Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Losing Weight is a Bitch, and Gaining it takes No Effort at All

I've put on 5 pounds.   At the beginning of April I weighed 129 pounds.  Yesterday I stepped on the Scale and I weighed 134 pounds.

Since I'm so small, five pounds is quite a lot of weight for me, and I'm already having problems with the fit of some of my clothes.

How did it happen?

Well, probably the biggest culprit is less exercise.   I've had a history of issues with my hips and knees, and for the last few months they've really been acting up.  I've been curtailing my walks somewhat because of the pain by walking fewer miles over the course of the week.  I've been trying to make up the calorie burn in other activities.  I've been gardening quite a bit-often one to two hours a day, and I've been working out with a personal trainer once a week.   But I guess nothing else burns calories like a good walk or a run.

Second, I haven't been as fastidious with my diet as I should be.  In particular, I've been eating more meat and dairy and fewer vegetables than I really should.   I also haven't been eating as many raw fruits and vegetables as I should.  

The problem is that my social calendar tends to explode in late April, and with all the fund-raisers, parties, barbecues, etc., I've let my eating habits slide back into bad patterns.  They're probably still good in comparison to others, but not as good as they need to be to prevent weight gain.

So, rather than beating myself up, I think I'm going to try to plan a good cleanse to get my eating habits back on track, and rethink my exercise patterns to take into account my joint weaknesses.

Losing Weight is a Bitch, and Gaining it takes no effort at All.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Don't Drink Calories--It's the Alcohol Sweetheart.

Boy, Blogger has been really having problems and is still has problems.  I have not been able to log and blog for two days, and was only able to do so today through extreme measures.  Plus, I still can't upload images.  But you don't want to hear about that.

Years ago when I was just out of law school and working at my first legal job, I befriended another young lawyer. We went out to lunch frequently.  She always watched what she ate, and pretty much impressed me as someone who exercised regularly.

Despite this, over the course of our first year working together, I watched her steadily gain weight.  One day she complained to me that none of her clothes were fitting, and said she didn't understand why she was gaining weight.

We put our heads together to try to see what could be causing the weight gain. She was still exercising, she said, more so to counter-act all the sitting she now had to do for work.   She ate well, and watched her calories, more so, she said, because she was gaining weight.

Finally she revealed that it had become a habit to meet friends after work and have a couple of cocktails.

That got bells ringing and we immediately set off to figure out how many calories were in the cocktails she was consuming.  This was in the days before the Internet, so looking this kind of stuff up meant actually finding books and researching.

It was indeed the cocktails.   Turns out that a martini has 235 calories in in.  A frozen margarita can have anywhere from 250 to over 750 calories.   Long Island Iced Teas, which were really popular in the 1980's, have 292 calories.  

So if my friend was otherwise eating and exercising to the point that her calories in equaled what she needed to maintain her weight, if she was having 2 Martini's a night that put her 470 calories over her "limit."  Since it only takes 3,600 excess calories to gain a pound, that meant she was putting on an additional pound just about every week.

My friend learned her lesson, she went on a diet, cut out the alcohol, did some additional exercising and eventually dropped the weight (we were in our 20's back then so it was much easier).    I wouldn't call her a tea-totaler afterwards, but she learned her lesson about drinking calories. 

I bring this up, because the the FDA is considering having alchoholic beverage labels disclosing calorie content.

I'm all for this (as I am for calorie labeling in general), because, it's information I want to know.

I enjoy a glass of wine now and again, and a few times a year I enjoy a cocktail (I detest beer which I always thought was a good thing).    When I do, however, I realize that I am imbibing excess calories and plan accordingly, i.e, I eat fewer calories elsewhere or do some additional exercise. 

Knowing exactly, how many calories I'm drinking, will make it a lot easier. 

Blogger Trouble

Sorry for the silence, but I've been having trouble with Blogger.   It hasn't been letting me sign in.  If this works, I'll try posting something of substance.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Future of Cafeteria Food

If you've read my blog for a while, you know I have issues with the food served to kids in school cafeterias.   I firmly believe in laying the groundwork for good eating habits when kids are young helps to prevent weight problems in the future.  

