Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Vacation Query?

How many calories do you burn lugging ski equipment into the lodge and then getting ski boots on two kids and yourself?

According to one calorie calculator I could burn 300 to close to 500 calories an hour alpine skiing. But besides the actual activity of skiing, just hauling all the equipment is a chore, and let's not forget about walking around with ski boots.

One thing for sure, after two days of skiing, my thighs are burning--so I my hamstrings and quadriceps are certainly getting a fantastic workout.

I still ski, but I have many friends who say "it's too much work." Guess what? That "work" is calories burning, and after the holidays, spending a few days burning 1,200 to 1,500 extra calories is probably a good thing. So if you want to lose weight (or just not gain it), get to work--start skiing.

Tomorrow we're going cross-country skiing, which burns even more calories an hour.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Because Reality is just never Good Enough

Jezebel's Photoshop Hall of Shame for the Year:

OK, you have some incredibly gorgeous, thin model totalling rocking this rosy-hued, ruffled tank and jeans combo.

But is she good enough for the advertising gods???

Hell NO!!

They have to use photoshop to give this already picture perfect model an even smaller waist (increasing that all important hip to waist ratio), and then add a little shadowing to make who boobs look bigger.

And, in the process the advertising gods drive thousands of young girls to unsustainable, unhealthy dieting practices to try to look look an artificial, unreal image.

The image on the right is not reality. For most of us, even the image on the left isn't reality. It's just plain old impossible to look like this without the fortune of good genes.

But instead of encouraging women to watch their weight for their health and happiness, advertisers promote unrealistic images of unreal women. Women we can never be, nor should we want to be.

Digging Out and Shoving Off

We've been snowed in by a major storm here in the Northeast. If we can ever get ourselves shoveled out, I'm heading out for the rest of the week to ski (good timing!!!).

I'm bringing my computer with me, but still expect blogging to be erratic.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

For Your Amusement

Although I would say "lay off the Cheetohs, you're way to young to have a muffin top."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dudes Doing Yoga

Let's face it. Men who practice yoga in this country get no respect. I'm always trying to negate the resistance of men to even try practicing yoga because they view it as "women's exercise," by pointing out that yoga was created for men by men. Women practicing yoga is a recent phenomena.

And, as any woman with curves could tell you, many of the asanas were obviously created with no thought to female anatomy. Just try doing a bound Marichasana C when you're cup size is a 32D. Let me tell you, it would be a lot easier without the boobs.

And, let's not forget the asanas that are so much more difficult for woman to do because we lack the inherent upper body strength that men have. I'm sure I would have accomplished Bakasana much sooner had I been a man.

So when I do see men who commit to yoga, I'm always impressed. Once they get past their lack of flexibility (let's face it, boys aren't encouraged to stretch the way girls are), they accomplish incredible asanas.

So there's now a new website that celebrates Dudes doing Yoga which you can check out here:

I think it's marvelous, because yoga really is a fantastic all around exercise program, particularly the more vigorous forms like Ashtanga.

And, from the men I've seen who practice yoga regularly and looking at these Dudes, you can't argue with the results. Men who practice regularly pretty much always have awesome bodies.

So if there are any Dudes out there, give yoga a try.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bear Mode Compounded

Last week I wrote about "bear mode." It's a seasonal syndrome I endure every year around the Winter Solstice when all I want to do is hunker down in bed and sleep.

This week it's much, much worse. I got the flu. I've been running a constant fever since Sunday, I'm nauseated and every muscle and joint in my body aches.

It's bear mode compounded.

I haven't gotten out of bed for two days now and it looks like I'm heading back there now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Is Vegetarianism Bad for the Environment?

I like to eat a "mostly vegan" diet for both health and weight reasons, but I never thought of myself as doing potential harm to the environment for doing so.

According to celebrity chef Dan Barber strict vegetarians have "blood" on their hands. Here's what Dan has to say:

My wife is not a strict vegetarian, but she loves vegetables and would just be happy eating vegetables every meal we eat together, and I’m also fine with that. But why am I not standing up here and saying "eat less meat"? The answer is that I come from the lower Hudson Valley [New England] and my ecological conditions are dictating that we eat a lot of meat, because we’re grassland. What we grow best besides those carrots is an amazing diversity of healthful grass for animals. Now if you are in the game of feeding, say, a lamb, as I mentioned before, instead of on grain from Hoosier ecology but on the great grasslands (a diversity of grasslands from the New England landscape — the grasslands, by the way, that built New England, that built the dairy industry.

