Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vacation/Cancer Update Post

If you've been wondering where I've been, I'm on vacation.   It's my annual It's Christmas week and the kids have a week off from school and I don't know what the hell else to do so we're skiing trip.  

My last radiation treatment was December 23.   Since then I first got caught up in the whole Christmas Eve/Day whirlwind, then we left for New Hampshire on December 26. 

I have to say, it was the perfect way to end it.    After my last radiation treatment, I didn't have a moment to think about what I'd just been through because of the whole holiday thing, and now I'm away from my normal routine.  If I was at home, there would be constant reminders.

Even better at getting my mind off what I just went through, this year I started to volunteer in the adaptive skiing program we participate in for my son.    Thus far I've worked with two students and it's been a wonderful experience. 

Less than one week out from my last treatment I'm already feeling less burned, and much of the fatigue has dissipated as well.

Even better, my psyche is on the mend as well.  

Unfortunately, there isn't much snow up here in New Hampshire.   While we've been able to go alpine skiing, Nordic is not possible.   

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bad Eating

I have to admit that although I try to be fastidious in my eating year-round, I always manage to slip up during the holidays.   I love sweets, including cookies, cakes, candy and chocolates, and although I only eat the "good" stuff (nothing too artificial), if I let myself, I can really go overboard.  The holidays is when I'm inundated with sweets, and most of it is the really, really, yummy, home-made variety.

How can you not indulge when confronted with entire plateful of home-made cookies?

Now, in previous years, I've been able to hold myself in check.    I was able to indulge, but limit the indulging.

This year, I have seen myself go overboard one too many times.    At my annual cookie exchange, one of my girlfriends made those peanut butter cookies with a Hershey's kiss on top.     I ate almost everyone I brought home, and would have finished them if my daughter didn't come home and scarf down the remaining ones.    The rest of the cookies where safely bagged into little cellophane bags for gift giving because I could move on to another cookie to indulge in. 

Then, my sister-in-law sent an entire 4 POUND TIN  of David's Cookies to us as a gift.    After overindulging in chocolate chip, peanut butter chip and white chocolate macademia chip cookies, I sent the entire tin of cookies into work with my husband to get it out of the house.

And, I can't seem to stop myself.   I'm on the tail end of my radiation treatments for breast cancer (only 2 treatments left), and I'm guessing that the additional stress of cancer has weakened my normal resolve.

Worse, I've been indulging in dairy more than I should.

Now, anyone who has been reading my blog for a while probably knows that I had to swear off dairy when I realized it didn't really agree with me.   On the advise of a naturapath, I went cold-turkey off dairy a few years ago to see if it would clear up a chronic post-nasal drip I had.

Well, going off dairy not only cleared up my sinus problems (my allergies actually improved as well), but I also noticed that my constant chronic flatulence cleared up as well.   I come from an extremely gassy family, and just thought it was something I had to deal with.

But, after a few weeks of indulging in dairy, my chronic post-nasal drip is back and let's just say you'd want to think twice before hanging out in a sealed room with me.

I know I have to get back to my usual strict food regime, but right now I just don't have the will-power to do it.   It's Winter, there's hardly any day-light, it's the holidays, and I'm being treated for cancer.    

I guess that's what New Year's resolutions are for.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

To Vegan or Not to Vegan, that is the Question

Today at lunch, the topic of becoming vegan/vegetarian came up again.

I was out with a group of gal friends and we all have teen-agers, and one of the hot trends coursing through this demographic is veganism and vegetarianism.  

Now, on the surface this sounds good because pretty much all the literature points to a mostly plant-based diet as healthy.   But, you can be a vegan and eat a completely junk diet, and that seems to be what these kids are doing. 

They're vegetarians, but they're not actually eating vegetables.  Instead, they're subsisting on carbs, and a lot of junk carbs at that.   One friend detailed how her "vegetarian" daughter was eating microwave Mac N Cheese five nights a week for dinner. 

We also had a good laugh over another friend's son who has never ate a salad in his life but now eats several "vegan" candy bars a day.

Now my teen-age soon is autistic, and there's no way he's going to ever be a vegetarian.    Let's just say that I doubt he understands where that hamburger comes from, much less make an ethical decision about whether to eat it or not. 

I myself have had the "should I be vegan/vegetarian" conversation with myself numerous times.   I eat mostly vegan/vegetarian because I believe that eating too much meat, dairy etc. is bad for one's health in the long run.

But, I've never been able to persuade myself to make that full-blown leap in veganism or vegetarianism for several reasons:

1.   I actually enjoy, meat, fish and dairy, and while I want to limit my intake, don't really want to completely restrict myself.

2.  I have zero empathy for animals.   I don't care that one died to be on my plate, and I have no problem with people hunting them.  In fact, if someone showed up on my doorstep and offered to shoot the deer that are eating my garden, I'd kiss them.

3.  I don't want to be a food pain in the ass (or FPIA as I call them).  I don't want anyone to feel they have to cook special or do anything special for me.  If I go to some one's home and they serve pork, I smile and eat (but usually not a lot just enough to keep the hostess off my back.)

4.  I'm not sure where to draw the line without being a hypocrite.  I.e., if I'm supposedly so ethical then, does that mean I can't wear leather shoes?   What about Jello?  Can I eat Jello?   How about fur?   I really can't stand that fake stuff, which is bad for the environment in any event.  

To say I won't eat animals for ethical reasons, seems to lead to the idea that I must then avoid ALL products that are animal based-not just those consumed.  

And, why should animals prevail over what's best for the environment?    Artificial man-made materials are often more environmentally damaging than animal-based products.  

After pondering this on, and on, and on, I usually just decide to keep eating an omnivore diet so that I don't have to think about these things.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stand and Wrap

Tis' the season to wrap, and wrap and wrap.   

Wrapping gifts (and creating gifts), takes up a major portion of my time every December.    

I used to sit while doing it.    I'd set up a wrapping station on the coffee table in my family room, turn on the TV, and sit on the sofa and wrap (and can easily watch a whole movie wrapping).

This year I changed things up a bit.   In response to all the news reports this year as to how sitting is so bad for you, I resolved to wrap all my presents standing.

It was fairly easy to do.  I moved the wrapping station to my kitchen island, which, luckily, also has a TV.   Every time I found some time to wrap, I'd find a good Christmas movie and wrap away.   

Since it usually takes me anywhere between 3-4 hours to wrap all my presents, that's time that I did not spend sitting.

Next step, finding a spot where I can stand and type.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cancer Update

The good news is that I only have five more radiation treatments left, and by this time a week from now, I'll be all done with that phase of my treatment for breast cancer.

The bad news is that I have what amounts to a REALLY bad sunburn on my one boob, and a completely mismatched looking set of breasts.

The mismatched boobs reinforces my desire to remain with my husband.   There's absolutely no way I ever want to get naked for the first time with anyone again.

At least my husband saw me in my glory days before the butt and boobs drooped.   Now I'd have to explain the reasons for the multitude of scars I've acquired through the years including the huge smiling C-section souvenir and the big gash under my arm where the lymph nodes were removed.  

It's a good thing that I actually like the guy. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

OK, You have No Excuses

Stairs will get you there faster than an elevator.  Here's the deal:

If you think you don't have time to take the stairs, you may be out of an excuse, according to a study published Monday.
Researchers at one Canadian hospital found that when they had doctors take the stairs instead of the elevator, it saved each an average of 15 minutes out of the workday.

The stairs were more efficient, it seemed, since there was no wait-time for a lift, according to findings reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

In general, experts recommend that people find ways to add "incidental" exercise to their daily lives. That includes small steps like parking farther away from your destination and bypassing the elevator in favor of the stairs.

