My Love Affair with Cheese: Dairy Crack


Source: Wikimedia Commons

Cheese. Mmmmm! I’m not sure when my affair of cheese began. But I love it. I love it more than I should. But it’s not all bad. Natural cheese is actually an excellent source of high quality nutrition. This is part 2 of my 5 Random Things About Me series. I love many different types of cheeses. My consumption of cheese has been reduced in recent years mostly because I stopped eating many of the foods that I put cheese on (nachos, grilled cheese, etc.) But I am still a sucker for a nice slice of sharp cheddar in the evening or some creamy goat cheese on my salad.

Dairy Crack?

I have often said that I’m addicted to cheese and there’s a good reason for that. Even though it may not be the same as addiction to stronger substances, cheese actually contains some compounds that make us crave more. Cow’s milk actually contains small amounts of morphine. This helps the calves bond with their mothers.  Now, it’s not enough to make you a “cheese junkie,” but it is in there in trace amounts. There are also protein fragments that are produced when you digest cheese called casomorphins. These protein fragments have an opioid effect. These compounds are what made Dr. Neal Barnard (founder and president of the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine) call it dairy crack. Mostly I think I love it because of the flavor – creamy, salty, sharp, YES!

Health Benefits of Cheese

Natural cheeses provide a great source of high quality nutrition especially if you eat cheese made from grass-fed, pastured animals.

  • good source of Vitamin K2 (benefits your heart, brain, and bones)
  • calcium
  • many other vitamins and minerals
  • protein
  • Omega-3 fats
  • high levels of CLA (fights cancer, boosts metabolism)

The Downside – Truth and Myth

  • Processed cheese food and processed cheese product vs. natural cheese – Natural cheese is a fermented dairy product. According to the FDA anything labeled as pasteurized cheese must be 100% cheese. Anything labeled as pasteurized cheese food must be at least 51% cheese.  For those “foods”that contain less than 51% cheese they must be labeled as pasteurized cheese product. Emulsifiers and preservatives and other chemicals make up the rest of these products. Stay away from them and eat natural cheese for the benefits listed above. Especially cheese made from grass-fed pastured animals.
  • Saturated fat – there are many studies that show that saturated fat is not the bad guy we’ve been lead to believe it was. I will write a future post on this but in the meantime you can check out this article by Dr. Weil.
  • Salt – some people worry about the salt content of cheese. Cheese does have a significant amount of salt but the salt content of fast foods and processed foods are so much higher. If your doctor has told you to limit your sodium (salt) intake you may need to consider how cheese fits into your diet, but you would be much better off eliminating the fast food and processed foods to reduce your sodium intake.

So eat your cheese and enjoy it. Just make sure you are getting the best nutrition by eating cheese from grass-fed animals. Try a new cheese this week!

What is your favorite cheese?

U.S. Marine Corps – My First Day

Eagle, Globe & Anchor

Eagle, Globe & Anchor

So, as I promised yesterday, here is the story of my first day in the Marine Corps. This is the first post in a series of 5 random things about me. I thought it would be fun for you to get to know me better. I’d love for you to tell me 5 random things about you in the comments so I can get to know you better as well.

It was Fall 1984 when I stepped off the bus with my eyes wide and my heart pounding. I was exhausted and bewildered and wondering how I had gotten myself here. What was I thinking? I was barely 20 years old and I had joined because I had been working two part time fast food jobs after quitting my first attempt at college and we just weren’t making it. I had been married about 10 months when I went to boot camp. Both my parents had been Marines and I was proud to be a part of that legacy. But on that first day I was seriously doubting the glory of my bright idea.

