[ThisDay] Eating Better

Today’s look back takes us only three hundred sixty-five days into the past. One year ago this day, I wrote about wanting to eat better. And eat better I did. I feel much better, much more in shape, much lighter (nearly thirty pounds!) and I enjoy running, and a much earlier schedule. Of note on this day is another goal-related post from 2012 titled “Pacific Time Zone Night Owl” … it seems that in 2013 I accomplished that goal (and more) also! It was apparently a successful year for personal goals!

Eating Better

January 24th, 2013

sugarIt’s not a New Year’s Resolution, really, but since around January 3rd or so, I’ve been eating better—and I’m already really noticing the effects of it!

Around the holidays (which, in America means October 31st through January 1st, give or take a few days or weeks) we are inundated with all kinds of wonderful foods, and maybe especially sugary food. There are the Halloween candies, then Thanksgiving pies and other desserts, followed by a month of cookies, hot chocolate (and other warm, sweet beverages) and plenty of candy.

It’s no wonder so many Americans make food-related New Year’s Resolutions!

Well this year, following a long time (not sure how long, really) of having basically no restraints whatsoever on my daily food consumption—and, certainly feeling appropriately bad from that—I decided to exercise my personal discipline a bit following the ubiquity of holiday sugary treats.

(Note: in the Campbell home, it goes a tad longer as Three King’s Day (January 6th) is celebrated here annually, with those three kings bringing several more sweet treats and depositing them in our waiting foot wear.)

I had been noticing a feeling of “heaviness” most of my days, and maybe especially in the mornings, so I decided to do the following:

  1. Remove most sugar from my diet.

    I have done a few “sugar fasts” in my life, and always with very favorable results. Usually after just a few days to a week I really start feeling better. Generally that means slightly less “heavy” (or, lethargic?) and, contrastingly, having more energy. This time I decided not to just go completely off of sugar because (1) I like sugary things, and (2) I figured a little is not really a problem. So far, I think that is correct: I’m feeling much better in the energy and “heaviness” department and still consuming some sugar.

  2. Do not eat anything after 10pm.

    This one came from a very regular routine I had fallen into regarding when I would eat daily. I generally would eat lunch, dinner, and then a rather large meal around midnight or so. (I had also gotten on a late night schedule!) What I also noticed was that these late night meals either kept me awake longer than usually necessary, or they would actually “put me to sleep” and I’d wake up feeling just … bad! It was that “heaviness” again, and also often finding it much harder to wake up.

A few comments on the above. First, the “heaviness” I’m talking about is not (I don’t think) merely a body mass/weight thing. I think it was/is more than that. It seems to be more of a general “energy” feeling. Second, the “no food after 10pm” is not hard and fast like with the Mogwai where any deviation from the rule would be catastrophic. It’s really just a general guideline, and I’ve had some carrots sticks when I had some work to do late night, or even a salad one night (I was really hungry!)

The results? I can’t say other than I just feel better. I feel more energy. I feel much better in the mornings. I noticed that I even feel better after eating. (Is that possible?) I am also enjoying the feeling of being hungry and telling my body, Not right now…

It’s certainly not easy all the time. I’m pretty OK eating or not eating, so perhaps this is not a difficult area of self discipline for me. But I know there have been many times where I have nearly physically willed myself away from the sugary snack (which, have you noticed, are so easy and available to eat?) as well as avoiding the urge to late night snack.

And after three weeks or so, I couldn’t hope for better results all around.

I’m not trying to “lose weight”, or any similar dieting goal. I am just hoping to feel better by eating better, and… it’s working!

Now I’m also thinking about what other areas of self discipline I could tackle next. I’m thinking maybe just time management. There are so many things to do, perhaps there are ways I could better spend my time? (Maybe that will be a blog post somewhere down the line.)

For now, I leave you with an article I came across today. (I um, kinda… “used” the photo from it here? Thanks, Forbes!) It’s titled “What Eating Too Much Sugar Does To your Brain“. Seems related, no?

Enjoy, if you have time to read it, and hopefully you’re also enjoying some self-discipline success, food-related or otherwise.

If you have a similar experience, or anything to add, I’d love to hear it. Please leave your thoughts/story/comments below!


Coca-Cola vs. Chai Tea Latte

Nutrition/Health - Coca Cola vs Chai Latte

Just for fun today, let’s examine the nutritional benefits of two deliciously sweet beverages.

The more common of these two is the drink which has been imbibed since the 19th century: Coca-Cola! And in the other corner, we have a newer phenomenon (at least, in the form we will examine): Chai Latte!

This is probably not a real comparison, for the general population. But in the Campbell home, this is very real. The first beverage is a favorite of the household matriarch, and the latter is the dessert-like beverage of choice of this author.

