Posts Tagged ‘diet’

It’s a Burger … and So Much More

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The burger that is sweeping the country, apparently. Throw in a side of fries, too. What the heck.

The burger that is sweeping the country, apparently. Throw in a side of fries, too. What the heck.

“Write about something other than him,” my inner voice said.

“Write about something other than him,” she pleaded.

“I’ll try,” I said. “I’ll really try.”

***

… So I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other night when a photo grabbed my attention and made me stop and look at it more closely. It was a promotion for an eatery in my vicinity and the obvious attempt was to be as mouth-wateringly appetizing as possible. Good idea if you’re selling food.

For me, however, the effect was heart-stoppingly different. The photo was of a burger, but not just any burger. In today’s highly competitive world of restaurants, even a burger has got to be somehow special. Bigger. Untraditional. Jam-packed. For me, this one definitely qualified. In addition to the hefty bun and lots of char-broiled ground beef, it included a slice of cheddar cheese, two slices of bacon, tons of fried onions and — this is what got my attention — a fried egg to top it all off.

Be still my heart, is obviously the response the creators were hoping for. Heart-attack special, I thought. Do people actually eat those things? I wondered. Is the egg really necessary? I asked Google.

Apparently, yes, such burgers are not only eaten. but there is a competition to see who can pile as many calories and as much fat and cholesterol into cheeseburgers and market them as great sources of protein.

I get it. People love it. They eat it up.

Well, some people. People who are concerned that they are overweight, or have high blood pressure, or diabetes, or high cholesterol, or heart disease — which is millions of Americans by the way — are not necessarily enamored of the super burger. Nor are people who are simply interested in living a longer, healthier life. Certainly they don’t make these burgers a regular part of their diet.

Again, what struck me was the fact that this burger was apparently not so special in that lots of food establishments — fast and not-so-fast food — offer some variation of the heart-stopper. A lot of Americans do eat this way fairly regularly. Even as the fast-food giants scramble to put more healthful-sounding (if not actually healthful) items on their menus, the kitchen-sink burger reigns supreme and lean (as in meat) is mean. Fat’s still where it’s at.

Listen, what you eat is your business and nobody likes a know-it-all or scold, especially when it comes to food. I don’t expect to change anybody’s diet by pointing out that the federal government’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend keeping your body’s cholesterol levels low by eating as little dietary cholesterol as possible. There are no limits, true, but the body makes its own cholesterol and doesn’t need help from such foods as red meat, egg yolks, dairy products, butter. Overdone, they tend to clog things (arteries) up. The guidelines also suggest you really want to limit your sodium intake, eat very little in the way of added sugars and saturated fats (regular ground beef, baked goods, cheese, pizza, French fries, ice cream) and no trans fats (baked goods, fried foods, packaged foods).

That’s pretty much your whole diet, right? It used to be mine. But, as I said, it’s your choice. I chose a few years ago — after a warning about being overweight and having high cholesterol and blood sugar counts — to pretty much eliminate red meat from my diet and to significantly reduce sugar (which figures in cholesterol and heart disease problems as well as diabetes), salt and unhealthy fats from my diet. I had help making that decision.

I cheat only rarely, have lost significant weight and — other than some bones broken in a recent auto accident — am in pretty good health for a 76-year-old. I do not deprive myself of foods I love that aren’t going to wreak havoc on my body. I also don’t drink alcohol or smoke.

So what’s the point of living, you ask, if you can’t have a few beers and polish off a half-pound of beef dripping with bacon grease and cheese, topped with salt and ketchup (sugar) and a fried egg?

For me, I guess living is the point. If I knew that all of that stuff would not do any noticeable harm to my health, I’d probably indulge more. But they will, so I don’t. As a result, I get to keep doing what I enjoy — writing —  hopefully without becoming a burden on others. I believe if the body stays healthy so does the mind. It’s a package deal.

