There is no “microwave safe” or “dishwasher safe” plastic

Heating Plastic: there is no "microwave safe" or "dishwasher safe" plastic! Why and how to avoid heating food in plastic | Conscientious Confusion

Our trusty old dishwasher finally died lately, and I am super excited to have a shiny new one. Those 2-3 weeks handwashing dishes were no fun! But, regardless of whether we have a working dishwasher, there are always dishes in my sink. Why? Because I always hand wash plastics.

Why handwash? First of all, plastics are made out of chemicals. Yep, there is no natural substance out there which can be harvested to produce plastic in it’s final form. It’s all created in a lab. Most plastic is made flexible by PVC, a chemical that is well known to be toxic. Even plastics that are made without PVC are made of other chemicals. You can pick plastics that are “safe-r” to hold food by using this handy list, but there are no completely non-toxic plastics.

Here’s the thing: those chemicals are made active again when the plastic is heated. By default, any plastic that is heated will be releasing some of it’s chemical components. That is why plastic dishware degrades, gets spots, and warps over time. The chemical components of the plastic are slowly breaking down (read more here and here and a more technical study here. Relevance to cancer from chemicals in plastic.). When it comes to dishware, the heat allows those chemicals to mix with our food. Do we really want to be eating a side of chemicals with our meal? Remember that the FDA does not approve chemicals used in houseware (they only oversee Food and Drugs) — there is no regulation of the materials being used in your plates/bowls/sippys/storage containers.

You’ve seen the plastics labeled “microwave safe” and “dishwasher safe”, right? What does that even mean? The definition of “microwave safe” and “dishwasher safe”, as far as I can tell from online research, comes from appliance manufacturers. Both terms mean that your dishes won’t be visibly damaged, melted or broken in the appliance, not that the dishware won’t leach chemicals into your food. In other words, there is no “microwave safe” or “dishwasher safe” plastic.

Ideally, it would be fabulous to own no plastic food containers or items at all, but I have two preschool children. I do still use a microwave. With children this young, I still do not have the bandwidth in my food prep time to forego the microwave altogether for quick meals like leftovers and lunches, so stainless steel isn’t always practical. When using the microwave to reheat even something small, transfer the food to a glass container.

Tip #1: I bought small glass bowls from the dollar store specifically for reheating. I have about 4 of them so that there is always one clean. I just pop whatever I want to reheat into these open bowls and toss them in the microwave. The bonus is that I can also safely put them into the dishwasher.

Tip #2: To make storing and reheating from the refrigerator easier, I have replaced all of my formerly plastic storageware with glass food storage (affiliate link). These sets are easy to find at Target, Walmart, Amazon, and even Costco. I replaced it slowly, over time, when I could find sales and coupons. It can be pricey to do it all at one time, although Costco will frequently have good deals on glass storageware.

We have been working on teaching the kids to use glass responsibly. I still don’t allow them to have glass containers unsupervised, but they are getting much more mindful. Soon I hope to transition completely away from plastic cups and bowls for them and to ceramic and glass, which is what we use for the adults in the family.

For more information on the toxicity and environmental impact of plastic, I highly recommend my friend Beth Terry’s book “Plastic-Free: How I Kicked My Plastic Habit and How You Can Too” (affiliate link).

How do you avoid plastic in your home? Do you have any favorite products that you like?

Conscientious Consumerism: Things to watch for when shopping for anything

You know that you’ve reached some kind of crunchy-person dilemma when you are standing in a giant store with an aisle full of options and do not find any acceptable choices for the item you came to purchase. I’m not just talking about food, although I certainly struggle with orthorexia in that area — but any item!

Small or large. Bed sheets. Slippers. Hand lotion. Paper towels. Wrapping paper. Everything.

When I say that I practice conscientious consumerism, what do I mean?

Questions that go through my head: where was it made? Were the workers treated fairly? What are the chemicals in it? What active chemicals will it leach when not in use? Were there pesticides used in it? Are there genetically modified (GMO) ingredients? Is there gluten or dairy in this? Can I make this instead of buying it? If so, is that crazy/do I even have enough time? Should I be purchasing something with this much unnecessary packaging? Is this made of plastic? If so, can I get a glass or stainless steel version?

