The Joy of Eating or Why I Never Met a Food That I Did Not Like

joy-title-1080x675

Mexican food, Chinese food, Thai food, French food, Mid-Eastern food, Indian food, I have never met a food I did not like.  From street venders with their push carts to five-star gourmet restaurants with sommeliers in tuxedos, I have eaten food fit for the gods.  When Karen and I travel we love to explore markets and discover new foods to cook.

We love purchasing foods in foreign markets that we cannot recognize and taking them back to our abode to cook.  Cooking our own foods has gifted our palates with some wonderful tastes that I could not begin to describe.  I still do not know what some of the things we ate were, but I am alive to tell this story.

nintchdbpict000307002046I have met people who say, “I never eat Mexican food.”  They say this as though it were some badge of honor.  I want to ask what type of Mexican food do they not eat?  Does their exclusion of Mexican food extend to deserts like fried ice cream or drinks like Tequila or is it simply tacos and burritos that they do not eat?  I have met people who say, “I never eat fish.”  I usually ask them why and I often hear the reply “they taste too fishy.”  I want to ask them if they ever eat meat that tastes too meaty, but instead I usually ask them if their antipathy extends to crustaceans, mollusks, and cephalopods.  I can see the disapproval in my spouse’s eyes when I pursue this line of questioning.

Other people tell me that they never eat from street vendors.  The reasoning I hear most often is that you can’t trust the food since you do not know where it came from.  This is a really funny reason since I feel the same way about grocery stores, but I will give you ten to one odds they eat food from grocery stores.

download

The lowly potato is one of my favorite foods.  Simply slice a potato and fry it in a little olive oil.  Place it between two slices of harvest bread with a dash of mayonnaise and you have a taste treat that you will never forget.  I love tripe and when I was young my mother would cook tripe (cow stomach) in a big pot of spaghetti sauce.  You eat the tripe and sauce in a bowl and dip Italian bread into the sauce with the tripe.  I get hungry just thinking about it.

download (1)menudo-a-classic-mexican__85101.1588116574After exploring the vast variety of Mexican foods, I discovered that the tasty and hearty Menudo soup is chock full of tripe.  Many Latinos as well as Gringos in the Southwest will not eat Menudo.  Several years ago, after I started dating Karen, I was introduced to Lutefisk.  At first I found the texture somewhat off putting.  Over time, by adding butter or cream sauce I discovered the joy of eating Lutefisk around the holidays.  It is a Scandinavian tradition in homes much like Menudo is in Mexican homes.  Paradoxically, many Scandinavians loath Lutefisk.  The derivation of such foods leads many to disavow them.  I confess to the same attitude towards an Italian dish known as Pasta a Fagioli which my mother loved to make.  I left home swearing to never eat any again.

Show_2_Pasta_e_Fagioli-4-e1494876950597Some of these low-cost and nutritious peasant foods have become quite popular now as people look back to their early roots.  An example of such a food dish is the Italian Pasta e Fagioli which I mentioned earlier.  This is a dish comprised of beans and macaroni.  Beans and macaroni form a “whole protein” which means you get all the amino acids you need without having to eat meat.  A protein is considered “complete” when it has the nine essential amino acids in somewhat equal amounts.  Almost every country in the world has some staple food items that provide whole protein.  In poorer cultures, livestock was valued for its ability to help farm crops and produce milk.  In places like India, livestock was made sacred as a way to prevent killing a valuable resource.  Cows were more valuable alive than they were dead.

why-we-should-eat-insects-infographic-3A few years ago, at the annual Gustavus Adolphus Nobel Conference the subject was on food production.  A number of experts claimed that the day will come when we will no longer be able to afford a practice so barbaric and wasteful as to slaughter animals for meat eating.  There is an abundance of insects on this earth that could provide an almost endless low-cost supply of protein and minerals to our diets.  Most people respond to thoughts about eating insects with something like “I could never eat bugs.”  My retort is “well you don’t eat bloody chickens or bloody cows do you?”  The insects would be processed, and they would provide a grain that could be used in various ways like we use wheat or corn meal.  I get blank stares.

insects-main

In the future, you may go into a grocery store and have a choice of “ground insect burgers.”  You can choose from spider burgers, cock-roach burgers, ant burgers and termite burgers.  Today there is a daily special on worm-burgers.  Bees are off the menu and are a protected species due to their value for crop pollination, but wasps are selling at premium prices.  Nothing tastes as good as a wasp-loaf with a little tomato sauce on top.

Bon Appetit

The Seven Greatest Appreciations of Life:  Physical Health and Fitness

healthy_lifestyle_heart-

There is a lot to be appreciative for in this category.  Sadly, too many people ignore or take these elements of life for granted.  Many people confuse good health with the health that they are born with.  Nature gives us a health plan when we are born.  Some of us get a better plan than others.  Fortunately, happiness and success are not totally dependent on the plan we are born with.  There is a large category of mental health which I am not going to talk about.  It is important to recognize though that mental health and physical health while no doubt correlate to some degree are not perfectly correlated.  There are many instances of people with major disabilities who are quite happy and quite successful.  The element of mental health and mental fitness are essential to overall happiness regardless of your physical conditioning.

Physical fitness or PHY ED classes are remembered by most former students as either something they tolerated or something they hated when they are were in high school.  The lessons if any that they learned in GYM classes were promptly forgotten when they left high school.  Those that excelled in sports and loved the extracurricular sports confuse sports with fitness.  I have met many former athletes who played football, soccer, baseball, or basketball and thought that was enough to be fit.

There is a great deal more to being fit than simply exercising or playing sports.  If you look at the people around you today, you will see a nation of unfit people.  Years ago, the obese person in your high school was a minority.  Today, they are a majority.  Walk down most any street in America and you will see a nation of fat and overweight people.

