Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Art of Language.. and Murder

Disclaimer: These are dark, comedic thoughts I have on a daily basis. I am a writer and an artist, and I have a very dry sense of humor. I express my feelings through art. I am in no way promoting or glorifying murder. Murder is bad. I don't like murder. Okay? No murder here.

"So, what do you do?"
How come every time I go to a social event, I am asked this question first? Why is it even on the list of popular questions to open a conversation with? It's usually in the top three, and it's annoying as hell.

When I am asked, "What do you do?", I automatically interpret that I'm being asked, "How much money do you make and how do you make it?" in a more summarized and polite manner. This is not really a polite question. It's personal and can get very complicated depending on who you're talking to. It's also an assumption that everyone's on the same page in the manner that we're cooperating citizens of society. What if you're talking to an assassin? How do you know the guy petting the puppy dog at the party isn't a hired killer? How do you know I'm not a sociopathic, sick freak who makes her money selling bulimic porn? Maybe I don't want you to know how much I'm worth or how I obtain the money that I have.
Of course I shouldn't assume that is the question. "What do you do?" could mean something else.. like "What are your favorite things to do?" But if it was, wouldn't the person ask, "What do you like to do?" Or even, "What are you interested in?" And if it just means, "What do you do, but not make money at?" Aren't they eventually going to tell me I should try to make money at this thing that I do?

So back to square one.. If "What do you do?" does indeed mean "What are you worth, and what is your career path?", then I am kind of insulted. Number one: this is a very popular question, so that tells me many, many people are interested in the answer. And that means the majority of people are focused on status and wealth, thus tossing their souls into the nearest trash bin and becoming empty headed zombies. We are now surrounded by scary zombies. Number two: it implies that you are what you do for a living. And if this is the case, does that mean that someone over 40 and working at Kentucky Fried Chicken is a worthless, uneducated human being? Maybe they have a bachelor's degree in Environmental Biology, yet they're stuck in the most economically depressed place in Kentucky taking care of their sick mother? And if we all decide it does make them a loser, then we begin to judge people and create stereotypes based on financial status and employment decisions. An accountant becomes a conservative, financially stable bore, and a filmmaker becomes a self-absorbed, over-privileged jerk. Every insurance salesman is now a malicious, inhumane asshole, and people who make natural, chemical free lotions are unshaven, stinky hippies. When you think about it, we're very mean and impulsively judgmental. 

I have been guilty of doing this myself, and I should work on changing my obscene behavior. It has made me a classist. I regularly feel disgust when meeting privileged or wealthy people, because I assume they're selfish and have ulterior motives. I don't want to feel this way, because it just makes me a repressed killer who hasn't crossed a boundary yet. What if this tension bursts one day and I become a serial murderer of wealthy people? I already have an intoxicating fantasy of being at a fancy Hollywood party, in a pool, shooting screaming people until blood fills the water and then doing sexual things while I watch the horror. That can't be normal.

This question is never going to go away though, so the next best thing to do is to answer it in another manner. "What do you do?" "I talk to spiritual entities", I might say. Because I do. Or "I occasionally steal copper pipes out of abandoned buildings when I need some extra cash." Because that is something I have done several times before. So I'm answering the question correctly. I'm not doing it to shock anyone. I'm doing it because I don't really want to talk about my finances or the fact that I don't give two shits about a job. And I don't really want to murder people in a pool.

This is the only question I find ridiculous. I can handle all the other small talk questions; "Are you single?", "How long have you lived here?" and so on. Those are fine. Not intrusive, not rude. But that horrible "What do you do?" makes me feel like thick legged spiders are jumping and crawling all over me. This is because it forces me to view the person asking in a completely new way. I see wires coming out of their morphing and balding head that's half machine, half human. They change into a cyborg from Star Trek right in front of my eyes. They blend with that giant mob of moving meat and metal that shares all its thoughts. It's creepy. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vietnam, My Father, A Lot of Vodka & Regret

I started digging into my past four days ago. Those days have forced old ghosts on me, hard memories, and tears that seem to come out of nowhere, stinging my face and making it hard to breathe. Tonight I sit here with a bottle of vodka, determined to keep digging, even if it finally breaks me. I have completely lost any ego I might have had left.

I was an infant without much physical contact, due to the body cast cocoon I lived in for the first years of my life from a severe disability. There were several dark incidents that came later that I don't care to mention here, making me even more distant towards people and society. And so, I made my way into my teens as an emotionally unavailable, distrusting and stubborn kid. I clashed with my father, a man drafted into Vietnam as a kid himself, and sent back home in 1968 a very different person. We had strife in common, but it wasn't a bonding attribute. He died two weeks before Christmas, five years ago.

I've spent this week trying to find my old surgical records. That probably doesn't sound like it had anything to do with my father, but it eventually did. That's another, more personal matter, though. Now apparently, some hospitals destroy records that have been untouched well before 1980. These records would prove I've been disabled since birth. You see, I'm on record for being disabled since 1996- after I'd already started to run my weak body into the ground by leaving home a lot earlier than I should have and taking physical labor jobs. I had no idea I wasn't supposed to.. my condition was never thoroughly explained to me by doctors. So I worked until I collapsed at age 24, and only then did I find out I could have been receiving disability help my whole life. But things happen, and time moves us on..

As I was searching for medical records, I came across a situation that required me to look into my father's military history. And as I dug through more and more material, I began to realize what shaped this man.. for the first time. I learned he drove a truck that picked up the bodies of dead soldiers, and that he had to take the M60 away from the gunman in his passenger seat once and use it to shoot back at incoming sniper fire while speeding to catch up with his convoy.. his gunman froze in fear that day. I also know he came back home in the summer of 1968 and married my mother one year later.

