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 busy...you have been poor...you 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 choice...it 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 choice...no 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 pizzas....in 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 it...slowly...talk, 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 something...you 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

Ashamed

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.
I DO NOT PLAN TO BE ON THE COVER OF A HEALTH MAGAZINE.  THIS IS SILLY IN GENERAL AND AS DANGEROUS AS A WOMAN TRYING TO LOOK LIKE BARBIE!  BUT HAVING A GOAL OF GOOD MODERATE WEIGHT AND THE CORRESPONDING GOOD HEALTH THAT I ENJOYED WHILE I WAS THERE IS A GOOD AND REACHABLE GOAL!

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!

GURU!

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.


Better

Ashamed II

I said I was ashamed.  Well, it is not productive in life to be ashamed of your build.  What I am ashamed of is that I know I have the ability to make changes that will help my physical state and health, and I did not do it. 
We are all hampered by heredity, just as some very few are aided by it.  Your parents and grandparents have a lot to do with your shape, and with your ability to alter it. 
So too does the diet that is prevalent in your family, either a help or hinder. 
My cousin's husband grew up in Oklahoma, raised on beans, cornbread and pan fried potatoes(which absolutely was not done in olive oil!).  On the surface, it has all that is necessary for basic nutrition, but woe betide he who eats that kind of diet as he ages and as his level of activity drops.

Caution wide load!

Two Simple Rules

Yes, there are two simple rules to weight loss and good health!

This blog could end right here if everyone would just take them to heart and put them into action, but I guess that more specifics are necessary, so we may get to know each other a little better before I end the blog.

1.  EAT LESS

2.  MOVE MORE

The First Hurdles

The first hurdle to get over is shame.
 You cannot be ashamed of your appearance.  The issue here is how to get healthy.  I know it is an awful thing to be ashamed of your appearance, but you also have something to be really proud of.  You have decided to do something about it!  What could instill more pride, and what could be more inspirational to others than to exhibit the drive, the nerve, the determination to better your lot.  No, I do not like to see enormously fat bodies, but that is my problem and I have no right to judge others for their misfortunes!
When I see someone in a gym or a pool who is obese, I worry about their health, I worry that they will work on their problem the right way, but I first say to myself, "Wow, they are trying to better their health and they deserve applause"!
There is no way to get around the problem of embarrassment but to just dive in, so to speak.  You can begin by losing a lot of weight through water weight loss and dieting to get rid of the worst of it.  Unfortunately, people who diet will often lose their muscle mass before they lose ANY FAT AT ALL, and they will only be in a worse position than they were before, not only fat, but also lacking in the muscle to be active. 
The first thing is to diet very lightly.  Knock out a few calories here and there so that over time...Patience is the watchword here....weight is lost.  The effort to lose weight MUST be accompanied by increased activity...Move...move.... move.  Anything will do!
If you lose weight too quickly with a drastic reduction in calories, this will signal your body that you are starving.  First, you will burn up muscle, and stored fat will remain in an effort to keep alive.
Keep active to increase muscle and reduce calories a bit at a time so as not to signal a problem to your body.
The second big hurdle is to get a better diet. 
You do not have to go into starvation mode if you simply replace the bad calories from fat and heavy carbohydrate consumption with vegetables and very lean meats such as chicken breast.  Do not make gravy from meats...give it to the dog or the sewer system!  Eat smaller portions of Pasta, potato, bread and crackers, rice etc..  Have large portions of green beans, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.  You have to realize that some vegetables, too, have lots of calories. 
You do not have to consume canned vegetables to learn by reading the labels and compare which ones are a good choice over others.  Then make a bee line to the frozen veggies(whose labels are also good, but cold!) and fresh aisle to buy the best choices.
The third big hurdle is misconceptions about labels.
Read labels, but know what they mean.  It may look like a good choice on the surface.  "This has lower calories", you say to yourself, but look at the percentage of fat...30 per cent of calories from fat or less should be your goal.
If it has Hydrogenated anywhere on the label...put it back on the shelf. 
Artificial sweeteners can be worse than sugar...put them back as well.
And so it goes.  Do research yourself.  You will understand it more and become more aware of it. 
Start with sugar.....do not buy any sugar or artificial sweeteners...learn to drink your tea without...it can be a real pleasure once you are used to it. Stevia may be an exception here, but do not over use even that.  Soda and diet soda should be a once a week treat.  I drink only seltzer, with a bit of lemon or orange rind, or pre flavored with natural fruit essences or peel.  Fruit juices are real bombs!!!!! They contain a lot of sugar and acid, and none of the fiber.  Both sugar and acids are very harmful in large quantities.  The acid will wear your teeth away and bother your stomach.
Eat the fruit and not the juice!
Good rules of thumb are...the fewer ingredients the better in any food.  Avoid processed in favor of natural.  Make your own dressings for salad, do not buy bottled.  Fewer preservatives and colors. Less salt is better.
You don't really need meat, especially in the quantities that Americans eat it.