When I taught college, I would see entering freshmen coming in many of whom would have met health guidelines for weight.  Four years later, these same students had joined the ranks of obese Americans.  All too many had no fitness plan.  High school never gave them a fitness plan and neither did college.

But I want this blog to be about appreciation and not about how to do a health program.  If you need a fitness plan, you can search my blogs and find a great deal of information about starting such a plan.  Today, lets look at the fun and value in each of the six major elements of physical health.

I have put together a model based on my experience that includes six elements I think are essential to overall physical fitness.  These include:  Stamina, Strength, Balance, Flexibility, Nutrition and Weight Control.  Each of these elements are interdependent with the other five elements but each are unique in many ways.  I think there is great joy and fun in all six of them and I want to share some of my appreciation of each with you.  Let’s start with stamina.

hqdefault

Stamina

Instead of talking about Cardio or Cardiovascular activities, I chose to call this group Stamina.  Stamina activities build endurance and also build a strong heart and vascular system.  People can be overweight and still have good stamina.  I was in a bike race and I looked over my competition.  It was my first race, and I selected a few guys with muscles on their legs that looked like basketballs.  I was sure one of them would take first place.  Two hours later, the winner was this skinny kid from the University of Connecticut who looked like he could not punch his way out of a paper bag.

Activities like running, swimming, biking, skiing, roller blading, ice skating, all build stamina.  Experts call them aerobic activities as opposed to anaerobic activities.  I have met many overweight men who see me running and say, “I wish I could run but I blew my knee out playing football in high school.”  I want to say “Bullshit.  There are many other stamina activities that put less stress on the knees, and you could use to get in shape.”  The truth of the matter is that most of these guys would rather sit on the couch and watch football than get out and exercise.  Walking is a great stamina activity, and you can walk with extra knee support and it will improve your conditioning without doing more damage to your knees.

You can and should appreciate the range and variety of stamina activities that have been developed and that are available today.  They offer variety and fun and surely beat sitting on your couch remembering the “good old days.”

0905HotYoga_SC

Flexibility

Can you touch your toes?  Can you manage a day without your back aching?  Do you get aches and pains whenever you do any physical activity?  Over the years, I have noticed when going to the gym or involved in some sports that men gravitate towards weights while women gravitate towards flexibility exercises.  Karen and I started doing Yoga about 25 years ago and we do it together about 2 or three times per week.  Most of the Yoga instructors are women.  We use Yoga tapes that are on DVD or now on Amazon Prime.  It is rather sad that many men think flexibility training is something for women and that “real” men lift weights.  The two are not mutually exclusive and in fact, the two are essential.  They have a Yin and Yang relationship.

I can’t say that I ever liked stretching.  After thirty years of doing Yoga, I am still not much more flexible than I was when I was forty.  I would rather lift weights and I can see more progress when I do.  I have been running for nearly 45 years now.  About 25 years ago, I started developing back problems.  Back aches, back pain and back spasms would hit me at the oddest times.  I did not see the relationship between tight hamstrings and low back pain.  I finally made the connection and started doing Yoga.

For the past ten years of so, I have seldom had any back problems.  I can’t do many of the Yoga postures like the instructors.  I often wonder if my muscles could ever be that flexible.  I don’t know the answers to these questions, but both Karen and I will swear that Yoga has helped us over the years to avoid back, hip, knee, and shoulder surgery.  If you look at the list of surgeries, these are epidemic today.  The medical profession makes more money doing surgery than referring people to Yoga classes.

I appreciate Yoga and I am thankful that there are so many great teachers who will put their classes out on Amazon, YouTube, or other media.  Yoga is actually fun if you don’t try to imitate your instructor or compete with your spouse.

Weight-Training-Women-Dumbbell-Circuit-Workout

Strength

Lift that bag!  Tote that bale!  Pick up that grandkid!  Strength looks like big muscles to many people.  Everyone wants a six pack abs, bulging biceps and great triceps.  The funny thing is that I have seen many really strong people who don’t fit the stereotype.  There are different types of strength training.  Years ago I would focus on power training to build large muscles and lift large weights.  Now Karen and I use small dumbbells and focus on endurance training by doing higher reps with lower weights.  I don’t need to pick up a 100 lb. bag of cement.  I will leave that to the people that are twenty or thirty years old.  But there are days when I will need to do some yard or garden work and the ability to shovel a ton of dirt, or more is very much appreciated.

20210324_143136Just a few weeks ago, I put a new rock river in our home here.  I had a yard or about 1600 lbs. of river rock loaded into my pickup truck.  I got home with it and used a large Home Depot red bucket to scoop the rock up and put the river rock down.  It took me about two hours of steady work, but I had no aches or pains the next day.  I was quite surprised, and I give credit to one of our strength trainers that we use a lot.  Her name is Cindy, and we purchased her DVD on Amazon.

maxresdefault

Balance

Balance is probably not something that you think about or much appreciate when you are young.  You take your balance for granted.  As you age, balance becomes more salient in your life.  More and more experts are telling elderly people that balance is essential to preventing falls and broken bones.  Karen and I added some balance DVDs to our exercise regimen a few years ago.  I thought at first that these “silly” exercises would be easy.  I run four or five times a week on rugged mountain trails, “What do I need balance exercises for?”  Then the instructor said, “If this is too easy, try doing it with your eyes closed.”  I closed my eyes and fell into my wife.  I still have not been able to do many of these exercises with my eyes closed.

