Walk the Walk

Chinatown, Manhattan, New York City 2009 on Pe...
Chinatown, Manhattan, New York City 2009 on Pell Street, looking west towards Bayard and Mott. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having spent the last 4 days in NYC with the family, bonding, celebrating and doing the tourist thing, there was something very clear to all of us.  As you look around the streets of Manhattan, most everyone appears to be a healthy weight.  It’s not for lack of or lack of variety of places to eat.  From street vendors peddling hot dogs and pretzels, to Chinatown,  (the best) pizza on EVERY corner  and so much more, it’s hard to walk more than a few feet without stumbling upon some enticing options.  Even the vegan options were to die for.  When Derek and I hit the Red Bamboo, in fact, I declared that I did not want anything I can make or eat at home and I did not want to eat a “healthy” meal.  Instead we opted for crazy things like spicy fried “shrimp” deep fried dumplings and “seafood” tempura.  All this in a vegan place.  Only in NY!  After eating, we headed back to our hotel.  It was a couple of miles, and that was after walking a couple of miles earlier in the day.

People in NYC, both tourists and residents, clearly get their walking in.  Doing some research into it this morning, it seems that most NYCers average about 4 miles of walking a day.  It makes sense to me then, that walking several miles a day…most every single day, really might be the magic bullet.  This has definitely given me something to think about and reminds me once again, that keeping it simple, might be bigger than the big stuff.  Hmmmm.

Birthday Cakes and Stone Soup

Today’s not only VFT, but it’s also Mitch’s birthday.  Happy birthday, to YOU, Mitch.  We will be celebrating with our children and spending the next few days doing some family bonding, so I will be taking a few days off from our regular routines.  Ellen will be teaching Silver Sneakers at 11:30 tomorrow.  Saturday morning 9:30 class is cancelled this week.  Monday, Ellen will be teaching the 8:30 class but then I will be back on track with the rest of my Monday schedule, starting at 10 am.

I will also be taking a few days off from blogging, but I will be back to a regular routine after the weekend.  Until then, please enjoy this recipe for a very different kind of soup.  Thanks, Carole, for sending this story to me on Earth Day.  Now I would like to share it as still another reminder of how, when we come together, we can really make a difference to others lives, as well as our own.

Stone Soup (Portuguese fable)

aesop fables ideasA kindly, old stranger was walking through the land when he came upon a village.  As he entered, the villagers moved towards their homes locking doors and windows.

The stranger smiled and asked, why are you all so frightened. I am a simple traveler, looking for a soft place to stay for the night and a warm place for a meal.

“There’s not a bite to eat in the whole province,” he was told. “We are weak and our children are starving. Better keep moving on.”

“Oh, I have everything I need,” he said. “In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you.” He pulled an iron cauldron from his cloak, filled it with water, and began to build a fire under it.

Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a silken bag and dropped it into the water.

By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come out of their homes or watched from their windows. As the stranger sniffed the “broth” and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their fear.

“Ahh,” the stranger said to himself rather loudly, “I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage — that’s hard to beat.”

Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a small cabbage he’d retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot.

“Wonderful!!” cried the stranger. “You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salt beef as well, and it was fit for a king.”

The village butcher managed to find some salt beef . . . and so it went, through potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for everyone in the village to share.

The villager elder offered the stranger a great deal of money for the “magic†stone, but he refused to sell it and traveled on the next day.

As he left, the stranger came upon a group of village children standing near the road. He gave the silken bag containing the stone to the youngest child, whispering to a group,  “It was not the stone, but the villagers that had performed the magic.”

Moral:  By working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved.


