Archive for tag: health

My Loathe-Hate Relationship with Microwaves

I pretty much hate microwave ovens. Everyone who's been to my home knows that I haven't even had a handle on the door of my microwave in the past 5 years. I distrust this appliance. I find them abhorrent. I think they are one of the actual and figurative problems with American society today. Why do people regularly cook food in a box that changes it at the molecular level, rendering the food nearly nutritionally void? Convenience, my friends. Convenience.

Veg2I'm committed to using the oven and the stovetop as my cooking methods of choice. Sure, any heating destroys some of the nutritional content of many foods, but these methods are gentler and less damaging on the goods. Why is a microwave worse? Mike Adams, editor of, explains, "Microwave ovens heat food through a process of creating molecular friction, but this same molecular friction quickly destroys the delicate molecules of vitamins and phytonutrients (plant medicines) naturally found in foods."

This isn't groundbreaking news, people. Years ago I was scarred for life after reading that the microwave destroys around 97% of the vitamins and other nutrients in vegetables. Apparently, many people are OK with this, judging by the new microwavable veggies in "steam bags" available at your local grocer. Yuck, and no thanks. If I'm choking down peas, they better have full nutritional value, thank you very much.

Veg1If you haven't faced the hidden toxins in your microwave popcorn by this time, let me offer you a hand up to 2014. One of the most special ingredients in the little bag is diacetyl, which, although derived from butter, acts as an artificial butter flavor in the microwave popcorn. Sounds nice enough, until you find out that when heated it releases a gas that frequently gives popcorn factory workers a condition called "popcorn lung." Actual name--bronchiolitis obliterans. Break that Latin down. "Obliterate my bronchioles?" Yep. Turns out, it can also happen to the consumer who heats and eats this stuff at home, and it can certainly happen to the mice in laboratory settings that are exposed to this heated chemical.

Veg3And that brings me to the reason that I keep my old broken microwave around at all. Well, first of all the gaping hole above my stove would look weird. Mostly, though, the reason that I keep my microwave is because I actually melt butter in it when I air pop popcorn, which, if you know me, you'll know is all the time. I try to lessen the evil of my popcorn addiction as much as possible, believe me. I melt the organic, grass-fed cow butter on low power in a glass dish. I pour it over organic popcorn (to reduce my pesticide exposure). I lovingly tap on a good amount of sea salt, and then I eat it with voracity that only another popcorn addict can understand.

So, I'm guilty. I hope I never said I was perfect, because that would be way off. However, I do what I can to reduce my exposure to some of the health-hampering substances on the market today, including microwave popcorn. For now, the microwave, which I vehemently hate, stays... if only for one small but critical purpose in my life.

Make Time to Take Time

Make time to take time...for yourself, that is. As we students return to the NUHS classes this week, after a well-needed winter break, many of us find that we aren't quite as well rested as we thought we'd be. Personally, I envisioned a two and a half week stint of total relaxation...or, at least, as relaxing as life can be with two young children! Instead, what I got was the usual hectic schedule of drop-offs and pick-ups, with my own work crammed in between appointments and holiday travels.

The welcoming sight of a snow-covered Lombard campus as we returned for the "spring" trimester.

Yes, that's right. I came back to campus in January just as stressed out as when I walked off after my last final exam back in December. How did this happen? After talking with some classmates this week, I quickly realized that I was not alone. Sure, a few people took it easy and maintained the "AOM" lifestyle of healthy eating and weekly acupuncture treatments. Lucky them. The rest of us overindulged with the holiday treats and put the exercise routines on hold while we visited relatives and friends.

What's wrong with us? Don't we, students of acupuncture and oriental medicine, know better? Don't we know that a relaxing and rejuvenating acupuncture session is even more important when we are stressed out by final exams and holiday travels? It turns out, we're just like everyone else. We don't always practice what we preach. And, the prognosis isn't great for our future actions, either. An article in Newsweek  revealed that 44% of male doctors are overweight or obese (Kalb, 2008). Sure, this is better than the average American statistic, which puts around 65% of Americans as either overweight or obese, but it's not role-model material! (Kalb, C. (2008). Drop That Corn Dog, Doctor. Newsweek, 152(15), 17.)

If we don't take the time to make time for ourselves--for our health and well-being--now, as students, then how can we become a strong force for good in our future patients' lives? I want to model the behavior and lifestyle that I am explaining to my patients. If I can't prioritize and sacrifice to make time for my own acupuncture sessions and yoga classes, then why should a patient take my advice to do so? If they see me wolfing down my fast food in between appointments, then why should they look to more healthy options for their own lunch?

My personal path this year will be to slow down, to be more aware of my choices and my priorities, and to model the lifestyle and mindset that I want to introduce to others. Welcome, 2014.