I know he was a gorgeous man. Women loved him, and he loved taking that opportunity every time it presented itself. He was usually busy with either that, or making money. Eventually, he married a gold digger who got everything he ever worked for. I don't think he thought about it much. He was distant. These things, plus some more pretty questionable experiences I won't mention here are all I know about him. And the more I dig, the more I regret. It feels like a million graveyard insects rapidly eating away at me. The atmosphere starts to pull me into what feels like a dream as I read about the late 1960s and listen to what he was listening to on the radio. The whole room seems to get smaller and the air feels heavy and just sits there, bearing down on me like someone's here. And then there are the strange memories of my childhood and elaborate, experimental surgeries I went through. It has brought up a very strange memory I had when I had apparently been drugged and was about "to go under" right before a surgery. I smell a sterile, cold room and I'm lying on a metal table. I can't feel my legs. I see my mother on the other side of the door with a diamond shaped window, looking like she's crying and trying to get back in. There's a doctor pushing her away.

There's an old photo of the hospital in 1974 when I first went in.. it's completely reconstructed now and has become a "trauma center". I have been informed they may not be able to find my records at this point. It seems like these very real things have just been swept away like dust and turned into an illusion that only lives inside my own mind now.

But they are real. I can feel them every time I bend or move, and I can feel a lump in my throat every time I think of my father's young face and the adrenaline that must have been shooting through him while speeding down the dirt road that day, trying to stay alive. Guns can be fucking scary. I've had one in my face before. Your bones freeze and your blood runs hot at the same time. You think you can't handle it, but you're still there.. breathing.. eyes wide open and all sorts of crazy shit running through your brain like you're on some kind of speed. You either let yourself shut down or you start thinking more efficiently than you ever have in your life. And after it's over, thinking about it almost makes you excited.. because you realize you've just won a game against Death.

I didn't go to war. I had my own battles on the East coast of home. But I feel like if he'd just stuck around a little longer, we'd have learned we have a lot in common. I'm sitting here with his death certificate. I had to use it to request his military records today. I can't put it away. I keep looking at the details.. time of death.. who signed the paper.. place of injury.. "home".. "coded in ER"..

Vodka kills pain. It warms you up while you read through things that are tough to read. I've been drinking and watching real footage of Vietnam soldiers in 1967 with no audio. I've been doing it for hours.. and I'm starting to feel a strange kind of calm. It's not nice or happy. It's just calm.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

An Alarming Community

When I have time to get bored, I always end up somewhere my head shouldn't be. I ended up mentally listless recently, and surfing my way into the darker waters of the internet. I found a disturbing sect of the population made up primarily of 12 to 24 year old girls, so obsessed with getting skinny that they saw anorexia as an artistic, beautiful goal they wanted to reach with stars in their eyes. Of course I knew about anorexia, but I had no idea it was practically a subculture now and something that these young girls strive for every day until they end up dead.

It's easy to find. Just type in "thinspiration". And it has levels. "Extreme thinspo".. the heavy metal version of getting thin. Apparently this has gone on for a long time, but is easier to find now that girls know how to upload photos and edit them with "inspirational words". Then you've got your "pro ana" and "pro mia" websites, which are short for pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia. These terms refer to the conditions as a lifestyle, and not as something unhealthy. There are also gobs of tips for making it easier to become bulimic or anorexic, such as what foods are easier to toss up later and how to hide your anorexia from your parents.

The "inspirational" words these girls plaster on pictures of emaciated, dying carcases spin the state of being anorexic into illusions that come across as bizarrely attractive. "Light as a feather", "be fragile", "starvation is fulfilling; sight becomes more colorful", "eating isn't very Chanel".. and the list goes on and gets worse as it does. There are blogs, tumblr accounts, twitters, and thousands of videos on youtube dedicated to it. Girls are building each other up constantly with reminders not to eat and extra ways to burn calories, like standing on your tip toes while you brush your teeth. I managed to come across message boards glamorizing hip and collar bones and how some teenager had one month to "make her bones appear".

There is no easy way to open their eyes to how dangerous and sick this is either, because they believe in "staying strong" and rebelling against what people are trying to tell them to do. The more you push, the further they run.

It's a delicate situation, and their minds are made up. They have an entire community dedicated to bonding together and supporting this abnormal cause. I have no answers, and doctors are failing in their efforts to heal these young girls. And I'm devastated at the notion that it has become an art form. It is now the deadliest trend in body modification.

This has gotten so bad that modeling agencies and fashion designers have come under scrutiny for hiring models with a body mass index of anywhere under 18.5. Numerous models have died from it, including a woman who suffered a heart attack on the runway in Uruguay several years ago. Her sister died shortly after from "malnutrition". Isabelle Caro, a french model, had the onset of it at an early age when her mother wouldn't let her outside for the fear of "the air making children grow up". Isabelle eventually tried to start a campaign against anorexia in the last years of her life, and had begun to train herself to eat. She died on the road, as her body was already wasted beyond the point of being able to heal.

There are so many more factors triggering anorexia nervosa and different types of cases, but most statistics explain that the average person suffering from this disorder is female, from 12-24 years old, usually comes from a middle to upper class family, and is emotionally immature and depressed.
"Experts" are making guesses as to why this is occurring in this particular group of women. Their best guess is an obsession with perfection and trying to live up to overblown, unrealistic society standards. The more I searched through what they call a "life choice", the more I began to realize this was way more complicated than I originally believed. After several days of obsessive curiosity and hours spent scouring over these pages, I began to slowly understand it. And that was the scariest revelation of all. Media is incredibly powerful. And unfortunately, a lot of people don't realize what kind of power they hold when they start a visual, public campaign.

Just another daily revelation on the internet. Although I've known this has gone on forever, my reaction to people with eating disorders has always been a black and white sort of "they're weak and dumb". I was very wrong. It takes some effort to starve yourself to the point of death while fighting every person around you who is trying to get you to stop. Humans instinctively want to eat. There's pain. There's the deterioration of mental faculties as you stop getting nutrients to a young, growing brain. There's the fact that after a while, starvation starts to become easier.

