Monthly Archives: July 2009

I Am What I Eat


Michael Pollan’s oft-quoted line from In Defense of Food is a good place to start. I try to:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

It wasn’t that long ago that I wouldn’t make this claim for myself. While I spurned “fast-food nation” except for the occasional visit to KFC, many of my meals were composed of food items made by someone else, at a place somewhere else, and at sometime in past. It wasn’t that easy to look at a dish and identify it’s pieces. I was all about throw-it-together quickly from the freezer.

Slowly over the past two years I’ve been moving back to the idea of eating the way I did when I was child. When you bought simple foods and ingredients from a grocery store: carrots, cabbage, apples, pork chops. When you then took these simple ingredients home and prepared them to be eaten. They were peeled, sliced, chopped, steamed, broiled, baked. In the summertime, they were grilled.

My food doesn’t come with a nutrition label. It typically has one ingredient and you can identify that for yourself: carrot, mango, lettuce, brown rice.

That what I’m moving to do now. Today I try to eat:

Vegetables. Fresh and whole when available, frozen for greater seasonal variety. The only canned item in this section would be diced tomatoes.

Fruit. Fresh, whole and in season. Frozen berries to supplement since their season is so short. Canned applesauce occasionally.

Whole Grains. Brown rice,  bulgur wheat, polenta, steel-cut oats. Grains that come in small bags or boxes. Grains that you cook with water. You can look at a small pile of these on a plate and know what kind of grain it is. Occasionally I eat a processed grain (a flour product) such as a whole grain slice of bread, tortilla, or pasta. Maybe some cereal. But these processed grain products make up less than 1 serving/day.

Legumes and nuts. Cooked dried beans (since we are a small household, I do usually go for the canned varieties), dry roasted nuts or nuts in the shell. The beans give me a lot of my protein and the nuts provide quality types of fat.

Fats. Olive oil and canola oil are my fats of choice.  A little butter every once in a while, but I try to limit my consumption of saturated and animal based fats.

Meat/Fish/Poultry. About 3-4 days a week I might eat one serving of animal protein.  Fish, turkey, chicken and occasionally beef. I try to be strict about only eating this on days I push heavy weights.

Protein powder supplements. I cannot get enough protein in my diet without too much fat unless I supplement my diet with some protein powder.

I have a deal with myself. I have permission to eat what I want when I want without guilt. So I can choose to stop at KFC and eat a 3 piece snack box and order an extra biscuit with fake butter and honey. I can choose to have cake or pie or cookies if I want them. Nine times out of ten, when I ask myself if I want these items, the answer is “No.” So I leave them for another day.

I am not giving up eating good tasting food. If you ever tasted my grilled veggies with balsamic vinegar, you’d know that I eat for taste.

I am not giving up anything that’s important to me.

What are you made of?

Edited from a post: 5/20/2008.

Internet Find #1

Through some friends, I found a fitness blogger and gym owner (who lives up in Sacto- not far from me) that I’m enjoying reading. Chip seems knowledgeable and sincere. And his ideas of empowerment through movement?


So I introduce you to Bodytribe Fitness.

An example from a recent blog post:

Wouldn’t we be in a spiritual Disneyland if we could access our personal strength capital with the ease of summoning email with a T3 connection?

Our… “personal strength capital” you say?

Yup, it’s the bank account of badass-ness, true strength that we use to overcome obstacles, transcend mediocrity and make our planet a better place. Ya know, that personal empowerment nonsense I keep blabbing on about. Imagine if our mind and body communicated as simply and effeciently as a super-fueled ATM. We ask for a withdrawal to use instantly and the ATM satisfies before we even finish the request. We’d have strength on tap, be it physical or metaphysical, and our hypothetical archetype would be the body that responds to the mind’s needs instantly, even pre-instantly.

Cats are sometimes said to be sort of wired this way. As are ninjas.

But beyond defensive techniques against dogs and, uh, other ninjas, how cool would it be to access our hard-earned empowerment to bring a bit of goodness to a situation instantly, or to teach instantly, or to learn instantly? Should we be pissed off that we can’t? No. It gives us a goal to strive for.

Today’s Workout

Today is one my balance/stability/core workouts.  These become aerobic in nature -I get all sweaty, energized and completely exhausted in the end.  The only equipment I need today is a stability ball and some kind of round bouncy ball -I’ll use a 6 or 8# medicine ball most likely.

Worked in a circuit style-moving from one exercise to the next with little rest:

1. 30 Jumping Jacks

2. Plank held for 60 seconds.

3. Reverse crunches using SB -30

4. Side Planks- 30 seconds ea. side.

5. Ball Cobra

6. Mountain Climbers (to get that heart rate back up there)

7. Clam Shells (isolates those glutes)

8. Chest Passes with ball.  I pass it into a wall and it bouced right back to me.

9. Foot Pushes: Stand on one foot, hold off foot just off the ground, and slide as far forward you can keeping it parallel to ground.

10. Ball Throw Down.  Using bouncy ball, raise up overhead, go slightly into back extenion then forcifully throw ball down on ground.  Catch it on the bounce.

11. One legged deadlifts. Can be done with no weight.

12. Ball crunches.

Rest for 3 minutes and repeat.

Maybe next week I’ll get this -and other exercises I use on these days- down on a video.

