Lately, I've been hearing of many friends and family who will be undergoing surgery in the near future. If this is you (or someone you love), I'd like to share with you a few nutrition and lifestyle suggestions for the week prior to surgery. These pre-surgery recommendations are intended to help boost your immune system and possibly allow you to recover from surgery more quickly.
Diet & Nutrition
I hope this is helpful and you are feeling better very soon!
So, did you know spaghetti squash (also called vegetable squash) is technically a fruit? Just like avocados, tomatoes and cucumbers - it has seeds, so it's "fruit." But whether or not we call it fruit or veggie, it is a great addition to your healthy living repertoire. Not only is spaghetti squash low in calories (a cup is about 31 calories), it also contains Vitamin A, beta-carotene (a precursor to Vitamin A), potassium and folic acid.
But what I like best is it's easy to make, filling, and can "substitute" for other less-healthy foods you may be craving. Here are a few ideas:
"A circle has no beginning and no end. No part of it is more or less than any other. A circle is an endless sphere that encompasses, embraces, and encloses. It is a cycle of forward and backward loops, a symbol of enduring love, a joining together without borders."
And with these words, I opened the 23rd Annual California Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Conference in the fall of 2001. At that time, our daughter Lauren had been gone for four years, dying of SIDS during an afternoon nap on her third day of daycare. Today, more than 14 years later, I'd like to share my opening comments....
Circles. Circles. Before grief entered my life I probably thought of surviving the death of a loved one as a straight line. That grief started horrible and eventually got better. All in a straight line. The circle of life - a very simplistic pattern of birth, growing up, having children, getting old, and eventually, after a nice long life, having your children bury you. I think I remember - back when I was another me - contemplating the symbolism of the wedding ring and the universe and the wholeness of the circle. But it never meant as much as it does now.
Circles. Circles. We grow up expecting certain circles in life. All of us have surely heard Elton John's theme from The Lion King, the "Circle of Life." In case you never quite heard those words, here are a few of them:
I think about the circles of Lauren's life. Only 3 months and 27 days old. Yet she touched so many with her life and even in death she is still present in our lives. The ripples of her life - her story - are concentric circles, growing and expanding.
I think about the journey of grief. I have long likened grief to walking on a difficult path with a huge boulder blocking the way. The boulder is too big to go around, you can't turn back, and you have no dynamite to blow it up. The only option is to just start climbing over that rock. No easy way around it. And the trick is to never give up.
There is a strong circle metaphor to grieving that works for me too. The early days of grief for me were an endless loop of tears and doubts, and whys and what ifs. I would replay the day before she died in endless detail. The sunny day - the smiles - planting flowers. Like a tape in endless loop. The same was true of the afternoon she died. The phone call - the trip to the hospital - receiving the "news" from the pediatrician on duty and the emergency room doctor - saying our goodbyes and slowly, sadly and so excruciatingly alone, we walked through those hospital doors into the hot August night, without Lauren.
Circles of despair. Circles of sadness. Circles of doubt. Tears. Each day, each 24 hour day, was a struggle. One foot in front of the other and then it would start all over again the next morning. Circles of minutes. Circles of hours, days and weeks. Circles around the sun. First birthdays, first anniversaries. The circle of time expanding. The moment of impact at the center of the circle growing more distant in time, but still reverberating strong and clear in our very bones.
But the circle changes ever so subtly and eventually new circles begin to move within your life. The circle that once possessed every waking moment and felt like a downward spiral of despair, begins to feel like a wheel - a way to journey on, a way to transport, a way to move into the future. Circles of support. Circles of community. Circles of caring. Friends, family, SIDS professionals, and especially other SIDS parents who really understood and listened.
So we join today at this celebration of the circle. This morning we will light a candle. Later this afternoon, we will form a circle and speak the names of our children. Children, while no longer physically here, will always be a part of our circle of life.