The healthy mind part, to me, includes not dismissing out of hand any scientific information just because it doesn’t fit with my preferred view of the world. In addition to the epidemic of obesity in America, there is also a rising addiction, I believe, to willful ignorance: Science is wrong, the willfully ignorant say. Doctors are wrong. Historians are wrong. Nutritionists are wrong. Teachers are wrong. Journalists are wrong. Everyone who upsets my apple cart is wrong and I have a right to my opinion.

So, my opinion: The Earth is round, human behavior has caused significant warming of the planet’s temperature and indulging in an unhealthy diet out of some perverse notion that eating healthfully is some elitist plot is not just your personal opinion if it affects me. The cost of medical care and health insurance rise as our national health profile falls. As we neglect our bodies by rejecting science, so do we neglect our minds. As a nation, we become lazy, mentally as well as physically. 

That’s why it’s important to us as a nation to pass along sound, scientifically proven advice to our children on living a healthful — perhaps happy and productive — life. Even such a small example as former First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative for more healthful school lunches is helpful. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act took effect in 2010 and has been the source of controversy from the beginning. Among other things, it calls for more fruits and vegetables and less salt in school lunches.

It’s a simple way of teaching young people how to enjoy eating a more healthful diet. Since adults’ choices generally become their children’s choices, the national obesity issue does not involve just adults. So I was disappointed, on checking, to note that this year the rules for healthful school lunches have essentially been abandoned.

Still, I said to myself, there is always the exercise and fitness part of the equation. That’s important to pass on to kids and we have long had JFK’s-inspired President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition to set a good example in that regard. The council has typically recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week. Keep those bodies moving, kids.

I visited that government site, which contains plenty of good information on living a healthy lifestyle. I was pleased to note that it encourages Americans to “follow a healthy eating pattern across the lifespan” and to support such patterns for everyone.

Great, I said. What else might the council have on its agenda? I wondered. And who’s on the council, anyway, I also wondered, remembering that Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Mr. Universe, California governor and Terminator is a former chairman.

Here’s what I found under the “Meet The Council” heading on the web site: “The President’s Council engages, educates, and empowers all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition. The President’s Council is made up of athletes, chefs, physicians, fitness professionals, and educators who are appointed by the President and serve in an advisory capacity through the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

“Council Co-Chairs — To Be Announced …

“Council Members — To Be Announced …’’

There is no council.

Like I said, folks, it’s your choice. You’re on your own.

But at least I didn’t write about him.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Falling in Love with Squats, Sort of

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos
squatsA while back I started writing about lifestyle changes I’ve made since I retired from daily newspapering. A new diet, low on sugar and salt, no red meat, high in vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts and Greek yogurt (frozen and not). A regular (more or less) exercise/workout regimen. Vitamin supplements. I feel, look and am a lot healthier than when I embarked on the changes.

I’ve also discovered something about life: There is no statute of limitations on it offering stuff for which I have no love. For example, I used to hate trigonometry. I could do it, but who decided we needed it? Also, I was not a fan of creamed spinach. Whose idea was that?

I don’t hate either anymore because I don’t have anything to do with them anymore. In college, I decided (with the strong suggestion of a faculty adviser) to pursue writing as a career instead of engineering. So I retired my slide rule (remember them?), abandoned sines, cosines and tangents, and plugged in my electric typewriter (remember them?) to focus on spelling, punctuation and good grammar (please remember them).

Creamed spinach was a non-starter at our first encounter. I hated it. Today, however, raw or sauteed spinach is welcome in my diet.

Today, I have something else to hate: Squats.

For the uninformed (or possibly out-of-shape), that’s a physical exercise, not a vegetable. If you can only do one exercise, I’m told, squats are the one to do because they work so many different muscles. The added muscle strength helps protect against injury from falls. Squats also improve balance, which decreases the likelihood of falls. For the record, one-third of those over the age of 65 fall each year and falls are the leading cause of death due to injury among seniors.