In the meantime, work hard, sweat easily, and end smiling.

The 12 Super Foods Reviseted

This post originally published 6/29/06.  Slightly updated with new notes added.

How many of these do you eat each day? These foods are supposed to provide great nutritional support for our health, and many suggest they should be a regular part of our diet.

Avocado: high in mono-unsaturated fats, folate, and antioxidants, avocado can decrease the risk factors for heart disease and alzheimers. The suggested consumption is about 1/2 an avocado every other day.

Blueberries: The only truly blue food, blue berries are one of the most health-protective food you can eat. High in vitamin C and beta-carotene, potassium (helps keep blood pressure in check). Best eaten raw.. try 1/2 c every day or two.

Broccoli: high in fiber with beta-carotene, folate and vitamin C. Try for 1/2C serving of some cole food every day, with broccoli every other day.

Carrots: Their high beta-carotene is more easily absorbed when they are cooked, but thier vitamin C is higher when raw. Have some every day. When eaten raw, make sure you consume some vegetable oil at the same meal. It’s needed for the body to absorb all the beta carotene.

Flaxseeds/flaxseed oil: A rich source of alpha linolenic acids, flax seed have been shown to lower cholesterol, triglyceride and blood pressure. Flax seeds also contains Lignan and fiber. Researchers believe lignan may play a role in fighting some forms of cancer, including breast cancer. Flaxseed is included in a number of baked items, and you can add it to your own baked goods. Try for 2-4 Tbs./day.

Garlic: You need to eat the cloves raw to get the best heart-healthy benefits from garlic. With onions (below), try to get a serving every other day

Green Tea: Tea is full of anti-oxidants and green tea has phytochemicals that soothe and heal cells. Green tea also help to regulate blood sugar levels and may help reduce LDL cholesterol. Drink three cups/day.

Live Yogurt culture: Any yogurt that contains active proviotic bacteria such a lactobacilli which is thought to help the gut produce anti-cancer substances called butyrates. Try for 2-4 oz./day. Hey.. mix your blueberries and some ground flaxseed in there.. for a perfect healthy meal.

Oats: Rich in soluble fibre which can lower cholesterol, slow cooked oats also has a low glycemic index. The fiber may also help with weight management.

Onions: Onions are great for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and help to thin the blood to minimise clotting. They also contain flavonoids and sulphurs which might help fight cancer, a natural antibiotic to help with bronchitis and colds, and a powerful anti-oxidant. Try for a serving every other day like garlic.

Prunes (or dried plums): Prunes fight free radicals and they are high in soluble fiber to lower cholesterol. Eat 10-12 prunes day. Drink plenty of water with these, too.

Deep Water Fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon and fresh tuna):very high in omega-3 fatty acids which help heal cell damage. A minimum of 2 servings a week for younger women, 4 servings for men, women past childbearing age. These fish will not only fight heart disease and stroke, and prevent some cancers, they also may help to reduce arthritis symptoms and physical signs of aging.

And don’t forget Water (yeah, this becomes #13): Being properly hydrated can eliminate a number of problems. Drinking 2.5 liters will also keep your energy level up, decrease wrinkles, and aid in the absorbtion of all the nutrients listed in the foods above.

Update: Three years later.  I’m eating an avocado every week -maybe 4 out 7 days. I believe this is an appropriate level for the long term.

Frozen blueberries get substituted with fresh -or fresh raspberries/blackberries- during the season.  I eat these almost every day.

Flax seed?  check

Oats? Check

Fish? I’m concerned about over-fishing the ocean fresh fish and the farmed fish does not have the fatty oil valuable in the ocean caught.  So this has been decreasing.

Not in my diet now: prunes, green tea, yogurt.

This list is missing NUTS -a great source for healthy fats.  I eat these every day.

How about you?

Today’s workout: A Killer leg workout still utilizing the 4 key exercises: lunge, deadlifts, squats and step ups.

Is cardio key?

I’ve been doing more reading, and finding some evidence -in spite of what my doctor claims – that the medicine I switched to last fall DOES tend to cause most people a weight gain -fat gain specifically- of about 20-40#.  I would love to stop taking it for a while and test to see if the weight did come off, but it’s working so well for me that would not be an intelligent move.  Besides, you need to get off anti-depressants slowly; to do otherwise invites serious problems.

So, I am giving myself permission to not feel guilty about this weight (no it’s not working) and to simply get back to addressing the problem.  I know how to eat to maintain and lose weight without this drug; I need to figure out what it’s doing and counterbalance it’s effects to regain my health.

Based on cravings and on how I feel throughout the day, I believe that I have become a bit more insulin resistant.  THAT will take the same the calories and turn them into adipose.  The way around?  More cardio.

I was convinced-because it worked before- that I could get all the cardio I needed with hard metabolic weight training – that I didn’t need to spend as much time on the cross-track, the stair master, the row machine,the treadmill, or outside with the dogs.  At the moment, however, evidence is showing me wrong.

My diet is good.  I get enough but not too many calories and my macronutrient mix is fine for what I do.  So I’m rededicating myself to getting some good cardio 6 days a week and turning around this nearly 7 month set back.  And, you know, my dog Jake will be happier with this decision.  Because it means 3-4 days a week he’ll be getting more exercise, too.