School is, after all, where we send our children to learn so that they can be productive members of society, and it behooves me that they often fail on the nutritional end to teach them healthy eating habits by serving them crap food in the cafeteria.  

So I found this blog from Mark Bitman of the New York Times interesting.   In it he discusses the future of cafeteria food by actually eating the food.  It appears that the cafeteria food he reviews is not just for kids, but I found myself agreeing with many of his insights, like this one:

"I have some issues with Meatless Mondays, a campaign developed at Johns Hopkins, because too many dishes that might have once featured meat contain prodigious amounts of cheese. (Portobello mushrooms are also in abundance, and that’s a great thing.) This substitution of cheese for meat isn’t universal, but it occurs frequently enough so that the main message is lost. The way to follow a diet that’s more sustainable for both body and planet is through eating plants and unprocessed food rather than animal products and ultra-processed food; substituting a cheese-heavy sandwich on white bread may send a somewhat beneficial “eat-less-meat” message, but it doesn’t send the same one as a salad or a vegetable stir-fry. Nor does it do you or anyone else any good."

I'm also praying that this company that Bitman wrote about succeeds:
Bon Appétit Management Company, the brainchild of Fedele Bauccio, who founded the company in 1987 after a long career in food service, has gotten a fair share of well-deserved positive publicity. The chefs (and even the cooks, many of whom prepare the food they serve) have broad, independent powers, the food is locally sourced whenever possible and the company has committed — not just given lip service to — sustainable seafood, cage-free eggs, fair labor practices, antibiotic-free meat (when possible), a reduced carbon footprint in general, and a huge proportion of not only vegetarian but vegan options (their use of cheese has actually declined in recent years, a company-wide goal).

Furthermore, they do real, from-scratch cooking — no “bases” are used for stocks or sauces, soups, salad dressings and salsas are made from scratch, and even much of the lemon juice is fresh-squeezed. At one operation, the yogurt is made on premises. At Roger Williams, Rhode Island-grown potatoes are peeled and cut for frying, which puts the café ahead of many of the country’s top restaurants. (If you’re going to eat fries, this is the way to go.)

This is cafeteria food that you actually want to eat, food that deserves to be served with wine. At each of these operations, I ate from the same line as the students, and sampled a fantastic vegetarian muffaletta sandwich, vegetable-stuffed crepes, Indian “burritos” with spinach and tofu, tacos more reminiscent of Los Angeles than New York, stir-fries made to order and in-season, from-the-farm asparagus, turnips, lettuce, herbs and more. I can only imagine how good these cafeterias are come July.
Bitman also addresses the cost factor by writing this:

This is in general true of real cooking: you spend less on ingredients, because you’re not buying “value-added” junk — but you have to work a bit harder. To have this happen in the cafeteria, one of the most despised of all American institutions, is downright inspiring.
What he is saying is prophetic.  The argument that school districts cry that they can't "afford" to feed our kids better food is just nonsense because unprocessed foods cost less then processed foods do.    The only additional cost is labor.    So, the costs would no doubt equalize out.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Never Believe Health Claims

Just another reminder that you should never believe the health and/or weight loss claims of processed foods and beverages.  In this case, Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

What's the Cheapest Way to Eat?

One of the more disturbing arguments I hear regarding America's exploding obesity problem is that eating a mostly plant-based diet is simply too expensive for lower-income people.   Veganism and vegetarianism is limited to the bourgeoisie, we're told, because they can afford it.

So I found this chart intriguing:

According to the website were I found this chart the bottom line numbers are based on grocery store prices, and hypothetically, the vegan saved $1,280 on food over the course of a year.

Here's what the authors had to say:

We recognize that it’s possible to lead a non-vegetarian life on a budget–and to eat expensively as a vegan–but we noticed one general, interesting trend. The most inexpensive foods are often plant-derived products, like carrots, oatmeal, and vegetable products. Plant proteins such as tofu or garbanzo beans, meanwhile, tend to be much cheaper than their equivalents in animal protein. The cheapest cuts of beef average about $3 to $4 per pound, while lentils and dried beans are generally less than $1 per pound and tofu is less than $2 per pound.