That’s why my fitness coach keeps telling me to do squats. Yes, I have a fitness coach, another step in my evolution from layabout slug to septuagenarian with his eye on 100. She’s also my partner. Once a week, my partner/coach and I do an hour-and-half weight-training regimen — dumbbells, weight machines, rollouts and squats. (I’m not overly fond of rollouts either, but let’s stick to squats for now.) The dumbbells have slowly increased in weight with time and with my development of some actual muscle.

Honestly, the workout is not yet what I would call fun. Maybe that’s why they call it a workout. Still, with increased strength has come increased self-confidence and I do like the results.

But squats are a killer. And, not to make excuses, I came to the exercise with a couple of physical issues. My right ankle is fused as a result of being shattered in a game of touch football 40 years ago and my left foot and lower leg experience varying degrees of numbness due to diabetic neuropathy. Bottom line: My squats won’t look like your squats because of necessary adjustments.

Whether my leg issues make my squats any harder to do than they are for someone without such physical issues, I don’t know. It’s not important. I do know I couldn’t manage even one squat the first time I was asked to do so. I kept losing my balance and falling over. This was embarrassing and frustrating and the root of several arguments between me and my partner/coach.

Gradually (and with considerable difficulty and complaining), I managed to do a couple of squats without falling over. It has been a slow go since then, with considerable adjustment. When we started working with a bodybuilding trainer in a well-equipped gym a year ago, I used the solid, metal legs of a chinning bar to help keep my balance as I went up and down with grunts and groans. There was also a full-length mirror that I could look at and remind myself to keep my head up and not bend over. Most of the time, I used it to check and make sure I was still breathing.

Recently, I groaned my way through 20 squats without using anything to keep my balance, took a break, and did 20 more. Wiped out. But not done. The trainer — whose job is to always think you can do one or two more reps of whatever the exercise is — has added a new wrinkle. I do squats while holding a metal bar over my head while he and my partner hold the ends to make sure I don’t fall over and injure myself.

I did 20 of these the last time and could barely walk when I was done. As I write this, my legs have still not fully recovered and my glutes are periodically achey. My partner/coach says it’s all good and she likes the new muscle tone in my legs, as do I. I also confess to a feeling of accomplishment for having survived, if not conquered, the challenge of squats.

Don’t get me wrong. I still hate them. It’s hard to believe I will ever feel otherwise. But I’ve learned (late in life, as with all my lessons), that I can survive and even benefit from something I hate. My partner/coach says my attitude is still too negative, that I should be more encouraging about becoming fit. She’s probably right. She and our bodybuilding coach have their work cut out for them in trying to get me to approach workouts with the same enthusiasm with which they do.

So I’m working on my attitude as well as my balance.  For now at least, no one can say of me, “He can’t do squat.”

rjgaydos@gmail.com

On Acting My Age … Whatever it Is

Friday, January 16th, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

"New" me, at 73.

“New” me, at 73.

I’m 73 years old. That’s a fact and unless I go to work for Fox News, I am not free to change it to suit my mood. Truth is, I don’t obsess about my age the way some do. Most of the time, I don’t think about it unless someone mentions it.

For example, last summer my partner and I were standing on line at a fix-your-own frozen yogurt establishment called Hoopla! The line of customers extended to the door and it was close to closing time. As I surveyed the offerings, my partner turned to me and said, “Did you notice we’re always the oldest ones in here?” I took a quick look around and told her that, no, I hadn’t and, furthermore, while I thought she certainly didn’t qualify, I was definitely the oldest person in the place.

And I wondered, “How come?” Don’t septuagenarians like frozen yogurt? Look at all the great flavors. And there are all the toppings — pretty much anything you can think of from fruit to nuts to Gummy Bears to complement the delicious frozen treat.

Maybe it’s the do-it-yourself bit, I thought. Or the standing in line. Maybe a lot of older folks don’t like standing in line. It could be the possibility of some messiness. Or maybe it’s just the whole idea of experiencing something new.

