Chews Life Now! The alternative is so last year

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Happy re-birthday to me!


Come on. You didn’t think Carolyn Choate, of all people, would miss this annual opportunity to remind you of resolutions needing some serious neuron marinating, did you? Even though only 9% of Americans keep them – according to the National Center for Biotechnology Research – I believe in you! Like I always say, walk a mile in my cells and you’ll reach out for wellness solutions like a life ring on a choppy sea. Squeezing for dear life because, well, your life is dear. 

Just how close do you have to get to chronic illness – or worse – before the incentive to thrive overcomes your apathy?  

While January is on the calendar, let’s resolve to consider the following healthy living habits in 2024:

1) Take stock. In research study after research study, across cultures, age, gender, and socio-economic levels, the top sources of happiness for us humans are health and well-being. (Social engagement/connectivity; gratitude; reaching personal goals were other common traits found across happiness studies.) Can’t we assume then, that illness – or the fear of becoming ill – is one of the top sources of unhappiness? I feel bad for those who fear illness yet find the prescription for well-being too restrictive or hard to maintain. Emotional tug-of-war is a game no one enjoys playing. I’m guilty as charged. Because even though I thought I led a relatively healthy life, it wasn’t until diagnosed with a life-threatening illness that I became seized by the notion that – regardless of the good doctor’s treatment plan – ultimate success was in my control. A participatory act, and I had a role to play. The archetypal M.O. – yearning to command order amid chaos – can be a powerful recipe for happiness, purpose, and fulfillment. Today, at 66 years old, I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. My hope for you in 2024? That if you long for the happiness of good health, you will, likewise, find happiness in the goal of achieving it (however long it takes) and in the happiness of maintaining it. The peace of mind of good health? Priceless. It starts by understanding that your relationship with yourself – mind, body, and soul – trumps all others. A better you is better helping family and friends. Of all the people you know and love or, conversely, those who have abused you in some painful way, loving yourself enough to want what’s best for you emotionally and physically is a goal you are worthy of. Deciding to change your lifestyle to become the best version of yourself? Take it from me, don’t wait for a medical emergency for the metamorphosis to begin. 

2) Diss the myths. There’s so many I don’t know where to start.

a. The Food Reward Myth is an interesting one considering we’ve been told by child psychologists for decades never to use food as a reward. From the American Psychological Association, “Making unhealthy food a reward for good deeds promotes the idea that healthy food isn’t as appealing as junk food or something to look forward to.” Adults didn’t get the memo. Rewarding oneself after a hard day’s work with unhealthy snacks often leads to a vicious hormonal and metabolic cycle that, according to a 2023 report on cravings from Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health, can disrupt normal brain signaling for appetite. Turns out those who habitually consume hyperpalatable foods – sweet, salty, rich – develop the tendency to want more of them to increase the level of dopamine in the brain, the feel-good hormone. And the more they eat, the more caloric the reward becomes. Over time, “it can alter the body’s natural homeostasis.” Keep reminding yourself that the reward for hard work is better health ergo longevity, the buzzword worth working hard for.  FYI:  on average, it takes 21 days to change a habit into second nature.

b. The Breakfast is for Breakfast Myth. Who among us hasn’t had a slice of leftover pizza for breakfast? (And felt a bit like an anarchist?) If you’re new to Chews Life Now! check the archives at Manchester Ink Link (August 5, 2023). Cliff Notes? Humans don’t need as much protein as they think they do. You can get it from sources other than typical breakfast fare. Forget cereal w/milk, yogurt, eggs w/sausage, bagel w/cream cheese, etc. And you can eat stuff you would never associate with breakfast ie quinoa w/avocado and nuts, sesame noodles w/marinated tofu, soymilk & chocolate banana peanut butter smoothie, etc. Point is, it took a long time for people to believe that the world wasn’t flat. What you’ve been eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks on the Standard American Diet your whole life is most certainly preventing you from reaching optimal health. Rethink the bylaws for your Breakfast Club. (Even Molly Ringwald loads up on greens.)

3) Eat to Live. Start finding your way to a whole-food, plant-based diet.  The less animal protein the better.  Beef, pork, poultry, seafood, dairy, eggs.  They all have one thing in common:  cholesterol.  Cholesterol equals artery-clogging plaque, equals inflammation, equals the basis for disease – most notably coronary artery disease (CAD), type 2 diabetes, cancer, and, most recently, an association with Alzheimer’s (Journal of the American Heart Association, Nov. 2023). The long march of disease begins as early as a fetus. In a 1997 Journal Clinical Investigation paper, Is Atherosclerosis a Pediatric Disease?, scientists noted “ . . . the presence of greatly increased fatty streak formation in human fetal arteries [ . . . ] in over 50% of fetuses of mothers who were hypercholesterolemic during pregnancy.” Like I said in an earlier edition of Chews Life Now!, you can’t keep pouring grease down the kitchen sink without the pipes getting clogged. Sure, you can take statins to try to keep bad cholesterol from narrowing your arteries but in my humble estimation it’s a glorified – albeit medically ingenious – Band-aid.  One you wouldn’t likely need if you avoided the culprit in the first place. Newsflash: after 15 years on 10 mg Atorvastatin, my PCP gave his blessing for a trial run to see what my lipid panel result would be after 6 months: HDL 58, LDL 116, TOTAL 195. I’ve got more work to do in the year ahead but feeling happy and fulfilled to be in the driver’s seat. Let’s all take the journey to optimal health together in 2024. I’m betting on all of you. XO

Note: The writer’s experiences and observations are intended for informational purposes only and are not intended to provide medical advice about the avoidance, diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Medical advice should be sought from a qualified healthcare professional.

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About this Author

Carolyn R. Choate

Carolyn overcame stage 3 breast cancer in 2003 because she thought she knew a lot about health and food. Turns out she didn’t know beans about health food. But all that changed on March 2, 2022 - the day after she was diagnosed with advanced Hurthle Cell thyroid cancer - when she joined the epigenetic diet revolution. Using phytochemicals found in nature’s astonishing bounty of plants, she reclaimed her life and earned her certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Campbell Colin Center for Nutritional Studies through eCornell to help herself and others suffering from chronic disease. Carolyn is passionate about sharing all the life-affirming reasons to be vegan.