Yep, all those things really do go through my head. And it’s true that I have walked out of even Target empty-handed because  I couldn’t answer some of those questions satisfactorily about the item I came for.

While you are pondering just how crazy I might be, I will provide you a list of things I look for when shopping and things I avoid. Follow at your own risk!
Conscientious Consumerism: Things to watch for when shopping for anything | ConscientiousConfusion.com

Avoid:

Phthalates (also called “Fragrance” in ingredients list)

Plastic

Trans fats (partially- or fully hydrogenated oils)

Soy or canola oil with unlisted source (likely GMO)

non-organic corn (GMO)

high fructose corn syrup

corn syrup

leather (when possible)

PVC (leaches phthalates/endocrine disruptors)

Single use items

Unpronounceable ingredients

 

Prefer:

Fair trade (better)

Purchase benefits a marginalized group (best)

Recyclable (better)

Reusable/refillable (best)

Small business

Workforce responsibility

Organic

Certified non-GMO

Handmade

 

That’s my short lists for now — have I left anything out that you look for or avoid? I’d love to hear your additions!

Using the Megaformer to improve your yoga practice

Using the Lagree Megaformer to improve your yoga practice | Conscientious Confusion

I’ve been doing yoga for around 11 years now, and I’ve been a Lagree fitness instructor since May of 2012. Before Lagree, I was content to get a little bit of a good stretch from yoga. Since I have developed significant core strength, balance, and overall muscle tone from using the Megaformer over the past 2 years, my yoga practice has really amped up! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I love participating in daily yoga challenges. Far from converting me from yoga to Pilates, Lagree fitness and the Megaformer have dramatically improved my yoga practice. I now do yoga every single day, and work out on the Megaformer 3-4 times per week.

For those of you who are looking for a way to really take ground in either your regular fitness regimen, or specifically in your yoga practice, I made a short video of some moves you would do in any Lagree studio on the Megaformer to improve your yoga practice, enabling you to do inversions and balance poses, as well as build strength safely.

Using the Megaformer to improve your yoga practice {video here}

Filmed at Ultimate Pilates Plano (where I am an instructor!). Come see us for our $10 first class!

Tell me in the comments: what yoga poses do you find most difficult in your practice?

I will do my best to post further videos on how to build your strength in that area using the Megaformer.

Why I didn’t fill that prescription

Why I didn't fill that prescription... In my quest to solve my digestive/acne issues, I decided that it was only fair to give conventional Western medicine a try.

Before I had really started down my “green” and toxin-free journey, I had gone to a GI doctor for stomach medication and a dermatologist for Retin-A cream and a low-dose antibiotic. I was also on birth control pills for 10 years. All of these things worked together to basically mute the symptoms of something that has pretty much been with me throughout my life. Before my pregnancies, I went off the artificial hormones for an entire year and it was AMAZING. I had never realized that they were probably contributing to my struggle with depression for several years. Life looked totally different with my own hormones. When I became pregnant, I stopped taking the antibiotic and Retin-A for acne and the stomach medication. During my two back-to-back pregnancies and nursing, my hormones seemed fine. My daughter had just turned 2 years old last year when the symptoms all came back. This time, my body was clean and I was not interested in dumping medications back into it.

There has got to be a way to help my body heal itself through integrative/holistic medicine! A friend recommended a medical doctor who was supposedly open to viewing illness holistically (ALL the symptoms together in looking at the cause), but who used Western medical solutions. I was wary of the visit. It took me 3 months to get in to see him and it was a 30 minute drive each way, in good traffic. When I did, the initial experience at his giant labyrinth of cold, sterile medical rooms and the total lack of personal attention by staff to the patients was off-putting, but I forged on, determined to give medicine a chance. I had to fill out 8 pages of disclaimers, financial information, and legal releases. Only one time in the 8 pages was I asked about why I was seeing the doctor. They cared much more about how I was going to pay and whether I would sue them.

