Monday, August 21, 2017

Posture Matters

You can actually lose weight and still look quite unfit.

  It is sometimes hard to guage how well you are doing in your weight loss regimen if you do not stand up properly.  Good posture will make people look at you and see your progress.

  Standing very erect, with shoulders down and neck held very long, like you are being suspended from the ceiling makes an enormous difference in your appearance.  This is hard to do and hard to maintain.  It is good to tell the people that you see regularly to remind you when you are starting to slouch.

Also it is a good habit to stand with your navel drawn as far toward your spine as you can manage without actually holding your breath all the time.  Doing this will train your abdominal muscles almost as well as a few crunches each day. Holding your internal organs in place inside your body cavity will bring you a whole new feeling and appearance.  You will slouch unconsciously if your intestines etc. are hanging out and forward inside you.  Again, it is difficult to maintain this unless you are always conscious of this and keep it up all the time. 

Another health benefit comes from deep breathing that expands your lungs from the diaphragm instead of your upper chest.  Help with this will come from elementary exercises in Yoga. Practicing Yoga, too, will help you immensely.  You do not have to believe in the entire philosophy of Yoga, just do what you can with the exercises, which can keep you much more fit in general than any other discipline.

A word of warning in all this.  Do not adopt a military posture.  Stand tall and erect, but not exaggerated like at attention in the army.  Your back can be so distorted that you will not be able to get deep breaths, and those are essential for respiratory health. 

If you are a shallow or mouth breather...CUT IT OUT...every breath should expand the chest and use the diaphragm to its fullest extent.  You can increase your probability of pneumonia and other congestive problems if you do not do this and deep breathing helps to oxygenate your blood, organs and muscles more fully.

It is dangerous to over-do crunches.  Very often you see men who are absolutely addicted to abdominal development.  They have a very odd stance, their shoulders hunched over and a compacted belly.  You must do as much in developing the back muscles as you do in crunches to help draw you into a more upright stance.
  Remember that the abdominals are always there.  You need to tighten them up to keep your organs in their place, but it is not necessary to have them become enormous in order to show up.  Instead, they will show up well if you lower your percentage of body fat.  This is best done with high energy exercise rather than crunches.   You should especially avoid crunches with weights.
Also, watch out for heavy loads and backpacks that are heavier than 20 pounds.  Constant work on computers will also alter your posture, and if you must use one, you must be aware of the need to correct the damage every day, standing erect, back exercises, stretches etc..    

Saturday, June 24, 2017

What is Normal ?

Just a little story to begin with..

I was dishing out a salad with my cousin...she was good enough to cook....

Now, I love balsamic vinegar on salad.   I like to thin down Pesto with water or juice, and I love salad dressings.  Of course we all know that salad dressings out of the bottle or salad dressing packets or mixed from scratch are over the top in calories and just ruin the healthy salad for us.  But I dumped a bit of the salad dressing on my salad.  Then I stopped....why the hell didn't I ask for the balsamic vinegar that was just three yards away instead of the salad dressing?!?!

So what is normal?

Normal includes eating anything your family and peers eat, but in the process, making good choices.
If you maintain a reasonable weight all your life, your body and your mind are obviously working well together to make good choices for you.

I really do not believe that dieting is the answer to permanent weight loss.

Normal to me is eating anything you want, but making good choices in the process.  If you have starved yourself for some reason...  Maybe you have been have been have been sick...then it is entirely reasonable to eat a big plate of your grandmother's recipe Lasagna.

The choices have to be daily, hourly and weekly....moment to moment.
You know what is good for you, so eat a reasonable amount of those things, but do not avoid all the foods you love.  Just make good choices when the plate of your very favorite "heavy hips" in white sauce is put on the table.  Fill up on salad, green beans or anything else that you know is low in calories, then take a reasonable portion of the "heavy hips"!

I cannot see building your life around daily deprivation....who can possibly do that forever.  Instead, you must make good choices over the course of the week of food intake.
Eat the damned Chocolate Cookies to Die For, in my recipe blog....but for God's sake don't eat a dozen and eat fruit for dessert the rest of the week.

The other side of the coin is to make good choices in lifestyle.  You will be energized and beat depression if you choose to do something active over that long afternoon nap! You will also be less hungry later in the day and burn calories.

The bottom line, as I have said elsewhere, is to eat a healthy number of calories in a day and be active enough to burn them off.

