May 27, 2011

Dear Readers,

As you may notice, I've made some small changes to the blog. You can now subscribe to the blog through email. There's also a feed to my most recent freelance articles on Suite101 and most popular blog posts if you'd like to check those out. For those of you on Twitter, I now have a Twitter account to promote my freelance writing. If you wish to follow, you may find me @April_Kelsey. I've been doing quite a bit of writing these days, including working on my novels, so I've been very busy! After all, I'm doing this while raising a toddler!!

Also, for those of you who blog about dealing with depression, life in general, or nutrition and eating disorders, I'd like to start a blog roll to feature your blogs (since I just can't follow everyone.) If you'd like to see your blog promoted on mine, leave a comment on this post with a link to your site. I don't know when I'll be able to get the blog roll up, but I'd like to do it within the next week or two.

I've considered adding Adsense to my blog to pull in some extra revenue; however, I started this blog as more of a way to express myself and reach out to others, not to capitalize on my writing. So for now, I will keep this blog ad-free. Let me know what you think. As always, I appreciate your readership!

Busy with the Keyboard

May 23, 2011

In the absence of an available job, I've decided to start writing freelance. My first article was published today, and I'm very excited. If you have time, please stop by and check it out.

Thanks for reading!

All About Food!

May 19, 2011

I follow other depression blogs, and one theme that has crept up in a couple of them lately is food. It amazes me just how unhealthy some people's relationships with food can be, yet it's totally understandable. We live in a society where being thin and healthy is celebrated, yet the most affordable, convenient and advertised food on the shelf is the stuff guaranteed to cause weight gain. It also doesn't help that the airwaves are overrun with conflicting information about food and nutrition--a good deal of it false and misleading. It's no wonder people have such love-hate relationships with food.

I, personally, love food. Most people don't think that when they see me. I'm tall and wear a size 8. Some think I must starve myself or exercise obsessively to have an ideal body weight. But I don't. I just eat and think about food differently.

Food is good. It is necessary to support life and provide energy. Eating food is pleasurable. The most exciting time of the day for me is dinner, because that's when I eat the best food and the most of it. While genetics does play a role in my weight, the main difference is in how I eat. I don't own a FryDaddy, and it's a rare day when a McDonald's bag enters my house or car. I cook nearly all of my meals from scratch using simple, pure ingredients. And between times, I limit my intake of caffeine and sweets. That's about it.

For those of you out there looking to lose weight or just eat better, I'm going to share a sample meal plan and some very simple tips. Here it goes:

1. The recommended calorie intake to maintain weight is 2,000. That's roughly the amount your body burns in chemical processes + physical activity a day. To lose weight, eat between 1,500 and 1,800 calories a day and increase activity if possible. Eating less than 1,200 sends the body into starvation mode, which makes burning fat harder.

2. Eat breakfast! This will get your metabolism started for the day.

3. Lean protein is your best friend. Protein helps keep you feeling fuller, longer. Sources of lean protein include soybeans, legumes (beans), fish and chicken. Eat lots of these with fresh fruits, grains and vegetables.

4. Avoid at all costs foods that contain corn syrup, especially high-fructose corn syrup. The body converts fructose directly into fat, and it can cause diabetes and poison the liver. Foods that contain high-fructose corn syrup include soda, ketchup, salad dressing, some cereals, cookies, and even yogurt, crackers, and ice cream. Before buying anything, read the food label!

5. Eat, don't drink, your calories. The body has trouble feeling full with liquids, and most calories in drinks come from sugar anyway. Drink mostly water, and stay away from soda! (Fun soda facts: soda contains 1,000 times the carbonic acid that carved Mammoth Cave, and drinking just one soda a day doubles your chance of developing diabetes.)

6. Avoid (as much as possible) prepared, packaged and processed food. Most of it just contains corn anyway--the same corn fed to cows to fatten them. Guess what? It's doing the same to you.

7. Limit fast food to just once every two weeks, less if possible. If you must eat fast food, buy the kid's meal. A McDonald's kid's meal contains 700 calories, which is about the right amount for a meal when you're eating 1,800 calories a day. Or just buy a sandwich and skip the fries and coke.

8. Avoid products labeled "diet." That does not make it better for you. Many "diet" products contain artificial sweeteners or high-fructose corn syrup. Instead, read the ingredients list and choose foods that are naturally low in sodium, sugar and saturated fat.

9. Buy organic foods whenever possible. Stay away from anything labeled "imitation," especially cheese. Real food is healthier and more satisfying, especially cheese!

10. Consider making weight-training a part of your exercise program. The stronger and more developed your muscles, the more calories you will burn at rest.

11. Limit alcohol and salad dressing intake. Both are loaded with calories.

12. Look for ways to limit and ease your stress. Stress increases appetite while causing the body to retain weight.

13. When eating out, some options are better than others. Instead of doing fast food, for instance, I get Chinese take-out or order from a deli. The drawback with Chinese food is that it can be high in sodium, but that's better than the high saturated fat you get at the burger joints, and Chinese food is usually loaded with veggies. The best deli in my opinion is Jason's Deli. Their food is phenomenal AND healthy (I love the Turkey Ruben and the Broccoli and Cheese Soup)!