Maybe it is because I have been seeing a naturopath, a chiropractor, a midwife, and a reflexologist over  the last year and I am accustomed to a small, warm office where everyone knows my name and my children and there is no need for someone to spend 10 minutes typing into a computer to identify me….but I just felt kind of de-valued in the giant medical office. The doctor, however, was very nice and had some great thoughts about my situation. I felt that he and I were actually on the same page when it came to brainstorming. He looked at the ingredients of the digestive enzyme I’ve been taking and approved of it. He mentioned probiotics. He understood my lacto-ovo-pescatarian diet without me having to explain it over and over. He feels that the skin issues might be hormonal, and I tend to agree with his diagnosis in that area. He mentioned that there is a shift in hormones at age 35 and perhaps that is what triggered the return of my symptoms this year. He prescribed something called spironolactone. The way he spoke of it, it sounded innocuous. Like, no big deal, take this spirolactone. I asked about what it was made of and he gave a kind of vague answer that made me stop asking (which was dumb).

When I finally got around to Googling the medication he recommended, I was really concerned. Spironolactone is a drug given originally for high blood pressure. It has the side effect of causing the body to shed water and hold onto potassium. It also seems to have an anti-androgen effect on the hormones, so it’s off-list use is to treat hormonal acne in people who will not or cannot take antibiotics. As someone who works out a lot, I need a lot of hydration and I have to consume a good deal of potassium to rebuild my muscles after exertion. In addition, vegan/vegetarians naturally encounter a good deal of potassium in the beans and nuts we eat. That was my first concern. Then I read the possible side effects:

  • slow, fast, or uneven heart rate;
  • feeling drowsy, restless, or light-headed;
  • urinating less than usual or not at all;
  • shallow breathing;
  • tremors, confusion;
  • nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes); or
  • severe skin reaction — fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.
  • mild nausea or vomiting;
  • dizziness, headache;
  • gas, stomach pain; or
  • skin rash.

What?!! How can this be a safe substance to put into my body? And why would I take a medication that has GI side effects when I am attempting to solve my GI problems? I talked with my mother (who is a former nurse), my best friend, and my husband about the risks of taking this drug. They agreed with me that it didn’t sound like a good idea. I called the doctor back and left a message with his nurse telling her I was concerned about the side effects, because when you see a medical doctor, you don’t get to talk directly to him on the phone. You have to pass messages through voicemail and his nurse. The nurse called back and said that the doctor had no alternative suggestions for treatment because “nothing else will be strong enough”. I called Target and told them to cancel my prescription. I just cannot put that stuff into my body. And now I am torn – I have a pre-existing followup appointment with this doctor scheduled for next week. It would have been to see how I was doing on the medication, but I didn’t take it. Is there any point in going back? Should I use the appointment to try to find alternative solutions? His nurse made it clear that he doesn’t see any. And I wouldn’t be able to see him again for 3 months. My inclination is to cancel the appointment.

What would you do?

All the Drama: on the Internets and IRL Episode #4

All The Drama On The Internets

I have not posted this week yet because there has been so much drama and sadness, and then a little anger thrown into the mix, both on the internets and in real life. As you know, I am typically a very peaceful person so it has all been inside my head. I’m going to give you a bulleted list of things that are currently bringing me down so that I can clear my head and focus on hope.

Petty Nutrition Mis-information

#KFCKidsMeals. I am going to start with the most petty drama on the Internets and I am going to make this one quick. KFC paid for a bunch of bloggers to come out and try their new kids meals and tweet about it. They decreased the overall calorie count of the kids meals to 210, and that was a main talking point. Nevermind that the meals are still nutritionally vacant, fried, and full of PHO’s, artificial colors, and nothing resembling a real chicken. Some people got mad that bloggers would even pretend these meals were good for people. Other people defended the bloggers. Arguments ensued.
Hope: Let’s all just agree that if you are convinced by the hashtag #KFCKidsMeals that fried meat-composite is a good nutritional choice for your kids, you are gathering your information from the wrong sources, my friend.

