November Update: Will I not reach my 2021 Walking Goal of 1200 km?

It’s crunch time for me; not sure I’ll make it. It’s the first time this year I’ve been unmotivated to walk.

It’s crunch time for me; not sure I’ll make it. It’s the first time this year I’ve been unmotivated to walk.

I’ve been doing a lot of walking to reach my 1200 km goal for the year, but my November kilometers are a lot fewer than usual.

I walked 71.13 km this month. Scroll down to see the yearly total and a recap of previous months.

Walking over 70 km in 30 days is actually not too shabby. Those are walks outside or on the treadmill, and are not part of just moving through my daily life.

However, since I need to get in enough km to reach or exceed my goal of 1200 km for 2021, 71.13 is low for the second last month of the year.

I haven’t been motivated to get outside since it got colder. Honestly, I’ve been feeling a bit blah the last half of the month. Maybe it’s just the adjustment to winter arriving, I’m not sure.

Last month, I felt like I’d reach my 1200 km walking goal for the year, no matter what, but now, I’m not sure I care if I make it.

I usually have a good attitude and am motivated to keep moving my body, but lately, I just can’t seem to feel excited about completing my goal. Hopefully, this blah feeling will pass.

On  a positive note, nature continued to impress me while I was on some of my strolls. 

fall walking in nature
walking in the fall
walking in the fall
walking in winter

Here’s a recap of my 2021 walking goal so far.

    71.13 km  November

107.99 km  October

163.07 km  September (my best month so far!)

116.76 km  August (always happy when it’s over 100)

104.69 km  July (not too shabby)

    99.1 km  June

154.43 km  May (I killed it this month!)

 48.87 km  April

 33.85 km  March (10-day water fast from March 20-29, so much less walking)

 50.36 km  February

122.13 km  January (high number due to initial dedication and interest)

2021 distance total is…1074.38 km.

I’ve got 125.62 km to go to reach my goal of 1200 km.

I’ll keep walking and hope that I get back my oomph, so I can finish with a smile on my face on New Year’s Eve.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Alison Carrey

Got a Dream? Which of these 3 Choices will you Make?

Your desires/dreams are a clear sign of who you really are.

I used to keep telling myself I wanted to write a book, start a business, live in a warmer climate, lose 30 pounds, get fitter etc. Periodically, I did take action to work toward those goals, but like many of us, the urgency of my desires faded and they took a back seat to my life.

Which is sad.

Why?

When we keep coming back to wanting to do the same things, it reveals the fact that those goals or dreams mean something to us. It means they’re part of us in some way, or that deep down, we feel drawn to them.

Your desires/dreams are a clear sign of who you really are.

To clarify here, I’m not talking about goals we know we should go after, or that we feel we must do; uuggh!

I’m not talking about your To Do list or things like:

  • Getting finances in order
  • Organizing your paperwork
  • Learning a new skill
  • Decluttering your basement

I’m talking about goals that would deeply satisfy you, make you feel good about yourself, and lead to you having a big smile on your face when you’re 90 years old and looking back on your life.

Only you know what those dreams or goals are. If one doesn’t come to mind at the moment, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are the things that keep coming up that feel like deep desires to you?
  • What is something you’ve been talking about for years that you want to do, but you haven’t done it yet?
  • What are the things that light you up when you do them or think about doing them?
  • At the end of your life, will there be anything you regret not doing?

For me, I’ve always wanted to write a book. In the last few years, as I crept past the age of 50, it really hit me that I’ve wanted to write a book since I was a teenager. 

That means that for the last 40 years, I’ve NOT been working toward a deep desire and dream of mine. Until now.

I’ve finally achieved that dream. I’ve written a practical book to help women find more calm in their life and that will help them identify and reduce much of the stress in their life. It’s finally finished and edited. Now, I have to work at the next stage, which is getting it out into the world, so those that need it can find it! 

Writing the book/guide didn’t happen overnight, and it’s completion is based on many varied attempts along the way. However, once I realized how long I had wanted this, and once I recognized that I needed to nurture that desire so I didn’t lose me,  I was in. I can’t tell you how awesome it feels to accomplish something that’s been a burning desire for 40 years! Stay tuned. 🙂

Back to you…

What is one thing that you want to do or accomplish? What is one goal or dream that’s tied closely to your heart and soul? One thing.

Believe in yourself and your dream

So, now what can you do with that precious desire/dream of yours? Wait… let’s take it one step further before we move on.

Say your dream out loud to yourself. In the car, at home, in the washroom. Wherever.

“My dream is….”

If you can’t figure it out right now, I’d encourage you to journal or talk out your ideas with someone you trust. Dig deep and find it. It’s in there somewhere.

If you’re aware of your dream, or at least have an inkling of what your dream might be connected to (art, travel, etc.), then you’ve got 3 choices when it comes to what’s next.

  1. Do nothing and don’t go after your dream/goal.
  2. Make attempts to go after your dream/goal.
  3. Go after your dream/goal, no matter what.

Choice #1-Do nothing and don’t go after your goal/dream.