They also noted that:

Processed foods are the foes of a well-balanced budget not only because they tend to be the most expensive, but also because they’re also often the least healthy. This rings true for vegetarian processed foods as well, like soy hot dogs or pre-packaged veggie burgers, which can be even more expensive than regular turkey dogs or burgers.

Here are my thoughts.   I pretty much knew this all along.   Filling up a family on meat is expensive.  It's just an age-old truth.  My Italian grandmother always told us how meat was reserved for special occasions because they simply couldn't afford to eat it every day. 

I've also noted that, relatively, I spend less on the weekly food budget by sticking to a mostly vegetarian menu.   Once I start making meat for dinner, the price per person per meal goes up rather steeply. 

Try it yourself.   Track the cost of ingredients for meals and you will see that making a pasta Primavera or Rice and beans for dinner costs a whole lot less then pork chops.

Second, of all, the savings come from buying and preparing your own foods.  Once you start letting others prepare you food for you, the reverse is true--meat eating becomes cheaper.  Vegetarian and vegan options tend to be more expensive when you're buying prepared food at restaurants and take-out places.  

In fact, it always pisses me off that if they put a bunch of vegetables in a bowl and label it a salad, it's usually more expensive then a bunch of meat slapped inside of a roll.   I know that the ingredient costs of the vegetables in the bowl is less at the grocery store then the ingredient cost of the meat on the roll, but the restaurant still charges me more.  

There seems to be some unwritten restaurant rule that those seeking vegetarian options should be "taxed" for the privilege of eating a bunch of raw vegetables, and I don't understand why.   Does it piss off the chef that I choose to eat a bunch of raw vegetables that day and the pricing is a way to make me pay for the insult?

Now, I don't advocate becoming a complete vegan or even vegetarian.   I'm an omnivore myself, but I've recognized the hard truth that if I want to maintain my weight (and I'd even like to shed a few pounds at this point), then I have to eat a mostly raw, vegan diet. 

I guess the one piece of good new is that, as long as I prepare my food myself, I can actually save money doing so. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Are You Pouring On the Pounds?

This ad is from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.    It's part of Mayor Bloomberg's campaign to fight obesity.

I love it.  It's simple, and tells the truth in such a great visual way.   The brown liquid is pouring out of a bottle that is obviously meant to represent Coke, and transforms into globules of fat.

Yesterday, my son's special ed classroom hosted a luncheon for parents.  It was sweet.  The kids prepared and baked lasagna, salad, cookies and fruit salad for us (I was happy to see the salad and fruit salad), and then read little poems to us.

To go along with the food, there was an assortment of beverages including soda, and some questionable, sugar laden fruit punch.  While the other kids (and many of the adults) went for the soda and fruit punch, my son went straight to the bottle of Poland Springs Water (didn't even have bubbles in it).     Even when one of the aides offered him soda, he turned it down.  

Considering that understanding the concept that soda is unhealthy for him is beyond my son's cognitive capabilities (he's autistic), I'm so proud of the fact that I've raised my children to prefer straight old water above any kind of sugar laden drink.   

It took me years to wean myself off of junk beverages.    My parents allowed us to drink soda, and by the time I was in College I had a serious Tab addiction (remember Tab?).   I've been "clean" for over ten years now, and couldn't fathom the idea of drinking a soda or diet soda anymore.  Like my children, it just seems natural to head for the water, whether it comes from the tap or a bottle.  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Loving Our Bodies at Every Age

Patti Davis, the daughter of former President Ronald Reagan, wrote a very insprirational piece for More magazine.  In it she discusses her journey from drug addiction to loving her daily work-outs.   If you're the kind of person who needs some motivation to exercise, I recommend reading what she has to say.

Her journey from drug addiction, to posing nude for Playboy Magazine when she was 42, to posing nude again for More at age 58 got me thinking about how exercise can fill the voids that many of us tend to fill with drugs, alcohol or food.