We come together as a community. A circle of protection. A circle of strength. A circle of shared sorrow and the promise of future joy. We journey together and together the circle is made stronger.
Tis the Season, yes? The season of love, joy, hope and peace. The Season where we honor the spirit of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice. Ahhh, peace on earth, goodwill to all.
But for many of us, it's also the Season of Stress Balls.
We have so much to do .... Gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, decorating, parties, shopping, family events, and the list goes on. Many of us find ourselves stretched to the limit - out of time, money and patience and overstuffed with too much food and too many indulgences.
Yes, the stress grinch can really take a bite out of one's holiday spirit.
When you consider the daily chronic stress load that most people are carrying - perhaps up to our eyeballs - when the stress of the holiday season is poured on top, we can simply be overwhelmed. So what can we do about it? Well, here are a few ideas.
What Else Can You Do?
To Sum It All Up
For over 8,000 years, humans have been growing olive trees, and harvesting the fruit for curing, eating and extracting the oils. In addition to being delicious, olives are also beneficial therapeutically, as they can help reduce blood pressure, protect against cancer, act as an anti-inflammatory, and can even improve serum lipid profiles. And, if that wasn't enough, as a supplement, olive leaf is also a powerful anti-microbial with antioxidant power, protecting against intestinal or respiratory infections.
When buying olive oil, look for the highest quality, extra virgin grade. Avoid olive oils that are "pure" as that can mean the oils were extracted with heat and solvents, getting the last little bit of oil out of the olives and the pits. Instead, virgin means the production was physical, with no chemicals involved and extra virgin means from a virgin oil production with no more than .8% acidity and of "superior" taste. Pay attention to the labels - as many supermarket brands have been "cut" with canola or "pure" olive oil.
And as we head into the holiday season, remember that olive oil's anti-inflammatory properties may help you keep those stress levels down. Here's an easy seasonal way to roast vegetables with olive oil:
your choice (in combination or solo):
Peppers (red, orange, yellow or green)
Rough cut or slice vegetables and place into casserole dish. Brush with olive oil and then sprinkle seasonings you'd like (I'm partial to simply sea salt, but you could add rosemary, thyme, cayenne, pepper, garlic or other seasoning). Bake at 350 degrees until tender. Roasted vegetables are delicious on their own or served with protein (like chicken, turkey or beef) or over a vegetarian protein like quinoa.
I've always enjoyed ordering "assembly required" delivered to my doorstep. It's fun, something "different," and a great way to learn new techniques or add to your repetoire of recipes. Several weeks ago, I ordered 3 organic, gluten-free meals from Green Chef. We loved them all!
Here's a link to the Tuscan White Bean Soup recipe and photos from Green Chef's website and here's a picture of the soup I actually made in my own kitchen. The only switches I made was adding 4 cups of organic chicken stock instead of 2-1/2 cups of water and I did not use the parmesan or gluten free dinner roll (and hence, my version was not vegan, but it was #paleo and #dairyfree). It was delicious and perfect for a chilly weekend afternoon.
It's a Sunday morning in late October and chicken soup sounds like a plan for dinner. I look around the kitchen and realize it's a good day for "now or never soup." By that I mean that while I have a fridge full of veggies, many of them are on the edge of freshness and if I don't use them now, I'll never have another chance. [I've highlighted the "now or never" ingredients below in green.] What better way to USE the food I have and still create a delicious meal for the evening. Would love to hear your "now or never" recipe ideas.
Now or Never Soup
Chop and dice all the ingredients and combine in a large mixing bowl. Keep regfrigerated for several hours, stirring occasionally, to allow all the flavors to combine. Excellent as a dip, salad dressing, or served over quinoa, brown rice or meats. Make a big batch and enjoy!
Lorie Gehrke, NC
It's all about our journeys... Here's where you'll hear from me on any number of topics, from nutrition and recipes, to grief and infant/child loss, to parenting and empty nesting, to poetry, dogs, and photos, and all things in between!