If you have a desire that you’ve already confirmed lies deep within you, burning for attention and recognition, you might still choose to NOT go after your dream.

You might feel you could never accomplish it. For whatever reason or excuse you give, you just don’t think it’s possible. Only you can really know if this is really true.

Here are some common reasons/excuses people give for not going after their dreams:

  • It’s too late.
  • I don’t have the money.
  • I don’t have enough time.
  • I’m too busy.
  • It’s just not the right time.
  • I’m not smart/expert/talented enough.
  • I don’t have enough education/credibility.
  • My spouse/family think I’m incapable of doing it or that it’s a stupid idea.
  • Nobody else gets it/understands my dream.
  • I don’t have enough support.
  • I’ve already chosen a path; I can’t add more/make a change.
  • I tried it before, and it didn’t work/failed.
  • I’m carrying issues from my past/childhood.
  • Life is fine right now.
  • I don’t deserve it.
  • I have to focus on my family.
  • I don’t know where to begin.
  • I’m too introverted/shy.
  • I doubt my ability to do it.
  • I’m afraid of failing.
  • I’m not motivated.
  • I’m too distracted.
  • I’m not ready.
  • I’m too old.
  • I’m too young.
  • I’m too tired.
  • I’m too fat.
  • I’m too sick.

There might be a genuine reason for you in that list, but before you decide to NOT go after your dream/goal, ask yourself if you’re willing to give up on your dream.

Before you choose to NOT pursue your dream. I urge you to reconsider because if you squash the burning desire inside you, you are killing a part of yourself. If you kill a part of yourself, you’re not fully living your life, and you may end up like many people who have a regret of not living a life true to themselves (#1 regret in people from the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware).

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware

One final thought. There may be a legitimate reason you do not go after your dream. Only you know if that’s the right decision for you, and you can be proud for making a decision that fits you best.

Choice #2 Make attempts to go after your goal.

If you’ve made this choice, you should pat yourself on the back.

Why?

Because it takes courage to go after what you want. Whatever your dream is, it’s likely not something easy, or you would’ve done it by now.

If you’ve decided to make attempts, that’s terrific because you’ve decided to not give up on your dream. Whether you accomplish your goal in the long run, or not, you’ll be able to look back at your life and be able to say that you made attempts.

Even working toward something and not achieving it can be satisfying and a learning experience that helps us grow as a person or that opens paths/doors we otherwise wouldn’t have noticed.

A few tips while you make your attempts at going after your dream:

  • Avoid overwhelm
  • Avoid perfectionist thinking
  • Start small
  • Work backwards
  • Make a plan
  • Work on it every day (or regularly)
  • Take baby steps
  • Nurture your dream by finding others with your dream
  • Nurture your dream by finding related books/videos to inspire you
  • Don’t give up because you don’t know how to do something; Google is your friend
  • Be resourceful and build your resilience

Choice #3: Go after your goal, no matter what!

go after your dream
image: mohamed_hassan (Pixabay)

Congratulations! I’m excited for you.

If you’ve made the decision to go after your dream, it might be because of one or more of these reasons:

  • You realize that you’ve put your dreams aside because of family or others’ opinions, and it’s time to do what’s right for you.
  • You recognize that your dream is central to who you are, and that damn it, you are worth going after your dream.
  • You’ve had a health crisis (that’s what kicked my ass in gear) or an illness/death in the family, which has made you recognize that life is short.
  • You’ve had an epiphany that you’re the only one who can make you happy.
  • You know now that it just doesn’t matter what other people think.
  • You realize you’ve lost yourself over the years, and reconnecting with the passion inside you feels amazing.
  • You crave something that is just yours.
  • You want to be happy.

Before you dive in to charging after your dream, let me warn you about a few things that could throw you off course or make you think you can’t pursue your dream after all.

Beware:

  • You will have highs and lows. One minute you’ll feel so on top of the world and that you got this!  The next minute, you’ll doubt yourself or face an obstacle; both can squash a dream if you allow it. Expect the ups and downs and ride the waves to your dream. Don’t let the challenges throw you off course.
  • Keep your dream front and center. Even if you don’t work on it every day, keep your dream alive. Find or make signs, posters, a vision board, reminders on your phone, etc. Keep a dream journal.
  • Don’t let the busyness of life or other people’s opinions push your dream to the side. Remind yourself that even if your dream seems weird or unlikely to others, it’s central to who you are, and you will choose to keep it close to your heart.

And remember…

  • You CAN do this.
  • You are strong.
  • It’s a journey/process.
  • It will take time.
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • You are worth it.

Whether you made a decision today, or you need to take more time to explore and reflect, I hope you will not let your dream die.

I hope you will love yourself in the best way possible by lighting the spark of your dream and fanning its flames.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Alison Carrey

Wine-care Ain’t Self-care, Girl!

When you hit your late 40’s or early 50’s, you become more aware of your health and the horrifying idea that you should drink less if you want to be healthy.

You’ve just walked in the door, after a long day at work. You’re beat. Your feet hurt. No one’s walked the dog yet. You’ve got ten things on your mind, and now you have to make dinner.

