Thursday, March 29, 2007

Selfish or Healthy?

Well, Mom is spending her first day "at home" today. Except she's been everywhere but home. Ed is with my parents in Taunton right now while I'm home near Worcester. My parents and Ed made an executive decision and gave me the day off. I feel a little guilty about it, but Ed is between jobs right now and they've been running errands all day. I suggested to my mother that I come down before class and she sounded a little tense. Apparently my evil sister-in-law is coming down with the grandkids and my mother is afraid that I'll scare my nephews.

So I'll spend the day tomorrow. My brother and his family will be moving that day, so my mom can breathe easy. If I sound like I'm rationalizing, it's because I am. Why is it so hard to take a day off? As a society, I think we often put others before ourselves, not even taking a break when we need it. I don't think that's the way to better health. But I don't think taking a day off if you can't do it without self-flagellation is any good either. Why is it we have such a hard time saying this is what I need to stay healthy?

The doctors agree that my mother's heart attack was from stress. Stress she had been holding in and not dealing with because she put everyone else's comfort first. Where is the line between taking care of ourselves and being selfish? I think Americans often have a heard time recognizing the difference. For example, Ed is spending the day with my parents today so I can catch up on some work. So I told him that I would spend tomorrow with my parents while he stays home and relaxes. He's fighting me on it right now. Not because he doesn't need a break, but because in his heart of hearts, he feels like it is morally wrong to do something for himself if everyone else's needs aren't met.

In turn, my parents are insisting their fine because they don't want to be a burden or to selfishly absorb our time. So they would rather disobey doctor's orders rather than have us take time to help them out.

I have no words of wisdom here. I can only say what I've observed is that in general our society doesn't seem to have a healthy attitude. We either can't seem to take care of ourselves because we're too busy taking care of others or we only take care of ourselves and don't even notice others around us.

So when is it okay to be selfish?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What a Week

My mother came home from the hospital tonight. The doctors did not find any blockages or damage to her heart. So, again, thank you for all of you who are pulling for her. It looks like she's going to be okay.

What the doctors believed happened is that my mother got so stressed out that she actually shocked her heart. She claims it was my engagement -- a day she thought she'd see sometime after the Apocalypse.

But needless to say we're all very happy to have her home. Her and my dad are going to need us around a bit more, but things are looking positive.

And Tess, I have no idea how people can be so cold. I'm just glad I relieved my stress before I had a heart attack myself. I'm still grinning about it!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Getting Healthy

Thanks to Tess and others for their prayers. My mother and I both appreciate them. She's still in the hospital tonight. They're running more tests tomorrow.

More and more, I realize there are all different kinds of ways to be healthy. One can just be putting your anger in the right place. Doctors believe my mother's heart attack may have been stress-induced. A fancy way of saying she's holding her anger in. So today I did my heart good and let some of my anger out.

My sister-in-law is a raving witch (substitute that for the word of your choice). I called her and my brother today to ask them if they could give my father a ride to a doctor's appointment. They said they were too busy. She suggested that my parents face up to the fact that they need to hire someone to take care of them.

She constantly says that it's not her and my brother's responsibility to help our. She's also naturally thin and blond, so she's always good for throwing a few snide weight-related remarks my way. Finally today four years of anger came tumbling out, mixed in with a lot of four-letter words.

I suppose I should feel bad for losing control of my temper. But I have to tell you -- I feel great. I feel about 20 pounds lighter. I took control and refused to allow myself to be bullied any more. Even better... they agreed to give my father a ride.

So look at that person that's really making your life miserable. Then, tell them off. It feels as good as going for a run. And all that stress really can land you in the hospital.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Holy Cow

That about sums it up. This has been a crazy weekend. Ed and I headed to Chicago, the culinary Paris of the Midwest. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks. We spent the weekend walking around and eating deep dish pizza.

But I have new motivation to stay in shape.

Ed proposed.

I'm not kidding, even though I thought he was when he asked me. We were in Millennium Park, in front of The Bean, when Ed dropped to one knee and proposed. Even better, there were teenagers nearby who erupted into cheers when I said yes. It was a blast. Here's a picture Ed and I took of The Bean at night. Notice the Chicago skyline reflected in the background.