The Final 3, 2012

BURBANK, CA - DECEMBER 01:  An NBC sign stands...
BURBANK, CA - (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Seeing all the eliminated contestants again on Biggest Loser last night was, as it every season, AMAZING.  Who could recognize some of them.  Hello Mike!  Are you kidding me?  From absolutely enormous to incredibly handsome once stripped from his layers.  Anyway, all the eliminated contestants, including Jeremy  who fell below the red line last week, got to compete in a 3 part challenge, the winner earning a spot in the final 3, along with Conda and Kim.  Missing were Mark and Buddy who were not invited back because quitters weren’t.

First came a weigh in which narrowed the competition down by half.  Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to Chism, again. I was disappointed.  Jeremy, however, did exceptionally well in the weigh in and went on to compete in the next part of the challenge which was a race.  Man, Cassandra took off like a bat out of hell.  That girl can run!  Jeremy squeaked in to the final challenge by a toe, but he made it.  The last part of the challenge would have the contestants standing on a column and holding up a big ticket…the ticket to the finale.  Remember the old days of BL, when the challenges were extreme?  Either too many people got injured, too many people sued NBC or both.  These challenges, though they did the trick, were anything but extreme.  The most daring they got was when they were balancing on one foot!  And balance both Mike and Jeremy did, but Jeremy did it just a little better.  That boy had some serious focus and desire to get back into the game and now he will compete against his sister, Conda and Kim for the grand prize and bragging rights.  Kim looks amazing, so I can’t see how she can lose much more weight, but we have seen contestants come back way to thin before!

What’s truly incredible  is how a person can go from severely obese to TOO THIN in about the same amount of time it takes to go from fall to spring.  With discipline and perseverance, amazing changes are possible.  Next Tuesday, the big finale. My guess is Jeremy will be standing beneath the falling confetti.  What do you think?

Weighing the Risks…Doing the Work

Binge-Eating--might just be the crackers (Photo credit: Alaina Abplanalp Photography)

The FDA is, once again, considering  approval of a new drug for weight loss that will combine two already existing drugs.  Phentermine (half of phen phen) and topiramate (used for epilepsy and migraines) known by it’s brand name as Topomax,  combine to make Qnexa.  This very drug, developed by Vivus failed to get approval back in 2010 due to the risk of heart problems and birth defects.  At this point, it appears that the FDA will require more research, particularly into the risk of cardiovascular events, since this drug does increase the heart rate.  Of course it does.  It’s a form of speed.

What concerns me even more than the obvious is that in already existing trials, there are no questions the drug helps people lose weight, but the second year patients began to regain up to 20% of the weight lost the first year.  This is my big concern with ALL weight loss programs that are not based on healthy eating and regular exercise.  THERE IS NO MAGIC BULLET.  Personally, I have seen way too many people lose 10, 20, 100 and more pounds only to find themselves overweight once again.  Diet pills, fad diets, surgery, and other weight loss methods can and do work for weight loss.  Weight loss, however, is NOT a permanent thing and needs daily maintenance!  Your weight loss journey absolutely needs to be something you can live with for decades to come.  To damage your body, including your brain, to get there is crazy.  The newest craze is the “Bride Diet,” which sounds romantic, but translates to being tube fed.  Really?  People that are limited to feedings on a tube would probably do ANYTHING in the world to experience eating.

The madness has to stop.  Until we change our brains, we will never get out of this weight loss rat race.  With heavy hitters like Big Pharma playing the game, we will never win.  Research shows many of that over eat have a food trigger.  As Carol and I discussed recently, the trigger can be anything.  It can set us off in spiral of binge eating, and it might be something as simple as a food item like a pretzel or a jellybean.  On the other hand, it might be a person, place or thing.    Find out what your triggers are and stay away!  Do the work on your psyche that needs to be done.  Figure out why it is you sabotage all your hard work because something inside you doesn’t say you are worth being healthy and happy.  When faced with challenges ask yourself questions that set you up for success.  As I have often said, asking “Do I want the cookie or not?”  is a question that will set you up for failure.  OF COURSE WE ALL WANT THE COOKIE!  Instead ask “Do I really want this cookie knowing it might set me into a binge or would I rather feel great in my bathing suit next month?”   That answer is simple.  Stay focused on your long term goals and set yourself up with lots of short term rewards.  While getting started with your lifestyle changes and weight loss program, consider a cheat meal instead of an entire cheat day.  Sometimes one cheat day can set us back almost an entire week.  (Go back and read about the triggers!)  Binge eaters average eating for almost 2 hours and consume about 3,500 calories!

