Monday, April 29, 2013

Labels, Doing It Wrong, and Judgment

Disclaimer: I probably do some of the things I complain about in the rest of this post, but know that I consciously and actively try to not behave this way. The following is going to be sort of rant-y, but I'll try to keep it more informative and eye-opening rather than simply complaining about things. I'll try not to be on too tall of a soap-box, but I'm also not going to beat around the bush.

It seems to me that these days when someone asks a question, it's not because they're truly curious and actually care about the answer. It seems like most of the reason people ask is so they can apply a judgment to you without all of the information, and then talk about it to other people. Somehow putting others into categories with specific labels makes us all feel better, as if our brains can only handle so many different varieties of people and so we just put everyone into certain well-defined groups and everyone in those groups is the same and the mainstream stereotypes applied to those groups are necessarily applied to every individual in each group. This seems to be completely normal, is socially acceptable, and we see it in all topics across social interaction. We see it with regard to visible differences in people such as race and religion and sexuality (sometimes these differences aren't as readily visible), and relatively invisible differences in people such as family lifestyle and philosophy.

When asked about our lifestyle, we frequently receive smirks, raised eyebrows, and sometimes even outright scoffs. Immediately, there is judgment, without asking about any details of learning more about it. We're put into the category people have heard of, the mainstream term "paleo." With that categorization, there are mainstream stereotypes that absolutely must apply to all people who are shoved into this category. There are also certain criticisms that, of course, must be expressed to everyone who might fall into this specific category. Because all of us in this category are exactly the same and we need to be alerted to the fact that we're doing it wrong, we're hurting ourselves and our children (if applicable), etc, etc, etc...

Well, here is where I'm going to say that it's ridiculous. 

There was a Ted Talk from Christina Warinner recently called "Debunking the Paleo Diet." If you peruse the Internets at all, you've probably seen people talking about it and maybe even watched it yourself. If you haven't seen it, you can watch it here. Basically, she uses half- or less-than-half truths (sometimes even blatant lies) to insult this "fad diet," and then spends the last ten minutes spouting off information that's actually supporting said "fad diet," without realizing that's what she's doing. To be honest, it was almost laughable how little correct information she had that supported her attempted point. For a breakdown of her whole talk, I recommend Robb Wolf's assessment of the whole thing. Perhaps even better is his podcast discussion of the Ted Talk. He does get pretty fired up in this episode, and rightfully so - Warinner is off the mark on a lot of things and clearly picks and chooses her homework, and not very well. I personally enjoy Robb Wolf's podcasts because not only is he super duper smart and nerdy over science things, he doesn't say anything unless he's got a LOT to say to back it up, including references to scientific studies he has carefully analyzed for validity. He is quite possibly one of the most objective scientists I've heard talk. (Another would be Chris Kresser, so check his blog out as well (to the right).)

So, just had to throw that out there. Robb makes some really great points about research in the field of nutrition, and also how food and health policies are put into effect at the government level. That's a whole other rant in itself, and makes me sick just thinking about it.

At any rate, I just want to clear up some things and just state that everyone chooses their own lifestyle, including what they eat, and as much as Primal Toad can sometimes get so excited about things that it's annoying, he makes a really good point that maybe there shouldn't be titles to these kinds of things. Because titles and labels lead to the specific stereotypes and assumptions to apply blanket-style to anyone who might fall under these labels, and then all of a sudden, everyone who's been labeled is "doing it wrong" because they're all doing it differently. SHEESH. 

To answer all the questions I've been asked, and all the ones I know people are thinking of but keep to themselves and make judgments about instead, I thought I would just clarify what we choose to eat and what we attempt to avoid. I should mention that in situations where we are out to eat with friends, traveling, or at a large social gathering where there is food present, there are only certain things we can control. In those situations, we make the best choices we know how to make, knowing that they aren't always ideal. And that's ok - but not to those who judge without any information about us, apparently. Get over it, I guess. So, here goes:

We try as hard as we can to eat the following: lots of produce, organic when available and reasonable; homemade sauces, dressings, and dips; grass-fed and free-range animal products including dairy, eggs, and organ meats, among other meats; nuts and seeds. We aim for unprocessed (or as minimally-processed as we can find) food, and really try to get as much local food as we can. Being in Arizona, it's proven to be kind of difficult because the farmer's markets are quite small, when we can find them, and Arizona isn't exactly known for its wide selection of local produce. We have found a farm from whom we like to buy our meat, and we have found some local eggs, but those do tend to be sold out by the time that farm gets to our local farmer's market on Wednesday evenings. We do our best given where we live and our budget constraints. We have re-prioritized some things in life so that we can make quality whole foods a top priority.

We try as hard as we can to avoid the following: anything processed. Let's be clear here: anything that's processed is going to contain canola oil, soy products, wheat products, corn products, or any combination of any of those ingredients. Wheat products are used as preservatives, even if the item isn't a pasta or bread or something else that's obviously made from wheat. Bread and pasta and the like are processed food products. Canola and soybean oils are literally in just about everything that comes in a box or bag or bottle and is not in the refrigerated isle of the store. Corn products...don't even get me started. What doesn't have high fructose corn syrup in it will still likely have corn syrup as the sweetener (although not concentrated), corn meal, or some other form of corn product or by-product. So, we avoid wheat products, corn products, soy products, and canola oil.

