Monday, September 15, 2008

A Passion That Lives On....

Yesterday I went to a farm stand with my father, Raymond Germain. He enjoyed picking out local produce and I chatted with two other customers that were milling about the barn. The woman at the barn began telling us how a relative of her's just came off of dialysis and received a transplanted kidney from an anonymous donor. This woman was currently going through dialysis and was on the list to receive a transplant as well. The man who was also shopping related to us that he had been on dialysis for several years before receiving his transplant.
I became struck by the fact that every customer at this little farmstand had kidney disease! My father was born with an adult onset form of Polycystic Kidney Disease. He was diagnosed in 1982 and received his transplant in December of 2002. There was one key difference between my father and the other people in the barn. My father went twenty years without ever needing to be hooked up to a dialysis machine.

Many claim he was lucky. They explain this was a result of a gradual enough cyst formation to sustain him until 2001 when his sister, Sue, was declared a match. There cannot be a more incredible gift than life and that is what his sister was able to give him. My family is quite thankful.

What sustained him for so long? The answer is the inspiration for this blog. My father knew long before his diagnosis that being positive was the key to a vibrant and enjoyable life. This lesson he bestowed on his children and all those who were fortunate to come in his presence. However he began to take an even more active role in sustaining his life. He began to eat in a way that was positive as well.

His loving wife of thirty seven years, Jean, took to the library and began looking at the way food affected kidney function. Incrementally, they began to make shifts that worked for the entire family. This is where I was blessed to be born to such enlightened people. We woke up every morning to fresh fruit before heading off to school or play. In the evening, we came through the door to a fresh salad every night before eating a family dinner.

In addition to adding in more fresh fruits and vegetables, they began to limit foods that taxed kidney function. Sodium was cut tremendously and water intake went up. Cranberry juice became a pretty constant staple around the Germain household and we needed two water pitchers in a fridge just to keep up with H2O demand. Meat and dairy intake was reduced slowly and methodically over a period of ten years. Animal protein produces many acids that are tough on the kidney and the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle favors a person with such a diagnosis. Thanks to this process it became very easy for me to take dairy products completely out of my diet...a transition that is difficult for many.

Most importantly, Jean and Ray continued to create and share food together. This act of love may have been the most healing aspect of the entire diet they constructed. Even though they are responsible for everything that drives me to learn, live and teach the positive and healthy lifestyle, they maintain an eagerness to learn more and continue to make shifts that aid their wellbeing.

My passion was born from this. Eating is a positive and fun experience for me but that is just an outward expression of a deep understanding of its true importance. Food truly does sustain us and for many of us without a life threatening illness we forget that it keeps us alive. This is a conscious act of survival and I believe it nourishes much more than our anatomy. This is why food is so interwoven with love. What is sharing a meal with someone? It is the decsion to share with others the very matter that is nourishing our physical bodies, our growing minds and our loving spirits. When we create and share food together we are actually creating and sharing life.
By medical standards I am lucky to have shared as many years with my father as I have. The doctor's at Massachusetts General Hospital are to be regarded as angels and my mother a saint for all they have done to make this possible. We all can do something to sustain ourselves and those around us. The steps we take to actively improve the quality of our lives have a tendency to ripple out and benefit all those that are close to our hearts. The heart beat itself can almost be thought of as the source of this rippling effect. The strength inside our hearts determines how far out the waves will travel. Strengthen your own heart and you will truly affect others.
I wish you strength and well being and hope to hear from you soon!

Stay Positive,

"Food is the one thing that is everything"
-David Wolfe

Monday, September 8, 2008


The Corn Refiner's Association and everyone's favorite refined sugar High Fructose Corn Syrup!

A recent campaign by the Corn Refiner's Association (an industrial group that protects and promotes corn based products) is defending the consumption of a natural sugar called High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS. This "natural" sugar is created by stripping corn of all its nutrients, separating out the sugar and then chemically treating that sugar so it matches the sweetness of sucrose, also known as table sugar (for a more accurate description of how it is manufactured click here). The ads feature every day people being served sugary treats and being comforted by the fact that corn syrup comes from corn. Other than the general "corniness" of the ads, I became slightly concerned. Over the past several years I have been taking HFCS out of my diet and replacing it with fruits and vegetables. I began to break out in a cold sweat. Did I make a rash decision leaving this wonderfully refined, processed and chemicalized natural product behind? I set out on a quest to find High Fructose Corn Syrup and possibly invite it back into my body.

This was not difficult. I found it everywhere at the grocery store. This sugar was found in breads, salad dressings, cereals, baby food, ketchup, juice and it even made it to the top of the charts on some ingredient labels. Soft drinks turned out to come away with the bragging rights of being the most HFCS power packed product. Later on I discovered that forty five thousand products in the average grocery store contain corn products, six percent of those corn products being HFCS (Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan Page 19). I was relieved. I did not want to be responsible for starting a trend that wiped out an entire denatured carbohydrate from the American diet. High Fructose Corn Syrup was alive and well and if I wished I could make sure it was present in every meal and drink I took in for the rest of my life.