Grab that steering wheel of YOUR life and get busy driving.  There are no magic bullets and the ones that pretend to be, come with awfully risky side effects.  Do the work.  Don’t risk your health; instead gain control of it and all good things will follow.


50 Shades of….Green

Three Shades of Green Looking along the field ...
Shades of Green Looking along the field margin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People often ask me my opinion about drinking “green” drinks, and honestly I don’t know enough about the many brands of premixed greens that are out there, but yesterday, being Earth Day (and coming off a night of eating and drinking too much) I decided to make my own.  Out came the blender and in went lettuce, spinach, celery, cucumber, parsley and of course some fruit to sweeten it up.  I added half of a pear and half of an apple along with some frozen blueberries.  Just a couple of ounces of water, the juice of half a lemon, and a couple of ice cubes, hit blend and I had a no longer actually green (those blueberries really killed the color) green drink.  Next time NO blueberries—maybe strawberries would have worked better, or half of an already frozen banana. I had a about 6 ounces and put the rest, still in the blender, in the fridge for the next few mornings.  While I wont say its the yummiest drink ever, it wasn’t at all bad and it is really, really great for everything.  Filled with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals it is a great way to help clean the liver, nourish cells and get in a great dose of veggies!  Did you know that half the calories in spinach are from protein?  What a bonus for someone on a plant-based diet.

To further celebrate Mother Nature and our home, Earth, Mitch and I spent time cleaning up outside.  It seems like I pulled thousands (literally) of weeds, cleaned up the veggie and herb gardens and removed a lot of branches from a highly overgrown palm tree.  Before coming inside, it was time to pull up a bunch of carrots from the garden and highlight them in a simple, non-fattening veggie soup.  Along with the carrots, I cut up celery, garlic, onions and zucchini.  Along with one can of veggie broth and about 5 cups of water, I threw in some fresh oregano and parsley and cooked until the veggies were soft.  Drinking soup before a meal is known to decrease the amount of calories consumed at the meal, so I am big on soup but it has to be low in calories or else the math doesn’t really work.  Mitch brought some brussel sprouts home from the market and I roasted them, halved, with some cut up sweet potato.  That is one of my favorite looking and tasting vegetable dishes.  After dinner, I made a small shake with frozen banana, plain soy milk and a little peanut butter.  It really hits the spot when looking for something sweet and filling.

I was really pleased to learn that Derek, who has been raising a baby squirrel since it fell out of a tree at just a few days (if that much) old, was able to set the little guy free in the park yesterday.   It’s never easy to set something (or someone) free to live life as they should when we get emotionally attached, but you did a great job, Derek, and made Earth Day a special day for you and your little friend.

A special thanks, Carole, for the Stone Soup Story which I will be sharing on here soon!  Just one more reminder of what we can do when we connect with others.  Stay connected everyone…in peace…in fitness and in life!


From Ah-Choo to Om

downward dog posture I took this picture for u...
downward dog posture I took this picture for use in the Anahata Yoga instruction manual. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are currently in the midst of one of the worst allergy seasons, ever, due to the extremely mild winter in most of the United States.  Did you know that stress can intensify your response to allergens by compromising the immune system?  Since yoga is the perfect antidote to stress, try a few minutes of morning yoga to set a relaxed tone for the day.  As little as 3 minutes of gentle postures can make a big difference, not just to your allergies but to your entire day!  Pick a pose, like downward facing dog and simply hang out, breathe and let go.  Research also suggests that 800 mg of vitamin E each day can help ease allergy symptoms.  Additionally, quercetin, an antioxidant found in apples and onions may block the release of histamines.  Eating a variety of fruits and veggies can’t hurt, either as they are chock full of oxidants to defend against the histamines.  Finally, make sure to drink a lot of good old H2O to not only keep mucus thin, but also to hydrate the nasal passages and bronchial tubes.

