Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Peck Peck Peck

I know, all you 3 of my readers, one-third of which will be married to me in six months, are thinking: what's with the lack of blog?

Or, not. I'll tell you anyway though. The freaking holidays are what's with the lack of blog. I've never actually seen that movie The Birds but my understanding is that at the end she is pecked to death by birds. This is a good metaphor for the way my life feels right now. I am being slowly pecked to death by various aspects of life. Work? Suddenly busy. Home? Suddenly dirty and needing cleaning and vacuuming. Holidays? Suddenly needing insane attention in the form of cooking for others, tree decorating, traditions needing tradition-ing and various other fun but time consuming items. To top it off my 3rd grade Sunday school class is not only in the Christmas pageant but they are the pageant. As in, no other teacher has a student in this pageant. Since I am the only adult in the community who seems able to put the fear of God in even the worst behaved in the class, I have to attend all their rehearsals. They're cute and some of them are good kids but some of them need straight jackets.

Right, I know, stop complaining. Traditions that you like need attention? Can you not enjoy yourself? Apparently not. Really. I come from a long line of women who stress about parties (for stupid reasons I wont even list), cooking (see: hot jail) and general life needs. The older I get the less capable of having fun I become.

This issue has a lot of implications. Obviously stress is not good for you. That Friends episode with the alterna-world where Pheobe is an attorney and has a heart attack from all the stress clearly taught me that if I get stressed I will not only have a heart attack but probably also take up chain smoking and yelling. Beyond the general effects of stress is that nutrition and health go out the window.

I have two solutions to the problem.

1) I am making a conscious effort not to react to things that don't matter. I am also committing myself to my inside voice. I'm rather enjoying being asked to speak up lately. When a coworker and I disagreed on if this stuff on the wall of the office hallway was spackle or primer the old me would have put my foot down and explained why, duh, it is clearly primer (it has since become clear that it is spackle) but the new me does not care. Cause really? Don't care. Not worth it.

I am apparently so overly relaxed that my father asked if I was okay this weekend. When I told him my new habit he warned me not to seem too relaxed or people might think I'm stoned. It's good to know I live in a world where the choices are spackle/primer-caring-screamer or stoned.

Let me be clear, this is not to say I'm becoming a door mat. Being from a strong combination of rowdy Greeks and equally-though-differently rowdy Southern women, I don't have it in me to become a push over. I'm just choosing my battles extra carefully.

2) I am making a conscious effort to only eat when hungry. This even applies to parties where there is a spread of amazing cheese or cheesy food or food that can have cheese on top with a side of dairy. These are the situations that always get me. I am at a party and have intelligently arrived hungry but not starved. I am planning to have some casual snacks without over doing it. Then there is the dairy bonanza and I convince myself the treats are a one time thing and totally worth it.

I have never, ever, not once, nope, not a single time walked away glad I over indulged. Snacks will exist again in life, these particular snacks might look good but they aren't going to change my life even though that random friend of that friend thinks that particular cheese is so tasty and amazing. They are never life changing. Maybe tasty, but never life changing.

It's two weeks until real resolution time and I've decided these are not those types of resolutions. Those are the kind that are broken before Valentine's Day. These two are the kind that bring down two numbers in particular: blood pressure and waist to hip ratio. Ask me on Valentine's Day if I've forgotten my inside voice.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Of Convincing and Assuring

Still not sure you care about farmer's market fare?

What? Onions not convincing?

Those are apples, speckel pears, purple kale and in the back, shallots. Raw foods not doing it?

How about grilled Morrocan marinated lamb over wild rice with broccoli slaw? Nom nom nom.

P.S. Speckel pears are like candy from the ground. They also make good juice to go with bourbon. Just sayin'.

Okay, this picture I just like.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Not That I Don't Love Mother Earth But . . .

Clearly NPR is following my blog. Or maybe CAFOs are a hot topic, you know, whatever. Regardless, NPR is running what seems like a series on CAFOs dairy farms. Yesterday's story was on New Mexico's dairy farm issues and today's was on an Ohio farmer's efforts to improve the situation.

The part that stuck most with me from the first story was the people who 'knew dairy farms' and said the situation had to change. A lot of the issues surrounding the lack of change in the dairy world is that the farmer's either don't want to change because it costs too much or they actually can't afford it or big Ag cares more about the bottom line (ahem, supported by the federal government, ahem). But in this story, people who grew up in dairy farms, in dairy farm towns and actually understand the way the system works are actively interested in change.

The Ohio farmer's story was interesting to me because he talks about the flavor but not as much about the effects on the cows and what they produce. I've said it before and I'll say it over and over: eating whole foods that are sustainably grown are worth it for the cost and flavor. I'm not saying you should eat organics because they're better for you. I'm not saying you should eat whole foods because your liver likes it or whatever crazy story you read about in the free magazines at Whole Foods' check out line.