Actually, I also used to drink all varieties of pop. When I was a kid, into my very early twenties, I would drink any kind of pop, and lots of it! But one week in 1996, when I was spending a week providing music at a church camp and feeling really sick while doing so, I decided to flush out my system by only drinking water all that week. I did, and never stopped. It’s been seventeen years since I last drank the bubbly stuff! (Except for that time someone tricked me into drinking the punch at that party…!)

I still drink mostly water, but you’ll also find me consuming all varieties of teas, as well as yerba mate with great regularity. And then on occasion, I enjoy chai latte—especially the Tazo brand chai served at Starbucks.

I do not enjoy soda pop. (See how I did that? I used both words to be sure to offend everyone.) 🙂 But Jen does, and some of the kids do. And so there are sometimes quarrels over whether or not I want the kids to drink the stuff, and sometimes Jen will bring up the fact that I enjoy a sweet drink (chai), too … how is that different?

Well, I was curious. How is it different?

The short answer (so you can stop reading if you are not finding yourself to be as curious as me): it’s not that different.

But, here are the details.


Introduced in the 1880s, Coke has obviously been a worldwide favorite for many decades. It is a little different in other countries as, for some reason, the United States allows bad dyes and high-fructose corn syrup to be used in our drinks, but the flavor and “secret” recipe is mostly the same everywhere you go.

There aren’t really any benefits to drinking a Coke. One article labeled it “liquid candy”. A 12-oz can of Coca-Cola provides 140 calories, including 39 grams of sugar. But not cane sugar—high-fructose corn syrup sugars. (If you’d like, there’s more to read here about why that is bad.)

There is less caffeine in a Coke (34mg) than a Chai Latte (75mg) of the same size, but a small amount of caffeine per day is more than acceptable for most people. It’s generally around 300mg.

Bottom line on Coke: no real health benefits, only high sugar content (and the wrong kind), which can lead to obesity and even diabetes.

Chai Tea Latte

Now, the interesting thing about chai is that it is very natural; tea and spices. This gives it some natural health benefits, but there are detriments added as well. (Sugar being the primary.)

Dating back 5,000 years to India and Siam, chai is a blend of tea leaves and spices. There are too many health benefits to list here, but some include “increased attention and focus (Theanine), cardiovascular health, protection against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and [possibly even has] the potential to alter cancer genetics.” This page offers a much fuller list of what health benefit each of the spices used in chai provide.

There are more calories in a 12oz cup of chai (180) than in a can of coke (140), but in addition to the health benefits of the tea and spices mentioned above, chai also largely consists of milk. One of the detractors most people mention for heavy pop drinkers is that they are often replacing milk, and thus depriving their bodies of needed calcium, leading to osteoporosis later in life (predominantly in women).

Though there is plenty of sugar in a chai latte (41g), it’s not the corn syrup variety, and you’re also getting “8 percent of your vitamin A, 25 percent of your calcium and 2 percent of your iron daily needs.” (source)

Bottom line on chai tea latte: More sugar per 12oz, and more caffeine than coke, but also actual nutrition—things our body needs (hidden under yummy sugar with a caffeine kick!)

The Conclusion?

I think any person, when applying any amount of logic and reason can look at the facts laid out above and come to the correct, obvious conclusion regarding which highly-sugary drink is better for your health (and which is worse). The same objectivity could be applied to reach a similar conclusion regarding which drink tastes better. This clear victor would then be the obvious sweet, dessert-like beverage of choice for everyone who is able to draw this conclusion, right?

Yeah, probably not. 🙂

Now go grab your favorite drink and enjoy! Just don’t drink too much of any of it, and we’ll all be fine.




For a few weeks now I’ve been stepping up my morning routine. I have been rising somewhere in the five o’clock hour on most days and try to be out the door at, or before the sun rises. I enjoy the quiet, solitude, and coolness of the dawn hours.

Since January I’ve been doing pretty well at resuming my morning walk routine. A few years back this was a regular habit of mine, but it had been buried by many other activities vying for priority in my life. When I finally decided to change my eating habits (again) I also picked up the walking habit.

Then one day I tried running.

It was strangely difficult, and also easier than I thought it might be.

I’ve tried running before. One of my biggest problems with running is not actually with running—the problem is me. I’m fast. I run fast. So even when I am trying to jog, my “jog” is faster than many might run! This, as you might guess, quickly depletes one’s energy supply—too quickly! I could never run very far, so I stuck to walking.

But I’ve pushed through it this time. I’ve been running a mile or two, usually three or four days a week. One recent morning, as I covered just under 2.5 miles, I realized I’ve learned a few things.