The drill instructors were yelling and the bus full of women were milling around like confused cattle. It was about 2 a.m. and we had been awake since the previous morning. I’m sure some had been able to sleep on the plane but not me. They made us grab our luggage and had us walk to a big concrete building where we had to open our suitcases. We could retrieve things like our toiletries but everything else got zipped up into the suitcase and put in storage. It felt like saying goodbye to my life. They gave us a pen and some paper and made us write a quick letter to our loved ones letting them know we arrived safely. We didn’t have a choice. It wasn’t a nicety. We were to do it. All the while they were yelling, yelling, yelling. We were walked to the barracks and received some instruction and then were allowed to get into bed, or “the rack” as it’s called in the military.

Once the lights went out you could hear sniffles and sobs all throughout the squad bay. I don’t remember if I cried or not that night but I knew I felt horribly out of place. What the heck was I doing here?

I’m not sure exactly what time it was when they woke us up but I know it wasn’t fully light yet. They woke us up with yelling and banging on lockers. The drill instructors gave us a few minutes to go to the bathroom. I vaulted out of bed, startled, and headed for the restroom. I heard girls being yelled at when they passed by a drill instructor. Apparently that was somehow rude. When I passed by I said, “excuse me,” as a lame attempt to escape notice. Bad choice. “WHAT DID YOU DO? FART?” Wow, I was completely at a loss for how to respond and I felt humiliated in front of this room full of strangers. Apparently the right answer is, “By your leave, Ma’am.” I never forgot that lesson again.

The day was filled with learning how to march, getting our uniforms, doing PT (physical training), and learning the routine at the chow hall (eat fast). There was much yelling and many punishments. We got in trouble for strings hanging off our uniforms, talking at the wrong times, standing with our feet at the wrong angle and many more minor infractions. It was constant confusion.

Over the next two months the drill instructors groomed us from a bunch of young individuals to a platoon of Marines who were proud to follow leadership. Joining the Marine Corps was one of the best decisions I ever made. On that first day I wasn’t so sure though. Actually I doubted it many of the days over the eight weeks that I was there. My four years in the Marine Corps helped me to grow up. That time reinforced many of the values that I had grown up with: integrity, initiative, and loyalty. It gave me a sense of pride in my work, introduced me to many amazing people, started building in me some leadership skills, a sense of belonging and much more.

Now it’s your turn. Tell me some random facts about you.

5 Random Things About Me

5 Random ThingsI decided to do a fun blog post series to let you get to know a little bit more about me and to inspire me to write more consistently. I will tell each of these 5 stories in a blog post. I hope to be consistent and post them over the next 5 days so I hope you will return to read them.

5 Random Things about Me

1. I was a U.S. Marine (a mechanic).

2. I love cheese a bit too much.

3. I spent two summers as a teenager cleaning fish.

4. I delivered my third child 2 weeks before nursing school graduation and I carried her across the stage to receive my diploma.

5. I enjoy playing World of Warcraft to chill out.

5 Random Things About You

I would love to get to know you better. Post in the comments 5 random things about you.

The Bucket List – Key to Intentional Living

Bucket list

Source: Flickr John Spooner

Do you have a bucket list?

A bucket list is generally known as a list of things you want to do before you die. It’s called a bucket list in reference to the idiom “kicking the bucket” which is used as another way to say to die.

I never had a bucket list until recently. Some people wait until they have a terminal diagnosis before creating their list. Kind of like a Make a Wish for adults. No, I have not been diagnosed with anything horrible. I have been listening to a highly motivating podcast called “Live Your List.” Ryan Eller and Jerrod Murr are the hosts and I’d love for you to check them out. In episode 10 they discuss the bucket list but I recommend you start with episode 1 so you can hear where they are coming from.

The idea of learning to live your list for me is to change the focus of my day to day life. Instead of waiting for “someday” I want to begin to see ways to move towards items on my list. This is a key to living intentionally.

Building your own list

When building a bucket list, Ryan and Jerrod mention starting with some common categories to spur your imagination. Not all bucket list items need to be big or expensive. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to knit so you can make cute little booties for your grandbabies – put it on your list! I’m going to post the categories along with one or two items in each category to inspire you and maybe give you ideas for your own list.