But many people habitually head straight for the elevator, noted Dr. Thomas Wilson, the senior researcher on the new study. And the assumption that it saves time may be one reason.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sound Walking

 I'm very fortunate in that I live just a few miles from Long Island Sound.  

With the daily radiation, I've gotten into the habit of taking walks along the Sound prior to going in for my daily dose.   Whenever the weather is nice, I'm out there walking, alone or with friends.  

It's a great way to clear my head and calm myself.    Westport has an amazing beach area called Compo Beach.  I usually park my car there and walk along the sound, turning in one spot to climb a steep hill where I get to enjoy a beautiful vista, then I head back down the hill, and walk back to my car.

I'm a lucky girl.

Monday, December 12, 2011

You have a Yoga Body

In the last 2 months or so, I've had several people tell me that I have a "yoga body."  

Now, I practice yoga asanas at last 3 times a week, often more, so I am always grateful that my hard work has been paying off physically.  

Before and during my treatment for cancer, yoga classes were offered to me by my doctors (and their staff) as a way to "cope" with my illness.     When I informed them that I already had an established practice, many of them said "I can tell, you have a yoga body."

But beyond the physical benefits, my practice has helped me cope.   I made keeping my yoga regime intact during this ordeal a priority, and, on the days I am not doing asana, I "practice" my sitting meditation, so technically, I am now practicing yoga everyday.  

Even on the days immediately after my surgery, I was back at my Shala, practicing asana.   It may not have been the full physical practice I regularly do, but just moving and breathing made me feel better.  

My practice helped me to heal.

And for that, I'm grateful.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Bear Mode is Back

It's that time of year again.   The sun comes up later in the morning, goes down earlier in the evening, and all I want to do is sleep.

This happens to me every year.   Despite every effort I make to get to bed earlier, when it's time to get out of bed in the morning, I just don't want to move. 

If I didn't have work to do, kids to get to school and a house to run I think I would just stay in bed until sometime after the sun came up.   At that point, I'd roll over and read a book for a couple of hours, then take a nap, then read a little more, and then just go to bed for the night.

I don't think I'd even need to eat.   All I want to do is stay in bed, under the covers and let the day slide by. 

Wouldn't it be nice?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

We Need This

A new organization dedicated to food and environmental reporting

Let's face it, food, health and environmental issues are seriously under-reported in our current system of "news reporting." 

I mean, do you ever watch those "morning news" shows on the major networks?   Between celebrity gossip, advice on what to wear to office parties, and arranging weddings on-air, the closest thing you get to actual news reporting is when they briefly mention that a bunch of Republican talking heads debated in Iowa the previous night (but don't bother with you with informing you with what they actually said.)    

And, cable news is no better.   They'll tell you about the debate, and even show you video clips of what the debaters said before the commentators launch into their own tirades about it all means, and why candidate X is never going to win the nomination (and let's not forget Fox News extrapolating on endlessly as to why the Muppets are communists!!)

(I swear to god, you have to be seriously brain dead to take Fox News seriously.   What got me about this rant, was not just that they did it, but every time you thought the rant was finally ending, they brought out another "commentator.")

When you do get any food or health news in the "news" it's usually just some cursory report about some new study saying that peas are good for you (without bothering to tell you that the funding for the report came from the National Pea Producers' Association.).

So when I read about a start up which is going to do good-old-fashioned investigating reporting I immediately "liked" it on Facebook.  

Here's what they say their mission will be:

“Over the past four decades, coverage of food and agriculture has waned in the mainstream press at the same time as the impact of a more industrialized food system on public health has become increasingly severe,” said Ruth Reichl, editorial board member of the Food & Environment Reporting Network, Editorial Advisor to Gilt Taste, Editor-at-Large at Random House, and former Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet magazine. “Without detailed investigations into food and agriculture, our understanding of humanity’s impacts on the environment is incomplete and related policy changes ineffective.” 
I can't wait to see future reports.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ten Cereals to Avoid Feeding Your Kids

HuffPo has a list of the 10 Sugariest Cereals.   Not surprisingly, it includes standards such as Captain Crunch, Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Efficiencies/Inefficiencies of Locavorism

I've been a devotee of local farms and farmer's markets since before they even had a word for it.   Being a locavore may be all the rage now, but I was doing when people would think you were crazy for just not heading into the Stop & Shop to get all your food in one place.

Well, two bloggers are now debating the efficiencies/inefficiencies of being a locavore. 

Both make two points.

But, I've bought local primarily for three reasons.

First, I like to keep my area pretty rural.

I grew up in an area of Jersey which was, at the time, rural.  Now there isn't a real farm anywhere within 50 miles.

Why?   The farmers couldn't make any money and sold out their land to become shopping malls, housing developments and condos.

As I told my friends years ago, if you like seeing that farm everyday as your driving around, then you sure as hell better stop there at least once a week and actually buy something from that farmer.

The other reason, I like to meet the people who actually grow my food and find out how they grow it.  Something can have the word "organic" or "natural" slapped on it, and it can be pretty much meaningless. 

Meet the farmer, however, and he'll tell you exactly what he sprays on those vegetables, or what the chickens that laid those eggs cost.

Third, it's cheaper to eat organic and natural if you buy directly from the farmer.   Once you introduce that middle man, you're paying $5 for a dozen free-range, organic eggs.   Buy from the farmer and the price drops to $4.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Yoga Glow

This weekend, I was fortunate to spend most of my time in a yoga workshop with teacher-extraordinaire, Beryl Bender Birch.   That's a picture of Beryl up top on the left, with my regular yoga teacher Val on the right.

How do you like their shirts?   It says "Celebrate Impermanence" and I bought one for myself.

The workshop was an early Christmas present to myself.  I thought with the whole cancer-thang going on it would be therapeutic to spend three days immersed in yoga.

And, it was.

I'm still on a bit of a yoga high right now, and hope I don't come down for at least another day or two.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Well, at Least One Boob is Looking Good

After today I am officially half-way through my radiation treatments. 


My radiologist recommended 32 treatments, and after today I have 16 treatments under my belt.

My last scheduled treatment is December 23.

Now, when prior to starting treatment, I was told that radiation gives the treated breast a bit of a "lift."

Half-way through I have to say that my one breast is looking very perky.   It hasn't been this high since I was in my 20s.

So, here's what I got going on right now.  I have one breast that is about a full cup size smaller than the other and considerably "higher" than the other.  

Plus, the radiated breast has quite a tan right now.

It's quite the picture, I have one larger, droopy, white breast, and another tanned, smaller, perky breast.

But you know what my husband says when I show him my breasts? 

"Uh, I don't see anything different." 

And, he really doesn't see any different.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review--Anti Cancer A New Way of Life

I don't know why, but when I announced to friends and family that I had cancer, I got bombarded with books.

Many of these gifts dealt with how to cope with cancer once you had it.

Other books, however, focused on how to NOT get cancer.  

Well, since I was already diagnosed with cancer, I would say that the horse had already left the barn, so it was a bit late for that.

But, a gift is a gift, and I've been dutifully reading through all the material given to me, and I thought that maybe I should start reviewing some of it.

One of the books I found most interesting is Anti Cancer A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD

Bottom line, a French doctor living in the US finds out in his early 30's that he has brain cancer.    He survives, relapses and survives again (although he finally died last July).   Along the way he does quite a bit of research about what causes cancer, and what to do to prevent it.

Dr. Servan-Schreiber incorporates much of his own story into the book, and I have to say that it has a tendency to ramble all over the place (what ever happened to good editors?).    

