Category Archives: Notes from the (mostly) Healthy Life

I’m bringing sexy (or something like it) back

Like a lot of people I am less active in winter. I don’t belong to a gym – never have – so this means I have to find ways to keep moving, to keep exercising, usually outdoors. Long walks, bike rides and so on, suffice, but geez-o-flip, it’s COLD and WINDY and UNPLEASANT outside. Plus, it’s BORING out, nothing much to see. There are so many more interesting things to look at in nice weather, flowers and birds and people doing stuff.

I’m not sure why a mini trampoline or “rebounder” caught my eye on Amazon last month. Was I looking at hand weights and saw one advertised? I don’t know now. I didn’t understand them, let’s start there. A rebounder?? What was that? I’d never been on a trampoline, not in childhood, not as an adult. I’m pretty sure my parents would have considered trampolines dangerous and I never had the opportunity to bounce on one anywhere else, be it school or at a friend’s house.

I liked the idea of JUMPING just fine. What kid doesn’t have a go at jumping up and down on their bed until they get yelled at to stop?

As I am wont to do, I started reading customer reviews and doing research about the benefits of using a mini trampoline. There are even videos. Some people take “rebounding” VERY SERIOUSLY. I liked what I saw. Trampolines are considered easy on the joints, suitable for any age, and give a good aerobic workout, plus some other high-falutin’ claims about cleaning out your lymphatic system that you can surely read about if you decide to look into it yourself.

I don’t have room for exercise equipment beyond hand weights and pushup bars. There’s nowhere for a treadmill or rowing machine. Unless I got rid of my bed. Or the couch. Or the refrigerator. At just 3 feet across, the mini trampoline appealed for its “low profile.” I know all too well if you store something like this (as opposed to say, a chocolate cake or a massage chair) away where it’s inconvenient, it’s out of sight and  out of mind.

There are two types of mini trampolines, one with metal springs and another with bands. I opted to go with one with bands because it cost less and apparently ones with springs are noisy (and I want to be considerate of neighbors, even when they aren’t considerate of me AHEM). My thinking was if I spent around $20 on a low-end Stamina model and found I liked it, I could always upgrade down the line.

Balance is one of the things that begin to decline in middle age. I truly didn’t know how I’d be at jumping. One suggestion online was that you needn’t even have your feet leave the trampoline surface; you could just move in place and get some benefit. Some of the models come with “balance bars” that you can hang onto while jumping. I figured even if I wasn’t comfortable really jumping, any movement would be better than nothing.

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When I first tried my trampoline, I was tentative, afraid of falling through it even though I don’t weigh much. I told myself that even if it broke it probably wouldn’t break all at once and send me flying onto my face on the floor but in stages that I’d notice. The next day, when I put the radio on, and Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” came on the radio, I had gotten over my tentativeness. I was jumping baby! Hop, hop, hop. It felt good. I was bustin’ some moves. Justin and I were bringing sexy back. “Them other boys don’t know how to act. YEAH!”

Is it fun? Yeah, yeah, it is, certainly as compared to other exercises. It’s suggested that you start with short intervals, gradually increasing your time. At this point I set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes and jump away. I mix it up, sometimes jumping up and down, sometimes running in place, or maybe doing little side steps. There are exercises online but I haven’t found the need to look them up yet. Right now, I know I’m getting an aerobic workout and doing something good for myself.

Finding a place to stow in when not in use was a challenge but I came up with this. I moved the couch/love seat out from the wall, leaving just enough room for the trampoline. The slight rearrangement made the living room seating area cozier and more intimate too. Who knew?

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I want to share one more winter thing I do each year to help make sure I don’t let my fitness levels slide too far off. A couple times a winter I try on my “keep me honest shorts” to make sure I can still get into them. It’s a lot easier to STAY in shape over winter than to try to get back there on the first nice day in spring when you want to wear shorts!

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Can’t hide in these “keep me honest shorts”

Short Thought 156 (air conditioning)

Did you know this? People who spend their time in air conditioning consume more calories than those who tough it out with the heat. I read this years ago and filed it away in my mind. It makes sense. There’s a natural inclination to eat less when it’s hot (and eat bigger, heavier meals when it’s cooler and you feel nice-and-comfortable).