I have only highlighted the trendy, more popularized reason hitting a general target audience. I have brought up pro ana websites that are everywhere, reminding, supporting, and understanding these girls when everyone else may not. Websites full of children reminding their peers that they don't really have to eat, and that the physical pain is "strength building". Kids telling kids not to worry when the brittle hair starts breaking and the skin starts turning yellow and bruising all over.. that they're all experiencing it and pretty soon they're going to be "so thin boys can pick you up without struggling". Girls spending days coming up with "the thin commandments" and numerous tricks to live off 100 calories per day. This is an addiction. It's just as serious, if not more so, than drug addiction. It's a psychological obsession, and it's based around fighting the pain of deterioration and struggling to "stay strong". These girls aren't taking something to make them feel good. They're teaching themselves to accept pain. It's just something to think about.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why Clothes on Etsy Are So Expensive

In our world of capitalism, personal thinking processes that reveal the reasoning behind questions like this one are slowly fading away. It is too easy to get roped into the fast paced convenience of the current state of consumerism, and forget about what goes into making something by your own hand. In the world of fashion, we only see a final, mediocre and generalized product sprung from cheap labor and marketed to way too many people at once. It has become almost impossible to understand what a one-person designer/tailor goes through to make one item of clothing by hand anymore.

First off, as any artist knows, the cost of supplies to create is outrageous. You'd assume if you're going to make anything yourself, it would reasonably be cheaper. But no, not in a million years. Musicians pay the cost of small, used cars to obtain instruments, and digital designers have to worry about computers that can handle mass loads of memory and cannot rely on just any old, cheap pc. As a seamstress and designer, I have to worry about paying anywhere from 7 to 23 dollars per yard of fabric if I want something that's going to hang comfortably on a woman's body when designing a simple sundress. Now if you want to go around in a dress that fits and feels like a garbage bag, well I could easily pop into Walmart and go to the discount section. But that's still going to run me 4 bucks a yard.. and it takes a good 3 to 4 to make something for a small to medium body type. And used fabric has wear & stretch, and will fall apart too easily. Then there's the upkeep on my machine, thread, needles that break periodically, finishing tapes, lace, iron and ironing board, cutting equipment, drafting paper, rulers, dress form, pre-wash and and crinkle set costs (I pay for laundry use)... you get the idea.

So from here, we set out to design our product. I'm going to use a woman's dress as an example. First we have to get what's in our heads out on paper, so we draw it. When it first comes out, it looks totally unlike we thought it would, so we draw it again another way. And we keep on and keep on until we come up with something someone would actually wear. This takes more than just thinking of a design. It takes thinking of how the inside of it is going to feel on the skin, how to flatter a normal body type instead of assuming everyone looks like a model, how it's going to move when they move, and what kind of fabric is going to work for however we want it draping the body. Next.. geometry.

Now we look at the design and transfer it to a two-dimensional paper pattern. We measure and we use a dress form. Since a woman's body curves all over, we have to actually take the paper and transfer it then onto fabric, then place it on a form to watch and see how it covers it. Adjustments are then made, and we apply this back to the paper to come up with a working pattern. And since all body types are different, we have to use our intuition and just know where to leave extra room to make up for those possible differences. And when we have finally established this working pattern, we are ready for our labor stage.

This requires sewing as well as troubleshooting the machine as we go. We can encounter anything from bad feed to busted needles to improper tension depending on the fabric type and weight. And since this is a personally designed pattern, we make more adjustments as we go along. It is never so cut and dry.

When we've finally gotten our dress finished, we then worry about marketing it. We beg friends with photography experience to help us establish a photo that makes someone want what we've spent our blood, sweat and tears making (Literally.. I've sewn right through my fingers before). The photos have to be clear, show the way the dress hangs on all sides, the background can't look sketchy, and the model has to be comfortable in it. We then move on to paying fees for listings on places like etsy and doing a lot of general social networking to let everyone know the dress exists.

Is it over? Hell no. Once we sell the dress, we have to keep our customers happy. Remember, no one is the same size. So they've got a number of days to return it for alterations or to return it for good if they don't like it at all. Now, we are finally done.

So, how do you charge for all this? You charge for supplies, which end up kind of high considering the material used must be in top quality condition. Then you consider the time it took to make it. Design, draft, labor, marketing and alterations.. takes about a week to do it right instead of just throwing something together that's going to fall apart the first time it gets washed. So if you see someone selling a hand made dress for $70.00, they're probably actually making a profit of 20-30 bucks.

We can't all afford to go buy hand made clothing that often. But once in a blue moon, it's nice to have something original and well made in the closet. Think of it as purchasing a luxury. The same old, tired saying applies here; "You get what you pay for".

Saturday, April 13, 2013

You can control yourself and others with food

Centuries ago, women figured out what to feed people in order to heal them, build their sex drive, sedate them, and even poison them. And since it was a long time ago, these things were considered "spells" and had the idea of witchcraft tagged onto them. "Cauldrons", simple cooking pots, really.. were the main "brew" bowl of choice since everything was cooked over a fire. And all these women were doing were using old school chemistry, plants and food to control the body.

Our bodies are just a big sack of chemicals that respond ridiculously well to other chemicals. That's how chemistry works! Chemicals love or hate each other, and act like people. Everything in the universe behaves in the same way, and that's due to the the laws of physics and chemistry. And so, it is incredibly easy to manipulate behavior if you know how to do it. But it's an art as well as a science, and practice makes perfect. You also must consider mutations to food and bodies that have been made in response to changes we've made in our food industry.

In order to start, you must first know what it is you want to change in the body. Looks? Hormonal imbalances? Sickness? Fatigue? Weight? Most things are possible. The only thing that would be almost impossible is something like changing your hair color, and you can do that with a box from the drug store. I'll choose "depression". It's a common problem.

