Writings

Unpublished article from the May 21st, 2012

Festival Highlights Local Fares

Nothing brings people together like the promise of free food samples, especially when those samples are organic, locally grown, and sustainable.
On May 20th the Celebration of Food Festival 2012 at the Lynnwood Convention Center gave people a chance to learn about their community’s agricultural bounty while tantalizing their taste buds with scrumptious tidbits. The Food Revolution Snohomish County, an Edmonds Community College initiative and planner of the Food Festival, aims to inspire people to eat clean while supporting their local agricultural community.
Booths were primarily set up in the main auditorium for people to peruse at the leisure. There were many sustainable food and agriculture companies as well as schools and community outreach programs highlighting their individual programs and products.
Among those sponsoring the event was the Mill Creek Central market. Their fare sampling was Fried Farro with Asparagus. They chose this because Farro is a locally grown grain alternative, similar to barley and wheat but with less gluten. It is more easily digestible than other grains, though not entirely gluten free.
Farro is also more nutritionally balanced, containing 7 percent fat, 80 percent carbohydrates, and 13 percent protein, along with a plethora of vitamins and minerals. The Fried Farro served had a sweet and earthy flavor, as well as a slight chewiness, making it distinctly different from other grains.
Other participants shared similarly tasty dishes. The Whidbey Island Ice Cream Company was one. A steady line formed at their booth as they scooped out small cups of their Skagit Triple Berry and Vanilla Ice Creams.
But not all who participated brought food. The Cascade Harvest Coalition shared with event goers their desire to “re-localize” foods in the region. They deal with local consumers and producers in order to help support a more healthy community, both nutritionally and financially.
After careful consideration, and a fair amount of samples, the need for community support is very apparent when it comes to our nutritional well-being. It’s not only important to consider what we eat, but also where it comes from. It’s far too easy to eat nutritionally poor foods because they’re convenient or cheap. And because of that, we seldom consider the affects it has on our bodies and our communities.


Article from the June 4th, 2010 issue of The Triton Review

Arizona’s newly approved SB-1070 pushes Fed into action

It’s been more than a month since Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, signed Senate Bill (SB) 1070 into law, and locally, people are feeling the effects.
“As an international student, I don’t feel like I’ll have any freedom in the country of freedom,” said Edgar Ojeda, an international student from Mexico taking classes at both Edmonds Community College and Central Washington University. “It’s the opposite of the idea that America is always pursuing.”
The law, which makes it mandatory for any law enforcement official in Arizona to question a person about their immigration status if given probable cause during any lawful encounter, has been seen as a threat to civil rights. In addition, there are concerns about creating rifts between law enforcement and the communities they protect.
“The police are supposed to work for the people,” said Ojeda. “If there is an emergency and you’re illegal, you’ll be scared to call [the police] because of fear of deportation.”
On May 19, President Obama held a joint press conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon to discuss border relations and SB-1070. “I think the Arizona law has the potential to be applied in a discriminatory fashion,” said President Obama. He also stated that this law could become troublesome to those individuals who are suspected of being illegal immigrants, and that arrests and harassment are possible to those who have legal status.
Other states have begun considering similar laws. Recently, Rhode Island sent a bill that mirrored SB 1070 to the senate, but it was rejected. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction to the immigration issue,” said Joselito Lopez, president of the Latin American Student Association (LASA), a club in the Office of Student Life at Edmonds Community College. “States are doing this in order to tell the federal government that ‘you either need to step up, or we’re going to take care of it.’”
The federal government is responsible for protecting the borders and establishing and enforcing laws which affect the traffic coming and going, but some feel it hasn’t been doing its job. “One of [Obama’s] campaign promises was immigration reform,” said Ojeda. “He’s not really doing anything about that.”
During the press conference, President Obama spoke of needing bipartisan support to be able to move forward with immigration reform, stating that he can’t do it alone.
President Obama has promised 1,200 additional National Guard to be stationed in Arizona for border patrol, and an additional $500 million for enforcement. This decision came as a response to pressure from both Republican and Democratic law opportunities makers voicing concerns about preventing spill over from Mexico’s war on drug lords.
“It’s also Mexico’s responsibility to control people crossing the border,” said Ojeda. “The war with the cartels is forcing people to run. It’s a tough job for both sides.”
SB-1070 is partially Arizona’s response to the war that has been spilling onto their territory. “My family told me to stay [in America] as long as possible because of how bad things have gotten,” said Ojeda.
So far, there’s been no word from either Washington state representative, Patty Murray or Maria Cantwell about their stance on the issue.
SB-1070 goes into effect in July.