But the research and findings he discusses is fascinating.     He discusses the statistical rise in certain forms of cancer (including breast) and shows how it is linked to the chemicals and pesticides in our food chain.

He also then proposes a diet to help our immune systems fight cancer.

As usual, the diet advice was pretty disappointing for me since I pretty much already eat that way.    I hardly eat any meat, and I tend to stick with organic produce, meat and products as well as whole-grains.   

According to his theory I really shouldn't have gotten cancer to begin with, and now that I've had it, what am I supposed to do?  

Overall, I say Anti-Cancer is a worthwhile read.   Just for the research alone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

That Ain't Honey, Honey

Do you believe that most of the honey sold in US grocery stores isn't actually honey???

This is news to me.  Even more sickening, much the the so-called "honey" being sold is from China and India and contains unsafe chemicals and drugs.   A lot of this pseudo-honey sold in the US is actually banned from sale in Europe as unsafe.

It's just another example of the emasculation of the FDA in recent years.

Now, I have to admit that this doesn't affect me all that much.   I'm not really a big fan of honey, and prefer Maple Syrup as my natural sweetener.  

Plus, when I do use honey it's usually something I bought at the Farmer's Market from a local bee-keeper, and as the article indicated, that means I'm pretty safe.   

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home-made Thanksgiving

I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year, and I'm proud to say that nothing is being made out of a can, box or bag.

That's not unusual for my family.   We've always pretty much done the from scratch Thanksgiving feast.   Chalk one up for the Italian Heritage.

It's not that I'm laboring in the kitchen from 4 am to get the meal done.   My family has pretty much always done Thanksgiving Pot-luck style.  Everyone brings something.   One sister is bringing both the apple and pumpkin pies, another a vegetable dish and sweet potatoes (no marshmallows please), and my Mom is bringing the antipasto platter and mashed potatoes (with olive oil and garlic in them of course).

Plus, I've been schooled in do it ahead since I was a kid.   Two weekends ago, I made the turkey stock and gravy base which have been sitting in the freezer since then.   The cranberry sauce was made over the weekend, and is hanging out in the downstairs fridge along with a pate I made as an appetizer, and I cut up two loaves of sourdough bread to make croutons for the stuffing.   I even set the table for the big day.

Tomorrow I'll pick up my fresh turkey and put it in a brining solution.

On Wednesday, I'll make the stuffing base, and peel, cut and chop a melange of root vegetables for roasted root vegetables with ginger and maple syrup.   I'll even begin roasting the root vegetables, to get a head start.  

Wednesday afternoon I'll get the turkey ready to pop in the oven first thing Thursday morning.  I'll take the turkey out of the brining solution, pat dry, and stuff the cavity with shallots, apples, celery and sage.   Then I'll truss the bird, sprinkle salt and pepper on the outside, place in it's roasting pan, cover and set back in the fridge overnight.

On Thursday morning, my 22 pound bird will be put in the oven first thing.   I'll then finish up making the stuffing (we cook it outside the bird), gravy and roasted veggies and dinner will be served.

Bruce Bradley's blog is fast becoming one of my favorites, so I love his newest post detailing just how bad processed "Thanksgiving Food" is.   It's worth a read.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Vegetarian Option

Last night my husband and I were invited to a fund-raising dinner at the Pierre Hotel in NYC. 

Now, I'm not really one for going to fancy fund-raisers, but since the benefit was to raise money for a Breast cancer cause, I thought, given that I have breast cancer, it was time to pull my Armani sheath out the closet, slip my feet into my Jimmy Choos and head off into the big city.

I've always found fund-raising dinners problematic when you're trying to lose and/or maintain weight, 

They may be asking you to bid a minimum of $2,000 on a dinner for 4 at Raos, but the food they put in front of you is usually questionable.    Last night dinner started with a generously-sized salad (good), but the main course was some questionable-looking red meat, coated in a god-knows-whats-in-it sauce.

Looking at what was being served, I politely asked if it was possible to get a vegetarian option.

The good news was that a vegetarian option was available.   The mystery meat was swept away, and in its place was delivered a neat little pastry-package filled with quiona and mixed vegetables.   I tasted the pastry, but left most behind, focusing on eating the quiona/veggie mixture and the side of green-beans wrapped into a little bundle with a leek.  

My initial worry with "going vegetarian" was that I might get something smothered in cheese---making it almost as bad as the meat.    But, as I was tasting the meal, cheese and even butter, seemed to be absent.

The rise of the vegans???? Maybe the vegetarian option also served as the vegan option?  

If so, in the future, I'll be more than happy to leave the rubber chicken dinners behind me, an go vegetarian at future fund-raisers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What I Made For Dinner Last Night

I haven't done one of these "What I Made for Dinner Last Night" postings in a while, but I thought it would be a good idea to show that I can still find time to make dinner most nights even though I am in radiation every day.

The radiation now takes an additional 1 hour and 15 minutes out of my busy day.   The actual radiation treatment isn't that long--on 10-15 minutes, but getting to the hospital and back every day is time consuming.

To make up for the lost time, I've been doing a lot of "double cooking" and cooking on the weekends.    When I "double cook" I make enough food for 2 meals and freeze the remainder, and when I cook on the weekends, I just prepare food in advance and either refrigerate or freeze.

For example, last week I made a big pot of minestrone and froze half for a later meal.    Two weekends ago I made two pans of my mushroom/spinach lasagna (I'll write out the recipe one day), and froze both.  

Even with that advance planning, I still need to whip up some quick dinners during the week.   If I have a chance to get to the grocery store, grilling fresh salmon is quick and easy, and a crowd pleaser with my family.   I can either make a salad or steam some green beans or broccoli to go along side it, and top with one of my home-made vinaigrette's.

Last night, however, I went back to an old family, quick and easy favorite.  My grandmother made this dish quite often, and I always liked it because you cook the cauliflower and pasta together in the same pot which saves clean up time.    The whole dish takes less than half and hour to make from start to finish, and you can substitute broccoli if you don't care for cauliflower.   It's also great because all the ingredients are easy to keep for at least a couple of weeks, so you don't have to run out last minute to shop.

Here's the recipe.

1 head of cauliflower cut into 1 inch pieces
1 12 oz box of whole grain pasta
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion peeled and chopped
1 2 oz. can of anchovies, drained and rinsed.
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add cauliflower and pasta.  Stir and cook until pasta is al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan over high heat and add the chopped onions.   Cook until they begin to turn translucent and then add anchovies.  Stir until anchovies break apart (about 3 minutes).   Add 1 cup of the pasta/cauliflower cooking water and let the liquid reduce by half (2-3 minutes).

Drain pasta and cauliflower and add to the pan with the onion/anchovy mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste and parsley if using.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Ketchup, Now Pizza

Congressional Republicans are pushing a proposal to make pizza a vegetable in school lunches.   I kid you not. 

On Monday, Republican-controlled House of Representatives introduced a spending bill — a measure far more significant than their initial whining and foot-stomping — that would obviate a proposal made earlier this year by the Agriculture Department to limit the amount of potatoes and sodium, as well as increase the number of whole grains, served in school cafeterias. Unsurprisingly, changes to the Agriculture's proposal had been requested by frozen pizza companies and the salt and potato industries, which worry that, deprived of essential french fry nutrients, American children will begin to absorb too much water and explode like Senator Kelly from the first X-Men movie. Some conservative congressional members have also expressed concerns that the government shouldn't be telling children what to eat, especially if they're eating frozen pizza and French fries, and so have crafted a bill that, according to CBS, would "prevent overly burdensome and costly regulations and...provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve the nutritional quality of meals." The bill includes language qualifying that the gross tomato paste used in school pizzas be considered a vegetable; once classified as a vegetable, the paste would count towards fulfilling the vegetable portion of nutritional guidelines.
Overly burdensome regulations?  It's amazing how regulations suddenly become "burdensome" every time some big business conglomerate wants to make more money by harming the American public.  