Meal Plan

Breakfast Options: A nutritious smoothie (recipe at bottom) OR a protein shake OR oatmeal OR low-fat yogurt with granola OR a piece of fresh fruit with a side of cottage cheese.

Mid-Morning Snack Options: a piece of fruit OR a serving of raw fresh veggies with low-fat dip OR a serving of raisins.

Lunch Options: A very veggie salad (romaine lettuce and tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, cranberries, mushrooms, olives, etc.) with lean protein and a vinaigrette dressing OR a tuna sandwich OR a lean deli meat sandwich with cheese OR healthy leftovers. (The best deli meat in my opinion is Oscar Mayer Delifresh Rotisserie-Seasoned Chicken--50 calories per 6 slices and delicious. It comes pre-sliced.)

Afternoon Snack Options: raw fresh veggies with low-fat dip OR a serving of low-fat cottage cheese OR a serving of low-fat yogurt OR a 1/4 cup of nuts OR a slice of cheese OR a serving of low-sodium pretzels.

Dinner: No fried food. Cook from scratch if possible using lean protein and fresh vegetables. (I recommend Healthy Cooking Magazine for simple, fast and tasty recipes).

Dessert Options (2-3x a week): 2 pieces of individually-wrapped dark chocolate OR 2 oatmeal cookies OR a serving of low-fat Greek yogurt with fruit OR a serving of plain, low-fat frozen yogurt OR a serving of chocolate Jello pudding.

*Smoothie Recipe: 1/2 cup of non-fat milk, 1/2 cup of non-fat yogurt, 1/2 sliced frozen banana, 1/2 cup of frozen strawberries or berry mix, 1 tsp of honey, 1 tsp flaxseed oil, 2 tbls of vanilla-flavored protein powder. Pour all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth.

Who doesn't like surprises? Me!

May 12, 2011

Just the other day, it dawned on me: I don't like surprises. I was standing over the stove cooking dinner at the time, and the thought hit me like a bolt of lightning.

"What kind of person doesn't like surprises?" I thought to myself in shock. "And how could I have not known this about myself?"

What brought this realization on was that my mother had written to my husband to ask what I wanted for Mother's Day, hoping that he'd keep the request a secret so she could surprise me with a gift. The problem is, there's not much I want in the way of possessions, and I'm notoriously picky to boot. My husband knows this, so he doesn't waste time trying to read my mind. He asks for a list. And, usually, it takes me anywhere from 2 hours to 2 months to make that 4-item list (depending on the occasion). At my house, the word 'spontaneity' exists somewhere within the realm of little green men. And it's hard for me to accept that.

See, it's not popular or socially acceptable to be a giant stick-in-the-mud (or, in my case, a tire iron in concrete). Most of society loves outgoing, spontaneous people--the kind who make surprising fun. It's a personality trait that's celebrated in nearly every lighthearted Hollywood film. The stuffy librarian with the granny glasses meets Mr. Popular and suddenly transforms into Miss Life O' Da Party. That's the woman every guy wants to date, every employer promote, and everybody envy. She has the most fun and lives life to the fullest--or so everybody thinks. I thought I was her.

Several years ago, I ditched the geeky glasses, cut my hair dangerously short, and bought a more form-fitting wardrobe. I'm very happy with those changes. I feel like a mature, attractive woman now--not the gawky teen I once was. But personality has not necessarily followed. I'm probably a little more spontaneous and fun-loving now than I was back then, but not much. Parties exhaust me, peppy people wear on my nerves, and most surprises leave me mumbling blankly into space. My favorite conversation topics at dinner are religion and politics. It doesn't help that I've been deeply disappointed by past surprises, mainly because people have a tough time understanding what I like. I have a tough time understanding what I like. Sometimes, I don't even like going outside. The life of the party? That's not me. Just give me the one book I want--the thick one with all the big words I can't pronounce correctly. That's all the surprise I crave.

Something's Wrong (and I'm not a hippie)

May 5, 2011

I noticed something was wrong a few years ago when my husband and I drove together to Colorado and witnessed hundreds of cattle crammed together in muddy feedlots, the smell so rancid that you could detect it for a mile.

I noticed something was wrong again when I bit into a fresh strawberry and it tasted like oil.

I noticed something was wrong when I walked into a six-grade classroom and discovered nearly half the children were on psychiatric medication.

I felt something was wrong when I began hearing more and more complaints from young women about infertility and menstrual problems.

Something is wrong. A couple of days ago, the news reported that the number of asthma cases has increased by 12 percent over the past year. Considering the millions of people who suffer with asthma, that is not a small increase. That is an epidemic.

We weren't meant to live this way. We weren't made to eat chemically processed food. Cows and chickens were not made to live in tiny, fetid enclosures. Our bodies were not designed to function on long-term medications. Farmland was not made to be repeatedly replanted without rest. Yet anyone in the past who has made such statements has been labeled an alarmist, a hippie, or a paranoid freak. Now, though, bad trends are becoming difficult to ignore. When you hear that your life expectancy will likely be shorter than your parents', or when you walk down the street and see that well over half of all the people on the sidewalk are significantly overweight, you can't ignore the feeling that something is amiss. This is what we call 'instinct.' Instinct works to keep us alive and thriving.

