Making the little changes (and quick reviews of Food, Inc. and Nighty Night Tea)

November 13, 2009

Women’s Health features an article this month which shows how lifestyle activity has drastically changed over the years. It’s the little things that add up: standing at your desk, for example, burns about 30 calories more than sitting in front of your desk. How often are you stuck in front of the computer for? Even if it’s just a few hours each day, over time, all of that accumulates into something a whole lot bigger.

I’m squeamish about escalators and elevators. When I was travelling through Italy, I’d be huffing it up the staircases with an enormous backpack as tall as me resting on my shoulders, much to the amusement of my travelling companions. Stairs vs. elevator: about 380 calories worth of a difference.

But it’s not, as I mentioned in our recent poll, about “burning calories”. It’s about incorporating enough activity throughout the day so that we achieve a good balance. If I am in front of my computer (standing, naturally, rather than sitting ;)), and it occurs to me that I haven’t seen the sunlight all day, I know that something is wrong.

In my Oral Communication class, our most recent presentation was a persuasive speech. A number of people were talking about food and health-related issues, which I loved. One of my classmates spoke about the importance of Vitamin D, and how everyone in our city should take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months. I partially agree with this statement, but I also feel uncomfortable with it.

Any time that we need to supplement our diet, or go to the gym for a workout, or even things like taking a nap in the middle of the day, it’s worth asking ourselves why exactly we need to do that. What’s missing from our lives that we need to compensate in these other ways? If we’re supplementing our diets, if we’re relying on the gym for exercise, if we can’t make it throughout the day without a power nap, what does that say about our lifestyle?

Since I began eating mostly-vegan, I do own protein powder, and I’ll add a half tablespoon to my oatmeal or when I’m making granola bars or other sweet dishes. I don’t take naps throughout the day, because I can’t shut down my brain partway through the day like that, but I have begun drinking Nighty Night tea* before bed to help me sleep better so that I don’t wake up in a state of exhaustion the next day. And yes, I also go to the gym a couple times a week: it’s the perfect study session.

I recently had the opportunity to see the film Food, Inc. and it blew my mind. Sure, I knew pretty much all of the information presented in the documentary, about all of the rotten stuff in the food that we eat and the way that the workers are treated, but I didn’t really *know* it. Seeing that documentary was such a relief- a relief to know that important people out there who can spread awareness to a wide range of people and who can probably make something of a difference are out there making movies like this. What does disappoint me about it is that it didn’t hit the major theatres (not around Winnipeg, anyway). It was only at the “obscure” movie theatre here, for a short period in September, and then just one more week during November. So much garbage hits the major theatres that surely a really good quality documentary like this should get huge amounts of publicity.

Part of me is a little sad about it all. It would be nice if we didn’t need to supplement our diets- if we really could get all of our nutrients from whole foods, and didn’t have to worry about all the crap that is put into even our fruits and vegetables. It would be nice if we didn’t need to take naps or drink special tea to ensure that we get proper rest. It would be nice if we got all the exercise we needed just from our lifestyle activity and didn’t have to go to the gym or use these ergonomic, posture-improving Herman Miller chairs (cool/eco-friendly as they are!) to get our muscles moving.

I suppose that as long as we don’t overdo it with the “fake” alternatives to real food/exercise and the like, we’re doing all right.

What do you think? Where do you “stand” on all of this?

*this tea is brilliant. It works even better than adding calcium powder to a glass of water at night. I have never found anything which helps me sleep as much as this tea does. Hunt it down and drink a mug in the evening if you have any kind of sleeping problems!

Edited to add: Rodale Books have kindly offered TWO copies of the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook to give away- Bag Lady, send me your mailing address!


  1. Food Inc. didn’t hit the mainstream theaters in my neck of Los Angeles either–I just watched it yesterday now that it’s out on video.

    I agree with your mindset about asking why we need supplements, but with vitamin D, it seems that there are really good reasons. It doesn’t occur naturally in many foods, so if you’re indoors most of the time, taking some is a good idea. I don’t think there is anything wrong with supplements (or medicine or any other aspect of technology) unless you are using them as a substitute for normal healthy living. If normal healthy living doesn’t get you all the way, then hurray for modern science!