I would love to hear some of your bucket list items in the comments.

Travel – Kenya and visit Living Room International, vacataion in the Caribbean

Adventure – see an elephant in the wild, hold the hand of a Kenyan hospice patient at Living Room International

Education – obtain my Personal Trainer certification, learn Swahili

Family – family reunion, visit family in Kentucky and Ohio

Volunteer – donate my time to teach CPR and/or a diabetes class

Financial – be debt free!

Life Goals – donate high quality foods to the hungry (nuts are a great option – see this post)

Physical – do a pull up (my nemesis exercise),  hike Castle Crags

Lucky – meet a Dodger player

Random – I don’t have anything in this category but it’s kind of a catch all for items you can’t fit into any of the other categories.

Now it’s your turn. Let me hear what you plan to do.

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. “
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. President

Health Benefits of Garlic

Health Benefits of Garlic6 Reasons to Add More Garlic to Your Diet

Garlic gets a bad rap because it causes bad breath. Garlic has so many health benefits that it’s worth the chance of a little bad breath. If you eat garlic and you’re worried about bad breath you can suck on a lemon wedge or chew some fresh parsley to neutralize the odor. For getting rid of the garlic smell on your hands you can rub your hands on stainless steel. I don’t know if that’s an old wives’ tale or not but it seems to work for me. You could also put some of the lemon juice on your hands after you suck on the lemon wedge for your breath.

I eat garlic raw and I also add it to cooked foods. It gives your food a flavorful boost. You can also buy garlic supplements that may help reduce garlic breath.

Keeps Heart & Circulation Healthy

Powerful antioxidants found in garlic can help reduce free radicals in your body. Free radicals are can damage tissue and accelerate the aging process. Some free radicals are created naturally during metabolism, but pollutants like radiations, cigarette smoke and herbicides can creat even more.  Eating garlic and other antioxidants can promote heart health, reduce and repair damaged cells and support healthy blood flow throughout your body, resulting in better circulation. It can help lower blood pressure, reduces LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and help regulate blood sugar. Garlic also relaxes the lining of the blood vessels, thereby helping to reduce plaque buildup in your arteries. This can help prevent strokes and heart attacks.

Supports Your Immune System

Garlic contains a substance, called allicin, which is a natural antibiotic. Allicin reduces the ability of germs to grow and produce bacteria in your body and can also boost your body’s natural defenses helping to rid you allergies, colds, and infections. You must crush or chop the garlic in order to release the allicin.

Detoxification is a process your body goes through to remove toxins so it can perform better. Garlic aids with detoxification and helps your body’s own defenses work better by improving the function of your immune system.

Defends Against Cancer

Many studies show that a diet rich in garlic can actually help protect your body form various types of cancers, such as colon, breast and prostate cancer. Garlic contains chemical substances that may actually block cancer-activating carcinogens from being formed in the body.

Helps to Relieve Pain

Garlic is a natural pain killer. It reduces the pain and itch of bug bites, ringworm or other rashes. To apply to the affected area, cut a clove in half and rub the cut side all around the wound.

It can also lessen the pain of toothaches. In a similar fashion, apply the cut side of the garlic directly onto the tooth and gums. You can also take a clove and break it up a little with a hammer or mallet and put the whole thing right over the affected tooth.

Acne Treatment

Many swear by applying a garlic mask for their acne. I’ve never tried this but since garlic has natural anti-fungal and antibacterial properties it helps in clearing up acne prone skin. You can make your own mask by crushing several cloves of garlic and mixing with Manuka honey. Manuka honey is from New Zealand and is made by bees that eat the Manuka bush. These bees produce honey with higher antibacterial properties than other types of honey. Apply the mixture directly to your face and let sit for 15-20 minutes, then rinse with warm water, and blot dry.