I just love frozen fruit bars!  My favorites are : creamy coconut, and tangerine.
The coconut is about 120 calories and the tangerine is 60.  I buy both.  I eat a coconut bar the first time, and give the rest away.  The tangerine bars become the go to is just natural to do that.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fat Family

There are some people who will never be Barbie or Ken, no matter what they do. Spend 6 months on lemon water and they will always be heavy.
Some people come from families that tend toward weight.  Grandma was a walking barrel, Mom was a walking barrel and I am a walking barrel.
Just like blond hair or big ears, you are at least partially victims of  heredity.
You can fight these gifts though.  Dieting will get rid of some weight, but it may require more aggressive dieting than someone who does not have the propensity.  However there is another part to this gift from your ancestors.  We all get food habits in our upbringing.  Ethnic foods will vary in their ability to put fat on you, the family loves bread in any form, sausage, pepperoni and salami is the norm at meals, we love cheese.  This is harder to fix because you think it is so normal to eat that way.
You have to set up a normal diet, and reserve the family specialties for Sunday cheat days.
The big thing about this whole issue is that you cannot feel bad about yourself because of it.  These are issues that you have no real control over so it is just up to you to plug along fixing the diet choices and working on the best form that your heredity allows you.  Self blame does nothing to help you in your quest.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Spring is Here

Well, winter is over.  We have no excuses now! 
We do have a tendency to put on weight in winter.  It is our body saying, food could be scarce till new food comes up and ripens in the garden.  It really is only natural.
Now that June is just around the corner....and those in the south have been able to work outside for months, we should be making some effort to burn calories.  Digging in the garden is a great activity.  Planting tons of vegetables will mean that next winter we will constantly be saying, "We have to eat more of those vegetables."
Unfortunately, we will lose some weight this way, but it is not really the best way to get rid of stubborn fat.  We have to raise our heart rate for 20 to 40 minutes a day....more is better.  As we age, we find that exercise is harder, so swimming is a good weight in the water and no wear and tear on the knees...or we can just walk...  I am not talking about a gentle saunter, but a vigorous walk that gets our heart pumping.  You do not have to kill yourself, but you will be surprised at how easy it is to raise your heart rate. 
Hikers going out on mountain trails often burn thousands of calories a day!  I live in an area that is dominated by hills and nearby mountains.  There are plenty of lakes nearby that are suitable for a swim or for hiking around or just TO. Yoga is good for toning muscles and overall health, and that is wonderful to do outside in the morning before it gets too hot.  Early is the key here, as you can do it before breakfast, extending the time since your evening meal and accelerating weight loss.
It is remarkable too, that you often do not need a big meal after exercise.  You do not feel like eating so much when you get used to it.  Filling your time with useful and healthy activity fills up all those times when you cannot think of anything to do but to nibble.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How Much is too Much?

It is strange while traveling all over the world, as I have, to see what familiar types of food morph into in other countries.  I make it a point to go to Burger King in Istanbul and Kentucky Fried in Cairo.  What really amazes me about food as I travel(besides how different Chinese food is in other countries) is how many more vegetables there are in other diets and the size of the portions.  Tourist places do huge portions no matter where, just so the tourists feel they are getting their money's worth.  But in private homes and in restaurants that cater to locals, the portions are very small compared to American portions.
We are all about the bigger steak, or large portions of chicken, or a bigger and better buffet with as many return trips as possible. 
Most places however, despite the four hours it takes to finish a meal in Italy, have much more modest food consumption.  WE AUGHT TO TRY IT !
If you clench your hand into a fist, you will be looking at a couple of interesting things about your own body.
First, your fist is the approximate size of your heart.
Second, you are looking at the approximate capacity of your stomach!
In this county, we have a terrible habit of cramming our stomachs full of food and then continuing, no on just one occasion, but as a habit, till our stomachs are stretched to ever greater capacities in order to get that super-sized meal with the two quarter pounders in at lunch time.
I have a terrible habit, as I have no resistance to candy or to Pizza, to cram a half pizza....and I made rather large before I can stop...and even then, I feel like I am cheating myself, because I know I can eat the other half!
You cannot fool me....I know I will eat just as much whether I drink a glass of water before the meal as not.
You have to discipline yourself, and there is no getting around that!
Yes...fill up on vegetables and have less of the higher calorie meats, dairy and starches, but in general, it is best to just eat less!
Just as an experiment, take a two cup measure and fill it at least half to two thirds full with green beans or cauliflower.  On top of that put in half a cup of potato...hopefully a low fat choice of preparation....and top it off with no more than 2 ounces of meat...again, make it a low fat preparation and remove every molecule of fat that you can.
Now...if you cannot stand to eat it in such a crammed fashion, deconstruct your meal onto a plate and eat, joke, drink water or seltzer....then stop!   After a few days of that, which may seem like a great deprivation at first, you will find that your stomach will fill up a lot sooner than it did before.  Just doing that will make you lose weight as long as you are not cramming the measure with French Fries!
When you live in Italy, the meal does take forever.  Italians tend to congregate together, families are still close in many places, and there is a lot of joking, laughter and gossip going on.