Really, it's about eating unprocessed whole foods, nutrient-dense foods, local foods. I'm not sure that sounds so radical, now that I put it that way. Cutting out the vast majority of processed foods effectively cuts out almost all canola oil, soy products, wheat products, and corn products. So, really, it's not much more of a stretch to pay attention to the tiny list of ingredients in certain things we do buy from the middle of the grocery store in order to avoid those ingredients as much as we can. 

It comes down to just feeling and knowing that we are healthier than we were before, and for some reason some other people don't like that. Is it jealousy, self-consciousness, denial, or plain immaturity? I don't know. And frankly, I don't really care about the reason behind the smirk or scoff. If you're curious, be truly curious. If you want to try it after you find out more information, I'm willing to help if you want it. I'm willing to share my knowledge and resources and tips and tricks and recipes. 

If you want to judge, why bother asking in the first place? Keep it to yourself.

I know that may not have been very well organized and I could have added more information, but thanks for reading; I hope you enjoy a little bit of a rant on occasion :) Haha. I promise next time I won't be so soap-boxy.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Hello! So, some sort of big news since my last post - earlier this week I went back home to interview for a job. It was a three-day long, in-office interview and meet-and-greet with the doc, his wife, and the entire staff including the current associate. Talk about a stresser! 

But, it was completely awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, and I really hope the whole office did as well. It will still be a couple of weeks until I find out whether this is it or not, but I sure hope it's sooner rather than later. I did allude to the fact that we've been scouting the area for places to live, and that my better half has already planned out his work commute to make sure it will be do-able, which should actually not be as bad as we thought it might when I first started pursuing this job.

The community in which we'd live is pretty great, too. I drove around a little bit and saw the historic downtown areas of the adjacent towns, there's a train station right in the middle of town, an amazing farmer's market 6 months out of the year, lots of mom-and-pop holes in the wall, antique shops, tea shops, all the stuff I just love to death. The office is in the area where these two towns meet, and it's pretty separate from the more mall-and-car-dealership areas of the larger of the two towns, so that's nice.

The doc and his staff are incredibly impressive. Talk about careers to be proud of - they are a well-oiled machine, and it is obvious their level of integrity, professionalism, and career satisfaction is just off the charts all around. If that isn't a place you'd like to work, I don't know what is. I expressed my amazement and desire to work in such an environment, and I feel like I got along with everyone really well in the two days I spent with them - which I realize is not a whole lot of time - so I truly hope I have the opportunity to join this amazing practice.

For now, I am trying SO HARD not to just replay everything in my brain and pick out little things that could possibly be the reason they don't want me. Just little things, not bad things, and not things that I would have changed - because I truly couldn't change anything I said, I was completely honest and real with them. I could have asked more questions about it all, I suppose, but I really felt like all of my questions were answered with the exception of things that would be written in the contract that aren't appropriate for asking just yet. And here I am, picking it all apart again, haha! Relax...breathe...

...And wait a couple weeks with my fingers crossed SO TIGHT that I hear good news. 

Now, it is time for bed. Short entry this time, for a change ;) Hope you enjoyed reading, and if you're out there and made it this far to the end, please think happy thoughts for me. Until next time...thanks y'all!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Long Overdue Update

Wow, has it ever been a while since a post! Since I'm pretty sure there are only three people who might (or might not) read this blog in the first place, so I doubt I've been missed. But I've been needing a place to expend some energy and thoughts lately, so this is probably a good place for it.

Great news, first of all - ALL BOARDS PASSED! Written and clinical, no retakes, no extra stress of finding more patients or more teeth or anything like that. All done. I can't wait to graduate and get home! 43 more days! And my family arrives in 40 days, woohoo! My brother hasn't visited at all these last four years, so that will be particularly special.

So, in the spirit of being able to see the light at the end of this tunnel, shining quite brightly and getting bigger and brighter each day, I've been reflecting on the last four years a lot lately. Maybe I'm getting a little nostalgic about leaving Arizona (I mean, the weather hasn't quite officially gotten hot, and spring time here is pretty darn comfortable), maybe I'm going to miss my friends (the few I've actually made here), maybe I'm going to miss being in school since I've been in school for almost 25 years...or maybe I'm just reminiscing about all of it and looking forward to what the still-uncertain future will bring! Either way, these are some things I've been thinking about and have learned over the last four years...(and actually, even some reflection back to middle school...)

