1.16.10 (Life is) Short & Sweet

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photo by george billard
An earthquake in Haiti. A funeral in Boston. One event global, the other local, but both bringing home the realization, once again, that life on this earth is not something to be taken for granted. How then to optimize the time we have? In a sense, this is what my blog is all about. To be a glutton for life means to gobble up experience, to hunger for everything out there. It means to want more of this life and, perhaps paradoxically, this means finding some measure of restraint, some balance. Life is pain and suffering, and it is joy and wonderment. We must learn from both extremes in order to create harmony somewhere in the middle. Today, I listened to the eulogies for a great man who died of cancer. A philanthropist and successful businessmen, a supporter of the arts, a horseman (those are his horses, above), a family man, a beloved friend. His accomplishments in just 68 years were staggering. The Boston Symphony played under the direction of Sir Colin Davis. James Taylor sang. This was no ordinary man, and yet the qualities for which he was most lauded were things we can all strive for: moral integrity, loyalty, selflessness, humility, curiosity about the world, a thirst for knowledge.

Thinking about how precious life is made me want to talk to you about safeguarding your own health. If, like me, you are headed into middle age, you have probably become acutely aware of changes in your body: the grey hair, the thickening around the middle, the loss of flexibility. Ladies, are you taking your calcium? Your vitamin D (all of us, but especially women of color)? We should all be taking fish oil now, to support out cardiovascular health and help us think clearly. Exercise is more important than ever. Are you sighing and getting fidgety as you read this? Feeling guilty and sulky? These are not hassles, duties, things to procrastinate. These are gifts you give yourself every day, ways to feel better, clearer, stronger, more centered.

Perhaps the changes you notice most are the emotional ones. Anxiety over not accomplishing enough. Fear of aging. Resentment because so many people depend upon you that you barely have time to read this, let alone take fish oil every day. I know that not having children gives me a huge advantage in terms of time. But you must find a way to make time for yourself—and for the things that truly matter. Your health, mental and physical, simply has to be a priority. Because life is short enough without losing precious moments to disease and depression.

And some of this really does come back to food. The old saw about how you are what you eat. Follow along with me here and I will help you eat better—and feel better. Give up all that white flour. Use meat more as a flavoring than as the centerpiece of your meals. Reject processed, packaged crap in favor of whole foods you prepare with care. Discover that what is good for you can also be just plain good. Make the effort and reap the reward. I'll just leave you with these thoughts to mull over. One last thing: this blog is meant to be a dialogue. I would so value your input on this and every topic. If you want to see more of certain kinds of recipes, just ask. If you need sources for ingredients, I can help you. If you are confused about what supplements to take, I will point you in the right direction. I'm so interested in hearing about your concerns and desires. And I want to thank you for visiting me here. It's been a great first month and I'm excited for what lies ahead...


Beautiful post Laura! For me life is only getting more poignant... richer in ways that have nothing to do with money. As for health- here is a little something: a few months ago I was feeling "fuzzy" all the time. An older woman strongly recommended taking a DHA Supplement so I did and within a few days I felt much clearer in my mind. I'd been taking fish oil for years but the higher level of DHA in a separate supplement really changed things for me. I also cherish my yoga routine which has changed my body and my outlook. Namaste
Suzinn on January 16, 2010 at 9:02 pm —
For those who don't know, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid that has been shown to help prevent heart disease by lowering the amount of triglycerides in the blood. It’s also essential to the formation of the optical and nervous systems, and remains important to eye and brain health throughout life. It has anti-inflammatory properties. Contained in fish oil (anchovies, salmon, mackerel, tuna, halibut and herring), DHA is also found in algae, organ meat and to a small degree in egg yolk.
laura on January 17, 2010 at 3:29 am —
Oh hello Laura! fish oil in a caplet or in liquid form, is there a difference? also, i would love a soup recipe ...
Nina on January 17, 2010 at 4:25 pm —
Hi! I think that liquid form will give you a higher amount of omega 3 per dose but unless you're taking it for a specific condition that's not so relevant. I have taken both and it really depends on what you tolerate better. Initially, I had some problem burping up the fish flavor when I was taking capsules, so I switched to liquid. Carlson with lemon flavor is what I recommend. But now I have switched back to capsules and am having no problem at all. So I also recommend Nordic Naturals Complete Omega 3/6/9. You should be able to buy either kind at Whole Foods or another natural market. Any specific request on the soup--vegetarian, hearty, meat-based, legume?
laura on January 17, 2010 at 6:19 pm —
thank you for this! i guess a vegetarian or legume would be nice. we tried split pea recently, but it didn't seem like we were getting much from it. so i guess my request would be something to look forward to upon returning home that might also energize in the process.
Nina on January 17, 2010 at 7:11 pm —
"The gifts you give to yourself each day" -- what a great way of putting it. Thank you.
Vetivresse on January 18, 2010 at 7:02 am —
No, thank YOU!
laura on January 18, 2010 at 11:35 am —
I prefer flax seed oil, and also use primrose oil, is there really any further benefit to fish oil over those?
Lucy on January 19, 2010 at 2:38 am —
Hmmm...it's kind of complicated. The short answer is: you're probably fine, as long as you're taking enough flax seed oil (and maybe also eating plenty of walnuts and maybe even drinking hemp milk). For a much longer answer, keep reading. Flax seed oil contains an omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is one of two fatty acids that the body needs and cannot make for itself. You can also get ALA by eating walnuts and hemp seed. Omega-3s are needed by every cell in the body to help ensure that cell membranes stay flexible so nutrients can permeate easily. The body can use ALA to make all the other omega-3 fatty acids that it needs, including both EPA and DHA. So, in theory, if you get enough ALA, you don’t need to eat any other sources of omega-3s. Another advantage of getting one’s omega-3s from the ALA in flax oil is that the body does not create more EPA and DHA than it needs. Therefore, ingesting too much EPA/DHA is not an issue. The human body uses a variety of omega-3s, not just EPA and DHA. To make the full range of these omega-3s, the body needs ALA from flax oil (or walnuts or other sources) in addition to EPA and DHA. Thus, one needs to consume some ALA even if fish and/or fish oil are plentiful in one’s diet. OK, since you need ALA anyway, and the body can make all the other omega-3s it needs from ALA—does that mean flax seed oil is a better source than fish oil for omega-3s? Not so fast. The body uses various enzymes to convert ALA to other omega-3s, and this process becomes increasingly less efficient with age. Estimates of the rate of conversion range from 5% to 25%. In order to make sufficient amounts of EPA and DHA, you need to consume 5 or 6 times more ALA than if you rely on fish oil alone. (Women convert ALA to the other omega-3s more efficiently than men, by the way.) Another consideration is that ALA competes metabolically with the other essential fatty acid that the body cannot make for itself. Linoleic acid plays the same role for omega-6 fatty acids that ALA does for omega-3s: The body uses LA to make all the other omega-6s that it needs. So when LA is oversupplied in the diet, the body makes more of the LA-derived fatty acids than it needs, and not enough of the ALA-derived ones. Consuming smaller amounts of the omega-6 LA helps the body maintain a healthy balance between the “stimulating” LA substances and the “calming” ALA substances. One good way to help balance this ratio is by switching to monounsaturated oils like olive oil. Evening primrose, for those who might not know, is a wildflower whose seeds contain oil that is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 essential fatty acid. The body converts GLA into prostaglandins, which function like hormones and help to regulate body processes. So evening primrose oil is often recommended as an alternative treatment for PMS or symptoms of peri-menopause symptoms, as well as inflammatory diseases like eczema and arthritis.
laura on January 19, 2010 at 3:15 am —