It’s my observation, which is open to challenge, that a lot of people of a certain age are not thrilled with trying something new. It’s as if they feel they have lived long enough and done enough. No need to learn anything else. Fixing your own dessert? Way too much trouble.

So, they have flip phones. They don’t text or Google. They barely e-mail. Kindle, schmindle; give ‘em a real book. And not a Facebook. That’s just too confusing … or something. And it’s not just frozen yogurt that they won’t eat: Kale, quinoa and coconut water will never cross their lips. Change is for the young.

I don’t get it. My feeling is, since I have just a limited time here, why not experience as much as I can for as long as I can? I know how easy it can be to slip into a rut of comfortability, even if things in life aren’t so great, even if I’m not in the best of shape. I’ve been there. It’s easy to say, hey, this is OK. I can handle it. I don’t have to worry about learning something new. School’s over. Time to relax. Ain’t retirement grand?

Actually, yes, retirement has been pretty grand. But it’s also not the end of the line.

I shaved my beard and mustache off a few months ago. In the space of a month, only six people noticed. I counted.

One of them was my son, Max, who had a full beard himself at the time. My other son, Zack, noticed that I had also gotten a haircut, which was a typical observation. Other comments ranged from, “You look really tan, Bob” to “Nice haircut,” to “You look good; are you working out?” to “Did you lose weight?”

To which I replied, varyingly, “Thanks.” “Yes.” And, “Hello, I shaved my beard off.”

The beard is now back, although trimmed fairly neatly, and the hair on top is cut short. Also neat. But more importantly for this whole getting older thing, were the other comments about working out and losing weight. They were correct. People noticed and, to be honest, it was nice to hear. The working out regularly, combined with eating a much more healthful diet, coincided with meeting my partner two-and-a-half years ago. More than ever, I don’t believe in coincidences. The result has been a significant weight loss for me and my feeling and looking better — healthier at any rate — at 73 than, dare I say, at 53. So, yeah, retirement is great.

Anyway, as I said, a few people did notice the beard was gone and their comments may be even more telling than the ones I didn’t get:

— “There’s Bob, looking all neat and reputable.”

— “You look so neat and clean.”

— “Now you’re not hiding behind anything.”

Or from anything either. The physical changes have been accompanied by subtle psychological changes, a greater willingness to try new things.

The point of this exercise in vanity, I suppose, is that numerical age doesn’t matter nearly as much as attitude does. That’s nothing new, I know. I just needed to acknowledge it publicly for myself. Just don’t tell me to act my age, because I don’t know what that means.

I am 73. I have a phone that is at least 10 times smarter than I am. I wrote this column on a laptop. I love WiFI. I have a Kindle and have actually read one book on it so far. (Confession: I still prefer the real thing.) I Google and text constantly. I eat yogurt and falafel and sushi and lots of fruits and vegetables. No red meat. I exercise with a growing degree of regularity. All my annual checkup numbers are in the positive range. My doctor says I’m the textbook example of what can happen when you actually follow your doctor’s advice. I kinda liked hearing that, too.

Now, if someone would just explain to me how 3-D printing works …

 

The New ‘Breakfast of Champions’

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Te breakfast of champions

                          The breakfast of champions                                                                                                        IR photography

“Here it is,” she said with a smile, “the breakfast of champions.”

No, it wasn’t a bowl of Wheaties with a banana sliced on top. It was, check it out: A bowl of coconut/vanilla Greek yogurt, two sliced bananas, a big bunch of halved, red globe grapes with seeds, a mound of whole ground flaxseed meal, a healthy serving of blended trail mix (almonds, cranberries, cherries, raisins and pistachios), and a generous topping of chocolate granola (ingredients to come later).

Breakfast was sweet, rich, juicy, crunchy, delicious and filling. My breakfast partner does not skimp on the portions. And, by the way, it was incredibly good for my health.