Protein is in everything organic, and beans(legumes) and grains combined make adequate protein, but they are typically higher in carbs, and of lower quality.  So, don't drop meat...just moderate it and try for lower fat options, though it is best to search for meats that have no hormones or other additives and salts. 
Just  as a for instance, about carbs in vegetables and legumes, String beans are an excellent food and you can fill up on them, but the other beans removed from and eaten without the pods are higher in calories and may be better used sparingly. This especially true when you prepare beans with bacon, or salt pork, sugars and salts before they are eaten.  Try replacing these with tomato, garlic, olive oil(in moderation), herbs and spices.
Another for-instance....When you see people praising Balsamic vinegar...do not try to use balsamic vinegar dressings in bottles....read the label...this is another calorie and fat bomb!

Eating Cheese on Your Diet.

I just adore cheese the way that Eva Gabor adored a penthouse view. Body builders are allowed three of four dice sized cubes of cheese a day.  I do not care what kind it is.  Provolone Piccante, Aged Cheddar, Smoked Edam, Mozzarella dripping off a chunk of chicken baked in tomato, onions, peppers and pepperoni...I am not that much of a body builder, and I cannot have cheese!  A taste on cheat day perhaps, even half a pizza on those days...but you cannot lose weight with cheese on your diet.  I do not buy it, I thankfully have no place to store it.  Leave it on the grocery store shelf or cooler...you can't have it!
I was just having lunch.  A real Italian classic, Caprese salad.  In Italy, one can get it almost anytime, but often in the winter months the tomatoes will be a bit on the green side. 
 They tend to try to do things in season instead of getting tomatoes from Chile or somewhere.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Caprese Salad and Giardinera with fresh bread in Salina, Italy several years ago.  Yeah, the tablecloth is a bit busy! 
 
 
  Anyway, there was Fresh Mozzarella and olive oil in the salad, and my lunch partner commented on the fact that olive oil was not on her diet when she was trying to lose weight.  But, you have to have fat in your diet! 
A tablespoon a day is the absolute minimum.  Brain functions are altered, and not for the good if you do not get it. 
Remember that many foods that you may not suspect, have oils in them.  You can gently fry things in the oils left over from grilling onions, for instance.
I  remembered, as we were speaking, about a TV show I saw years ago.  It was a TV diet cooking program, and the host fried up hamburger, then put it into a strainer and WASHED IT in running water!!!!! 
Just how ANAL can you get.
Just buy the lowest fat ground meats you can find.  If it really needs fat in it for some reason, drizzle in a bit of olive oil.
Saturated fats are a No-no...meat fats should be trimmed off before cooking, and any left after cooking should be trimmed as well.
Trans-fats too should be avoided, and watch for Hydrogenated fats in all sorts of products!
Do not eat ANYTHING with Hydrogenated anything in it!
There is fat in bread and a host of unsuspected things.
If you bake bread, it is common to glaze the top of the loaf after you bake it with butter.  Well, if you must you must, but try to use the lesser of evils.  Substitute olive oil for the butter.  You save some calories, but you also have a much healthier fat!

Here is a more recent version. That is enough meat around the outside for the whole day!