Not convinced? A case study from my own life:

I'm half of a two person household. We've used various methods to bring food into our kitchen from straight grocery shopping to produce delivery to almost exclusive farmer's market foods. We used to go to the grocery store two or three times per week (we live in a city and our building is right next to a grocery store) and spent between $150 to $250 per week depending on the time of year. Last weekend we went to the farmer's market and purchased an entire week's worth of fruit, vegetables and meats for $100. Now, we do still go to the grocery store to purchase (whole, organic) milk and things like toilet paper or garlic if we run out but the price of these is pretty nominal. In fact, adding it up we spent about $30 this week at the grocery store on additional items and, um, a portion of that was beer. (When are they going to start selling beer at the farmer's market?!) We also eat out a lot less often. It's hard to be interested in a bar's selection of nacho toppings when you have homemade pizza in your fridge.

This week by shopping at the market we have been able to make beef and barley stew, broccoli crunch, cabbage salad and homemade pizza along with less-recipe required items like roasted lamb sausage, eggs, a chicken to roast and some greens to saute. All of these things, for two people, in one week, for a lot less.

Screw the environment buy whole and sustainable for your wallet.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stupid People Behavior

I've seen a lot of really stupid gym behavior in my time as a gym member and as a gym employee. I only spend 4 hours working and probably only 4 more on my own time at the gym per week but boy am I well aware that people stupid.

One case on Sunday, which fiance told me I was overreacting to, was a girl who was not only working out in really stupid ways but also wearing a horribly offensive t-shirt. Her t-shirt espoused hate for both gay people and women who have their period. Perhaps I didn't need to get as rowdy about this as I did but she was also squatting with the worst form I have ever seen from a woman who looked fit. She also did sit-ups on a stability ball that involved violently throwing her upper body up. I had to resist telling her she wasn't using her abs and instead just hurting her spine.

She is not alone. There are a lot of stupid things you can do at the gym. I particularly like numbers 4 and 6. The explanations for these two are the root of my gym annoyance. Unnatural movements at the gym do nothing for you. Number 1 isn't bad either. I mean, at what point in life do you need to move in that way? Except for taking your lazy legs off the coffee table the answer is never. The abductor and adductor machine look fun but unless you're a working girl, I really doubt this is necessary for your life. Squatting and deadlifting are good because they imitate things you actually do.

I'm going to stop ranting now before steam starts coming out of my ears.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Looking for Weekend Fun?

I have an idea for you! Instead of going to the gym and using weights, pick up a person.

You may have noticed a friend of mine commenting previously about deadlifting her. At her wedding a while ago I almost tried to squat her but was wearing a dress so didn't get very far.

Well, not shockingly, I did not come up with this idea all on my own. Turkish getups are an insanely hard work out. You could use a kettlebell or a regular weight orrrrrr a person.

Just a weekend fun idea from me to you!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Follow Up to Randomness and Other New Randomness

After I wrote about my hate for Eat This, Not That and how its sodium suggestions are going to kill you slowly I found an article that totally backs me up. Thanks, media.

After I wrote about how preventable disease is a major culprit in the health care crisis I found an article about how increasing cases of diabetes are going to continue to cost us more and more. Thanks for backing me again, media.


Everyone falls off the wagon sometimes. Its no secret that its tough to fall off the wagon in the public eye. The guy from the Subway commercials is apparently no exception. I can say with some certainty that what Carnie Wilson, Kristie Alley, Dustin Diamond and Jared from Subway have in common is not just that they're washed up stars but that they all have discussed at one time or another that they were or even still are eating a lot of processed food. Kristie Alley still talks about how she wants to start a line of frozen food as part of a diet company she is going to manage. She claims to have cracked the code of weight loss.

Well, let me tell you, here is the secret. I can tell you the code (which Kristie Alley hasn't cracked). The code is there is no code. If anyone has cracked the code its Mark Pollan. It reminds me of another Oprah code crack. The emperor has no clothes, people.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I Have ESPN Or Something (And Other Random Items)

I am quite prescient, my friends. The blogosphere* is clearly following my lead by discussing orthorexia. Just thought I'd toot my horn there.


Living in Washington, D.C. I often encounter those who like to argue about the pros and cons of things like defense spending, climate change and of course, the ever popular, health care overhaul. There are a million little pieces of this to discuss. While I'd prefer not to get bogged down in all of them I am interested in the way actual health affects health care. Its no secret that Americans are really quite unhealthy as a generalization. Basically we get fat, poison our hearts and lungs and then we cost everyone else lots of money. But its okay, because almost everyone else does it too.