When I decided for health reasons to move away from a diet centered on meat and fried foods to one focused more on plants, my major concerns were that I would be able to eat enough to feel full and energetic and that I would find enough food that I actually liked.

No problem, thanks again in large measure to my breakfast partner. And it hasn’t been a problem since I made the decision. What it has been is a gradual process of becoming accustomed to, not necessarily foods that are new to me, but a new way of looking at some familiar foods and a new way of making them part of my regular diet.

I now eat lots of rice and beans and greens and baked potatoes and sweet potatoes and fruits and vegetables. Also some pasta. Pizza is still on the menu. I also eat vegetarian versions of meatballs, bacon, sausage, turkey with all the vegetables, etc. No portion control. Again, the tastes are a bit different, but delicious. It’s all in the way the food is prepared. That, to me, is mind over matter. I think we are conditioned from earliest days to think about certain foods in a certain way and, after a while it becomes automatic — so, lots of red meat is good, vegetables are wussy.

I’ve said it before, but I will repeat myself: I’m not crusading here. I don’t begrudge anybody eating whatever they choose (not entirely true — horses are not for eating). However, since my dietary changes, I’ve become increasingly aware of the strong contradiction in what many people say about their desire to be healthier (to lose weight, to have more energy, to feel stronger) and the food they actually eat. So I write about what I’m going through to maintain my own awareness and, maybe, let someone who’s contemplating a similar change know that it’s possible and not necessarily painful.

There’s a slowly growing awareness among Americans for the need to eat more healthful foods, foods free of chemicals and so-called “natural” added ingredients. You can see this in expanded organic food sections at supermarkets and half-hearted attempts by some fast-food chains to offer what they regard as healthier choices. When the monied interests — the corporations that control our food supply — start offering more choices, even though they may exaggerate their health benefits, I think it’s a good first step. They’re starting to pay attention..

It’s also a signal for consumers to start insisting on more such choices and at more reasonable prices. It seems to me that companies should not get rich by offering lots of cheap food that isn’t good for our health (and may actually be bad for our health) while pricing nutritious, tasty food out of the reach of far too many people. History tells us that, greed being what it is, this corporate mindset won’t change unless enough customers insist on it by spending their food money differently. By putting our money where our mouths are and by insisting that elected officials do more to protect the food supply rather than the food suppliers, we might actually be able to help ourselves become healthier.

Back to the breakfast of champions. It satisfies the various food pyramids’ daily recommendations on fruits, nuts, seeds and dairy in one sitting. It is full of super foods:

  • Greek yogurt: Loaded with protein, Vitamin B12 and calcium. Also has potassium, B-6 and magnesium.
  • Bananas: Good for Vitamin B-6, Vitamin C and potassium. Also magnesium and dietary fiber.
  • Red grapes: Source of resveratrol, which helps dilate blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure. Also may help weight loss by reducing cells’ ability to store fat.
  • Flaxseed meal: Soluble and insoluble fiber. Studies suggest flaxseed as regular part of a diet lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol. Has lignans, natural anti-oxidants that protect against unchecked cell growth. Source of alpha-linolenic acid, or omega-3, which can help provide healthy cholesterol levels, reduce cell inflammation (by supporting the integrity of cell membranes of vital organs, thereby protecting the body against disease). Also may lower blood pressure. Studies suggest flaxseed may help protect against some forms of cancer, decrease menopausal symptoms and reduce blood sugar.
  • Trail mix: Good source of Vitamin E, manganese, copper and magnesium (important minerals often neglected in many diets). Also a source of potassium and dietary fiber.
  • Chocolate granola: Among other things, it contains whole grain oats, ground flax seeds, rice and soy lecithin, an emulsifier that keeps the blood slippery..

Full disclosure, the chocolate granola, being a commercial product, contains sugar and cane juice. But people are free to mix their own granola. Like I said, I’m no purist, just a guy trying to live a longer, healthier life. One spectacular breakfast at a time.

