Cancer, Covid & Country-Wide Chaos – Wisdom From My Mom

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this blog. Much like the rest of the world, I’ve been processing MANY fluctuating emotions, changes, personal and professional evolutions and uncertainties. Besides being in the process of creating the fourth annual Diabetes Empowerment Summit online event, diabetes has not been on my mind much at all.

I sent this email to my beloved email community of over 10K human beings a couple weeks back that caused some to leave, and some to stand even stronger in our community led by love, empathy, compassion, inclusivity, and equality for all. Feel free to read it HERE if you haven’t already.

One thing that has remained constant for me throughout the upheavals of life as of late is the love, respect, honor and reverence I have for my perfect-for-me mom. She is 69 years old, has lived through A LOT, and somehow always maintains a deep level of calm and centeredness, so I wanted to share her latest writing here for anyone who might need some “mom” wisdom.

The below was written by my mom, Gayle Shapiro, a few weeks back, and it is worth a read:

2020 has brought overwhelming circumstances to all of us. For me, it’s been represented by several “c” words – cancer, covid, and most recently, countrywide chaos resulting from the tragically disturbing murder of George Floyd.

The visual of that horror seen by everyone was the tipping point – for people who have always cared about social justice and racism, as well as many others who might not have realized or understood or lived in denial of the tremendous unfair treatment of people of color that has been pervasive in our society for so long.

One factor that made this incident so alarming is the fact that the three other officers did not do anything to intervene to stop George Floyd from being murdered by their fellow officer. The scenes of the violent rioting this week brought back memories for me of the race riots which took place in Philadelphia in 1964.

What really surprised me is the fact that I witnessed first-hand that violent action on the street where I lived at that time, and somehow my brain repressed most of the memory of it. I hadn’t thought about it in many years; I had a vague recollection that it happened, but the details were blocked out.

I was 13 years old living on a busy commercial street in North Philadelphia. All of the properties on my block were stores owned by white merchants, and people of many races and nationalities lived in the neighborhood. My father had a shoe repair business, and we lived in the same building upstairs from the shop. When I think back on this, I think at the age of 13 I should have been aware of the social and racial disparities, but I really don’t have any memory of that. I guess things are so different today because at that time, as young kids we did not really get involved in the news of the day, news was not a 24/7 flow, and of course, social media did not exist to constantly bombard us with images and information about what was going on.

It was a hot day in late August and my parents had taken me for a day trip to Atlantic City. When we approached our street returning home that night, we saw the rioting happening on our block. Large noisy crowds were smashing windows of most of the shops and we could not go to our home. I do recall that at that moment, I was probably more afraid than at any other time in my life, and I assume my brain just blocked out the rest because the trauma was too scary to face. We drove to my married sister’s house a few blocks away from the chaotic activity and spent the night there.

This week I got an email from an old friend who lived on that street; we were best friends from age 4. She lives in Florida now and we stay in touch  occasionally. She wrote to me to share her memories of that time, and to my surprise she reminded me that she was with me and my parents that day, and I didn’t even remember that she was with us! She filled in some of the details that she remembered, including the fact that she had been so afraid for her father who had stayed there to defend his furniture store, and had terrible nightmares for a long time afterwards. When we returned home the next day, we found that both my father’s and her father’s store windows had been the only ones on the block that were not damaged.

We moved out of that neighborhood shortly after that although my father kept the store open for a good while longer, until one day someone came in with a knife and tried to rob him. Somehow, he struggled and got the knife away from the guy who then fled. That was the end of the business on Lehigh Avenue. I still have that knife to this day.

Seeing this all happening now, almost 60 years later, is extremely distressing. Still the same inequality, prejudice, and discrimination exist and are even more prevalent today. My sincere desire is that the overwhelming reaction and protests of so many people across the entire nation and around the world is a sign of hope that things can and will change.

In keeping with my usual mindset of positivity, which seems to get harder and harder to maintain, I’ll share my belief that the large crowds of protesters that are gathering in so many places will provide valuable information to the ongoing research into covid-19. Social distancing has not been observed, and many of the participants in these demonstrations are not wearing masks. It will be of great interest to learn whether these mass gatherings will result in outbreaks of the virus in those groups. This could be an important guidance to those studying the evolution and spread of the virus and to the continuation of strategies and plans to develop some sense of a more settled way of life going forward.

