me company on this journey I am summoning the likes of Michael Pollan and Jonathan Safran Foer and their books The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Eating Animals, respectively.  I chose these two titles specifically because they are well-respected works that I believe will help me better understand the larger implications of the dietary decisions I make each day.

I am prepared for the fact that this experiment may take me down a path that is inconvenient and expensive.  Buying chicken breasts priced at four dollars per pound from the grocery store down the road from my house is a very easy way to live.  At this point I don’t know where that chicken comes from, or what its living conditions were when it was alive.  I suspect that my prescribed reading for this month will dispel my ignorance, which may not be an easy realization to accept.

Some of my shopping and eating habits have already changed.  I stopped buying farm-raised salmon many months ago after reading an article in The Economist (which I couldn’t find online) about the damage that salmon farms have done to the tributary ecosystems on the East coast.  I started baking my own bread after an incident last spring when I inadvertently bought two loaves at once and after six weeks on my shelf the second loaf still hadn’t molded.  (To me, food that won’t spoil is scarier than food that has spoiled.)  And I make all of IEP’s food from scratch so that I can ensure that he isn’t exposed to the skyrocketing levels of sugar, salt, and processed fats that exist in many packaged foods.

So I’m not walking into this completely blind.  But, I do not buy local produce.  I do not buy organic.  And I have never intentionally excluded meat from my diet.  It will certainly be a challenge.

I would also like to mention that I recognize that I am not unique in this decision.  Thousands (millions?) of people have gone years without eating meat.  I am here making a bit of a fuss about this experiment because, for me, it is a significant change.  I live in the Midwest where meat is the centerpiece of nearly every meal.  But many, many people have traveled this same path – for reasons both noble and silly – with no fanfare at all.  My reason for calling attention to this choice is because I believe that I am a pretty fair representation of your average, healthy American.  And if all of the attention drawn to the environmental ramifications of “big ag” and the general cause of sustainability will ever amount to real change, it will be because average people like myself find the behavioral alterations requisite in affecting the bigger picture to be worthwhile and attainable.

I have some suspicions about what long-term effects on my eating and shopping habits will be brought to bear based on this experiment.  But I will keep them to myself for now.  I will keep you updated on my progress, and will certainly have plenty to say about this exercise at its conclusion.  In the meantime, don’t forget to eat your veggies.