Here's what Davis says about her drug addiction:

Not yet because when I looked in the mirror, I still saw the girl I’d been for so much of my life. The girl who had fallen willingly into the deep and dangerous waters of drug addiction. I was 15 when I discovered both pharmaceutical amphetamines and tiny white tablets of speed, concocted in home labs or garages and sold on the street. The sound of pills rattling in a bottle was a lullaby to the pain in my soul. Over the years, I went on from speed to coke, and by the time I was in my twenties, I was in trouble. My body was wasted, my muscles thin and barely visible.

I did finally quit, late in my twenties, grabbing onto some rope in my heart that I hadn’t even known was there. A stubborn determination took over, a buried part of me that wanted to survive. I resolved to work my way back to health.
And here's what she says about working out:

WORKING out has remained a priority for me. It’s as natural as washing my face or brushing my teeth. My body is the house I live in, and I’ve never stopped trying to make it better. I don’t understand the common attitude that after 40, you might as well just accept that your body is going to sag and fold and expand in unflattering ways. Really? Our muscles are actually pretty democratic; if we work them, they’ll respond. I also don’t understand the attitude that who you are on the inside is all that matters. Obviously our interior landscape is profoundly important, but we are integrated beings; we don’t have to make a choice between interior and exterior. One has a lot to do with the other.

I recently turned 58. My kickboxing teacher, who has known me for almost 20 years, recently commented, sort of in passing, that my body is in better shape now than when I posed for Playboy. I heard him, but I was concentrating on my spin kicks, so I put it on the back burner of my mind. That night, I stood in front of the mirror and thought, He’s right. My muscles are leaner, longer, more defined now, and I felt again a sense of victory over the years of abuse I’d subjected myself to, and also over the huge amount of time I’d wasted on addiction. With every workout, I feel as if I’m winning back lost time.
BTW, here's what she looks like at 58:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cheesy Goodness for Dinner

It's been a pretty dismal week in New England.   It's been constantly raining, and we haven't seen the sun since Saturday.

Yesterday, when deciding what to make for dinner, it suddenly occurred to me that I wanted something with cheese.   I don't know why, but I just needed something kind of comforting and warming, and then it hit me that a Croque Monsieur would fill the void perfectly.

Now, I know what you must be thinking, how does Croque Monsieur fit into a lower calorie, healthy diet?   Well, it's always been my motto not to deny myself something as long as it's made with fresh, real ingredients, and I don't OVERINDULGE.   

It's OK to have a Croque Monsieur, as long as I regulate the portion size and balance it out with a nice big salad.  

I made my Croque Monsieur open-faced, so I only used half the bread.  I also used a nice, crusty, whole-grain boule, and went easy on the cheese and Bechemal sauce. 

Finally, at least for me, I used no ham.  I used ham on the sandwiches for the rest of my family, but I happen to not like ham, so I've pretty much always substituted tomatoes instead when I make Croque Monsieur for myself (so essentially I'm making myself a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich).

So, here's what I did.

First, I pre-heated the broiler.  Then, I thinly sliced the boule and toasted the slices on a baking sheet under the broiler (you have to turn the slices mid-way to get them toasted on both sides).   I grated approximately 6 oz of good Gruyere cheese, and sliced a tomato.   I also chopped some fresh parsley for sprinkling on the sandwiches.

I whipped up a Bechamal sauce by melting 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and whisking in 3 tablespoons of flour.   After the flour and butter were thoroughly combined I added one cup of hot milk (I poured the milk into a  measuring cup then nuked it in the microwave to warm), salt, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and whisked until the mixture became thick and smooth.

Then, I assembled the sandwiches.  First, I spread a little dijon mustard on the toasted bread, and topped with either sliced ham or sliced tomato.   I topped that with a little of the Bechamal sauce and the grated Gruyere. 

The sandwiches went back under the broiler until the cheese was melted and bubbly, then I pulled the sandwiches out and sprinkled with parsley.    A big helping of salad with a light vinaigrette finished off the meal. 

By the way, Croque Monseiur takes less then 20 minutes to make, and it's something even the fussiest kid will eat (I know, my daughter hates EVERYTHING), although you may have to leave the parsley off (which I do for my daughter). 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sore All Over

It's a rainy, damp, dismal day here in Connecticut.  In fact, it was a rainy, damp, dismal day yesterday, and according to the forecast is likely to stay that way all week.

