The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Monday, January 29, 2007

If You Build it They Will Come

This is a great article written by Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore's Dilemma. Nutritionism and food science has taken a very simple question-- what should you eat-- and cloaked the answer in clouds of confusion and marketing. He begins the article by answering this question, and then goes onto explain why there is so much confusion surrounding the relationship between food and health. So here is the answer:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

He then goes onto describe 4 rapid and far reaching changes in food culture and relationships (from soil to table) that have a profound effect on the western diet and therefore on health.
  1. From whole foods to refined-- the rise of white foods (refined flour and white rice); corn becomes corn syrup. These foods deliver glucose much more quickly and overwhelm the body's ability to produce insulin. Result-----> Type II diabetes
  2. From complexity to simplicity-- the rise of chemical fertilizers simplify the production of food, but decrease its nutritional quality. Four crops -- wheat, corn, soybeans, and rice -- account for 2/3 of the calories we eat (I find this astonishing).
  3. From leaves to seeds-- grains are easy to store, and easily and economically transformed into processed foods and animal protein. Replacing vegetables with grains means less nutrients, phytochemicals, fiber. The implications are barely understood.
  4. From food culture to food science-- science, journalism and marketing have replaced "mom" in determining what we eat.
Pollan does offer some advice on how to escape from these trends and their deleterious effects on health.
  1. Eat food. Stay away from anything that your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
  2. Avoid food products that come bearing health claims. They are apt to be heavily processed. Bananas and yams may be silent, but that doesn't mean they don't have anything to do with your health.
  3. Avoid products with ingredients that are unrecognizable, unpronounceable, more than 5 in number, and/or includes high fructose corn syrup.
  4. Get out of the supermarket if you can. Farmer's markets sell food.
  5. Eat less and pay more. Good quality food costs more, but it is a good investment in your health, and the health of the planet.
  6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. Vegetarians and near vegetarians are healthier than carnivores. Plants are good for you!
  7. Eat more like the French, or the Italians, or the Greeks, or the Japanese. Adopt the principles of a food culture, not food science.
  8. Cook. Take part in the process of providing sustenance and communion. Escape the culture of cheap fast food.
  9. Eat like an omnivore. Add diversity to your diet.
Sundays is usually a food prep/cooking day. I work late on Mondays, so I usually make sure there is enough food for Sunday dinner, and Monday lunch and dinner. I cleaned out the frig. I was away for 2 days and there were all these mysterious things wrapped in aluminum foil and take out containers in there. Son #1 is a pizza delivery boy. The recycling bin was filled with pizza boxes! Then I cooked-- string beans and chickpeas in peanut sauce, pumpkin-corn muffins, and a roast chicken. There was leftover salad. Sometimes it's hard to get everyone on the same page, but "if you build it, they will come." I sure hope they come, because there's an awful big tub of string beans with chickpeas in peanut sauce!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


This morning I listened to a WGBH Morning Stories Podcast called Runner’s High. It is about a couple, both of them runners. The wife became seriously ill with an infection and almost died. It took her a long time to recover and eventually she was able to resume running. She then entered and completed a 7 mile road race. Her husband, of course, also participated. He finished first and when he saw her come across the finish line, he realized that running is not about fitness or competing, it’s about celebrating life and not taking a single day for granted. Then I saw Leslie’s post about Cardio Coach and the description of the couple in their 60’s, with kayaks on the top of the car and bicycles on the back, dancing in their seats because they are so excited about life and their adventures.

This is why I do what I do. So I can get on my bike on a beautiful summer day and feel the wind and take pictures of my friends. So I can travel and explore and eat more really delicious food. So I can run up the hill, because it’s there and because once you get to the top you get to run down the other side. So I won’t be afraid to try something new, especially something that is physically challenging. So I can listen to new music and let it flow inside me and make me move and dance. So I can look at my “personal best” and challenge myself to do better. So I can be a role model for other women my age to stop reading magazines on the freakin hamster wheel treadmill!!!

Then, I was in the weight room and I was walking behind a woman, roughly my age, maybe a little older. Let me tell you, the view was not pretty. She was wearing a velour track suit, sweat suit (not a drop of sweat on it), whatever you want to call it. That was not pretty either. She was in the weight room, with a friend, carrying her pocketbook around, from machine to machine. She was talking a lot and lifting a little.
This is also why I do what I do. This was scary. I do not want to be like her. She won’t be taking any “adventure vacations” anytime soon. I want DH and I to be wearing our hiking boots, bopping to the music, driving somewhere we’ve never been before with the bikes on the back of the car. No kayaks, though. We suck at kayaking. Ooooh, maybe we’ll take kayaking lessons so we can make the kayaks go straight and then we will like it and we can have kayaks on top of the car which we will buy for our 70th birthdays.

