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Nutrition questions to ponder...

Nutrition-Oh what a complicated and vast topic in the wellness continuum!! It can be so overwhelming to try and wrap your head around what we ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ be consuming on a daily/weekly basis. For this reason, I’ve tried to stay away from getting too involved with this topic for a long time. I’ve also had my own struggles with food and disordered eating-making it a very sensitive subject for a very long time. 

Recently, my father ended up in the hospital for a week. The doctors at Longmont

UCHealth drained 2 liters of fluid off of his kidneys the first 24 hours he was there! The scariest part of all this, is that he had ZERO idea that anything was wrong. A little background on my dad, if you haven’t already heard me talk about this amazing superman of a guy in our bodywork sessions: 

My dad has been the most indestructible, active, hard-working, jack-of-all-trades, type of guy for as long as I can remember. He built or remodeled every home I ever lived in as a kid. He even helped me scrape and remodel my first home I bought in Longmont.

In the last 3 years, he’s started his final big project (he’s 65). Building a massive mountain home for my mother and him to retire in, in Lyons. He excavated and built out the foundation on his own (with a little help from my brother and my boyfriend, Curt). He put in steel beam infrastructure (mostly on his own-thanks John and Curt!). Now he is going through the framing process and then on to plumbing/electrical/etc…you get the picture. He does it all. He has always done it all. Until now…

Not only did they drain this much fluid off of his kidneys, but now have also informed him that this kidney dysfunction has been going on for some time-resulting in the overall loss of much of his kidney function permanently. Over time, this started to affect his blood pressure, and essentially his heart function. There was talk of congestive heart failure..but many tests still need to be taken, as we wait for kidney function to go up and allow the tests for the heart to take place in the coming weeks. Talk about a slap in the face. He thought he was doing all the right things…drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day, getting a lot of fresh air and sunshine, eating his meat and potatoes and oatmeal. Generally speaking, my dad’s diet was fine. I guess he never ‘had need for concern’ because he’s always stayed around the same weight for most of his life (as he likes to point out). He had been measuring his health on his ability to keep up with the work he has always done for his whole life. It was only recently, when he’d started talking about the fact that he was getting short of breath more easily than he has before, and suffering from a bit of fatigue. How was he to know that something internal was severely wrong, when there was so much active stress and compiled possibilities in his day to day that could easily be used as the cause for this change?

Is this an inherently ‘bad’ way to measure our health? No. Keeping a pulse on noticeable shifts in our energy and our ability to keep up with the day to day pressures that we purposefully stress ourselves with, is an intuitive practice-and that is a good thing. However, when we continuously push away these messages from our bodies to slow down, or go get some tests run at the doctor, or ‘wait and see’ how it progresses, etc-the body will begin to ‘speak’ to us more audibly. The way my dad’s has chosen to speak up, was by making it so hard for him to catch his breath, that it forced him to an emergency hospital visit. What does this have to do with nutrition? Well, since he’s been home (going on week 2 now), he’s been forced to look at his nutrition in a BIG way. In a way he never thought he’d have to before. How many of us actually add up/count sodium content in our foods? What about phosphorus? Potassium? These are the big ones for him right now, as he tries to navigate a world full of packaged foods with misleading labeling. He grew up on a farm in rural Canada, and has always ate a mixture of root vegetables (potatoes/carrots/radishes) and meat of some kind (usually beef or pork with the occasional salmon or shrimp option here or there), and has slowly but surely slipped into a high sugar/high sodium diet with little to no ‘color of the rainbow’ vegetables. He just kind of got a little complacent. Like we all do. It can become exhausting trying to label read and keep track of what we ‘can’ eat and ‘can’t’ eat in this modern world with any type of option imaginable at our fingertips. 

My mom was really starting to feel overwhelmed the first week. Trying to figure out what 

substitutes would work to keep them both able to continue eating similarly. The big one was what type of bread would be the best option for low sodium/low phosphorus/and low potassium. <insert my enormous eye roll and audible sigh here>. Next on the list-what kind of breakfast cereal could he have? What about noodles? It was starting to drive her nuts, and probably trigger some of her own issues with food that she’s carried throughout her life for a long time. I tried empathizing with her frustration and my dad’s confusion as well. However, after seeing how exhausted and stressed my mom was after getting home from the grocery store-and then realizing she had misread the label on the bread she thought was a good choice for him-I had to step in. Why were they focusing on ANYTHING with a label? Could we just try and really simplify this for her AND for his health by making the best choice possible? No labels. Foods that don’t have a box or a bag or a container of any sort. Real food. Fruits, vegetables, and lean meats/protein. The whole issue with limiting sodium/phosphorus/and potassium in a renal diet, is to keep the blood free from toxic levels of these micronutrients that the kidneys usually filter out. 

There was another ‘a-ha’ moment that popped up during these couple of weeks, that struck me with nutrition. As some of you may know, I’ve been sober from alcohol for 8 months now…going on 9. I’ve been attending a support group for this 1x evening a week, throughout that time. In this group, we talk about a lot of things related to our pasts with alcohol and it’s a great space to share and learn about ourselves with a group dynamic. About a week ago, we were discussing the ‘why’ for our past behaviors with alcohol. Something the group facilitator asked was ‘If we know that alcohol is bad for us and affects our relationships in a negative way, why did we still choose to consume it?’. Many people had many different answers. Needing a social lubricant. Relieving stress. Celebrating. Escaping. No matter what the answer was for anybody in that room-the facilitator just smiled and looked at them and said ‘yeah..but WHY? Did it ever actually help with those situations/circumstances, or did we just believe that it did, because we’d trained our brain’s reward pathways to view alcohol in this way?’. Good question, right? I guess the same could be applied to our food. If we know that the processed or packaged option isn’t good for us, but we still choose to consume it for whatever reason (more palatable/more convenient/more comforting/etc) the reasons we come up with ever truly justify the choice? This is of course excluding the simple and plain answer of ‘because I wanted to eat that and it felt good to do it’. Is this a black and white way of thinking about things? Maybe. However, I think that there’s a time and a place in our lives for recklessness with our health-but that should never become our ‘normal’. Is it reckless to consume high sugar or highly processed foods occasionally? Probably not. Is it reckless to slip into a pattern where that becomes our normal, because of whatever justification we’ve come up with? I think it might be. These choices, over time, add up. They don’t just affect you via outward appearance. They affect your bottom line. Your health and longevity. They also affect the people who love you and care about you deeply, as well. That brings us to intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation for the things we do. 

Do you make healthy food choices because you care about your health for YOU-or because there is an external motivator of some kind? You eat certain foods because your doctor told you that you have to? Or your spouse wants to be healthier together, so you are doing it for them? Maybe you do it so that you can look a certain way? None of these extrinsic reasons are going to be long term motivators for making your nutrition a conscious priority. If you’ve never thought about making nutrition a priority for yourself…the next question I would ask there is ‘why not?’. Are YOU (beautiful/amazing/smart/talented YOU) not a good enough reason? You have to get to a place where that motivation comes from within. The intrinsic reasons…to live longer to play with your grandkids, to enjoy retirement with your spouse or close friends, because you give a sh*t about YOUR bottom line. Those are the long lasting, deeply motivating, intrinsic motivations that keep you in alignment with your healthy lifestyle choices. It’s about accountability. Being accountable for yourself and your health. 

Ok…enough of that from me. I want to hear from you all. What’s your intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation with nutrition? What’s your WHY?

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