How long does it take for you to have a glass of wine in your hand?

Maybe wine isn’t your thing. Maybe it’s a cooler, a gin and tonic, or a beer.

Whatever your fave booze is, ask yourself if you’re using it to relieve stress, to relax and to just have a moment for you. A peaceful, smooth, tasty moment.

drinking wine for self-care

Is alcohol your self-care? I know it used to be mine.

For me, it was red wine, and I drank it all week long. After a stressful day at work. Celebrating and socializing on the weekends. A relaxing evening with my husband.

Wine took the edge off. More relaxed. More laughing. More good times. Drinking wine was fun. 

Until it wasn’t.

If you’re not 40 years old yet, you may or may not have noticed you don’t bounce back after drinking like you used to. When you hit your late 40’s or early 50’s, you become more aware of your health and the horrifying idea that you should drink less if you want to be healthy.

less wine to be healthy

Speaking of drinking less. Think about what you pour into your glass. According to the serving sizes of alcohol, I was probably drinking 1.5 to 2 servings in each glass!

So, how do you know if you should reduce your intake of alcohol or even consider giving it up? 

Consider two things: 

  1. How alcohol affects you
  2. The actual dangers of booze (especially for women)

Checklist: How Alcohol Affects You in your Life

Read each statement below, and keep track of how many you agree with in terms of your drinking habits.

  • I drink alcohol 3 or more times a week.
  • When I drink, I usually have 2 or more drinks.
  • I usually finish my drink before others around me finish theirs.
  • When I’m stressed, I look forward to my glass of wine/drink.
  • There are times I’ve told myself I wouldn’t drink at an event, but then I do.
  • On more than one occasion, I’ve told myself I should drink less for my health.
  • I sometimes drink more than I intended.
  • Sometimes I drink when I don’t really feel like it; it’s a habit.
  • After drinking too much, I feel awful the next day (whatever your definition of awful is: headache, tired, groggy, hungover, etc.)
  • I often don’t sleep well, and I’ve started to notice my poorest sleeps are after I drink.
  • My hot flashes get worse after I drink.
  • Drinking alcohol leads me to eating crappy food and/or too much food.
  • If I think about it, most arguments with my spouse, family or friends have been when I or we were drinking.
  • On more than one occasion, I’ve forgotten conversations or events from the previous day when I was drinking.
  • On more than one occasion, I’ve said or did something I regretted or that was embarrassing while drinking.

Checklist Answers

Although we’re all different (culture, genes, habits, lifestyle, etc.), and alcohol can affect us in different ways, the following guidelines can help you determine if you need to have a frank, but gentle, conversation with yourself about how much alcohol you’re drinking, and how often.

In addition, although you’ve heard that wine can be good for you, the risks of drinking it regularly outweigh the benefits. Just like running might benefit your health, the risk of harm from running down the center of a busy highway outweighs any benefits you’d get from the actual running.

Here are the answers to the checklist. How many of those statements were true for you? These guidelines are my own. I’m not a doctor or health care expert. Only you can gauge whether you need to look at reducing your alcohol intake.

1-4 It’s unlikely you’re turning to alcohol for self-care. Alcohol is probably not a focus in your life. However, depending on the specific items you checked off, keep an eye on how often you drink, and how much you drink, to avoid future health problems.

5-9 Your self-care habit may lead to bigger problems. Alcohol is impacting your life in more ways than you might have realized. Depending on which items you checked off, it would be a good idea to decrease how often you drink and to consume less when you drink. Try drinking only once a week and limit your drinks to two. Doing so will decrease your chance of acquiring alcohol-related health problems.

10-15 This score indicates that your regular self-care routine of sipping a lovely Shiraz or whatever you like to drink, is going to bite you in the ass, later. You should seriously consider the physical and mental health risks of your alcohol consumption. Try going alcohol-free for 30 days. Doing so will be eye-opening. It may show that you just have a bad habit of drinking, or it may show that you have an addiction that needs to be looked at. Either way, you’ll need to start drinking less if you want to have good health.

After reviewing your results, you may need to look in the mirror (with love and kindness) and have a conversation with yourself about whether your health and overall well-being is really important to you or not. When I say health, I mean the health of your body, mind and even your relationships.

the dangers of drinking alcohol
image: Alison Carrey

The Real Dangers of Drinking (especially for women)

Now that you’ve had a look at the effects of your own alcohol consumption, let’s review some of the dangers. It’s my guess that most women are completely unaware of just how harmful drinking can be. I was one of those people, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020. 

Since then, I’ve gone for weeks and months without drinking. I drink less, and honestly, I envision a future life without any alcohol because the World Health Organization has classified alcohol as a carcinogen in the same category as asbestos and tobacco. The organization says alcohol is toxic and that there is no safe level of alcohol.

Since I’ve had cancer already, and a type that has been shown to be (in part) caused by alcohol (see below), it would be in my best interest to abstain from alcohol altogether, for my health. It is my hope that I can achieve this eventually.

The information below is not a comprehensive list of the dangers of booze, but if you want to improve your health or keep the health you have, it will give you a glimpse of how alcohol can greatly impact your health. I’ve bolded the parts that stood out to me. 

