Archive for the ‘Environmental health’ Category


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!


A Rant: Turn off the dripping taps

November 2, 2009

If there’s one thing that really gets under my skin- besides poor sentence structure/grammar/spelling- it is the number of dripping taps that I see all over the place.

People don’t know how to turn off a tap. It must come down to that. Sometimes it feels as though I go to university just so that I’ll enter the bathroom and turn off all of the taps that are dripping little beads of water into the sink. Plunk… plunk… plunk… I don’t understand why it is so difficult for a person to give the taps a really firm twist to ensure that no water will be trickling through. But apparently it is really difficult. And it makes me angry.

I can’t remember the last time I walked into one of the bathrooms at the university and I didn’t see at least one tap dripping. Usually there are three or four taps dripping water. Sometimes its worse and every single tap has little water beads plunking into the sink. So I go around and turn off all the taps really firmly, growling in frustration.

The World Health Organization says that “In 2002, 1.1 billion people lacked access to improved water sources, which represented 17% of the global population.”

Go back and read that sentence one more time. Please and thank you. Here, I’ll help you:

“In 2002, 1.1 billion people lacked access to improved water sources, which represented 17% of the global population.”

We don’t think about that on a regular basis. We don’t think about it because we don’t need to think about it. It doesn’t cross our minds because we take water for granted. In reality, having access to water is a privilege. We are abusing that privilege to a disgusting extent.

drinkwatThere is too much colour in this map.

Maybe the reason why the taps are dripping at my university is because people are not aware that they are failing to turn off the taps properly. But that is no excuse. In court, you can’t use ignorance as part of your defense if you’ve committed a crime. We shouldn’t be getting away with letting taps drip, either. Because to let it go to waste is a crime.

We know that going for a ten-minute walk every day doesn’t hinder our day at all but over time, it adds up to vastly improve our health and well being. We know that reducing our intake of cookies from two a day to one a day can make a difference in weight management over the course of a long period of time. Water works the same way: one measly dripping tap doesn’t seem like much, but if it’s left to drip all day long, and if half of the taps in the university are similarly drippy, it really adds up. It’s an enormous amount of waste just because some people can’t be bothered to turn a tap firm enough.

Save the water and turn off taps properly. Even if you think that you’ve turned it off completely, give it an extra little twist to make sure you’re right. It’ll take all of half a second but you might save plenty of water in the meantime. There’s no reason why the taps should be left to drip.

There’s other ways we can prevent needless waste of water too: turn off the taps when you not using them! If you’re brushing your teeth, don’t leave the tap running the whole time. Only turn it on when it’s necessary. Turn on the water right when you’re about to take a shower; don’t turn it on and then wander off to find a towel or check your email. This is needless water waste.

Water deserves our respect. Just because we can let it go to waste, because of our easy access to it, does not mean that we should let it go to waste. Spread the word and show you care. Water is a truly precious treasure and commodity.