 

The ‘picture of health’? Me? Sonofagun

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

          The 'new' me.                  IR Photography

The ‘new’ me.
                                                                              IR Photography

“You’re the picture of health.”

(She has to be talking to me. There’s no one else in the room.)

“Thank you, doctor.”

This exchange took place last month at an office in Middletown. The picture was considerably less pleasant, never mind healthy, some 18 months earlier when I first walked into the doctor’s office. I was overweight, with the familiar accompanying physical complications — high blood pressure, pre-diabetic blood sugar readings, good and bad cholesterol numbers headed in the wrong directions, low B-12 and Vitamin D readings, a lack of energy, flexibility and stamina and swollen ankles.

If anyone asked, I said I felt “fine.” And I believed it.

Since that time, I have lost 50 pounds and kept it off. I no longer take the blood-pressure and diuretic medications that were originally prescribed. I’m told my numbers in all other areas are “good.” I have more strength and energy and my flexibility is improving as is my stamina. My ankles look great

And I plan to stay this way.

I’ve been writing occasionally about my improved health and the lifestyle changes that brought it about for two primary reasons: 1. I know myself well enough to know that when I share my plans publicly I am more likely to stick to them, especially when they involve significant challenges; 2. People have told me that my updates have inspired them to make health-related changes in their own lifestyles.

Now, I admit it’s a nice ego boost to be told that something I’ve written or done has motivated someone to try to improve his or her lot, and at at the same time I’m humbled to think I can make a difference in someone’s life. But the truth is my motives are purely selfish.

I’ve been muddling around this planet for 72 years and I’d like to enjoy at least a couple more decades here before moving on to the next station, whatever, wherever and whenever that may be. The key word in that sentence is “enjoy.” I don’t want to hang on as a creaky, chronically complaining old crank no one wants to be around. I can’t stop the years from adding up, but I sure can do something about the pounds and the blood pressure.

By way of updating my current condition, I am pleased to report that shoveling snow this winter from hell has not left me panting and praying for sheer survival. I don’t like it, but neither do I dread it. It’s good exercise (up to a point) and evidence of improved stamina.

Getting to this point has not been a matter of jumping on a stationary bike once in a while or taking an occasional stroll around the block. That used to count as “exercise” and, technically, still does. But that doesn’t take fat off or put muscle on. For me, it has meant changing the way I eat and making workouts, with and without weights, part of my routine. The workouts have been regular and irregular during this transition period, but they have been regular enough that the 50 pounds I lost have not been rediscovered.

My coach tells me I have a lot of nascent muscles. (I think some have progressed to actual muscles, but it’s not worth quibbling about.) The main point is that the bench presses (with dumbbells), planks, pushups, crunches and squats have shaped a new body (and vocabulary) and, while I don’t look forward to every exercise, I do appreciate the feeling of accomplishment at mastering something new and the emergence of lats, glutes, abs, quads, biceps and triceps.

I’m really talking about being fit here, not just not being fat. To me, that means combining regular workouts with a nourishing, appetizing, non-punishing diet. I don’t believe in starving myself or limiting portions of foods I enjoy which also happen to be healthful.

No, it has not been a piece of cake. Not long ago I reveled in the embrace of cheesecake. French fries used to count as a vegetable. Coke or Pepsi? Depended on my mood. Salt and vinegar potato chips, bacon, butter and sour cream on my “healthy” baked potato. Lots of salt, lots of sugar, lots of fat. Lots of XXL shirts and not much energy.

As I said, I was “fine.” There is, to be sure, a bit of bliss in ignorance. It’s all good … until it’s not. Turns out what I didn’t know was actually hurting me.

Without going into too much detail, I have stopped eating red meat and almost eliminated salt, processed sugar and saturated fat from my diet. I eat a lot more vegetables and fruit — as much as I want really — and try to eat foods that have not been “enhanced” by additives I can’t pronounce and whose chief purpose seems to be creating a long shelf life. That means less packaged goods and more of what used to be called “food.” For some reason, the less we add to our food, the more it costs, but that’s a topic for another time.

