Posted in Anthology of Adventures

I am passionate about my background. It molded me.

I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico during the 1980s and 1990s when Presidents Reagan and Clinton rolled back social welfare programs helping families through hard financial times, often harming single family households most of all. I lived in a subsidized housing community with my sister and mom, spending unsupervised afternoons and summers playing with other kids for hours going home only to gulp gallons of Kool-aid and to grab a snack and dinner. During summers we had daily picnics eating the free lunches through the summer lunch program. 

During these slim times, I watched my mother make meals out of almost nothing and I ate it up. We lived on pinto beans, chile peppers, canned fruits and vegetables, potatoes and different gravy-type concoctions made from tuna and ground beef served over toast. Salads, fresh vegetables, chicken and other meats were occasional treats. A fried bologna sandwich with mustard, chile dusted potato chips, and hot peppers is still one of my favorites despite that most of my career is in the health field.

Due to my mother’s work schedule, we also spent a lot of time in the small town of Los Lunas  with my aunt and grandparents. I observed food from seed to table every summer. Taking part in some of the processing like helping shell peas and putting red chile marinated pork through a sieve to extract chile pork broth for use in the masa for tamales to sell at Christmas time. I sneakily stole rich, flavorful masa right out of the massive stainless-steel bowl. I learned to can pickles, make preserves and dehydrate fruits just by watching.

Apple Butter Ready to cook down, Summer 2018

I ate it all with gusto.

Food Topics I am passionate about

I write about the American Southwest, specifically New Mexico because I do live there, a frontier border state and a first stop for immigrants from Mexico. As the fifth largest state geographically in the U.S., population is sparse and mostly rural. New Mexico unintentionally competes with Mississippi for last place in topics such as “great place to raise children,” stellar educational outcomes, and percentage of people in poverty. However, its multicultural population, gorgeous landscapes make for a great place to produce films, build gigantic companies like Intel that are warmly welcomed by communities with little to no tax burden only to lay off hundreds of people when their tax-free incentives expire.

El Rio Grande, Albuquerque, NM

I have background in Geographic Information Systems and food supply chains in New Mexico. I also have served on advisory groups to change small school meal programs that use locally grown food. I want to see more health care institutions serve a proactive role in community food security. As a former faculty member at New Mexico State University, I participated in a study to develop a survey to help food pantries devise systems to serve healthier food items in a welcoming environment.

In some of these blogs, I will describe my community health work with SNAP-ed witnessing immigrant exploitation through agriculture and multi-level marketing supplement businesses. I also have a strong concern of supplement industry promoting a culture of being too busy to engage in wellness activities like eating well and getting some movement. The supplement industry offers products as a solution for wellness without robust research or regulation while glorifying busy-ness.

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Posted in mental health

Self-Care is a Pain

I don’t know a whole lot of people that claim to love exercise. I didn’t always like it either unless it didn’t feel like exercise or it was a vehicle to a different activity that was efficient. Think about it. Physical activity is hard. It’s painful sometimes during and after (I have witnessed people in High Intensity Interval Training just give up and leave). Have you tried sitting on a toilet after working your legs to death?

I love The Awkward Yeti

I used to run frequently and I would feel that endorphin high. With that high came a clear head, different perspective if I was stressed out or mad, and great ideas for my next assignment during grad school. It was worth the time and pain. Running also really helped me push through a hangover.

Whether we like it or not, we were born to move. As little as 50 years ago, we were nowhere near this sedentary. Our sedentary nature has culminated insecurity, lack of confidence and skill to our perceptions of our interactive space in the world. We don’t want to engage in physical activity the wrong way and in front of others. That’s embarrassing. Sedentary life has depleted our innate sense of essential movement.

Initial Les Mills Training Tuscon, Az 8.2.18

It’s the same with food and nutrition. We want food to be easy and comforting. Getting extra physical activity and good nutrition into an already demanding and busy day is just added work with more planning, shopping and preparing meals for yourself and others. Some of us really don’t feel like we have the time or energy. Lucky me, I enjoyed cooking and it was my creative and relaxing outlet that also led to lots of wine or beer drinking. I still have a Pavlov dog association with drinking while I cook so cooking is definitely not as enjoyable as it used to be. Sometimes I wish that my family would just stop being hungry.

We are physiologically programmed to take the easy route because at one time it was essential to our survival and still is to some degree. When we were not constantly working to maintain a food supply, which is physically demanding, then rest was essential. I don’t know about you, but my mind wants to move much more than my body. I mean, my mind is a powerful freight train full of information that thinks it must keep moving. Why would we add one more thing to learn and busy up our minds even more? Is that opportunity worth the cost of time and vulnerability? (Remember the insecurity part I mentioned above?)

So we engage in mindless activity (or is it?) through social media, Netflix or Hulu. Screen time. Not all of it is mindless or horrible. I am definitely looking forward to new episodes of Stranger Things, but screen time is not so great when it’s for hours and gets worse if you are pondering all night about your always super happy friend on Instagram and why can’t you be that happy too. You lose sleep. So much for mindless activity.

I think the last time I was in this good physical shape, I was about 10 and now I am 42. I am in a good mood most of the time. I don’t make mountains out of molehills with life’s little annoyances. I am solution oriented. Building muscle has been a fountain of youth for me and I drink it up. I have a twenty-something year old metabolism. I am 122 pounds and I don’t feel deprived of food. I feel this life buzz and I can’t figure out why more muscle creates that. Fitness is definitely a feeling. And I love it. My point is that life got easier when I invested in my self-care.

Physical activity is a way for my mind to stop. I have a high tendency towards depression and I had some crushing events about two years ago so exercise is necessary and my family knows it. Not only I am I witness to it, but the mental wellness/physical activity correlation is evidence-based. My physical fitness became a mindful activity for me and I have reaped some huge rewards.

However, we live in a culture that projects a collective perception that we feel rewarded for being chronically busy. It feels like everything we do has to be “work” if we are going to feel good about it. God forbid that we actually have fun or “play” while we exercise because if we have fun, we don’t earn our constructed reward for “hard grueling work” even if it is actually work. I think physical activity is work, but if it turns out fun, we feel guilty although it’s necessary self-discipline.

To this day, my husband and I often feel like we were burdening the other with more chores if one of us goes to the gym. When Zumba first hit the gym we went to, I fell in love with it, but felt guilty about it because it was fun. Isn’t that dumb? Dumb or not, it is totally how I felt. In college, I took Physical Education classes just so I could exercise while at the same time earn a grade. Earning the grade was the work part that justified my self-care and just plain enjoying myself. I am overcoming guilt for having fun exercising and partly because I make money teaching classes, but I have spent a lot too for those certifications. More guilt.

We have the perception that we don’t have grasp or control of our future health (fatalism, prevention).

Ask yourself the following questions:

What is perception of your current health? Are you overweight, overtired, stressed out? What do you do to cope with current health status? Is it working? What’s working and what isn’t?

If and when you have been in great physical and/or emotional shape, what was different about your life? What did you value doing? Was it healthy?

What is your definition of self-care?

What keeps you sitting?

What situations, people and environment in your life prevents you from making healthier choices? What small steps can you make to change the situation?