Monday, January 22, 2007

GSIU Week #3

The weekend featured the typical mix-- gym, cooking, laundry and Sunday football. Now watching football games means having a good dose of treats and junk food available. So, yesterday was not the greatest day, but I did get to the gym in the morning. Other than that, I had a good week.

1) I was in the gym 6 out 7 days. Some of those days, my workouts were limited, but something is better than nothing. And, I did initiate the once weekly Dab the Wussy challenge, with good success!

2) The GBE is still in full swing. I tried a smoothie featuring coffe yogurt and frozen bananas. I wasn't crazy about it, but DH liked it. He took it to work and had it for lunch. I had spilt pea soup. I even had a scrambled egg (hardly experimental, but I avoided cold cereal). So far, I like having soup for breakfast.

3) I did a good job planning my own meals, packing my lunch. I'm still feeding the carnivores, but I try to take care of myself first. So far, they haven't really noticed.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hills Volume 2

My legs are pretty much trashed. On Thursday, my trainer had her turn at turning them to rubber. On Friday I did my interval thing for an hour on the arc trainer. On Saturday morning, I took a spin class for an hour. I could barely walk up the stairs from the locker room carrying my gym bag (which probably weighs at least 10 pounds!).

My first playlist for the arc trainer/elliptical or other dab the wussy cardio device was getting a little boring. So here is Volume 2. Most of the songs are longer, closer to 4 minutes, seems to favor more classic rock. It runs for 1 hour.

Einstein on the Beach

Counting Crows



And We Danced

The Hooters



Time of the Season

The Zombies



Brown Sugar

Rolling Stones




Greg Kihn Band



Hope For Me Yet

Marc Broussard



Love is a Battlefield

Pat Benatar



Past Tense

Stefan Couture



Do Me A Favor

The Subdudes



Can’t Hardly Wait

The Replacements



Rock Me

The Doobie Brothers



Brown Skin Girl

Santana with Bo Bice



Mary Anne

Marshall Crenshaw



Can’t Hurry Love

Dixie Chicks



Gypsy Woman

Bruce Springsteen



Let it Rain

Eric Clapton



Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dab the Wussy and Beyond

1) My first attempt to Dab the Wussy was fairly successful. I took an endurance spin class which is 75 minutes. I rode hard, and I tried to keep myHR over 70%. The only problem was I started to get some side stitches. Nothing terrible, I was able to ride through it, but I did hold back a little. Still, my average HR was 5 bpm higher than usual. And I think I can push it even harder. I didn't get to the point where my eyes hurt yet.

2) GBF continues. Today I had split pea soup for breakfast. Son #2 was aghast.

3) Movies via Netflix. Last week it was Network. ''I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore'' with William Holden and Faye Dunaway. Great movie, especially when considered against today's TV programming. Yesterday I watched about half of Interview With the Vampire. I didn't bother to watch the second half. Feh. Sent it back this morning.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Do What Sucks at the Body Shop Until Your Eyes Hurt

I was perusing a copy of Bicycling Magazine that DH had brought home. There was a list of 10 Training Fundamentals. The article is also online. Here are my favorites:

Do what sucks.
You hate climbing because it's hard for you. You should climb--because it's hard for you.
This is my favorite. For me this is defintiely the hills, but it's also ABS. I avoid doing them because they are hard and quickly turn to pain. So I gotta get tough and do more crunches!

Ride at the edges. Once a week, go so hard your eyes hurt.
Yeah, I have been thinking about this. Too often I hold back to be sure I have enough left in the tank. Then when it's over, I think I could have gone harder. Can you go so hard your eyes hurt in spin class? Gonna find out.

Maintain the human machine. The gym is your body shop.
I do spend a good deal of the time at the gym, but I like the way this one sounds. This is more than just going to the gym, it's about getting the most out of the time I invest in fitness, whether at the gym or outdoors, and about making sure this human machine uses the best fuel.

So Step It Up in 2007-- Once a week, Do What Sucks at the Body Shop Until Your Eyes Hurt. I guess I should have another acronym for this-- DWSATBSUYEH. Now that is pretty hard to remember and even harder to pronounce. So using an angram server, I have decided that "Do What Sucks At the Body Shop Until Your Eyes Hurt" shall be known as "Dab the Wussy. "

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Gotta Step it Up Week#2

This is my first GSIU post and I think I had a good week. I concentrated on eating good quality food (reducing the amount of white food and processed carbs) and spreading it out to 4 meals. On days that I'm at work, eating in the late afternoon works well because I'm well fueled when I go to the gym after work. Then I eat a small dinner when I get home after working out. I also started the Great Breakfast Experiment. Today I had a bowl of wheatberries, orzo and cranberries salad which I made yesterday. It is very chewy and yummy and it definitely kept me going during Race Day spin class.