    • I think that’s my main issue with it- too many people DO use them as a substitute. And I’m terrified that I might do the same if I started using them! I think by our very nature, we as humans can’t help but say to ourselves, “if this little bit is good, then a big bit will be even better”, until it gets out of control.

  2. I think Im the last person who hasnt seen Food Inc (I need a sitter!! :))
    and im in between on the supplements.
    I probably SHOULD do more but i just eat well and pop a daily multivitamin and hope for the best šŸ™‚

    • I like your way of thinking on hoping for the best šŸ˜‰

  3. I think ideally we would get all the nutrients we need from whole foods, eat nothing processed, and get more natural exercise. Unfortunately when you have a 9-to-5 job (yuck!) and a hectic life, things get pushed to the wayside. Sometimes we just need a gym, a vitamin or a nap! šŸ™‚

    • Sighs, yes, our lifestyles DON’T accommodate for it- and that’s sort of my point. I wonder how many people believe it’s actually WORTH IT for their kind of lifestyle… if they really enjoy it and that’s what they WANT to do. I’m a tad skeptical.

  4. A daily dose of cod liver oil (for non- vegetarian/vegans) is a perfect source of vitamin D! Better yet, it is readily absorbed by our bodies. When taking vitamin D supplements, it is wise to purchase one in liquid or capsule form, as tablets are very hard for our bodies to process.

    • Good point about the tablets! It’s interesting how the form that we take things in can make a big impact on how well we absorb them. Reminds me of the calcium-in-spinach dilemma: there’s a ton of it in there, but our bodies don’t absorb hardly any of it, so spinach is a really poor source of calcium. Absorption of nutrients is a REALLY important thing to think about.

  5. I’m not really in favor of supplements, unless they are whole food supplements like barley grass juice, etc, but I do make an exception for vitamin D, since the best way to get it is really from the sun and in the winter months we just don’t get enough sun exposure. The implications of being deficient are just too great!

    • The other thing is that the vitamin D we get from the sun isn’t the same that we get from our diet- so we REALLY miss out on it during the winter months! Sighs.

  6. Good old fashioned sunshine is the best source of vitamin D. 10-15 minutes a day, 60% of the body exposed with no sunscreen, no burning! Sagan I hear ya on the supplement plight but… šŸ™‚ I think you would LOVE some of the conferences/information put out by ‘The Institute of Functional Medicine’, and similar organizations. I’m not connected to them in any way and this not a sales pitch, but I think you would find their depth of knowledge and scientific research regarding the measurable benefits from added nutrients, supplements very interesting.

    • Thanks for letting me know about this, it does sound interesting. I love the learning from all realms. We can always broaden our minds a little bit more!

  7. At a conference I was at once Steven Blair from Cooper’s Institute asked us the question -why do we rely on inventions to do for us what we are completely capable of doing ourselves? He was referring to escalators and those moving walkways in airports. That really stuck with me. Now, after getting off an international flight and traveling for a month it is likely you would find me on an escalator, ha-ha!, but normally I’m all about the stairs.

    I’m thankful for gyms because they allow me to get the exercise that isn’t accessible in my life right now. Working from the computer doesn’t allow much movement. However, I would always choose activity – outdoor sports, gardening, etc – over a gym workout.

    I gave up supplements long ago. I worked in gyms and took all that was available at one point in my life. Now, I’m all about food and I do believe you can get what you need through. That isn’t to say I won’t eat a bar or drink (non-HFCS) Gatorade from time to time, but the powders and pills are no longer a part of my daily lifestyle.

    Great post!

    • And I guess that’s the main thing: “no longer a part of my daily lifestyle”. Also he’s a smart man!

      I suppose, too, it depends WHICH supplements we’re taking. Definitely varying degrees of goodness/badness in them šŸ™‚

  8. I take a few supplements that seem to work for me, for specific purposes. But yes, I believe that the best place to start is a healthy diet.

    As for the lifestyle thing – we all have to earn a living, and we hope to be able to do it at a job that will bring us some measure of contentment. I worked a lot of crappy part time jobs before I went to college. I had more spare time then, but I was not happy (depressed, actually). Now I work full time, which in the winter means I don’t see much sunlight. And it means my exercise is deliberate rather than lifestyle activity. But my job is something interests and challenges me and allows me to earn a living and not be miserable.