Secondly, start researching the chemicals and hormones responsible for this problem. Usually, psychologists and other health professionals concentrate more on serotonin production. Most depression and bi-polar symptoms come from a lack of it, then misfiring of the neurons when they're not passing it along properly. The drugs administered for depression such as Zoloft or Prozac, for example, work by inhibiting the re-uptake of serotonin. You see, when your body produces serotonin, it passes from one neurotransmitter to another. And after it passes, whatever isn't used is sent back to the first neurotransmitter. If someone isn't producing enough, these drugs will keep the first neurotransmitter from sucking it back up. More will be eventually deposited into the bloodstream. But if someone isn't producing enough to begin with, there's still not going to be much of it regardless of the help of any drug. That's not a perfect explanation, but it's the best I can give while trying to remain simple and not go into anything too complex or confusing.

So the best way to help out serotonin production is to stimulate it. Not to only try to save the tiny little bit you have. First, you have to get sunlight, exercise, massage helps, and brain power: you must recall good memories and things that made you feel good. These four things will help wake it up and stimulate production. In addition, you can use food to build it up and make it stronger: Nuts, brightly colored fruit, and protein. And stay away from anything containing a lot of carbohydrates. They'll totally shoot it back down again.

Our bodies work like machines. There are organs and hormone systems that work as thermostats and measurement devices, making a decision as to which chemicals to release and which ones you don't have enough of. When you give it the right fuel, it will do amazing things. There is plenty of information that is available to anyone who will take the time to read it. It's easier than you think to control the body through chemicals. Our feelings, emotions, decisions, most physical abilities.. they all thrive off chemicals. Don't be afraid to make them work for you.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Slowing Down Aging Pt 2

Earlier, I started posting about how to slow down the aging process.  I only talked about one thing: keeping your hormone production going. The reason for this has nothing to do with making babies (although it has helped women over 40 get pregnant). I'm talking about hormone production in regards to physical signs of aging. Healthy sex hormones keep your production of collagen going as you age, which reduces your wrinkles. In order to avoid wrinkles, skin needs collagen, elasticity and moisture.

Collagen is a protein. It's produced with the help of vitamin C, threonine and proline (amino acids), and omega-3 fatty acids. Proline is already produced by your body. Threonine, however, has to come from food. It's in stuff like watercress, fish, eggs, soybeans, turnip greens, kidney beans, soybeans, chickpeas & hummus, snap beans, asparagus, eggs, milk, pork, beef and chicken. (It's primarily in meat, but vegetarians can get a super high dose of it from watercress.

And without going into the boring details of things like molecules, hydrogen atoms and lipids, I'll just list foods that will support damaged collagen, protect healthy collagen, and produce more collagen:

AVOCADOS! This is the best superfood there is for anti-aging.
olives and olive oil
all brightly colored fruits; strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, cranberries, red grapes, etc.
threonine-rich foods like the ones listed above
anything with vitamin C in it (Vitamin C is the major player in collagen production)

Vitamin E prevents the oxidation (destruction) of lipid cells. Lipid cells are good fat cells, and they keep your skin moist and supple. Vitamin E is a very powerful fat-soluble antioxidant and keeps omega-3 fatty acids from dying. And you definitely want a lot of omega-3 fatty acids... which come from:
flax seeds
fish oil
fresh basil

Antioxidants. Most physical signs of aging happen when free radicals invade our cells and kill them. Cells go through a life cycle where they take in nutrients, perform their duties, then expel waste. When they expel waste, it goes running around in the body like crazy people on a shooting rampage. The waste is called free radicals, and they attack cells, causing them to die. This is what oxidation is.
Antioxidants come in like warriors and kill the free radicals before they have a chance to attack. Although there are other factors to aging, oxidation is the one most responsible. So if you can get a handle on this one, you're doing really well.

Other things that dry out skin and take away its elasticity:

1. Sugar. Too much sugar will show up as wrinkles. Especially white refined sugar. Reduce your sugar as much as you can (I have a hard time with this one). If you absolutely have to have sugar, use brown sugar and honey instead of the white stuff. Usually as a rule of thumb, remember that white things are bad (potatoes, bread, sugar, flour, etc.) Carbs produce a lot of sugar, so cut way down on them. Too much sugar will dehydrate your skin from the inside. Natural sugars in fruits are fine.
2. Smoking. Nicotine constricts blood vessels and prevents blood from flowing to the skin. Without blood flowing to your skin, it doesn't get oxygen and nutrients. If you're smoking cigarettes that are not natural tobacco, you have something else to worry about. The toxic chemical additives will destroy collagen and elastin. 
3. Chlorine. If you're swimming in pools regularly, make sure you wash off with soap. Chlorine will stick to your skin and dry it out.
4. Caffine. Caffine dries you out, so drink plenty of water if you're getting too much caffine.
5. Skipping meals when you're hungry will actually dry out your skin and age you. Keep an orange with you so that doesn't happen.
6. Hot showers and baths. Don't let the water get too hot, and don't shower every day. (Unless you're doing something really hard core or grungy every day) Hot water damages and dehydrates skin, and too much washing does, too. We're all trained to think we're supposed to scrub the heck out of ourselves every single day, and that's just overkill unless you're working in a coal mine or something.
7. No sleep. Deep, sound sleep does more than relax all your muscles and stop pain. It also rehydrates and replentishes your skin.
8. Salt. Too much salt will dry you out and turn you into a walking beef jerky.
9. Shower heads. Since most of us aren't lucky enough to have spring water on tap, we get bad chemicals like chlorine coming through our shower heads. An idea if you're a bit vain like me is to invest in a shower water filter.
10. Excessive alcohol. Duh.
11. Too much sun exposure. Double duh.

Drink water, water, and more water! Exercise every day, even if you're just getting outside for a walk down the street. (The more exercise you get, the younger your skin will look)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Synthetic vs Natural Sources of Vitamins

I'm going to try to not nerd out too much and keep this as simple as possible.