The only good news about the rain (besides the plants getting a needed soaking), is that its forcing me to take a break from gardening.   As is usual for this time of year, I've been gardening rather heavily.  

Last week, it was perfect gardening weather--not too hot, not too cold and dry (I will admit to being a fair weather gardener.)  I took advantage of the good weather to plant dozens of new annuals, perennials, vegetables  and shrubs, haul around large, heavy bags of manure to mix into the soil, and spread quite of bit of mulch to stop the weeds.   I also fertilized, tied sprawling vines to supports, pinched back peonies, mixed and sprayed deer repellent and performed a multitude of  other minute garden tasks.

The end result of all that gardening activity is that I ache all over.  On Friday, I went to my usual Ashtanga Primary Series led class, and had to make all kinds of modifications to take into account sore, unyielding muscles.

Exercising to the point that you're sore, is not really a good thing.   In yoga we say that you should only practice to the point that its comfortable for you to practice again the next day.   But the reality is that if you engage in an activity that utilizes muscles you don't ordinarily utilize, you're going to be sore. 

One thing I learned a long time ago, is to not stop exercising just because muscles are sore.    If I've overstressed myself one day to the point that I'm sore the next, I just take a little ibuprofen, apply a little heat or ice, stretch out a bit and take it a bit easier.   A nice hot bath with Epsom salts, if I can find the time, also helps.   Continuing to exercise doesn't make me any more sore, so it's no reason to stop completely. 

But, I'm still welcoming the lousy weather this week as an excuse to take a little break from gardening.  


Monday, May 16, 2011

Strawberries for Weight Loss

There's a farm up the road from me that grows and sells the most incredible, intense tasting strawberries every June.   The strawberries in the supermarket are good, and have a vaguely strawberry taste to them, but the strawberries I get from this farm are on the small side and the concentrated strawberry flavor explodes into your mouth when you bite into them. 

Every year I wait impatiently for this farm to start selling their strawberries and mourn when the season is over.  

During the brief interlude of their growing season, I make it a point to get up to the farm once, if not twice a week (the strawberries don't keep well, only lasting a couple of days in the refrigerator).   I eat the strawberries raw (in large quantities), make strawberry short-cake and tarts.  I also bottle a home made strawberry vinegar, toss them into salads, and even eat them with sliced with a sprinkling of really fine balsamic vinegar (a really amazing delicious combination it turns out).  

Thanks to the wonders of modern transportation and refrigeration, I eat strawberries year round, and that, it seems, is a good thing.   Strawberries, it turns out, can also help you to lose weight.   Here's how:

"The ellagic acid and anthocyanins found in strawberries aid weight loss in at least three ways:

1.Chronic inflammation blocks the hormones involved in keeping you lean. Anti-inflammatory foods like strawberries help restore normal function to weight-reducing hormones.

2.Anthocyanins actually increase the body's production of a hormone called adiponectin, which stimulates your metabolism and suppresses your appetite.

3.Both ellagic acid and anthocyanins slow the rate of digestion of starchy foods, controlling the rise in blood sugar that follows a starchy meal. This effect is used to control blood sugar in people with adult-onset (Type 2) diabetes."

Gee, and I thought that they just tasted good and were low in calories for their bulk--raw strawberries only have 49 calories per cup.

Friday, May 13, 2011

All She Does is Yoga

Proving that if you want to be in fantastic shape, yoga is the way to go.  

I love that she chose to teach Conan side crow with a jump back to chatturanga, and he actually attempts it. LOL!!

It's Back!!!!

Blogger was off line for most of the day, and now I don't have time to blog.   

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What I made For Dinner Last Night--The Eggs Have It

It's egg time.  Being that I live in a somewhat ex-urban part of Connecticut, I have a lot of friends who raise chickens, and they always seem to have far more eggs then they can ever use.  I'm also fortunate enough to have several farms nearby that raise their own chickens and sell the eggs.