I had a great workout at the gym this morning. I took a spin class, then I did an UBWO, then I did something I haven't done in a long time-- I ran in the pool. When I got started, I was suprised at how much I felt it in my arms and shoulders, probably because I just finished the UBWO. But I settled down and ran 500 yards in about 25 minutes. I know I didn't get my heart rate way up, but it sure felt good. I was at the gym for hours! I had the time today, especially since I have the day off tomorrow. Gee, wish I could do this everyday!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Great Breakfast Experiment

I was reading some of the articles posted on the Core Performance website, and I came across this one. That's right gardening is NOT exercise. And neither is reading People magazine on the treadmill. Gardening and walking are better than nothing (and certainly better than sitting on the couch watching a football game with one hand in a bag of chips and the other hand caressing a 40 oz. soda), but they won't make you fit. You have to work hard to improve your fitness. It's all about the intensity. If you give a stress test (running on a treadmill as the intensity increases) to a whole bunch of people and predict which ones will live the longest, it's the people that can run the longest and the hardest. So, when I got to the gym last night, wasn't I all smug. I knew I was better than all the other middle aged ladies because I was doing intervals, watching my heart rate hitting 85-90%, huffing and puffing and sweating. They were reading their magazines and watching the evening news and chatting away. Seriously, I am so in the minority! There are very few women my age that take spin classes, and very few that do any sort of cardio with real intensity. I also know that for every woman my age that goes to the gym regularly there are probably 10 that never get any exercise, so at least these ladies are there burning some calories. But sometimes I want to yell at them, "you can do a whole lot better than that!!!" That's how you make friends and influence people at the gym, right? Tell them they are SLUGS!

Now, since the new year I have working very hard on the "calories in" part of the equation, and I am eating much better quality food. I am trying to avoid processed carbs and eat some protein at every meal, but I am struggling with breakfast. I have a little crockpot and I often set it up with a timer to cook a mixed grain hot cereal ( I mix a big batch of the grains using a recipe from Cooking Light. I keep it in the freezer and throw about 1/3 cup of the mix into the crockpot with about 1 cup of water). That has about 8 gm of protein, maybe a little more when I throw in some almonds and occasionally a little bit of milk. When I forget to set up the crockpot, I have a bowl of cold cereal and milk. That has about the same amount of protein, but I want to avoid the processed carbs. I think I should push up the amount of protein too, since I don't eat meat. I am struggling to come up with vegetarian alternatives that have a good amount of protein. I think I have to get out of the breakfast mindset and think about eating lunch at breakfast time. So I have been thinking about having soup and salads with whole grains for breakfast. My kids already think I have some strange eating habits! I also reserved a book on Smoothies through the library, but I don't think I'm really a smoothie kinda girl. Anyway, I will report back on the GBE - Great Breakfast Experiment

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Gotta Step it Up

I just stumbled upon Laurie’s blog, and found a bunch of inspiring ideas. She has declared 2007 as the year of “Gotta Step it Up.” She got this idea from Commodore, who wrote if you just had a theme to tie your life together for one year, then make 2007 your Year of Gotta Step It Up. (I am not able to open Commodore’s blog, not sure why). Laurie is planning to write a weekly summary on how she “stepped it up” during the previous week, hoping to show steady progress toward her goals. I think this is a wonderful idea! I will even tag those blog entries as GSIU. She has also promised to interact more with other bloggers by being a NaBloComHo (National Blog Comment Ho) during the month of January. Now, I have never committed to being a Ho, but I think I can do this! So I plan to spread a little “comment love” in the weeks ahead. Thanks Laurie!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

D4W Totally Rocks

Yesterday morning I was contemplating what to do on a day when the temperature at 8 in the morning was already over 60. The phone rang, bike shop calling, to tell me that my new bike had arrived, was built and ready to get fitted! Well, that settled the issue. Threw on bike shorts and a long sleeved jersey, grabbed my gear, threw the beloved Trek on the bike rack and headed for the bike shop. It took a while to get the saddle, pedals, and computer moved over to the new bike, but fitting it took almost no time, and we headed out for our first ride. We rode 15 miles on the bike path, which is relatively flat, but it was amazing how I immediately felt comfortable. The Trek is 20 years old, and I don't think they made D4W (designed for women) bikes then. I was lucky to find a frame that was small enough for me! But everything on the Dolce just fits! The handlebars are a little narrower so I can ride with my hands resting on the hoods, the break levers are smaller and easier to get my hands around, and the paint job is beautiful. So there I was on an afternoon in January, temperature about 68 degrees, cruising down the bikepath in shorts and a jersey, not even a jacket, bonding with my new bike. What a gift! Today Dolce and I rode up and down some hills. It was cooler today, but still hovering around 50 degrees. The gearing is definitely different on this bike, but once again, I felt totally one with the bike, feet, knees, back, hands all working together.

