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‘Health’ Category

  1. American Fat

    August 22, 2013 by 25hoursadaymom

    My title is not to suggest that obesity is not a problem anywhere else, just that I’m an American and so I can see with my own eyes where this stereotype comes from.  The statistics on obesity in America are totally astounding. The rate of increase is astounding. If this were simply a matter of lots of folks who look bad in a bikini, that would be one thing, but there’s a whole shopping-cart-load of diseases that like to travel with obesity. It should alarm you for your own health, if not for the health of the nation as a whole.

     

    Why are we so fat and getting fatter? I understand this is a complex and multi-faceted problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth asking. Here are some causal suggestions:

    • Americans eat large amounts of food (i.e, excessive calories)
    • Americans eat a lot of “junk” food (i.e, fast food, cookies, soda, candy, donuts…)
    • Americans sit around on their butts watching America’s Got Talent
    • Americans are too busy to make healthful homemade meals, so…. (see Point #2)
    • Americans are just genetically big

    All of these correlates are interesting to me because, while one or more of these points can be said about almost all of us (at least some of the time), it doesn’t fully explain how Americans of every stripe – East Coast, West Coast, Republican, Democrat, Deep South or Uptight Northeast are trending fatter on the whole.

    Then, too, I become curious because I have heard so often someone saying they do not understand why they keep gaining – they exercise, they don’t eat such a lot of food and not as unhealthy as you might assume, yet fatter they get. Why? I’ve heard the lament often enough that I cannot imagine they are all lying or have no self-awareness. Clearly, something is going on.

    I personally don’t struggle much with weight. I am predisposed towards leanness. But I have had a hard time for the last few years with nearly constant digestive squirreliness. This makes my gut bloat or retain water or just plain look like a sack of potatoes (which, could be telling, actually). In extreme cases, I will be in gastric agony until I sleep it off. Eliminating dairy products a few years ago helped, but it didn’t turn me around completely. It was puzzling.

    I’ve long considered the possibility that gluten could be a part of the picture; I’ve even had the blood serum screening for Celiac done once or twice.  I didn’t really want to know this could be the problem, if I’m honest, because life without gluten seemed to me super-hard and no fun at all.

    Through a combination of curiosity about the fattening of America and my own concerns about my belly, I wound up downloading the book Wheat Belly and beginning to read it. Author William Davis makes a mighty good case for why wheat (of today) is not the Staff of Life that it once might have been. I decided abruptly to chuck the wheat in my diet and see if any of my problems resolved. I did not finish reading this book, however, when I stumbled onto two other more pertinent books.

    I discovered the two books Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat, both by Gary Taubes.  These two books were salve for my research-starved mind on this subject. Seriously. Every single American should at least read Why We Get Fat. People who like science and research should also read Good Calories, Bad Calories. Why We Get Fat really does explain why and, what is more, I believe Taubes is almost assuredly correct. I hate to spoil the surprise for anyone who wants to read it for themselves, but you could Google it and find out the gist anyway, so I’ll tell you. The two major principles he speaks to that I believe are correct are: 1) You have a genetic predisposition to be a given size; and 2) It’s the carbohydrates.

    Every muffin, every pizza, even my much-beloved homemade bread is working hard to make me fat. (Luckily, I won the gene lottery.) Every tablespoon of sugar in my coffee (okay, two), every beautiful angel-hair pasta with homemade meat sauce, every Hershey’s Perfect Chocolate Cake (seriously, the best recipe for chocolate cake ever created), and yes, Virginia, even every apple, orange and Ranier Cherry is a tank of carbs well-armed to squeeze me out of my favorite jeans. It has nothing to do with the butter I spread on the bread. It’s the bread.

    Never in a million years did I think I would find sense in restricting carbohydrates. I have watched friends try Atkins, lose a bunch of weight, then return to mashed potatoes and gain it all back, with company. But Taubes’ books make SO much sense, I cannot help myself. He’s right as rain.

    So, I started my little “diet plan” by taking out wheat or, essentially, going gluten-free. This was on July 4th (obviously, the *perfect* time to change your diet). I weathered the holiday sans buns for my hot dogs, refusing the Magic Bars, and not eating bagels. The first thing I can say with a fair amount of confidence is that either wheat specifically or gluten in general is what gets my intestines all out of whack. Dairy may also share some blame, but if there’s a major culprit, it’s gluten. Since going GF, my stomach has not bloated one bit. Before, I had strategic packages of Gas X everywhere, so I would never be found without it. They were in my purse, my car, my desk drawer, my nightstand and my backpack. I haven’t had any digestive potions since before July 4th; I haven’t needed them once.

