The Amazing Brain

I am almost done reading a fascinating book about memory.It is especially intriguing to me because I have a horrible one; short term, my brain works pretty well, but is dismal with long term memories.  For instance, I can hardly remember anything that happened in my twenties.  This could be due to having 6 babies by the age of 32 and the lack of sleep thereof, which is an important memory storing time, or it could be due to other factors. This memory thing, however, is very crushing to me; I love my brain and I really want and need it to work well. So, for years I have been taking many steps to improve my memory and stay mentally sharp.

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Anyway, back to the book,  Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. It is not so much a how-to book, which was disappointing to me, but rather an expose on the art of remembering, and how the author went from an average, run-of-the-mill-memory type of guy, in a matter of months, to the winner of the U.S. Memory Championship in 2006. To win, he had to perform many memory feats such as memorizing the order of two decks of cards in 5 minutes and memorizing the first and last names of 99 photos of faces in 15 minutes.

The brain is truly amazing. I remember (good for me) learning quite a while ago from somewhere (I forget), that the brain keeps working on things subconsciously when we are working on things, so that it is a good practice when we feel stuck on something to walk away from it and come back in a couple of hours.  I am naming it now: the Walk Away/Return Phenomena. Instinctively I knew about this because I had seen it in action while working on crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles. Take crossword puzzles for example. I would work on one until I could not come up with any more answers. Then at lunchtime I would start working on it again. I would find that suddenly I knew a lot more answers. If I needed to continue after dinner, a bunch more answers were waiting for me when I resumed the crossword puzzle. The same thing with jigsaw puzzles. I can walk away, then come back later and suddenly be able to go to pieces and know exactly where they go. I have applied this practice often with various tasks such as writing difficult papers for my bachelor degree recently.  Or writing blogs.  It never ceases to amaze me what the brain is doing when you are not aware.

We once named a kitten “The Brain”.  Its sister was “Pinky”. We had to give them away, but the new owners kept their names. Which has nothing to do with anything, I just wanted to include it.

Anyway, I will share one memory trick Foer shared in his book.  It is thousands of years old. You assign items to places called “memory palaces”. I will make something up. Okay. Let’s say you want to remember a grocery list of 10 items:

avocado, pepperoni, blueberries, butter, bananas, lettuce, cinnamon, tuna, Grass-fed ground beef, and carrots

First try to memorize it rotely. Take like a 15 seconds. See how you did, then continue.

You then choose a place you know well, like your house.  You put the items one by one in various places. The more ridiculous spin on it the better.  Let’s say we stuff the avocado’s in the mailbox and they fall out turning into guacamole. Next, we visualize a car made out of pepperoni’s dripping in your driveway. On your doorstep is bush covered with blueberries that hummingbirds are eating.  When you enter your home you step on a cube of butter and go sliding into the kitchen, where there is a monkey sitting on the counter eating bananas. And so on. It seems like more work, but this is a primary way the memory experts can remember huge amounts of information, and they learn to do it very quickly.

Anyway, I recommend the book for its interesting factor.

Ahh, the brain.  Look forward in the near future for a post about brain health. It is such a great asset.

 

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Bone Broth Diet Review

This diet was the answer to all of my dreams and longings.  Well, not quite, but I do really like it after completing the Bone Broth Diet designed by Dr. Kellyann Petrucci for the 21 prescribed days yesterday.  I had pretty decent results, especially compared to other weight loss plans I have tried.

I felt like a guinea pig embarking on this Bone Broth diet, and also persuaded 3 more “guinea pigs” to join me. Dr. Kellyann touts that this diet can help one “lose up to 15 pounds, 4 inches, and wrinkles in just 21 days”.  It also is supposed to be great for reducing inflammation and healing leaky guts. Could this be possible? The 4 of set out to find out.

