Wednesday, January 11, 2012

31 Days to Better Health - Day 11

Happy Wednesday all!  I hope your week is going well.  Mine didn’t start off great but things are definitely improving rapidly and that is a wonderful thing. 

Isn't that a great bumper sticker? I just loved the idea of this.

I am sure you all know where I was again yesterday.  As big as Hopkins is I am starting to learn my way around (never worked here BTW) and that is not a good sign.  On a positive note I am running into people I have worked with in the past and that has been nice.  It is always good to catch up with people you haven’t seen in a while though I would much rather run into them under more pleasant circumstances.

Here is the recap of what we have accomplished so far to remind us all of how far we have come during the first 10 days of January:

Day 1 – Defined Success and What is/was Holding Us Back

Day 2 – Determined our Purpose and Looked at Passion

Day 3 – Listed Our Goals for January

Day 4 – Listed the Things We Have Needed to Work on for a While

Day 5 – Looked at Optimism vs. Pessimism and Fear vs. Intuition

Day 6 – Practiced Conscious Eating

Day 7 – Hara Hachi Bu

Day 8 – Taking the Stress Out of Meal Time

Day 9 – Acknowledgments

Day 10 – No Excuses, Do it Anyway

Yesterday we talked about grit and determination which is another way to say “just do it”.  A funny thing seems to happen when you believe in something, it becomes who you are and a part of your life.  Once that happens it is very easy to stay the course.  If you want to make big dietary changes I highly recommend throwing yourself into research on the topic.  Research was enough to convince me that we aren’t straying from the plan unless absolutely necessary.  If you need any reading recommendations let me know. I have spent many hours reading about health and nutrition so I can definitely share some good reads with you.

I grew up on the standard American meat and potatoes diet so I never expected to become this “radical” about what I eat.  However yesterday talking to the dietitian I quickly realized that our diet is cleaner than his which is a still a bit surreal for me to contemplate.  However I loved that he asked us what types of things we eat in a typical day.  It was good that he was open to learning.  I really enjoyed talking to him and that is another sign to me that I have found my passion in life.  Too bad I had to be almost 50 to get here, but better late than never I suppose.  ;-)

Is it True?:

Given my week I decided that until things settled down I would read my list of topics ideas for the month and would write about the one that appealed to me at the moment. Asking if something is really true is what jumped off the page at me today when I reviewed the list.  In case you were wondering how I was deciding what to write I wanted to share.

Do you know what I mean by “Is it True?”  We all have a lot of stuff that we have convinced ourselves but we don’t know that is true even though we believe it and in some case will defend it to others.  For example most Americans are absolutely convinced that they must consume dairy, preferably non-fat, to get adequate calcium. They believe that if they don’t get enough calcium (from milk) this will result in osteoporosis.  This has been drilled into the minds of American women and they simply believe it, but is it true?

When you look at the science on this particular topic it is very clear that this is not true.  It is a lie that has been told so often by the dairy council that everyone believes it. The data from the Nurses’ Health Study (with more than 72,000 women) is definitive that dairy does not protect women from hip fractures (a common break for those with osteoporosis).  If you go on to look for the reason why you will find that only 1/3 of the calcium from milk is absorbed by the body.  The remaining 2/3’s passes through as waste. Additionally the protein and sodium in the milk cause the body to excrete more calcium through the kidneys. So, while you are drinking milk for the calcium you are absorbing little and excreting more.  Better to get your calcium from greens and seeds since the body is more able to absorb more of it.  This may explain why Asian women, eating the traditional diet, have much lower rates of osteoporosis and we all know their traditional diet doesn’t include cow’s milk. 

What about the notion that soy causes breast cancer?  How many articles have you seen about the dangers of soy?  In general American women are terrified of eating soy for fear that it causes breast cancer. They can tell you all about the phytoestrogens in soy and how dangerous they are, but is this true?  Let’s look at the evidence:

Asians following their traditional diets have a lower incidence of hormone-related cancers compared to people eating a Western-style diet.  Science has now shown that consuming soy when you are young results in lower rates of breast cancer in adulthood.  Why is that?  The phytoestrogens in soy that many authors use to scare us may be blocking the effect of the body’s estrogen.  I am sure you have read that being overweight or obese increases your risk of cancer.  One of the reasons is the being heavy means you have extra fat and that fat increases your estrogen levels. Those higher estrogen levels fuel hormone-related cancers.  If you want to see for yourself do a quick search you will find two fairly recent meta-analyses (one from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and another from the British Journal of Nutrition).  Both of these large studies (a meta-analysis is the pooling of many studies) indicate that soy consumption is protective when it comes to breast cancer.