    As I continued to read on, I moved away from just gluten to a more expanded view of restricting carbs on the whole. Essentially, I’m eating mostly in the Paleo dietary style.  Now I see other benefits. I am not hungry. I don’t crave sweet things. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on stuff I want.  I’ve lost my addiction to carbs, I believe. And my belly is almost as flat as an army bedsheet.

    That's me right now with no bloat.

     

    I am doing a lot of investigation on this topic and do plan to research some of the studies that Taubes cites in his books. I want to see them for myself. See if I come to the same conclusions. Anecdotally, the Paleo dietary theory does appear to work for me as expected. I plan to write much more about this topic. Comments on this matter are welcome as I explore.

     

    -Danielle

     

    P.S. I have no financial affiliation with, or paid endorsement of, any of the linked sites or materials. 


  2. Running Do-Over

    August 3, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    This is an update since my whiny running post, when I thought I would die running ten steps in the heat. I’ve continued running, had my best run yet on Wednesday, (4 miles) and am signing up for a 5K today. I altered a bunch of things, so I want to outline them.

    First, I learned more about eating high protein, lower carb first thing in the morning. I have always been a serious skeptic of all things low-carb, but since something was apparently not working for me in my current diet, I gave that skeptical view more consideration. I truly thought there was not a chance I could eat several hundred calories for breakfast and not watch my weight go up, up, up. Especially because we eat for real dinners, later than you’ve ever heard of unless you hail from Europe.  But I had read a bunch of gobbledegook about the glycemic index and spiking blood sugar and the need for “slow burn” and protein repairing muscles and other jargon and I figured I had nothing to lose; bring on the eggs.

    Turns out eggs (sometimes bacon) early in the morning does appear to produce long-burning energy. At least, in my study of one, I found that since eating my high-protein breakfasts, I have not had another pooped-out, dying-for-a-break run like the one I posted about last.  Not only am I not gaining weight, I am down to my driver’s license weight again, which is pretty much the Holy Grail for me. I’m paying a lot of attention to glycemic index on the whole and my weight is not doing that crazy up-two-pounds, down-one, back-up-three insanity of a couple months ago.

    Second, I’ve been dabbling with running barefoot. Most of my runs have included a portion where I take off my shoes and run around the baseball fields, through the grass and the sand at home plate. I’m playing Kenya runner, I guess. My thoughts on running barefoot is that it is incredibly better than running shod. There’s a technique to it; you don’t just kick off your shoes and beat your heels on the concrete. There’s a type of stride that goes with it, a very joint-friendly, natural gait that is energizing and tactile, especially in the grass and/or sand.

    A lot of people now are running in minimalist shoes or five-fingered shoes to get barefoot-ish runs without the “stepping on sharp stuff” fear.  The jury is out for me on those. I did order a pair of Merrill barefoots from Zappos, but they are not five-fingers and, while I expect I will just plain like them as shoes, I have no idea if they will give me enough of what I love about barefoot running if I do try to wear them for that. We’ll see. For the 5K, I’m planning to run with my regular shoes and socks.

    Third, my dear brother told me about the phone app Map My Run.  This is perfect. Exactly what I needed. There is a huge psychological benefit in getting stats on your run.  Not having any idea if I was making it a mile or two or four or what and with what pacing was very discouraging. The only issue with this right now is that I need an armband for my phone; carrying it in my hand is awkward.

    So, the only thing I’m looking for right now is more variation on what I could eat for breakfast that is high protein and low carb besides eggs. (Also not dairy; I cannot eat dairy.) I did just discover Quinoa and, while I do love my Quinoa with Black Beans, that still is (maybe?) not as much protein as a few eggs/egg whites are. I don’t want to resort to protein shakes or manufactured stuff; I’m looking for straight-up food that is easy to prepare at 7:00 am. I’m open to suggestions.

     

    -Danielle

     


  3. Running on Empty

    July 18, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    I feel like a loser weakling today, much like I felt two running-days ago. I’ve been keeping up the running, though I started running according to the program in Beginning Runner’s Handbook.  A couple of injuries led me to stop running all-terrain through the woods and to switch to the beautiful Western Regional Park not far from my home. Nicely laid-out asphalt running trails provided courtesy of Howard County deep-pocketed taxpayers. Seriously, that is one incredibly nice park.