Basically the diet is a version of the paleo diet, adhering to no grains, sugar, alcohol, beans/legumes, dairy, soy, bad oils, or processed foods. You mostly eat meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts/seeds. Oh, and bone broth. There is this bone broth component, 1-2 cups daily five days a weeks, and then fasting on 2 non-consecutive days consuming only 6 cups of bone broth each day.  There were also other elements to the diet such as moderate exercise, getting good sleep, and lowering stress.

So we all tried to stick to it as much as possible, and we did pretty well, just not 100%. According to Dr. Kellyann, if you slip up or deviate, you have to start over, but none of us did. Rebels we are.

One very helpful thing we did was to set up a private Facebook group. We all ended up using this a lot, daily in fact, to moan, to encourage each other, trade food photos, track progress, and to answer each others questions about how we were supposed to go about things.

Today I collected data from me and the 3 other “guinea pigs”.  Now mind you, the four of us all only needed to lose between 15-30 pounds to be at an ideal weight, so no one was morbidly obese. In the 21 days of imperfectness, one person lost 5.8 lbs, 2 people lost 7 lbs, and one person lost 8.5 lbs. Inches lost were on average about 4 inches total (just like Dr. Kellyann said!) per person. This was pretty good especially factoring in that most of us, if not all, have thyroid problems and are quite resistant to weight loss. We also saw improvements in joint pain and substantial improvement or elimination of GERD. Some reported skin improvements, although one person developed a rash and her skin worsened. One person saw a huge improvement with sleep; another had less congestion and felt like her mood was more stable.

No one really seemed to think that their wrinkles improved though. Bummer.

In case you are interested about the bone broth fasting days there seems to be a mixed sentiment.  I for one did not really mind them.  I felt hungry at times, but then that hunger was soon able to be satisfied by a cup of bone broth.  On those days I did not suffer any lack of energy or brain power, both of which I had been worried about prior to starting this diet.  One person hated bone broth fast days; she felt awful, headachy, and no energy.  The other two seemed not to mind these days much. Personally, it gave me a new respect and appreciation for food, for at the end of each of the fast days I would be thinking with gladness, “Tomorrow I get to eat”.

Now comes the bottom line questions: Would we recommend this diet to a friend? Would we do it again? Are we glad that we did it?  Everyone more or less gave a YES to all of the questions, although some people qualified it more than others. And it sounded like most of us were going to pretty much continue with this eating plan except with less of the bone broth fasts and adding back in some of the forbidden foods occasionally.

So, in conclusion, if you are looking for a healthy diet that will given good, steady results, I highly recommend the Bone Broth Diet. I would even love for you to be a guinea pig. Try it and let me know how it works for you.

 

 

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Getting My New Year’s Game on (Part 2)

So, as my previous post stated, one of my New Year’s resolutions is weight loss.  I know, how original.

Another resolution this year is de-junking. I am starting today with clothes. Clothes clutter is awful. It will drag you down, seriously. I have always been intrigued by minimalism, but not much about me resembles it, yet. I confess, I am kind of a minimalist wannabe.  Recently I encountered Courtney Carver’s idea of Project 333 challenge where you pare down to only 33 items of clothing for 3 months.  Well, I had to go count my clothes to see where I stood with this.  I counted 130 items, not counting shoes, work scrubs, underwear, jackets, pajamas, scarves, and 2 drawers full of miscellaneous clothes stuff like workout and hiking clothes, bathing suits, etc.  And I don’t feel like I even have that many clothes.

Before picture:IMG_1404.JPG

I didn’t expect it to take all afternoon. IMG_1405.JPG

Some of the above is husband’s, because he decided to pare down today too.

Below, it may be kind of hard to tell, but I really did get rid of a LOT. Most of the clothes items to the right are scrubs, and therefore don’t count.

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So, at the end I decreased my wardrobe significantly, to about 50 items (not counting shoes, work scrubs, underwear, jackets, pajama, and scarves).  I admit it, I am a wimp and I know Courtney Carver would be thinking I am totally a clothes glutton, and would not be so not impressed.  But I feel liberated from a ton of mediocre clothes and our closet is very clean and organized. Win/win for us!