Seems like what is good to help our allergies is the same stuff that’s good for our entire well being.  Healthy eating and daily exercise.  Get on it and make it a fabulous Friday.

Got Pain? Consider This…

Monkey Bar Gymnasium
Monkey Bar Gymnasium (Photo credit: ⇨Transcend⇧)

What made you decide to become a vegan?

“I became a vegan for a few reasons.  One I do not like killing animals, two, I want to eat better for the world and three I developed an intense hand pain from what I thought was purely my decade of training in the martial art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.  At the time, I was almost 40 years of age and my hand pain was so much that I could no longer grab the gi’s of my opponents without pain.  Went to 4 different doctors and all said “your 40 years old Jon, you simply have arthritis.”  I did not agree and then life brought a guy by the name of John Allen Mollenhauer into my life.  He told me to to read the “China Study” by T. Collin Campbell.  John told me it was simply all the animal products and their acidic nature that pulls calcium out of the bones which shows up first as hand/joint pain.  I was desperate for relief so I said “what do I do?”  Cut the meat now and in a month or two I promise you’ll have no hand pain (was the answer).  He was right!!  The pain was completely gone in 2 months.”

— Jon Hinds, Owner and Founder of the Monkey Bar Gymnasium

What the ?????????????????

I hardly know how to act regarding last night’s episode of Biggest Loser.  Quite a few weeks ago I did read that the contestants walked off when previously eliminated contestants had a chance to come back, but I didn’t think anyone would really leave.  Last night, Buddy and Mark (awweee…Mark…you look so handsome!) quit.  Week 16 and almost at the final 3, they up and left, leaving behind the chance to win a quarter of a million dollars and bragging rights.  My guess is that there was MUCH more to their leaving than just a twist.  Mitch pointed out to me how beaten down they must be by now.  I am sure he is right about that!  Who knows what really went on behind the scenes, but my guess was there was an awful lot of editing done to make this all even televisable!

And speaking of editing, what really got the best of me last night is that they promo-ed last night’s episode with teasers about previous winners coming back for the mud challenge, yet as the show aired, we learn that in order to view the challenge we had to long on…THAT IS NOT WHY I WATCH TV.  If I wanted to be at my computer, I would have been.  But I wanting to be on my couch, in my living room and so I refuse to get sucked into more computer time!  Sorry, NBC, I draw the line.

With Mark and Buddy gone, Kim, Conda and Jeremy competed for the two spots in the finals, with a previously eliminated contestant coming back to fill that third spot.  It was obviously more than a week’s time that went by between weigh ins (another thing that irks me) as the girls lost what seem like impossible numbers for week 16.  Conda dropped 10 pounds, and then Kim blew up the scale with a 15 pound loss.  Doesn’t even seem possible as Kim was already down to a size 6 at the White House.  How can she have possibly lost 15 pounds in a week?  That would not only seem impossible, but down right unhealthy at her current weight.  Healthy or not, she won a new SUV, for being the biggest loser of the week and both she and Conda look absolutely fantastic!  Though Jeremy lost 10 pounds, he fell below the red line and is not the Biggest Loser.  The final 3 will be Kim, Conda and I don’t know who.  If it’s Chism, I will be really happy for him, but honestly, this week made me like the show less.

So I am kindof mad at Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil and Biggest Loser is pissing me off.  Time to start watching less TV and reading more!

PS.  Is it just Mitch and I, or does anyone else think something is going on between Dolvett and Kim???  They seem to have an incredible chemistry thing going on these past few weeks and last night was no different!