“Alcohol is a toxic and psychoactive substance with dependence producing properties. In many of today’s societies, alcoholic beverages are a routine part of the social landscape for many in the population. This is particularly true for those in social environments with high visibility and societal influence, nationally and internationally, where alcohol frequently accompanies socializing. In this context, it is easy to overlook or discount the health and social damage caused or contributed to by drinking.” –World Health Organization

“Cancer: alcohol consumption has been identified as carcinogenic for the following cancer categories (Baan et al., 2007): cancers of the colorectum, female breast, larynx, liver, oesophagus, oral cavity and pharynx. The higher the consumption of alcohol, the greater the risk for these cancers: even the consumption of two drinks per day causes an increased risk for some cancers, such as breast cancer (Hamajima et al., 2002). ” –World Health Organization

  • “Liver Disease: The risk of cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than for men.
  • Impact on the Brain: Alcohol-related cognitive decline and shrinkage of the brain develop more quickly for women than for men.
  • Impact on the Heart: Women who drink excessively are at increased risk for damage to the heart muscle at lower levels of consumption and over fewer years of drinking than men.
  • Breast Cancer and other Cancers: Alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon. In women, drinking is also associated with breast cancer, even at low levels of consumption.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“[Women’s] bodies contain proportionately less water and more fat than men’s bodies. Water dilutes alcohol and fat retains it, so our organs are exposed to higher concentrations of alcohol for longer periods of time. Also, women have less alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that breaks down alcohol before it reaches the bloodstream. At any given dose, our blood levels of alcohol will be higher than a man’s, even taking into account differences in body weight. As a result, one drink for a woman is roughly equivalent to two drinks for a man.” Harvard Health Publishing: Harvard Medical School

Final Thoughts

Women are increasing how much they drink, compared to the past. This article published by NPR (National Public Radio) talks about how women are using booze to cope with life, as opposed to using it just for pleasure, and that so many women are completely unaware that their drinking habits need to be adjusted or halted.

Based on my own drinking habits and experiences, and my observation of family and friends’ drinking patterns, I whole-heartedly agree that we’re turning to booze for an escape. Many women are practically in-lust with their vino (ya, that was me) because it helps us to relax and escape our hectic, stressful lives, where we do much more (work and home) than the average man (especially if we have children). 

Do you want to take a closer look at the stress in your life and how you can reduce it? Read “3 Steps to Less S#?@**(Stress)“.

If you want to go deeper into reflecting on your drinking habits, go to Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and your Health.

I’m writing this post because I want women to see that turning to booze for their self-care program is not the way to go.

I’m hoping women will begin to see that we need to make other changes in our life to cope with stress. I want us to see the incredible power we have within, and that we’re not treasuring that power when we reach for our glass of toxins. 

Check out my other post about alcohol, “I’ll have a Cabernet, with a Side of Cancer”.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Alison Carrey

Do you Make this Mistake when Reading Food Labels?

To avoid making this mistake while reading the nutrition label, let’s look at what you need to do to be a savvy consumer.

Splattered all over a food package are words, images, lists, labels, symbols and logos, and sometimes it’s hard to know if the product fits with your buying needs.

Although a product’s packaging can seem complex, if you know this secret, it’s actually pretty simple to understand it. You’ll always know where to look when making a decision about a box of crackers, can of soup, or any other processed food item.

We take the price of a product into account, but there’s usually a more pressing decision to be made. More of us want to know if the food product is loaded with chemicals, or we might be concerned about how much fat, protein, sugar or salt is in it. With allergies so prevalent, people are also looking to see if a product is nut-free or gluten-free.

Today, many people are becoming more concerned about what they put in their bodies, and they want to know if a food is healthy or not. Based on our own definitions of health or healthy eating, we need to determine if the product is good for us, or if it’s not.

If it’s a food item the family eats daily, you might try to pick one that has the most vitamins or that has less sugar. If it’s a treat, like brownies or potato chips that you buy only once in a while, you might be less concerned about the “bad” stuff.

Either way, you want the tools to determine if you’re going to spend your hard earned money on it or not.

Let’s look at food packaging based on three areas.

The first is the general stuff that’s all around the packaging. It’s designed to be appealing to the eye and often includes lots of colour. The general area of the package is also structured to create an emotion in you: excitement, comfort, etc. 

General Packaging Design

On the general packaging you’ll likely see…

  • Bright colors
  • Brand name
  • Brand logo
  • Product name
  • Slogan
  • Weight or volume of product
  • Manufacturing or distribution company details
  • Bar Code
  • Product claims, highlights/features, such as “light”, “50% less fat” or “30 calories per tablespoon”

The second area of packaging is the nutrition label. Most people are familiar with this government-mandated part of a package, and they often rely on the nutrition label to make a purchasing decision. It shows you the amount of each nutrient by weight, and the daily percentage value (based on a 2000 calorie day), of certain nutrients in the product. 

