Tag Archive | healthy-living

I Gave Up Drinking Soda for Lent

By Jen Ashenfelter

I know drinking soda is not good for me, but Coke Zero or Diet Cherry Pepsi have been my beverages of choice for years. Hi, my name is Jennifer. I’m addicted to soda. I love the bubbles dancing in my mouth…and truth be told, I love the sweet taste and quick rush soda gives me. And it’s diet, so I don’t have to worry about the calories. I know I should drink more water, but how can I give up the flavor?Coke Zero

Challenge Accepted

I decided to give up drinking soda for Lent. There’s greater success in achieving a goal when we are held accountable for our actions. So who better than God to keep me on my toes? I don’t need Mayor Bloomberg to help save me from my own habits, but politics aside, I think he’s got the right idea in limiting the sale of soda to something smaller than the size of a personal keg.

I’m proud to report I was successful—not a drop of Coke Zero or any other soda for 40 days. Not even a sip on Sundays when we’re free to indulge. I wanted to rid myself of the craving so drinking it every Sunday wasn’t going to help me. In addition to breaking the diet-soda habit, I thought it would help me drink more water. I can report that was an “epic fail.” I drank plenty of black coffee and green tea—I’m probably medically dehydrated and low on calcium, but that’s another story. Hey, small steps for big gains—leaving the water drinking situation for another day.

Health Report: Bursting the Bubbles

We’ve all heard how soda is bad for your health. I’m not here to make any judgments on food and drink choices, but understanding my choice to give up soda wouldn’t be complete without some background information. According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control on obesity statistics in America, more than 1/3 of American adults are considered obese. Obesity rates among adults and children continue to rise. One contributing factor is the consumption of sugary drinks like soda. Add all the health problems related to obesity when listing the reasons not to drink soda.

Knowing that drinking empty calories causes weight gain, I’d drink diet soda with 0 calories. But weight gain and obesity are not the only health problems related to drinking soda—diet or not. Other health problems include:

  • Osteoporosis – one study
  • Fatty liver and metabolic disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart attacks

Heart disease, diabetes and metabolic disease are not good, but as a woman who drinks more coffee and soda than milk and water, I found osteoporosis the most frightening of the problems.

According to a WebMD report:

Researchers at Tufts University, studying several thousand men and women, found that women who regularly drank cola-based sodas — three or more a day — had almost 4% lower bone mineral density in the hip, even though researchers controlled for calcium and vitamin D intake…Phosphoric acid, a major component in most sodas, may be to blame, according to lead study author Katherine Tucker, PhD. Phosphorus itself is an important bone mineral. But if you’re getting a disproportionate amount of phosphorus compared to the amount of calcium you’re getting, that could lead to bone loss.

And let’s not forget reports on the negative effects of artificial sweeteners, sodium consumption and high-fructose corn syrup—but that’s another blog topic entirely. I felt giving up soda was an important goal for me.

The Big Picture

There’s a growing trend in turning to more natural foods instead of highly-processed foods and drinks. As a mother, I want to give my children—and myself—more nutritious meals and snacks, but it’s not always easy. The trend is towards…

  • Drinking milk and water; not juice and soda.
  • Eating lean proteins and whole-grain; not fast food and junk food.
  • Enjoying fresh fruit and vegetables; not sugary treats.

Do as I say, not as I do: Yep, I’m a hypocrite…a fraud. I drink a lot more diet soda than water and milk. I am weak and will scarf down a snack-size bag of chips or handfuls of Pepperidge Farms Goldfish before I consider an apple or raw veggies dipped in hummus. (And I wonder why the jeans feel a little snug or why the kids give me trouble about food choices.) We preach to our kids but how often do we follow our own advice?

I've replaced Coke Zero with a glass of my favorite flavor of seltzer.

I’ve replaced Coke Zero with a glass of my favorite flavor of seltzer.

One Step at a Time

For me, it’s all about making small changes that will become healthy habits, so that’s why I decided it was time to tackle my soda addiction. Here are my personal observations of my very unscientific study:

  • I can survive without drinking soda—and don’t really want to drink it now. (I drank a diet Coke with lunch the other day because I didn’t want the calories of regular iced tea and didn’t find much satisfaction at the bottom of the straw. Lesson learned.)
  • If you give up (diet) soda because of the artificial sweeteners, then it’s almost impossible to find alternatives—except water and flavored seltzer—which do not contain them…or lots of calories.
  • Eliminating soda from my diet but adding jelly beans is dumb—for all the sugar and chemicals, might as well drink the soda.
  • Start water addiction. Flavored seltzer is great if you crave the bubbles. And with the hotter months ahead, ice-cold water will taste much better.
  • Flavored seltzers should be added to beverage dispensing machines and bottles stocked in refrigerated cases. Sure, plain water is usually offered at restaurants, but I just explained that I need to work on my water addiction.
  • Buy honey, mint or lemons and teabags to make fresh iced tea.
  • Wine and spirits do not count as appropriate alternatives regardless of their finer, pure qualities.
  • Everything in moderation!

What habit have you changed for the better? Are you a soda or water drinker?

For more information about the impact of drinking soda on your health, check out these links:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/13/soda-obesity-diabetes-ban-_n_2862064.html#slide=779339

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/08/31/first-of-its-kind-cdc-report-breaks-down-soda-statistics/

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Discovering Hidden Opportunities, Every Day in 2013

By Jen Ashenfelter

Happy 2013 everyone! How are those resolutions going so far? How many have you broken already?