I don’t tell anyone how to eat (although I may still make suggestions to my son), nor do I tell anyone what they should do for exercise. Unless asked. Then, if I tell someone he can eat as much as he wants of different foods and and that it tastes good, but he says he wants to continue eating the same stuff, but smaller portions, I say, “Good luck.”

If I suggest regular exercise and I hear the occasional-stationary- bike-and-try-to-walk-regularly mantra, I say, “That’s good. Good luck.”

My feeling is that any significant change comes down to motivation, not need. I have my own personal motives to change major areas of my life and I am fortunate to have found someone to help me make those changes. I don’t believe in using “old age” as an excuse for whatever ails me. If I did, I’d still be taking the drugs the doctor prescribed a year-and-a-half ago. I’m not bragging; that’s just the way it is, for me. We make our own choices.

It’s simple. I like what’s happening to me physically, which is good for me mentally and spiritually. And I feel better than fine. I feel good.

bob@zestoforange.com

 

 

 

Biceps, Triceps, Deltoids, Oh My!

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

By Bob Gaydos

Lots of bench presses add up to actual muscle.

Lots of bench presses add up to actual muscle.

I have muscles today. Deltoids, triceps, biceps, gluteals, pectorals, etc. They’re actual muscles, not flabby facsimiles occupying the space where muscles are supposed to be, like it was in my last report.. The change is good. I like it. I feel … more solid I guess.

This renovation project began about nine months ago following a visit to a doctor, some talk about my high blood pressure, a lack of vitamins B12 and D and a suggestion to lose weight and get some exercise.

Since then, I have lost about 40 pounds, significantly altered my diet (adieu Big Mac and fries, bon jour Greek salad) and begun an exercise regimen that has progressed as I have.

Full disclosure. The “exercise” began as labored one-mile walks, some work on a stationary bike, struggles with light free weights and what passed for crunches (sit-ups for you old-timers). It was and remains crucial for me that I have a coach who is both understanding and demanding. She recognized my weaknesses and physical issues when I began (overweight and a fused right ankle, the result of a severe break) and today knows my strengths and tendencies (saying “I can’t” when I mean “I don’t know how”).

I could not do a pushup nine months ago. I lay flat on the floor on my face, embarrassed, when I failed to do just one at my coach’s request. Today, I can knock off 15 pretty much anytime and recently did seven sets of 15 during a two-hour workout session. Lots of struggling bench presses went into that.

But that’s not the half of it. There turns out to be a world of exercises, each aimed at different parts of the body. Now, I knew this before; I just didn’t pay much attention to it, which explains why my coach insisted on a full medical checkup before beginning this program. Within that world there are front crunches, side crunches and reverse crunches. There are squats (which require a seated adaptation for me because of my fused ankle), leg lifts, leg lowerings, hollow rocks, front planks, reverse planks and, oh my god, side planks.

The real challenges for me today are lunges and what for me is a sadistic exercise known as the Superman. The lunges — basically exaggerated front and back curtseys — are challenging because of my right ankle issue and nerve damage in my lower left leg. I kept falling over every time I tried one. My coach had me adapt. Do it slower; land on the ball of my foot for more solid footing; bring my body to the leg. I managed to do one forward. Then I managed to do one without wobbling. (Better balance has come along with greater strength and more controlled movement.)

Today, I can manage a few decent lunges and some so-so ones in a set of 10 forward lunges. This is good progress. Backward lunges remain more problematic, but again, doable even in my awkward style. And yes, today there are muscles in my behind that ache after a set of lunges. Coach says this is a good thing.

The Superman remains the challenge du jour. It requires lying on my stomach, arms forward a la Superman in flight, then lifting the front and rear portions of my body, leaving only the middle on the floor. I barely got front and back up for 20 seconds, but I learned something in the process: to get the muscles to do their job I needed to engage them, to flex them. Aha.