Another resolution I am going to share has to do with reading books.  Last year I embarked on a 2016 reading challenge by Tim Challies that my daughter-in-law Lupe found on the internet.  We both printed copies of the challenge and I kept a log all year long, documenting 20 entire books I read.  That is lamer than I had planned, but still an improvement over the past few years. Here is Challies’ 2017 reading challenge for you to consider.  My own personal goal is to double the number of books I read in 2017, making it 40. By the way, my favorite book for 2016, hands down, was All the Light We Cannot See  by Anthony Doerr.

All of these things are healthy things.

Here’s to weight loss, decluttering, and enjoying lots of good books!

Happy New Year!!!

 

 

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Getting My New Year Game On! (Part 1)

I love the New Year. I am one of those who does resolutions, and for the most part does not keep them.  But it’s fun to start.  And I feel that it does help me make progress in some ways. I am planning on a few spectacular improvements.

One of them is my weight. This year I am going to be my own guinea pig for a diet called Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet, which I am starting on January 2.  It not only purportedly helps with stubborn weight loss, but also reduces inflammation and wrinkles “in just 21 days”.  That sounds like a good kick start for me.  Basically, it is kind of a paleo or Whole 30 type diet, except on 2 non-consecutive days you do a bone broth fast, just drinking bone broth.

Dr. Kellyann, who is a naturopathic doctor, claims to have used this diet for years with her client’s with great success, some of them celebrities in Los Angeles and New York. She also has a long list of friends and colleagues in the natural/alternative health care field, people that I admire and look up to, so with all of those factors adding up, I figure, I will see how this diet works for me.  It sounds compelling.  If you are interested too, you can get the hardcover book on Amazon.

Check out how to make bone broth in my recipe section. In fact, this very day I am starting a batch of beef bone broth in preparation.

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And, I will keep you posted on my progress on the 21 Day Bone Broth diet.

 

 

 

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Happiness Hodgepodge

Why is it so hard to be happy?  I asked myself that question a number of months ago.  Like one morning you could wake up feeling happy, and then before you know it someone or something spoils it all. Some wee or gargantuan happiness-killer always seems to be lurking just around the corner ready to sneak upon you unawares.  You may have even steeled yourself, and yet these happiness-killer incidents still seem to successfully rob you of happiness all too often. Happiness, or lack of, is so much a part of life I just had to explore it.

Happiness. Isn’t that what everyone wants? What.does.that.word.even.mean? According to the thesaurus on my computer: contentment, joy, cheerfulness, gladness, to be in high spirits. Its opposite is unhappiness, sadness, misery, gloom, woe, depression, sorrow, grief.

A favorite song of my husbands and mine when we first got married was Happiness is Just Around the Bend by Brian Auger. We had gotten married the January after graduating from high school, had no money, no career, we were both immature and selfish, and did not know how to do life very well.  So that song gave us hope; it was kind of one of our mantras in the those early days. Except now we have more money, careers, and we are more mature and less selfish, but can still find it hard to be happy.  What gives?

To my surprise, I found a magazine at the airport the other day devoted to happiness titled “Live Happy”. Of course I had to buy it. The CEO/Co-Founder Kym Yancey wrote an article on choosing to be happy.  His 19-year-old son who had been going through a difficult time one day told him that he tried choosing to be happy and it didn’t work. Ah ha! At this point I was wondering how in the world would he reply to his son. Interestingly, Yancey was able to convey to his son how choosing happiness can be compared to choosing to be an great athlete. If you choose to be a great athlete you need to do certain things, disciplines like diet, training, hard work, and learning from others.  In much the same way, happiness takes discipline, commitment, and hard work. Pondering this, I think I agree.

There are some great quotes I found to move our mindset toward happiness from www.brainyquote.com. Here is a smattering~

Martha Washington: “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition”.