Needless to say, I'd like to be a slender and lithe bride, but I'll settle for average.

On a more serious note, my mother had a heart attack today. I wish I could say I didn't see this coming, but she's overweight, doesn't watch what she eats and avoids exercise at all costs. Even the slightest physical exertion leaves her flushed and breathless.

It happened today while she was at work. She felt chest pains radiating down her left arm, so she decided to make a doctor's appointment. For tomorrow. No kidding. Fortunately, she works in a doctor's office and they called 911.

But I can see myself in her. We're built the same. In the future I'm stiff from lack of exercise, my heart is out of shape and even getting up off the couch requires some effort. I was kind of thinking that when I'm 65, Ed and I will be riding camels through Egypt and I'll be whining about the hot sun. I don't want to spend the retirement years sitting in a hospital bed with oxygen up my nose.

So I've had two big kicks to get up and get working out. Time to break out the Denise Austin and get moving.

And if you're reading this, say a quick prayer for my mom.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Welcome to 2007

Okay, I'm trying a podcast here. I spent the weekend talking to some of my fellow waitresses about the challenges of staying fit and healthy when you're surrounded by food. It was a lot of fun to hear different points of view, and it definitely proved I'm not alone. None of us are. Anyway, here are the results:

Get Fit and Creative

While surfing the news for the latest in health and fitness, one thing I noticed today is there is an awful lot of stories about ways to make fitness more interesting. It seems like the newest and best thing is something that can promise us a little change from the daily fitness grind.

I don't know what it is about exercise, but doing it day after day can get boring. Especially if you don't vary the routine. Every now and then it also comes up in fitness news that if you don't vary your fitness regimen, not only do you get bored, but your body gets bored, and starts burning calories more efficiently. In other words, you're working your butt off, but it's not going anywhere.

So a couple of thoughts on this:

Skip an exercise routine. Just try to move for 30 minutes every day in whatever way strikes your fancy. If you're in the mood to take a walk, don't deny yourself the pleasure because it's your strength-training day.

If you can, work out with a friend. Even if the routine is the same, the conversation will be different. Just be wary of this. When a friend of mine had a baby a few years ago, we tried doing an exercise tape together every day. At one point we spent the entire morning in our sweat pants, eating Oreos, playing with the baby and watching Jerry Springer. So maybe it's better to work out with an acquaintance.

Join a gym. Many of them offer free classes to members. Then you have built in variety -- and access to the latest trends. There's an article in about Zoomba, a mixture of aerobics and Latin dance that's making an appearance in gyms. There's also belly-dancing, Pilates, yoga, boxing and even pole dancing.

Use a medicine ball. These can add a new challenge to your strength training. And, if you happen to be a bit of a klutz (yes, my boyfriend calls me Donzilla), just trying not to fall off the ball can bring a whole new challenge to your workout.

And finally, for those who can, try a personal trainer a few times a week. They can tailor a workout especially for you, including functional fitness. What's more motivating than someone who's sole purpose that day is to get you out of bed and working out?

Please note, these are just my thoughts on fitness, and I'm certainly not a doctor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sometimes, Bigger is Just Bigger

The Stockton Record out in California (that haven of all things slim) has a great article about portion sizes. Typically restaurants serve enough food per plate to feed two people. The article, written by Sara Cardine, discusses how these large servings are beginning to affect what we eat at home. Namely, Americans are all out of whack when it comes to determining a portion size. It even comes with a handy-dandy guide to portion sizes. Some myths the article addresses as well:

Myth: Eating the correct portion sizes and amounts will never fill me up.
Fact: The stomach has an amazing ability to stretch and shrink to accommodate your intake. When you eat less, eventually a shrunken stomach will register fullness faster.

Myth: I'm a man and I need my meat.
Fact: "People think of protein as only meat," restaurant consultant John Britto said. "There are lots of other proteins in your diet." These include beans, nuts, seeds and eggs.

