Friday, September 28, 2012
I heard a radio interview Miss Gaga did and said she really wasn't bothered by her twenty-five pound weight gain, blaming it on eating at her father's restaurant. Her attitude alone made me feel better about my own four pound gain. Now, let's first say that Lady Gaga is on tour and will, most likely, burn the extra calories off as she dances on stage every night. I predict the weight will fall off her in no time. Let's be clear. Any substantial amount of weight increase is something to be taken seriously for sure.
And it isn't always easy, is it?
For most of my teenage years through my mid-twenties, I was about twenty pounds heavier than I am now. I worried about every single calorie I ate, tried every diet imaginable and I still was no where near the svelte young woman I imagined I could be. It wasn't until I STOPPED worrying about every morsel of food I consumed and began to focus on my health, that I lost the weight and kept it off.
Here's my secret.
Yes, teaching Zumba fitness classes allows me to burn 500-800 calories an hour, have fun and share my passion for healthy living with others. And it allosw me to have my cake and eat it too, in moderation. Exercise is the key, people. But when I've simply eaten more calories than I burn and the numbers on the scale rise, I take notice. Decades ago, I promised my self that no matter what, I would never ever ever let myself bloat beyond a certain magic number. This morning I weighed myself and I was six ounces from that number. Laugh if you must, but I WILL shed those few extra pounds within a week or two. I promised myself.
While it's important to live life and not get so caught up in every little gram of fat, I sternly believe in keeping a few hard boundaries. One of those boundaries is not to do the stuff written about in Fifty Shades of Grey, the other is to stay UNDER a certain weight. That way, I'll never have to worry about whip marks, or watch the scale tip beyond a point of no return.
The other secret I have is a special Cabbage Soup I make that really helps get me back on track and lose a couple pounds quickly. I make a huge pot and eat it for lunch and dinner. It's great for using up ALL the veggies in your fridge that you wanted to eat but hadn't. The broth fills you up and satisfies you more quickly than, say a plate of Fettuccine Alfredo.
The ingredients vary, depending on whatever vegetables I have on hand. The base always stays the same: Organic Chicken Broth, Cabbage, Organic Stewed Tomatoes. Organic Sea Salt & fresh ground pepper. Today I added the following; carrots, onions, celery, spinach and I even cut corn off a cob - which really added to texture of the soup. Sorry, I don't measure. Salt and pepper to taste.
So thanks again to Lady Gaga for putting things in perspective for me. A few pounds isn't a big deal. We are meant to enjoy food, in moderation of course, and enjoy life...chocolate cake and all!
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Why then, do some parents allow their children (of any age) to decide what they will and will not eat, if and when? When given a choice between creamy-sweet vanilla ice cream or broccoli there's little chance the vitamin-packed cruciferous vegetable will be at the top of the list children’s favorite foods. Some parents mistakenly believe that their child is somehow different and will grow out of his or her repugnance of salads. If kids don't try certain foods, they might not know if they even like them. Many children base their meal choice on how foods look. Kids who say "I don't eat potatoes," or "I don't like tomatoes" might not have ever tasted them. We know one child who would only eat Poptarts. No kidding. And the parents were genuinely concerned that if they took the Poptarts away the child would starve. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discover that only eating sugar and chemicals will eventually kill you, but so will not eating, so what’s a parent to do? Starve them until they eat good food? Force them to eat healthy?
Well, yes. My husband, Ted, and I and our children have always lived off the land. We hunt and fish, procuring our own sustenance, never taking more than we need and giving back to Mother Nature ten-fold, planting thousands of trees each year and managing wildlife as a precious renewable resource. We cringe when food is wasted because we know how difficult it was to attain. We enjoy the great variety of tastes and textures that are readily available in organic fruit, meat and vegetables and that is a huge part of our family’s tradition. So when other children visit we encourage them to try new foods, or sometimes just food that they’ve never seen before, like red peppers, squash, sliced avocados, or venison. I'm not sure if other parents don't take the time to share this information with their children because they don't understand it themselves, but too many kids haven't been properly informed about the basics of nutrition, leaving them unarmed in the fight against future life-threatening illnesses. Health and fitness are a critical part of parenting responsibilities.