Thoughts On Gratitude

I have been so, so fortunate to have lived the life I have lived thus far. I freaking got into dental school. I'm about to be a stinking dentist! Sure, I have $400k+ in student loans at an average of about 8% interest, but I GOT IN, and I'm literally going to be a dentist in 43 days. This is what I have wanted to do with my life since I was old enough to know what I wanted to do with my life. I'm not financially successful, I haven't been part of ground-breaking research or developing new methods or new procedures or materials, and I still have A LOT to learn. But I am where I have wanted to be for 14 years, and I'm about to leap off this cliff and trust that the net is there at the bottom - because it is.

One thing I must emphasize, and definitely have recognized over the last 16 years, is that I did not get where I am by doing it alone. I have never been afraid to ask for help along the way, and boy, have I had some AMAZING mentors. Somehow I was able to build a fantastic support network without even realizing it - actually, more than likely it was with the help of my parents, both in the form of their amazing network of friends and coworkers and by way of their encouraging me to keep in contact with great people and stay involved in my community.

Not only did I have fantastic mentors in my teen years, I managed to find great mentors in undergrad and then in dental school as well. AND, what amazing patients I've had in my past two years of clinical experience. Building relationships with my mentors and patients has taught me what dentistry is really all about - helping people improve their quality of life.

I must note here that most people I have encountered in dental school are less than grateful. One of the things I am looking forward to most about going home is returning to my "tribe," members of which are grateful for the experiences they've had (whether hardship or fulfilling), the opportunities they've been given, the support they've received - or the lack of all these things that has made them the strong, resourceful, independent people they are today. Being grateful doesn't mean you have to be privileged or have opportunities handed to you - to the contrary, most of those I've met who have had it all handed to them on a silver platter are truly ungrateful and entitled and not genuine or loyal.

Last thing about gratitude: to me, it's not enough to just feel it. I think we need to SHARE it. Tell the important people in my life that they are important. Thank them for opportunities they've helped me find, or that they have directly presented to me. Show appreciation for the work they do so that it makes my day/work/efforts run that much more smoothly. Make sure their supervisors know of their efforts, where applicable. Thank my patients for the learning experiences they provided for me. Visit past teachers and show them the difference they've made in my life.

Thoughts On Adulthood

So I guess technically I'm not quite to "adulthood" yet since I'm still in school for a few more weeks. But, one of the things I thought would be awesome about professional school is that we're all supposed to be least in age. Unfortunately, I came to the harsh realization that most people in most stressful situations still act like 13 year old girls. Whether they managed to get into any professional program or whether they're in the working world and are established in their career or job - the drama is still there for some reason, and very few people can be tactful 100% of the time. Some of my mentors from back in high school were literally shunned at their places of work, for being dedicated and devoted to their profession, for going the extra mile and being exceptional at their jobs, or for simply having a different opinion about any given topic no matter how minute.

We have recently read an article in the Scientific American MIND magazine that talks about how we as a society have made adolescence a self-fulfilling prophecy. Basically, because we "accept" that adolescents are irrational, irresponsible, self-absorbed, rebellious, disrespectful, etc...we allow that to perpetuate rather than strive to be better role models for children to become responsible and productive adults. Sure, the adolescent brain is changing just as much as the brain of a rapidly-learning toddler, this has been demonstrated in study after study - but that is no excuse to NOT be a good example of what they should strive to become as adults. The SciAm MIND article compares homeschooled kids to kids at huge schools throughout their educations, and also compares different cultures regarding how children are raised and nurtured and taught. The discussion leads to the fact that we are fostering a society of 20-somethings who return home (or stay at home if they never went to college) and try to "find themselves" rather than grow up. If you want, I think you can access the article by clicking here.

Thoughts On Pleasing People

I'm over it. Actually, I'm not entirely sure I was ever that interested in pleasing people in the first place. For the record, this is completely different than taking care of a patient by providing a service they've asked for, or know they need, in order to improve their quality of life. Pleasing people is bending over backwards, or even being willing to help when asked, when I know there is no possible long-term benefit for myself. That probably sounds selfish, but I'm simply just not here to be taken advantage of.

Sometimes I am pretty naive. (If anyone knows the keyboard shortcut for the two dots above the i, please share...haha). Most of the time, I assume the best of people, and I've been burned by that many times. But I'd rather learn along the way than assume the worst of people and never be happy. I do, however, have quite low expectations and mostly try to have no expectations at all because I'm pretty sure the vast majority of the general population is deeply, deeply stupid. Which is why I'd rather start out assuming the best in people. I enjoy the expression of this idea in Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." Stupidity, as I interpret it from this quote, could either be deliberate ignorance or simply the lack of experience or knowledge. If there is something that someone can learn, and is willing to learn in order to be better, their behavior should not necessarily be attributed to malice. I think most people have a sort of innate understanding of the importance of taking care of each other, in the sense that it's actually a rather selfish idea - if we are loyal to someone, we expect loyalty in return, and we need a tribe we can trust. Now, understanding that idea and practicing it are very separate things entirely.

Wrapping It Up

As I've been working on this post for a few days now, and had to update how many days are left until graduation, I think I'll wrap this up. After all, I don't even know if anyone actually reads this or not. So, until next time friends, thanks for reading (if you did), and hopefully see you soon.