Myth: Now I'll never be able to eat out.
Fact: When you order your food at a sit-down restaurant, ask for a to-go box and put the extra aside for future meals.

Myth: It'll cost an arm and a leg to buy all those fruits and vegetables.
Fact: Buying produce in season will cut costs. Frozen versions, packed with all the same nutrients, are another option. Bad food and big portions can cause serious health risks in the long run, dietitian Rosario Aguirre said. "Is that worth the money?"

It's funny this article comes out now. I was watching my boyfriend's youngest daughter eat last night. She had an appetizer, an entree and dessert. But she only had a little bit of each. She started with mozzarella sticks, leaving some on her plate simply because she was done. I thought she was full, but no, she then ate about half her pizza. Finally, she finished up with a small serving of ice cream. While her food choices aren't all I could wish for, I love her eating style. Somehow she has a handle on how much she can eat of any one course and still save room for what's coming up. Not me. I eat until it's gone. Then, if I'm too full, I soldier on, since I ordered it, the food is so good, this is my favorite part of the meal, or whatever excuse pops into my head.

I don't think I need add that my boyfriend's daughter is naturally skinny. Which prompts me to ask, how many "naturally thin" people instinctively have better habits? I'm sure hereditary, and sometimes medical conditions play a role in our weight, as well, but perhaps there is more in our control than we realize. Perhaps part of "hereditary fat" is simply bad habits that are passed on from generation to generation. I'm going to try to eat like my boyfriend's daughter this week and see what happens.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Eat a Veggie

The Columbus Dispatch reported that only one-third of Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables. Most alarming is that this number falls short of the government's goal of getting 75 PERCENT of Americans to eat two fruits and only 50 PERCENT of Americans to eat three veggies a day. So the message I'm getting here is even our government doesn't think we can exist as a healthy nation. Only 50 percent of us will ever reach a healthy lifestyle. Talk about being doomed to failure.

That said, a Newton, Mass., woman is putting out a skin care line that will give skin plenty of fruits and veggies. It's called Be Fine Food Skin Care. The Boston Herald reported the skin care line, which includes avocado, pomegranate, mushrooms, etc. will be available in CVS stores. I haven't tried the line myself, though, so don't take this as a recommendation. I just think it's a neat idea.

Perhaps we could just eat a little moisturizer each day.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The High and Low (Tech) of Weight Loss

It seems that what's old is new and what's new is new in the world of weight loss this week.

First up, there's a cool new site for those interested in using their computer to monitor their weight. It's called Weight Loss Pal. It's a free Web site that will let you keep an online food diary, log your weight each week, upload photos as your body changes and create a chart that graphs your weight loss. You log in, so your progress (and fat-day photos) are not available for everyone to see. Definitely worth a look-see. Many researchers say keeping a food diary can help those looking to change their lifestyle see where they slip up and realize exactly how much they're eating. I'm not sure I really want to know. But I guess to get healthy, I've got to face the ugly facts. Sometimes, I think a tapeworm would be easier. ; )

In the vein of tried-but-true advice, Hamilton Erridge has written "Creating Your New Lifestyle." His says those who want to lose weight must change their lifestyle and their habits. While this isn't big news, what's new is Erridge himself lost 100 pounds by changing his ways. And he's willing to share his strategies. He has said of his book:

I wrote this book with one simple goal in mind - to allow anyone on any diet the opportunity to gain control, create new skills and behaviors, and learn to not only lose the weight, but keep it off for the rest of their lives.

And finally, in the not-related-to-anything-in-particular category, a big congrats to my friends Mike and Suze on their beautiful new addition, Isabella Kathryn. She was born March 13 and weighed 8 lbs, 14 oz. Good job, guys. I'm sure they won't mind me stealing a photo from their blog:

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Minutes Add Up to Hours

It used to be that 10 minutes plus 10 minutes plus 10 minutes of physical activity did not equal 30, at least not according to most exercise scientists. Today we know it does.

That's the latest from MSN's health and fitness Web site. An article on MSN today is recommending the "Easy Does It" approach to exercise -- working smarter, not harder.