Article from the February 1st, 2010 issue of The Triton Review

There’s more to being healthy than just pumping iron
Part 1: What exactly does it mean to be healthy?

Going from one place to the next in our pop-cultured/on-demand lives, we get so caught up in living that we often neglect how we live and also fail to notice the effects our lifestyles have on our health.
Over the next series of articles, my aim will be to give helpful information about how to live healthy. I’ll try to help distinguish the good information from the misinformation, and ex¬plain the relationship between exercise and ¬nutrition.
To begin with, what does it mean to be healthy? According to any dictionary, “healthy” refers to possessing good health, or having good physical, mental and social well-being. But in a societal context, being healthy refers to mainly having eight-pack abs, a beach-ready body and huge arms, or “guns,” as they’re commonly referred. Neither is incorrect in their definition however, and of¬ten one is indicative of the other.
As consumers, we are constantly being bombarded with new ways to “get fit and stay fit,” or to “lose 20 pounds in 20 days.” These “miracle diets,” which typically tout unrealistic goals in preposterous time frames, actually aim to set people up for failure in order get products or services sold – and not to help you lose weight. Short of getting liposuction or losing a limb, 20 pounds in 20 days is realistically impossible for healthy weight loss.
To lose weight correctly, one or two pounds per week is preferred. Any¬thing more than that amount and you’ll see the weight rebound when you make any changes to your food intake or exercise pro¬gram.
Physical health can be defined in four different parts, and all work in conjunction with one another.
1) Cardiovascular health: The ability of the heart, lungs and circulatory (veins) system to efficiently supply oxygen and nutrients to working muscles, as described in “The Science of Nutrition,” by Thompson, Manore, and Vaughan, Pearson Long¬man, 2008.
If you’ve ever heard anyone say, “I’m gonna do some cardio,” this is what they’re referring to. Swimming, cycling, running, and even sex (in some cases) are all forms of cardio, and will suffice in increasing cardiovascular health. The idea is to do any activity with an elevated heart rate for an extended period of time. This is one of the most important components of fitness, and often gets neglected.
In terms of weight loss, cardio activities are also the most efficient; doing only 10 minutes of steady cardio will burn roughly the same number of calories as 30 minutes of normal weight lifting.
2) Musculoskeletal health: The relationship between both the muscles and bones, including muscular strength, muscular endurance and bone strength, as described in “The Science of Nutrition,” by Thompson, Manore, and Vaughan: Pearson Longman, 2008.
For most, men especially, this is the only part of fitness they concern them¬selves with. A faulty notion that solely lifting heavy weights is best for gaining muscle mass and getting “cut,” leaves most neglecting the muscular endurance aspect and end up creating imbalance. The body craves variety and gets bored without it. Failing to give it what it wants could lead to plateaus and unreachable goals.
Using heavy weights with short repetitions is good to increase strength and muscle mass, but not by itself. There needs to be a balance between light weights with high reps and heavy weights with low reps; this will keep your body guessing and give you the results you want.
Your bone strength is increased through any weight training activity. As the muscles are stressed, that stress is transferred to the bones, telling them to increase blood production, which in turn increases bone density and mineral content. You don’t even have to try to make your bones stronger. They’re self sufficient.
3) Flexibility: The ability to move a joint fluidly through its complete range of motion, as described in “The Science of Nutrition,” by Thompson, Manore, and Vaughan: Pearson Longman, 2008.
Another often neglected facet of fitness, flexibility isn’t just about being able to touch your toes or do the splits. It involves keeping the joints and muscles limber so the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems can function efficiently.
Working out is hard on the body, and as a result, injuries occur. The best way to prevent injuries from happening is by stretching, thereby increasing flexibility. This will ensure that your body stays more adaptable and able to cope with stressful situations.
4) Body Composition: The amount of bone muscle and fat the body contains, as described in “The Science of Nutrition,” by Thompson, Manore, and Vaughan: Pearson Longman, 2008.
Body composition can be altered by working out the cardio and muscular systems regularly.
Most body composition tests measure only the percentage of fat the body contains, and clumps everything else into the category of lean body mass. The National Institute of Health recommends that healthy men should have a body fat percentage between 8 and 17 percent. For women, it’s slightly higher, between 14 and 22 percent.
The idea you want to have when it comes to fitness is balance and variety. When everything works together, it works best. Just think teamwork.


