Sodium: How Much is Too Much? Taking One Day At A Time

Finally I seem to be allowing this head and chest cold to loosen its hold on me.  I lost 4 days of work when it began because I didn’t recognize it as a cold at first.  That means I didn’t jump in right away with my immune tincture, vitamin C and grapefruit seed extract, and consequently I spent the first 4 days sleeping almost around the clock.  When I was awake, I was busy using up all the tissue in the house and coughing, coughing, coughing.  Since I never feel like eating when I can’t breathe, I lost a few pounds in the process.  YAY!  The next 5 days, I began feeling better.  I still wasn’t psyched about cooking, so I began eating canned soups and Kahiki frozen egg rolls.  I love Campbell’s condensed Chicken Noodle Soup and, like the egg rolls, it is delicious and low fat.  Then suddenly it seemed my cold got worse.  I felt I was back pedalling and didn’t know why.  I began feeling low energy and my head was filling up again.  Then I realized that, by trying to save time by not cooking, I was resorting to processed foods, which I don’t typically eat much of.  So, along with my cold, my body now had to work to fight off the energy zappers I’d so quickly introduced.  Darn, and I know better.

So I stopped eating that stuff and made a big Thai Tom Yum Soup with extra chilis and nam prik pao to kickstart clearing out the sinuses.  I began eating handfuls of fresh spinach right out of the bag, a favorite snack.  I began drinking a lot of water, I mean a lot of water.  I began thinking of high salt, out of the blue, and wondering if the nighttime headache I’d gotten the last few days were due to that.  I felt compelled to drink a lot of water, as though that would help flush it out of my system.  My throat was parched and I felt very – well, saline, as though I was one giant salt lick.

I’ve never been concerned with how much sodium is in my food, becasue I don’t eat that much that is processed.  But I began going through the pantry reading labels.  I tend to forget that whatever has a label usually has a lot of added salt.  It’s easy to forget when I eat mostly fresh fruits, vegetables and meats.

Then I went to the store and once again began reading labels.  Holy shift!  U.S. dietary goals say we’re supposed to have 2,000 mg of salt a day maximum, which is one teaspoonful. Yet most processed foods (processed = anything with a label) have that much in one package.  The label also says that one package is several servings, yet we treat the product as one serving.  Hmmm.  I just never paid attention to the sodium content of foods before.

I began having the thought that the salt might be somehow impacting my cold and keeping me from getting better.  Like it was drawing the healing water out of my cells or something.  I thought that might be making me tired.  So when I began drinking more water, that made me feel better.

I knew these thoughts were my guidance system talking to me via my own internal dialogue.

I began thinking of all the people out there that have high blood pressure.  I have friends who have it, and take medication for it every day.  I also know what they eat.

I’m not one to judge someone else’s eating habits, because had it not been for a serious health event in 2004, I wouldn’t be eating the healthy diet I now eat.   Fear is a good motivator.  So is pain.  I wouldn’t go low fat to take some pounds off, but a couple of bouts with gallstone pancreatitis convinced me I never wanted to have that pain again.  Ever.

Fear is a good motivator.  I knew if I slipped up and started going back to eating the high fatty foods I’d grown up eating – the typical American diet – I was going to have a problem again.  And no way did I want that.  So the choice to change to a healthy diet was an easy one for me.  Do it or die, in pain and debilitated *smile*  Easy choice!

And it was easier than I thought it’d be.  That’s because of the whole “pain and fear as powerful motivators” part.  That means I didn’t need to cultivate will power, I just needed to research and embark upon a new course of action.  If I’d had to figure willpower into the equation, I am sure I may not have fared so well.  It also helped that every night as I went to bed, I listened to my Reprogram Your Eating Habits mp3 file.  It was almost like cheating since I could listen to it in my sleep and it still worked.

So I can’t give my friends grief for eating high sodium foods when they know it’s bad for them.  Choosing to stay uninformed is a choice in itself.  These friends think the worst that can happen is they die.  Nah.  The worst that can happen is that they become disabled and dependent upon others and have to live a lifestyle which is far less than they could be living.

If they make the choice to be informed and knowledgeable about what’s going on with their own body, then it’s easier to make the choices to ensure they remain strong and self sufficient. Every moment is a new beginning and small steps, one day at a time, can make the going easier.

Even me.  Now that I’ve mastered keeping below 40-50 grams of fat a day, and maintained my weight and excellent health since 2004, now I can work on my portion sizes.

And I believe this is where that whole will power thing will come in handy.

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