    So, I’ve been running in run/walk intervals according to the book and was doing just fine, thankyouverymuch. But I am having a very hard time with 3/1 intervals for 40 minutes.  I have not made it through the whole set successfully yet. I’ve bailed twice now, with about 2 more intervals to go.

    I have no idea why I’m breaking down so early, and by “early” I mean compared to the visions I had of one day sticking a “13.1” or “26.2” sticker on my van. I’m already seriously reconsidering the 8k I thought I would run in August with my friend. I’m ready to hurl my Pineapple Smoothie all over the fine Western Regional trail before a marathoner would even break a sweat. It’s very demoralizing.

    Now, although I am running pretty early – 7:00 – 7:30ish – it has been hotter than the seventh stage of the Underworld around here, and I never have been too durable in the heat. So, when I’ve only run 6 intervals and I’m already sweating like a steer at the county fair, it may have something to do with our record-setting heat. But maybe that’s just a lame excuse. I really think it should not be so terrible difficult just to get a few miles under my belt on a regular basis.

    I have already been to the doctor a couple of months ago and everything they checked me for was good. No thyroid problems, no metabolic issues, good hemoglobin scores.  Did they miss something, though? Anemia? Lyme Disease? Or am I just in age denial? Or am I just being a weenie who needs to push a little? I don’t know. But today I feel like a loser non-runner self-deluded slug. Advice appreciated.

     

    -Danielle


  4. Blending Trumps Juicing

    May 31, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    I’ve been giving a lot of thought and some research to this Juice Fast thing. For the time being, I’ve decided to continue with blending once or twice a day and not do the juice fast until/unless I happen upon a juicer that is cheap or free. I’m always leery of new ideas or directions that require you to spend a bunch of dough before you can see if there’s any benefit and juicing gives me a strong vibe in that vein.

    I’m also not convinced that it is necessary to go as extreme as the juice fast, at least, not for someone in generally good health without a ton of extra fat. I’ve already lost a couple of pounds just by blending once or twice a day and by keeping it clean over Memorial weekend, when I clearly could have scarfed a bunch of my mother-in-law’s “Magic Bars.” (Yes – I always say, they are magical – Abracadabra! Ten extra pounds! They’re killer delish, though.)

    I’ve mostly made smoothies in the same genre as the one I first mentioned: pineapple, banana and strawberry, sometimes with coconut oil, sometimes without. (I still can’t make up my mind about that atrocious saturated fat aspect.) Today I made my first honest-to-goodness Green Smoothie, which I wanted for nutrition’s sake, but had serious doubts about drinking. It looked like this:

    It was made from:

    1 banana

    about 1 cup of crushed ice

    1 apple, peeled and cored

    1/2 head of romaine lettuce.

    I cannot say it tasted delicious, wonderful, amazing or on par with that Raspberry Sorbet I had at Drover’s last week, but it was palatable and approached tasty. My youngest even drank some. Then he burped and said his burp smelled like barf, so your mileage may vary. I think there’s just a natural revulsion to drinking a green liquid, which we no doubt associate with pond scum, caterpillar guts or rotten cheese, but if you can get past it and judge it strictly on actual taste, you’ll be fine. Besides – I need the Vitamin A; I can’t see worth a darn.

    Should you be wondering, I don’t have a fancy-schmancy blender, either; no VitaMix or BlendTech here. I just have a garden-variety Oster that was probably a wedding present 17 years ago. I did just see that Consumer Reports ranks a blender called the Ninja on par with the $400 VitaMix and it’s only $60. If I needed a new blender, I would be trying out the Ninja. Proof that it’s not always the money that determines the quality. Oh! And also – over the weekend, I made some smoothies at our beach house and the only blender we have there is an Oster most likely from the 1940’s or similar time period. Very exceedingly old. Worked great.

    I’m always in favor of using what you have if it will suffice and that is why I’m continuing with the Smoothie thing for now.

     

    -Danielle


  5. The Juice Fast

    May 25, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    I admit. I’m intrigued. My son’s baseball coach has just finished the 10-day juice fast a la Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.  He was telling my husband and me about how good it made him feel (after the difficult first 3 days), how he lost 10 pounds and how even his mental acuity was maximized. Never one to shy away from something bizarre and fringe-sounding, I naturally pulled out my calendar and instantly started figuring out when I could feasibly do the fast myself.