The last area of food packaging is the ingredients list, which lists all the ingredients used to make the product.

ritz crackers ingredients list

Let’s take a closer look at the three areas, so you can avoid mistakes and be in-the-know about how to make the best food-purchasing decisions for you and your family.

General Area

The claims made by the company selling a product are aimed at convincing you that their product is good (light, low salt, tasty, healthy, etc.). However, often those claims can be misleading. 

A product such as low/no fat salad dressing will feature its fat-free quality in big letters where you can see it, but when you look closely, you might notice the sugar and/or salt content is high (to add more taste, since some or all of the fat has been removed). Having a low-fat product might be important to you, but you may not want the added sugar or salt in order to eat low fat. 

The features of the general area of food packaging are meant to lure you into the product and to buy it. So, overall, it’s NOT what you want to focus on when buying. 

The other two areas (nutrition labels and ingredients) have valuable information, but it’s important to know HOW to read these areas of a food package, so you’re not tricked, and so you get accurate information.

Nutrition Label

When looking at the nutrition label DO NOT look at the percentages listed beside each nutrient. They don’t give you any valuable information. If you buy a can of soup, and see that the percentage value for fat is 14%, what does that mean to you? Are you going to go home and plan how much fat you eat at each meal to know if you reach or exceed 100% of the daily value for fat? Probably not.

can of soup nutrition label

What some people mistakenly do is glance at the 14%, and in their minds, think, “Oh, this soup is only 14% fat”. Not true! Even if we know that’s not what the percentage means, we can think that because that percentage is there.

To avoid making this mistake while reading the nutrition label, let’s look at what you need to do to be a savvy consumer.

Look only at the grams (g) for the nutrient you’re interested in. 

How much fat is in it? Sugar? Salt?

You might be wondering now, “So what? The label shows grams; I don’t know how many grams of fat I should have. The grams don’t mean anything to me.”

That’s ok. It’s not the grams, by themselves, that are so important, but it’s what you can do with your knowledge of the grams

When it comes to a nutrition label, you need to know…

…what proportion of the product a particular nutrient represents.

Let’s take a closer look at the fat in that can of soup.

can of soup fat percentage nutrition label

Holy moly! 67.5% of each spoonful of this soup is fat. I’m not a dietician, but even I know that’s high.

Most people make the mistake of not figuring out the proportion of nutrients in their food. Knowing how to do this is huge!

Don’t worry about the math. When you’re in the grocery store, you can just do an estimate in your head, or you can pull out your phone and use your calculator.

Serving Size

Another area of the nutrition label to watch is the serving size. Companies are counting on us to focus on the nutrients, but often when you factor in the serving size, you’ll see a problem.

The can of soup pictured above has a serving size of 1/2 cup (125 mL). Do you know what half a cup looks like? It’s pretty small when you think about half a cup of soup in your bowl. Most people would have 4 servings (2 cups).

If companies put a serving size more realistic to what people actually eat, then we’d become more aware of how many calories we’re eating. That could mean that we’d eat less of the product (and buy less), or it could mean we wouldn’t buy the product in the first place.

If you increase the serving size of this soup, the percentage of fat stays the same; your soup is 67.5% fat whether you have 1/2 cup or 2 cups.

However, you’re definitely consuming more fat, overall. When you have 1/2 cup of soup, you’re getting 9 grams of fat, but when you have 2 cups (a much more likely event), you’re now eating 4 times the amount of fat in a serving, which is 36 grams of fat! 

Although the percentage of fat in the soup is the same, by eating more fat, you are increasing the percentage of fat you eat in the day. 

For example, let’s imagine it’s the end of the day and you’ve eaten 1800 calories. Out of all the food you’ve eaten that day, 500 of those calories (28%) were fat (500/1800 = 27.77%).

Now let’s add 2 cups of that soup (4 servings) as a snack while you’re watching TV. Now your calories for the day are 2280 (1800 + 480). When you factor in the fat from the soup, you’ve now had 980 (500 + 480) calories, or 43% of your calories from fat at the end of your day (980/2280 = 42.98%). That soup made a considerable difference in your overall fat intake and percentage for your day because the soup is high in fat.

How much fat should you have?

There’s nothing wrong with a little fat in our diet. We need fat as a nutrient, but we don’t need too much. Some sources will tell you that 30% of your diet as fat is ok, but others say it should be kept to only 10%. If you’re trying to watch your weight or your heart, you’ll want to keep your fat intake low. Aim for less than 20%. 

If you are trying to lose weight, and you’ve never calculated the percentage of fat in your food from a food label (or through a nutrient-tracking app), give it a try and see what happens. If you reduce your fat intake over time, you’ll likely lose weight because fat has a high number of calories (compared to sugar and protein, which both have only 4 calories per gram). Of course, if you eat more calories overall, to compensate, then the weight won’t come off.

What about Salt?

The soup can shows 850 mg of salt. For this nutrient, there’s no proportion to figure out. Instead, you want to compare the salt amount to the calories. The general rule of thumb is to keep the salt amount to no higher than the number of calories. 

Note: sodium is salt, and it is noted in mg (not g).