It’s no surprise this is the iconic landscape that I referenced with my grandmother — that wasn’t just about building beauty; that was about building what they were taking advantage of, which was cows grazing on great grass to produce great milk. That same ecology holds true today — those iconic open-pasture lands that I talk about produce the best-tasting meat in the world.

And so for me to be a vegetarian, and be a strict advocate of it, wouldn’t be listening to the ecology that the land is telling us it wants to grow. So I think one of the futures (dialing back to the young 11-year-old chef in the making) … one of the requirements of the chef for the future is not to propose a cuisine on the landscape, it’s going to have to be listening to the landscape to determine what kind of chef and what kind of eater we want to be. And if you are in southern Los Angeles and San Diego and you want to be a vegetarian, God bless you. You should be. You should be. But if you want to be in New England and you want to improve the ecological conditions of where you are, you’re eating meat. There’s no question about it. There is no healthy ecological system that I’ve ever seen that doesn’t include animals — there just doesn’t. Because the manure from the animals is a free, free ecological resource that amends the soil that gives you better-tasting and healthful vegetables. That’s been around since the beginning of time. So to say that vegetarians live on this higher plane of ethics (and I’m not here to argue that slaughtering animals doesn’t carry with it some weight), but you have blood on your hands when you eat vegetarian as well, especially if you’re in the northeast. Because your food is coming from somewhere, and your calories are coming from somewhere in the winter, and if they’re traveling hundreds of miles, and in many cases thousands of miles, you are burning fossil fuels to get them there, and generally they’re produced in monocultures, and that has a huge cost on natural living systems. They might not be animals that you and I can identify with, but they’re insects and bugs and whole types of flora and fauna that are dying to produce those vegetables. That’s not an ethical way to eat, I don’t think, in the future.

I kind of understand what he's saying, although I don't know if I would have used the "blood on their hands" bit.

Still, I do somewhat relate to what he is saying. I equate strict vegans and vegetarians with religious fundamentalists. While religious fundamentalists are dogmatic in their religious beliefs, vegans and vegetarians are dogmatic in their eating habits.

If you want to be a localvore--which is probably inherently better for the environment, then if you live in a cold weather climate, you probably can't sustain yourself on just vegetables through the Winter. Meat has to be part of your diet if you live in a cold weather client. In the summer you could probably survive on a plant-based diet alone, but once the weather chills and the supply of vegetables drops, you, by necessity, have to eat some meat.

I always said that vegetarianism and veganism are modern day luxuries. Prior to today's methods of shipping produce over vast miles, it just wasn't available for large parts of the year, and what was available was prohibitively expensive.

Now, being a vegetarian in Vermont in the Winter is not prohibitively expensive, but the potential damage to the environment you are doing by being one can be significant. The grapes, bananas and asparagus you're living on had to be transported hundreds, if not thousands of miles so that you could indulge in your vegetarianism.

Now, I'm not saying be a 100% localvore either. I like my fresh fruit and veggies in Winter as much as anybody else, and I still like to keep to a mostly vegan diet.

The issue is, however, to fully think through the consequences of your diet, on the planet, animals and your health.

Everything You always Wanted to Know About Eggs

From cage free, pastured, free range, yolk colored, etc. this blog explains it all:

What I found the most fascinating was how the natural coating on eggs is washed off in commercial eggs, and, had it been left intact, actually protects against salmonella and would eliminate the need to refridgerate. I never knew that. And, who knew that Freud's son had a hand in promoting eggs as a breakfast food?

About a year ago, my friend Nadine went into the egg business. She raises her own hens and drops off a dozen fresh eggs every Friday for $5 a week.

I love Nadine's eggs. They're all different sizes and colors, and sometimes I get a double yolk. The yolks on these eggs are thick and orangy, and the taste puts any commercial egg to shame.