If pizza could be counted as a vegetable the problem is that the regulations aren't burdensome enough.  It's time to get money out of politics for our children's sakes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Battle for Breakfast?

Think that Tony the Tiger is just a harmless breakfast icon?    Think again.

Despite what big food tries to convince you, here's the reality:

Defenders of kid marketing claim animated characters are simple, harmless fun. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. These characters are not some random creation. Rather, they are a well-calculated assault on children. For any given character, millions of dollars has been spent on the following:
  1. Researching the psyche of kids at each stage of childhood development
  2. Learning effective emotional triggers to create kid engagement, trust and purchase interest
  3. Understanding story frameworks to make sure they are interesting to kids
  4. Testing and re-testing advertising concepts and final commercials to ensure they will drive increased consumption among kids
With the help of advertising agencies, research firms, and brand character specialists like Character LLC, Big Food companies launch advertising smart bombs, disguised as fun-loving characters, straight at kids.
It is truly amazing that when you do a side by side comparison of Frosted Flakes to an ice cream sandwich, you'd actually be better off giving your kids an ice-cream sandwich for breakfast.   

And, as the blogger notes, the size of the Frosted Flakes portion is vastly undersized, so you're feeding your kid even more calories, sodium and fat. 

As the author points out, Kellogg's spends nearly $20 million annually marketing just Frosted Flakes.   Tony the Tiger represents big money, and it's not money spent in your kids' best interest.

The author says it well, "Kid's Marketing . .  .  It's Just Not a Fair Fight."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Well Duh!!!

Eating a McDonald's McRibs sandwich isn't all that good for your health.    I kind of already gathered that eating processed pressed meat shaped into rib form probably wasn't a good idea.

However, I didn't realize that if I did venture to eat one, I'd essentially be eating the same ingredients that are in my yoga mat.   To wit:

These components are in small enough quantities to be innocuous. But it's still a little disconcerting to know that, for example, azodicarbonamide, a flour-bleaching agent that is most commonly used in the manufacture of foamed plastics like in gym mats and the soles of shoes, is found in the McRib bun. The compound is banned in Europe and Australia as a food additive. (England's Health and Safety Executive classified it as a "respiratory sensitizer" that potentially contributes to asthma through occupational exposure.) The U.S. limits azodicarbonamide to 45 parts per million in commercial flour products, based on analysis of lab testing.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Confessions of a Former Big Food Executive

A good read.  Most telling:

I think one of the main ways the processed food industry is trying to grow and defend their business is by funding self-serving research. The goal of these studies isn't to uncover "the truth" or to improve public health. Instead, the research is carefully constructed to create sound bites and statistics to help market their products or combat potential regulation. This is one of the primary ways we end up with conflicting studies that confuse consumers on what they should eat or drink.

Is this purposeful misdirection? Intent is always tough to prove, especially if you don't have firsthand knowledge. Research tends to be the work of a select few within processed food companies, and I was never part of one of those groups. That said, if you dig into these studies and their methodology, you can usually find the telltale signs of how they have "stacked the deck" in their favor.

Radiation Dos and Don'ts

Yesterday was my first radiation treatment.   I have to go in everyday, five days a week, for 32 treatments.  

It was pretty uneventful yesterday, aside from the fact that I woke up with a fairly nasty cold, and could not breath through my nose for most of the day.

On my way out, the technician handed me a list of "do's and don'ts" which I thought I'd share with you, along with my thoughts on each one.

1.  Do not expose the treated breast to sunlight.   I'm a 50 year old woman, living in Connecticut, and it's NOVEMBER, what the hell makes you think I'll be sunbathing topless?

2.  Wear Cotton only bras with no underwires.  Well I guess my husband won't be getting any sexy lingerie strip-teases for a while.

3.  Do not shave treated armpit.   If I'm not shaving one, then what's the point of shaving the other?

4.   Apply pure cornstarch to treated breast prior to treatment.  Just what I want to do everyday, rub gravy thickener into my boobie.

5.  Do not use any cream, lotion, cosmetics or deodorant on the treated breast.   Do women actually use cosmetics on their breasts?   Am I missing out on something here?

6.  Do not apply heat or cold to treated breast.  Again, am I missing something here?   Do women typically go around with heating pads and cold packs on their boobs?

7.  Do not scratch or rub skin on treated breast.  Well, that wouldn't be very attractive now would it?  Why don't you just tell me not to rub my crotch while you're at it?  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Kids are Not All Right

They don't understand what it takes to lose weight.

What I found most distressing was that obese teen-agers turn to smoking as a weight loss aide.     The second most distressing thing is that they don't understand that they can't have their sugary sodas and lose weight too.   It's sad to think that young men and women may be turned off to exercise, thinking it does nothing for them, because they don't understand that they have to both cut calories and exercise.  

The most effective way to cut calories, of course, is to cut out those sugary drinks.

It all comes down to education.   Our young people are woefully under-educated in what it takes to maintain a healthy weight.   They simply do not understand that if they spend three hours a day sitting playing video games and drinking sugary drinks, they are going to be obese.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mental Health Break

Because we all need a good laugh now and again:

If you're having problems viewing this Daily Show Clip, check it out here

Friday, November 4, 2011

Getting Back to Tai Chi

Last night I made it back to Tai Chi for the first time since the Great Northeastern Halloween Snow Black-out.   It felt so great to just breath.

Our power finally came back on Wednesday night after going out Saturday afternoon.  

Needless to say, not having power for five days majorly disrupted my normal work-out and eating regime.  

It was kind of like being on a vacation without the actual fun of being on vacation.

Did I mention that our town canceled school for THE ENTIRE WEEK???   So I've had a bored ten year old to contend with and a 16 year old autistic young man bouncing off the walls because his normal routine was disrupted.

Then, there was the whole cancer thing.   I was dragging the kids, or trying to schedule sitters, so that I could make the rounds with my surgeon, oncologist and radiologist.

The shala were I normally practice was closed because there was no power, and I couldn't practice in my normal home yoga space because there was over a foot of water in it.

Plus, after three days of living in a cold, dark house were we couldn't flush the toilets, we finally abandoned ship and went to live with my girl-friend.  

Now, with the kids out of school it was impossible for me to walk outside.  I also couldn't utilize my treadmill because there was no power.   Taking the kids anywhere to hike on Sunday and  Monday was out of the question because there was snow on the ground.

With both my yoga shala and martial arts dojo closed due to lack of power, my usual exercise schedule was completely trashed.

I did manage to take a few walks with my girl-friend once I moved in with her and the snow melted, but she doesn't walk as far as I normally do.   I also took the kids for a couple of walks in a park near her house as well.

So last night after getting back in my house, being able to go to the dojo and practice Tai Chi felt so-o-o-o good.   I've been able to get back on the treadmill, take the kids for a hike and this morning I dragged the kids to the shala to wait while I practiced yoga.

What can I say about what I've been eating?   Well, with no power it was hard to cook.   I have a gas cook-top--THANK THE LORD--but for the most part we took the kids out to eat to get out of the cold, dark house (and use the toilets).   I only ordered salads and grilled fish, but it was still probably a higher caloric load than I usually eat.