In this case, there are 120 calories in one serving of soup, so the salt amount should be 120 mg or less. You’ll find that in a processed food product, it’s very rare for the salt to fit with the rule of thumb. Knowing this trick, however, can help you decide if a product’s salt level is too high,  just a little bit high, or right on target.

Let’s talk Sugar

The sugar in this soup product is low. Only 1 g. If you want to know the proportion of the soup that’s sugar, then you’d apply the same formula we used for fat intake. The only difference is that 1 gram of sugar has only 4 calories (not 9, like 1 g of fat). 

In the case of the soup, 1 g of sugar = 4 calories. 4/120 = 3.33% sugar.

Note on Carbs and Protein:

You can apply the same formula if you want to know the percentage of carbs per serving as well. 1 g of carbohydrate = 4 calories. In the soup, 8 g = 32 calories/12o = 27%.

Interested in the protein? Use the same formula you used for sugar/carbs. 1 g of protein = 4 calories. In this case, 2 g of protein = 8 calories. 8/120 = 6.66% protein.

Back to sugar….

Beware of sugar in some products. Especially products that claim to be healthy, or ones you consume on a daily basis, like cereal.

Honey Nut Cheerios is one third sugar. Every bite is 34.3% sugar. That’s a little high.

Total sugar = 12 g per 1 cup serving

12 x 4 (4 calories in each gram of sugar) = 48 calories

48 / 140 (total calories) = 34%

honey nut cheerios sugar content nutrition label
source: cheerios.com

If you have kids, try not to give in to their pleas to eat the sugary cereals that come in colorful boxes. Look at Cap’n Crunch. It’s almost half sugar at 45% (17 x 4 = 68 calories from sugar; 68/150 = 45.33%).

cap'n crunch cereal sugar content nutrition label
source: capncrunch.com

Please beware…many companies lower their serving size, so you think you’re getting less fat, sugar or salt in their products.

Other Information on the Nutrition Label

I personally don’t pay attention to the other parts of the nutrition label. When I think about fiber and vitamins and minerals, I know it’s best to get those from fruits and vegetables mainly. I don’t look to processed foods for my nutrition.

The saturated and trans fat amounts on a label can be relevant, though. Saturated fat should be low, and transfat amounts should be zero (beware: companies lower the serving size so the transfats will be zero, which means that two servings might have transfats…think potato chips!). Overall, I don’t pay attention to these two fats; I just look at the overall fat.

Milk Fat…Buyer Beware

I bring up milk at the end because you now have a good understanding of how to calculate a nutrient in a food.

I also save milk for the end of the post because it’s one of the most misleading products out there in terms of how companies promote the fat content. Yes, they do tell you how many grams of fat the milk contains, but they specifically list a percentage of fat on the product, and this is the tricky part.

When you buy 2% milk, you think it’s only 2% fat, right?  Awesome…chug away!

WRONG. It’s much higher.

There are other products that are also deceptive in their labeling of fat, but milk is one of those foods that so many people consume on a daily basis, and that so many people think is low in fat.

Milk companies give you the percentage of fat by the weight of the product. Now that you know it’s the percentage of calories from fat that’s more important when consuming fat, let’s have a closer look at milk.

percentage of fat in milk
image: Alison Carrey

Don’t be fooled by nutrition labels. Always calculate a nutrient based on its proportion of the total calories.

Remember:

  • 1 g fat = 9 calories
  • 1 g sugar = 4 calories
  • 1 g protein = 4 calories
  • salt mg < or = to total calories

Ingredients List

This is the third and last area of food packaging you should know about. I could write a whole blog post just about the ingredients in products because there are so many to avoid and because there are so many variations. For our purposes, however, we’ll cover the basics.

The ingredients are important because they tell you what you’re actually eating. Is it a chemical? Is it a highly refined ingredient? Is it a whole ingredient? A natural ingredient?

Start with these guidelines.

1. Aim for as few ingredients as possible (3 or less is awesome; 5 or less is good too). When you look at an ingredient list and see it’s packed with many ingredients, you know it’s highly processed and generally not healthy. The image below shows the ingredients of a frozen pizza…yikes! That’s a long list! 

pizza long list of ingredients
source: goodness.com

2. Aim for ingredients you can understand. You know what onions and sunflower oil are, but do you know what BHT or sodium ascorbate are? Too often, we trust that our food products are safe. If you don’t know what something in the list is… Google it.

3. Ingredients are listed in descending order, from the highest amount to lowest amount (ingredients used in the greatest amount are listed first; those used in lesser amounts follow).

4. The first ingredient is the most important to pay attention to, followed by the next two ingredients because this means that the product is made mainly of those three ingredients.

5. The ingredient list will also include the names of any chemicals, additives, preservatives etc., although not always. Regulations allow companies to include terms like “natural flavors”, which can be something that sounds healthy, but may not be. A natural flavor must originate from a natural source, but often, it’s chemically modified, and there’s nothing natural about it.

6. Start to learn just what some ingredients really mean. “Wheat flour” just means it’s from wheat. It’s not a whole grain and is highly refined. Ever seen “spices” listed in the ingredients? Who knows what that is. Why not list the spices? Even if companies don’t want to list their proprietary ingredients, you, as the consumer, really don’t know what you’re eating.