Finally, I’ve decided to concentrate on some other positive “c” words that help me to stay optimistic.

  • First is confidence – confidence that my strength and attitude (and chemotherapy!) will continue to heal my body, and I have had the results so far to keep me enthusiastically expecting more of the same.
  • Next is calm curiosity about the covid crisis. I do all that I can to stay safe as a member of the highest risk group, but I regard the situation as a learning experience and ongoing science experiment that affects the entire world. No amount of worrying on my part will do anything about it, so I’ll quote the great Deepak Chopra who says “acceptance leads to insight and peace”. So I will follow that wise advice and accept with grace that which I can’t control.

Regarding the ongoing civil unrest, I can only depend on human compassion and concern to address the issues that need to be resolved. Those sensitivities, when motivated by passion and empathy, and advanced and organized by masses, lead to progress. It’s going to be a long and uncomfortable process; the systemic injustice and brutality that has been in place for hundreds of years will not change overnight, or within weeks or months.

I’m encouraged by witnessing the outpouring of outrage and involvement by young people. They are the true hope for a future that consists of equality, inclusivity, respect, and love for all human beings by all human beings.

Quite a lofty goal, and the fact that so many people deny or can’t even comprehend the existence of white privilege is a major obstacle in reaching that goal.

Also, all of us have implicit bias, even though we may not realize it or even understand what it is. Let’s all take action to be a part of manifesting the changes that are so desperately needed. In the interest of that objective, I have listed below some resources that will educate as well as provide opportunities for direct personal engagement with organizations that are working towards a better future for all of us. Some of the things we can all do:

  • SPEAK UP! Talk to people about the issues There are so many that are related – racism, police brutality and corruption, health care and education inequality, employment discrimination, and more. Endure the discomfort and hear – really listen with an open mind – other people’s stories. Especially communicate with your children about treating people with compassion and fairness.
  • Contact your elected officials! Communicate your desire/demand for change in policies.
  • LEARN & SHARE! Many of the resources listed below provide pertinent educational materials for both adults and children – check out article, blogs,
    videos, and movies.
  • Donate, volunteer, share resources with others. Volunteer with an organization that feeds people. People shouldn’t be suffering from hunger in our country, our communities. HELP THEM!
  • VOTE! Learn what candidates really stand for and vote accordingly in all elections, not just the major ones! The change must be at all levels.

Resource Links:

White Privilege Explained

Understanding Implicit Bias

Books, films, podcasts

Protein powder – do you need it? I don’t, and here’s why…

One of my awesome clients sent me this Consumer Reports article and asked me what I thought about protein powder, which is what prompted this post.

Please – do your own research!

Here’s my two cents about just about every single article, report, study, etc. published by any and all agencies to try to prove or disprove anything: only you can decide what is true for you.

After reading the article my client sent me, then digging a little deeper into the Clean Label Project who funded the study (always find out who funds any study you are reading that is trying to convince you of anything – where the money comes from is a great indicator of the bias of the findings of the study), I found what I find just about every time I dig a little deeper:

A whole lot of he said/she said, back and forth, back and forth.

To be clear – I’m not saying that the Clean Label Project, Consumer Reports, or anyone for that matter is right, wrong, or otherwise.

I am saying that, after performing my own due diligence to best serve my client that involved an intentionally short trip down a rabbit hole, which is where all research leads (I recommend limiting the time you choose to dive into said rabbit holes as it can become never-ending) I will continue to always choose to make my own assessments based on facts combined with how things make me FEEL after doing my own experiments – physically, mentally, spiritually – and using my best judgment and discretion based on the feedback my body provides.

That is what I will always recommend each person do for themselves as well.

Ever since graduating from personal training school in 2010 and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nutrition science, I have always had my suspicions about the efficacy, safety, and necessity of protein powder supplements, but that didn’t stop me from using them consistently for a long period of time.