I love to feed these eggs to my family. When I scramble up a batch for my children, I know they're getting a healthy, chemical free, salmonella free meal. My daughter also loves the "quiches" I make for her--essentially eggs, milk and cheese baked in pie shell. It's also not unusual for me to whip up a Frittata for dinner or have a soft-boiled egg for breakfast.

Eggs, in moderation, are a healthy, nutritious meal. Particularly when you know the source of the eggs. I can go to Nadine's house and see exactly where my eggs come from, what the chickens eat and the conditions they are raised in.

I consider myself lucky.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Giving the Gift of Healthy Eating

I have this one group of girlfriends that I've been getting together with forever. We met when our kids were still in car seats, and although our kids are now driving we still get together as a group at least once a month.

We have a lot of ritual outings. One of them is dinner on the beach. Every summer for the last ten years we get dressed up, and have a potluck supper on the beach in Westport. We hang out, laugh, drink wine and eat various versions of salads or grilled fish as the sun sets over Long Island sound.

Another ritual is our annual Holiday lunch. Every year we pick a fancy restaurant, get dressed up, have lunch and exchange gifts.

The gifts are small, but usually meaningful. One year my girlfriend Marilyn gave us all copies of "Eat, Pray, Love". The book "spoke to her" she said and she wanted to share it with the rest of us.

This year, I gave the girls copies of Michael Pollan's new book "Food Rules." I have been so inspired by Michael Pollan's writings that I wanted to pass it on to my closest friends, and thought "Food Rules" was the perfect vehicle to do so.

The book was a big hit when everyone opened it, and prompted a long discussion on healthy eating, localvorism, and even how vegetarianism is better for the planet.

But this morning, I got the best news of all. One of my friends wrote me to say she can't get the book away from her 16 year old son!!! Turns out that he picked it up, was inspired, and is now carrying it around so that he follows the "rules."

Is Food Political???

I love Marion Nestle's blog. Her book has been on my "must read" list for quite a while, and the only thing holding me back is my sister. She read Nestle's on Food Politics and keeps promising to lend to me.

I should just go and buy the damn book.

Any way, she has a good post today on food politics which you can read here:

This is partly what she has to say:

The minute we start talking about small farms, organic production, local food, and sustainable agriculture, we are really talking about changing our food system to accommodate a broader range of players and to become more democratic. Just think of who wins and who loses if $20 billion in annual agricultural subsidies go to small, organic vegetable producers who are part of their communities rather than to large agricultural producers who do not live anywhere near their corn and soybeans.

The issue at stake is who gets to decide how food is grown and what people eat. For as long as I can remember, big agriculture and big food were in control, in close partnership with congressional agricultural committees and the USDA. Today, the food movement–democracy in action, if you will–is challenging their authority and power. No wonder defenders of the status quo don’t like the challenge. It is only to be expected that they are fighting back.

I see the intensity of the debate (and, alas, the personal attacks) as a clear sign that the movement is making headway. The system is clearly changing. It has to change if we are to address obesity, climate change, and the other unsustainable aspects of our present ways of doing food business.

Anyone who is working to reduce income inequity and to make healthier food available to every American has to expect to encounter the methods corporations always use to fight critics: personal attacks, claims of junk science, invocation of personal responsibility, cooptation, and plenty of behind-the-scenes lobbying.

Telling truth to power has never been popular. But I’m convinced it’s worth doing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Food Nazi

From the "if you don't like what someone is saying call them both a Nazi and a Socialist" book:

Noting, of course, that you can't be both a Nazi and a Socialist since they are two completely opposing political philosophies.

Hey I get it. Nestle and other healthy eating proponents can potentially harm food industry profits, so the food industry wants to fight back. If people actually start to listen to people like Nestle, Pollan etc. and stop buying food that's nothing but worthless calories, they may have to find other ways to rip off the public.

But, to set up some public relations firm to essentially spew lies anonymously is just plain wrong. Man up food industry. If you don't like what Nestle has to say come up with real counter arguments. Or, if you're going to call people Nazis and Socialists at least have the guts to put your name on the slander.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Eating In Red America

I've often expressed outrage here as to how eating liberal has somehow been branded "liberal" and not something that a "real American" (i.e., Republican) would do.

I guess I'm not the only person who's noticed this: Apparently, arguing for better eating habits is so "liberal" that this self-professed "conservative" wouldn't even give his real name.