Article from the February 16th, 2010 issue of The Triton Review

There’s more to being healthy than just pumping iron
Part 2: How does protein contribute to health?

As mentioned in the previous article on exercise, the focus here will be to discern the role that nutrition plays in living a healthy lifestyle – specifically protein. There seems to be a lot hype recently, making people think they can’t have too much of the stuff – this is wrong.
To begin with, what is food? Essentially, food refers to the plants and animals that are consumed which contain the nutrients needed to sustain life.
What are nutrients? They are classified in six different chemical groups (carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and water), which give energy and support growth and function. Three of those (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) are considered macro-nutrients, which mean that these are the only nutrients that can be broken down and used as fuel by the body.
These macro-nutrients are used at different rates within the body, and they’re measured using kilo-calories, or calories as they are commonly referred to. I want to be clear that calories are not nutrients; calories are the measurement of nutrients.
It only takes your body four calories to burn one gram of either protein or carbohydrate, while it takes your body nine calories to burn one gram of fat. This seems a little unfair, right?
The Food and Drug Ad¬ministration (FDA) recommends that the average adult’s diet be in the area of 2000 calories per day, but a more realistic number would be to distinguish between gender and body type. Men should consume between 1600 and 3000 calories, and women should consume between 1500 and 2600 calories.
Factors that affect how much each person should consume are body type, activity level, genetic makeup and age.
Of those 2000 or so calories, protein should make up 10-35 percent, or 50-100 grams; carbohydrates should make up 45-65 percent, or 225-325 grams; and fats should make up 20-35 per¬cent, or 45-75 grams.
Considering that protein should make up only a small percentage of the food we eat, why do so many insist on eating more? Unless the body uses all of the protein consumed, the remainder simply reverts to fat.
So what does 50-100 grams of protein look like? To reach 50 grams of protein you will need to eat: a 6 oz. piece of chicken; an 8 oz. slab of beef; 5 cups of milk or yogurt; one and a quarter cups of peanuts; 60 oz. of spinach or 170 leaves; or one loaf of multigrain bread.
Drinking one container of Muscle Milk has 32 grams of protein. Just one container. That’s more than half the minimum requirement.
Some body builders insist on upping their intake to as much as 400 grams. This is completely unnecessary and unhealthy especially if your activity level can’t support it.
Now that we have a better understanding of what food is made of, we can look more closely at the role of protein and what it is made of.
The basic building blocks of proteins are amino acids. Think of a set of Legos. When you buy a set of Legos, there is often more than one set of instructions to choose from. Proteins are the Lego set, while amino acids are the different structures that can be produced.
There are 20 different structures of amino acids that the body needs to take part in the protein related activities. 11 of these are nonessential, meaning that they can be produced in the body through different chemical inter¬actions. The remaining 9 are considered essential. The body can’t produce them, and needs to get them from food.
The notion that you have to eat meat to get your protein is false, something the beef and poultry industries have promulgated to increase profits. By combining different grains, legumes and vegetables, complete proteins can be formed just as well as meat.
Protein serves primarily to build new cells and tissue, maintain the structure and strength of bones, repair damaged structures and assist in regulating metabolism and fluid balance, as described in “The Science of Nutrition,” by Thompson, Manore and Vaughan, Pearson Longman, 2008. Protein can also be used to provide energy to the body, but it is not the body’s preferred method, nor the most efficient.
The main idea is that the additional protein doesn’t do any good unless it can be used entirely. Whatever remains turns to fat.