I have noticed that some of our friends have had bad falls resulting in broken bones.  The older you get, the longer it takes for anything to heal.  I have had three falls so far this year since returning to Arizona and running the mountain trails.  I thank both my flexibility training and balance training with preventing any serious injuries when I fell.  The most I have received has been some scrapes and minor bruising.  As the years go by, we will focus more on balance training.  It may look silly, but it is another one of those elements that have improved our lives and that we can be appreciative for.

medical-weight-loss-graphic-V1

Weight Control

Do you like McDonald’s fries, fish sandwiches, or biscuit with sausage, egg, and cheese?  Do you enjoy Olive Garden’s Lasagna?  Do you go to the Golden Corrals’ breakfast buffet or do you prefer the Saturday night fish buffet at your local casino?  Do you expect me to tell you that these are all high fat options and that you should eliminate them from your diet?  Are you waiting for me to tell you that a garden salad full of greens and tomatoes is a much better option?  If so, you will have a long wait.  I love all of the aforementioned.

20210324_150814I now weigh 139 lbs. and am 5’ 7” inches tall.  You might think that my running and exercise is what keeps me thin.  OF course, exercise helps but let me tell you a secret.  If I run for 60 minutes, which is an exceptionally long run for me, I will burn up maybe 600 calories.  A McDonald’s Sausage, Egg and Cheese McGriddle is equal to 550 calories.   A large fries at McDonalds is 490 calories.  I can go through a buffet at Ak-Chin’s Casino and on my third trip to the buffet will easily have eaten enough calories for three runs in the mountains.  I can get an apple fritter at the Circle K after my run, and it will give me back 450 to 600 of the calories that I have just spent an hour or so losing.  I can eat a McDonald’s sandwich in about ten minutes and the apple fritter in less than five.  Here is John’s Law: “You cannot exercise off more calories than you can eat.”

Weight control is essential to good health.  A host of health problems are associated with obesity and being overweight.  We live in a society of food abundance and higher than ever before calories per item in the supermarket.  The supermarket should be called “The fat Market” because of the high calories food you will find there.  A standard box of Pringles holds 900 calories.  If I wash that down with a Modelo beer, I will have just consumed 1100 of my daily allotment of 1800 calories.  You want to know another secret?  In two hours I will be hungry again.  My wife made me a Mexican cheesecake the other day.  Ninety grams for a standard size piece of this cheesecake gives me almost 450 calories but “Oh, is it delicious.”

20210324_131838Weight control is not about good nutrition.  It is about balancing the calories that you get in with the calories that you put out.  You can get 2000 calories of good food or you can get 2000 calories a day of bad food.  You can drink yourself to death by consuming a bottle of alcohol a day.  You can eat fatty foods that will give you high blood pressure and high cholesterol and increase your chances of a heart attack.  Foods that they say are “bad for you” are also foods that we enjoy eating.

I started off by saying that I would not tell you to avoid certain foods.  That is still true.  What I will tell you is that you will enjoy these foods even more if you eat them in moderation.  Rosie Greer the famous football player had to watch his weight.  He loved ice cream sundaes.  He did not give them up, but he would make a mini-ice cream sundae with a fifth of the calories of a full ice-cream sundae.  I often use the “Rosie Greer” strategy in my eating.  Instead of eating a large amount of something, I will dish out a smaller plate and put the rest away and out of temptation.

Scale_Feet_732x549-thumbnailTwo items are excellent for weight control.  One is a health scale.  This is more than just a scale that tells you your weight.  Mine tells me such things as muscle percentage, bone density, body fat and BMI.  I put these down in a log and every few months or so, I add the updated information to my log.  This way I can track how I am doing over time.  You can purchase a good scale for about fifty dollars.

The second essential item is a food scale.  Karen and I keep one on our counter and use it at dinner to weigh out our portions.  It is easy to eat a sixteen-ounce steak.  Instead after weighing it out, we might only eat six ounces and save the rest for a second dinner. Looking at how much we are putting on our plate helps us deal with the number of calories we are putting in.  We lose it when we go for third helpings at the casino, but our casino trips are much less frequent than our dinners at home.  If it were the other way around, I would probably weigh 1000 lbs.  Last Sunday we went to the Angry Crab Shack in Phoenix for lunch.  We had a two hour wait and missed lunch but had dinner.  When I came home, I calculated that my one meal there with two beers, fried oysters and soft-shelled crabs on a po’boy sandwich was over 1700 calories and I took ½ of my sandwich home.  Nevertheless, it tasted mighty good.

FEATURED-IMAGE-19

Nutrition

Nutrition and weight control are another balancing act or Yin Yang relationship.  I mentioned above that all things in moderation is a good strategy for eating but good nutrition should also be on your scheme of things.  It is important to eat food that provides a balanced diet with the right amount of fats, carbs, protein, vitamins, and minerals.  It is much easier to do this with fresh foods.  The world is full of “diet” plans and most of them seem designed to sell you some book or program.  There is plenty of good information freely available on what constitutes healthy nutrition.

You do not have to be a nutritionist or doctor to form a plan for good nutrition.  I have heard it said that being poor leads to lower nutrition and higher fat and sugar intakes.  I have also heard it said that a mobile society has no time to prepare healthy foods from scratch.  I do not believe that either of these two constraints cannot be overcome.  Both Karen and I have worked all of our married lives with two full-time jobs and now two part-time jobs.  Both of us are very frugal and look for bargains at the grocery store.  We minimize the number of high-priced cuts of meat or fish that we purchase and do the same with vegetables.  If I can get Mexican squash for ninety-nine cents a pound, I will purchase that over asparagus that sells for 4.99 a bunch.  We will purchase chicken at 1.39 a pound with bone in rather than 3.99 chicken filets.  We will seldom buy frozen pre-cooked foods.

Here are some of my simple principles for good nutrition. 

  • Learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods.
  • Look for healthy foods in the grocery store that are bargains.
  • Some grocery stores are more expensive for some things than others, explore your local stores to find the best deals.
  • Measure your portions to your desired weight.
  • Don’t buy “junk” food except in moderation. Think of it as a special treat.
  • Always eat leftovers. Use first in first out to eat leftovers before they spoil.
  • Cook meals that will last a few days in the refrigerator. Such meals as
    • Crock pot pork roast
    • Chicken soup
    • Turkey stew
    • Chili
    • Fried rice
  • Freeze any leftovers before they go bad. Use a marker to put title and date on the container.

I love eating.  It is one of my greatest appreciations of life.  I love eating exotic or interesting foods.  I love trying new restaurants.  Food is more than just a way to live.  Food brings us companionship and adventure.  New places to visit and new tastes to acquire.  Eating a balanced healthy diet should be thought of as a challenge.  Life seldom offers us as many challenges that are as important to living as eating.

“Eating is not merely a material pleasure.  Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship.  It is of great importance to the morale.” — Elsa Schiaparelli

Will Yoga or Physical Therapy Help You or Kill You?

yoga

I started doing Yoga in 1972.  I am still doing Yoga three times per week and for over 45 years now.  My first Yoga instructor was a gentleman from India who did not look anything like Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He was short and a little on the pudgy side.  I credit him for giving me a wonderful grounding in both the physical and spiritual characteristics of Yoga.  I have since had many Yoga instructors but my first one still stands out in my mind as head and shoulders above the rest.

Over the years, many people have taken up teaching and doing Yoga.  Many of these “so-called” Yoga instructors are really Jazzercise or aerobics instructors in disguise.  Taking Yoga from some of them is a little like taking music lessons from someone who can only play an “air guitar.”  You will not get the true flavor of Yoga from someone who does Yoga to a four count hip hop beat and keeps shouting “work your buns.”  I feel privileged that I know the difference between real Yoga and “fake” Yoga.  Real Yoga has been a vital aspect of my weekly exercise routine.

When I started this blog (Which will be the 8th in my series on exercise and health care) my spouse wanted to know “Whether was I was going to say something negative about Yoga?”  I reassured her that it was not my intention to disparage Yoga or to say anything off putting about the practice.  Indeed, I think everyone would be happier and healthier if they did Yoga at least three times per week for ½ hour per session.  However, I did note in an earlier blog that Yoga and physical therapy could make your health worse.  As with anything in life, there is always a possible downside or negative impact which can occur with any activity.  If you lay in your bed all day long, your house could be hit by a tornado, earthquake, hurricane, flood or falling airliner.  Everything in life has a risk.

ManDoingYoga_0

The greater risk in life (IMHO) is doing nothing.  It is always easier to do nothing.  Whether your doctor has given you a regimen to practice physical therapy or whether you have a schedule for Yoga, there are many nights when you will just feel like doing nothing or perhaps simply eating.  It often goes like this in our house:

5 PM

John:  Let’s do Yoga today at 6:30 PM.

Karen:  OK

6:15 PM

John:  I sort of got behind on some things I was doing.  Could we make it at 7 PM and eat dinner after?

Karen:  OK

8 PM

John:  Dam that took longer than I thought it would.  Shit, it is now 8 PM.  I am hungry and tired.  Would you mind if we skipped Yoga tonight?  We could do it tomorrow instead.

Karen:   OK

One problem with Yoga (as noted in the above discussion) is to skip doing it.

yoga cat

Another problem can be overdoing it.  Yoga must be practiced carefully.  The formula “no pain, no gain” is a prescription for disaster when it comes to doing Yoga.  That is the issue I have with Jazzercise instructors who think that they can teach Yoga with the same philosophy they use in their Jazzercise classes.  Yoga should be slow and gentle.  Yoga should not be frenetic and schizophrenic.  Some people might feel that there is little benefit to doing something that does not result in pain or sore muscles.  However, with the wrong philosophy, you can do real damage to your muscles or joints while attempting to do some Yoga exercises.

worrier poseBeing overly competitive might be a good formula in exercise programs where you attempt to outdo other participants, but this can be another recipe for disaster when it comes to Yoga.  Each participant in Yoga needs to pay attention only to their own body; not to the other participants or even the instructor.  If the instructor has his/her legs at a 180 degree angle to their torso and you can only make 30 degrees, you are best advised not try to imitate your instructor or other participants.  A good instructor will repeatedly advise you to only go as far as you can with any Yoga posture.  Pushing the envelope may lead to torn muscles or dislocated joints.

I have lumped physical therapy in with Yoga exercise.  I have done this recognizing that though they are two very different practices they actually share several things in common.

  1. They are both healthy alternatives to pills and surgery
  2. They both require discipline and a regular routine
  3. They cost a great deal less than surgery or pills
  4. They have less side effects than pills or surgery
  5. You can do them in the privacy of your home and you do not need a prescription
  6. You can target particular areas of the body where you have some type of soreness or imbalance
  7. You can do them regardless of the physical shape you are in since the level you do each at can be adjusted to your present condition
  8. You can do them forever and they will help prevent future problems
  9. They are both proven in terms of health and therapeutic value

Many of the yoga practices that have now become routine in physical therapy are derived from Yoga exercises that go back thousands of years.

“A co-worker of mine recently had knee surgery and said he is in physical therapy. I am always curious as a Yoga teacher what the medical community does to treat ailments via physical movement.  He graciously copied his sheet of exercises his physical therapist prescribed to him.

