The Ins and Outs of an Ordinary Life

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Time Warp

Yesterday I was coming home on the train and when I stood up to put on my coat, this man starting looking at me kinda funny. "Excuse me, but you look just like somebody I went to elementary school with, did you go to P.S. 76 in the Bronx?" Not only did this man recognize me after 40 years, but he remembered my name. How wild is that. I, on the other hand, didn't even remember him when he told me his name. He said he still has the class pictures and he's going to find them and call me so we can look at them and laugh at how dorky we were.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

UBE: The Cardio Frontier

Today I got a copy of the radiology report for the MRI of my right knee and I have been diagnosed with Grade III to IV Chondromalacia Patella involving the medial patellar facet. So I guess it is my knee afterall. Any diagnosis with "malacia" sounds bad. Mal means bad in Spanish, chondro means cartilage and patellar means knee. So this would translate to bad knee cartilage. But the good news is that it is treatable with PT and appropriate attention to strength training and stretching. I have a feeling that a better word is probably "manageable," that this will likely be a chronic problem that will cycle through flare-ups and calm-downs. But I might even have that 10k in my knees, if I'm lucky and I am mindful of not overtraining. I started PT last week, and that seems to be going OK. They have pulled me off of all cardio and lower body strength training for now, and they are starting to add in some very simple exercises and stretches. I tried to hold onto some cardio, I really did. First she said no spinning, so I said ok, no problem I'll use the arc trainer or elliptical. No. Well, then surely I can do some deep water running?? No. Ok, swimming, I can swim, right (You know I was getting desperate if I was begging for swimming)? But once agian the answer was No, because I probably swim so poorly that I use my hamstrings too much instead of my hip flexors and quads. She's got a point there. So tomorrow I am going to meet UBE, the Upper Body Ergometer, kinda a bicycle for your arms. Luckily, my gym has 1.

I must admit that I have used the "No Cardio" order to chill out and do some other things (besides driving 450 miles in big circles on the post-Valentine's Day FUBAR Adventure). I did some cooking, some reading, some extra internet surfing, and I watched American Idol. But I am starting to feel lazy. And not working out makes it easier to eat like crap because I'm just not in the right mindset. I'm looking forward to meeting UBE and doing an upper body workout.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Quality Part II--The Anti-Nutrients

The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure Energy and Weight Loss by Marc David

The Metabolic Power of Quality Part II

Eating quality food increases nutrient value and signals your brain to stop eating. Increasing quality decreases quantity. Eating good quality food also means decreasing the “anti-nutrients” in your diet: Poor quality fats, sugar, white flour, dairy and meats.

Poor quality fats are foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, margarine, and most fried foods. This includes most processed foods, such as crackers, cookies, frozen foods (have you read the ingredients on a loaf of bread lately?). Replace poor quality fat with high quality oils and foods. Use olive oil for cooking and butter for baking. Eat avocados, olives fresh fish, nuts and seeds, nut butters and organic milk, cheese and yogurt. Fat is an essential component of the cell wall of every cell in your body. Cell walls control the movement of biochemicals across their surfaces. If cell walls are bbuilt with poor quality fats, they become more rigid and less able to control chemical traffic. This may be associated with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Poor quality sugar includes high fructose corn syrup, white sugar and all artificial sweeteners. They are everywhere: soft drinks, juice drinks, snack foods, even protein bars. Replace them with organic juices, teas, and water. Use organic jams, fresh fruit and quality sweeteners—raw honey, maple syrup and barley malt. Artificial sweeteners may signal the release of insulin, and without the presence of sugar, signals the body to store fat. Food science states that all sugars are the same from a metabolic perspective, but the distinctions between these different energy sources and how they are metabolized is just beginning to be understood, and they are not all created equal (especially high fructose corn syrup).
Poor quality white flour is another ubiquitous anti-nutrient. These processed carbs cause spikes in insulin levels, followed by a crash and cravings for more sugar and carbs. All diets that reduce carbohydrates have an important tenet at their core: processed/refined carbs are the problem. Don’t eliminate carbohydrates, replace them with high quality grains, fruits and vegetables.
Poor quality dairy means mass-produced hormone-laden milk, cheese and yogurt. Replace with organic products. Evidence is mounting that milk is overrated as a quality food. Lactose intolerance and allergies to milk are rising. Try a week of milk/dairy free eating and see how you feel. You might be surprised. Try rice milk, almond milk and soy cheese as dairy free alternatives (almond milk in your oatmeal is heavenly).
Poor quality meats include processed meats, frozen prepared foods and meat from animals raised on industrial farms. Repalce them with organic/free range/hormone free meats. Eggs, too. Replace some of the meat with vegetarian sources of protein such as tofu. Our overreliance on animal protein is polluting the environment and causing disease.