Article from the March 1st, 2010 issue of The Triton Review

There’s more to being healthy than pumping iron
Part 3: Carbohydrates are not the villians!

Moving forward with the concept of being healthy, carbohydrates are a commonly misunderstood macro-nutrient that are frequently demonized for their contributions to weight gain.
Alternatively, it would be more accurate to demonize over¬consumption occurring in the average diet. Limiting the amount of nutrients eaten to what is actually needed is just as important as balancing the nutrients that the body gets.
Carbohydrates, probably the most essential of the three macro¬nutrients, come mostly from plant sources (fruits, vegetables and grains). They are the body’s first source for energy, consist primarily of glucose (sugar), and are the preferred source of energy for nerve cells, blood production and brain function.
Any time you do any¬thing in life, you burn calories, primarily carbohydrate calories. By the time you finish this line you’ll have burned a calorie. And now two.
But the problem that most people have is in understanding that there are good and bad carbohydrates. Bad carbohydrates consist of literally nothing, and are considered empty because of this. Their only job once eaten is to turn into sugar and be used as fuel, or to be stored as fat if unused. Good carbohydrates, as you will see, fully nourish the body.
The difference has to do with the process that food goes through: either remaining whole or getting refined (simplified) and bleached.
The process of refining grain consists of physically breaking apart a whole kernel and removing the unwanted material, resulting in a bad carbohydrate.
A whole grain kernel consists of three parts. The first is bran, which is the outer layer that contains fiber, B vitamins and minerals. The second is endosperm, the majority of the innards of the kernel that contain carbohydrates and protein. Finally, there is germ, the small innards of the kernel which contain antioxidants and E and B vitamins.
The unwanted material re¬moved consists of bran and germ, leaving only the endosperm, which is to be turned into flour.
Bleaching of grain is done in a chemical process to make the flour change from its yellow col¬or to a more appetizing white. If there were any nutrients remaining from the refining process, they would be destroyed.
The resulting product of both refining and bleaching is a bland, nutrient deficient glob of matter. Yummy!
Imbalance in diet occurs be¬cause people eat too many foods that contain bad carbohydrates, the ones that break down easily when digested (white bread, white rice, sodas and other processed types), and few to no fruits and vegetables.
Many products tout claims of being a good source of the daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables. People take those claims to mean that they can supplement their intake with one drink and be good. This is slightly inaccurate.
Most of these products contain only trace amounts of fruits and vegetables, while relying heavily on high fructose corn syrup or some other filler as the main ingredient.
When it comes to being healthy, picking the right carbohydrates to eat is essential. You don’t put regular gasoline in a Porsche, you give it supreme. The same logic should go for your body.
Whole grains to choose from are whole wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice. These foods will help prolong satiety and reduce the instances of hunger through¬out the day. This is due to the fiber that is contained within the whole grain.
Fiber, or roughage, is a form of carbohydrate that the body cannot digest, and passes through relatively unchanged.
Men under 50 should consume around 38 grams a day of fiber, and women should consume around 25 grams. It is contained in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes.
Fiber has been linked to reducing the risk of various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and constipation (though if fluid intake is low, then constipation can occur as a result). Whether fiber itself or the diet that goes along with eating more fiber — and in effect, more nutrients — is the reason for reducing disease is up for debate.
What’s most important through all this is the idea of creating balance. Fast food, soda, potato chips and pizza do not make a balanced diet.


Article from the March 16th issue of The Triton Review

There’s more to being healthy than pumping iron
Part 4: The shocking truth about fats!

