Starting a Healthy Diet- Part One. The Problem With Our Weight Obsession

Yes, being overweight is generally part of being unhealthy, and especially in the more affluent countries more people are overweight than ever. Also, overweight people are more likely to be obese than ever before. But in spite of society’s ridiculous obsession with appearance (really- grow up shallow people of the world! Fat shaming is OK? How about we start non-critical thinking shaming?), focussing on weight loss is not how we will make society healthier.

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Getting Back on Track- New Year’s Resolutions: $2013 in 2013

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I have not forgotten the resolution posts that I started several weeks ago, but I’ve been wrestling with technology. With the clock ticking down, I decided to go ahead and post anyway. I already mentioned one of my resolutions for next year (lose the weight that found me again this fall), but that is the narrowest part of an overall plan I have been working on for a while (my “Fork in the Road”).

So, here is the entire resolution articulated: In 2013 I will continue improving my own life physically, mentally, and emotionally/spiritually, and I will extend that holistic wellness outwards toward others and the planet.

Sounds like I’ve gone straight from narcissism to grandiosity, but let me explain what this looks like: In 2013 I plan to continue having just as much fun exploring healthy eating and new physical challenges, but I am now going to consciously strive to extend the good feelings in any way I can. I follow Marc Hemmingway’s hilarious blog, and I will be starting the year by taking him up on his challenge with a few modifications:

I will exercise, run, walk or bike the equivalent of 2013 kilometres in 2013, and in the process I want to earn $2013.00 for my chosen charity, West Coast Assistance Teams. (The technology I am wrestling with is the fundraising platform giving page that I am trying to set up to take any pledges or donations- I’ll get it sorted before Jan. 1st, though). Update: I have my donation page up and running here. Read my full update here. 2013 kilometres is a tad more than 5.5 km per day throughout the year, which could be quite “do-able” if I only wanted to focus on running or walking. However, I want to try other challenges, too, so I have also allowed other exercise in my challenge. I will count every 10 minutes of hard exercise as 1 km. (for example, if I do a 50 minute “cardio/core” circuit class, I will count that as 5 km). I usually average one km. in about 8.5 minutes when I walk/run races, so I think that is a reasonable equivalent.

So here is the challenge I offer to you: for 2013, do one (or both) of these things:
1) Donate to someone else’s challenge (if 100 people sponsored me for 1 cent per km., they would only need to donate $20.13 and I would reach my goal!)
or:
2) Set up your own 2013 challenge like Marc Hemmingway and I have done, and collect your own funds for the charity of your choice.

Once I’ve sorted out the giving page, I will link to it, and I will also create a page here on my blog that I will update to keep track of my progress. Check back to see how I am doing and also to let me know how you are doing on your resolutions- if I get really clever, maybe I can create an interactive page where we can all share our progress. Also, check out “Run Hemmingway Run” to see how he is doing with his challenge.

Three more days to go (two for some of you!), so get your resolutions out there!

Update: I have my donation page up and running here.
Read my full update here.

Aged Means Stronger- Part 2

Part 2- Physical Health:

In part one of this, I talked about the trend toward increasing mental and emotion health in aging boomers, as they pick up new challenges to make a mark in the world. Today’s post talks about how boomers are maintaining control over their physical health. I am writing these posts in the hope that others will also be empowered to take on new challenges and join the wave of strong agers. Again today I have an anecdote to begin:

I mentioned that last Sunday I was part of a team that participated in the Run For the Cure. Well, two of my older sisters were also on that team. One sister began on a new health journey last January first, when she quit smoking. In April, she joined us in a 10K race in Victoria. She walked that race and finished near the back of the pack. In fact, she jokes about how there were some parts of the race where only the ambulance was behind her, driving slowly along, and she kept trying to pick up her pace just a bit for fear that they would tell her she had to get in and ride the rest of the way. She felt she was successful then because she did not finish last in that race.

In the Run for the Cure we all went at our own pace, and those who finished earlier waited at the finish line to cheer in our other team members. Imagine how much we whooped and hollered when only about half our team had arrived in and we spotted this same sister running to the finish line! She had been training in secret (just her and her dog on their own walks) and it has taken her less than six months to increase her speed and stamina that much!

She is not alone, either. As the boomer generation ages, they are becoming known as the fittest seniors in history. People 55 and better are the fastest-growing population in U.S. health clubs, up by 380% since 1987(1). And the best news is that so many of them are actually improving their health as they get older. Some criticize them for refusing to age “gracefully”, but what the boomers are really doing is demanding (and working for) a good quality of life throughout their entire lifespan, and more and more of them are discovering  key components are diet and exercise. In a survey conducted by the American Arthritis Foundation, 40% of athletes older than 40 years of age believed that they now live a healthier and more physically fit lifestyle than they had in their 20s (2).