Groucho Marx: “I, not experts, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today.  I can choose which it shall be.  Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet.  I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it”.

Denis Waitley: “Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed.  Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude”.  (Great words, but I do not know who he is.)

Abraham Lincoln: “Most folks are as happy as they make their minds up to be”.

And I found some more happiness quotes on www.goodreads.com, sillier ones.

Charles Schultz: “Happiness is a warm puppy”.

George Burns: “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city”.

Mark Twain: “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination”.

Back to a more serious note, the Bible has a lot to say about the subject too. Here is just a few verses.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine”; Proverbs 15:13, “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face”; and Proverbs 15:15, “…a cheerful heart has a continual feast”(NASB).

Happiness can be learned and is secret to be discovered.  Paul, in Philippians 4:11-12 says, “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (NASB).

In closing, did you know that March 20 is the International Day of Happiness? Imagine that! You found out just in time to celebrate.  That should make you happy!

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To Drink or Not to Drink: Part 2

I actually did not really like breaking this blog into Parts 1 & 2, but felt I had to due to the length.  I don’t think they stand alone well, so if you missed Part 1, I encourage you to read it.

So, anyway, let’s launch into Part 2!

What some health gurus say about alcohol:

Mark Sisson decided to go without alcohol (his normal intake was almost nightly 1-2 glasses of red wine with dinner or after dinner) for 45 days in May 2014 to see if his lingering intestinal issues would clear up. He reported that they significantly improved, as well as his sleep. Prior to the experiment, he had been falling asleep without difficulty then awakening every night at 2 or 3 am and then having difficulty falling back to sleep. In one of his articles on alcohol he reports a study that found alcohol to be less addictive than nicotine, crystal meth, crack and valium; but more addictive than heroin, cocaine, caffeine, marijuana, and ecstasy. He goes on to say that alcohol is can be toxic, hard on the liver, carcinogenic, affects judgment and perception, can cause poor eating choices and overeating. He did balance this all with some positive effects of alcohol, all of which are already mentioned in the list above. He thinks everyone should give abstaining from alcohol a trial.

Alejandro Junger MD writes in Clean Gut that alcohol can be problematic in that it can feed yeast and fungus contributing to overgrowth, has to be eliminated during the 21 Day Clean Gut program, then take frequent breaks from it in order to remain dependency free. He also calls alcohol one of the toxic triggers: a food that more often than not can negatively affect your weight, mood, and energy. For fairness sake to alcohol, he also includes corn, other grains, processed sugar, soy, gluten, dairy, and nightshades as potential toxic triggers.

Sarah Ballantyne PhD, in her book The Paleo Approach, warns that even small amounts have been shown to damage the intestinal lining, that studies have shown that it can increase inflammation with autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. Alcohol can also cause bacterial overgrowth by feeding the bad bacteria in the gut and cause intestinal permeability. However, she concludes “an occasional drink might be tolerated after noticeable improvements in disease symptoms”.

Chris Kresser, Your Personal Paleo Code author, states alcohol has to be avoided completely in his 30 Day Reset Program, but it can be added back in Step 2. He then recommends limiting it to 4 to 6 drinks (or in another place he says 3-5) per week. Either way, pretty limiting. However, he does not recommend adding beer back in due to the gluten content, and goes on to say that wine, vodka, tequila, and gin are good choices. He also mentions that alcohol is associated with decreased sleep quality and duration.

Robb Wolf – “Alcohol…has physiological consequences that aren’t awesome. Less is generally better. Sorry.” Has a signature drink he created and likes called NorCal Margarita that consists of good tequila, fresh lime juice, and soda water.

Suzy Cohen, touted as “America’s Most Trusted Pharmacist”, is a pharmacist who deals a lot with alternative medicine and who wrote a good article on how drinking alcohol depletes vitamin B1 (thiamine) and is not easily replenished by the foods we eat. She is 50 years old and looks much younger. Someone asked her what foods/drinks she consumed. Her reply alcoholwise was that she does not like to drink much, usually 5-6 times a year at parties, and not even one whole drink then.