Synthetic vs Natural sources of Vitamins

The universe is made of molecules. No two things made of molecules are alike, as no two people are alike. There are even chiral isomers that are identical images of the same molecule that absolutely do NOT function alike. An example is glucose. There are different forms of glucose such as d-glucose and l-glucose. While they are mirror images of each other, d-glucose is sugar and can be used as a sweetner. But l-glucose is poison and can kill you. So something may look the same, but it's definitely not the same. That being said, let's get into vitamins.. first you need to understand how they are formed before you can understand the differences and make decisions about which ones and how many of them you want in your body.

Synthetic vitamin supplements and additives are made in a lab. Scientists have very strict guidelines they adhere to when creating them. They have to mimic the molecule identically. So you are actually getting an identical replica of a natural vitamin molecule. And "molecule" is the key word here: you're getting only that one single vitamin molecule... with a filler. Vitamin C sold in stores is usually nothing more than ascorbic acid. In nature, ascorbic acid isn't the "vitamin part" of the vitamin.

Getting vitamins naturally from food works differently than simply getting ascorbic acid into your system. In nature, ascorbic acid in vitamin C actually only carries the vitamin C complex through the body and acts as a "shell" or protective covering for that entire vitamin complex.
I'll use an heirloom tomato as an example. An organic, heirloom tomato contains natural vitamin C. But this tomato also contains other things like co-factors and compounds. Together, these compounds and other chemicals work together along with the vitamin C molecule to form a biological complex. Vitamins in nature are not single molecules with fillers added to them. They are biological complexes.

These co-factors and compounds present in the shell of the vitamin complex found in a tomato play an extremely important role. They allow that vitamin C molecule to break down and get absorbed by the body correctly. And every food that contains vitamin C has its own complex that is different and allows the vitamin C of that particular food to work with the other chemicals in it to break down and move properly. Vitamin C complex in tomatoes is different than vitamin C complex in peppers. And each vegetable brings its own set of nutrients to the table, working to supply your body with minerals it needs to heal and bond human body molecules together correctly. This is why getting synthetic supplements isn't as great as getting natural vitamin complexes from foods. And in addition to getting the vitamin complex from a vegetable, you're also getting p factors as well from it.. those are things like antioxidants and other mineral complexes. But that all gets into something even more complicated. Let's stick to simple vitamins.

Now don't stop taking supplements if you're not getting enough good food - synthetic vitamins do have their benefits. It's better than not getting any part of a vitamin at all and going into full on depletion. If you can't get enough to eat, definitely take a supplement. If you're body building or are athletically extreme, take a supplement. If you're sick or going into surgery soon, take a supplement.  But don't replace supplements for real food. And there in the name is your eye opener.. "Supplement". 

It is never a good idea to think you're getting all the vitamins you need simply from taking a multivitamin every day. A lot of companies even use sugar in the fillers for vitamins. You absolutely need to eat good food as well. You will become nutritionally depleted over time without healthy fruits and vegetables, and that absolutely leads to cancer. Things like smoking and sun damage do not give you cancer. They are just things that help cause it. Cancer is a result of many different things going wrong in the body, and some of those factors are things like not having the ability to fight off infection, depletion/malnutrition, and hereditary dna mutations (which sometimes come from bad farming and slaughtering processes). As simple and stupid as it may sound to say it, we need good food to survive. We need natural, non-modified sources of vitamins. And for some reason, a lot of us are forgetting that very elementary idea. Cells turn cancerous when there are mutations within those cells. And mutations can occur when the body is trying to compensate for a lack of nutrients. Think of it this way: We, as human beings, do everything we can to survive. We sometimes get into desperate situations where we're depleted of basic things we need, like food and shelter. And when we find ourselves in this situation, we are likely to do some crazy, abnormal and desperate things to obtain the things we don't have. Well, the cells in our bodies are no different. They are alive and active, like little creatures in the big city streets of anatomy. They're fighting to survive. And when they find themselves without, they make desperate attempts to get what they need. Some develop mutations, or learn to adapt to their situation in order to make up for what they're lacking. And as with humans, those mutations are not always the best idea. Even nature isn't perfect; especially when she's been influenced by a toxic environment.

I know that is a weird way of looking at it, but I'm just trying to make it easier to visualize. The bottom line here is eat good food and don't rely on vitamin supplements for good health.

Take care.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What The Heck Is MSG, Anyway?

Monosodium Glutamate is an extraction of glutamic acid in a salt molecule. We all know its use is highly debated, but why exactly are people arguing so much all of a sudden? It's been used for decades, ever since it was discovered by a man in Tokyo after he extracted it from seaweed.

After World War II, MSG was brought over to the US and was produced by extraction. In 1956, Japan figured out how to get it through fermentation & start making a lot of it at once. And as the years progressed, we eventually all started fermenting it from genetically modified bacteria. This allowed mass production of the additive. Very few people pay attention to the way its production has evolved over time and stick to the old argument, "But we've been eating it for over a hundred years.. " forgetting it was just a slow, simple extraction from seaweed back then. Things have changed.

Another thing that has changed is the fact that this isn't the only additive put in foods as a flavor enhancer. And when you start combining chemicals, you get different reactions. Hence, we have people who are allergic to certain foods containing MSG, people who are not, and people who are and aren't, depending on which MSG foods they're eating and how much. It got complicated.

Fortunately, there's a way to enhance the flavor of your food without using it. All you have to do is add a little salt and vinegar to your meal, and the combination works just like MSG.. but on a much safer level. Also, I will point out that when buying products from the supermarket, keep in mind companies have about 20 different names for MSG. So you can buy a can of soup that contains so many different lab varieties of glutamic acid added on top of each other that someone who's sensitive to it can eat half a can and go into anaphylactic  shock. This isn't an exaggeration, as it really happened to someone I knew, and he ended up in the emergency room getting pumped full of prescription grade Benadryl.