Did I mention the water in my basement?   It came in handy to flush the toilets.  Every day, several times a day, I'd don my rubber Hunter boots and walk down the stairs to the basement, fill the buckets with water, and go up to the bathrooms on the first and second level.  I'd fill the tanks with the water from the buckets and flush.

We live in an early 19th New England Farmhouse.  The plaque on the house says it was built in 1825.   Whenever we lose power all I can think is that while I'm inconvenienced for a few hours, this was how people lived full time.

Well folks, I have to say.  After having two extended power outages in the last 3 months, and living without electricity, heat and even running water, I know that I am SO-O-O-O happy to be living in the 21st century and not the 19th.

Now if I can only keep the power on.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Exercise DOES Help with Weight Loss

I have to admit that I was highly skeptical when a bunch of studies were touted a few months ago concluding that exercise does not help with weight loss.   It just seemed to run counter to everything I've ever seen with my own weight loss efforts and those of friends and family.  

Well, it turns out I had good cause to be skeptical.   A new batch of studies indicates that weight loss DOES help.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

About those Pink Ribbons

Turns out that those pink ribbons plastered all over everything last month may have been a bit hypocritical.   Here's the deal:
Avon and Estee Lauder make various products containing PEG compounds and other chemicals that undergo a nasty chemical process called “ethoxylation,” which uses ethylene oxide (a known breast carcinogen) during processing and often leaves products contaminated with 1,4 dioxane (a carcinogen and serious groundwater contaminant).
All three companies make products containing parabens and other chemicals that act like estrogen in the body, which is problematic because higher estrogen exposures are associated with higher breast cancer risk. A recent study found that methylparaben can interfere with the effectiveness of tamoxifin, a drug used to treat breast cancer.Revlon, Avon and Estee Lauder owe it to us to do better. As leaders in the pink-ribbon parade, they have a responsibility to stop buying carcinogens from the chemical companies, and they have the opportunity to be real champions for women’s health by using their leverage with the chemical companies to demand safer, non-toxic alternatives.
Instead, we get cute pink-ribbon products with an undisclosed portion of proceeds going to breast cancer research, almost none of which is focused on environmental causes of the disease such as cancer-causing chemicals and pollution. They want us to “hope for the cure” rather than having a serious discussion about how to prevent breast cancer – because prevention requires changing the status quo.   

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

No Power, No Water, No Heat and No Internet

Just wanted to let you all know that due to the freak Eastern October Snowstorm I haven't had power, Internet etc since Saturday.    We haven't gotten any estimates yet as to when we may see our power restored, so until then, I'm not sure what my ability to blog will be.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Photo of the Day

Brutally honest cereal boxes courtesy of artist Ron English.      My favorite is Sugar Frosted Fat. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Battle Within

The battle to lose weight isn't easy, but the battle to keep that lost weight off is the bigger battle.   A new study out of Australian shows how our bodies kick in hormones to make us feel hungrier after we shed weight. 

Here's what it says:
In a small study published in the Oct. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Australian scientists found that after overweight and obese patients followed a low-calorie diet for 10 weeks, their appetite and hunger hormone levels changed. While some hormone levels increased and others went down compared to before they dieted, nearly all of the changes favored the body's efforts to regain the lost weight.

The scientists used blood tests to measure levels of nine different hormones at the start of the study, at week 10 when the diet period ended, and again a year later.

The hormone levels did not revert to baseline values within 12 months after the initial weight reduction, said study senior author Dr. Joseph Proietto, a University of Melbourne professor of medicine at Austin Health in Victoria.

For example, in follow-up blood tests, one hormone called ghrelin, an appetite stimulator produced by cells in the lining of the stomach, increased after weight loss and continued to do so throughout the study. On the other hand, levels of the hormone leptin, which suppresses appetite, went down.
It's studies like these that I think demonstrate the most clearly why crash diets don't work.   Your body just responds by doing everything it can to put back on any weight you lost.

Making gradual permanent changes to your diet--in the direction of eating less processed food, less meat and more fruits and vegetables--leads to longer term weight loss.  It may take a year to lose 20 pounds, but the 20 pounds that comes off, stays off.  

Call it the Tortoise diet.   The Hare may take off weight faster, but it's the tortoise that keeps it off.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Doctor Diva

Having cancer is stressful.   Even though I know the prognosis is good. I had a successful surgery and a great pathology report.   I still have this huge uncertainty hanging over my head.

That uncertainty is my overall treatment plan.

So, when I have one of those doctors who is supposed to be helping me through this somewhat stressful time adding to that stress, it's not a good thing.

Let me digress.   A few weeks ago my breast surgeon gave me the name of an oncologist.

Now the good news was that although my cancer was invasive, it was caught at a very early stage--stage 1A.   My surgeon's opinion was that she did not feel that chemotherapy was necessary.  Whether or not chemo was off the plate, however, had to be confirmed by an oncologist.

Needless to say I wanted to get into said oncologist's office ASAP to either confirm the good news (lifting a huge cloud of doubt over my head), or get the bad news and move forward.

Getting an appointment to see said oncologist, however, required more maneuvering than turning a cruise ship around in the high seas.  

First there was the problem with actually getting the doctor's peeps to pick up the phone.   I called the telephone number on the card my surgeon gave me, but was told that the oncologist my surgeon wanted me to see was in another office and was given Telephone Number 2 to call.

So I called Telephone Number 2 at 2 pm on a Wednesday afternoon.  Although the message indicated that office hours were 9-5:30 Monday through Friday, no one picked up the phone.  I tried several more times that day to get through to no avail. 

So Thursday morning I started to try again, and I couldn't get through.  Finally I called the Telephone Number 1, and informed them of my difficulties of getting any actual people to pick up the phone at Telephone Number 2.   I got a receptionist who asked me to hold while she tried to get someone in the office.

After holding for a few minutes the receptionist got back to me and indicated that while their were receptionists, nurses, etc. in the other office, since the doctor wasn't in they decided to not pick up the phones so that they could get paperwork done.

Looking back, I now realize that I should have right then and there hung up the phone, called my surgeon and demand the name of another oncologist.

But, I'm a woman, I have cancer and I didn't want to make any waves.

Instead, I was told that the oncologist's office would get back to me by the end of the day. 

I should of asked "Why not now?"

A few hours later the oncologist's office called. 

Hip, hip hooray!!!

A nurse asked me a bunch of questions and then said that they would request my records from my surgeon and get back to me by Tuesday to set up an appointment.

Tuesday at 4:45 I still hadn't heard back.  I called the office, and guess what?  

They didn't pick up the phone.

I once again called Telephone Number 1, got a person, and asked what was going on.

Quote "the doctor wasn't in, so they decided to leave early."

Huh???? I started to think that this was one office where I'd really like to get a job.

I'm already really irritated at this point, and emotionally distraught since I'm dealing with cancer, kids, autism, work and all the other daily stresses of a a modern day, 21st century working Mom.

The receptionist at Telephone Number 1, however, assured me that she would see that someone would get back to me first thing the next morning.

At 11 o'clock the next day they finally called me (that's first thing?).

"Dr. X will see you at 11 am Tuesday, October 25th," the receptionist told me in a tone that seemed to indicate that she was setting up an appointment to let me see the Queen or the Dali Lama.

"I can't make that time," I told her, "I have another appointment with another doctor at that time."

"That is the time the doctor will see you," I was told.

I booked the anointed appointment, and cancelled the other doctor.

Well, today was the appointed day to see the oncologist, and guess what?

I got a call this morning.   The appointment was canceled.

And, I was given a new appointment, Friday at 10.

"Um," I said, "I already have another appointment at that time.  I have already cancelled one appointment to accommodate the doctor's schedule and I'm not going to cancel another one."