In this final installment of what it means to be healthy, we conclude with an analysis of fats: the best and worst part of a per¬son’s balanced diet.
Think of fat like a grease that keeps everything moving smoothly, while also providing a lot of fuel. Without it, the body breaks down like Blackboard on exam day.
“There are good fats that can actually be really helpful to someone who’s trying to manage their weight,” said Megan Toney, the Yoga/Pilates instructor at Edmonds Community College.
Toney has been an instructor at EdCC for two years, and has been extensively involved in health and fitness since her time at the University of Washington.
Often looked down upon for being the main contributor to obesity, fat has the highest density of the three macro-nutrients. It burns at a rate of nine calories per gram, instead of the four calories per gram that proteins and carbohydrates burn at.
Since fats are so calorie dense, the body needs less of them to function. The average person’s daily requirement should be limited to around 25 percent. While in the U.S., there is such a drastic polarity in diets that it actually reaches from close to zero for many, to more 45 percent for a majority.
“A few years ago during the actual fat food craze, they actually found it wasn’t helping people [to cut fat out]. You do need some fat in your diet to feel full and satisfied,” Toney said.
Fat does a lot of important stuff, like adding flavor and texture to foods, too. How great would peanut butter be without fat? About as good as cardboard, that’s how good.
Most of the fat that Americans consume comes in the form of trans fats and saturated fats – the bad fats. These are mostly consumed as margarine, shortening, cookies, cakes, fried foods and certain processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
Trans fats are mostly liquid at room temperature. They are bad because they help raise bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein – LDL), which causes coronary heart disease (CDH), and lowers good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein – HDL), which protects against many cardiovascular dis¬eases.
“What I think is interesting about trans fats: Did you know they were banned in fast food restaurants?” said Toney. “So places like Wendy’s had to stop using the trans fats, but what was left out of that were places that are kind of not as big of chains, like Red Robin, [and they] still use those trans fats,”
Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. They come primarily from animal products (red meat and dairy), some vegetable products (coconut oil and palm oil), and work the same way that trans fats do, in that they help to raise bad cholesterol.
The good fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These come from foods like olive oil, peanut oil, avocados, pump¬kin seeds and fish, just to name a few.
The reason for keeping a good balance of mono and poly¬unsaturated fats in the diet is to ensure proper functioning of the brain, the heart, the nervous system, lungs, eyes, digestion and the immune system.
The problem with fats is that the body likes to keep them around if they’re not used. The old adage “Use it, or lose it” doesn’t apply here.
“I say that things that are deep fried in general, no matter if they’re fried in good fat or bad fat, they’re something to eat in moderation,” Toney said.
Many people simply lack the tools necessary to understand what is good and what isn’t. There are many books and Web sites which give detailed information about what certain foods contain. See the sidebar for listings.
Something that people often neglect when trying to lose weight is the affect alcohol has.
“I guess a lot of people don’t think about the calories from alcohol,” Toney said. “Alcohol is one of the rare sources that your body can’t use for energy.”
Alcohol burns at a rate of 7 calories per gram, but has no nutritional benefits.
“I think a lot of people, if they’re trying to manage their weight, should really think about what type of alcoholic drinks they have. In a lot of cases, some¬thing like a light beer could save hundreds of calories off a mixed drink,” Toney said.


A short story written after reaching the top of Mailbox Peak at sunset in late August 2010.

A quiet sun sets beyond a silhouette of land and sea. Nothing remains now, except for a few streaks of light and a lazy sun. Each streak desperately trying to cling to the last remnants of the day, but lose grip as if too tired.
My heart swells as I stare out and watch the world dissolve. I’m at peace. There is no pain. My worries now seem small and inconsequential compared to something so grand.
Looking out I begin to ponder; “how many times has this scene played out?” Countless, I’m sure.
Light dances across the sky. Mountains hold steady, yet slowly fade into it all. And I breathe in slowly, and continue to take it all in.
While thinking about the rise and fall of days past, and those yet to come, it becomes clear to me; life is a gift! Suddenly the swelling of my heart consumes my whole being and I have a brief moment of clarity. The time we’re given isn’t meant to be squandered on the meaningless.
This apparently obvious notion comes as an epiphany to me. How daft have I been? Staring out, I realize for the first time that my search for meaning has been in vain. I never really had my eyes open before. But now I can see. Purpose and intention become clear and I finally understand what it means to be alive.
And it all began with a sunset.


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