I saw immediately that the actions being taught in physical therapy mimic many of those in asana, with asana being a bit more extreme in range of motion.” — From Home Yoga Practice

For a more in-depth analysis of the similarities and differences between Yoga and physical therapy see the following article:  Yoga and physical exercise – a review and comparison by Ramajayam GovindarajSneha KarmaniShivarama Varambally & B.N. Gangadhar

Conclusions:

Yoga can be an excellent addition to your weekly health routine.  The exercises (called asanas) will help to keep you flexible and limber.  Yoga will also help with your balance and posture.  Flexibility and balance are two of the six key pillars for a healthy lifestyle.  I would argue that for good health, you need to address each of the following six pillars on a weekly basis:

  1. Flexibility routine
  2. Strength routine
  3. Balance routine
  4. Stress routine
  5. Good nutrition
  6. Aerobic routine

If you supplement your weekly Yoga with an aerobic exercise program, strength program and good nutrition, you will have done the most that anyone can do to insure a long and healthy life.  The rest will be up to your genes and lifestyle.

Yoga set394Start doing Yoga once or twice a week.  You can get a Yoga mat, strap, blocks and some used Yoga DVD’s for less than $30 dollars.  With some Yoga tapes and a DVD player, you will be able to do Yoga in the privacy of your home and as often as you want. I have found Rodney Yee, Patricia Walden and Susan Deason to be great instructors.  Gaiam Yoga tapes can often be found in Goodwill or other thrift stores for a few dollars each.  On frigid days, it is a real pleasure not to have to get dressed and go to a gym.  It is also great to have an instructor on DVD that I do not have to keep paying weekly fees to.

Time for Questions:

Do you do Yoga?  Why or why not?  If not, what would it take for you to get started?

Life is just beginning.

“Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul.” — Amit Ray

 

 

 

 

Why Diet Programs Ignore Common Sense! Or How to Lose Weight without even Trying!

marthas-vineyard-detox-diet

There are two rules of wisdom that I think most of us believe in.  They are:

  1. If it is too good to be true, it probably isn’t
  2. There are no free lunches

I have found the above precepts to be good guideposts for my life.  They are so often noted that we begin to take them for granted.  It could be argued that perhaps they are not true in every situation, but I believe that they are more often true than not true.  This brings us to the issue of diet programs.  Consider the following statistics:

  • An estimated 108 million American adults were dieting in 2012.
  • Each year, more and more adults are trying to lose weight
  • 80% of dieters try to lose weight on their own
  • In 2012, Americans spent an estimated $65 billion trying to lose weight
  • 90-95 percent of all dieters gain their weight back

(Statistics are from Fitness for Weight Loss)

HT_rocco_dispirito_book_jef_140109_16x9_608If I go to Amazon.com and type in “diet books”, I find that there are 184,291 books available to sell me on a strategy for losing weight.   There were 424 “Diet Best Sellers” in 2016 and 209 “Best Sellers” published already in 2017.  These are only the “Best Sellers.”  There were a total of 39,673 diet books listed as published in 2016.  Many if not most diet books do not make the “Best Seller” lists.  In terms of magazines dealing with diets and weight loss, there are over a dozen magazines that you can buy each week at your local grocery store (that you will find stocked right next to the chocolates) that will tell you how to lose weight “without even trying.”

fad-diet-adsHowever, the above statistics are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  If I go to Google and type in the words “diet strategies” in parentheses, I find that there are over 319,000 listings concerning various diets, stratagems, plans, tips, secrets, etc., that will show you how to lose weight “without even trying.”

Here are some typical headlines that you will find as you peruse any of the above information that is offered for those of us that need to lose weight “without even trying”:

  • The Harcombe Diet 3-Step Plan: Lose 7 lbs. in 5 days and end food cravings forever
  • 1200 Calorie Diet Menu – 7 Day Lose 20 Pounds Weight Loss Meal Plan
  • Win at Slim: New Secrets to Lasting Weight Loss
  • Outsmart Your Cravings: Sweet, Salty, Crunchy
  • How I Lost 42 lbs.
  • Eat, Drink, Shrink: No Diet Ways to Fight Holiday Gain
  • No More Guilt: Stop Dwelling, Start Enjoying

no exercise or dieting

The beauty of all these weight loss schemes is that you can lose weight “without (you guessed it) even trying.”  Any half-way intelligent person would regard these titles and by applying either of the two rules noted earlier decide that they were pure bunko.  Lose weight without trying!  End food cravings forever!  Lose 7 lbs. in 5 days!  No sane person would believe any of this BS.  Nevertheless, the diet magazines, diet plans and diet books sell like crazy.  Every year a plethora of new diet strategies replace last year’s models.  Why do people continue taking the bait when they know that it is a sucker’s game?  The simple answer is that when it comes to looking like Jennifer Lopes, Christie Brinkley or any of the Kardashians, all brain power and rational thinking goes down the drains.  Everyone in America wants to be thin and beautiful “without even trying.”

SUPER-SHRED-DIET-ROTATOR-617x241Every new diet strategy renews hope for the downtrodden and overweight oppressed masses.  Every new diet plan offers the possibility that beauty and slimness might be had before Christmas or at least before the New Year.  Every new weight loss scheme provides the potential to become the person that we dream of being.  Hope springs not just eternal in the human breast, but perpetually, irrationally and beyond all measures of logic or intellect:  To hell with “no free lunches!”  To hell with “it probably is not true!”