It’s Delicious

Everyone can benefit from adding a little extra garlic to their diet. One of my favorite uses for garlic is to crush some over sliced veggies and roast them at 350 degrees until tender. I add a little salt, pepper and Italian seasoning before roasting. I also make a mean Garlic Chicken. I may just have to post the recipe for that one of these days. It sure stinks up the house but it makes a flavorful, moist chicken dish.

What’s the Big Deal About Low Carb Diets?


Low Carb Basics

What is a low carb diet? The term “diet” can be confusing. A diet implies a temporary process. We do something drastic to lose weight and then when we get the results we desire we go back to doing what we did before. All this can result in yo yo dieting and weight loss – weight gain cycles. Sometimes we gain even more than we lost in the first place.With the advent of  fast food restaurants, microwave dinners, and processed foods we’ve developed unhealthy eating habits.  It’s no wonder obesity and other health issues have become a scary reality for many people.  All this bad news has us looking for the perfect diet to live a healthier lifestyle and lose that excess weight. What we need is a lifestyle change.

Why has there been so much hype behind people following a low carb (carbohydrate) lifestyle? When we hear the term ‘low carb diet’ we may think ‘Atkins’ or ‘South Beach.’  But even low carb diets differ.  Many of us have moved away from the old traditional low-fat, calorie-counting diets and embraced these newer low carb diets, and I might say with great weight loss success.  But, will a low carb diet work long-term?  In my opinion the only plans that will work are the plans you can stick with long-term. Let’s take a look at a few basic theories of the low carb diet:

low carbCarbohydrates are a source of fuel. They break down into glucose which is  energy for our bodies to run on.  The typical diet is heavy in carbohydrates. When we reduce the amount of carbs we take in on a daily basis,  the body will start burning fat as that source of energy instead. If we eat too many carbs, the body secretes excess insulin and that can cause the body to store fat.

When following a low carb diet we aim to eliminate all foods with added sugars and empty calories. It makes sense that we are going to lose some weight due to just these simple changes in our eating habits. Instead of getting carbs from processed foods we get our carbohydrates from frutis and vegetables which provide us with so many more high quality nutrients.

Proteins and fats tend to make us feel fuller for a longer period of time.  Thus, it can help us to avoid overeating and snacking between meals because we feel satisfied and do not crave more food.  A low carb plan is easier to stick to than some other diets out there.  Foods that are higher in natural fat and calories are often okay as long as the total carbs remain low.  For this reason, we can still enjoy some of our favorite foods eating this way without feeling like we are cheating. You can find more information on the best protein for weight loss and all around health here.

What are your favorite low carb foods?


Willpower vs. Building Good Habits

Credit: John.Schultz

Credit: John.Schultz

Good habits = successfully meeting your goals.

Willpower is exhaustible. It wears down throughout the day like a fatigued muscle. Even mental stress wears out our willpower. It’s no wonder so many people struggle with giving in to the munchies by the afternoon and evening. Stop relying on willpower and start working on building habits – then good choices become automatic.

Building habits happen when there is a perceived reward. My reward for accomplishments was always food. I have to work to choose better rewards. Sometimes it’s a tangible reward like new clothes when I lose fat, but more often it’s the intangibles that work for me. I have really learned to enjoy the sense of satisfaction after a workout as well as feeling the new muscles I’m building.

Another way to build healthier habits is to connect them to your values. Sometimes we know the right thing to do but we don’t do it because we don’t believe in the value. One example of how to use this to your benefit is to educate yourself about the food you eat. It gives you additional reasons to make better choices. As you learn more about organic foods, GMOs, unhealthy ingredients and how eating real food can make a difference you will be more likely to form new habits.

Two things that have  produced fantastic results for me is tapping in to the power of accountability and the habit of  breaking goals down into small achievable action plans. In light of that I have put together a 30 day email challenge to help others through the same process. This challenge is appropriate for ANYONE who wants to improve in the area of health, nutrition and fitness.

Join the Craving Fitness 30 day challenge to focus on build good habits in your life.