Getting Started is the Hardest Part

The very first day, my feet felt as though I’d never actually run at all! Ever! I couldn’t quite find a good gait. I felt stiff, awkward, and was getting tired again. But I was determined to really give it a good effort, and I pushed through it.

That day I probably only ran about half a mile, two separate times—with a break, and some walking in the middle. But I was happy with what I had accomplished.

As I have continued, I’ve added a bit more distance, and I’ve grown more comfortable overall. But over these few weeks I have noticed that, for me, the beginning is still surprisingly difficult.

Without fail, the first hundred steps or so (it’s not very far!) are stiff, awkward, and oppressive. I just want to stop. But I’ve already learned that once I push past that very short beginning, I settle into the steady pace I am looking for and I run for a long time after that before I even think about it again.

Of course, even before I have dressed, stretched, and headed out the door, the other hard part is just getting up! There are many days when I debate with myself the pros and cons of braving whatever weather awaits me, only to push my body to its sweaty limits—even though I was looking forward to the morning’s run when I closed my eyes the night before.

It seems that getting started is, perhaps, the hardest part.

Discouragement Will Come

Another thing I’ve noticed is that somewhere along the way, despite the groove I’ve attained early in the run, and even if what I’m listening to in my headphones is still holding my interest… I start to feel like I “should quit”.

My body begins to notice its tiredness. My limbs are looser than I want them to be. My brain starts the debate afresh: “Maybe that’s enough for today? You’re getting pretty winded. This is starting to be a bit uncomfortable…”“But, I haven’t gone as far as I’d like to… I did more than this yesterday, didn’t I?”

I have so far been able to press through those moments of wanting to quit. Each time that I have, I find myself regaining that steady pace, finding my second wind, and—almost unintentionally—the debate subsides. Peace is restored, and I can pursue the next short goal.

Attainable Goals

I have found that mentally setting short goals helps me immensely. Looking ahead and finding the next bend in the path, or an opening, or a large tree… any marker in the distance that I can press toward, especially in those discouraging moments.

It’s really amazing to me how much this helps.

I have marked out a place on my normal running path where I know there is only a short distance left to go. When that place is in view, I prepare myself for my final push. Once I reach that marker I begin running at what I used to call my “running” pace. It’s not a sprint, but it’s pretty fast. When you’ve already been running a while, this is harder than I imagine it to be—every time!

But with a short goal in sight, I have made it every time.

(And once the goal is reached, I happily suck in all the air my lungs can accommodate and resume a much slower walking pace!)

Sweat, Feel Good, Do It Again!

I walk fast. My arms move, aiding my gait, and I generally maintain a 4 MPH pace over a two-mile stretch. This does work up a sweat, but it’s surprising how a slow-and-steady run at about 5.5 MPH increases the amount of work my body is doing, which greatly increases the sweating!

But it does feel good. It’s a really good, sweaty exhaustion. When I reach home I walk a bit more around our yard, regaining my breath. A few glasses of water soon rehydrate me. A nice warm shower cleans and refreshes me.

And I feel awake, alive, and ready for whatever is next.

I know that I also feel much better in general than I have for a long time.

I am NOT a runner. I know runners. They’re crazy! 🙂 And I do not presume to even be mentioned in the same conversation with these dedicated, 26.2-mile-running stalwarts.

But I do think I might keep this up. For a while at least.

I might need a new pair of shoes…


Chia SeedsWe all know the tune to those words (I’m sure you were just singing it as you read them) and we also probably all chuckle at the thought of those funny little (gag?) gifts from the 90s. (Yes, I know, they’re still around!)

This week, though, a friend recommended them to me in a non-gag way. (Some might think I should not add the “non”…)

You can drink them.

Yes. Drink.

Apparently, chia seeds are a great source of fiber, omega-3 fats, and other pretty nifty stuff our bodies need. I am one who needs a tad more fiber (your welcome for my restraint of further elaboration) so I was definitely game to give them a try.

I purchased seeds from Amazon, but today I found a site that offers them a tad cheaper, and this article mentions Whole Foods as a place they can be procured.

The way I was instructed to consume them was to first soak them in water. This releases a gel as they absorb the water around them (up to 9x their weight, I believe I read somewhere). The seeds (and gel) are tasteless, but the gel has a consistency something like tapioca pudding. We added it to a fruit juice, so it’s a bit like a juice with extra pulpy-pulp.


There seem to be numerous resources available to study up on the health benefits of chia seeds (and there appear to be many of those). I’m glad for a different source of fiber (eating high fiber “sticks” has been my main source for many years) and look forward to seeing how it helps over the next couple weeks.

Plus, who doesn’t love singing that little ditty? 🙂