If even the remotest opportunity exists that I can lose weight “without even trying”, I will take the bait like a mouse eats peanut butter or a cat eats catnip or a bear eats donuts.  “Dam the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”  Who cares about logic?  Who cares that no evidence exists to back these claims up?

before and after maleSo now we come to the real issue.  You wanted to know if there actually might be a method for losing weight “without even trying.”  My answer is YES!  But there is even better news.  I will send you the secret strategy for my quick weight loss “without even trying” plan that I have developed for only $9.95 plus postage and handling.  In six weeks or less, I will give you a money back guarantee that you will lose twenty pounds “without even trying” or I will send you a full refund.  This offer is good for only thirty days after you read this blog and it will then expire.  The following stipulations also apply:

  • You must reside on a lake
  • You must be over 99 years of age
  • You must have been born in Last Chance, New Mexico
  • You must be at least 100 lbs. overweight at the start of this offer
  • You must believe everything you read or hear

Time for Questions:

Do you need to lose weight?  Have you been trying to lose weight?  How successful have your efforts been?  What has worked for you?  What did not work for you?  What would you like to change in your diet?

Life is just beginning.

“I believe that parents need to make nutrition education a priority in their home environment. It’s crucial for good health and longevity to instill in your children sound eating habits from an early age.” — Cat Cora
 

 

 

 

How much Pain is Caused by Aging Versus Laziness and Ignorance?

lazy_workout

Have you ever head the saying “no pain, no gain?”  This is one of the most idiotic pieces of advice ever given.  Pain is a signal that our body wants us to stop something or that it needs help.  I have little doubt that many people have been severely damaged by this so-called piece of wisdom.  However, taken to the other extreme, we see people who are so afraid of hard work and exercise that they have become couch potatoes.  I believe that many Americans have veered so far off the trail of pain that they have gone to the other extreme.  Look around you and what do you see?  Fat people everywhere you look.  We have an epidemic of obesity in America.  Regard the following facts: (From the Center for Disease Control)

  • The prevalence of obesity was 36.5% (crude estimate) among U.S. adults during 2011–2014.
  • The prevalence of obesity among U.S. youth was 17.0% in 2011–2014.
  • From 1999 through 2014, obesity prevalence increased among adults and youth.

The above data pertain to the frequency of obesity in the USA.  Keep in mind that there are many more people who are overweight than there are who are obese.  Obesity is defined as: “Excess amount of body fat with a BMI of over 30.”  Overweight is defined as: “Having more body weight than is considered normal or healthy for one’s age or build.”  If we were to include the amount of people who were both overweight as well as obese, the figures for “fat” people in the USA would skyrocket.

Several years ago, I attended a World Future Conference.  The former founder and CEO of Medtronic was one of the keynote speakers. His talk was on the topic of rising health care costs.  Many people focus on only one or two causes for the escalation of health care costs.  However, Earl Bakken presented a pie chart which showed several reasons for the rise.  These included:

  • Increased cost of technology
  • People living longer
  • Increased percentage of older people in the population
  • Litigation
  • Inflation
  • Lifestyle choices

obesity-is-preventable_52fc767facaae_w1500

Earl noted that all of these issues have had an impact on health costs.  You will notice that the last issue in his list included “lifestyle choices.”  This category includes such problems as diet, smoking, obesity, drugs, alcoholism, lack of exercise and poor health choices.  Contrary to what many people think, this issue was not the major cause of health care cost increases.  Nevertheless, the category is one of the factors linked to the increase in health care costs.

Looking only at obesity as a contributor to health care costs, we note the following facts: (From the Health Care Costs of Obesity)

  • Obesity is one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases and healthcare costs in the United States. Currently, estimates for these costs range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year. In addition, obesity is associated with job absenteeism, costing approximately $4.3 billion annually and with lower productivity while at work, costing employers $506 per obese worker per year.  As a person’s, BMI increases, so do the number of sick days, medical claims and healthcare costs.
  •  Obese adults spend 42 percent more on direct healthcare costs than adults who are a healthy weight.
  •  Per capita healthcare costs for severely or morbidly obese adults (BMI >40) are 81 percent higher than for healthy weight adults. In 2000, around $11 billion was spent on medical expenditures for morbidly obese U.S. adults.
  •  Moderately obese (BMI between 30 and 35) individuals are more than twice as likely as healthy weight individuals to be prescribed prescription pharmaceuticals to manage medical conditions.
  •  Costs for patients presenting at emergency rooms with chest pains are 41 percent higher for severely obese patients, 28 percent higher for obese patients and 22 percent higher for overweight patients than for healthy- weight patients.

 People who are obese, compared to those with a normal or healthy weight, are at an increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions, including the following: (From the Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

  • All-causes of death (mortality)
  • High blood pressure (Hypertension)
  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides (Dyslipidemia)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems
  • Some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver)
  • Low quality of life
  • Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning

Please notice that the CDC list does not explicitly include hip, knee and back problems.  Of course, many people who are not overweight suffer from these problems, but there is considerable evidence that obesity contributes to these problems.  People who are obese often lack muscle tissue and ligament flexibility which help support their knees, backs and hips.  The less exercise they get, the more the problem is exacerbated.  They may go to doctors and chiropractors to get help but the underlying cause of obesity is seldom treated.  Finally, surgery is performed when exercise, diet and physical therapy could be more effective treatments.  So why do so many people get surgery or pills when there are cheaper and more effective treatments with less side effects?

Let’s go back to what I said in the title of this blog.  Laziness and Ignorance.

too lazy to exercise

Laziness and Ignorance:

Every year, it is a well-known fact at health clubs across the country that right after New Year’s Day, the membership will increase dramatically and the parking lot will fill up with new members. This phenomenon will last about 15 weeks after which the new members will slowly drop off and the parking lot will go back to normal.  Why do you think this happens?  I will give you two reasons:

First:  The assumption that they will get instant results.  Too many people read the magazines at the grocery store promising “Six Weeks to Abs of Steel” or “Lose 40 lbs. in Eight Weeks.”  I would argue that if you can lose 1 lb. in a month, you are doing a great job.  As for the abs of steel, first you will need to lose a large amount of body fat and second, it may take you a year of hard dedicated disciplined ab exercises.  As someone who does regular ab exercises, they hurt.  They are no fun.