Here’s a peek at the ingredients from that can of soup. 

soup ingredients list

This soup has 13 ingredients. The first three are water, mushrooms and vegetable oil.

I’d rather see oil further down the list; so many food products use a lot of oil, which is 100% fat. Based on how companies list their ingredients, I don’t know the exact amount of oil in this soup, although I know it’s a lot, based on the high percentage of fat (67.5%).

Start paying attention to those ingredients lists. What exactly is modified food starch? Sounds ok, but what is it? It’s a food additive that can be made from a variety of foods, like wheat or corn. You can’t be certain what you’re eating. Monosodium glutamate? That’s MSG. It’s a flavor enhancer that most people have heard of. It’s controversial whether it’s safe or not.

Now that you have the scoop to really see what’s in your food, it’s important to remember that most of us will consume processed foods at some point, even if we aim to be very healthy. Once in a while, and if you don’t have any health issues already, eating foods with questionable ingredients is not really going to hurt you.

However, what your “once in a while” is, and what mine is, might be different. The point is that you don’t want to be consuming highly processed ingredients on a regular basis. If you’re concerned about what you put in your mouth, pay attention to what’s in the ingredients list. Even better, try to eat mostly whole foods that don’t have an ingredient list, like apples, potatoes and kale–I’m not getting into organic vs non organic vs genetically modified foods, but at least fruits and vegetables are more real than processed food in a package.

When I pick up a food product in the store, I first look at the ingredients list. I’m far from perfect, but if I’m aiming for health, I choose the product with the fewest ingredients that seem familiar to me. If I’m feeling like a treat, I may not worry about the ingredients.

Once I look at the ingredients, I make sure to look over the nutrition label to check on the fat and sugar content. I glance at the salt too, but that’s usually not my focus because, overall, I eat mostly whole foods I make at home.

Whatever your definition of healthy eating is, knowing how to read food labels is an essential skill for living in today’s world of processed and ultra-processed foods.

When you make decisions in the supermarket, be informed. Take the extra minute or two to know what’s in your food. Getting familiar with food packaging takes a bit of time, but once you know the secrets to making more informed choices, it will eventually become second nature.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Alison Carrey

3 Steps to Less S#?@** (Stress)

Regardless of where the stress is coming from, your well-being monitor needs to flag the stresses in your life before they lead to devastating mental health issues (severe anxiety, depression) or even illness.

We all experience stress in one form or another, and it’s a normal part of life.

What’s not normal is the level of stress most of us feel on a daily basis.

Human beings weren’t designed to live 23 hours a day indoors and spend 40-50 hours a week working in a job that makes life seem like a gerbil wheel. We weren’t meant to have such little quality time with our family and friends.

Compound all this with a mostly sedentary lifestyle, as well as financial and relationship pressures, and you have the perfect recipe for stress.

Some people experience waves of stress with peaks and valleys. Their stress levels shoot up high and then come down low. Others experience low-mid levels of stress almost constantly.

what's causing your stress
Photo: Alexander Dummer

Unless you’re living the ideal life which includes being loved unconditionally, feeling fulfilled, not worrying about anything and feeling a sense of calm on a daily basis, you probably endure more stress than you realize.

I believe it’s crucial to keep an eye on your stress levels and not assume they’re just part of life. Your physical and mental health are impacted from experiencing stress on a regular basis. I’m certain that many years of stress contributed to my breast cancer diagnosis in 2020.

An excellent book to learn the tolls that stress can take on your body is called When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress, by Gabor Maté.

When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress by Gabor Mate

Before you can figure out how to reduce stress in your life, you need to know precisely what’s causing it. Some of our stresses are from big life events that knock you over (divorce, death, illness, financial ruin, etc.). Often though, our stress is triggered by the little things.

Those smaller stresses are usually just a symptom of the bigger stresses. Getting really angry at the small stuff is a sign of stress.

Regardless of where the stress is coming from, your well-being monitor needs to flag the stresses in your life before they lead to devastating mental health issues (severe anxiety, depression) or even illness.

Step 1

The very first step to living a life with more calm and peace is to identify the things or situations that are triggering your stress.

Think a minute about your life. Is there one area that seems to trigger you more than others?

  • Work
  • Kids
  • Spouse
  • Family
  • Finances
  • Health
  • Well-being
  • Hectic life

Step 2

When you notice you’re feeling stressed, the second step is twofold:

1. What is the precise situation/tigger?

  • Driver cuts you off
  • Expected package is late
  • Spouse left the dishes for you to do
  • Car repair is a surprising $1200 bill
  • Coworker’s incompetence is affecting you
  • Late for work

2. What is your response (emotions and behavior)?

Are you…?

  • Irritated
  • Impatient
  • Annoyed
  • Anxious
  • Bitter 
  • Worried 
  • Afraid 
  • Angry
  • Embarrassed 
  • Overwhelmed
  • Disappointed
  • Sad

Do you…?

