This article was originally published in the January issue of the Cumberland Times-News Health Journal.
Happy New Year!
Yup….it is officially January 2010. Time to make those New Year’s Resolutions. Or as my kids say with the ruthless clarity of youth speaking truth to power: “Maybe you should just forget the New Year’s resolutions and work on your Bucket List, Mom.”
Given my immediate and total lack of success with last year’s pledge (I vowed to be on time for meetings, appointments, massages, weddings, parties, and life in general), I am finding it hard to be positive about success in 2010.
But if nothing else, my 2009 New Year’s Resolution flop did teach me an important lesson about making sweeping overnight promises to change. And this lesson can be summed up in my Dad’s wise words: “Don’t bite off more than you can chew, Cherie”.
So this year I am going to avoid making a resolution that requires me to correct major character defects (like always being late) or that involves personality transformations (like going from clutter queen to neat freak so I never lose my keys again).
Instead, I am going to focus on taking baby steps to improve my health. One small bite at a time…and only what I can chew. Literally. And then once I have that bite properly masticated (don’t you love those big words?!), I’ll bite off another!
Here’s where I have decided to start - with food. (Makes sense if you taking small bites, eh?!)
According to the researchers, nutritionists, and physicians who presented at the June 2009 Food as Medicine training I attended in Washington, DC, the most powerful tool we have to rebalance our health is literally at our fingertips. It is our fork. Food, according to Dr. Hyman in The UltraMind Solution, is “the fastest acting and most powerful medicine you can take to change your life.”
Now that sounds encouraging! Perhaps small, relatively painless steps can have a big impact. (Definitely my kind of New Year’s Resolution! Forget the “no pain, no gain” approach.)
So here’s Small Step #1 on my Bucket List: I will reduce High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in my diet.
Let me explain why this is at the top of my list”. According to The UltraMind solution (p. 56), HFCS is sweeter than regular sugar, increases appetite, promotes obesity more than regular sugar, is more addictive than cocaine (and) leads to diabetes and an inflamed brain.” In fact, HFCS reacts with proteins in the brain to form actual “crusting” that can lead to dementia, damage cells and tissues, and just generally gum things up! Add this crust to age induced rust and I could be headed for big problems. (Come to think of it, maybe I already have a big problem. Might explain why I am always searching for my keys….)
Just for the heck of it, I decided to head to my frig and cupboard to check out where HFCS might be lurking. Since I don’t usually have much junk food around and Dr. Hyman says that HFCS is the main form of sweetener in all processed and junk foods, I honestly I didn’t expect to find much.
But I was wrong.
Here’s what tested positive after only a 5 minute search: Coca Cola, maraschino cherries, Welch’s grape jelly, sherbet, ketchup, Kellogg’s Low-fat Granola Cereal, Kellogg’s Mini Wheats, cocktail sauce, canned cranberry sauce, pancake syrup, Pillsbury Grands, Food Lion’s French dressing, Ken’s Lite Raspberry Walnut vinaigrette, and a Nutri-Grain bar!
While I may have suspected that the Coke, jelly, Grands, sherbet, and syrup would have HFCS in the ingredients, I was definitely surprised to find my daily breakfast food, (Mini Wheats), my favorite lite salad dressing, and my healthy Nutri-Grain bar were “carriers”.
Mmmmm. This could be one Small Step that may take a little more work than I expected. Checking the labels when I shop will definitely be a priority.
Meanwhile, why don’t you “inventory” your pantry for HFCS? See what you find. No need to overreact and throw everything out. Just increasing your awareness will make the search worthwhile. Then the next time that you head to the market, see if you can reduce the number of products in your cart with HFCS. Simple Step #1.
I’ll let you know in my February Health Journal article how I did with this first item on my Bucket List. If I manage to successfully achieve Small Step #1, we will move on to the next “bite”: Small Step #2.
Now where did I put my keys???
Cherie Snyder is the Director of the Human Service Program and the Integrative Health Program at ACM. She received her certification in mind/body skills from Dr. Gordon’s Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) in Washington, DC in 2001 and serves on their faculty. She can be reached at (301) 784-5556 or by email at