Currently, children in the United States are the most unhealthy, overweight and disease-ridden kids in history. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, we are in crisis-mode. But how can that be? We have pre-packaged fat-free foods, low-carb foods, diet sodas and every weight-loss program imaginable, including prescriptions and surgery to prevent us from gaining weight, but we do anyway. Americans have an increasing and dangerous dilemma with obesity and diseases associated with being overweight such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. The price for this overwhelming decline of physical fitness costs Americans approximately one hundred and seventeen billion dollars and about four-hundred thousand lives each year.
My interests in a quality, healthy life came from my chubby high school and college years when I was twenty to thirty pounds heavier than I am now. I was involved in every sport imaginable - including track because running burned a lot of calories - and yet I struggled with my weight for years. In my lifetime I’ve gained and lost more than one hundred pounds. Fifteen pounds here, ten pounds there, and thirty-five with the birth of my son. It all adds up. Like many who’ve battled the bulge, I tried every diet imaginable. It wasn’t until I stopped dieting that I lost weight and kept it off. Now, I’ve been able to maintain my svelte, one-hundred-and-five pound frame for twenty years. People constantly make comments about the fact that I seemingly eat whatever I want but stay slim. The pure and simple truth is: I love to eat! The reason I don’t gain weight is because (drum roll please…) I monitor both the quality and quantity of foods I eat and I exercise almost every day. Fortunately, exercising was never a problem for me because I love to workout and I crave that endorphin high after sweating and dancing in an aerobics or Zumba® Fitness class, while running or playing basketball with my son, taking a walk with my husband or just doing yoga. It really doesn’t matter what form of physical activity you use. What’s important is that you incorporate some sort of vigorous physical movement into your schedule at least three times a week, preferably daily.
Like many Americans, I crave carbohydrates, especially sweets, but when I started eating wild game twenty-three years ago my appetite changed. Venison is low in cholesterol and isn’t marbled with fat or loaded with chemicals, hormones or steroids. Gradually, by eating more pure and natural protein, my carbohydrate cravings diminished. I discovered that I had more energy and didn’t struggle with my weight as much as I had in my twenties. As long as wild game was in part of my daily diet, I realized that I could eat almost everything I wanted to and not gain weight. (Go ahead, read that again!)
I avoid chemically processed food, soda pop, rolls and fried food, but, yes, I do have them on occasion. The more that food is cooked or processed, the more valuable digestive enzymes and nutrients are lost. Eating boxed or packaged foods with ingredients you can’t pronounce is like putting bad gasoline in your car. Although you think you’re filling up your tank, eventually the car will have engine problems. This is the same affect junk or processed food has on the human body. I’m a hard-core label reader. I want to know exactly what I’m putting into my sacred temple so I can have the best quality of life for as long as I live. Although I do indulge in occasional sweet treats and especially popcorn at the movies, my food philosophy is: Everything in moderation. When he was younger and living at home, I tried to teach my son and his friends the basics like eating (preferably organic) fresh fruit and vegetables everyday and if a package was on the grocer’s shelf for a year it isn’t good enough. Food was meant to be newly baked, picked or cooked. If we’re going to have a treat I make something fresh myself, like homemade chocolate chip cookies with organic butter, eggs and flour, or fresh fruit dipped in organic melted chocolate. After a reasonable treat, however, I make sure I expend the extra calories through exercise and make myself eat responsibly the next day. Kids listen. Yesterday, the greatest thing just happened: I got a phone call from my son who’s living in Los Angeles, telling me that he’s now using a Vita Mix to make healthy smoothies with carrots, spinach, apples, USANA protein mix and whatever fruit juice and vegetables he has. : )
It might not happen immediately, but when we expose our children to healthy eating, they are more likely to make healthy choices when they are adults. Our children cannot possibly make such important decisions as to how they can best fuel their sportscar-like bodies, but parents must be predominant persuaders. The future health of a nation lies within responsible parenting that can change the current downward spiral of obesity, disease and early death. Many fingers can be pointed at the restaurant industry to provide the public with information on the foods they serve, or the packaging industry to label their products better, but ultimately the accountability rests within every individual and every parent. No matter what new diet program is the current craze, the best one has already been available for thousands of years: Eat less, exercise more. Genetics determine eighty percent of our body types and whether we are prone to certain diseases like chronic headaches and even obesity. With a concerted and conscientious awareness of our eating habits, body types, physical fitness and exercise habits, we can take that twenty percent and make dynamic changes to reverse the crisis that weighs heavy on American families.