When I bought the bike, I was convinced that the warm weather would end as soon as the bike arrived and we would probably have a blizzard. It looks like this week will bring us closer to "seasonable" temps but I am so grateful that I had these 2 days to get to know Dolce, my Sugar Magnolia!

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Hills are Alive...With the Sound of Music

I can’t run right now, because of my right knee, so I have been using the elliptical and arc trainers (on days that I don’t take a spin class). Usually when I get on these machines, I spend 20 minutes at a fairly low intensity, so I sweat a little, burn a few calories, la dee daa. I decided I really need to pick up the pace, get my heart rate up to a respectable level, maybe even do some interval training, if I expect this to stand in for running. So I built myself a playlist and named it “Hills.” It is composed of 3-4 minute songs, 2 moderate to fast paced songs followed by a slow paced one: 3 minutes for taking it easy/recovery, 3 minutes for starting to crank it up, and 3 minutes for a full head of steam, really grinding it out. It worked great. First I played with the arc trainer, trying different inclines and resistance settings until I had 3 different settings I thought would work. Then I strapped on my heart rate monitor, plugged in my beloved light pink iPod Mini and did some “Hills.” With a few minor adjustments, I found my zones. The three song sets took my heart rate from 60-70% to 70-80% and 80-90%. About 45 minutes of that and I was soaked in sweat and feeling very pleased with myself. It’s not the same feeling as running, especially running outdoors, but this type of cardio workout will definitely get me through the winter months (if we ever have a winter—its going to be close to 70 degrees tomorrow!). And calling the orthopedist is on the top of my “To Do list.”

So here is the playlist I built. If you are interested in any (or all) of this music, just let me know. Unless I bought it from iTunes, I will be happy to email you the mp3. Or I can even burn you a CD. I love sharing music.

Do It Right//Jim Stärk//3:17 //2005
When You Were Young //The Killers// 3:40 //2006
Can't Find My Way Home //Steve Winwood //3:16 //1969
New Shoes //Paolo Nutini //3:21 //2006
Pump It Up //Elvis Costello & the Attractions // 3:17 //1978
The Weight //The Band //4:33 //1968
Take Your Mama //Scissor Sisters// 4:34 //2004
Atchafalaya Pipeline //Beausoleil //3:23 //1999
Wishlist //Pearl Jam //3:26 //1998
Baby I Need You're Lovin'// Michael McDonald// 3:19 //2004
Ride My See-Saw// The Moody Blues //3:41//1968
Someday// Nickelback// 3:27 //2003
Everybody Went Low //John Hiatt// 3:20 //2004
Annie Get Your Gun //Squeeze//3:24 //1989
Three More Days //Ray LaMontagne //3:36 //2006
Special //Workshop //2:48 //2004
Hands Open //Snow Patrol //3:15 //2006
Get to Me //Train //4:05 //2003
Please Don't Tell Her //Big Head Todd & the Monsters //4:07 //1997

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Non-Resolutions for 2007

I’m borrowing the concept from GeekGirl. Non-resolutions, things I will NOT do in 2007.

1. I will not become a vegan. I have thought about this, but quite frankly, I don’t have the motivation to pursue that lifestyle. Besides, eggs and cheese are among my favorite foods. Being a vegetarian is all I can handle at this point, especially living among the carnivores.

2. I will not start taking yoga classes. Like being vegan, it would probably be good for me, but I can’t do everything at the gym, and I want to focus on strength, cycling, and core.

3. I will not nag my husband. I never have done this, but I think it’s good to remind myself that nagging is bad. He has to do whatever needs to be done because he knows it needs to be done. I will, however, offer gentle reminders and point him in the right direction when he seems to lose his way.

4. I will not let son #1 go to college without cleaning out his bedroom. I think he can throw out the empty shoeboxes and sell the legos on ebay or something.

5. I will not buy a “snack for the ride home” in Grand Central Terminal, before getting on the train. Bad habit. Bad bad habit.

6. This one I am copying straight from GeekGirl: · I will not run any slower. This should be easy. I think if I did get slower I'd actually be moving backwards.

7. I will not do everything myself and then feel resentful that nobody else is doing their share. I will not expect my children to “just do it” -- this is a parental fantasy. Either I will ask for help around the house or the house is a mess. I can live with either of those options, and they are both better options that feeling all the resentment.

8. I will not buy a Nano unless my mini dies and I can’t get the battery replaced without breaking it (I’m working on getting the battery replaced).

9. I will not buy more workout clothes, unless something really needs to be REPLACED and it will fit in the one draw designated for workout clothes.

10. I will not make up stupid excuses for not working out. If I skip a workout, it is because I’m a slug.