Blows to Feminism

Steubenville. Specifically, the reaction of the city and the media to the verdict. Instead of confirming that justice had been served in the conviction of two young football players who raped a 16 year old girl and posted photos of the rape on social media, or at the very least remaining neutral, I was horrified and depressed that the reaction seemed to be sympathy for the men. It was all, “Oh, they were such good football players and now their careers are ruined! What a shame!”. There was also a huge backlash on Twitter blaming the victim of the rape. What a shame?!! Shame on HER?! Are you kidding me? What a shame that our country has so little value for that 16 year old girl and such an apparently low value for women’s sexuality in general. What a shame that women are still seen to be at fault for sexual attacks. Shame on us for raising boys that still believe that women are objects to be used and tossed away. They had an awful lot of confidence to post those pictures and it not even occur to them that anyone would have a problem with it.
Hope: I was encouraged by this post from A Holy Experience about 25 Things Our Sons Need To Know About Manhood. Oh look, I have a son that I will be raising to fight against this kind of treatment of women.

Pycon. As a woman who worked in IT and programming throughout my corporate career, I was often the only woman in my department. I went to conferences in my early 20’s. I feel that, as a woman, I have the right to raise a complaint when I am sexually harassed (and I am…we all are, constantly). But the thing that depresses me is that Adria was fired from HER job for raising a complaint. Not just the man who made the remark, but the woman who was insulted was fired. What is this, 1960? The last time I worked in corporate America I had to sit through 2 days of sexual harassment training videos and exercises. Everyone did. Those videos told us that it was OK to report sexual harassment. I think we all know that we can be fired for what we blog, but Adria’s company knew she blogged at But You’re A Girl before they hired her. I feel like this case just exemplifies how women are really treated in the workplace. We want to think we are equals, but then something like this happens and I have to think that maybe we’re just wishfully thinking.
Hope: Sometimes when I get discouraged about women in the workplace, I read tweets from my friend Blessing @ThinkFeminist on Twitter. She is a huge encouragement! And there’s also the #workingmomchat at 7pm CST on Twitter.

My own perception of safety

In the last few weeks there have been 3 aggravated sexual assaults on women in our neighborhood. Not the kind that comes from domestic violence, but unexpected attacks from a single rapist (same perpetrator of all three, confirmed with DNA evidence) who had apparently been closely watching the women’s patterns and following them to find them alone. Two of these women also go to my church. One I knew personally. I am not full of fear because I still have a trust in God that whatever He allows for me is His plan. But I am discouraged because this seems to bear out the kind of feeling I got from the news stories regarding women. I know that in the Congo and in Uganda, rape is the #1 tool of violence. Are we heading in that direction here, even in Dallas?
Hope: Our pastor wrote a blog post addressing fear. Some of my friends organized a prayer walk in the neighborhood where all three rapes occurred.

Walmart is moving across the street

I know, it is petty of me to even write about Walmart in the context of rape and discrimination. Don’t worry, friends on Facebook have pointed out that they don’t agree with my outrage. But let me ‘splain. To me, this is a moral issue. Sure, I am concerned about our property values. Yes, I am concerned about the crime rate in our neighborhood. I am annoyed that Walmart didn’t have to ask anyone before deciding to build a 90,000 square foot store less than a 1,000 feet from my door. The traffic is going to be killer. But in the larger picture, to me Walmart is symbolic of things that corporate America is doing wrong which I refuse to support with my consumer dollars. I wish that no one supported Walmart for this reason. The culture of “cheap” that Walmart has created into a religion exploits workers in their U.S. stores and in the manufacturing plants that it supports overseas (since at least 60% of Walmart’s products are imported from China and other overseas locations). Child labor, injustice, discrimination, profitting from the poverty of the underprivileged and less educated… I could rant on and on about this, but instead I have created a Pinterest board on My Problems With Walmart. Check it out. Let me know if you have additional articles to Pin.
Bottom line, this is probably about my own weakness. I am afraid that if they build that giant store within walking distance of my house, I am going to be tired and hungry one day and I am going to cave in and go to Walmart. Then I will feel guilty for days for supporting Walmart. I don’t want that temptation.
Hope: If you do live near me, please sign our petition. We need the 2,000 signatures by April 4. Honestly, it might do nothing at all, but it’s our only shot.

~~~
Thanks for letting me get all this off my chest! Supportive and encouraging comments welcome. Flaming comments, probably going to be deleted.