Here's what he had to say:

In a much-discussed 2009 Policy Review essay, Mary Eberstadt talked about how odd it was that liberal elites are extremely permissive about sex, but Puritan fussbudgets about food. What’s less well explored is the culture-war role food plays among conservatives, especially in the South. My experience is anecdotal, of course, but I’ve seen emerging back home a growing sense that food intake is not something that can be held up for moral analysis and judgment. Those who attempt to do so are typically seen as liberal snobs trying to impose their own preferences.

I found this part of what he had to say particularly interesting:

The obvious answer is that they don’t see food choices as having moral weight. That stance is groundless from a Biblical point of view. Scripture aside, how can that point of view be sustainable from a common-sense conservative position when so many people are coming down with diabetes, a chronic disease closely related to overeating? New neuroscience research suggests that overeating certain foods earlier in life changes one’s brain in ways that make it harder to stop later in life. This means that parents who let their kids eat lots of sugar set them up for a lifetime of diabetes, and other obesity-related diseases. How is that not a moral failing?

The costs to society of treating diabetes is enormous, and is expected to triple to over $300 billion – if obesity plateaus, which it may not do. Who is going to pay for that indulgence? Both the taxpayer, in higher Medicare and Medicaid costs, and individual insurance ratepayers. It becomes difficult to take seriously Southern conservatives who complain about the morally lax lower orders (read: poor black people) being a drain on the taxpayer when they themselves have their mouths full of Super Sonic Cheeseburger.

I find it abhorrent that politics in this country has devolved into political "teams." Rather than thinking for themselves, people blindly follow whatever their team leaders tell them to think both on the right and the left. Eating healthy is "liberal" (and as the article editor pointed out, liberals can be huge, off-putting snobs about eating healthy), so therefore, I'll do the complete opposite to support my "team."

But poor eating habits should not be the subject of political debate, and neither should be efforts to get adults and kids exercising more. As the author pointed out, everyone has a moral obligation to eat healthy.

"Bear" Mode

It happens every year at this time. The days get shorter and colder, and I just go into "bear" mode. All I want to do is sleep. Getting out of bed is a huge struggle. I just want to snuggle under the covers and let the whole day go by.

I also crave warm food, and sticking to my mostly raw, vegan routine becomes nearly impossible. How can I eat that cold apple when it's only 23 degrees Fahrenheit outside??? I need a big old bowl of warm oatmeal to get me started.

On top of everything else, it's the holidays, so I'm trying to eat less during the week to make up for my minor indulgences when I'm celebrating. A few cocktails here, a few canapes there, a dessert or two can really pack on the pounds in just a few weeks.

Soup has become a staple at lunch. I've found that Miso soup is filling and warming. I also like to use my juicer to make "raw soups." Yesterday I juiced carrots, apples and ginger then warmed the juice up a little to make a soup. Yummy!!!

And, my usual breakfast of fruit has been replaced by oatmeal on many mornings. I combine rolled oats, blueberries, raisins, maple syrup, almond milk, cinnamon and water in a bowl, microwave it for a few minutes, and I have a hearty, filling breakfast. (Note, those packages of oatmeal have been processed to the point of being completely devoid of any real fiber or nutrients so I avoid those).

The good news is that by the end of January, as the days start to get longer again, I usually start to slowly emerge from my bear mode. So, all I have to do is get through the next six weeks or so.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Overeating Is Like Drug Addiction

Another incredibly fascinating article on how over-eating and eating fatty foods can re-wire the brain similar to how drugs can:

There are quite a few interesting passages including this one:

They've also found that, at least in animals, sweet or fatty foods can act a lot like a drug in the brain, he says. And there's growing evidence that eating too much of these foods can cause long-term changes in the brain circuits that control eating behavior.

The food-drug link comes from the fact that both animal and human brains include special pathways that make us feel good when we eat, and really good when we eat sweet or fatty foods with lots of calories, DiLeone says.

"Drug addiction is really hijacking some of these pathways that evolved to promote food intake for survival reasons," he says

That doesn't necessarily mean food is addictive the way cocaine is, DiLeone says, but he says there is growing evidence that eating a lot of certain foods early in life can alter your brain the way drugs do.

