| The TWO Pandemics That Have Collided!
by Polly Schindel
Does the pandemic impact how you think about your health? The “stay at home” order may have affected your waistline with the proverbial “COVID-19 lbs!” Yes, surveys are revealing that an alarming number of people have gained weight through the pandemic. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has compounded the already existing obesity pandemic in North America. Although not widely reported, obesity is a main risk factor for getting severely ill from the virus. Why is obesity so prevalent and what can we do about it? Now more than ever, good health matters.
First of all, let’s get one thing straight. We are not “fat.” We HAVE fat. We are not obese. We have the disease of obesity. Back in 2013, the American Medical Association declared obesity as a complex chronic disease. Our bodies are designed to gain weight. Survival is its goal, and back when humans were responsible for procuring their own food, there were times of feast and times of famine. When food was plentiful, it was a necessity to fatten up in order to survive the lean winter ahead. Unfortunately, our genes didn’t get the memo that there are no lean times anymore! The motivational triad is hardwired into us: 1. Seek pleasure, 2. Avoid pain, and 3. Expend minimal energy.
The food industry has been very successful in making food hyper-palatable, so it makes us happy when we indulge. But this highly processed “yummy” food has become our poison. It has become super easy to gain weight, and the resulting consequences of high blood pressure, diabetes, lowered immune function, etc. are of epidemic proportions in our society.
So how do we cure this disease? Pills and surgery will only treat the symptoms. Good health is our best defence. Hippocrates, referred to as the Father of Medicine, is known for his famous quote, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” What if we actually applied that? Well, what is the biggest culprit in our food supply today? Sugar. In the early 1900s, we ate about five pounds per person per year. Now the average person consumes 175–200 pounds per year. Sugar/carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for our bodies. Four grams of carbohydrate is the equivalent of one teaspoon of white sugar. While we would never go to the sugar bowl and scoop up five teaspoons of sugar, we think nothing of eating one slice of bread (20 grams of carbohydrate). By the time we’ve had our toast for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, muffin at coffee time, pasta for supper, and a dessert or snack, before bed we have eaten way more carbohydrate energy than we expended for the day. But, never fear, our amazing body has a wonderful mechanism to deal with it. Insulin locks up all the excess energy into our fat cells. It even thinks it is doing us a favour in saving that energy, preparing us for those lean times (that don’t come).
If we take the reins of our health and use food as our medicine, we will reap the rewards. Studies show that a mere 5–10% weight loss will see improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars. As well, energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence will improve.
Your body will rebel in the beginning of weight loss, but if you power through, you will experience the benefits in a relatively short time. To manage hunger and cravings, you will need to choose high quality proteins and high quality fats, increase your fibre, and choose the slow burning complex carbohydrates. Food preparation and planning will be key. Make a list and shop around the outside edge of the grocery store. Get a good supply of veggies and fruits, and wash and prepare them so they are ready to go for any meal or snack. Plan your menu for the whole week. Write it down so there’s no question to what you will be eating each day. There are no excuses for not being able to find good recipes in our google era. Have some “already cooked and in the freezer healthy emergency meals,” so you never have to make poor choices because “there is nothing to eat.” Bulletproof your environment: Get rid of those unhealthy, empty calorie processed foods in your pantry, or any other convenient hiding place you may have them stashed. Eliminate all negative external influences (like TV with all the fast food advertisements). Inform your circle of influence that you are on a quest for good health. Find an accountability buddy and help each other. Accept that there will be some well-meaning friends who will unintentionally sabotage you because it doesn’t feel good to them watching you take control of your health.
When you choose food, be particular. What is the source? If the old adage “You are what you eat” is true, then you might want to choose the cleanest, most nutritious foods available to you. Can you grow it yourself? Do you know the producer? Do you trust how it was processed? Educate yourself from legitimate and proven sources. Knowledge IS power. And in this case, it may mean your life—or at least the quality of it.
Once you have all the perfect ingredients, you are going to have to become your own cook! Here is a good old-fashioned healthy soup recipe full of meat and veggies. Cut out the potatoes/carrots/rice/macaroni/noodles if you are reducing your carbohydrate intake. It also freezes well to have on hand for those “emergency meals” I have recommended. Get creative and substitute other vegetables if you want.
Hearty Hamburger Soup
1 1/2 lbs ground alpaca meat
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped zucchini (optional)
1 cup cubed potatoes
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup shredded cabbage (or more)
1 - 15 oz tin of crushed or diced tomatoes (or frozen ones you have from your garden)
1/4 cup of rice or 1/2 cup of macaroni or orzo noodles
1 1/2 quarts of water (or more)
1 clove of garlic crushed
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
5 tsp salt
1 tbsp dill
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Brown meat and drain off excess fat (if there is any—beef ground meat would have more if you are substituting). Add everything else. Cover and simmer at least 1 hour.
Ground alpaca you say? Yes! Our farm has been a member of The Farmers’ Table group for several years, supplying alpaca to the mix of organic and sustainably raised livestock and garden bounty that they offer to their customers here in Saskatchewan. Although we started out raising alpacas for their fibre, and we still are primarily a fibre farm, we do at times butcher the animals for the meat and also process the hide. Our alpacas are grassfed. They never get vaccinations, antibiotics, or synthetic dewormers. They are the hardiest animal I have ever seen, and in the nearly 25 years we have been raising them, they are healthier now than in the beginning when we thought we had to intervene to keep them healthy! Alpaca meat is lean, tender, almost sweet, and is nutritionally superior to many of its red meat counterparts. It is lower in calories, fat, and cholesterol, but highest of any meat in protein and is a good source of iron. It is easily digested. Cooking lightly and serving rare to medium is recommended.
Polly and Bob Schindel operate their farm, SASKAPACA, near Lintlaw, SK, where they have raised alpacas for close to 25 years. Mainly a fibre-based business, they have recently seen the need to utilize the meat of the alpaca to make the livestock more sustainable. Before the pandemic, they mainly sold their products at craft and trade shows, but now they sell more out of their Yarn and Gift Studio in Kelvington, SK, and online through their website and The Farmers’ Table. They hire knitters and crafters from near and far to take their products from fibre to fashion and encourage their customers to try the grassfed specialty meat. Polly is also owner and coach at PIZZAZZ-U! Wellness, an independent authorized Ideal Protein Weight Loss Centre, in the same location as the Alpaca Studio in Kelvington. For more information, you can call (306) 327-8270 and visit www.saskapaca.com and www.thefarmerstable.ca, and follow SASKAPACA on Facebook and Instagram. Also see The Farmers’ Table display ad on page 9 of the 26.4 March/April issue of the WHOLifE Journal.