Now I am NOT suggestion that processed soy is healthy (soy burgers, soy dogs, TVP, etc.).  I have talked about IGF-1 many times so I am not going to go into that again here.  However, minimally processed soy like: soy milk, tofu or even better yet edamame are not only fine but are healthy for you to consume.  Just be sure the soy is organic (you don’t want the “Round-Up ready type) and that it doesn’t have any added soy protein isolates that will increase your IGF-1.  This really is much easier to do that you would think.  Even Johns Hopkins had organic soy milk which was included on Dan’s breakfast tray.

Not everything that we should be questioning is simply fact based like the two examples above.  Many times we tell ourselves stories that we don’t question.  For example we are may be having a conversation and the other person hurts our feelings.  It would be natural to think, “what a jerk, I can’t believe they just said that to me.”  But ask yourself, is it true?  Maybe the other person is having a bad day and had no intention of saying anything untoward.  Possibly they misheard something you said and were responding to that rather than what you actually said.  We all sometimes listen using our filter rather than by paying attention to what the other person is saying so this one is highly likely.  It could also be that we were being overly emotional and did not actually hear what the other person was saying to us.  I think it is important to try to step back in situations like this and see them from a calm perspective.  Whenever I find myself being overly emotional I know that there is a good chance that I need to take a minute and reassess what it happening.

Here is another example that I am sure many of you can relate to. You are driving down the road and some “idiot” is driving like a bat of hell.  Most of us immediately think, “What the heck, why are they being so reckless and putting everyone at risk, what a jerk.”  True confession time, I was that idiot on Monday.  I was doing 20 miles over the speed limit to the get the hospital. Now if you have ever been in a car with me you know I drive like a grandmother most of the time.  My sports cars days are long behind me.  But on Monday I felt like I had to rush so I did. The next time you see someone speeding on the highway maybe you should think I hope everything is okay not what a jerk.  See how our mind makes up stories all the time?  How would your life be different if you gave people the benefit of the doubt? 

I have come to realize that many of the “truths” that I simply took for granted are not only untrue but are harmful.  I had to do a good bit of research to come to this conclusion.  Now I take nothing for granted. When I read something in a popular magazine about nutrition I go right to PubMed and do a search to see what the science has to say about it.  You would be surprised by how frequently the mainstream media gets it wrong. From the things I have looked up they are wrong far more than they are right and I would guess their accuracy to be under 20%.  I don’t believe what I read about nutrition these days unless I have read the study for myself.

Let’s think a minute about giving people the benefit of the doubt.  Most people are trying to get through their day. They don’t have any ill intent toward others but they might not be fully aware either.   However it hasn’t been that long ago that I was like them.  I was so focused on some project at work or something else that I forgot about people’s feelings.  I can tell you that if you approach other people with kindness they often respond the same way in return.  Try it and see what if that happens in your life too.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised.  Remember the question to ask yourself today is “Is it True?”

Today’s exercises are:

1.       When you notice that you are taking something for granted or jumping to a conclusion ask yourself is it true?

2.       Decide to either:  research to confirm the accuracy of your thoughts or give other people the benefit of the doubt.

3.       Try to stay in touch with your emotions and intentionally slow down instead of overreacting.

Progress on my goals:

1.       Newsletters – No progress on this goal on Tuesday because of my unexpected time at Hopkins.  Life seems to be getting in the way of progress.  *ugh*

2.       Body Bugg – Nine days in a row wearing my bugg and going strong. I think this has become a habit again.  ;-) 

3.       Date with Dan – We will be getting back to this very soon once the crisis is over. For now we are spending lots of time together I just wouldn’t call it a date.