Before the meal comes an aperitivo...a little digestive drink to get you going. an amarro, a sherry, Malvasia di Lipari, if you are from my family's islands, or a Vin Santo.

The first food course will be an appetizer, an antipasto.  Often you will get a couple of little scraps of fabulous meat products, a grilled vegetable plate, a few olives or spiced olives, a bean paste with garlic and olive oil perhaps with a couple of small slices of grilled bread.....but just a taste!

For a Primo, there will be pasta.  Not a great whopping pile of it, but a little salad plate full or a huge beautiful plate with a little pile in the center, soaked in the meat juices from the main course, a nice tomato sauce, tossed with Caponata(see my recipe blog) or fried eggplant.  Sometimes it will just be plain with oil and salt and pepper, or a bit of Parmesan...just a few flakes on top, or basil or other type of pesto(look them up as well, they can vary a great deal) or with flakes of hot pepper and oil.

Next will be the meat course, a Secondo, a thin lightly grilled steak rubbed with garlic, or a few thin slices of a rare T-bone or Porterhouse(Chianina Beef being famous and incomparable), or chicken with mushrooms or truffles scattered on top.  You may have had a chicken broth with tiny pastas as an appetizer, and the table will share the plain poached chicken that the broth was made from as a secondo.  Perhaps it will be dressed up somehow.  Alternatively, your pasta course may have had the sauce from the preparation of the main dish while the meat is served that came out of the sauce for the secondo.  Again, these come on a separate plate...and they are small portions in the middle of a beautiful plate with a nice garnish.

Next, or on the side of the main dish, will be a Contorno.  This may be a few fried potatoes, a vegetable with balsamic, or with a grating of Parmesan, sweet and sour....but simple in any case.

Next will come Dolci,(sweets) but more often fruit with a beautiful silver knife to peel your peach or pear.  Perhaps you will have a poached pear in wine or may also have a salad, fruit and nuts or a selection of all of these at a family meal.

In all these stages of the meal, the portions will be small...You will spread the whole experience out over an entire evening with lots of time between each, and each installment will be high in quality and served beautifully.

We often eat a big meal in half an hour, then we look for a snack late at night to top it off.  They solve this problem by spreading the meal out over the entire evening.

Monday, January 16, 2017


I am heartily ashamed of myself for letting myself go!
When I was in my middle forties, I had gained a great deal of weight.  My family genetics was a mixed bag.  One group of family members were built like the potato barrels of my youth with short legs pasted on the bottom.  Another branch was tall and willowy even as they aged.  Some were stout but not awfully heavy.  I suppose we were like any family with a long heritage of a bit of everything.
I had accepted in my heart that I was going to be that barrel type, and that is just the direction that I was heading.  When it became difficult to tie my shoes I had enough. 
I joined my local community health center.  I taught myself to swim, being resistant to instruction by someone who thought it was easy and embarrassed both at my size and inability at that age.
Pretty soon I was swimming easily...if not well, and I had begun to lose the weight.
I went from 228 pounds at 5' 10" to 165 before I stopped and decided that was just too thin for good health.  I went up to 175 without a lot of effort, and there I stayed for years and years.
Now, after the death of my spouse and a bout of depression, I resolved to do it again, having gone pretty near to where I was before at my worst.
At 64, there are limitations that I have to face, but I am confident that even if I cannot get back to my good weight, I can at least make a good effort at coming close, and at feeling better in general, and feeling better about my weight.

So I will try to share with you ways to do this.  This is a VERY simple thing to do, and this blog may not be a long one as a  result!


No, I am not a weight loss Guru, nor am I particularly educated on the subject. 
However, when in my late forties, after my weight loss, and study on the science for a couple of years, I was standing naked in the locker room of my gym, when the director walked in on me as I dried off.  He looked me up and down for a moment as I stood there, and said," look at that flat belly!"
Flattery works wonders! Within ten minutes, I had agreed to be on call for local residents who had had heart problems who wished to lose weight and gain strength through weight training. 
He had been secretly observing my activities as I lost weight and was evidently pleased with my methods.  I continued with that position for about a year. 
At that time, I was modeling for drawing groups and local college art programs and I was anxious to remain in marketable condition as long as I was there.
My waist had dropped to 28 inches, while my chest was about 48, and this was a joy to draw, or so I was told.
How I wish I had a local pool so that I could get to that shape again.  The place where I live now has no such facilities, and the mountain lakes that are near by are just too cold.  The only real advantage here is my Mediterranean diet, which is easy to maintain no matter where I live, but very easy here.