At this point I got a tirade about how this doctor was the "number 1" breast oncologist and that he has a very busy schedule and that I was lucky he was willing to fit me in.

All I could think about was that scene from Sex in the City where Samantha Jones is trying to get in to see some fancy oncologist and she has to deal with the snitty receptionist.

Well, I am not Samantha Jones.   I'm not some single woman with no other responsibilities except satisfying my libido.   I can't just sit around some fucking doctor's office hoping that at some point they will look down favorably on me from their exalted positions and deign to favor me with an appointment (or at least a telephone call).

I've got cancer, dammit and I don't expect to treated like some peon by some diva doctor and his obsequious staff.

Jesus, fucking Christ, am I really supposed to beg and be grateful for treatment????

Who the hell does this doctor think he is???

So I told diva doctor's receptionist what she could do with the appointment, hung up the phone and called my surgeon. 

I got her nurse and explained that me and diva doctor were not going to cut it.   This ship was sailing, and diva wasn't going to be steering it.

The nurse told me that it was understood and that she would ask the surgeon for other recommendations.

Well, long story short, I think I found a new oncologist.   He's already deemed me worthy to speak to me directly on the phone, and his staff is working on getting me in for an initial consultation.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Breast Cancer Update

Where am I?   Feeling a lot better these days.   The post surgery trauma, aches and pains are pretty much gone, and I was able to both take a walk and do a full yoga practice today.

I am, however, sleeping quite a bit.

How much sleep?  Well yesterday I work up at 8, took a 1 1/2 hour nap in the afternoon then fell asleep at 9.

I took another nap today.

So, you can say I'm sleeping my way back to recovery.

But, of course, just as I'm feeling better, stuff looms in the future that's pretty much guaranteed to get me feeling like shit again.

Tomorrow I see my oncologist and he'll tell me if I need chemotherapy.  

Needless to say the idea of getting pumped full of  poisons and chemicals and losing my hair doesn't make me want to jump up and down and yell "hooray!!"

My surgeon thinks I don't need chemo, but it's up to the oncologist to make the final call.  

Wish me luck.

Chemo or no, I will need radiology, every day for 4-6 weeks.   I'm seeing the radiologist on Thursday, and based on what the oncologist says, he'll tell me when and for how long I'll need radiology.

Radiology is also not something that makes me want to jump for joy.   I have to go EVERY FUCKING DAY for 4-6 weeks.   That alone is a drag, but I'm told that after a while your boob gets so burnt you can't wear a bra.  

And, did I mention that I'm going to essentially get zonked with huge doses of RADIATION????

I've come to the conclusion that no real progress has been made in the treatment of breast cancer.

Huge strides have been made in detection, leading to fewer deaths from breast cancer.   Huge strides have also been made in reconstruction.   But the actual treatments are just as barbaric as they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago.  When I talk to women who've had breast cancer in the past, the amazing thing is that what I'm going through is pretty much exactly what they went through.

The idea that a full mastectomy was still on the table for me boggles the mind, as is the idea that the only available post-surgery treatment options are still pretty much only chemo and radiation.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Your Choice is Their Profits

As always Marion Nestle has an excellent post on the latest corporate marketing drive directed at keeping you sick and fat.

It is not taking away YOUR choice to have Federal food safety regulations, so that YOU don't get sick after eating a slice of cantaloupe.

If you search down through the comments you'll see that the Washington Legal Foundation, which appears to be so concerned with individual freedoms, is actually funded by big corporations such as Pepsico.

Believe me, Pepsico couldn't give a shit about your freedoms, the only thing they're concerned about is profits.   Corporate conglomerates don't give money to advertising campaigns promoting "individual choice" because its the warm and fuzzy thing to do.   They do it because they're afraid that additional food safety regulations will cut into their profits.

Ads like the one Marion mentioned in her post generally never arise from real, individual, grass-roots concerns.   They're corporate propaganda, pure and simple.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Pain of Tai Chi

Over the weekend, the pain from the incision where they took out lymph nodes under my arm finally subsided.   I am happy to report that I can once again move my arms up over my head without pain,and that ongoing low throbbing pain is gone.

But, I had to hit the Motrin again on Sunday.

It started rather innocently.   On Saturday I went to my Tai Chi class and was grateful that my instructor focused the Qi Gong part of the class on developing lower body strength.

Now, Tai Chi is deceptive.   You're doing what seem to be easy movements, slowly and repeatedly.    You feel fine.  You're not uncomfortable or tired at all while you're doing them.

But then, you wake up the next morning and can't move the area you worked because your muscles are in too much pain.

Sunday morning when I woke up, I realized that moving my legs was a problem because the muscles running down the front of my thighs were spent.   Walking up and down stairs, actually just walking in general, was shear agony, and several doses of Motrin and a hot bath did little to relieve the pain.

I still hurt on Monday, and I'm still feeling the residual effects even today.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quote for the Day

 "If a "food" is flooded with so many preservatives that it can withstand a full year in both sub-zero and 100 degree-plus temps without decomposing, what kind of havoc might it be wreaking in my body?"
This was written about a package of Hillshire Farms Deli Meat left in the trunk of a car for over a year. 

Here's the story:
Three years ago, the time came to sell my trusty red Mercury Cougar. She'd lasted me a full decade, ever since my parents bought her for me as a college graduation gift. At the Honda dealership, we were given a large garbage bag to empty out our trunk before trading her in. Back there, I found a Best of Britney Spears Beta tape, some old sports bras, a beat-up Locker Room Diaries manuscript and... a package of Hillshire Farms Deli Select sliced honey ham.

The expiration date on the ham was February of 2008. It was currently October of 2008. Now, fat-free packaged deli meat is generally so pumped full of preservatives that the expiration date tends to run about five months ahead, which means I had likely purchased said pork in October of 2007, a full year earlier, when it must have fallen out of my grocery bag without my noticing. It languished there during a Chicago summer, when the temps often climb to Bikram Yoga levels.

And yet, this ham was not moldy. It did not smell at all. It was perfectly preserved. My husband turned to me and said, "I hope you never, ever eat this crap again."
I have to agree.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Just Breath

Today I did my first led Ashtanga practice since the surgery.  Earlier in the week I went to my shala and did a self-led practice.  My regular teacher, Val, helped me to adapt the vinyasas  and asanas for my limited range of motion.  

I'm still having problems with the incision area where they took out lymph nodes, and, according to my surgeon, will continue to have issues for a while.   I can't follow extend my arm up over my head yet, and the swelling in the area makes it uncomfortable for me lie on my right side.

My stamina is also still not back.   I'm tiring pretty easily, and finding that I've had to pull back on all my physical activities.

The Friday morning led practice at my Shala is the advanced primary series.  Even though I had to adapt and modify the asanas and vinyasa pretty extensively, and even though I had to sit and breath while my fellows yogis did all the vinyasas during the seated portion of the practice, it still felt good to just breath and stretch in unison with my fellow practitioners.

I had the same experience in my Tai Chi class.   Last night I went back to my first Tai Chi class since the surgery.   During the early Qi Gong portion of the class it just felt good to stand and breath with my fellow students.  

When we went into our Yang long form, however, I found I had to stop during the second part to take a break.   My incision started to bother me from all the arm movements, and I just got plain old tired.   I was able to rejoin towards the end of the second part (the entire form takes between 15 to 20 minutes to complete) and finished.   I decided to forgo any practicing of my sword or saber forms for a few weeks, since my sword/saber arm is, of course, my right arm (where the incision is).  