4.        Measuring calorie dense food – Given where I was on Tuesday this didn’t actually come into play. However I now have some trail mix with me to make certain that I have access to nuts and seeds throughout the day.

5.       Working on my business  Again no progress on this goal on Tuesday for the same reason as item one above.  However I am hopeful that I will get back to these tasks very soon.

How are you doing making progress on your goals?  I hope you are doing better than I am.  At this point I am happy to maintain the progress I have made and sometimes that is all you can expect from life.  I do know I will get back to my goals just as soon as I life slows down a little.

If you are feeling good about your progress on your goals over this past week add another goal from the list you created a week ago.  Given my progress I am going to wait another week before adding another item but if you feel ready please add another goal for yourself.


I asked you to continue to write daily acknowledgements so that you develop the habit. In order to remind you to write your acknowledgements I am going to share a few of mine each day for the remainder of the month.   On a “normal” day I write acknowledgements soon after the activity, before they fall out of my head. But I wasn’t focused on that yesterday so my list is much shorter than usual.

·         I took care of everything at home for the fur children, checked on my parents and was still back to the hospital before 9:30 in the morning.  Not too bad considering I am not a morning person and that I didn’t get much sleep the night before.

·         Binky was very upset that his father wasn’t home.  I had to give him some extra attention and cuddling so that he could fall asleep.  Believe me this wasn’t what I was in the mood to do, I just wanted to sleep. But the emotional well being of my fur children is also important and I think it is wonderful that Binky (Nicco) loves his father that much so I had to give him extra attention.  I like to think that I am a good cat mommy.

·         I was happy that I took my laptop to the hospital with me and that I was able to do some writing.  It would have been much easier to say the heck with it.  However taking the time to write served two purposes. It gave me something to do other than worrying and I was able to share my thoughts and ideas with you. 

·         When Dan’s salad arrived at the hospital we were able to up the nutrition by adding fruit, nuts and seeds.  It was a good thing that I brought nuts and seeds from home.  The picture above is our little vegan food stash.

·         When the chaplain came in to visit we talked briefly about food and found out she was a vegetarian but needed to go vegan since she has a lot of mucous from eating cheese. We talked about alternate toppings for pizza (her weakness).  She thanked us for “supporting her” since she was expected to be there for us.  Wasn’t that sweet of her?  It made my day when she said that.

·         Last night I arrived home late from the hospital again. However I am proud of myself for taking the time to get another post up in spite of my lack of time.  Go me.  J

Did you write your acknowledgements today?  I hope so!  Please take the time to appreciate the good things that you do every day.  It really has a way of brightening even the darkest day. 

Random Observations:

Being the “lone vegans” in the unit means the vegetarians feel a kinship and talk to you about food. We met two vegetarians who work on the unit. I already told you about the chaplain but we also met a vegetarian doctor.  She talked about how hard it would be for her to give up cheese and asked how we did it. We had a nice conversation and I think that meeting us at least gave her time to contemplate giving up dairy. At least that is what I choose to believe because it makes me happy.

It is interesting that being the hospital makes your dietary choices more “out there”.  Dan and I don’t usually go around announcing our diet but in a hospital you have no choice. I have been surprised by the number of people who expressed an interest in what we eat and genuinely seemed to want to learn.  It goes to show you that every interaction you have with people can potentially be life changing. You never know what something you say or do can impact someone else. I think that is great for all us to keep in mind and now I think I will look for more opportunities to share our healthy vegan lifestyle with others.


What can I say about Tuesday?  It was another day at the hospital much like Monday only less drama and thank goodness for that.  Dan and I spent many hours talking, but that is really nothing new.  It made me smile when he was talking to others about the nutritional problems with consuming dairy.  I guess Dan actually does listen when I drone on and on about nutrition.  LOL

Most of the day was fairly uneventful. Dan is feeling good and is ready to go home but the doctors don’t agree with him yet. However the good news is that he will probably be discharged tomorrow morning which we are both looking forward to. Poor Dan wants to get home so that he can some sleep. One you thing you learn is that is difficult to sleep in a hospital with all the noise and people bugging you to take meds or check your vitals.