Make a list of all the reasons why you can’t incorporate quality foods into your life—“not enough time,” “too expensive,” “kids won’t go for it.” Go through the list item by item and decide either:

  • it’s a stupid excuse, take it off the list.
  • I can find a way to manage this one
  • there’s wiggle room here, I can come up with a creative way to mange this some of the time
  • I can’t get around this one right now.
You may find ways to increase the quality of your food more of the time if not all the time.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Yes, the last 2 days have been fucked up beyond all recognition, but all is well and I’m glad I have a 3 day weekend. Son #1 is in London with a friend from camp, GirlT, visiting other camp friends in the UK. Getting Son#1 and GirlT on a plane to London was the essence of FUBAR.

GirlT lives in Small town PA, in the northeast corner of the state, but goes to school in Harrisburg, which is to the south and west. Valentine’s Day storm brought snow and mostly ice and Pennsylvania was hit very hard, to the point that several interstates were closed, trucks and cars are still embedded in 6 inches of ice. So GirlT was not able to get from Harrisburg to Smalltown on Thursday, as planned. She was able to get a bus to Scranton on Friday morning, which should have given us enough time to get from Scranton to the airport in Newark. So I agreed to drive to Scranton (about 2 hr drive) to pick up GirlT and drive both of them to Newark airport (another 2+ hrs). On our way out I spied Son#1’s cell phone on the table and said, “don’t forget your phone,” to which he replied, “I don’t need it ‘cause it won’t work over there anyway.” BIG MISTAKE. Parents, never allow your children to leave home without their cell phones.

We got to Scranton at about 4:00 without too much difficulty, but the bus hadn’t arrived yet. After a few telephone conversations, we figured out the bus was nowhere close to Scranton, that the bus driver had gotten lost and driven into at least 1 snow bank, and GirlT wasn’t going to make it (her bus didn’t arrive in Scranton until 9 pm). So Son#1 and I left for Newark Airport. This also was not too bad a drive, except for the part where we followed the signs to the airport (bad idea?) and had to drive through downtown Newark which took way too long. I dropped Son#1 curbside at 7:02 pm for an 8:30 flight. Then I headed north on the NJ Turnpike, on my way home (this is about a 90 minute drive). I needed gas and got off at the Vince Lombardi Service Area, where I had to wait about a half hour to get gas. It is now about 8 pm and I’m hungry so I had dinner there. I won’t even tell you what I ate for dinner, it resembled food, but I’m not sure. I finally got home about 10 pm, having started my journey at 1:30 pm, and when I walked in the door, DH looked at me and said, “he called 15 minutes ago, he got bumped.” I thought he was kidding. What a cruel joke! But obviously it wasn’t a joke. My 18 year old son was in Newark Airport at 10 pm with no flight, no cell phone, and no traveling companion. He said he would call back in about a half hour when he got things figured out. 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, no phone call. Now Son#1 is very responsible, this is very uncharacteristic, why hasn’t he called back. I didn’t want to be on the phone in case he was trying to call, (and did I mention that we do not have cell phone access from home so I couldn’t use cell phone to call the police), so I called my brother and asked him to try to call airline/airport/police. As soon as I hung up with my brother, Son #1 finally called at midnight from a hotel room, apologizing for not calling earlier, but no cell, no quarters, no open stores to get quarters, no airline staff willing or able to allow him to use their phones, has already asked 2 strangers if he could use their cell phones, runs off the shuttle bus so he can be the first person at the desk to get a room, runs to his room so he can finally get to a telephone to call us. When I hung up the telephone, I started crying. I couldn’t fall asleep for a couple of hours, despite being physically and emotionally wiped out. I’m surprised my anti-dinner stayed down.