Sometimes it does take a village to raise a child. It's customary to allow parents to instill their own rules, including eating habits, but what if we started looking at obesity as the silent killer that it is? The next time you see an overweight child grab a powdered donut, invision that act as if it were a teenager who's about to drink and drive. Of course, it's not comfortable to discipline any someone else's child, but I'd much rather be thought of as an old meanie, than an invited guest to a funeral. Don't laugh. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, one out of three school-age children have had a few too many donuts and are classified as either overweight or obese. But that's not even the bad part. Two out of every three Americans are overweight or obese. These kids are learning bad habits from us.
But it's never too late to correct bad behavior. We've all seen out of control kids running around restaurants and living rooms, screaming at the top of their lungs, craving exercise. A walk/run in the park, swimming, playing basketball or a Zumba® Fitness class would take care of that. You'd probably have a lot of fun doing it together, and it might just save a life.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Saturday, January 28, 2012
Like many people in the U.S. and other developed countries, I’ve struggled with my weight. In high school and college, I was 20-30 pounds heavier than I am now. During those days I was desperate to lose weight, I wanted to look like the fashion models on the covers of Vogue magazine and tried every diet imaginable, from the grapefruit diet to wrapping cellophane around my waist and sitting in a sauna. Then, I simply tried not eating at all, which obviously wasn’t a good idea and ultimately didn’t work. People called me “healthy” and “big-boned”, what does that mean? I remember praying, “Please God, make me twenty pounds thinner…” Did I think I’d actually wake up a slimmer version of myself without having to give up Hostess cupcakes? Yes.
Now that I’m older (and wiser) I can have my Hostess cupcake and eat it too. Don’t hate me, but I eat what I want and weigh 106 pounds, give or take a couple. What’s my secret? There is no miracle pill or special diet. Burning up to 1000 calories an hour, I teach Zumba® Fitness classes, lift weights on occasion and walk a lot. Exercising daily allows me to indulge in an occasional (Sprinkles) cupcake or popcorn and candy at the movies. About 80% of my diet is really, really good, filled with lots of lean meat and organic vegetables. 20%, not so much. But this isn’t rocket science. Here are six simple rules: 1. Exercise at least 30 minutes daily. Do at least 45 minutes of cardio 3x/week. 2. Stay away from processed foods and anything labeled “diet”, which usually means chemically modified. If it’s in a box on a shelf it’s not really food. The closer to the hoof, the ground or the tree food is, the better. 3. (this is a tough one for me) Limit white sugar and white flour. ‘nuff said. 4. Eat organic whenever possible & stay away from Genetically Modified Foods (GMFs). More on this later. 5. Eat meat 3x per week. Meat refers to chicken as well -- and not Chicken McNuggets! (See #2). When I’m home, I eat venison every day. It’s pure, lean protein, not marbled with fat. 6. Eat Mindfully and listen to your body. My downfall (besided Sprinkles cupcakes) is eating while watching TV. I don’t realize I’ve inhaled the whole bag of chips when I’m watching Access Hollywood with Mario Lopez. My latest snack trend is a bowl of lightly salted organic popcorn with raw almonds, pumpkin seeds and chocolate covered Goji berries mixed in.
I try to eat only when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full – which really upsets my husband who is a member of the Eat-Everything-On-Your-Plate club. Because of that, Ted and I share meals. Always. Most restaurants pile enough food to feed a family of four onto one plate. Other than on Thanksgiving, we don’t need that much food. Think about the last time you were truly hungry. In the United States, we tend to live to eat, while in other parts of the world, they eat to live.
Obesity is a pandemic in the United States, but not in nations where survival is based on food gathering. In Africa, to which we’ve traveled often, eating meat is a gift - nourishment for the body and soul. Many Americans, however, have strayed from our (hunting) heritage and eat fatty, processed foods instead of real meat and vegetables.
Having taught aerobics since 1980, I subscribed to all the low-calorie, diet this-and-that, and even (gasp!) vegetarianism. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good salad. I even throw spinach into my smoothies (Shh! Don’t tell Ted!) Vegetables are an important part of our diet, but so is meat.