Two days of veggie subs is more than enough. I can’t wait to get home and have real food.  I think the first thing I am going to make is a big pot of bean soup with mushrooms.  I know I need more fiber and soup seems very appealing right now.

I was able to get a parking spot in the Weinberg building which was fantastic. This parking lot is in the basement of one of the newer buildings.  It mean that I didn’t have to go outside to get to my car (no rain or cold) but it also meant that I was not as concerned about people being in the parking structure who shouldn’t be there if you know what I mean.

Happy thoughts:

Somehow being at a hospital doesn’t lend it itself to thinking about happy thoughts. However I would contend that this is the exactly the time when focusing on what is right in your life is most important.  It is easy to be happy when everything is going well, but at times like this not so much. 

·         I am happy that we have one of the best hospitals in the nation a short drive from home.  It would be easy to take this for granted but it is huge and I am very grateful to have Hopkins so close.

·         The clinical staff at Hopkins has been truly amazing. I worked in hospitals in Baltimore for two decades and Hopkins always had a reputation for being strong clinically but in a very cold way.  They have been working on their customer service orientation and it is very apparent.  Both Dan and I are very pleased with the quality of the care he has received.  The nurse we had the first two days (Jennifer) was adorable. She had the same quirky sense of humor that Dan does and was very attentive. Having her around to make us laugh was huge.

·         Nutrition at Hopkins has done a good job with our requirements to stay vegan.  Their use of oil is basically nonexistent which we both appreciated. We talked to them about brown rice and quinoa but as expected they said it wouldn’t be a hit with the patient population and we understand that.  On the positive side their soy milk is organic and low sugar. The salads are very fresh and the fruit comes wrapped up in little cellophane bags.  Overall food service has done a nice job accommodating us.  Since we are more difficult from a dietary perspective I think that says a lot about the level they go to work with patients.

·         As difficult as having a loved one in the hospital I can only imagine how harder it is for someone who hasn’t worked in health care.  Times like these remind me that while I didn’t love my prior career it definitely paid dividends beyond a paycheck.  It is good to have an idea of what is going on around us and why.  Without a good basic understanding of medical terminology I would be lost now.  Things always seem worse when you don’t understand what is happening don’t they?

·         One of the bright spots of this trip to the hospital is that all the medical doctors have told us to keep doing exactly what we have been from a dietary perspective which has been very encouraging. They all feel that what we are doing is the best that we can be.  Also they have been encouraging Dan to take part in regular exercise which made me happy.  Now it isn’t just my idea that he needs to exercise I have a bunch on doctors on my side. I will be reminding him of this when I bug him about exercise.  Wish me luck getting Dan to the gym, he can be very stubborn when it comes to exercising or in his case the lack there of.

·         The vegetarian doctor came in this evening to chat and we shared our pizza nuts and talked about food for a few minutes. She liked the idea of baking tofu on low to firm it up and then topping it like pizza and think she is going to try it.  I really enjoy sharing the healthy vegan food love with those who want to learn.

Signing Out:

I don’t have to tell you it has been another long day.  Instead of waiting until I got home from the hospital to get the post up I used Hopkins guest log in. I wasn’t certain how well this would work but it seemed to be okay. 

Tomorrow is likely to be another busy day. I am expecting Dan to be discharged but that means that I will have my hands full at home. I hope to have time to get up a post up tomorrow but I am sure you will understand if I miss a day.  Talk with you again tomorrow I hope.   Enjoy the rest of your evening.


  1. I was in the hospital recently, and I told them I was a vegan. What did I get for dinner? Cheese ravioli, a teeny tiny salad with a packet of ranch dressing, and a carton of milk. Ummmm....? It sounds like Hopkins is ahead of my hospital, lol!


  2. What happened to Dan? I feel like I am reading a riveting novel, a cliffhanger, that I am not ever going to get the answer to. I know you don't like to focus on disease, but please, give us newbies a brief overview of what type of cancer you and Dan have been diagnosed with, what stage, etc. Sorry if I'm being intrusive. It's just that I love reading your blog.

  3. Thinking of you and Dan...Coco

  4. Sending good thoughts to both you and Dan.


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