So now Son #1 is rebooked on the same flight as GirlT, leaving Saturday night at 10 pm. His luggage is (hopefully) somewhere in Newark airport, and the airline has promised but not delivered a $700 voucher for getting bumped. On Saturday morning, I got back in my car, drove back to Newark airport, picked him up and went to visit my brother who lives less than a half hour south. We went out for lunch, sat around, watched a movie, it was actually quite a pleasant afternoon, and I hadn’t seen my brother in quite a while. We then set off for the airport, with directions that did not include driving through downtown Newark, and I dropped him off at 6:03 for a 10:00 pm flight. When I got home, DH looked at me and said, “where can I take you for dinner?” I did call Son#1 a little later, he and GirlT were all set, boarding passes in hand, luggage recovered and rerouted. Son#1 had fought and clawed until he got his voucher, I’m sure he is already thinking about how far $700 can take him! He called this morning from London, having arrived safe and sound, but exhausted.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

GSIU Week #6

This was not the best week overall for the GSIU campaign. I worked late couple of days, had a meeting a 3rd day, and got lazy for another day or two. So, I didn't get in the gym time I should have. When presented with a free lunch, I ate too much of the wrong thing. There were a couple of bright spots; the week was not a total disaster.
1) I had an MRI of my knee done on Wednesday and I will call the doctor tomorrow, but I am hopeful that the report will confirm the fact that my knee problem is not in fact a knee problem. I scheduled my first appointment for physical therapy for this Tuesday.
2) Yesterday I totally busted my a$$ at the gym. It was Dab the Wussy and Beyond. I took a body sculpting class that really got into my core and my shoulders. Then I took a spin class and just didn't hold back, until the last five minutes when I was really out of gas!
3) I tried a new food-- tempeh. Tempeh is made by a fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. It has a stronger flavor that tofu and a higher protein content. I made Barbecued Tempeh with Bell Peppers from the Vegetarian Times Cookbook and I loved it! Are you feeling adventursoy? Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tb rice wine vinegar
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp honey
8 ounces tempeh
1 cup sliced onion
2 red or green bell peppers, cut into strips
1/4 cup tomato paste
1-2 Tb molasses
1-2 Tb brown sugar
2 tsp mustard
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, and honey in a mixing bowl. Put the tempeh in the bowl, covering it with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. Turn occasionally. Drain the tempeh, reserve the marinade. Cut the tempeh into small cubes.
2. Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray (I actaully prefer to use a little olive oil) and heat over medium heat. Add onions and bell peppers amd cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the marinade, tomato paste, molasses, sugar, mustard, vinegar, garlic, chili powder and 3/4 cup water to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the tempeh, reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered until the mixture begins to thicken, maybe 10 minutes. Mash the tempeh slightly with a fork. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Per serving: 222 calories, 18G protein, 5G fat, 30G carb, 0 MG chol, 215 Mg Sodium, 7G fiber

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Murderous Tomatoes

The Metabolic Power of Quality, Part I
From The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure Energy and Weight Loss by Marc David

"Disregarding the Earth, its soil and the food web and not thoughtfully sharing with all our fellow eaters around the planet has pathological consequences, not the least of which is recorded in our food as energy and information and fed directly back to us."

Yes, what goes around, comes around.

"Consider, for example, the tomato.. If the soil it grows in is depleted, then the tomato has measurably low mineral content, less natural sugar and more acids, which means it will be tough, tasteless and nutritionally inferior. If it is sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, it will carry instructional messages to your body that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, and neurotoxic. If it is grown on an impersonal farm, the tomato will be lifeless and have no charm. If it is picked by an underpaid migrant worker who has no benefits and few worker's rights, then the tomato is hypocritical and lacks integrity. If it is chopped by a machine along with thousands of other tomatoes, delivered to a fast food joint, and slapped together with a bun and meat from a cow that suffered even worse trauma, then our tomato is now suicidal or even murderous, because it has lost its soul and has no reason to live."

Over the past few years, these ideas and concepts have become integral to my own beliefs about food and health. One of the reasons I devoured this book is because it articulates so many ideas that I practice, or it helped me find ways to practice some of my ideas. But I'm sure many people can't expand their concept of quality food beyond the walls of a food science lab. A tomato that has become murderous because it has lost its soul..... this may sound totally absurd to you, but not to me. I would put this is the category of "conventional wisdom." You know it is true even though it has not been proven in a laboratory. I'm not saying science is bad. I'm just not always willing to wait for science to validate a concept before I accept it as truth.

If you believe in murderous tomatoes, then elevate the quality of your food. Quality means: Real. Fresh. Organic. Homemade. Locally produced. Filled with true flavor, not virtual ones that mask the absence of nutrients and vitality.