J. J. Virgin– In her book The Virgin Diet says to omit alcohol in cycles 1 & 2 to give the liver a better chance at ridding the body of toxins and metabolizing fat. After that drink in strict moderation, like hard alcohol 1 time weekly, one shot only; or one glass of wine daily at most.

Daniel Amen MD in Change Your Brain, Change Your Life says that overuse of alcohol can give the brain a shriveled, less active, toxic look and impairs function.

David Perlmutter MD author of Grain Brain says that alcohol can be impair deep sleep because it causes the release of adrenaline which is stimulating, and disrupts serotonin production which helps initiates sleep.

Andrew Weil MD– Light consumption of alcohol, such as ½ glass of red wine daily has been shown to extend life span by 4 years.

Other sites googled on the internet stated over and over that benefits from alcohol only come with moderate use and that means one 5 oz glass at of wine for women or no more than 2 glasses of wine for men.

Trial Abstaining:

Due to the many reasons stated above I agree that taking periodic breaks from alcohol is a wise idea. In case you want to get better control over your alcohol consumption for whatever reason I recommend that you check out Hello Sunday Morning. This site I just came across provides encouragement and resources.Morning

Cheers! whether you have a glass of wine, a martini, or soda water with lime in your hand.

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To Drink or Not to Drink: Part 1

In case you have been pondering the subject, yet haven’t had much time to ponder it well, I thought I could lend you a hand, or rather lend you my thoughts and informal research on the matter. Maybe it will save you time, and possibly lead you to look into the subject more as well.

First of all, initially I brainstormed and came up with 2 lists and added to them as I encountered more items. Then I looked to see what people in the health field are recommending. We will start off with the downside as well as the positives in Part 1, then check in on others opinions in Part 2.

Reasons NOT to drink Alcohol:

Hinders weight loss

Can cause lip cancer-I am trying to heal my lower lip from precancerous chelitis keratosis

Being a depressant, it is an energy sucker, can cause lack of productivity

It is medicating

It adds up moneywise

Can cause leaky gut or prevent healing of a leaky gut

Can kill brain cells

Can kill cardiac cells

Can strain or injure liver, cause fatty liver, cirrhosis

Increases risk for esophagitis, pancreatitis, acid reflux, and ulcers

Increases risk for certain cancers

It can be difficult to use control, limiting to one drink for women or two drinks for men

Depletes the body of thiamine, vitamin B1

Can cause hot flashes and night sweats in women

Can disrupt hormones

Interferes with some prescription and OTC medications

Has undesirable, dangerous interactions with some medications

It is addictive

Can cause distrust, uneasiness, and conflict with family members

Temptation to drink and drive, risk of DUI, putting others in danger

Not good for sexual performance

Can cause lack of productivity

Can cause facial flushing

The Bible warns against drunkenness

Reasons to drink alcohol:

For me personally, with all of my food issues, it is one treat I can have

It is social

It is relaxing

A possible stress reducer

Can improve vascular health when limited to small amounts

Resveratrol in red wine is anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant

Can improve libido

Can increase creativity

Can increase good cholesterol

Can increase insulin sensitivity

Can decrease risk of mental decline with aging

Jesus turned water into wine

Conclusion of Part 1:

As you can see there are many compelling reasons on both side of the alcohol imbibing issue. This seems like an important issue to step back and deeply consider. Sometimes I like stirring the pot and encouraging thought on pertinent topics because we can get into ruts and become mental robots.  I hope this is joggling some nuts and bolts in your brain.

If you can think of any pros or cons of drinking to add please do so. This is certainly not an exhaustive list.

I invite you to check out Part 2 for additional information and ideas on this subject due to post tomorrow. It has some comments from some people in the health field that I am sure you will find interesting.

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