For those of you who don't know a lot about chickens and egg laying (now I'm not professing to be an expert, but this is what I'm told), chickens pretty much stop laying eggs when it gets cold, and then begin again once the weather warms up.  

So after a long Winter's drought, I have friends calling and asking if I'd like a dozen or so fresh eggs.

Needless to say, every Spring I usually start moving eggs up in the meal rotation.  

A couple of years ago (has it really been that long?) I blogged about Mark Bittman's More Vegetable Less Egg Frittata Recipe.   The concept is simple, you load up a pan with vegetables, and then just let the egg act as a binder.   Instead of eggs with a little vegetable, you get vegetables with a little egg.

Bittman inspired me to come up with my own versions of his More Vegetable Less Egg Frittata.  What goes into the pan is usually inspired by what vegetables are in season, and whatever I have in my fridge.   Also, to further refine Bittman's healthy vision, I substitute half egg whites for whole eggs. 

So here is what I did last night (sorry but I didn't write down exact amounts).  Earlier in the day I had stopped by a local farm stand that sells fresh eggs from their own chickens, asparagus they cut right out of their field, along with other fruits and vegetables.    I bought some eggs and an assortment of other fresh vegetables, along with a locally made goat's milk cheese the farm also sells.

First I sauteed some chopped red onion in olive oil in my big cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. I steamed two big bunches of chopped, fresh picked Asparagus and added them to the pan.   Then I chopped up a couple of tomatoes I had on hand (not from the farm), and added them with some balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to the pan.  I cooked everything down for a while then added chopped fresh arugula to the pan and cooked until it was wilted.  

I then whisked together 5 whole eggs and five egg whites with the goat's milk cheese which I crumbled into the mixture.  I added the egg/cheese mixture to the pan and cooked for a few minutes, then I placed the pan in a pre-heated 350 degree oven, and cooked for another 20 minutes.

I served the fritatta with a crusty, multi-grain bread and a big salad on the side (salad greens from the farm as well).   It was pretty yummy, if I do say so myself. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Whose Heart Attack is it?

Forget the deficit, culture wars or immigration.  You have to wonder about the state of our nation when one restaurant files a lawsuit against another over who's sandwiches are more likely to induce heart attacks. 

Call me silly, but shouldn't no one want to make such a thing?   Particularly when the 29 year old, 575 pound spokesman of one of those restaurants died from eating too much of that establishment's fare?  

But then, frankly, I don't know which is worse, that the restaurants advertise this stuff, or that, apparently, the marketing works and people want to eat this crap?

I just don't get the logic.  Some restaurant advertises that a meal is completely unhealthy, and likely to kill you, and that makes it desirable????   I don't like anorexic looking models, but why would you want to eat at a restaurant who's spokesperson is pushing 600 pounds?

Sitting is Deadly (and making you fat)

Amazing infographic:

Sitting is Killing You
Via: Medical Billing And Coding

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Shady World of Marketing Junk Food To Kids

I think this is a must read article for anyone who's a parent, grandparent or plans to be one. 

For anyone out there claiming that we don't need any legislation regarding advertising to children, consider this:

Marketers use sophisticated child psychology to help children leverage "pester power," effectively nagging their parents to buy them the desired item (and often playing on parents' guilt for not having enough time to spend with their children).
 The article also discusses that while watching TV and childhood obesity is linked, it's ONLY linked when there are commercials for junk food.  If there are no junk food commercials, then there is no effect on children's waistlines.  It also points out that self-regulation is a failure, with most of the cereals being banned from advertising in the UK, where they do have laws regulating what can and can not be advertised to kids.

As a parent, I have taken a stand against junk food in my house.  I don't claim to be a purest, but my kids don't drink soda, and sugary cereals are a rare treat.   However, there are many parents who, frankly, don't have the stamina or desire to stand up to their kids, and we do have a national crisis going on here.   It's time to put junk food in the same category as cigarettes and alcohol and limit when and where they can be advertised.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Easy to Grow, Delicious and Good for You

I was happy to read this morning that two of my favorite herbs to grow in the garden are not only delicous to eat, but good for you. 