The news gets better for the latecomers to exercise, as new studies are showing that you really can turn the clock back, and you are never too old to become fit. In the past it was believed that muscle loss was inevitable with aging, and women especially were told to expect to lose 30% of their strength during and after menopause, with additional losses of 30% more per decade after age 70. However, we have recently learned that this muscle loss only happens if we stop working the muscles (3). But what if you missed the boat on this and never built the muscle mass in the first place? Well, also contrary to old beliefs, studies have now shown that a 90 year old has nearly equal capacity to a 30 year old to create new muscle fibre (4)(5). A mere two months of resistance training can reverse up to 20 years of muscle loss in seniors!

This is exciting on so many levels. For many of us older people it means we need to take another look at our bucket lists, and start putting some things back on there that we thought we were too old to do. And for the younger people, it means you can breathe a sigh of relief- we aren’t going to wipe out the healthcare system after all. And just think of all the new career opportunities in providing the services to support the aging health nuts! (For example check out  Fitness Centers: The Hottest Club for Single Seniors, on SeniorPeopleMeet.com).

(1) IHRSA/American Sports Data Health Club Trend Report, 2012.
(2) Manley, M., Wright, V., Benefits of Exercise and Sports, http://vondawright.com/images/pdf/benefits_of_exercise_and_sports.pdf
(3) Wroblewski, A., Amati,F., Smiley, M.,Goodpaster, B.,Wright, V. Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes. https://physsportsmed.org/doi/10.3810/psm.2011.09.1933
(4) McComas AJ. Skeletal muscle: Form and function. Human Kinetics v2 (2005).
(5) Fiatarone, M.A., Marks, E.C., Ryan, N.D., Meredith, C.N., Lipsitz, C.A., Evans, W.J. High Intensity Strength Training in Nonegenarians. Journal of the American Medical Association 263 (1990): 3029-3034.

A Good Challenge- Part 1

If I’d been born at a different time I may have been a quilter, because I get such a satisfied feeling from discovering how diverse things can actually be linked together to form a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. In science I loved learning about things like the water cycle. I was thrilled to find in geology the pattern repeated, and there was a counterpart in the rock cycle. I love that there are things that are more momentous than mountains themselves, or conversely, that huge cycles are actually made up of parts smaller than grains of sand. And each of these different systems is also connected in some way to other systems- ecological systems on the Earth, inward in us and outward into the universe. As Richard Dawkins says, “I find the reality thrilling”.

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Three Magic Vegan Foods- Part 2 (Soybeans)

In the first part of this post I referred to three plain-looking foods (“grey mush” were the exact words I recall taking exception to) that have magical transformative properties when used in vegan meals. Magic food number one is soybeans. I’ll bet most readers guessed this first one, but I wonder if they know all of the powers of this food:

Pick one kind of soybeans when they are young and green and you have edamame. Edamame to me is the ultimate snackfood. I like them salted like popcorn, and served in the pods so you can scrape them out with your teeth (recipe here). They are delicious and beautiful out of the pods also. When young like this they are actually far from grey- they are the bright green crayola color “inchworm” (hex #B2EC5D).

See- “inchworm”- (Well OK- Caterpillar)
Charabento by Jo

Let another variety of soybeans mature and they become white. Then they can be used in soymilk and tofu. Soymilk can be used in virtually any recipe that calls for milk. It can even be used to make soy yogurt. And tofu- tofu is amazing, and -OK- ugly. Tofu cooked poorly can put just about anyone off. It comes in white squishy blocks packed in water and really has not got much taste on its own. There are some tricks with tofu, however. First, choose the right variety for the right use. And second, season and use it properly. People have written entire books on tofu, but I will only cover two of my favourite ways to use tofu in this post.

1. Extra-firm tofu. Here’s the fastest recipe for tofu you will ever find. Presto-changeo!

Dry-Fried Tofu Slices
Take a package of extra-firm tofu (non-gmo/organic, please!) and slice it into slices 5-15 cm (1/4-1/2 inch) thick. Heat a frying pan to medium-high heat and add a very tiny bit of oil. I find my cast iron pan is perfect for this because the tofu does not stick. Lay the slices in the pan and dry fry and brown them on both sides. The texture will change depending on how long you cook them – taste them until you get your own preferred texture and taste. You can add any seasoning you like or leave them plain. I sometimes use my homemade Best Salad Dressing in the Universe (recipe will be posted soon) to season them, but sometimes I just leave them plain. I usually cook the entire tofu block and refrigerate the leftovers to eat cold or rewarmed with lunches or for after work snacks, sometimes with dip or ketchup, or sometimes in a wrap.