Our ancestors were meat-eaters. Most people in other parts of the world eat meat, and lots of it! In Romans 14:2-3 it says “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, who’s faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” Vegetarians must be upset with that one, but the truth is, the kind of protein we get from meat is critical to our health and wellbeing. It repairs tissues, builds our immune system, and contains all essential amino acids, vitamin A, B and D, which helps strengthen bones and the nervous system. Venison is our choice for protein sustenance. There’s never been a case of E-coli or salmonella poisoning in venison. It is not fed up with chemicals and steroids. Deer eat natural, pesticide-free vegetation and roam free, like the popular free-range meat which costs twice as much in the grocery store.
With venison on the menu almost daily for the past 23 years, I’ve never been more than 5 pounds heavier than the day Ted and I were married, with the exception of course, being when I was pregnant. The contributing factor, I believe, is that making meat a huge part of my diet has helped me maintain my weight.
Like most people, I still worry when the scale inches toward a higher number or two, but I hit the gym hard and back off on the Sprinkles cupcakes when I do. Exercise is part of my daily life, thank goodness. I don’t kill myself, but I try to do something every day. And the harder I workout, the more my body craves meat. After a recent 3-hour Zumba® Jam Session and 90 minute master class (in the same day), all I could think about was having a hamburger. My body craved it. Now, if I could just back off the French fries…
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Guilt. Got any? I know I do, and it’s been a daily part of my life, all my life whether I received a bad test grade in school, or stayed out past curfew. Most recently my husband was angry that I was not home with him, but visiting our son in Los Angeles instead. Of course, when he called sounding upset, I felt that good old heavy sense of depression in my solar plexus: guilt. Why couldn’t I please everyone? My son has been living alone in Los Angeles without any family and just a few friends, working on his acting and music careers. I felt guilty I couldn’t be with Rocco more, especially when he had the flu. Then, I called every few hours to have him check his temperature. All sorts of horrible scenarios ran through my mind: could it be meningitis, or eventually pneumonia? Now, I know what you’re thinking – leave him be. He’s twenty-one and it’s time he experiences being sick on his own. And I suppose you wouldn’t want someone to bring you chicken noodle soup when your whole body aches and you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck? (Here I go..) Almost daily, people tell me what a good job Ted and I did in raising Rocco, and it’s been that way all his twenty-one years. Ted was (and is) the disciplinarian. I’m more - compassionate. But whatever we did, we did it right. Meet Rocco once and you’ll agree. If the worst thing I did as a parent was to be available, then I’m good with that. I have no regrets. No guilt. None. A very close friend of mine recently lost her son, who was a good friend of Rocco’s. Life is short and I cherish every moment I am blessed to have with my child, no matter how old he is.
Now back to Ted.
When people close to us are suffering in even the mildest manner, we feel empathy for them. And if we are the ones to cause their pain (whether or not it is warranted), we are caught right in the middle of the blame and shame game. Ted blamed me for abandoning him (albeit temporarily) and I felt ashamed that I was not fulfilling my moral obligation to be with my husband.
Rocco overheard part of my conversation on the phone with Ted and knew that I was upset when I hung up. Rather than telling me to go home and be with my husband, my philosophical son said, “This is an opportunity for you to practice forgiveness.” Huh? Since Ted was operating from an emotional state it was up to me to manage my interpretation or response. You know what? He's right.
Whether it’s my Catholic upbringing or extreme sports conditioning as a child (2x state champion swimmer!), feeling guilty is a preconditioned response I have to almost any allegation.
Relationships are oftentimes too much about volleying blame and shame back and forth. The truth is, Ted could have come with me to visit our son but he didn’t. We just celebrated our 23rd year as a married couple. It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, quite often it’s challenging, but we have plenty of time to spend as a couple in the future. Another forty years, at least. The time we’ve spent apart has helped us stay together. (Read that again). We actually miss each other when one of us is away. That probably won’t happen if you are with the same person day after day, but quite possibly is the key to our success as a married couple.
It dawned on me that part of the reason I selected this particular time to spend with Rocco was because Ted had booked a hunt away from home, but changed his plans at the last minute. Then, I was made to feel guilty for not adjusting my schedule to his. Feeling a bit relieved at this recollection, I sent my husband a text and threw the blame-ball back at him. Plans changed again, he said. He is going on that hunt after all, tomorrow.