  • Get tense
  • Speak rudely to others
  • Withdraw
  • Yell
  • Hold in your feelings
  • Walk away
  • Turn to alcohol or drugs
  • Turn to food
  • Have thoughts spinning in your head

The next time you feel stress, ask yourself what’s causing it.

If you snap at your kids for not doing something at home, is it really because they didn’t pick up their toys that you’re pissed at them? Or, is there something else going on? Maybe you had an argument with your spouse that was unresolved, or maybe you were feeling the pressure of an unrealistic deadline at work.

Maybe you are exhausted all the time and are running on empty.

Exhausted, running on empty
Photo: Marcus Aurelius

Think about what’s behind your stress as well as how you show your stress.

Step 3

By pausing to see what’s at the root of your stress and how you respond it, you can move to the third step, which is to figure out ways to eliminate, decrease or manage that stress.

I lived with high levels of stress for many years in my teaching job (now retired), but you know what? A lot of my stress came from my own thinking patterns. Discovering that my own mind was contributing to my stress levels helped me reduce the stress I was feeling.

You can utilize a huge array of strategies (physical and mental techniques) to make you feel better when you feel stressed out (exercise, meditation, etc.), but what’s more powerful is to learn how you’re creating your own stress with your thoughts.

Start to pay closer attention to your thoughts.

If you start imagining what will happen in a meeting with your boss, you might start to feel stressed. Your thoughts create that stress. You created the thought, so you created the stress. Powerful, right?

Instead, find out exactly what the meeting is about, so you can be prepared. Then, put it out of your mind. Remind yourself that you can handle whatever happens.

Worrying and stressing about the meeting in advance will not change the outcome of the meeting. Change your stressful thoughts to something else. You could focus on the present, or you could repeat helpful, calming thoughts, like, “Everything will be fine.” over and over.

change your thoughts
Photo by Los Muertos Crew

By changing your thoughts, you can decrease your stress. Conversely, you can elevate your stress by thinking about stressful thoughts.

Can you Actually Reduce your Stress?

When you practice using the three steps, you will..

  • become more aware of your stress triggers and find healthier ways to deal with them
  • notice when you’re flying off the handle at some minor situation, and then reset your thinking and emotions
  • begin to head off some of your negative responses to stress before they even start

As you pay more attention to the daily stresses in your life, you may also find that you become more aware of deep underlying stresses (miserable marriage or highly stressful job). Discovering the roots of your stress can be eye-opening because your awareness will help you to take steps to build a calmer, happier life.

Be gentle with yourself as you observe yourself in times of stress. Changing our habits takes time, so be patient.

If you’re interested in digging deeper and making eye-opening discoveries about the stress in your life and how you can feel more calm on a regular basis, stay tuned for the comprehensive, self-paced guide I’m putting together. It will give you a practical, step-by-step roadmap to avoid living a life stacked with stress.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Alison Carrey

October Update on my 1200 km Walking Goal for 2021

I encourage you to begin your own regular walking routine, especially if you can do it outdoors where you’ll get even more energized from the fresh air.

Wow! I can’t believe I have only two months to go!

This month was different in a couple of ways.

First, I missed eight days of walking, which is the most number of days I’ve not gone for a walk in any month this year so far.

Second, around the middle of the month, I decided to focus on trying to walk 5 km each day, instead of just walking random distances. Doing so helped me cover more ground each day and meet my goal of 100 km for the month.

October started to get a bit cooler, but it was still lovely to walk on most days. Early in the month, we had some bonus summer time in Winnipeg! Beautiful warm and sunny days.

I enjoyed walks in Assiniboine Forest, as well as my neighborhood. 

walking in nature
Assiniboine Forest
walking in my neighborhood
Neighborhood beauty climbing a garage

My walks in Beaudry Provincial Park were visually stunning. The trail I take becomes a cross-country ski trail in the winter, so once the snow arrives, I’ll need to move to a different path in the park.

Beaudry Provincial Park: Winter Trails

I like this particular route, not only due to its beauty, but because it is 5.5 km, which is the perfect length for a morning walk (not too long and not too short).

walking in nature
Beaudry Provincial Park

One week early in the month, I was lucky enough to get out to my sister’s cabin at Twin Beaches (on Lake Manitoba), where we did several walks. My favorite walk was on a gorgeous warm day, when we walked along the beach.

walk on the beach
Twin Beaches

Here’s where I’m at for my 2021 walking goal so far.

I’m getting close!

107.99 km October

163.07 km September (my best month so far!)

116.76 km August (always happy when it’s over 100)

104.69 km July (not too shabby)

99.1 km June

154.43 km  May (I killed it this month!)

48.87 km  April

33.85 km  March (10-day water fast from March 20-29, so much less walking)

50.36 km  February

122.13 km  January (high number due to initial dedication and interest)

2021 distance total is 1003.25 km.

Only 196.75 km to go. I’m excited!

I encourage you to begin your own regular walking routine, especially if you can do it outdoors where you’ll get even more energized from the fresh air.

Be HEALTHY (Healthy Eating And Living Transforms and Heals You),

Alison Carrey

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