2. Silken tofu. This is THE BEST substitute in the world for dairy in cooking. You can make salad dressings and creamy sauces that are better than the versions made with heavy cream and butter, without all the calories and cholesterol. You will see silken tofu in some of my creamy sauce and salad dressing recipes, but here I am going to share the recipe that started all my experiments with silken tofu. And the story of how I discovered it:

My daughter and I were watching an episode of the CBC show, Village on a Diet- a great show about a Northern Canadian town that took on the challenge to collectively lose one ton of weight. One woman (our favorite person to follow and root for), was completely naive about anything food-related, but embraced all the new healthy habits enthusiastically. She had done some of her own reading and had found a tofu recipe she wanted to try on her husband (who was rather less enthusiastic about the changes). My daughter and I laughed hysterically as she poked at her tofu and squealed at how gross it was. She started cooking and it looked as though a hilarious disaster was about to ensue, but when she finished the recipe and mixed it with some pasta it was suddenly transformed into the creamiest looking fettucine alfredo that I’ve ever seen. My daughter and I stared at each other amazed, and immediately went online to find a recipe for tofu fettucini alfredo.

The recipe we loved the best was from the Soyfoods Association of North America (http://www.soyfoods.org/). We replaced the parmesan with a bit of nutritional yeast and salt, added in some extra veggies, and used a pan on the stove instead of a microwave. It was so good that I began making cheese sauces, mushroom sauces, etc., the same way. And, here’s a little bit of extra magic- I don’t even bother with the blender, I simply brown and soften my garlic and some onion and whatever other veggies I fancy in the frypan, dump in the tofu, herbs, and broccoli, and use my immersion blender right in the pan. There is less cleanup, it’s ready in 5 minutes, creamy and thick- honestly people cannot tell the difference in taste. And the proof that it really is a magic vegan food- it makes calories, cholesterol and fat disappear! Your heart will weep for joy.

Tofu Alfredo Sauce

This recipe replaces the traditional heavy cream and butter with Tofu and saves 350 calories per serving for the sauce alone! Makes 4 servings, (sauce alone)

1 package (12oz) firm silken tofu
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt (or less to taste)
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 cup skim milk or plain soymilk
1 package frozen chopped broccoli
1 pound pasta, cooked and drained

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Warm in the microwave 3-4 minutes on high, or until hot. Cook pasta. In the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add frozen broccoli to cooking water. Drain and toss with Alfredo Sauce.

Nutrition Information:
Tofu Alfredo Sauce Per Serving: 155 Calories, 3 g Protein, 4 g Carbohydrate, 10 g Fat
Traditional Alfredo Sauce Comparison: 505 Calories, 9 g Protein,
5 g Carbohydrate, 51 g Fat

 

Edamame Snack Recipe

Edamame have odd hairy pods that can be a bit off-putting for people who are unfamiliar with them. They have started to become more well-known and more popular around here due to the increased popularity of sushi restaurants. They are easy to make at home and  make a great appetizer with beer, or a snack while watching a movie. Serve them salted and eat them by scraping the beans out of pods with your teeth or squeezing them out with your fingers. In the recipe below, I have not included amounts, because it is all done according to your own tastes- try them after they are boiled, and adjust the salt to serve.

Ingredients:

  • fresh or frozen edamame in pods
  • water
  • salt

Preparation:

Rinse the edamame and put in a pot of salted water. Boil for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the edamame are softened. Drain in a colander. Serve edamame in a bowl sprinkled with more salt. Make sure you have a second bowl to drop the pods in.
Nutritional information:Per 1 cup:

  • 75 calories
  • 7 g carbohydrate
  • 6 g protein
  • 2 g fat
  • 3 g fiber
    Edamame is a good source of Dietary Fiber, Protein, Thiamin, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Vitamin K, Folate and Manganese. They are naturally very low in sodium, but of course this recipe adds salt.
    The one warning I would give about edamame (and any soybeans) is to try to get organic/non genetically modified (non-gmo) varieties. The dangers of gmo foods are becoming more evident all the time, and soybeans are one of the most commonly modified crops in existence.

Three Magic Vegan Foods- Introduction.

Over the past several years I have slowly moved from omnivore to vegetarian, to something I call flegan. I cook and eat nearly all vegan at home but I’m a bit more flexible about it in social situations. When I go to someone else’s house I wouldn’t ask them to make a vegan meal, and restaurants often do not have vegan options. In those situations I would not eat meat, but I might eat some dairy, egg, or (rarely) fish. I don’t often advertise my eating habits but occasionally someone will notice and be curious about it. Commonly they ask how I get enough protein or calcium in my diet (neither of which is ever a problem in a well-balanced vegan diet by the way- but that’s a topic for another post). The oddest reaction I ever encountered was a person who couldn’t understand how I could be a vegan since, in his words, vegan food is all “grey and mushy”.