Back then, I was not nearly as concerned or vigilant about the quality of ingredients I chose to put in my body, however, I was crystal clear on the fact that there wasn’t – and there still isn’t – any regulatory committee that oversees the truth in labeling regarding nutritional supplements, including protein powders.

I knew this meant that protein powder manufacturers could, quite literally, put anything they wanted on the ingredient labels and nutrition fact labels of their products and that nobody was there to ensure they were being truthful.

I used protein powder steadily for more than seven years. Throughout that time I was always active – lifting weights, Crossfit, yoga, Zumba, and a variety of other exercise modalities. First I used Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard whey protein powder, then as I listened to the signs my body was sending me and chose to move away from animal products, I transitioned to both Vega Sport and MRM Veggie Elite protein powders.

Around 2015, I simply began feeling gross – mentally and physically – anytime I thought about having a protein shake. The same shake I had every day for the past seven years, sometimes two times a day, no longer appealed to me and actually made me feel ill when I thought about drinking it.

My body simply did not want me to ingest it anymore, and at that point, I had consciously and intentionally trained myself to know how to first listen to my body – to my intuitive inner wisdom that knows everything about what I need and don’t need to be healthy – and then to act in accordance with the signs I was receiving.

Intuitive eating is how I live and what I teach others to use when building their own nutritional lifestyle.

I simply stopped using protein powders. I did not become protein deficient. I did not lose any of my muscle mass. I did not gain weight. I did not worry about replacing the 25-50 grams of protein I was no longer ingesting with protein specifically – I made it up with a variety of all macronutrients in whatever ratio I felt I needed each day. I felt a lot better overall – the same way I feel when I intuitively reduce or eliminate any highly processed food-like item from my daily nutritional lifestyle.

I was fooling myself into believing two things based on “popular science” and marketing bullshit that I no longer believe to be true:

  1. Protein powder is a healthy food, or that protein powder is food at all – it’s not – it’s a food-like item.
  2. I needed a large amount of protein in my diet daily in order to remain healthy, fit, nourished, and to be able to continue to build muscle.

I know now without any doubt that both of those things are not true for me.

I can’t say what is true for you. Only you can choose to experiment and see what your body really wants and needs, not because an article or a trainer told you so, but because it makes you feel in tune with yourself, satisfied, energetic, and not like you’re force feeding yourself or restricting yourself intensely to reach a certain set macronutrient ratio.

Here’s what I know for sure:

  1. We all have our own internal, intuitive wisdom that, if honed in on, will always guide us to the right choices when it comes to how to nourish our bodies, minds, and spirits. Learning to do this is a practice that will serve you for the rest of your life in ways you can’t even imagine.
  2. I personally don’t need more than 50 grams of protein per day in order to have what I consider the health I desire, including strength, endurance, overall physical fitness, mental clarity, great blood work time and time again (including cholesterol, blood pressure, Vitamin panels, thyroid, Hemoglobin A1C, and more – I love studying my blood work and get more blood work than the average bear, and more often).
    I am a woman, currently 35 years old and weighing 135 pounds that exercises 5-7 days a week consistently in a variety of modalities. I have had type 1 diabetes for 27 years. There are some days get 50 grams of protein, some days I get 100 and some days in between – whatever I need each day, I get.
  3. Eliminating protein powders from my life caused me absolutely zero problems.

I had no plans at all of writing this as a blog post, but once I got to writing back to my client, Misi (a 67 year old highly athletic female with type 1) I realized that I wanted to share this response with anyone else who might want to hear my opinions.

For some levity, check out this short parody that another one of my clients sent me on the topic of intuitive eating. I got a kick out of it, and it drives home the point of needing to know what makes you feel good versus believing everything you read without doing your own experimentation in a lighthearted way. 🙂

I’d love to hear about your experiences with protein powder as your feedback is so helpful in forming a clearer picture on the topic.

Do you love it? Hate it? Indifferent?

Please leave a comment below to help me gather real, community-sourced feedback!

Thanks for reading!

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: Diabetes Parents Support Network Meeting

Super excited and honored to be able to present at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for the Diabetes Parents Support Network meeting!

CHOP Event