    That was last weekend. Since then, I’ve looked up testimonies and asked other people about it. I also watched the movie as well. I’m batting around considerations such as “masticating juicer vs. centrifugal juicer,” a topic I had never heard of until days ago. The only thing keeping me from doing the juice fast starting right this minute is that I’m always slow to buy another gadget. (Well, that and Memorial Weekend food, but I digress.) The Goodwill store is filled with Ab Rollers, Bread Machines, Total Body Gyms and CrockPots from all the people who hear about something and blaze a path to the store to buy a brand new gadget, only to fall quickly off the wagon and never row/bake/slow-cook/massage/whatever again in their lives. Might there even now be juicers – masticating or centrifugal – at a Goodwill near me? I wonder…

    So, what are my issues, you might ask, that would lead me to shun cupcakes and Mike’s Hard for ten days? Well, there’s that god-forsaken “middle-age spread” that’s always nice to avoid. I gained five pounds a couple of months ago and for the time being, it looks like it’s taking up permanent residency. Sort of snuck in under the border fence while I was away with my girlfriends for the weekend and now it thinks it has a right to a driver’s license and a free education.

    Then there are the interesting things nature does with the feminine cycle after the fourth decade of life has broken on the horizon, but I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say, normalizing phytonutrients would be welcome there, too.

    And – okay, I’ll admit it – there’s just something appealing about the challenge. Sort of like, can I beat coffee? And Nachos? (Not the ball-field weird yellow disks with orange glop in the corner of the plastic tray, mind you, but serious nachos, with jalapenos and pico de gallo and spicy beef that makes my nose run – that is what I fear I’d miss!) I’d like to see what could happen. Call it a science experiment.

    This morning, having no juicer yet, I made a fruit smoothie for breakfast, on the thinking that this was at least in the same direction. Here’s what I had:

    About 1/2 cup fresh pineapple

    4-5 strawberries

    1 banana

    1 T coconut oil

    Blend it up. Knock it back.

     

    It was delicious. I am only just now experimenting with coconut oil and can’t make up my mind how I feel about the saturated fat aspect. I will say this, though: the smoothie was completely satisfying. I was not hungry at all until about 1:00. That could be the fat. Coconut oil is supposed to be good for your thyroid, which I may very well require. I don’t know; I haven’t decided about that.

    If I do decide to do the juice fast and work up the nerve to buy an appliance that has the strong potential to wind up in the appliance graveyard, I will blog about it here. If you have any experience with the juice fast, or with raw diets in general, I’m all ears.

     

    -Danielle


  6. See Jane Run

    April 26, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    Like all great ideas, it started out as an innocuous little seed.  I was reading a book by Wayne Dyer and came across a portion where he said he has run 8 miles each day for decades, never missing a single day. My inner OCD over-goaler was impressed. I imagined the commitment of engaging in that. But make no mistake, I wasn’t considering running myself; I have always loathed and detested running for exercise.

    The next seed actually came with a little fertilizer and watering as well. A young lady in my Speech class at college gave her speech on why it was better to run for exercise outside, rather than indoors on a treadmill. Again – doesn’t apply, I never run for exercise and don’t have a treadmill or a gym membership. Still, she said a few things that intrigued me.

    To begin with, running outside burns more calories than running on a treadmill, she argued. You have many terrain changes and atmospheric conditions to adapt to, and that burns more calories than just running along on a smooth treadmill. Hmm. Good point.

    She also mentioned that running outside is more intellectually interesting than running inside on a treadmill. You run a treadmill looking at TV or maybe reading a book, but in any case, you aren’t focused on your exercise, you’re really just trying to get it over with.

    She did have a few other very good points, but those were the two that really gave me food for thought.  While I don’t have a treadmill and never run for exercise, I do have a recumbent bike that I ride for aerobic exercise. By the end of her speech – assisted, no doubt, by the fact that we were then enjoying beautiful, pristine spring weather – I had begun to consider that maybe, perhaps, on an occasional perfectly clement day in the near future, I would exchange riding my bike in the bedroom for running outside on our bike track.

    That is precisely what I did. And then I almost tossed my cookies from exhaustion.

    I was amazed that someone who has factored exercise in for decades (me) could be so incredibly unequal to the task of real-life exertion. I could not believe how physically un-fit I actually was (am).  Discovering I had such a glaring inadequacy of health was all it took for me to instantly decide that I must run every day. I was hooked.

    So, now I run. Every day but Sunday and not if it’s pouring down rain (I lucked out this morning, though, because the rain held off until I was finished).  I can’t really say I love it, but I like what it represents by committing to it. And now I can at least get around the track without feeling like I’ve gone a few rounds trapped in the washing machine. I’m a long way from 8 miles, though.

    -Danielle