I'm not here to debate the safety of MSG. I'm just here to tell you what it is, and you can make up your own mind.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Easy Stuff To Make

I was going to go into how genetic modification works and what exactly MSG is.. but I'm so tired my brain is about to collapse. So it's easy post time.

Veggie Wraps

This is what I do when I'm exhausted and hungry:
Throw a large flour tortilla on a plate.
Toss some spinach on it.
Slice up:
Half an avacado
A couple of olives
Now throw in: 
A little cheese if I'm feelin' it
Sprinkle of balsamic vinegar

Roll it up and eat it.

Others ..when I'm not that exhausted..

Vietnamese spring rolls

You can use anything you want for filling. I usually shred up carrots, cabbage, onion, daikon radish, mint, basil and a little cilantro.
Soak your rice paper in water for a few minutes till soft. Then roll up the filling inside. Here's a video that shows how to roll them:

Veggie Burritos

I cook black beans with salt, cumin, oregano and mild chili powder. This makes a pretty decent mexican spice mix. I cut up and throw in: a big onion, Serrano chilies (you can use a jalapeno if you want it less spicy) chopped zucchini and blanched & chopped tomatoes.
Then I just roll it all up in a tortilla and eat. I will add some fresh slices of avacado if I have one in the kitchen before I roll it.
You can add cheese as well if you'd like.

Basically, you can throw just about anything in a wrap and it's usually quite good. I've done stir fry rolled up in a wrap instead of served with rice, I've made burritos with mushrooms and potatoes in them before. I have also made curried vegetable wraps. And don't forget Mediterranean style wraps..  felafel with olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, spinach and yogurt sauce. (the internet is full of yogurt sauce recipes)

Okay. Time for a beer. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Medical Opinion

I'm currently in school for a medical career, yet again, but I don't agree with how it all works as a controlled system. I have a big problem with insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and I loathe how American society has evolved in regards to dietary and lifestyle choices. I don't think Western Medicine works for everyone and I don't think Eastern Medicine does, either. I'm stuck in the middle, a weird mutation of a health nut who incorporates both philosophies into an undefined mess of experimentation to treat bodies and minds. And I primarily use myself as a subject.

I did a stint at a college in North Carolina for awhile in Environmental Biology, where I learned how to do things like genetically mutate a potato in the lab. I had heated arguments with my professors about modification, and I have already worked in health care long enough to know it's not helping that many people.

I've worked in a mental health ward, residences for mentally handicapped adults and children, a rest home, home health care, and with substance abuse patients. I have also been a CNA in a group home for mistreated adolescents and teenagers. I learned insurance companies cut people with serious psychological issues loose when their money runs out, and doctors get incentives from pharmaceutical companies to hand out experimental medications. People in America are overdosed, misguided, and are constantly having surgeries they don't really need just because someone with "M.D." on their name tag told them to do it. Sometimes I feel ashamed at the incompetence and greed of the medical industry. It's depressing.

I've worked under nurses who have told me horror stories in the late night hours of third shift in a hospital hallway drenched in sanitizer and bleach water. I've grown very tired of the bullshit and wish to educate anyone interested in taking responsibility for their own health and avoiding the doctor's office. I have been silent long enough.

I am not an R.N. or a doctor. I am a lowly med student who has worked as a CNA, a behavioral health tech, and a home health care aide. I have no outstanding credentials according to this society. But I have studied, listened, researched, and sustained a passion for healing for over 23 years now. And I will never quit learning and listening. I don't like seeing people sick, and I hate seeing people get turned away from "free clinics", which are a joke in the name. I hate seeing 14 year old girls sneaking to the emergency room to give birth after not being able to see a doctor at all for nine months. People are poisoning themselves with foods strategically labelled in ways that hide their toxicity. Most don't know what MSG really is and how it has about 20 different names companies use to hide the fact that it's in their products. I'll bet most people don't even know that before the genetic modification of tomatoes, they contained a complex of vitamin c that doesn't even exist anymore in the synthetic version of "enriched" foods. And that practices such as these has over time, depleted most Americans of everything their bodies needed to be able to absorb vitamins and minerals from eating. This has led to a growing epidemic of malnutrition that's responsible for most cancers and other diseases in the U.S. Sometimes it seems like this country is a big experimental lab and its citizens are little rats running around in a maze, looking for toxic cheese and totally unaware that they could be much healthier and happier if they really wanted to be.

How to Effectively Lose Weight

Weight gain is a negative symptom stemming from a multitude of things, and every individual is different. There's age, depression, illness or disease, medication, & dysfunction of the thyroid gland to name a few.. and sometimes, there's just plain old bad dietary habits.

I've come across quite a few people who don't really know how to get their vegetables. I know.. seems crazy.. but it's true. First off, potatoes are carbohydrates and full of starch, and should not be considered a vegetable. They match more in nutritional value to rices, pastas and grains. They break down to sugars. Glucose that your body doesn't need becomes fat. Potatoes are also loaded with calories. Bottom line: Potatoes will make you fat. They cause more weight gain than red meat.

The fastest weight loss I've ever seen without nutritional deficiency comes from the 40-day liquid diet of blended or juiced vegetables (primarily greens) and fruits that people started trying after that documentary, "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" got added to Netflix. Over the years, I've dated and/or lived with a couple of bodybuilders and a small number of guys heavily into weight training. These men were very serious about their vegetables and home made smoothies, and I learned a lot by watching them. I learned how people can lose weight and stay healthy, as opposed to trying fad diets, feeling weak, and eventually failing.