Jimmy Choo

oooo… Jimmy Choo’s might be in my future for 2013! (Credit: OhJimmyChoos.net)

Don’t fret, just laugh. It’s a quirky tradition so why not have some fun with it. After discovering my favorite shoe store didn’t close but simply moved to another location, I gleefully announced to my husband, with a chuckle, that I resolve to buy more shoes in 2013. I only bought new flip flops and one pair of shoes in 2012, so I think buying more shoes in 2013 is a pretty good resolution!

Regardless of your thoughts on resolutions, I think they are a good idea if not taken too seriously. I really like my friend and fellow blogger Jenna Schuler’s recent post about creating “value principles” so if you haven’t read it, please do. The only way to move forward is to reflect—not dwell—on the past and make plans for the future. Celebrate the accomplishments—both great and small—and learn from the challenges and mistakes. Writing down desires, goals or value principles should motivate you to start the year off on a positive note. Think of things that excite you rather than creating a laundry list of things to change; however, don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

While reflecting on 2012 and thinking about 2013, I  came across this quote on Facebook and decided this is really the only resolution needed: Approach the New Year with resolve to find the opportunities hidden in each new day. ~Michael Josephson

One resolution…that’s it, you say? I know, where’s the fun in that? In theory, it’s a great resolution but a bit vague. It gives nothing to be excited about or work on. How do you hold yourself accountable to succeed—or not—without any details? So for the sake of a few giggles and something to work toward, here’s my list.

Write – Possibly the most important item on this list since I’m writing content for 3 blogs—this one included. Past resolution lists have included steps to reach my goal of writing more—personally and professionally. I recently landed a job as a marketing coordinator for an animal hospital and lodging facility where my primary responsibility is writing—yay me! Now the focus is to improve my writing and learn more about content marketing and social media.

Read – Good writers spend a lot of time reading too. 2012 was a good year. I read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, definitely did not ride the 50 Shades bandwagon but did enjoy a romance novel written by a good friend, and finally bought a Kindle where Gone Girl is waiting to be finished.  Reading for pleasure might prove more challenging in 2013 now that I’m working, but I have a healthy reading list to work on.

In 2012 I read my friend Kelly Jameson's novel To Tame A Rogue. And her novel What Remained of Katrina, is on my list for 2013.

In 2012 I read my friend Kelly Jameson’s novel To Tame A Rogue. And her novel What Remained of Katrina, is on my list for 2013.

Eat – This one is easy; I love to eat! Ok, too easy…let’s call this resolution Healthy Eating. Listing “lose weight” is pointless because I automatically get defensive. I will not give up bagels! I prefer to continue with my quest to eat better and provide healthier meals for my family. I believe in the real food approach and reducing the amount of foods with a long list of ingredients and preservatives in our pantry. I plan dinners before my bi-monthly trips to the grocery store, so creating Meatless Mondays and Seafood Saturdays will be fun. Besides creative menus, 2013 will be the year of the vegetable. My youngest actually announced his new-found love of brussels sprouts and asked that I make them more often—wow!

Pray – And let’s call this resolution Wellness—in mind, body and spirit. I thought maybe I’d join a 5K training class at the YMCA and blog about the experience. I have completed the training and 5K race in the past; it’s definitely a good way to jumpstart an exercise program. However, it requires training outside in extreme winter weather conditions from January to March. Been there, done that—I don’t live in Florida. I’m quickly changing this to a focus on yoga—easily done in a warm, dry setting without having to wear 20 lbs of clothing. Remember, resolutions should be motivating and not include “crazy.”

I’ve taken restorative yoga classes and loved the experience. I’ve tried aerial yoga—hanging upside down from a silk suspended from a ceiling is definitely challenging but exhilarating once you get the “hang” of it. But what I’d like to spend more time on in 2013 is learning and practicing more traditional yoga poses as a form of exercise and meditation. This one will be tough since committing to time for exercise and quiet prayer always seems to be at the bottom of my To Do list. But I’m excited to try a basic exercise plan I found in a recent issue of Prevention which combines yoga exercises with journaling—two resolutions with one stone. If all else fails, I’ll sign up for another round of restorative or aerial yoga classes. Namaste.

Love – Of course my first priority is to my family. I’m extremely lucky to have a loving family as well as wonderful friends. As the saying goes, anything worth having is worth working for. So this resolution is my commitment to continue working on being my best so I can give back to the family and friends who mean the most to me. Whether it’s achieving milestones with my husband, celebrating the accomplishments of our sons, sharing special weekends with girlfriends, or simply telling family and friends how they’ve touched my life, I resolve to live each day with no regrets or words of love and appreciation left unsaid.

Committing to resolutions—or whatever you decide to call them—is like reviewing that class syllabus at the beginning of the year—a bit overwhelming at first, but if you take it day-by-day, step-by-step, while diligently working through challenges and celebrating the accomplishments, reaching the end is not so difficult. Maybe some resolutions will fall by the wayside quickly but if you find the positive lesson and the joy in each, then nothing is lost.

Maybe I’ll only read one book in 2013, but I will enjoy every chapter of the adventure. Maybe Seafood Saturdays won’t last past February because the family absolutely hates it, but hopefully they will appreciate trying something new for a few weeks. Maybe you won’t lose 10 lbs, run a marathon, or mend a broken relationship but consider the hidden opportunities to be discovered in simply trying.

Whether it’s a resolution or a value principle…or maybe just one thing you want in 2013, I encourage you to write it down. Yeah, post it on the refrigerator or share with your social peeps, just keep it handy and see how far you go. If you find a dead end, then create a new path to whatever makes you happy and brings health, happiness and harmony to you in 2013.