Friday, July 20, 2012

The Paleolithic Diet and Lifestyle

One thing I have not touched on in this blog is the subject of food and diet. I'm sure I don't need to explain the phenomenon of how many women, if not MOST women, in western society are very conscious of their weight and waistlines- how even the most of beautiful women obsess over their eating habits. There is also an obesity epidemic spreading across the western world and no one seems to agree as to what's causing it or how to stop it.

The reason I hadn't touched on this until now is that healthy eating was something I did not fully understand. I was confused and frankly annoyed with all of these untangible words like "carbs","calories", "glucose". I had a BASIC knowledge of them, but I didn't really pay attention to what foods they pertained to. When I started to research them a bit, the information overwhelmed me and I quit. There is so much contradicting information out there about what you should eat and what you shouldn't eat. My search for the truth behind healthy eating habits was too frustrating, and I gave up. (And this says something because I love learning)

It wasn't until recently when I, perhaps at the back-end of the bell curve, learned of the paleolithic diet, that I finally found information rooted in fact and common sense, that is so simple, it's beautiful.

The paleolithic diet, aka "the caveman diet", follows the simple idea that up until very recently in human history, humans have been hunters and gatherers of the land and our bodies have not evolved away from those ancient eating habits. What many people fail to recognize is how incredibly young the human race really is ans how incredibly long evolution takes.

Just glance at these quick facts to get a perspective of how young humanity is and how long evolution takes...
  • The Earth is approximately 4.55 billion years old.
  • Dinosaurs lived 245 million years ago and existed for about 180 million years
  • Whales originated from an amphibious jungle mammel resembling a crocodile called the ambulocetus. Primitive whales first took to the sea about 50 million years ago and became fully aquatic about 5–10 million years later
  • The modern homo sapien is only 50 thousand years old
  • Bread become a staple food in Europe 10 thousand years ago
  • The dawn of Ancient Egyptian civilization was 5 thousand years ago.
It took whales 5-10 million years to adjust from semi-aquatic to fully aquatic. Bread has only been around for 10 thousand years. Keeping these facts in mind, it makes sense that our bodies are still equipped for the hunter/gatherer diet rather than that of breads, cheese, and processed foods in general. We just have not had enough time to evolve our bodies to handle the diet change.

The Paleo Diet suggests that the closer the food is to nature the better. Our bodies and system of nature are so complex that we do not have the means to substitute the natural nourishment that come from the Earth. And even though the system is complex, our needs are simple: eat meats, vegetables, nuts, and berries. Be the omnivores we are. Of all the theories I've heard about healthy eating, this is the simplest and it makes the most sense... it really does.

The biggest misconception I had prior to my research was on the subject of grains. I thought grains to be healthy. They were at the very base of the food pyramid that was ingrained in me as a kid! I'm not an expert, by any means, but here is my understanding of it. Breads contain grains, and it's the glucose in the bread that hold the grains together and give it that fluffiness when it rises. When bread breaks down it becomes sugar. My Dad teaches a Chemistry Nutrition high school class and he has his students chew a piece of bread in there mouth for several minutes, and after some time, the students will taste a sweetness in their mouth because they have broken down the bread so much that they are able to taste the sugars. As you know, today's society has been molded and shaped to incorporate processed foods as the norm. Just think about all of the different staple "healthy" dishes that grain is used in like pasta, sandwiches, pizza, and cereal.

Today's society has a skewed view of what health really is. Just because everyone says that cereal is healthy and because it has a big red heart and some sort of health certification on the front of the box doesn't mean that it's good for us. We need to stop trusting the boxes and labels and trusting the colors of foods without labels. My preschool taught me way back in the days in Hong Kong that your plate should look like a box of crayons. You should have a variety of different foods a day and the variety of color in natural foods is a quick indicator of all the different nutrients you are ingesting.

If you are looking to try the paleolithic diet, this is what I'll suggest:

Start out with the 80/20 rule. If you eat well 80 percent of the time, you can leave a little sanity room for cheating a bit. You aren't going to blow up like a balloon if you eat a piece of toast or a bit of cheddar cheese with your eggs and bacon. The 80/20 rule will allow the change to be natural and enjoyable rather than a painful sacrifice. You want to feel good about the way you eat.You don't want to feel like a martyr. Once you start eating the Paleo way for an extended period of time, you will get to the point where you don't even desire processed foods anymore... it just won't even seem appealing.

In addition to the way that we eat, we must also alter the way we work and conduct our every day lives. The Paleolithic lifestyle includes doing more natural physical activity on a daily basis...not just going to the gym, but walking to the grocery store, lifting boxes onto your garage shelf, doing yard work. In this modern era of cars and office jobs, physical activity is sometimes hard to come by. Our bodies were built to be workers hunting and gathering all day, and yet the modern "successful"  human spends most of their time at a desk. It is important to remember who we are and where we come from, and I'm sure that everyone knows that I'm talking about when I say how fulfilling it is to go to bed after a long day of physical work. Ever spent a day chopping down trees or staining a deck and you lay in bed at the end of the day so exhausted you can barely move and how wonderful that feels? It's the way humans are supposed to feel.