Ch-ch-ch-Chia! (seeds that is)

P_20160214_152245.jpgSo, recently I posted a drink recipe, Everything but the Kitchen Sink Drink that included chia seeds. I’d never had them before buying a 15oz bag last month. Chia seeds get such swell press for their nutritional properties that I was curious if I’d be able to see any measurable benefits. I finished the bag in just under a month, so I was knocking back essentially half the portion size listed per day.
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As I’d said in the other post, chia seeds are not exciting. Not offensive, but not “Oh, yum!” either. (I looked through my files and found a Delicious Living article from a few years ago – July 2011 I think – which described them as “flavorless” which I guess is better than the “boring” I said.)

I noticed two results. The first was I dropped a pound or two which I attribute to the high fiber. I don’t need to lose weight but to maintain it, which in winter is more challenging. So my weight is right where I want it. (Many years ago I read & kept an article which said the secret to weight loss is fiber. That simple maxim stuck with me and besides that, if there is anything adults are forever being encouraged to add to their diets, it is fiber. The Delicious Living article notes that with 6 grams of fiber per 2 tbsp, chia seeds have more fiber than any other whole food.)

The second specific thiing I noticed was that my nails grew a tad faster. I already have a decent amount of calcium in my diet and this was just an added boost. That is, I didn’t eliminate any of my other calcium sources while I was eating chia seeds. There may be other, less obvious benefits (the good fats ought to be working in there somewhere), but these were the ones I could measure.

Because I found the chia seeds for such a decent price ($2.99 for a 15oz bag), I went ahead and bought a second bag. I’m pretty sure I won’t try to eat it in a month, but I think it’s a nice addition to my diet, not for its bland taste, but for the nutrients. It’s one I’ll definitely have to remind myself to eat, because I’m pretty sure I’ll forget it exists otherwise.

(Everything but the) Kitchen Sink Drink

I’ve posted about healthy drinks before. This one is loaded with all sorts of nutrients and it tastes really good! Generally I’ll use my Hamilton Beach© “personal blender” when I’m making drinks because the “jar” (it’s plastic) doubles as a drinking cup and it’s easy to clean up after. However, if I’m going to take the trouble to add so many ingredients, I want enough to make drinks for two days so I use the standard blender. Also– I can cram more stuff into the big blender.

 

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The beauty of these drinks is you can use what you have on hand, so it’s not a specific recipe per se. The most recent information I have is that frozen fruits (and vegetables) have comparable nutrients to fresh and sometimes retain even more nutrients, as opposed to fruits & vegetables that have been driven around on trucks for days on end (before arriving shriveled at the grocery store). This drink provided, among others, protein, calcium, carbs, potassium, iron, fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D. (Vitamin E, B6, Magnesium, Zinc, Folate from peanuts.)

no fat plain yogurt
water
canned pineapple
frozen strawberries, raspberries & blackberries
frozen mango
frozen cranberries (I bought them fresh on sale in the Fall and froze them)
fresh bananas
canned pumpkin
blackstrap molasses (known for iron & calcium)
brown sesame seeds (more nutritious than white, i.e., hulled ones)
quick oats
peanut butter (with only peanuts, no additives)
cocoa powder
nutritional yeast
flax seed (ground)
unsweetened shredded coconut
vanilla extract
cinnamon
chia seeds*

*A word on chia seeds. Chia seeds have been touted for the last several years as this amazing powerhouse of nutrients. They are shelf stable for a long time and don’t need to be ground before consuming as do flax seed. They have lots of fiber and calcium. That all sounded great to me till I checked out the price. They were expensive! So I pretty much blew off chia seeds – deciding I could just make do with other nutritious but less costly seeds – until recently, when I found a 15oz bag for $3. (I immediately wondered what was wrong with them.) My plan was to eat them every morning so I could get bright eyes and a shiny coat or whatever fantabulous results they offered. Basically, I wanted to go through them fast enough to see measurable results, if there are any.

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I put them in a jar for storage

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Um, let me tell you this. Chia seeds are BORING! I’ve been eating a couple teaspoons each morning and it’s not that they taste bad; they’re just uninteresting. Also, they get stuck in your teeth since they sort of start to melt once they mesh with saliva. I’ve started adding them to baked goods because after two weeks I still have half a bag. After I finish the bag, I’ll revisit this topic to let you know if I can tell any difference (in me that is).