I remember the fads of aerobics, Sweatin' to the Oldies, the Cindy Crawford workout, tai bo and a million others. Now we know any exercise is good exercise and it doesn't have to leave us prostrate on the floor, gasping for breath and praying for the pain to subside. We can exercise for 10 minutes three times a day or 30 minutes at a time. In fact, this article even offers some suggestions of how to work in exercise each day:

If you climb the stairs for 10 minutes rather than taking the elevator; spend 10 minutes briskly walking with your co-worker to sort through an issue rather than discussing it over e-mail; or walk for 10 minutes in the mall while shopping, you reap the same fitness benefits as if you’d exercised continuously that same amount of time.

Take a look at this article. It offers some great suggestions and some helpful pointers. For example, did you know you should toss your sneakers after 300 miles?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Light Dawns

With daylight savings time coming three weeks earlier, we all have more light after work to exercise. The Marin Independent Journal suggests that the extra time could help us live healthier. What I found particularly interesting about this article is the idea that the extra daylight may not just help us pickup our healthy summer lifestyle just a bit earlier, it may also help us cut our negative habits:

Jacquie Phelan is the rolling force behind Wombats - the Women's Mountain Bike & Tea Society. Phelan says the extra hour can be as much about what you're not doing as what exercise you might squeeze into that time.
"It might just be one less beer," Phelan says.
She also likes the idea of putting some activity between dinner and bed. "They get a little exercise and digest a little better."

If you're looking for some additional exercises to tone up for the summer the Denver Post has some ideas for simple floor exercises you can add to your cardio. What I particularly like about these exercise (aside from the journalistically-inventive beach spin they put on the story) is they can be done at home (free!) and each exercise is modified for beginner, intermediate and advanced fitness levels.

So why is it that we park as close as we possibly can to the grocery store, then pay money to go to the gym to walk our way to fitness?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spring Break and General Aggravation

Okay, so I did very little that I don't normally do on my spring break. I did, however, get caught up on some homework that has been hovering in the background, bake a birthday cake with real buttercream frosting (whipped it for an hour!!!) and went to my internship. I also picked up some freelance work.

I also gained 5 pounds. No kidding. I'm sure you're thinking I overachieved during my spring break but, no, it took hardly any effort at all. Actually, the problem was a Christmas gift. My mom gave me body lotion for Christmas. I used it and broke out into such a bad allergic reaction that I had to be given steroids. Now, I'm off the steroids, but battling the weight gain. And HUNGER!!!! I mean it was like those old cartoons when someone's talking and their head turns into a chicken drumstick. That was me this week. Except I pictured buffalo wings.

Anyway, suffice to say it was a long discouraging week that did not resemble any spring break movie I have ever seen. I was afraid someone might harpoon me on the beach if I attempted Cancun.

The good news is I got a great comment from Tess, who lost over 140 pounds after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Now that's an inspiration. If you can check out her comment in the previous post. If she can do it, I have to believe I can.

Now if I can just stop scratching....

Friday, March 9, 2007

Inspiration and Hope

I haven't been blogging much recently. Somehow spring break is busier than the regular semester. I've been cleaning up a lot of errands that have been waiting in the wings for me. And it's Ed's birthday on Tuesday. If anyone has a stellar birthday gift idea, send it along.

But much has happened in my world of weight loss. Firstly, don't get excited, I haven't lost a whole bunch of weight. What I did do is meet with Karyn Bender, who is an health counselor focused on integrative nutrition. The idea is to take the best and the brightest from all the diets out there, look at my lifestyle and food preferences and create an eating plan customized for me. So by combining healthy foods and foods I like to eat, hopefully I can achieve overall wellness and health. We meet again in early April and she should have a plan worked up for me. In the meantime, I am going to continue to work some exercise into my schedule. I have realized that while I am often busy, frequently I am also lazy.

In the meantime, a friend of mine has been following the Biggest Loser Club diet. This is based on the television show, "The Biggest Loser." The Web site allows people to plan menus, create a shopping list and hear inspirational stories. She says it has worked for her in a way that many diets haven't by making her believe that she can succeed. She said she feels connected to "Biggest Loser" contestants, and they inspire her. She has been losing a half pound to a pound each week and is thrilled with how livable the diet is.