And this one:

Reyes was part of a team that gave mice a high-fat diet from the time they were weaned until they reached 20 weeks, so they gained significant amounts of weight and became obese. Then the researchers looked at the brain's pleasure centers — areas known to change in drug addiction.

"What we found is that in animals that were obese, there were really dramatic changes in these areas of the brain that participate in telling us how rewarding food is," Reyes says. The changes made these areas less responsive to fatty foods, so an obese mouse would have to eat more fat than a typical mouse to get the same amount of pleasure, she says.

And some of the changes didn't go away, even when the mice returned to a normal diet.

"So it is similar to what happens in cases of chronic drug abuse," Reyes says. "The reward circuitry changes in a similar way, and that promotes the seeking of that drug, or in our case, in seeking palatable food."

That could help explain why obese children tend to remain that way as adults, she says.

Minimally Processed Vs. Ultra Processed

Marion Nestle has a very good piece in the San Francisco Gate on Minimally processed versus ultra processed foods.

The reasons for avoiding "ultra-processed" foods are spelled out here:

Ultra-processed foods, he says, are the primary cause of the rapid rise in obesity and associated diseases throughout the world.

He charges the food industry with creating durable, convenient, attractive, ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat products that are so palatable that they are habit-forming. And they are meant to be eaten everywhere - in fast-food places, on the street and while watching television, working or driving.

Ultra-processed foods are much higher in calories for their nutrients than unprocessed and minimally processed foods. They have loads of fat, sugars and salt, but are low in vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Read more:

As I've stated repeatedly, if you're really, really serious about taking off weight and keeping it off, the number one thing you should do is just say "NO" to ultra processed foods.

I'm not saying it's easy. I'm not even advocating that you go "cold turkey" when it comes to banishing sweetened canned or bottled drinks, Doritos, Ho-Hos and convenience dinners from your diet.

Instead, I think the best route is to gradually replace the "junk" in your diet with what Michael Pollan calls "real food."

Instead of that 100 calorie pack of Chips Ahoy for a snack, have an apple, some grapes or even a handful of nuts and raisins.

Instead of reaching into the freezer for dinner, make a simple dinner of pasta with some fresh sauteed vegetables.

Make the changes gradually, and over time move to eliminate more and more ultra processed foods from your diet.

Add a little exercise, and the weight will just fall off.

I promise it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Want People to Think You're Hot?

Then eat your fruits and veggies. From a new book on the science of attractiveness:

"In African, Asian, and European study populations, people tend to prefer faces that are yellower in skin tone, an effect caused by eating lots of beta-carotene rich fruits and vegetables. Perrett explains that yellow pigments may be a sign of health, since "when blood supplies are depleted by diseases, fewer carotenoids will be laid down in the skin." Perrett's explanation of the general preference for a healthy-looking mate is nothing you haven't heard before (a partner's illness can harm a fetus or result in faulty genes being passed on), but it's worth noting that not all people put an appearance of health above all else."
Read more:

Photo for the Day

I think this photo says it all. If we can get ourselves to move more, we burn fat. It's really that easy. I think that, to the extent we can, if we can divorce ourselves from cars, elevators, escalators, etc., we not only help ourselves we help the overall environment.

I lived in Manhattan for over ten years. I moved out over fifteen years ago, and the thing I miss the most about living in the city is the walking. Even if you had a car, you usually had to walk to get to it, and if you drove it anywhere in the city, you still usually had to walk to get to where ever you were going once you parked.

But having a car in New York was rare. Mostly, I walked, even in the foulest weather to work, to classes, to see friends, or to shop. I actually hated the subway (I got stuck, sardine-like, one two many times), and walked rather than go underground for a stop or two.

But here in the ex-burbs, its the reverse. Walking is rare unless it's for exercise. The closest store is some five miles from my home, and with two kids, taking a bike to pick up groceries isn't in the cards. Because of the sprawl (our town has two acre zoning), even visiting friends generally means getting in the car (although I do walk to some near-by friends).

So, whenever the opportunity does arise for me to walk, I grab it. I avoid elevators as much as possible (particularly when going down), and try to get parking spots further away.

But, I dream of someday getting back to the city, or at least a community where walking to stores is easier.