I've decided to listen to my instinct. I'm going to start investing in my health. I'm going to try natural ways to treat and manage my depression. I'm going to take vitamins and buy more organic foods (I've discovered that they taste better without the chemicals). I know it's more expensive, but I can't continue to buy into the illusion that everything is fine and another pill will make me feel better. I know people on pills. They aren't better.

For now, I'm just making small changes. I will probably never be a vegetarian; I like steak too much for that. I'm not going to ban potato chips from my house or start growing wheat grass in my backyard. I'm not going to demand that the local McDonald's be shut down. But what I am going to do is encourage a more natural way of living. Cows do not belong in feed lots, eating corn. Strawberries should not taste like oil. And women my age should not be struggling to get pregnant. Something is wrong, and no one should be afraid to say so.

Navy Wife

May 2, 2011

The Thursday before last, I had had it. William had whined and screamed all day--as well as the five days previous--and I couldn't endure another second. So when my husband finally came home from work on my assigned evening of freedom (we have an arrangement), I decided to take myself out to dinner at my favorite Italian restaurant. All my friends were either working or wrangling their own toddlers, so I went by myself.

I just about had the whole restaurant to myself, too. I had arrived before the evening dinner rush, so the place was empty except for a couple having drinks in the corner. It was so nice just to sit in the quiet and stare at the ceiling, sipping sweet tea and thinking about the huge plate of Gorgonzola pasta I was about to enjoy--artichoke hearts included. Mmm, my favorite!

A manager soon noticed me sitting alone and decided to check on me. He almost immediately asked if I was military. I suppose my eating alone must have clued him in. I said yes, and then explained that my husband is the one who serves--I just support him at home. He then thanked me for my service. "The wives have the tougher job," he explained. "The men only have to focus on the mission; the wives are responsible for dozens of other tasks to keep the household running."

I felt both humbled and grateful. It's not every day that someone recognizes the contribution you make to the happiness and security of others--even if those others are your own family. I have been on both sides of the fence (military and civilian), and I can say from experience...he's right.

Life within the military (as a soldier, sailor, etc.) is a different world. In the military, you are removed from civilian life and then kept almost too busy to think about it. While serving, you're concerned about how your uniform looks, how to master your training, whether your superiors are going to yell at you again, how to keep your buddies out of trouble, how to avoid falling asleep on duty...and that's only if your mind is actually rested enough to function properly. It's an all-consuming environment, and it's designed to be that way. Yes, you often feel lonely and miss loved ones. You wonder how they might be doing without you. But every day is just one mundane task and expectation after another, and responsibility for failure or laziness is shared among the group--specifically among those in the higher ranks.

Compare that to a spouse's role. There's no one standing by to direct the spouse, to help her in her tasks, or to take responsibility if she fails to do something right. She is both boss and laborer, father and mother. There is no one to relieve her from her duty of caring for her family except for what she can arrange. When raising children, each day presents her with new and complex challenges for which she often feels ill-equipped to handle. She desperately misses her husband, worries about his physical and mental health, and counts the seemingly endless days, hours, and minutes until she will see him again. She carries the entire weight of the household on her shoulders. She knows if her husband is disabled or killed in action, she will have to work in addition to all of her current responsibilities--and as of now, she can hardly find time to do all of the laundry. If there is an accident, she will be the one to explain to her children what happened to daddy. Her mind is often a whirl of what-ifs, trying to think of strategies to deal with potential setbacks and emergencies. She may have to move in one year, two, three or four, and then it's back to finding new doctors, schools, and a home for her family all over again. In the meantime, she watches her friends who are married to the same life come and go. The minutes or hours she spends collapsed in front of the TV or computer offer only a slight reprieve from the stress and utter loneliness of her world. Her every task and chore is at the mercy of her child(ren)'s needs and whims. If she succeeds in reaching a goal, no one is standing by to hand her a medal; if she fails, her family's happiness as well as her self-esteem is compromised.

It's hard to put a military spouse's life into words for those who aren't inclined to understand it. All some people see is that most of us don't have to work at a regular job; we get to stay home with our kids, watching TV and playing with blocks or Play-Dough, not having to answer to anyone with a title. That's true, but there's a mental and emotional side to it that most people don't see. When a man with a civilian job goes out to work, he remains part of the civilian world. It's easy for him to come home afterward and find common ground with his family. But when a service member goes out to work, he becomes part of another world with a different culture and different rules. For those hours, days or months, he is cut off from the civilian world--sometimes, even from sunlight. His homecoming often means everyone in the family must adjust and readjust. Roles are renegotiated, relationships restructured, a year's worth of memories crammed into a bedtime story. So, yeah, I can appreciate a thank-you from a stranger. I don't expect it; after all, this is what I chose to do. But at least the rare acknowledgement lifts my spirits and lets me know that, yes, even without a title and a paycheck, I am doing something that matters to someone.