I was speechless! I have often played with food art as a cake decorator, and later making charabentos for my children. I love my vegan food because it is usually so beautiful. Vegan meals have fresh vegetables as a central component, so they are full of vibrant colors, textures, and tastes, while meat eaters appear to me to often eat brown fatty meat with brown fatty gravy and mushy white potatoes.

His comment had me puzzling over perceptions and in idle moments my thoughts would return to it. As a result, I have actually thought of three foods I frequently use that can be mushy, and are either brown or white. (And that is how a blogpost theme is born). But I still don’t think he wins his point because, although the three foods are not always pretty, they are all what I call “magic” vegan foods. To me a food is magic if it has many uses, can substitute for a non-vegan staple, and/or it can be labelled a superfood because of its nutrient value. But most important, magic foods used right make vegan meals so good that doubters like my friend couldn’t help but be won over. Can you guess what my three less-colorful staples are? To find out, you will have wait for the next three posts. But it will be worth the wait, I promise, because I will also include recipes, resources, and ideas for using them to make your cooking a bit more magical, too.

Blogging my Way Back to Childhood

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Remember how we pictured adult life as a child? We were going to have so much more freedom; we could reach things on high shelves, go anywhere, eat anything, and stay up as late as we wanted. In other words, we would have the luxury of unrestricted choice in our lives. Kids think that kind of thing would make them deliriously happy.

Well, I’m in my fifties now and I started catching on that it isn’t ever going to be like that. So I had a decision to make; grow old and tired, my world growing ever narrower because I failed to reach my “kid” image of freedom, or change my definition of freedom to find the joy between life’s limits. I’m stubbornly resistant to the thought of merely disintegrating into old age, so I chose the second option. As I began to mindfully put it into practice, my contentment (and acceptance) grew and something else, unexpected and amazing, happened. The limits themselves opened up and possibilities increased.

Join me as I play with life’s possibilities. Together we can change all kinds of limits.

A-Z Activity List

A-Z Activity List

(Some activities are included under multiple letters- for obvious reasons). I’m on a steep learning curve with this blogging, but I hope to eventually turn this list into a template so that you can just click and drag activities to their own list. Until then, use this as a reference list for your own challenges, and drop me a message if you know of one I’ve missed putting on here. Links lead to my reviews of the activity.

A. aquacize, archery, agility (dogsports), adventure racing, adaptive sports
B. boxing, bungee, badminton, beach volleyball, basketball, baseball, belly dancing,  bootcamp classes, biathlon, broomball, biking, BMX biking
C. cycling, cardio bootcamp, canoeing, camping, caving, climbing, coastering, charity challenges, color racing, cricket, charity races
D. diving, dragon boating, disabled sports, dancing
E. elliptical, equestrian, extreme (anything), Extremity games
F. fencing, freestyle (dogsports), flyball, frisbee, football, fell running, firewalking
G. golf, grape stomping, gliding, geocaching, gymnastics, gocarting, golden age games
H. hiking, horseback riding, handball, horseshoes, hang gliding, hillwalking/running, hockey
I. ice skating, intervals, inline skating, ice sailing, ironman/woman, ice climbing
J. judo, jazzercise, jai alai, jumprope, juggling
K. Kung-Fu, kite flying, kayaking, kitesurfing, Kinect
L. luge, lawnbowling, lacrosse, landsailing
M. marching, mushing, monkido, mountain biking, mountaineering, martial arts
N. netball, nerf sports, Nintendo Wii sports
O. obstacle course, ocean rowing, orienteering, offroad biking, olympic sports
P. personal trainer, paintball, paragliding, parachuting, pickleball, pole dancing, paddleboarding, powerwalking, paddleboating, pentathlon, paralympic sports
Q. quick cricket, quoits, quad rollerskating, quiddich
R. rock climbing, ropes course, rollerskating, river rafting, rowing, rowing, rugby, road hockey, rally-o (canine sports)
S. spin class, swimming, sailing, skydiving, soccer, scuba, snorkel, spelunking, self-defense, skiing, snowboarding, skijouring, surfing, shinny, special olympics sports, skateboarding, senior games, singing
T. triathlon, tabata, treadmill, trampoline, treego, track and field, TRX
U. underwater anything (pumpkin carving, chess, etc), ultimate frisbee, unicycling
V. volleyball, vaulting (equine)
W. weights, walking, whitewater rafting/kayaking, windsurfing, water polo, wheelchair sports, wrestling, wii sports, wakeboarding
X. X-training, X-country (run/ski), TRX, X-Box Kinect, X Games
Y. yoga, yachting
Z. zumba, zipline, zorbing.