Imagine my surprise this morning when the news was chock full of stories about how 75% of health care costs in America are due to diseases that could be potentially avoided if Americans weren't obese. That's right, according to the journal Health Affairs, we could potentially be spending close to 75% less as a society if we took care of ourselves. Its true that we'd likely still have some heart disease, diabetes and cancer. You have to admit that we'd likely be able to eliminate a large portion of that spending if we stopped stuffing our faces and got off our butts more. I could argue about the tenants of S 3962 until I was blue in the face but its hard to argue with the fact that a large majority of our problems stem from our personal choices and not with our PPO or HMO choices.


Going back to yesterday's post where I ranted about Eat This, Not That. I realized I didn't suggest a solution to the problem of not knowing what to eat in fast food situations/on travel/insert problem here. Well, I have a really easy solution: be a pain in the ass. Find a place that is capable of grilling food dry and be annoying about the contents of your sides and sauces. I embarrass people when eating out somewhat regularly but on the flip side, I'm usually one of the healthier people at the table. I order fish grilled dry or chicken and sides of plain vegetables.

You're thinking: that sounds gross and boring. Did you really think the food at fast food establishment x was going to be awesome? Did you go there for the fine dining experience or because you need to eat something while traveling for work? If you went to that strip mall restaurant to have your favorite meal that's one thing. If that's the case, order the fat with extra fat and a dollop of lard on top. If you are going for utilitarian reasons, stop expecting the restaurant to change your life. Instead, get some quality calories and get out.

*Blogger's** spell checker doesn't recognize the word blogosphere!
**It doesn't recognize it's own name in the possessive either. Talk about not being meta***.
***It recognized meta as a word.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Eat Food, Not Junk

Perhaps you have deduced that I love a good food indulgence. What with the inhabitants of my apartment's new obsession with Indulgences aren't just greasy or caloric food in my world. They have to be awesome greasy or caloric food. McDonald's rarely makes the cut. I find it surprising that food critics in an increasingly foodie city like to indulge in items from Chipotle or Krispy Kreme. Mall food? Really? I love a good donut, cheeseburger or foods that come a la mode but Dunkin? Wendy's? Dairy Queen? What a waste of perfectly good indulgence calories. (I am not saying I don't go to Dunkin on occasion, or even Dairy Queen or Chipotle.)

There is a whole movement out there about what indulgences to indulge in. I'm totally against the "Eat This, Not That" concept. First, it teaches nutritionally confused (fat) Americans to choose donuts over bagels instead of understanding the concept that you can eat what you want as long as you think of your calories in terms of the entire day or the entire week along with the nutrition content of the meals. Choosing a bagel for breakfast isn't going to kill you. What matters is if you follow that with a cheeseburger for lunch and so on.

Men's Health came out with a list of the 20 worst restaurant foods in America. Lets go to the tape.

Suppose you follow their replacement suggestions in the lower left hand boxes and for the sake of the argument you've eaten out every meal. Maybe you're on vacation or traveling for work, bear with me.

According to the ETNT ("Eat This, Not That") people your choices for breakfast are Cheesecake Factory or IHOP. On the bad choices list are a Colorado Omelet or french toast with bacon Your 'smart' choices are Cheesecake Factory's create your own omelet where you will choose spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms or IHOP's Garden Scramble For Me. To give them the benefit of the doubt we'll pick the last one since it has fewer calories.

So you've gone to IHOP and eaten the garden scramble and you've probably had something like coffee to drink. Lets say you put two creamers in there (we'll assume you're not putting in sugar, again, benefit of the doubt). Lets also ignore the fact that the online menu for IHOP suggests that the calorie and nutrition of the list is wrong, but whatever. We'll also ignore the fact that if you're human you probably ordered some bacon or sausage and the scramble is made with egg substitute which means you're short changing yourself on the protein which is what you really need out of eggs anyway.

At the end of this meal with the scramble and the creamer (you're annoyed that you didn't get to eat bacon and) you've consumed 430 calories, 4 grams of saturated fat, 1,220 milligrams of sodium and 53 grams of carbohydrates in the food and 30 calories, 2 grams of unsaturated fat and 2 grams of saturated fat in the creamer.

Lets move onto lunch since I'm hoping you're full and didn't need a snack (although with such a crappy amount of protein I'd bet you're starving within an hour or two). Lets assume you skip appetizers entirely (number 18 on the ETNT Men's Health list). There are a number of items they suggest avoiding and lets just say you pick the least caloric one of the entire good choices lunch items list. Lets say you don't want to return to IHOP (it would be way embarrassing to see the same waitress) and that you're not going with the stupid idea that you could eat only a steak with no sides (ahem, good choices in numbers seven and thirteen). In fact, just to throw the ETNT people a bone here, lets pick the only lunch choice that seems like an entire meal. This is number fourteen's Pico Shrimp Tacos with Black Beans and Grilled Veggies from On the Border. Vegetables! Fiber! Omegas! Yes! In this meal, assuming you've consumed the entire thing with only water and no dessert you'll have eaten 490 calories, 5 grams of unsaturated fat, 1 gram of saturated fat and 1,650 milligrams of sodium. Congrats! You've already gone over the daily recommended value of sodium.

