Arlene's WayWant to know why organic food is more expensive? Or how to deal with night leg cramps? Then read on!

Why is organic food more expensive?

Many people feel organic food is not worth the cost. There is also some significace between conventional food and organic food, and very real reasons why organics often cost more. Basically time is money and much of organic pricing can be attributed to time issues. Organic growers spend a lot more time on their crops than conventional growers.  The organic foundations say that the organic price tag reflects the true cost of growing the food substituting labour and intensive management for chemicals, growing, harvesting, transportation and storage. In addition, because organic growers do not use harmful pesticides they have to look for other, often manual methods of controlling pests and diseases.

Organic foods derived from animals cost more than their conventional counterparts as there is more hands on care required for organic livestock and they must also provide extra space and special feed.

Organic certification is time consuming and expensive.

From growers to processors, most organic certified operations need special land and/or facilities before they can produce food. Organic land costs much more than conventional farmland because there’s a long list of qualities that organic vs. conventional land must possess. This applies to organic land used for crops or livestock.

On top of land issues, many organic operations are so small that they don’t warrant a full-scope manufacturing facility of their own which means either locating an organic operation to share a space with or purchasing special equipment for a conventional facility. If an organic company shares space with a conventional company, more time must be spent making sure that products aren’t mixed and/or that processing machines are properly cleaned before they’re used for organics.

When it comes to organic skills, most business owners spend a significant amount of time and money on ongoing education costs. Beyond self-education, organic business owners or companies must take the time to ensure that their employees also follow proper organic protocol. There’s a lot of different skill-sets involved with organic production and handling practices and employees must use organic practices in order for an operation to stay certified.

A majority of organic farms are smaller  than their conventional peers. Small farms don’t receive the same benefits from the economies of scale that large operations do.

With few exceptions, marketing business correctly takes a significant amount of money and time. However, while large companies often have set marketing budgets and people who do the marketing work for them, smaller operations often do marketing on their own. Small companies, with or without budgets still have to pay for consumer education, print ads, business websites and more.

There’s a long list of known harmful ingredients not allowed in organic food. This means organic producers must find other, less harmful, but often less available and more expensive ingredients instead. Of course it costs less to use synthetic food items, so conventional food companies get a real financial break that organic companies don’t.

Supply and demand is a huge issue. Though organics are gaining popularity each year, organic food sales are nowhere near conventional food sales.

Arlene's WayIs my obesity causing  my night leg cramps?

A leg cramp is a sudden, uncontrolled contraction of a muscle. This type of pain is most commonly experienced in the lower extremity, and therefore often called a leg cramp or a “charley horse.”

Leg cramps occur when the muscle suddenly and forcefully contracts. The most common muscles to contract in this manner are muscles that cross two joints. These muscles include the calf (crossing the ankle and knee), the hamstring (crossing the knee and hip), and the quadriceps (also crossing the knee and hip). Leg cramps usually last less than one minute, but may last several minutes before the contraction subsides. In some patients, the spasms occur primarily at night, and can awaken the patient from sleep. More severe leg cramps can cause pain that lasts several days after the cramp occurs.

The exact cause of a leg cramp is not well understood, but there are some risk factors that are thought to contribute to this condition:

  • Muscle fatigue
  • Heavy exercising
  • Dehydration
  • High weight (not necessarily obesity)
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Medications (statins, prednisone, others…)

The most common cause that is typically seen in patients who develop leg cramps is exercising in an unusual way, meaning either more activity or a different exercise. Leg cramps are more common in young (adolescent age) and older (over 65) patients. Patients who weigh more are more prone to developing leg cramps. Also, some medications can cause side effects of muscle spasms.  To prevent leg cramps stay hydrated. It is not well known exactly how dehydration and muscle cramping are related, but it is known that dehydration can predispose to leg cramps. Drink at least three full glasses of water each day, including one before bedtime. Also drink plenty of fluid before, during, and after exercise. Stretch regularly as it can relax muscle fibres. Make sure you cool down after exercising, and do not exercise vigorously just prior to sleep. Train gradually and  build up an exercise program, and try to avoid sudden increases in activity. The “10% Rule” is a good rule of thumb: never increase your exercise over one week by more than 10% compared to the week before. Sudden changes in activities can cause leg cramps. Most athletes that have leg cramps, such as long-distance runners, have increased their level of intensity or duration of activity too quickly.