And finally, thanks to Tess for the great cottage cheese dessert idea. I never would have thought about making a cottage cheese sundae. Excellent!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


I tried roasting vegetables in the oven with a touch of olive oil. I did the works -- eggplant, zucchini, red peppers and garlic. The idea was to store them in the fridge so I could quickly grab some veggies for lunch.


Roasted veggies are great, but don't expect to eat them the next day. In fact, make only what you can eat in one sitting or you'll spend the next week choking down limp, flavorless vegetables, wondering what happened to the delicate flavor of garlic, vegetables and olive oil you had originally prepared.

This is true. I have another half an eggplant to go.

On the bright side, Ed bought fresh chives and mixed them with non-fat cottage cheese. Yum! I don't even like cottage cheese, but the fresh chives really added a great flavor. A half a cup of cottage cheese served on a couple of slices of crispbread is filling, high in fiber and really good.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Wellness Goes Mainstream

Even the police are getting on the health train. It's worth noting that the local sheriff in Cleveland, Tenn., published an article in the Cleveland Daily Banner introducing a wellness and fitness program for the county's police officers. The plan is designed to help deputies implement healthy lifestyles. The officers will also be assessed on a regular basis to ensure that they're fit and able to perform their job duties.

It's about time. I've seen many police officers that are out of shape, but more and more departments are requiring that police pass a physical fitness test. It's not fair to officers to not require that they stay in shape. If they're going to have a dangerous job, their bodies had best be in top shape -- for the people they protect, themselves and their families.

I'm also seeing a trend towards total wellness. An article in the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald is featured an article yesterday, "Time to take care of you." The article talks about increasing health and fitness through better living. While healthy eating and regular exercise are a part of being healthy, this article also talks about mental health, taking down time and time management to get more done in less time -- hence, less stress overall. Here's an excerpt:

Step back from your life for a minute. What do you want it to look like and how does it really look now. If you are feeling out of control and your health is starting to show signs of being ignored, what can you do? What would you need to do to get your life more balanced?

Start with prioritizing. Look at what you did yesterday. What actually needed to get done and what could you have set aside permanently or temporarily? What new responsibilities did you take on that you could have said "no" to? When was the last time you drew the line separating designated work time and personal time? What could you have delegated to others? When could you have multitasked to accomplish more in less time?

And finally, throw some fruit in your salads! It adds some new textures and tastes to a old standby. I've been adding orange pieces, dried cranberries or apples ... I'm turning into a salad diva!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

National Nutrition Month

March is National Nutrition Month. The American Dietetic Association is using this month to educate people about eating right.

The theme this year is "100 percent fad free." The Web site offers all kinds of information about good nutrition, including healthy eating recipes, a nutrition quiz and ten reasons to see a nutritionist.

I like the concept of fad free. The association is the country's largest grouping of nutritional professionals, so very likely you will hear much of the FDA-approved nutritional information. I still think it's a great place to get a handle on the basics. And a few more recipes never hurt.

Also be careful: This is still a trade association. They definitely have an interest in pushing people to visit dietitians.

Friday, March 2, 2007

It's All Downhill From Here

A new study found that as we hit middle age, we slow down on exercise and that's a big part of the middle age spread.

I can definitely understand why. As I get older I find myself with a tighter schedule, more responsibilities and a need to grab sleep when I can. But this study makes me feel like I really need to find some sort of exercise I can enjoy and stick with now, so exercise becomes part of my daily life before I get any busier.

I've been thinking about running. Most runners I know say the endorphins are incredible. I was talking to one woman yesterday, and she told me that she ran seven miles a day. I don't think -- actually, I know -- I couldn't run seven miles. Not even if I was being chased my an ax murderer. I might speed walk the first mile, then I'd probably just give up and let him hack me to pieces.

I'd like to be able to run without having a small heart attack. It would feel good to be fit. I think you'll be seeing more on running in upcoming blog entries.