Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sugar: White Poison

“It’s not about the calories,” says Robert Lustig, specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. “It has nothing to do with the calories. It’s a poison by itself.” To what is he referring? Sugar. Yup, sugar.

Extreme? Maybe. But worth paying attention to. According to the recent New York Times article, per Lustig "sugar should be thought of, like cigarettes and alcohol, as something that’s killing us." Lustig is referring to both sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in his assessment, the latter of which is the latest villain in the food industry world. High fructose corn syrup is pervasive in the American diet and has been linked to metabolic syndrome, obesity, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and diabetes. Concerns over the dangers of HFCS have driven many of us back to "plain old sugar" as we seek out a simpler alternative. Not so fast says Lustig, "High-fructose corn syrup, sugar — no difference. The point is they’re each bad — equally bad, equally poisonous.”

According to Lustig, the high consumption of sugar or HFCS, especially in liquid form (sodas or fruit juices) taxes the liver which turns the excess easily into fat and, over the long term, leads the body to develop insulin resistance "which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2." As the consumption of sugar has increased in the United States, so has the rate of disease. "In 1980, roughly one in seven Americans was obese, and almost six million were diabetic, and the obesity rates, at least, hadn’t changed significantly in the 20 years previously. By the early 2000s, when sugar consumption peaked, one in every three Americans was obese, and 14 million were diabetic."

And the trouble doesn't end there. According to Nancy Appleton, author of the book Lick the Sugar Habit, sugar can depress the immune system, raise your cholesterol, feed cancer cells, weaken eyesight, cause gallstones, and contribute to osteoporosis, among others.

So what to do? Clearly, reducing our intake of sugar and high fructose corn syrup is a top priority. But giving up our sweet tooth sounds insurmountable (at least over here!). Explore alternative and natural sweeteners such as organic honey, stevia, and maple syrup when the sweet craving comes. But watch out for artificial sweeteners and other concoctions and, most of all, do your research!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Listen to the Moms

As a mom it’s easy to feel invisible. We often go from having a personal identity to being so-and-so’s mom – the one who magically picks up the house, changes the diapers, makes sure the kids are fed, healthy, and consistently transported from school, playdates, or sports activities without a hitch - with little fanfare.

But moms make hugely important decisions about the health and well-being of their entire families – and the planet - each and every day. The food we buy, the products we bring into our home, how we transport our families, and the values we live by all have an impact on our children’s health and on the larger environment. When moms start demanding safer, less toxic, and more natural products, it’s powerful. So powerful that the market is listening – sort of.

Take, for example, the recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts about moms and their concern over antibiotic use in animals. According to the study, 80 percent of the moms surveyed were "concerned about antibiotics being given to food animals on farms", with more than 40% being very concerned. Fears about antibiotic-resistant disease and concerns over the humane treatment of animals is growing, and not just among moms. More and more individuals are starting their own food revolutions (thanks, in part, to Jamie Oliver) and are demanding to know what is in their products and where their food comes from.

As moms take action, we are insisting that our supermarkets offer greater transparency, better labeling, and a wider range of options that address our growing concerns. More moms are reading labels and making purchasing decisions that align with their values. USDA Certified Organic meat is not raised with antibiotics, but meat that is labeled "natural" or "all-natural" may or may not include antibiotic use, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. "No antibiotics added" and "Raised without antibiotics" are approved by the USDA as a claim, but are not third-party certified as the USDA Certified Organic label is. Free-range/free roaming appeals to moms concerned about the humane treatment of animals but suggests nothing about antibiotic use.

While companies are getting on the bandwagon to be responsive to the concerns of parents, the lack of regulation and consistency is something to be concerned about. The 2008 Tyson incident is good example. During 2007/2008 Tyson was using the label "raised without antibiotics" on its chicken and in its marketing to capitalize on food that was perceived to be "better for your family." Problem was that Tyson was still using "the chicken feed additive ionophores", according to the Washington Post, which the USDA considers antibiotics but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not. The USDA rescinded Tyson's use of the label, but the opportunities for companies to continue to mislead consumers remains.

Moms can drive change in the market by raising not only their level of awareness about industry practices, but by seeking out positive change through their purchasing decisions. Supporting companies that mesh with your personal values with regard to product ingredients and safety is an important way to be sure your voice is heard!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Celebrating Motherhood!

No matter where your journey takes you, the path of parenthood is packed with choices and challenges, as well as incredible joy and happiness. Whether or not you have chosen to breastfeed, cloth diaper or use disposables, bed share or not, homeschool or public school - or anything in between - you need the support and encouragement of other parents along the way.

At the Holistic Moms Network, our mission and purpose is to support parents and to raise awareness about natural and holistic living. We seek to create a sisterhood community (including dads!) that makes the journey of parenting one of empowerment and connection. We want parents to learn about the many natural and holistic choices out there so that they can make informed choices for themselves and their families. But we do not believe that attacking each other for our choices, pointing fingers, or making individuals feel guilty for their decisions creates a community. Rather, it pits us against one another. And, as a holistic parent, there are 1,000 ways we can take opposing sides. That doesn't leave much room for community building.

What we may have as our personal passion may not be the same as another's. What works for one family may not work for another. And alienating people who have made choices that differ from our own also hinders our ability to expand and grow ourselves, eliminating the possibility of discovering a new perspective along the way, cultivating empathy, or honing our own existing beliefs. As Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton so artfully said "The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak is to support the rights of people you don't agree with."

There are many things we support as holistic parents - including living sustainably, birthing and feeding our babes naturally, avoiding unnecessary routine medical interventions, and promoting positive parenting - but we do not ask parents to pass a litmus test before they join our organization. Many of us at HMN have made radical changes in our lives over the years that we have been members - changes we may never have imagined ourselves making at one time. What made the difference? Awareness and support. Members find this experience again and again:

“HMN has brought insight, information and courage in my life. Several of this year’s chapter meetings were truly life-changing, introducing me to new perspectives and ways of thinking. Like how easy eco-friendly cleaning can be, positive discipline, the importance of play. I am very grateful for the sharing and encouragement in this community. I’m so glad to have found HMN!” Mariana, MA Member

“It is amazing to be among moms/families that stand up for their children, against mainstream living, in order to stay true to themselves and make sure their children will be healthier and wiser then this generation and thus make the world a better place. This is done through education, community and an open-mindedness that is quite refreshing and truly amazing to be a part of.” Dorothy, IL Member

We agree with Mothering Magazine Publisher and HMN Advisory Board Member Peggy O'Mara ,who once said "Successful advocacy rests on holding a position without being positional. And while we don't always feel we can compromise where our children's needs are concerned, we can develop a capacity to insist on our position without insulting others."

This month we celebrate motherhood and its journey - whatever path it takes, whatever decisions have been made - and offer the opportunity for all parents to connect through a supportive, diverse, and compassionate community by offering a special membership savings for the entire month of May! Use the special coupon code MOM2011 and enjoy $5 off of any annual membership this month.

And we encourage our existing members to approach one another with kindess and understanding, not judgement. Open up to the possibility of learning from each other, as well as allowing for respectful disagreement.

Let's celebrate the motherhood experience together! Join us!