Assuming you're capable of holding out until dinner (never in my life have I lived a day without a snack between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner and I often consume a snack at both times, so kudos to you if you have this kind of insane will power) lets move onto your last and final meal of the day. In this scenario you'll be getting no beers with dinner. Sorry, its only to prove my point (which I am really, actually getting to). But, congrats! You'll be eating dessert! Lets again say that you're not eating the stupidest of suggestions like only steak or a sandwich with nothing else. You're left with a salad. No, seriously. You now must go to Cheesecake Factory and order the Chinese Chicken Salad. Also, you're only allowed to eat half. Which, is probably okay since the portions at that restaurant are gigantic (although you're probably hungry what with the lack of protein). At the end of this meal you've eaten 503 calories, 1.5 grams of saturated fat (no idea how many unsaturated since the restaurant wont tell you), 430 milligrams of sodium and 55 grams of carbohydrates.

Now, for the kicker. Oh, dessert, how you kill us, literally. And yet, we love you. Lets ignore number one on the ETNT Men's Health list entirely. Since they suggest eating cheesecake as a good choice alternative to a giant brownie sundae. You could easily walk your salty self over to Coldstone and purchase the good choice alternative of number 2. A small Strawberry Banana smoothie (because when you walk into Coldstone that's totally what you want to walk out the door with). Hurrah, at dinner you had three fruits. If you can call it that. You ate strawberries and bananas in your smoothie and a mandarin orange garnish in your salad. Congrats to you Men's Health follower. You had dessert for 220 calories, 1.5 grams of unsaturated fat and 34 grams of sugar (we'll count these as carbohydrates).

In total you've eaten 1,673 calories, 8.5 grams of both saturated and unsaturated fat, 142 grams of carbohydrates and 3,300 milligrams of sodium. There are a number of age groups in both genders even in the sedentary lifestyle department where the calorie content is actually okay (if you've read this blog in the past you know that this is 273 calores too many for me, an average sided 20-something female). Although, remember you ate an egg scramble with no sides, half a salad for dinner and ordered a fruit smoothie for dessert. Your fat grams could be worse for just about every group. Even your carbohydrates are probably okay for most. Your sodium content was completely through the roof and the nutritional value of most of these things was pretty low. At least there were a few vegetables in the fajitas (I refuse to count the salad as a vegetable). Although since you packed in so few vitamins you'll feel like crap. You will also enjoy artery hardening and a slew of other complications from overeating sodium (if you do it often enough).

For the record, I don't think Eat This, Not That is saying they'll solve all your dietary problems. Although it is really frustrating that I discovered ETNT's nutrition facts were lower than the actual restaurant's for just about every item. Dumbing down nutritional information allows Americans to dumb themselves down.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Incredible Shrinking Ladies

So I have returned to heavy/serious lifting. I never talked about stopping here but somehow during fiance's rugby season I stopped going to the gym with the good weight lifting equipment because he stopped going. Put away your righteous indignation, feminists. It isn't because I stayed home while he did other things. I still taught all my classes and went to the gym on my own but I just didn't go with the person who usually encourages me to do the heavy lifting and so I got lazy about it.

I also have a new program. It is most awesome and I'd love to explain it to you except I don't understand it. Fiance did some reading and came up with the plan. I'm sure he'd explain it to me if I asked but I haven't. Also it has to do with percentages or something and equations are hard for this liberal arts person. I can budget myself into a corner but I can't seem to divide. I still remember finding it really hard to do long division in the fourth grade. When nasty Mrs. Powell told me she couldn't help me if I didn't get the concept yet. Not only did she not help me but I pretty much gave up on math then and there. In yo' face lady. I hear she is pretty overweight these days. I probably can't help her though if she doesn't get the concept of healthy eating yet. (Ahem, that was a lot of bitterness I had forgotten about, moving on.)

What I do know about the heavy lifting is that it is pretty awesome. Aside from making my back look awesome in my wedding dress it also makes me feel stronger. On top of which, science tells us its great for your bones. I come from a long line of osteopenia-ites and shrinking ladies. Now, bear with me but for those of us who like our calories we know that the taller you are the more you can consume. As you age you have to eat fewer calories because your metabolism slows down. I'm thinking that if I keep up the heavy lifting and avoid the shrinking then maybe I don't have to give up as many calories as I age. So here are my thoughts: lift heavy weights (for example: I deadlifted 115 pounds 9 times on Sunday. Go me.), stay the same height, have strong bones and still eat my favorites.

Speaking of eating: nom nom nom. These were eaten in my house last night, made by fiance. He deserves all the noms.