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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How to be Physically Heroic - Part 4

Four reasons why rational, Libertarian couples will have incredible health (and if not, why they will spend at least a year getting healthy) before they conceive:

1. Because they know the healthier they are, the better genes they will pass on

"We can inherit harm," says Randall Fitzgerald, author of The Hundred Year Lie. "Toxic synthetic chemicals can negatively alter our DNA to program us and our descendants to experience illness and disease."

Not long ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine who works in genetics at SFSU on this subject. What I learned is that we used to think DNA was something that didn't change but we are now finding that we might be able to alter what we pass on. I don't want to extrapolate too much but: what if you are more likely to have a child predisposed to health and happiness if you are healthy and happy before you conceive? What if your children will be more or less likely to get acne depending on whether or not you have cured yours before you conceive? What if you children will be more or less likely to get cancer depending on how healthy you are when you have them? 

2. Because they know the healthier mom is, the healthier the baby will be

-Exposure to toxic chemicals cause about 28 percent of all developmental defects. (National Research Council Commission on Life Sciences study, 2000).

-Women who are overweight but not obese have a 15% increased risk of delivering a baby with certain heart defects. The incidence of some defects is twice as high among children of obese mothers.

-A 50% increase in the level of persistent genetic abnormalities in newborns was detected in those whose mothers had high air pollution exposure. (Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention Reports, 2005.)

-The fastest-growing rate of cancer for any age group over the past two decades has been among children. (The Hundred Year Lie)

-Exact percentages change depending on the study you are reading but as an average--if one parent is overweight or obese there is a 66% chance the children will be. If both parents are overweight or obese there is a 90% chance the children will be.

3. Because they know the healthier habits they have, the healthier habits their offspring will have

I was raised on a farm. I didn't have sugar for the first time until I was seven. I didn't have fast food until grade school and couldn't eat it without throwing up until high school. Making healthy eating choices is effortless for me because those foods are normal. I never ate Doritos as a kid so when I see them at parties, it doesn't register in my brain that that is food. (And the truth is, they're not.) My parents never fed me fake food so when I taste it, it tastes like fake food to me. I find the chemically flavor of Kraft mac'n'cheese repulsive. My body doesn't know what it is and doesn't like it.... I am insanely grateful to my parents for this gift.

My husband is the opposite. There is a whole array of pretend food that he was raised on and loves--fast food, pizza and pudding snacks. He is a very rational man though, so when he started learning about nutrition, his desires instantly changed. He has no desire to poison his body with chemicals. But there is a huge difference between us--he still likes those foods. When he tastes them, they taste good to him. Whereas I naturally like and crave real food, he has to eat real food with his brain. He has to constantly override his habits.

4. Because they know the healthier mom is, the easier her pregnancy will be on her (and therefore on their marriage)

Pregnancy is different for everyone, but let me tell you a little about mine: I had a healthy pregnancy that resulted in a 9 pound 6 ounce baby boy born ten days early after a three hour labor with no tearing.

I took very good care of myself in the following ways:
-I cut down on my hours at work a month before my husband and I started trying.
-I further cut down my work hours to part time so that I could focus on taking the best care of myself that I could.
-I stopped working entirely when I was 36 weeks. Women who stop working at this point are more likely to have their babies come early than women who work up until 40 weeks (they are likely to have their babies come late).
-I ate healthily, regulated my blood sugar with many small high-protein meals, didn't indulge in fake food.
-I walked, hiked and biked until I was too big and then I did prenatal yoga and swam.

I have a sneaking suspicion that I didn't just get lucky and the following is related to what good care I took of myself:
-We got pregnant on our first try.
-My blood sugar, urine protein, blood pressure, baby movements, baby position--everything at every appointment was exactly as it should be.
-My baby came 10 days early and was over 9 pounds even though I only gained 35.
-I never had a single craving.
-I only threw up twice (and both were my fault--I let myself get too hungry).
-My baby had baby acne for about five hours total and never had cradle cap or any of the other classic issues.
-My baby spit-up maybe twice in his first six months (though I think that had to with my healthy post-pregnancy eating habits).

All that being said, I am still shocked at how uncomfortable pregnancy was and how traumatizing those first few weeks of recovery are.

Things to help you on your quest to becoming physically heroic:

Real Food: What to Eat and Why or Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two and Baby's First Foods

The Hundred Year Lie: How Food and Medicine Are Destroying Your Health: Here is a great quote from the book: "Most large grocery chains these days post a sign in at least one section of their stores describing it as a 'health food' section, which has prompted some of us to wonder whether the rest of the supermarket should have signs identifying aisles as filled with 'illness food,' or :'unhealthy food,' or even 'death food.'"

Nourishing Traditions: The cookbook for the informed.

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives: Not well-written or even a great book but some good information if you are thinking of getting pregnant

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