There are a lot of writings on the topic of the Paleolithic lifestyle if you wish to read up on the topic further.
I hope this post has given you something to think about. Good luck with your own search and journey towards personal health!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lady Gaga on the Wings of Queen Elizabeth I and Catholicism

Lady Gaga cracked the science of how to become a worldwide Icon. Whether you like her music or not, you cannot deny that she has created an image for herself that is already cemented in celebrity and music history. One way in which she did this was that she elevated herself to be more than just a talented human woman; but something else more divine. In this blog I'm going to compare The Gaga's fame tactics to those of Queen Elizabeth I and Catholicism. Yes, I know it sounds strange, especially considering that the Queen was protestant and that Gaga constantly debases Catholicism but just stay with me here. I'm sick of everyone comparing Lady Gaga to Madonna, but the fact is that she was influenced by some much older sources of fame and power.

Although she enjoys sex and happiness, as of recently, she decides that she cannot find both within the arms of a man. In an interview with an editor from Vanity Fair, she tells her,

“I have never felt truly cherished by a lover. I have an inability to know what happiness feels like with a man,” the singer tells contributing editor Lisa Robinson. “I say this honestly, and this is my new thing as of the past year: when I fight with someone I’m in a relationship with, I think, what would my fans think if they knew this was happening? How would they feel about my work and about me as a female if they knew I was allowing this to go on? And then I get out.”

In the article, she explains how relationships make her doubtful and self-conscious and distracted from her true person, because she often dates artsy people who are competitive and jealous of her talents which leads to cutting her down and other confidence harming arguments. So what she does instead of marry herself to the idea of love and marriage is that she views herself and her fans as her spouse and she pledges everything she does to her relationship with her fans... her talents and devotions and happiness. She calls her fans as her "Little Monsters", like a pet name you could give your boyfriend, and makes clear in interviews and the lyrics of her songs that all of her energy goes into pleasing them.

By staying single and creating this image of herself being not merely a human with relationship issues slapped on the cover of every magazine, but as some sort of saintly artist, she becomes more of a mystery. She serves herself rather than a man.

The first woman that comes to mind when I think of her is not Madonna like most people, but Queen Elizabeth I, the virgin queen. She remained unmarried for her entire life, which of course was a much bigger deal then than it is today. At her coronation she donned in all white and let her red hair down and loose over her shoulders to suggest her virginity and purity. She pledged herself to be queen over the people to govern and serve them rather than a man. She became something more than just a woman or a queen, she became a king, in a sense.

There are several reasons that Elizabeth tactically chose to remain single, and her people loved her for it. If she had married than her would have to serve her husband and be dutiful to he and his influences before the people. She actually used her unmarried state to benefit the country by using the concept marriage to various people to forge alliances and frighten foes. Her devotion to England was clear and she was loved so much for it that even though some power hungry members of the court wished to remove her from power her outstanding popularity prevented. Lady Gaga's devotion to her fans is also just as clear.

Now I’m not saying that marriage and love is bad, and I’m not saying that you cannot be both married and successfully happy, but for some people and some situations, this is not possible. I think that Lady Gaga knows herself and realizes that relationships weaken her rather than strengthen her, just as Queen Elizabeth I knew that she was a stronger person when unmarried.

Yes, she probably did get a lot of icon and fame ideas from Madonna, from the extreme clothes to the racey Christian references. One can easily compare Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” to Gaga’s “Judas”. But quite honestly, so many people have made the Madonna/Gaga comparison that it’s not worth our time to go into it deeper and frankly not nearly as interesting!

Instead I’d like to delve into how Catholicism has influenced her. I can relate to her in the fact that we both had a Catholic upbringing and both chose to denounce it, and it is clear in a lot of her lyrics and music videos that she is Catholicism had an effect on who she is today even if it was negative. She often wears crosses and other Christian symbols in videos and public.

I think she might have gotten a lot of her ideas of how to become more than just a woman and a singer to her fans from her old religion. Staying single and devoting your life to the service of others is definitely a saintly idea. If a woman becomes a nun she becomes a Bride of Christ and marries the Church. The Church itself is also sometimes called The Bride of Christ. And I think that Lady Gaga may have been influenced by these ideas to transcend beyond normal human experiences and “Marry the Night”, marry her fans and her work, to become something more than human. She admits that her song "Marry the Night" is autobiographical, and delves into her pain and hurt and resolve when it comes to relationships and self.

It's clear that she tries to spread messages of love and acceptance in her songs such as "Born this Way". I'm guessing she had a negative response to the way Catholics view homosexuality amongst other things and that she uses her recognized influence to spread a different messages of love and acceptance than the ones she was brought up with. She took what she knew, and altered it.

The recipes for fame, fortune, everything are all there in history. Humans change so drastically over the years but at their core, we are very much constant, with the same themes repeating. I think Lady Gaga knew this, whether consciously or unconsciously, and performed her way in the footsteps of others to fame.