Health & Fitness

I used to be fat and lazy. One day, with help from some friends, I decided that was unacceptable and I began to exercise 6 days a week and I stopped eating nutritionally useless food.   I haven’t had a soda pop or any fast food since June of 2010, and I am in the best shape of my life! I highly recommend everyone pursue personal health.

I now have a separate site for my thoughts and opinions on health and fitness, at  Lots of cool stuff, you should check it out! 

Bachelor Chow

I admit that while I am a better cook than I was a year ago, I am nowhere near being a Cordon Bleu cook.  In fact, I can’t even see the Cordon Bleu from my kitchen.  For many years, had I not possessed a microwave oven, a toaster oven and a Foreman grille, I would probably have subsisted upon cold cereal.  And yes, I did-and do-have a range and oven in my kitchen.  I just never really got cranked up about cooking for myself.

As I began taking better care of myself I also started to pay attention to how I eat.  It began with ditching fast food and junk food in favor of healthy-style frozen dinners.  Of course, most of them are not actually that healthy, and I eventually moved on to from-scratch meals.  Crock pot dishes, or big batches of stir fry, pasta or chili became the norm.  I know, what we in Maine call chili isn’t what Texans call chili.  C’mon, cut me some slack.  Anyway, after I got used to cooking easy stuff, I started going out of my way to use organic and minimally processed ingredients in slightly more complex dishes.

Julia Child and all the other celebu-chefs don’t need to worry about me taking their jobs just yet.  But, it sure is nice to be eating real food I made myself on a regular basis instead of cold cereal!


Working Out in Extreme Heat

It seems like the heat wave across the nation is on everyone’s mind.  No doubt, it’s hard to ignore when the temperature is in the 90s and the dew point is 70 or so.  The usual observations apply: drink lots of water, stay out of the sun, and don’t over-exert yourself.  Up here in Maine, we don’t get this sort of weather often enough for me to have bothered to buy an air conditioner-although I admit to rethinking that the past few days.

In particular, keeping up with my evening workouts has been a challenge.  I’ve been adapting by taking frequent water breaks and resting a couple minutes here and there during the workouts.  But the issue of over-exertion was made clear to me last night.  I was doing a 60 minute Les Mills Combat workout.  The temperature was 92 degrees F, and the humidity was visible in the air.  I made it to about 40 minutes before I had to stop, even with water breaks.  I had started feeling dizzy and light headed.  That was all I needed to show me that I had gone way past my limit.

I had thought I was in sufficiently good enough shape to tough it out.  Well, when the conditions are that bad, it doesn’t matter how good your condition is.  Our bodies have built in mechanisms for dealing with heat and cold, but you can only expect so much of them.  I suppose the upshot of all this is to pay attention to heat advisories and don’t injure yourself out of misplaced pride.


Best Exercises for the Time-Challenged

I’m fortunate in that I have the ability to set aside as much as an hour a day for my workouts. I realize that this may not be true for a lot of folks like students and parents of young children. For those folks I recommend what can generally be considered “compound” exercises which work multiple muscle groups at once, for a workout with a shorter duration. Many would say that such exercises are less than optimal. I would counter with the fact that any workout is much more optimal than none at all, and these kinds of exercises can be quite challenging.

For example, at this writing I’m doing a mixed martial arts program called Les Mills Combat, and each move in every workout involves nearly every part of my body. Here are a few compound exercises you can do.

Pull-ups. Using a door mounted pull-up bar, do them with palms in, palms out, and vary the width between your hands. Pull-ups work many upper body and arm muscles including your latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, biceps, and triceps.

Squat Press. Using a challenging weight or resistance band, do a squat with the weights at shoulder level. Rise and when standing, do an overhand press. Lower the weights to your shoulders, and repeat. These will work your legs and your arms.

Chair Dips. Find a stable chair and place your hands on the sides of the seat, palms down and fingers wrapped under for a stable grip. Extend your feet together straight ahead, such that your behind is slightly ahead of the chair seat. Keeping your legs straight, lower with your arms, pause, and raise back up. These will work your shoulders, triceps, and core (as you strive to maintain a straight posture).


A Middle Ground

A very dear friend of mine lives on the other side of the country from me-quite literally. Every now and then she sends me some homemade goodies, cookies, brownies, and the like. The funniest one was a pineapple upside down cake, which sprang a leak and which the postmaster made me come to the post office and collect. Most recently, she sent me a batch of from-scratch lemon bars. They were delicious!

Here’s the thing, though: I don’t eat junk food anymore, like donuts for example. So these goodies are a bit of a challenge to my mindful eating and fitness habits. There is a middle ground between austerity and gluttony: portion control! I limited myself to one lemon bar per day, as a treat not a staple. Thus, I managed the portions and I made this gift last a lot longer!


So Long Milk-I’ll Miss You

I have stopped eating and drinking most dairy products. This is largely a result of having recently watched “Forks Over Knives” (free on Hulu). I’ve always kind of known that there is better stuff out there for me to eat and drink than cow’s milk. At the heart of the matter is that cow’s milk is specifically designed for baby cows, not adult humans. Well, I have known a few guys who were dumb as an ox, but that’s not the same thing.

There are a plethora of health concerns regarding consumption of cow’s milks and milk products, including:

• Osteoporosis (somewhat counter-intuitive)

• Hypertension and cardiac disease

• Prostate and breast cancers and

• Acquired lactose intolerance

I like cheese (OK, I really like cheese) and milk, but not enough to set myself up for easily avoided problems. What about vitamin D you may ask. The answer to that is to eat some leafy greens, get outdoors once in a while, or take a multi-vitamin.

Boy, I sure am going to miss grilled cheese sandwiches, though.


Big Brother or Guardian Angel?

So, what do you think of government bans on certain foods and drinks? Does a government agency have the legal authority to tell you that you cannot eat foods with trans-fat or drink an otherwise legal sugary beverage if bought in a large cup?

Conversely, can that same government agency mandate that you consume a minimum number of servings of fruits and vegetables each day? Where is the line in sand here? Is there a line in the sand here at all?

Here is my opinion, and I stress that I don’t pretend to be unbiased in any way. I do not believe that it is the place of the government to dictate food choices to you and me. I understand the need for education and outreach, which are fine. I also understand that the public health is part of the discussion and so is health insurance. Even so, I think the government’s role is to ensure the safety of the food supply (a topic for another day), not consumption by the citizens.

As far as the impact of poor diet upon health insurance, I suggest that people who engage in “risky” eating habits pay a premium, much as smokers do on many policies. If someone wants to sit around all day scarfing chips and pizza while they swill 2 liter bottles of Mountain Dew, fine-let them, as long as they don’t expect the rest of us to pay for their eventual diabetes and heart attack.


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