    While I do like my chosen profession, I often wish that I didn’t spend so much time sitting behind a desk. But we do what we have to do. And if that means working out in a gym and taking some supplements, I don’t see that as a bad thing. We do the best we can, right?

    Food Inc., I have not seen. I have a feeling I would not be able to handle it.

    • I think you’re right that we have to do the best we can. After all, we have to make SOME kind of sacrifices! Mid-university crisis I’m going through, perhaps? šŸ˜‰

  9. ooh, i got food inc on dvd, set up to watch it next week with some friends…

    i don’t have a strong opinion on supplements, probably b/c i think there’s probably points to both sides, especially for certain ones.

    ps- i passed along an award to you šŸ™‚ sorry I haven’t been commenting as much! (still reading :))

    • Awww you’re such a doll!

      My opinion on supplements and all this isn’t entirely solid, either, which I think is why I keep addressing the issue- I like coming back to it and opening up the topic to see what new insights people have. There’s so much conflicting information out there that its enough to make a girl’s head spin!

  10. I’m currently taking a few supplements to assist (fingers crossed!) with alopecia. Other than that, I try to get my nutrition from actual food. Most days are fine, but sometimes life gets in the way, though, and I’ll add in some protein powder to make my daily protein requirement. So far, so good. šŸ™‚

    Have a lovely weekend, Sagan!

    • Yep, life sure does get in the way sometimes! My fingers are crossed for you too, Cammy šŸ™‚

  11. Great post, Sagan! I have not yet seen this movie, but I watched the trailer and will look for it on DVD! It looks very interesting, and appears to confirm what I’ve been becoming more and more aware of. The more food I can grow and produce myself, the better!

    As you are aware, we run a small cow/calf operation, and I know that when our calves leave here, they qualify as ‘natural and organic’. Sadly, what happens to them after they are sold is something I have no control over.

    I take some supplements on the advice of my doctor (Calcium and Omega 3), but try to get most of the nutrients I need from real food.

    Thank you so much for the book!! I’m really looking forward to it! šŸ™‚

    (Did you get my email?)

    • Yes, I got your email! You were tricksy and used the account I don’t check quite as frequently, hehe.

      Interesting what you say about not having control AFTER they’re sold… I’ve never thought about that before. Do you happen to have any idea what happens to them after? I’d be really curious to know about the relationship between rancher and bigger companies!

  12. Well, the relationship between rancher and the big companies is pretty much non-existent. Once our calves are big enough, we take them to auction to be sold to the highest bidder. (Which is a topic for a rant, but this isn’t the place for that!) We relinquish all control after that, and rarely hear anything of what happens to them. The steers (neutered bull calves) generally go to a feedlot to be fattened up for slaughter, eventually making their way to grocery stores. The heifers generally are sold to other ranchers to become momma cows, unless we keep them ourselves to increase our herd or replace older cows.
    So, to answer your question, there really is no relationship between the rancher and big companies, except for when they screw us by paying us as little as possible for our calves. (Oops, was that too honest?)

    • Hehehe now that DEFINITELY made me smile šŸ˜‰

      The process of it all is really fascinating. There’s so much involved in it that I’d never thought about before!

  13. When I think about what is the most critical aspect of why I am fit, it’s not the “you can eat anything you want,” stuff I hear from unfit folks, but the fact that somewhere along the way, I acquired the desire to be fit, and have actualized it!

    • Love it! That’s a great way of putting it.

  14. I have been meaning to watch Food Inc. After watching Fast Food Nation, I was grossed out with fast food for months. Even now, it is rare (twice a year in 2009) for me to stop by a fast food place for a burger.

    I take One a Day for Women multi-vitamin and an omega 3 from flaxseed oil. The multi-vitamin because of the extra folic acid in case I get pregnant and the omega 3 because I do not eat much fish or another sources of omega 3.

    I would love to get all my required exerise and nutrition from without making any extra effort on my part. But like JavaChick, I need to make a living and that involves hours in front of a computer.

    • Great idea about the folic acid- definitely necessary if pregnancy is a possibility! And I really strongly recommend Food, Inc. I think you’d like it.

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