But, as in yoga, it was still just good to move and breath.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Losing Tony the Tiger

I don't have a lot of time to blog today but wanted to give the heads up to this interesting post by Marion Nestle on her blog about Congressional Hearings on nutrition standards for marketing food to children. 

In commenting on the various governmental nonsensical maneuvering, Marion makes a good point:

"This, as I keep pointing out, is about protecting corporate health at the expense of children’s health."

As I always point out, be aware of marketing, and do not be a slave to it (and don't let your kids either).

I do not allow my children to eat any processed breakfast cereal unless it's a special occasion, e.g., we're on vacation. Never mind the character-driven varieties that are loaded with sugar, I won't even buy the "healthier" versions.    They may have less sugar and overly processed ingredients then Frosted Flakes or Captain Crunch, but they still have enough to be a nutritionally unsound way for children to start the day.

And, you know what?  My kids are fine with it.   They get bagels, toast, eggs or oatmeal and they're content. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Breast Cancer Fighting Foods

I have been pretty much going out of my way to avoid anything regarding Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I'm more aware of Breast Cancer than I really care to be THANKYOUVERYMUCH, and don't need to be bombarded by a barrage of pink ribbons.

But I have been somewhat obsessing about why I get breast cancer.  

I've gone over the risk factors time and time again.  There's really never been any breast cancer in my family.  I don't smoke.  I'm relatively lean and I eat a mostly plant based diet.  And, while I like a glass of wine or two a few times a week, I'm not exactly guzzling down Martinis or Scotch on a daily basis (in fact, I pretty much don't drink hard alcohol and never drink beer).

So when I saw this article on foods to eat to avoid breast cancer, I thought I'd take a look despite my "avoid Breast Cancer Awareness Month" articles at all cost.   Here's what they listed as the "8 Foods that Can Avoid Breast Cancer Risk," and how I stack up:

1.  Plums and Peaches:   Now I'm not the biggest fan of plums and peaches, but I eat a fair share of each when they're in season:

2.  Walnuts:  I love nuts, and was actually eating a salad with walnuts in it as I read this article:

3.  Broccoli:  I eat a ton of broccoli.  It's one of my top favorite veggies.  In fact, dinner tonight for me is a baked sweet potato and steamed broccoli.

4.Salmon:  Another food I eat a ton of, generally at least once a week.

5.Olive oil:  I'm Italian.  Need I say more?

6.  Parsley:  I grow parsley in my garden every year, and it grows so abundantly actually go out of my way to add it to just about everything I cook.  Whatever remaining parsley which doesn't go into my food immediately, gets dried and added to food until the weather warms up and the parsley grows fresh again.

7.Coffee:  My morning cup of coffee is one of the highlights of my day.

8.  Beans:  See number 5 above about being Italian.

So, once again, the reason why I got cancer eludes me.   

BTW, I guess the ultimate breast cancer avoidance meal would be salmon sauteed in olive oil with broccoli and beans and sprinkled with chopped parsley followed by a plum and walnut tart for dessert with coffee. 

On a positive note, I stepped on the scale this morning for the first time since I was diagnosed.  

I lost three pounds in the last few weeks without watching what I ate, and despite my not exercising at my regular levels.

It's the stress diet.

Not a diet I'd recommend to anyone, however.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Yesterday, I decided to make dinner for my family for the first time since my surgery.  I prepared the food, cooked the food, and served the food.  As I was cleaning up the kitchen my husband walked in and said "there's some left-over chicken, could you make me a sandwich for lunch tomorrow?"

I told him what he could do with the chicken.

I've been recovering fairly quickly.  I pretty much slept the first two days, as the anesthesia worked it's way through of my system, but by Friday I was up and about, and took a long walk down by Long Island Sound, where it's flat. 

On Saturday I took another Sound walk with my mother and kids, and did a brief treadmill walk at a 0 incline.   By Sunday I was able to do my regular 3.5 mile "hilly" walk around my neighborhood, but it took a lot longer than usual.    I also was able to do the first section of my Tai Chi long form. 

The incision where they took out lymph nodes, however, is right under my right armpit and it starts to bother me whenever I move that arm about too much.

Yesterday I used the treadmill at a 5 incline, and my arm was feeling well enough that I was able to practice my entire Tai Chi long form which takes about 15-20 minutes.   I'm not quite confident yet to wield my Tai Chi sword or Saber yet, but I'll get there.

Today I again took a Sound walk, this time with a girl-friend, and we added in a fairly steep hill so that we could get a fantastic view of Long Island Sound from the top.

I'm hoping to try an abbreviated, self-guided yoga practice tomorrow which will mark my one week surgery anniversary.   That incision under my armpit, however, is still bothering me a bit, so I'm not so sure how much I can do at this point.   Just to get back to the Shala, and breath with all my fellow yogis, however, is all I really need right now (although a little stretching would feel great as well).

Food-wise, I've never really been off track, but I haven't been completely on-track either.  With my mother staying with me and cooking, I still managed to remain on fairly healthy diet, albeit a bit more meat-based than I usually eat.   After she left, I began to work through much of the food my friends brought over, just grateful that I didn't have to cook.  

I swear that after this is all over I don't want to see another bowl of chicken-broth-based soup for a long, long, long, time.   Over the last few weeks, I've eaten gallons Jewish chicken soup, Italian chicken soup, Matzo bowl soup and even Wonton soup. 

By last night, however, I felt that it was time to take control of my food again, and when friends call asking what I need, I tell them the greatest thing they can give me right now is their friendship.

On another note, I still haven't gotten my pathology report back, so it's still up in the air as to whether I'll need further surgery or chemotherapy on top of the radiation. 

It's all rather disconcerting to have this hanging over my head, but I'm trying to remain positive.   When friends ask about chemo I tell them that if I do have to go through it I'm getting a wig with the hair I always wanted but could never achieve.   It's going to be the straightest, shiniest hair ever.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Junk Food is Not Cheaper than Real Food

I always love reading the New York Times' Mark Bittman.   He really appreciates good food, but at the same time knows how to blow bunk out of the water.    This column on why junk food is not cheaper than "real food" shows how it is cheaper to cook then run to McDonalds.    First he notes that it costs a family of four $28 to eat at McDonalds and then says:
In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)

He also has the same opinion of the "junk food is cheaper by the calorie" argument as I do--in a world were obesity runs rampant, people NEED to be eating fewer calories, so the "cheaper by the calorie" is nothing but pure bullsh!t:
Another argument runs that junk food is cheaper when measured by the calorie, and that this makes fast food essential for the poor because they need cheap calories. But given that half of the people in this country (and a higher percentage of poor people) consume too many calories rather than too few, measuring food’s value by the calorie makes as much sense as measuring a drink’s value by its alcohol content. (Why not drink 95 percent neutral grain spirit, the cheapest way to get drunk?)

Bittman also goes on to note that the poor can eat well, without resorting to organic, free-range, grass-fed, etc. The point is to get real food and cook it, not pick up ultra-processed foods on the fly.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

If Only the Republicans were Like the Tories

David Cameron, the prime minister of Great Britain, backs a Danish style "fat tax."   In case you didn't know, the Tories are the party of Margaret Thatcher, the equivalent of our Republican party but far more pragmatic.  

As Cameron sees it, this is an fat is economic problem for his country.   Unlike the US, Great Britain guarantees health care for all, having the largest single payer system in the world, and he knows that costs are going to soar if obesity soars. 

According to the  Daily Mail:

The tax – being considered at a time of rampant food price inflation – could put 25p on the price of a pack of butter and 8p on a packet of crisps.

Although no details have been worked out, the levy would target products such as milk, cheese, pizza, meat, oil and processed food.

