Being Bruce -: November 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

What About Christmas Cookies?

Hi, I'm Bruce, and I'm a cookie addict.

As we get close to the annual Christmas and holiday party season, which typically begins December 1st and doesn't end until Boxer Day (the day after Christmas), those of us who are determined to eat healthy and to maintain the progress we've made during the year are faced with a dilemma. Do we allow ourselves to eat and enjoy the Christmas cookies that show up in increasing numbers during the month in homes and offices or do we totally abstain in the interest of health and fitness?

Here's a simple test. If you can honestly expect yourself to eat just one cookie, then it's likely OK (barring medical issues) to have a single cookie. And definitely enjoy it. If, however, this question makes you uncomfortable, or if you absolutely know you cannot eat just one cookie, your choice is clear - in the interest of many levels of health, including physical, mental, and spiritual, you'll likely be better off admiring the view and the scent, but skip the tasting.

It basically comes down to a question of addiction. Surely we know that the simple sugars and fast burning carbs in cookies (and lots of other holiday season treats) physically cause cravings for more immediately or at most within 45 minutes after consumption, but addicts don't even have a choice after that first cookie.

Everyone has to make their own decision on this, and for sure social pressure from family and friends can be tough (just as with other addictions), but the decision to eat or not eat the first cookie is yours and yours alone.

As a confessed cookie addict, I know that I will not allow myself the choice. What used to be a laughing matter years ago (my behavior around cookies), is now an embarrassment, and I'm not going to have any Christmas cookies.

Abstaining from cookies doesn't mean I don't enjoy the holiday, and I won't avoid going to parties and events, in fact I totally love the season of joy, love, peace, and good will to all, but I also know that for my physical health as well as my mental comfort, I'm going to "just say no" to cookies this year.

What will you decide?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Who's In Control?

The facts are obvious and few dispute them. Many major health problems and quality of life detractors are due to the choices people make. Knowledge alone isn't enough - people need to make the decision to be in control of their health and make the changes necessary.

Obesity with its myriad of related health problems such as diabetes type 2, heart disease, many cancers, alzheimers, high blood pressure, stroke, osteoarthritis, respiratory problems, sleep problems, liver disease, and mental health problems is the number one health threat in the United States. With 70% of the adult population now overweight or obese, and with these numbers rising each year, we are on a path to beyond crisis - let's call it catastrophe.

You may not be able to change the world, change the country, or even your city or town. But you can set an example and perhaps inspire someone close to you. Take control of your own health and fitness. If you're overweight or obese, do something about it. Your body will thank you, and you just might save the life of someone you love.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Keeping Your Diet Sanity and Still Enjoying the Holiday Season

Phew! We made it through Thanksgiving in the Brown household. We had a wonderful time with family visiting from out of state and we didn't go to extremes. More holidays are on the way, of course, in December and January, and we fully intend to enjoy them with family and friends, including sharing meals and celebrations. That doesn't include writing off the last quarter of the year, nutrition-wise, however. We've found it's actually pretty easy to stick to a rational nutrition program and still enjoy the holidays.

Here's what's going on. During the past two years Marge and I have been gradually changing our diet for better nutrition and health. In that time we've both lost significant weight and body fat, and we've also been taken off cholesterol medication we'd been on for more than a decade prior. There's no way we intend to give back the progress we've made by eating holiday-stupid. At the same time, we aren't trying to force our new healthy eating and exercise habits on anyone, especially family and friends.

Here's what we do. When we entertain at our house we serve a mixture of traditional and healthier foods. For example, for Thanksgiving we served turkey with stuffing and gravy, dinner rolls,  mashed potatoes, home-made cranberry sauce, and home-made apple pie. We also served a roasted root medley and an edamame-based succotash, both of which were big hits (especially the succotash) with our family. At breakfast time we offered to make bacon, eggs, and pancakes and also offered our guests what we were having (Shakeology with coconut milk and mixed berries). The point is that we were able to integrate some our newly found foods into the holiday visit but didn't force them on others.

When we travel, as we will at Christmas, we'll bring along Shakeology to have for breakfast and we'll be careful to focus more on fruits, vegetables, and good protein served by our family and not arrive with a list of dietary demands that we must be served. Our family and friends have been wonderful, partly in providing healthy food choices at mealtimes but also in not trying to force us to eat the typical, unhealthy diet.

One of the major adjustments we've made is that we do not snack. During the holidays calorie and fat-laden snacks abound so it's important to make a personal commitment that we aren't going to graze for two months and lose ground we've so proudly gained earlier in the year.

I don't want to paint the picture that we're totally 'pure' during the holidays. On Thanksgiving, for example, we did have a little turkey, some of our son's fabulous mashed potatoes, and even a hefty piece of Marge's apple pie. Now it's Monday. Our guests are gone. And we're back to healthy eating, which so far today has been Shakeology with mixed berries for breakfast and a micro green salad with quinoa on the side for lunch.

We're enjoying our newfound health and fitness and the fact that we both feel so much better. We don't try to force or cajole our family to eat like we do, but perhaps if we set a good example, we might inspire some of them to make consciously healthy eating choices.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Healthy Eating - Our New Dietary Staples and Changes We've Made

Since we've made the commit to eat healthier, Marge and I have added new items to our list of staple foods we keep stocked in our kitchen and pantry. We've also dropped a few less healthy items, but I'd rather focus on the new good stuff.

This morning I lightly toasted some pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and slivered almonds in extra virgin olive oil. We now keep toasted seeds and nuts in a plastic container on the kitchen to easily add to salads. I never before knew how good pumpkin seeds taste, even raw, but adding them toasted with other seeds and nuts is a healthy treat - the essential fats and protein in the nuts are a wonderful addition.

We also now keep a few days ahead most of the time with cooked quinoa, brown rice, and a mixture of pinto beans and black beans - I'll cook up a cup or two of each (they at least double in size after cooking) so for the two of us, that generally means a meal or two of each. Cooking quinoa is quick, from start to finish only takes about 20 minutes. Brown rice takes a bit longer, about 50 minutes in all. Starting with dry beans requires 6 to 8 hours presoaking and then they take 60 to 90 minutes of to cook - I like to mix pinto beans and black beans because I like the looks of the variety and since they require the same cooking times it's just as easy to prepare them together.

Standard vegetables we keep on hand include tomatoes, red peppers, scallions and shallotts, red and yellow onions, cucumbers, zucchini, celery, clover or alfalfa sprouts, garlic, jicama (pronounced "hick-ama"), brocoli, kale, carrots, and beets. We also use loads of sweet potatoes. Red and green apples, lemons, avocados, and grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries round out our most common fruit shopping list. One big bonus is that our kitchen counter and refrigerator have never before been so colorful!

With the foods above we can eat quite happily, adding other ingredients as called for in specific recipes. We're not strictly vegan or vegetarian, but we've cut way back on meat, fish, chicken, dairy, and wheat products. We now drink distilled water rather than tap or regular bottled water and we also have cut way back on our caffeine consumption, especially coffee.

As we've learned more about healthy food and healthy cooking, the changes we've made have already had significant positive effects on our health, our sleeping, and our weight.