Sprinkle parsely over your pasta, and you boost your anti-oxidents.   Make a batch of salsa with plenty of cilantro and you can cut your cholesteral and get a little detox going (just don't eat the salsa with chips!!). 

Right outside my kitchen door I have a little garden where I grow both herbs every year.  It's one of my greatest pleasures in the summer to be able to just hop outside my kitchen door and snip as much Parsley and cilantro as I need for whatever I'm cooking.

Parsley is as easy as sin to grow.  You can either sprinkle some seeds in the ground or just buy plants, and you'll have parsley for the whole season. 

Cilantro is a little trickier.  It also grows readily from seed, and you can easily find plants.  Cilantro, however, only really lasts a few weeks before it goes to seed, so you have to keep sowing seed or buying plants all summer to keep it around.

One of my favorite ways to eat birth parsley and cilantro is in the morning on top of my eggs.    Both cilantro and parsley, however, are good sprinkled on just about anything, so I'm constantly use them throughout the year (although I have to buy them in the Winter and early Spring).   And,  tabbouleh is the perfect summer side salad.  I gave a recipe for it here

Friday, May 6, 2011

What Happened to the Top Exercise Trends of the 80's?

I got a good giggle over this.   My knees are still punishing me for taking all  those step and high impact aerobics classes.   And, the clothes we wore to work out back then!!!!   LOL!!!  

Take a look at the link, and tell me which trend you followed in the 80's (I'd also like to hear about your favorite 80's work out garb).    

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Off With Their Heads!!!

I wouldn't say I'm an organic gardener, but I do garden "organicish."   On my vegetables and herbs I totally avoid any non-organic pesticides and herbicides (although I am a huge fan of Miracle Grow fertilizer which is non-organic).  

With the lawn, flower gardens etc. my goal is to be as organic as possible, although if I get some really nasty rust or fungus, etc. running rampant through the garden that doesn't respond to organic remedies, I have been known to resort to an Ortho fix.   I also sheepishly admit to using Round-Up to kill the weeds in the cracks in my walkways and driveway.

As anyone with a lawn knows, Dandelions are one of those quandary weeds.   You have to admit that the flowers are kind of pretty and cheerful, and if they would only contain themselves, I'd happily host a few plants in my lawn.

But it's that containment issue that presents a problem when it comes to Dandelions.   Left undisturbed, dandelions are kind of like the Napoleons or Hitlers of the weed world.   They'll attempt to take over your entire yard if you let them.

Now, because I garden "organicish" I don't like to use weed-killers.   However, I do try to control the dandelions I have from reproducing. 

There's an old garden saying that "one year of seed means seven years of weed."  In other words, if you let a weed go to seed, you increase your weeding exponentially.   So while those yellow disks are kind of pretty and sunny, once they turn into those big, white billowy balls of seed, you have a problem.

So, my methodology of dealing with dandelions is rather simple--I contain them.   First, I encourage my daughter to "pick the pretty flowers" for Mommy, but making a big deal of any bouquets she brings to me and putting them in a vase.  A bunch of dandelions in a small vase is actually rather pretty.

I also work to eliminate the plants themselves whenever I can.   Years ago, I found this great weeding tool called  "Weed Hound."  It has a long handle and works by you stepping on it to pull the weed out.  You don't have to bend over so it's somewhat relaxing to walk around the yard yanking the dandelions out of the lawn.  In the Spring and Summer I'm often out once or twice a week walking around the yard "Weed Hounding" the dandelions out of the lawn.

Additionally, I often find that the weekly lawn-mowing helps contain the Dandelions.   Just as their big sunny heads emerge, along comes the lawn-mower to lop them off.

Right now, here in South-Eastern Connecticut, we're in prime Dandelion season.   They seem to come out in full force all at once.   In particular, my property fronts a state highway, and since we're on nearly two acres, I have a very long, narrow strip of property between the highway and my property fence in which pretty much nothing but dandelions can survive and on Monday that strip was a sea of yellow.

So, you can imagine how happy I was when my lawn mowing service came on Monday to mow the lawn, and the dandelion flowers out of existence.  But there was a problem.  The lawn-mowing service forgot to mow the dandelion sea by the highway.