20170406_155206There is a difference between pain and hurt.  When I tried to continue my ab exercises after my prostate surgery and then after my hernia surgery, I experienced pain.  I wanted to get back into shape too quickly both times.  I stopped the exercises and worked on other routines that did not cause pain.  Mind you, the ab exercises still hurt and I have been doing them for six years.  I am making a big distinction here between pain and hurt. Perhaps, I should say they “burn.”  Burn is the athletic euphemism for hurt.  Most people don’t like hurt.  However, if you expect that you can get in shape without some discomfort, you are destined for life as a couch potato or in a surgery ward.

Second:  People are ignorant when it comes to exercise.  How many Americans do you think have ever read a book on exercise?  Unless, you are willing to become a student of exercise or trust in an athletic trainer, the knowledge that most people have regarding exercise is insufficient for them to attain the results they seek.  Sadly, most medical practitioners are just as ignorant when it comes to the role of exercise and diet in a healthy lifestyle.

How many exercise books do you think make Amazon’s “best seller” list.  To determine this, I went to Amazon and pulled up their top 100 best sellers.   In the entire list, there was not one book on exercise protocols.  There were two books on dieting at number 41 and number 42 in the top 100 list.  You could find several books on menus and cooking.  It is much easier in the USA to eat, then it is too exercise.

kaelinAmericans are enamored with diets and each new diet best seller promises fantastic results in a short amount of time.  The Amazon number 1 best seller in the health and exercise category was a book titled “Big Fat Lies.”  The author promises you the “truths” that helped her to lose 65 lbs. “without giving up pizza or ice cream.”  The author is Kaelin Tuell Poulin and the book has a very high rating in the customer reviews section.  Ninety-eight percent of the 235 reviewers gave it a 5-star rating.  However, while I often put a great deal of store in ratings, you must be careful about inflated ratings.  The one negative rater had this to say about the book: (typos in the review were not changed)

“Dont be fooled into purchasing a book that was reviewed by 200 hundred women who never read the book (her followees) I have read the book it is subpar at best and not worth the money. My origional review included picture evidence of her asking for reviews but it was removed because it included her identity i suppose. I hope this one stays up so no one else is fooled into buying this. I give this book 1 star only to post. She is a salesperson and she is a great one at that! but if one person reads this and doesnt feed into the hype it was worth the time and effort to type it.”

I would not call the above review a particularly good piece of criticism.  However, the author does alert us to the possibility that the book suffers from a sort of follower worship.  Nevertheless, I would risk the small cost of the book if I were looking for a diet program.  Consider the following review from one of Kaelin’s “ladyBoss” more ardent followers:

“This program has TWO things that every other weight loss program out there is missing.  For ONE Kaelin was heavy once she was 185 pounds herself but with hard work and dedication lost the weight and has kept it off for 5 years.”

This is a great testimonial.  I am not sure if “every other weight program is missing” these two factors, but I am sure that dedication and hard work were necessary for Kaelin to keep the weight off for five years.  One problem with many exercise and diet programs is that the participant is naive and believes that once they lose the weight, their hard work is over.  They may also lack the discipline to continue the work once a certain goal is achieved.  Lack of discipline?  Laziness?  Ignorance? This is a volatile mix.  They seem to go together like salt and pepper.

WWS-Obesity

There is one final factor that we must discuss and that studies have shown have a direct bearing on obesity and poor health.  This is the factor of poverty.  Many studies have shown a direct relationship between income and obesity and between income and exercise.  Poor people get less exercise and generally have poorer nutrition.  There are several explanations for this.  We can posit some possible cause and effect relationships:

  1. Lack of education leads to obesity
  2. Poverty leads to high fat diet and poor nutrition
  3. Lack of education leads to poverty
  4. Poverty leads to low exercise priorities

You might notice that there is a kind of circularity to the above relationships.  Perhaps, if they are circular it does not matter which is cause and which is effect since the result is the same.  The outcomes for poor people are poor nutrition, lack of exercise and obesity.

There are some who dispute the above correlations.  The claim is made that the relationship between poverty and obesity is not linear but varies by age, gender and ethnicity.  It has also been pointed out that rich countries throughout the world have a higher incidence of obesity than poor countries.

“While all segments of the U.S. population are affected by obesity, one of the common myths that exists is that all or virtually all low-income people are far more likely to be obese. In this generalization, two facts commonly are overlooked(1) the relationship between income and weight can vary by gender, race-ethnicity, or age and (2) disparities by income have been weakening with time, particularly for adults.” — Relationship Between Poverty and Obesity, Food Research and Action Center

However, if we look at obesity from an aggregate point of view and disregard the effects of ethnicity, age and gender, we find the following evidence to show a linkage between poverty and obesity:

“Poverty rates and obesity were reviewed across 3,139 counties in the U.S.  In contrast to international trends, people in America who live in the most poverty-dense counties are those most prone to obesity.  Counties with poverty rates of >35% have obesity rates 145% greater than wealthy counties.”Poverty and Obesity by James Levine (2011)

Furthermore, even the Food Research and Action Center admits to the problem that obesity poses for America and state on their site that:

“While all segments of the U.S. population can be affected by poor dietary intake and obesity, low-income and food insecure people are especially vulnerable due to the additional risk factors associated with inadequate resources and under-resourced communities.” 

Note the above statement that “poor people” are especially vulnerable.  Let me tell you the following story that illustrates some of my admittedly selective experience with this issue of poverty and obesity.

