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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Proactive

I’m not talking about skin cleansers here.  I’m talking about taking an active role of participation in matters of health.  Proactive is the opposite of reactive.  In the simplest terms, the prefix pro means forward and the prefix re means back.  We are acting in both cases, but the difference, is if we act before (looking forward) or after (looking back).   Unfortunately our culture is trained to be reactive.  We wait until an issue arises before we make changes.  Instead, look forward, learn to anticipate and make changes now. 

Society tells us that if you have a family history of medical conditions you can expect the same issues in your life.  Society tells us that at a certain age you can expect to live on numerous medications; that you’ll live with arthritis, and suffer from osteoporosis, the list goes on and on.  Society tells us that runny noses, ear infections, and colds are common childhood occurrences.  Don’t sit back and accept medical conditions as your fate.  The sooner you make healthy changes the better.  You can avoid many medical issues if you start making the right food choices. 

One way to be proactive is to learn to read the labels on foods you buy.  Now hopefully a bigger part of your shopping cart will not have labels because it is whole food!  J  But on packages, start to get in the habit of checking out the label. First look at the serving size.  The food companies want to make those serving sizes as small as they can so that the sugar, fat, cholesterol, and sodium look like less than they really are.  If you have a scale you can measure out a serving and see if that is really your serving size.  A chip package, for example, indicates that 1 ounce is a serving, but typically people eat more than 1 ounce of chips in a serving.  So keep that in mind when reading the label to see what it contains.  The breakdown of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates and protein is on a per serving basis. 

Next let’s take a look at the list of ingredients.  It’s not a good sign when you can’t pronounce half of them.  J  If you don’t know what an ingredient is you might look it up online.  Start educating yourself about what is going into your body.  Ingredients are listed in descending order of amount.  So if the item lists flour as the first ingredient then it has more flour than anything else listed.   Two big bad ingredients to be on the lookout for are high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and partially hydrogenated oils or shortening (soybean, cottonseed, etc.), these are trans fats.  According to Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz in their book, “You On A Diet”, back in 1960 Americans didn’t consume any HFCS, but now we eat more than 63 pounds of it every year (that’s per person)!  They say you should say no to foods that have HFCS in the first five ingredients and foods that list trans fats altogether.  If you want to read why HFCS is so bad click here.  If you want more information on trans fats, click here. 

Never assume you are buying a whole food, even things that seem obvious, like milk and cheese, for example.  Read those labels and you’ll be surprised by what you find.  Let’s take sour cream, for example.  It should be just that, cream that has been cultured and so has a sour taste.  Daisy brand sour cream does list cream and nothing else, but other brands list numerous additives, such as thickeners.  Skim milk is another example, many companies will add extra ingredients to make it taste better.  It’s no longer a whole food. 

Don’t be fooled by marketing tricks on labels.    Many packages tout their contents as “Natural” or have natural names, like “Flat Earth” or “Kashi”, or use words like “enriched” to get our attention.  The bottom line is that packaged food has come a long way from the whole food it is trying to seem like.  Remember the motto – If God created it, it is good for me, if man has changed it, it is bad for me.  (By the way, Flat Earth is just a cover for Frito-Lay and Kashi is really Kellogs.)  These companies care more about their profits than your health.   

Reading labels is a tremendous way to be proactive.  A big part of your success will depend on awareness, once you are aware you can make informed choices. 

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