Faced with the prospect of potentially billions of white, fluffy dandelion seeds wafting over the fence into my lawn, vegetable and flower gardens, I knew I had to take immediate action.

So Tuesday afternoon I headed off to the tool shed where I keep my cordless weed-whacker.  That afternoon I spent 45 minutes going from one end of the dandelion sea to the other, diligently lopping off the head of each and every dandelion until all that was left was a field of green studded with decapitated yellow disks.

Throughout the task, I kept telling myself that not only was I doing my garden good, but I was doing myself good as well.     According to this calorie calculator I burned approximately 257 calories saving my yard from dandelion decimation.  

And, that's the same with any garden chore.  When you garden you move and when you move you burn calories and when you burn calories you lose weight. 

So I guess calling them gardening "chores" is kind of a misnomer.  Maybe I should call them "health club alternative exercises" instead.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's Not All Just About Calories

Not all calories are created equal.   New research shows that certain foods can actually suppress appetite, leading to you eating fewer calories. 

For the research, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, scientists at Purdue studied the effect of just half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper on a group of 25 diners.

While hot red pepper has been studied before as an appetite suppressant, this study was notable in that it compared people who liked spicy food with those who did not. At various times, diners were given a bowl of tomato soup laced with a half teaspoon of pepper, plain tomato soup, or plain tomato soup with a supplement of red pepper in pill form.

The effect was greater among diners who didn’t regularly consume spicy meals. Among that group, adding red pepper to the soup was associated with eating an average of 60 fewer calories at the next meal compared with when they ate plain soup. For both groups who ate red pepper in food, the spice also appeared to increase the metabolism and cause the body to burn an extra 10 calories on its own.

“We found that when individuals consumed the red pepper in the soup rather than the supplement, they burned more calories,” said Mary-Jon Ludy, who conducted the research as a student at Purdue and will join the faculty of Bowling Green State University. “There is something special about experiencing the burn from the red pepper.”
I always find this kind of research interesting because, I believe, that if this is true then the reverse is true as well--i.e., eating some foods make you want to eat more.  

It's all about satisfaction.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Even Liposuction Doesn't Zap Fat

It turns out that even with liposuction, the fat comes back, within a year, although in a new location.

Here's what happened:

In the study, the researchers randomly assigned nonobese women to have liposuction on their protuberant thighs and lower abdomen or to refrain from having the procedure, serving as controls. As compensation, the women who were control subjects were told that when the study was over, after they learned the results, they could get liposuction if they still wanted it. For them, the price would also be reduced from the going rate.

The result, published in the latest issue of Obesity, was that fat came back after it was suctioned out. It took a year, but it all returned. But it did not reappear in the women’s thighs. Instead, Dr. Eckel said, “it was redistributed upstairs,” mostly in the upper abdomen, but also around the shoulders and triceps of the arms.

My take, the fat may have been removed, but no one actually changed their eating habits, so, the fat came back.
So, once again, the lesson learned is that there is no easy, permanent way to lose weight.  The only thing that actually works is changing your eating habits for the rest of your life, and committing to an exercise and increased movement regime for the rest of your life. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jack Sh*t's Wacky Aunt Paula Deen

LOL.   If you're not reading Jack Sh*t's weight loss blog, you should be.  

Jack, thanks for the head's up on Paula Deen's diabetes.  It was bound to happen.   My favorite Deen "creation" was a hamburger, cheese and fried egg on a buttered (yes, buttered!!) Krispy Kreme donut.   

Change Your Work-Place and Keep the Weight Off

I found this kind of interesting.   Apparently, a study was done showing that some simple changes at the work-place can keep employees from gaining weight (although nobody lost weight.)  Here's what the article had to say:

The researchers report on the impact of environmental interventions at several Dow Chemical Company worksites. They found that simple, low-cost interventions — for example, encouraging workers to take the stairs and making healthy options available in vending machines — helped to avoid employee weight gain.

Getting rid of junk food and encouraging people to just move a little more?  Makes sense to me. 

And, as I always say, just not gaining weight is half the battle of losing weight.