Category: Balanced Living

Chasing dreams and reaching goals

It has been awhile since I posted anything on my blog! Two months? Well here I am again. I took a little hiatus because I was finishing my masters degree in health psychology. *whew* I turned in my very last paper two days ago. Hitting “send” on that one was such a mix of emotions: excitement, uncertainty, disbelief, relief, joy, fear and pure exhaustion! Here I am two days later and I am basking in a feeling of accomplishment and strength. The journey felt like it might kill me at times, but I feel all the more confident and able for having done it.

I have to preface the whole thing by saying that, as a single mom, I feel a great amount of gratitude for having the privilege to even pursue a masters degree. My mom didn’t even have the same kind of opportunities when she was a single mom and my sister and I were much older than my son was when I was first on my own with him. Everything seems to take so much more effort when your kids are young…because it really does! My son was 2 when we started our life together as an “us”…him and I. He was in diapers and I was finishing my bachelors degree at OSU while centering my life around nap time, bed time, playdates and potty training. He was almost 4 and sat in the stadium at Oregon State University with my family as I walked during graduation and received my diploma. He doesn’t remember that one, but I couldn’t have been more proud to have my son there watching.

A few years later, a few birthday parties and firsts…first day of school, first night at daddy’s house, first visit from the tooth fairy, moving from an apartment into a house….lots of new beginnings all the time, I started my masters program. Lots of blood, sweat and tears along the way. I would drop Ashton off at school, leave for work, come pick him up at after school daycare and head to run errands or go to soccer or karate or swimming. Home for dinner and chores and bedtime. Then, once I was good and tired….I would start in on my work for the evening. This degree required all papers from me. I love writing but not technical writing and NOT after a full day of work and being mom. But write I did. Research. Write. Research. Write. Repeat. Sometimes I would hit a wall and just cry. The next morning I would do it all over again, always mindful of the goal.

I feel that I have so many people to thank for encouragement and grace along the way. I have always aimed to have a balanced life between work, school and Ashton. But, I’ve definitely heard myself saying, “I can’t, I have a paper due” A LOT over the past couple of years!! For the people in my life who saw my goal even when I was having a hard time seeing straight at all…thank you! Thank you for putting up with my grumpiness when I was tired and feeling so worn, thank you for delighting in the little accomplishments along the way (“yay I finished my paper 1 day early!”), thank you for cheering me on when I didn’t realize how much I needed it. Thank you for understanding I was spread too thin, but understanding why I was doing it too.

This milestone in my life is MAJOR for me. MAJOR. I do not take it lightly in the slightest bit. My deepest hope is that Ashton has an internal awareness of working hard for meaningful things in life. If I accomplished just that from all my efforts I will be so happy.

My other hope is that if there is anyone out there struggling to reach a goal, that I can somehow inspire some motivation. No one can do it for you. It won’t be easy, I can promise that. In fact, I can also promise that it will be damn hard. But it will be worth it. In fact, it will likely be more worth it than anything else that you do if it is something you believe in and have to sacrifice for. If I can do it, you can do it! You just have to commit.

Something seems a little fishy…

Omega-3. What’s all the hype, anyway? You see it everywhere. So eat more fish, right? Or take fish oil supplements? Why do we need this nutrient anyway?? Well….. I’ve done a lil’ research. Let me share:

Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA…cute, isn’t it? PUFA…rhymes with loofah. Sorry. I get sidetracked). This is a nutrient that our bodies do not manufacture on their own. Therefore, we need to get it through our diet.

So just why is Omega-3 so important? A few things we know so far:

Heart health. Research suggests that fish oil can help lower triglyceride levels and aid in the prevention of heart disease, such as congestive heart failure.

Brain health. Omega-3 contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)…say that 10 times fast! Or…even one time slow. 🙂 In addition, it has eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Whew. Both of these are critical for healthy brain development at any stage of life. You will notice DHA & EPA on labels for baby formula as well as milk products, etc. these days. This is why. And, again, our bodies do not produce these on their own.

As I said, though, DHA & EPA are important at any stage of life. As the brain degenerates with age, DHA & EPA help boost brain health and therefore slow the process of degeneration. Also, studies have been pointing to the role omega-3s play in mental heath disorders such as depression, ADHD and other mood disorders, to name but a few.

Next questions: how much do we need? Do I need to eat salmon every day for the rest of my life? what if I don’t like salmon?

Ok. First of all, omega-3 fatty acids are found in highest concentrations in cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and cod. Here is a list of fish options based on their level of omega-3s: Fish with high levels omega-3.

We need around 1,000-1,500 mg of fish oil per day for optimal benefits. Yup. That’s a lot o’ fish. So….what if you don’t want to eat fish 5 days a week? Supplement.

You have to be careful with which supplements you choose. There’s the obvious “after burp”. Y’all know just what I’m referring too. Ew. But you also have to pay attention to getting a pure fish oil that is not highly processed as well as NO OMEGA-6!!!!

I will explain omega-6 in my next entry. Just understand that in our Western diet we get FAR TOO much and it is detrimental at such high levels.

For now, I will leave you with information on a wonderful fish oil supplement that tastes delicious! No joke. Even my seven year old who is as picky as they come asks for more. No “after burp” either!

Omega Swirl: yummy fish oil supplement. We like the key lime flavor, but there are also other flavors. I found mine at our local vitamin/supplement store. You can also order online by clicking the link and going to the Omega Swirl site.

This is the condensed version of the omega-3 story. There are many more benefits and research is learning more all the time. The fact that there is so much to gain in health from these fatty acids and virtually no side-effects…well…it’s awesome. More info to come…


The skinny on Omega 6

It seems that when we Americans hear anything related to “omega fatty acids” we think it is sort of all encompassing. If it has “omega” before it, it has to be good, right? Well….there’s there more to the story.

So, to begin with, it is important to understand that there is an optimal balance between Omega 3s and Omega 6s in the human body in order to maintain health and wellness in a number of ways. The ratio should be somewhere between 15-16: 1 (Omega 3: Omega 6). However, the Western diet is heavy in omega-6 and lacking in omega-3. In fact us Westerners are so off balance, the ratio is backwards and up to almost 1:25 for some of us!!

“What’s the big deal,” you ask? The big deal is that while Omega 3s do all sorts of cool things for our bodies, an excess of Omega 6 does not. Too much Omega 6 causes a crisis of inflammation within the body which leads to serious problems such as asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases…all of which are believed to stem from inflammation in the body. If you look at current trends in chronic disease it all kind of makes sense, does it not? Another thought in the medical world is that this imbalance might also be related to issues such as obesity, depression, dyslexia, hyperactivity and even a tendency toward violence.

Well then how do I know when I’m consuming Omega 6??

Omega 6 is all over the place. The problem is that our Western diet WAY over processed. Not only does that mean the obvious, that we’re eating a lot of fake stuff, but it is also very, VERY heavy on the Omega 6. Omega 6 comes from veggies, seeds and nuts, and their oils. Refined vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, are found in all sorts of processed foods such as cookies, crackers, baked goods and fast foods. Soybean oil is one of the biggest culprits as it is found in so many fast foods and processed foods that it is estimated to make up 20 percent of the calories in the American diet!

Here is a list of some of the sources with the highest Omega 6 content:

  • Safflower oil
  • Grape seed oil
  • Poppy seed oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Hemp oil
  • Corn oil
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Sesame oil

That’s the short, sweet story. There are plenty of details we could go into, but not in this post. You get the basic idea. Let’s let that sink in and dream of the salmon we’ll be having for dinner (go Omega 3!!).