You could certainly add veggies like kale to the drink. Maybe raw spinach. One time I added canned spinach to one of my drinks and it was disgusting.

Some nutritionists would take issue with all the sugar from the fruit, saying sugar is sugar (be it processed or from whole fruits), but I don’t think so. Fruits may have high sugar but they also have so many other things to offer.

I love me an “on the go” snack

It is unwise for me to leave the house without a snack in tow. I’m the sort of person who needs a steady flow of food for a myriad – okay, at least a couple – of reasons. I’d never willingly fast. Are you outta your head?!

Since I’m generally on foot I have to think like a day hiker or maybe a pack donkey, which I often suspect I resemble depending on how much stuff I’m toting about on my person. This means I want light, easily transportable snack food that isn’t likely to become questionably inedible before I get to it, especially on wicked hot summer days.

One of my simplest go-to’s is homemade “trail mix” usually composed of raisins, unsalted peanuts and sunflower seeds stowed in a plastic container. Sometimes I’ll add other ingredients like unsweetened coconut but since I’m tossing my snacks down the gullet from the plastic cup, that can result in unknowingly walking around with coconut crumbs on my face after the fact.

Filling and healthy

Filling and healthy

To round out my mini-meal and get a fuller compliment of nutritional fare, I occasionally take a pre-wrapped portion of string cheese that I keep in the freezer. Oh, being the frugal, practical sort, I’ve also tried cutting & wrapping my own single portion size from a block of cheese but that doesn’t always work so well; the cheese gets melty in its plastic wrap and a good bit less appetizing. Or, if I store it in a plastic container, then I’ve got TWO containers taking up space. A nuisance I tell you! Especially once they’re empty and I still have to carry them around. Like they’re dependents adding nothing to the team. As with so many of life’s activities, once the food is gone, I lose all interest.

So string cheese it is. I wait for a sale and buy a bag of pre-portioned, wrapped, 1 oz morsels of part-skim mozzarella. My goal is to get them at .25 each, so that I’m paying $4/lb. That’s about as high as I’ll justify. A local chain grocery store advertised just such a sale on their in-house brand this very week. Hot diggity! (I thought to myself.) Cheap cheese. Yay! I eagerly went to buy my dairy. Why, I’d even brought a freezer pack from home (more crap to carry) so I could escort my perishables home.

The store had the cheese in stock and I was all set to load up when I noticed something fishy (or is that cheesy?). What was this?! The traditionally 1 oz string cheese portions were a shocking .83 ounces. .83 ounces??! What the hell kind of size is THAT? I’ll tell you: A cheap, sons of bitches size! The cheeses looked stunted. My clever, observant eye could plainly tell the difference. Tricky dogs! This is the kind of shifty practice I expect from name-brand businesses, i.e., whittling away the size of products slowly and almost imperceptibly while maintaining or raising the price till the day comes nobody thinks twice about paying $3 for a 5 ounce bag of potato chips and the suits sit in the board room chuckling and congratulating themselves on how smart they are and wasn’t hiring that ivy league social psychologist to decipher exactly how much they could decrease the size before customers balked well worth her fee?

For the briefest of moments I considered sucking it up and permitting myself to be robbed of .17 ounces of cheese per stick. Then I came to my senses. No way! Maybe other less vigilant, more forgiving consumers were willing to look aside or worse, never notice the egregious gouging at all, but I was going to fight The Man by gum! (Or is that by cheese?) I walked out, my head high. Well, not entirely. I exited by way of the seafood and prepared foods aisle, which leads into the donuts and cakes area, staring right and left all the while, my head swiveling to gawk at the array of various overpriced, tempting, and often not-so-healthy delicacies, muttering to myself, “Look away, look away.” 

I made it out but I was string cheeseless. The following day I ventured to my small local grocery store which has recently reintroduced a no-name store brand it carried some years back. I checked out the cheese. Voila! Not only did they have bargain brand string cheese but it was on sale! A sale set to expire that very day. At a lovely .237 per piece (I’ve done the math for accurate reporting purposes here). I quickly examined the portion size. A full one ounce portion just as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. I’m certain it’s in an amendment somewhere.