If you don't believe in murderous tomatoes, then stayed tuned for Part II on the metabolic power of quality.

Monday, February 05, 2007

GSIU Week #5

The theme of the week was finding the time to do things right. I cleaned out the frig, I cooked some good foods, I brought my lunch to work 4 out of 4 days. But when I was pressed for time, I fell back on some old habits. A bagel with dinner, cold cereal for breakfast.
The most significant accomplishment of the week was a visit to the orthopedist in the continuing saga of my right knee. The good news is that he doesn't think the problem is my knee. He thinks I have really tight hamstrings and that is causing the pain and stiffness when I run. The bad news is that he wants me to have some phsical therapy at a "magical" place where he sends world class ballerinas and dancers and they do not accept my insurance. So I need to talk to him about choosing between magic and $1000. In the meantime I am having an MRI on Wednesday to be sure it is not my knee.

I did Dab the Wussy on the arc trainer. I actually tried to see how high I could push my heart rate. Talk about anaerobic! And the Great Breakfast Experiment continues. I haven't eaten anything really weird for breakfast, but I did avoid cold cereal 6 out of 7 days. I read The Slow Down Diet this week and I have been trying to incorporate some of these principles into my daily life. One of the things he talks about is listening to your gut and being more aware of how you feel after meals. On Saturday I made a vegetable soup with shirataki noodles. These are noodles that are made from tofu and I never ate them before. After eating a bowl of this soup I felt really full-- almost uncomfortable. I didn't go to the gym because of this. So, I won't be eating anymore shiratake noodles.

My "week" begins on Sunday. There is no doubt that I will spend the rest of week #6 trying to recover from the Super Bowl Overconsumption Spectacle. It goes beyond food at the party, although that is the biggest piece. Time to accept the artic blast as nature's way of saying it's okay to shift into a lower gear, and focus on self instead of getting caught up in all the media hype about alot of things that really don't matter. At least until baseball season starts.

Breathe More, Burn More

The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure Energy and Weight Loss by Marc David

The Metabolic Power of Relaxation

Although stress is a normal part of living, the stress response is designed to function for a few minutes in life-threatening situations (e.g. running away from the saber-toothed tiger). When exposed to chronic stress such as trying to juggle a full-time job, family obligations and keeping a home in order, the prolonged physiologic stress response begins to wear us down. Stress causes a shift in the central nervous system to shut down the digestive system. You can eat the healthiest meal, but if you do it while answering the phone, reading emails and preparing for the big meeting, your digestive system is not prepared to metabolize it optimally. It has been shown that stress hormones block the assimilation of calcium and increase its secretion. Thus, stress has an effect on bone density.

The answer is vitamin T: Time. Relax. Increase the amount of time you spend at a meal. Try to allow yourself at least 30 minutes for lunch and dinner. If you cannot eat at your desk without “unplugging,” then find another place to eat your lunch. Make a conscious effort to become a slow-eater. To help you relax and become a slow-eater, practice conscious breathing. Metabolizing your food requires oxygen and conscious breath will increase your oxygen intake. You need to get your metabolic furnace turned up to burn your food. Before you begin eating, take 2 or 3 deep breaths. This will signal your body and your brain that it is time to shift into a relaxed state and allow your digestive system to come “online.” Breath is a vital part of our diet. Consciously consume oxygen at every meal. When you breathe more, you burn more.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Slow Down Diet

The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure Energy and Weight Loss by Marc David

I don’t remember where I heard or read about this book, but I reserved it at my library and I have been ripping through it. There is a good deal of wisdom in this book. Although it is supported by scientific evidence, the strength of the book lies in allowing you to acknowledge these principles and making them part of your daily life. The basic premise is that the pace at which we live our lives has a profound effect on our metabolism. The result is a diminished ability to draw nutrients and produce energy from our food. We are left with little pleasure from our meals, and a physiological reason to eat more and accumulate more fat. The antidote is “slowing down:” become more aware. Open. Centered. Present. Balanced. An alignment of body and mind will cause changes in your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems that will result in the ability to burn calories at an optimal rate. He identifies 8 universal metabolizers: relaxation, quality, awareness, rhythm, pleasure, thought, story and the sacred. I think I will do separate posts on each of these, as I read, reread, and ponder.