I realized I needed to do more research. What were the potential benefits or potential dangers of consuming HFCS in large quantities? This is important to know, since the corn industry makes sure every single American is provided 78 pounds of HFCS a year. When you take out all the extraneous factors, we are all entitled to half a pound of HFCS each and every day for the rest of our lives (What to Eat, Marion Nestle page 319). I visited two websites launched by the Corn Refiner's Association, and I was blown away to see what I had been missing. High Fructose Corn Syrup actually enhances the flavor of fruit and spices. What have I been doing eating apples and bananas without dumping refined sugar on them?! My cumin, turmeric and curry powder simply are not enough on their own, they are all begging to be brought out of their flavor prisons and freed by the miracle of HFCS. According to the Corn Refiner's Association, the refined sugar known as High Fructose Corn Syrup does not contribute to rises in obesity or type 2 diabetes. It made me wonder why type 2 diabetes is often called "sugar diabetes", for all the facts about how people develop diabetes click here (for those who want a quick summary it says the more glucose, or sugar, that builds up in your blood the more your body becomes at risk for type 2 diabetes)
There were even leading experts in the field exonerating HFCS, including Dr. Walter Willett from the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Marion Nestle an NYU professor and author of Food Politics and What to Eat and Dr. Michael Jacobsen of the Center for Science in Public Interest. This is where I started to become confused. The website HFCSfacts quotes Dr. Marion Nestle as a friend of HFCS yet in Chapter 27 of her own book, What to Eat, she offers some pretty startling evidence that the increase in sugar consumption can be declared "guilty by association" for the rise in obesity in this country over the last twenty years. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the consumption of HFCS has jumped 1000% in the last thirty years, "far exceeding the intake of any other food or food group" (Sugar Shock, Connie Bennett and Stephen Sinatra page 88) . Dr. Walter Willett even claims that the HFCS does not satisfy our need for sugar, especially when consumed in beverage form, causing us to take in more processed sugar than is healthy for us. His landmark project, The Nurse's Health Study, showed that "women who increased their intake in soda or fruit punch over a four year period gained weight" and "woman who consumed one soda or a glass of fruit punch per day had nearly a two fold higher risk of type 2 diabetes" (Eat, Drink and Weigh Less page 69). I actually receive Dr. Michael Jacobsen's Nutrition Action: Health Letter, where he states that all processed sugar, including HFCS, "undermines our diets because it supplies us with empty calories" (Nutrition Action Health Letter: January/February 2008)
This was all becoming very complex to me. I was diving deeper and deeper into the world of sugar and my intellectual cortex was expanding. I could feel myself becoming tired, cynical and in need of something to eat. On the way downstairs from my personal library, I remembered what Positive Eating was all about. Eating is supposed to be a positive and enjoyable experience and the things we put into our body should be as positive and enjoyable as possible. I grabbed an apple and came upstairs to write this blog post. I decided to look up a picture of High Fructose Corn Syrup and see if it brought up the same feelings of wholeness and goodness I was getting from my apple. This is what I found:

The Corn Refiner's Association is correct. Sugar is a natural occurring substance and the sweet taste was meant to be enjoyed by human taste buds. I enjoy it thoroughly every day...however it looks a little bit more something like this:

Please let me know what your thoughts are. If anyone from the Corn Refiner's Association is out there please send me a bottle of High Fructose Corn Syrup...I am curious of how much it can enhance the flavor of these remarkable tasty farm fresh locally grown peaches I've been eating daily.

As always eat positive,


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What is Health Counseling?


I am so happy to finally post on this blog page again! Things have been pretty incredible making the transition to being a Health Counselor full time. However, I am happily ready to start blogging again. Let's start by telling you what it is I do in this new career.

Health Counseling is about looking at the entire scope of a person and guiding them in ways that will bring more health and vibrancy into their lives. This is a holistic practice in the truest sense. There is really no effective way to teach or preach healthy living. The vast majority of people know that getting adequate rest, eating fruits and vegetables, drinking water and partaking in some form of physical movement are all part of a healthy lifestyle. Even with this knowledge, this country still struggles with many health problems that are completely preventable.

This is not because we are lazy! America is probably the least lazy country on the planet. We work long hours, we make sure our children are given every opportunity in the world and we remain active in our communities. We are actually so busy not being lazy that we leave our bodies on the back burner as we move through this land of opportunity at break neck speed.

Unfortunately, our mind and our spirit is given only one human body in which to travel through life. This is why it is so important to make sure that we nourish ourselves at every level of human experience. Only then can we truly integrate healthy changes into our lifestyle. This is why health counseling is so effective. It allows us to take a one hour break from the marathon we attempt to sprint every single day and take notice of what our body truly needs. My job as a counselor is to recognize those things with you and then develop a plan that will make sure the change is made and accepted by your mind, body and spirit.

To learn more about my six month health counseling program please contact me via my website. I strongly encourage you to sign up for a free initial health history consultation. I look forward to talking to you.

I am excited to be blogging again! Please know that your comments and support are always welcome!

Stay Positive,