One day, Karen and I went to Scottsdale Arizona to visit and do some shopping.  We went to several art galleries and jewelry stores.  When it was time for lunch, we found an authentic looking Mexican restaurant and decided to eat outside.  We were right in the heart of Scottsdale and many people kept walking by our table.  It was fun people watching, but something kept nagging at my mind.  I was not sure why, but there was a difference between the average people I was used to seeing and the people I saw in Scottsdale.

Suddenly, I realized what was bothering me.  In the hour or so that we were eating, we did not see one obese or even moderately overweight person walk by.  All the people that passed by us were healthy and athletic looking.  This was my first realization of the connection between wealth and obesity.  I don’t know about the rest of the world but ever since then, I have observed that most overweight people I see in America are either poor or middle class.  In my opinion, rich people have much lower incidences of obesity in this country.

Aging and Pain:

You will notice that I have not attributed pain to aging.  This is not an oversight.  Neither is it denial.  You can have pain when you are young and you can have pain when you are old.  In either case, there is no way you should just accept the pain.  Unfortunately, what medical practitioners often diagnose and treat with young people, they are willing to accept with old people.  Let me give you another personal example.

20170406_155432Two years ago, I started developing a pain in my right shoulder. I was not sure where it came from but after several months of it getting worse, I went to see an orthopedic doctor.  He asked what if anything I might be doing to aggravate the shoulder.  I mentioned that I swim frequently and am aggressive with my laps.  His simple answer was “Well then, stop swimming.”  I decided to follow his advice and for the next year, I stopped swimming.  However, my shoulder pain did not get any better.

A year later, I went to see another orthopedic doctor and he could not find anything wrong with my shoulder.  He did no MRIs or X-ray’s.  I suggested he give me an injection of cortisone, which he did.  I had moderate pain relief for about six weeks and then the pain resumed and continued to get worse.  At this point, I decided to do some of my own research into shoulder pain.  This research was very productive.

I found some very good descriptions of the exact type of pain I was incurring and a few different suggestions on how I could treat the pain without pills or surgery.  The best and most positive ideas I found came from a Doctor John M. Kirsch in Wisconsin.  Dr. Kirsch put his ideas and supporting evidence for his theory of what causes some types of shoulder pain into a small book titled “Shoulder Pain:  The Solution and Prevention.”  I have since been following his treatment regimen with good results.  My shoulder pain has been decreasing and the range of motion in my right shoulder is improving.

I mentioned earlier that I am 70 years old.  I think that there is too often the attitude among people my age and the doctors they see that “pain with aging is inevitable.”  If it is inevitable, then we should just “suck it up” and live with it.  Sometimes, this might be true.  However, the assumption that aging and pain need to go together is a prescription that does not serve any of the elderly very well.  I have talked to many older people and I often find the same set of attitudes either on their part or their doctors.  It is basically “Well, getting old is a bitch and you just have to live with pain.”

No, you do not have to live with pain!   

I have been running 4 or 5 times a week for over 40 years now.  During this time, I have had shin sprints, knee pain, hip pain, big toe pain, back pain, Morton’s neuroma, plantar fasciitis, sesamoiditis, corns, calluses and blisters.  Each time the pain came, I have gone through the following sequence of activities:

  1. Awareness of discomfort
  2. Try to ignore it
  3. Discomfort moves into the pain stage
  4. Take over-the-counter meds
  5. Go to see a doctor
  6. Pain improved by prescription pills or shots
  7. Pain returned in a short while
  8. Do research on other remedies
  9. Trial and error with other remedies
  10. Voila, eventually find the right remedy (no surgery and no prescription drugs)
  11. Pain goes away and does not return
  12. Sometimes, continuous exercise such as leg stretches and yoga are necessary to keep conditions from returning or getting worse. g., must do calf stretches 3x per week to stop plantar fasciitis from returning.  

20170406_155233Some people are not so lucky.  However, I hesitate to call all of my good health “Luck.”  There is a saying by Thomas Jefferson that “The harder I work the luckier I get.”  I have worked hard to stay in shape.  I exercise regularly.  I watch what I eat.  I try to avoid excesses.  No doubt, I have had some luck that goes beyond hard work and discipline.  Nevertheless, I believe that hard work and discipline has played a large role in my ability to be healthy and still active at my age.

I wish I had a dollar for everyone that has come up to me and said “I wish I could run but I have bad knees.”   Many people do have bad knees.  But many people do not see a connection between their “bad” knees and their obesity.  Their cycle is more like this:

  1. Overeat
  2. Gain weight
  3. Do no exercise
  4. Get pain someplace
  5. Do less exercise
  6. Get more pain
  7. Go to doctor
  8. Get knee or hip or some other surgery
  9. Continue being overweight and doing little or no exercise
  10. Take pills

4 weeks to a healthier

The only way the above activities relate to aging is that it takes some time to destroy your body through lack of exercise and poor diet.  I guarantee you though, it will happen eventually depending on how much you abuse your body.  It may happen when you are young or it may happen when you are old.  The longer you wait to do something about it, the more difficult it will be to repair the damage you have done.  It seems like my body takes more time to repair itself the older I get.

Finally, you do not have to be rich to have good health.  Money will not bring you good health if you abuse your body, overeat, drink too much, smoke too much and avoid exercise.  You can pay all the doctors in the world and you will still have bad health if you follow the 10 steps listed above.

Time for Questions:

Do you exercise regularly?  Why or why not?  Do you have a program to help keep track of your weight?  Why or why not?  Do you have a weight problem?  What do you do about it?  How effective have your efforts been?  What do you think would help them be more effective?

Life is just beginning.

“My mother was a P.E. teacher, and she was kind of a fanatic about fitness and nutrition growing up, so it was ingrained in me at a young age.  As I get older, I’m finding out it’s not about getting all buffed up and looking good.  It’s more about staying healthy and flexible.” — Josh Duhamel
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: