What Quitting Smoking Taught Me About Coke...

December 2nd 1985 was the last time I touched a cigarette and you know what? I still to this day have dreams in which I'm smoking and wake up in a panic that I've failed, only to realise it was just a dream.

I was in my early twenties and most people I knew smoked, I had no real reason to give up - although my mother constantly 'nagged' me whenever I saw her and my boss at work who I respected enormously detested any kind of smoking. This was back in the days before any kind of bans or segregation had been introduced. But one day a colleague of mine and myself decided we'd give up as a New Year's Resolution; we worked night shifts together every fourth night so agreed we could hold each other accountable. The plan was simple; we would have a practice run on Dec 1st to see if we had it in us to quit, then we'd commit to a final cigarette on New Year's Eve. That first day I 'borrowed' and smoked half a cigarette from another colleague. The following day I found myself alone in the workplace, (I had purposely not gone for a break to resist the temptation!) with someone else's pack of smokes, and even a lighter. I crumbled! I took a cigarette and smoked it. It didn't satisfy me in the slightest, it just made me feel disgusted with myself, and from then on, I never touched another one - ever! Help came from one expected quarter and one unexpected; my boss was overwhelmingly encouraging. And a friend offered me a smoke one morning before remembering I'd quit. I said yes without thinking but he was quick to react and point blank refused. His own words of encouragement was the great surprise as although we were friends, I expected banter and words of doubt in my resolve. (I don't think I ever did say "thanks Darren")

I have met many people trying to give up smoking; some would try to go 'cold turkey' but most would try to cut down or wean themselves off it slowly. I realised something about myself; I don't have the willpower to cut down, or to stop for a few days, smoke just the one, and then stop again. Because willpower is what it takes to do something short term, to make a temporary change - like a detox for example; we can give up certain foods for a short term on willpower alone - because we know it's only temporary. But to make a real change, to quit something forever - willpower is not enough, you can't survive on it. If you need further proof just look at all the diets out there that simply don't work. We need to totally reset our way of thinking.

Spring forward almost 30 years and I realise I'm drinking too much Coke. But I'm not addicted, not me, surely not, I'm certainly not about to admit such weakness as an addiction to Coke - I'd rather tell the world I was addicted to cocaine - at least that's an addiction that people take seriously. But sugar is addictive, arguably more so than cocaine and just look how much sugar is in Coke! So let's just say I had a bad Coke habit... I could give it up every time I did a detox or cleanse, (there's that willpower again!) but within days I'd be buying it again. I tried not keeping it in the house but that didn't do any good - it's everywhere you go! I'd even drive out just to buy a can, convincing myself that "it's a hot day and I'm thirsty - and water is dull."

So I searched back into my past for inspiration, (Dec 2nd 1985 to be exact) and told myself what I already knew - it had to be all or nothing. So that's what I did, I gave it my all; I did a week of sugar detox from the excellent book 'The 21 Day Sugar Detox' to give myself a kick start and a fighting chance, (plus a little help from my friend Will Power...) and vowed that I had drunk my last dose of chemical poison!!!

If you feel you have a 'bad habit' when it comes to either a brand of soda specifically, or just refined sugar in general think about this... Sugar IS addictive and should be looked on and treated as such - there are no half measures, no cutting down, you need to quit!

If this resonates with you; forget willpower alone and maybe try my approach - and let me know how it goes - good luck!

Eggs, eggs, eggs...

With Easter upon us this weekend many people around the world are thinking of chocolate eggs, and understandably so, who doesn't love them!
But let's not forget one of the most awesome 'superfoods' available for those of us not living a vegan lifestyle - the humble chicken egg! Be they scrambled, boiled, poached, fried, made into an omelette or a frittata, or even used in baking, don't miss out on this beauty of a food. Long ago were the myths surrounding the so called dangerous levels of cholesterol debunked; here's a couple of useful articles but don't be afraid to do your own research and make up your own mind;

But before we go crazy for these punch packing nutritional power balls we need to understand the difference between certain types of egg and their true benefits - or otherwise. A perfect egg has all the ingredients to build a whole healthy chicken, a store bought egg however, may not! Something to think about...

Battery eggs are by far the worst eggs to buy; the chickens live in the most dire conditions, (five minutes on Google will show you just how dire!) are pumped full of growth hormones and antibiotics - which get transferred to not only the eggs, but to you too! They live distressed lives and have no room to flap their wings never mind walk.