Usually instinct takes over when a leg cramp strikes, and you massage and stretch the sore muscle. This is a perfect instinct and often solves the acute problem. The best steps are- Massage the cramped muscle, Stretch the muscle (gently!), and take a hot shower or bath to warm and relax the muscle.

If leg cramps become a persistent and recurring problem, you should be evaluated by your doctor. Because electrolyte imbalances can cause cramping, some blood may be analyzed to ensure the levels of potassium and other electrolytes are normal. There are also muscle relaxing medications that can be prescribed if the muscle cramping is a problem, particularly at night. Finally, your medications and medical history should be reviewed to investigate for possible factors contributing to your leg cramps.

Obesity can put a strain on the muscle which it cannot cope with resulting in it cramping. Obesity is not healthy so losing the excess weight is recommended whether it is causing the leg cramp or not as it may result in other problems.

Arlene's WayWhat psychological conditions could cause problems with weight loss surgery?

Although no formal standard exists, there is growing recognition of the important elements to be addressed to determine psychological readiness for bariatric / weight loss surgery. Unlike traditional diets for which risks are low and discontinuation can occur at any time, bariatric surgery has inherent risks and requires highly restrictive, long-term behavioural changes afterwards. Therefore, these patients typically are required to complete a thorough evaluation, including psychological assessment, to determine their appropriateness for surgery.  Patients meet with a psychologist for a clinical interview that focuses on behaviour, psychiatric symptoms, and understanding of the surgery; they then complete psychological testing, which provides an objective measure of their presentation style, psychological adjustment, and readiness for surgery. This approach matches the growing body of evidence regarding the important elements for inclusion in this assessment.

Although patients often are hesitant and uncomfortable with the notion of seeing a psychologist before surgery, the information discussed during the clinical interview is critical not only for assessing their appropriateness for surgery but also for enhancing their success during the post surgery adjustment. The core parts of the clinical interview include reasons for seeking surgery, weight and diet history, current eating behaviours, understanding of the surgery and its associated lifestyle changes, social supports and history, and psychiatric symptoms (current and past). Most patients describe a desire to lose weight to improve current medical problems, enhance mobility and energy, and promote health and longevity. Further discussion of this issue is needed when patients report external pressure to have the surgery (which is not a good reason to have the surgery), an overemphasis on physical appearance, and unrealistic ideas regarding the changes that will come about in their lives following weight loss. If the reason for having the surgery is unrealistic and fails to match what the surgery can achieve, patients are at risk for possible mood issues and for noncompliance after surgery. Patients are also asked their goal weight and anticipated time frame for achieving that goal, which provides additional information about realistic expectations. Expectations must be realistic for patients to be satisfied with the surgery otherwise mood changes can occur eg. Depression, and it would be better not to have the surgery.

Patients have to understand the lifestyle changes required after surgery and must be psychologically assessed to ascertain whether they can make these changes.

Surgery is a drastic choice after all else has failed and psychological support from family and friends is required – it is not an easy option!

Do I have an Eating Disorder? I read online of an eating disorder called SED (Selective Eating Disorder)  I’m a very, very, very fussy eater. I only eat roast and baked potato.
No other veggies. A few meats, but not many. Some fruit but not much. I also only eat one brand of sausages, one brand of spaghetti. I’m 20 years old and have been like this since I was 4-5. I only eat a few proper meals. (Pasta bake and tacos)  I think I have the disorder. Help me please.

Being a fussy eater does not mean you have an Eating Disorder. If your weight is within the healthy weight range and you are physically and emotionally healthy you probably do not have an eating disorder. You have just balanced your food intake with a limited range of foods which satisfy your nutrient requirements. If you have eaten in this manner since you are 4 years old, I would regard you as a ‘fussy eater’. If food rules your life, then you may have an eating disorder. Whether anorexia, bulimia, compulsive eating… or simply a continual wrestle with your weight, such problems affect millions of people each day. What’s more, the situation is getting worse!

Did you read up on Selective Eating Disorder because you are concerned about your eating pattern, or did you just happen to come across it and identify with it? The world is obsessed with food, eating, obesity, anorexia – so any deviation from the ‘normal’ is over analysed.

I suggest you go and see your doctor and discuss this problem with him – if you see it as a predicament that is affecting the way you lead your life. If you are content eating as you have been for so many years and your health is good – stop worrying about it and try not to focus on food or what others might comment about your eating patterns. A full physical by your doctor and blood tests will help you feel comfortable about your health, which I highly recommend.