A proper portion

A proper portion

Healthy, Easy Tomato Juice

I got this idea from someone else’s recipe and then doctored the ingredients just a bit. Tomato juice in the store is usually loaded with salt. You can make your own delicious, healthy version with a can of tomato paste. I got a can of store brand for .50. (If you like this drink, I suggest grabbing a bunch of cans when they’re cheap or on sale.)

The label on the can I bought listed Vitamins A and C, as well as protein, iron and fiber. (Looking online I see that a name brand tomato paste also includes potassium so it’s safe to assume that’s in there too.)

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Put the tomato paste into a blender with water. I filled the blender to the top line, 6 cups. Then add a splash of lime juice. Any kind will do but I had a fancy-pants brand which is really tasty.

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Finally, add just a bit of fresh ground pepper and blend all the ingredients. There’s 150 calories in a single can of tomato paste so a one-cup drink of this juice is under 30 calories. And good-for-you calories at that.

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Store the extra in the fridge and drink or freeze within a few days since there’s no preservatives.

Pretty and tempting

Pretty and tempting

Drug(s) of choice

Drugs were never my thing. I remember back in high school the way many people drifted through their days stoned out of their gourds. Red-eyed and slow-witted they were, which I did not want to be (although a pair of crappy hard contact lens that I wore then did redden my eyes which led classmates to frequently accuse me of being high. Grrr.). Anyway, like I was saying, stoned-n-stupid didn’t appeal to me. I liked my mind and wanted to keep it the way it was not spaced-out and fried the way I saw it affect others. Nothing about smoking weed looked attractive or tempting.

When cocaine became a fairly commonplace drug, I have to admit the high it was said to give did sound rather appealing – that is, the euphoric feeling of confidence that you could do anything. Mind racing with ideas, getting stuff done. Going UP and happy as opposed to DOWN and mellow. No, no, never tried it. I wouldn’t have on my no-drugs philosophy but maybe because I thought I might like something like that (give me a healthy, unharmful, non-addictive equivalent and I expect I’d be all over it like a happy clam. The effect of sunshine is the closest I’ve come). I should mention that my cheap frugal ways always made me a poor candidate for a drug habit had I even wanted one.

I bring the above talk about drugs up because I was thinking how I keep my addictive, compulsive leanings to fairly benign areas. For instance, I cannot have potato chips, fritos©, tortilla chips, doritos©, candy, cake, donuts, pie, ice cream, or anything of that ilk in my house. Basically any sweet, salty, or greasy treat. Can’t do it. Not unless I’ve made peace with the idea that I’m going to gobble it up in short order. Now people look at me – tall, lean, athletic – and don’t believe it. But it’s true. I let myself buy a bag of potato chips about twice a year. I stand in the grocery aisle and read the back label. Typically, it’ll say something like 150 calories per serving and “10” servings per bag. Yes, most of us know that servings business on snacks is laughable (like it’ll say 7 or 8 chips is a serving). I do the quick, basic math and I pretty much know I’ll be wolfing down a not-especially-healthy, extra 1500 calories in about 2 days. I don’t kid myself about how I’ll “ration” it out and “make it last”. When I do buy it, I generally have enough willpower to make a bag into 2 or 3 servings – i.e,, making it last 2 or 3 days – but no more than that.

It’s the same story with any other (rare) treat I bring home. I become obsessed with its presence. I cannot forget if there is a frozen Pepperidge Farm© cake. Or a bag of tortilla chips in the cabinet. Or some Turkey Hill© icecream in the freezer. They are like the beating heart in Poe’s wall, thumping loudly, beckoning to me, impossible to ignore. Sometimes I shove them to the back of the shelf and move other foods (like a nice bag of frozen broccoli or a bag of flour) in front of them so I don’t see my temptresses. If I see them, forget it.

When I visit other people’s homes and they actually muse over whether or not they have a bag of chips, for example, I am shocked. How can they not know if they have potato chips?!? Or maybe they have an abandoned box of donuts sitting on the counter. Who are these people?!? Clearly not me.