1. Green smoothies are fantastic sources of vitamins and minerals, and will help you remain healthy while reducing fat intake significantly. Try having smoothies for breakfast and lunch, and limiting a solid meal to once per day. (And make sure that solid meal is not something like heavy gravy over a pork roast with potatoes and bread.)
2. Reducing carbs significantly will decrease weight. Carbohydrates break down into glucose, which turns into fat and stores up in the body.
3. Metabolism is a complicated thing. Not getting into the intricate details of how it works, you can simply raise it and burn off fat by doing 30 minutes of cardio every day. A walk down the road or a ride on a bike is sufficient. Make sure you're breathing a little heavily and breaking a sweat, or you're not getting enough cardio to make a difference.
4. Take a breather from beer. Have a glass of red wine instead, and don't overdo it.
5. Eat more vegetables than meat. We have a bad habit in America of making the bulk of our meals a big slab of meat, surrounded by a few overcooked veggies. Reverse that, and don't cook the vegetables until they're limp and dead.

We get a ton of fat from eating heavy gravies, sauces, breads, pastas and too much dairy, and limiting our vegetable intake. Salads don't count for crap.. unless you do away with the poor excuse for one. That would be the iceberg lettuce thing with a few tommy tomatoes and cheese, drowned in Ranch. If you do salad, do it with spinach and put a ton of veggies or fruits on top of it. By eating vegetables, I mean cut up a ton of vegetables, barely cook them, season them with something that's not fattening and eat them. Eat them raw. Eat them all the time. You can eat the heck out of vegetables all day long and not worry too much about weight gain. (careful of avacados.. they're actually high in calories but still great for the brain) Ethnic cuisine can incorporate a ton of veggies.. there are Ethiopian dishes, a ton of Korean and Thai dinners and Sri Lankan meals that are loaded with good stuff and use hardly any fat at all. Just cut back on the rice and put more veggies on your plate.

Finally, there's one more thing that causes weight gain that not many people consider. Sleep deprivation. It works both ways. It causes gain in some people and loss in others. A lack of sleep and stress screws around with the thyroid as well as adrenal glands and starts all sorts of weight trouble. So learn how to stress less, and get a decent amount of sleep when you can.

Slowing Down the Aging Process

It's not impossible.

First off, one of the most destructive symptoms of aging is the lowering of testosterone levels in men and estrogen levels in women. When our hormones start to go, our vitality goes with them. You start all the symptoms of aging we're familiar with; wrinkles, dry skin, lack of collagen production, circulatory stress and bald spots.
This (the hormone situation) is the area where fighting old age slightly differs between the sexes. I'll start with men.

Testosterone is not only responsible for sex drive. It's also responsible for things like:
  • Bone density
  • Fat distribution
  • Muscle strength and mass
  • Red blood cell production
  • Sperm production
  • Depression
This means you're more prone to weight gain when your levels get low, and you're at a greater risk of heart failure and prostate cancer. You're also going to start being more susceptible to sugar problems, as it helps maintain insulin levels.

There are a multitude of problems with low estrogen in women, and a few of the symptoms include:
  • Rage [Interesting side note: Synthetic estrogen in certain types of steroids is actually what's responsible for "roid rages"]
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Weight gain
  • Hot flashes
  • Bone loss
  • Crying spells
Of course, there are way more symptoms to these changes than what I've listed. So the first thing we need to worry about when fighting age is learning to increase and stabilize hormone levels. There is always hormone replacement therapy, but I prefer to go the natural route. (Especially when dealing with estrogen replacements, as I will explain below.) Here are a few ways to start:


1. You've got to severely limit your fructose. You need to keep your sugar levels down, so limit grains and other carbohydrates as well. They break down to sugar. Cow's milk contains lactose. Sugar and lactose both cause insulin resistance and lead to every chronic disease men suffer from as well as weight gain.
2. Short, intense exercise has been proven to raise testosterone and keep it from decreasing. Strength training works really well in this regard, and also cardio. Get in at least 30 minutes of cardio every
3. Increase your Vitamin D intake. Natural sources include salmon, tuna, eggs, mackerel, yogurt, and cheese. Vegans: It's much harder to avoid vitamin D deficiency because most of it comes from animal product sources. Shitake mushrooms give you a pretty high dose, also soy milk and exposure to sunlight. Be careful with supplements, as an overdose in supplement form is toxic and can lead to kidney disease and calcium crystals in soft tissues of the body as well as in the urine.

Women: This is a little more complicated.
Unfortunately, there's a multitude of pesticides and household products we're all exposed to that seem to be full of something called xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are chemicals that get into the body and mimic estrogen, causing an overdose of the foreign substance and leading to breast cancer and the growth of fibroids in the uterus. Even getting plant estrogens such as is in flax seeds and red clover tea can be tricky. You don't want to overdose on fake estrogen (yes, even estrogen supplements are dangerous). What you want to do is increase production of your own natural estrogen.While eating flax isn't a bad thing, pay attention to the cosmetics and detergents you use and get rid of anything you can find containing xenoestrogens. Don't drink unfiltered tap water. Reading up on xenoestrogens will allow you to rid yourself of toxic chemicals and will free you up to enjoy plant estrogen sources without worrying about fibroids or tumor growth.

1. So number one is going to be to try and eliminate as many of these toxic chemicals as possible. You're already a body of estrogen. Even when your levels get low, you can get them going again by changing your diet and physical activity habits. What is advertised as "estrogen replacements" or "estrogen supplements" are to be avoided, as they can be dangerous in high doses. Things like shampoo and conditioner and most fabric softner sheets contain parabens. (Which are xenoestrogens) Also try to go more "natural" with your household cleaners and soaps.
2. Reduce your carbohydrates. Carbs tend to cause a decrease in estrogen levels. Limiting them can reverse this decrease.
3.  30 minutes of exercise daily will improve the endocrine system, which is responsible for producing estrogen. Estrogen in women is produced in the ovaries and also in the pituitary gland, which is part of your endocrine system.
4. Limit your meat products, especially red. Red meat is also responsible for more painful cramping during mentruation. Red meat has a much worse effect on a woman's health than on a man's. Our bodies are different.
5. Sushi will increase estrogen production.