Mr Cameron said drastic action was needed because by 2050 more than half of the population is predicted to be obese – so fat their health is in danger.

But many of his backbenchers will criticise the move as an example of the ‘nanny state’ his party is supposed to oppose.
If you didn't already know the Danes already has a fat tax, which Mark Bittman writes about here.


I'm home.  A bit tired and sore, but home (which is always good).   The surgery went well, but I won't know until next week if more surgery is needed (hopefully not), and what additional treatments I'll need (hopefully few). 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Surgery Today

I'm having a lumpectomy today.   Needless to say, I doubt I'll be doing any posting today or tomorrow.  

I'll get back into the swing soon.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Marketing Makes Us Obese

An interesting cover story from Kogod Magazine, the magazine of American University's Kogod School of Business.

The article focuses in on how marketing, particularly marketing to children and minorities, fuels the obesity crisis.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Comfort of Food

This is breast cancer awareness month, which really, really sucks when you've just been diagnosed with breast cancer.   Those damn pink ribbons are everywhere, so I can't even run into the grocery store to pick up a roll of paper towels without being reminded that I have cancer.  

I guess that after this is all over I may take some comfort in this annual breast cancerthon, but right now it just plain old sucks.

I have taken comfort in two areas, however.   First, I've surrounded myself with flowers (many courtesy of my friends who know I love flowers.)

Two, food.    Now, I don't mean I'm gobbling down 7 layer chocolate cakes, but food can be really comfortingl, and you can be food comforted without breaking the calorie bank.

Last Thursday after seeing my surgeon for the first time I took my kids out for lunch.   The kids had the day off for the Jewish holiday, so they tagged along while I discussed the how, when and where's of my surgery.

So, I'm sitting in this diner on the Post Road in Westport about to order my usual salad when my eyes focused in on the Mazto ball soup listed half a column up.  

I had this enormous empty feeling inside of me, and the IDEA of Mazto ball soup just seemed so warming and filling.   I got the soup and slowly drank in the broth while keeping up my happy front for my children. 

I think I'll remember every spoonful of that one bowl of soup for the rest of my life.

The other "comfort food" I keep turning to is oatmeal.   After an endless September of hot, muggy weather, we are finally getting Autumnal coolness here in Connecticut.   

At night I go to bed thinking I'll just have fruit in the morning, but every morning I wake up knowing I need the warmth and comfort of a bowl of oatmeal.

BTW, my friends and family threw me this incredible party on Saturday.  It was actually a "surprise" 50th birthday party, but it turned  into so much more.  

I did tell everyone, however, that they are never, ever to attempt to pin a pink ribbon on me.   

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Upside to Cancer--FREE LIPO!!!

My surgery for my breast cancer is scheduled for next Wednesday.   The good news is that my tumor is very small-less then one centimeter.   The bad news is that because of the kind of breast cancer I have--invasive Lobular--they have to remove a fairly large amount to make sure they get clean margins.

A plastic surgeon will be working with my breast surgeon to help reconstruct the breast.   The first phase will involve "re-segmenting" the breast to prevent a collapse which will leave the overall breast smaller.  They plastic surgeon compared it to the fanning out the segments of an orange. I'll have to "stuff" one side of my bra for a while so that I don't appear lop-sided.

The second part will happen about a year later.   It's a technique called "fat grafting."   They are going to liposuction one area of my body and then graph the fat into the re-segmented breast to even it out with the other one.

So the bad news is I have breast cancer.   The good news is that it looks like I'll finally be able to get rid of my persistent muffin top.

Did I mention that numerous girlfriends have offered their fat if I need any extra?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cheese = The Grim Reaper?

A group known as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has posted this billboard in Wisconsin.   They're claiming that eating cheese can make you sick and fat.

Now, this group isn't saying that eating an excess amount of cheese is bad, they seem to be claiming that eating ANY cheese is bad, and that feeding it to your children is tantamount to child abuse. 

I did a bit of digging around and found at that PCRM  is an organization that promotes, among other things, veganism that has in the past made dubious claims regarding eating hot dogs.

As anyone who reads my blog with any frequency knows, I like to come down hard on big food making health claims based on shady research that they've bought. 

So, when I see an over the top fear tactic like this one by a group promoting veganism I'm going to come down just as hard.

I've written before that eating an excess of animal products, including cheese, will hamper your ability to take weight off and keep it off.   Unlike the gals who wrote Skinny Bitch, however, I'm not going to preach that if you want to be thin you should be 100% vegan.

I myself, realized a few years ago that dairy products don't really "agree" with me anymore.   Whenever I indulge I get bloated and excessively "bubbly." 

Believe me, you wouldn't want to be in the same room with me afterwards. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sometimes They Just Don't Get It

From the WTF? files.  

My local school district a few years ago took steps to improve the food choices offered to students.    After conducting some research, a new food provider was brought in to provide healthier food choices to students in the cafeterias, soda was banned from vending machines along with candy and sugary, salty snacks, and when pizza, pasta or bread was served, it was always made with whole grains.

I really, really, really loved and appreciated that these steps were taken.   Granted, it's still not perfect, but at least if my daughter was eating pizza or chicken nuggets, I knew it was a better class of crap from the usual, dismal cafeteria offerings given to students across the country.  

So, you can imagine my shock and dismay when I get a permission slip detailing a "field trip" for my 16 year old autistic son to go to, of all places, MCDONALD'S!!!

First, let me back-track.   My son is somewhat overweight--something which typical occurs with people on the spectrum.    The weight issue is due to his inability to self-regulate his food consumption.   If he likes something, he will literally eat until he throws up.   So, you have to limit his portions, and try to gauge whether or not he is actually hungry. 

Now, because diabetes runs in my family, and my son is overweight, he has a pre-diabetic condition.   Our pediatrician,therefore, has advised us to closely monitor his overall food consumption (difficult since he sneaks food), and make sure that he eats a proper diet (at least as much as you can get an autistic teen-ager to do so).

All this information has been conveyed to the school.

Let me also explain that my son loves to buy lunch at school.    We have a debit card system and he just loves to go up, order his own lunch (which always includes fresh fruit thank God).

The first week of school I noticed that he was spending $12-14 a day on lunch.     This got me concerned and I contacted the school and asked what he was getting.

I was told that he was ordering (and eating) 2 hamburgers, a side of bacon and 2 fruit cups a day.

I hit the roof and told the school that the aides with him were not monitoring his eating appropriately.    They, of course, scrambled for an excuse, but indicated they would limit him to $8 a day, and make sure he made better food choices.

Now, the schools' program for my son is beyond lame (and I'm actually trying to get him placed in a private program), and they frequently go on field trips "out into the community."  This is really nothing more than glorified babysitting done because they really don't know what else to do with the lower functioning sped kids.   In the past they've gone bowling, to the zoo, etc.  

So, you can imagine how I hit the roof when I found out that the next "field trip" was to McDonald's.  


And, one of those kids you're taking has a pre-diabetic condition that you know about, and who, you've been told, needs to be on a low-salt, low fat diet?????

It's bad enough that because they can't actually teach these kids they have to go on these lame trips to begin with, but then to take them to a fast food restaurant???

My son still can't get dressed on his own, tie a shoe-lace, take a shower or shave, but the school thinks it's important for him to know how to order in a fast food place?

I really, really, really need to get my son out of that environment ASAP.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Breast Cancer

Sometimes even our best efforts to lead healthy lives get way-laid by, well, life.   This morning I found out that I have invasive lobular breast cancer.  

I've been in a flurry of trying to get tests and doctor's appointments scheduled.