Free range eggs are often sold as the ethical option, suggesting that the egg laying chickens get to live outside. This is not the case and the (Canadian) law only insists they spend a few minutes each day outside.

Organic eggs suggest not only a more ethical upbringing but also a healthier egg. Organic chickens certainly have to be fed organic feed, but chickens don't naturally eat feed, they eat whatever they can get from the ground. Organic chickens may also have their beaks cut off and can be force moulted to increase yield. Not all organic eggs are 'raised' this way but how will you know?

Pastured eggs.  Now we're talking; these are from chickens that live outside all day, foraging for the food that chickens eat naturally, (bugs, worms etc) and are full of the most amazing nutritional vitamins and minerals.  They will have plenty of space to run around, are unstressed and only get tucked away at night to keep them safe from predators. Not everyone of course has access to this type of farm, (or neighbour) but if you do then I highly recommend you skip the stores and buy your eggs this way. Larger and with much darker yellow yolks, they will also last a lot longer than store bought eggs. The reason - store bought eggs are washed to 'look the part' which also rids them of the protective coating they are born with - pastured eggs don't even need to be refrigerated and will still last a couple of weeks.

And so using the time honoured common sense advice of 'all things in moderation', enjoy your eggs and of course in the meantime, enjoy your chocolate versions and have a great Easter.

By the way - the darker the chocolate, the (generally) healthier the egg - and did you know - dark chocolate is less 'addictive'... :-)

What's the big deal with organic food anyway!

These days there seems to be a lot of pressure to only eat organic if we want to be healthy - but is it true?

Most of us know that organic food is better for us, better for the environment and in the case of animal products, it's generally better for the animal. And for those who don't know or have forgotten the whys and wherefores and the details, here's a quick run-down.

The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Specific requirements must be met and maintained in order for products to be labelled as "organic". Organic crops must be grown in safe soil, have no modifications, and must remain separate from conventional products. Farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Because of the lack of preservatives, organic food is generally fresher as it has a shorter shelf life. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal-by-products.

More and more these days the large supermarket chains are joining the organic bandwagon and there is a myriad choice of organic products on our shelves, but is organic food always better and worth the extra cost? Not necessarily and here's why;

Some foods are far more susceptible to, and will absorb more of the pesticides than others. The following is a list of the most contaminated products, often referred to as 'The Dirty Dozen' - from worst to least; Apples, Celery, Sweet bell peppers, Peaches, Strawberries, Nectarines, Grapes, Spinach, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Blueberries, Potatoes

Conversely, others are less affected; this next bunch are 'The Clean Fifteen', in that they are the least contaminated. In order of least contamination they are; Onions, Sweet Corn, Pineapples, Avocado, Cabbage, Sweet peas, Asparagus, Mangoes, Eggplant, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Sweet potatoes, Grapefruit, Watermelon and Mushrooms

So it's my belief that we really don't have to obsess about organic food all the time, and certainly from a cost point of view it's worth choosing carefully what you buy organic and what you don't.

The term organic can be misleading sometimes; organic eggs for example means the chickens must have been given organic feed, have been allowed minimum access to the outside and cannot have been treated with hormones or antibiotics. However...they only need to be outside for a few minutes, (yes minutes) a day, they are still allowed to have their beaks clipped and to be force moulted. As for organic 'feed' - pastured chickens don't eat feed, they eat bugs and worms etc. so the organic feed they eat isn't necessarily the right food for them, it just happens to be organic...

Another reason to potentially avoid organic foods, (although the word avoid is a little strong) depending on where you live, is the origin of the produce; I would much rather buy my produce from a non organic local farm than an organic one thousands of miles away. Not just from the travelling distance point of view but some foods from other countries may not be quite as organic as they seem; not everyone has the same rules. Many smaller producers simply cannot afford to certify as organic and stay in business, so it's more important to check for yourself how local farms operate, many are more ethical and 'organic' in the way they do business than some larger food suppliers who merely tick the right boxes and pay lip service to the rules.

So yes, organic food is, for the most part, the better option but it's really worth looking a little deeper to find the truth. It does take a bit of research but once you know where your food comes from and how it's produced, you will have the knowledge and the confidence to know you're doing the best for you and your family - happy 'hunting'...

(Use the image above as a quick check-list for when you're shopping - just right click and save!)
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