Both men and women: Here's where we come together in our needs. And food is the key.

1. Raw vegetables and fruits should be a major part of the diet instead of everything being based around meat, especially as we get older. Now most people cannot properly digest raw foods due to an unhealthy digestive system derived from bad dieting habits. I wrote a post before this one on healing the digestive system, which will start you on your way to being able to digest raw vegetables with no problem. In the meantime, steamed or lightly cooked veggies are okay.
2. If you are not allergic to soy, it is a good thing to add to your diet after the age of 40. Since soy is one of the main genetically modified foods on the market, be sure to obtain organic soy so you can get the benefits you need from it. It prevents endometrial cancers in men and women, and stimulates hormone production. (It's also a great protein source.)
3. Bathe your pituitary and your hormones. Hormones are fat cells. They come from your pituitary gland, which decides how fast you age depending on its health. Your pituitary gland needs good fat to function properly, and to keep producing estrogen or testosterone. Good fat comes in the form of avacados, coconut, olives, nuts, peanut butter, sunflower oil, and olive oil.
4. These things are very damaging to skin, causing dryness, wrinkles, loss of elasticity and loss of collagen: excessive alcohol, smoking, excessive sugar, dehydration, and too much sun exposure.
5. A daily cocktail of vitamin a, c and e (preferably from food sources, but supplemental is ok)  is great in reversing age damage. These things are also antioxidants.

These are just a few things that will jump start age reversal and slow it down. Adequate rest and learning to manage or rid yourself of stress goes very far as well. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How to Heal Your Gut

So the first thing I decide to write about on a blog of random thoughts is bad intestinal tract health. That's odd. But it's a huge problem in America. Health insurance here is complicated to keep up with for most of us, so it's become almost mandatory for us to diagnose and heal ourselves. That's unfortunate. Add to that the constant dietary trends and misconceptions about food.  Consider the fact that people below the poverty line who rely on food banks are taking home things like canned chicken, outdated cupcakes full of food dye and sugar, and that white, gooey excuse for a loaf of bread. I know this first hand because I have been one of those people. It's a wonder we're not dropping like flies.. I guess the human body is pretty good at managing depletion for awhile. But at some point, it's going to give up and begin to break down.

When we finally started using refrigerators, we tossed the traditional method of fermenting vegetables right out the window. Some good health benefits went away with it. The primary reason irritated bowel syndrome is so common these days is because we've forgotten how to eat. The digestive system is very complicated and is often taken for granted. While everyone knows they need good bacterial activity in there, not many are taking the time to pay attention until they're doubling over in pain and spending an hour in the bathroom. Most people cannot handle digestion of raw vegetables anymore. Antibiotics in poultry is killing off our good intestinal bacteria. We need to heal the bugs in there in order to digest and absorb the vitamins and minerals from food, and to avoid food getting stuck in the colon and eventually rotting. (which happens with Crohn's disease and causes necrosis.)

This leads me to the main culprit of depletion and sickness: a lack of the vitamins and minerals needed to fight disease and infection. Most of these magical nutrients are in raw fruits and vegetables. And our bodies can't digest them anymore! Why? Because the intestines are sick and in need of repair. Once the intestines are healed, the ability to digest raw earth veggies starts to come back and you begin healing from the inside.. not to mention slowing down the aging process and looking better, too. And fixing the digestive system doesn't have to involve major surgery- unless it's gotten to the point where necrosis is present. And that is a serious situation which requires cutting into and removing the dying parts of the small intestine.

There's also something else happening in there that most people don't know about. There is another, secondary nervous system located in the gut. It's called the Enteric nervous system, and shoots more neurons and neurotransmitters than a nerd on crack. It's been dubbed the secondary brain. The enteric nervous system communicates with the primary nervous system and this may have a lot to do with why stress and anxiety is so heavily involved with proper digestion. So now that we have a hint about how complicated the gastrointestinal areas of our bodies are, what do we do to start the healing process? For the sake of time, I'll simply list some good places to start and those who are interested can research the details later.

1. Definitely get some fermented vegetables into your diet. This will aid in healing the bacterial maze inside those intestines as well as help digest other foods. 

2. Eat real yogurt, and not the stuff with candied fruit in the bottom hyped up with high fructose corn syrup. That's like physically abusing your yogurt and then forcing it to find a way to help once it gets in there.

3. If you don't have time to ferment vegetables, (which isn't really that hard) try things like kim chi, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, and kombucha. Also, eat pickled things.

Some of these things (like kombucha or kefir) might take a little getting used to if your palette is too familiar with the traditional American diet of steak, potatoes and pie. In that case, keep searching until you find some probiotic food you can handle. Otherwise, it's easy to give up and wait until it's too late to get better without surgical or medicinal intervention.

4. Please, by any means possible, learn to relax. I cannot point out how much hell stress and anxiety puts your body through. We can handle this while we're young, but eventually it's going to kick us into submission. 

5. It's much easier on your digestive system to eat small throughout the day than to gorge on a huge meal two or three times per day. And remember that chewing produces enzymes we need for digestion.. so remember more chewing creates more enzymes and easier digestion.

6. Your best sources of fiber will be coming from fruits, vegetables and beans. While whole grains do contain fiber, it's still better to get most of your nutrients from the prior. Ask any bodybuilder. Bread's okay, but too many carbs are still going to raise your sugar levels. Then you're dealing with different problems. You don't have to stop eating bread. Whole grains are good. But too much of them aren't. Overdose on vegetables, not on bread and pasta. 

So here's a start. Get the gut healthy, then it will start working for you. Some people have reversed allergies to certain foods by healing their intestines. After the intestines are back on track, the ability to digest raw fruits and vegetables comes back. A digestive system working at sub par levels can lead to things like diverticulitis, IBS, and even Crohn's disease.