These workout sessions, which include a lot of stretching as well, go on. Currently, it’s twice a week with additional workouts possible. I do this because I do not want to be an overweight, falling-down old man. I am far from finished, but also far from where I was a short nine months ago. I need a new wardrobe to fit my new body, but that’s what is called a luxury problem. Because my health has improved with my weight loss and exercise, my doctor is weaning me off the blood pressure medications she prescribed. I like the way I look and feel.

This was not easy at first, although changing my eating habits to include more vegetables and fruits, much less sugar, salt, fat and meat was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I have discovered the delight of frozen Greek yogurt with fresh fruit. I do not starve myself.

The exercise was a slower draw, but once some results started to appear (using heavier weights, seeing actual muscles sprouting, my shoulders becoming wider than my hips), I was hooked. Not in a negative sense. I will never be Mr. Universe. (As coach delicately pointed out, I could never be even if I wanted to.) But I like feeling and being stronger, so I will continue.

Coincidentally (or maybe not) with this image makeover (I trimmed my hair and beard and got new eyeglass frames as well), I recently took an online narcissist test on PsychCentral. I scored 12, which I am told is an average score, with 20 being required for narcissism. But I did come up with a 2 on exhibitionism and a 3 on superiority, which may be something for me to look at in relation to this makeover and the apparent need to write about it.

Then again, I had a zero on vanity. This suggests to me that, not only is my body stronger and in better balance, but my mind, like my muscles, is still not over-inflated. And so I will continue.

 bob@zestoforange.com

 

So How’s That Diet Going? Just Fine

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

By Bob Gaydos

Last December, in a burst of, oh I don’t know, foolhardy enthusiasm, I wrote about my decision to re-enter the world of the healthy. No more sugar, salt, butter, red meat, French fries, etc. would pass over these lips. Knock off the bread; bring on the greens and beans. And Greek yogurt. Lots of veggies and brown rice and fruit. Some chicken and fish. And exercise, too. Plenty of exercise. I promised to give updates.

So here it is: I feel great.

People I’ve known for years come up to me and ask: “Did you lose weight?” Yes, 40 pounds. “Are you sick?” No, it’s intentional, thank you. “Are you working out?” Yes.

Oh my god, yes.

The thing about losing weight is that if you don’t do something to tone up your body, you wind up being a thinner person with a bunch of loose skin. Not a good look, and what’s the sense of losing weight and looking sick? I can say in all humility that I do not look sick. Believe me, it has not been a picnic. Nor has it been torture. It has been, as I said in my first report, humbling. But also surprisingly rewarding (to me, not my coach).

I mentioned starting out with weekly walks, one to two miles. I still do that, but not as often, due to physical conditions not related to what I’m talking about here. The walks are still good for the fresh air and sunshine, so they will continue.

It’s the inside workout regimen that is paying tremendous dividends. In December, I dismissed pushups with a “forget about it” comment. Could not do one. Did 60 the other day in six, ten-rep sets. (Even picking up the lingo.) I also talked about crunches being the only thing I had some success with early on. Turns out that’s because I wasn’t doing them correctly. Effort counts, but so does form, my coach informed me. Now that I do them the correct way, they are much tougher. But the results are also more obvious. And I have learned such things as reverse crunches (woof!) and bicycle crunches (we’re going to forget about them for a while).

Throw in weight training with barbells (progressing slowly but steadily), leg-lifts, leg-lowerings, squats, 40 minutes on a stationary bike and lots of stretching and, slowly but surely, muscle has appeared where once there was flab. It feels good. I feel good. I have more energy, more endurance and, in fact, a generally healthier outlook on life.

I can’t stress enough that none of this has been a surprise to my coach, who predicted the progress and encouraged me, gently or firmly, as needed.

As for the food, I am still learning, but no longer struggling, to find healthful, tasty, filling choices. I am not a fanatic. I have a slice of pizza from time to time (no pepperoni). I never finished the “Wheat Belly” book, but I try hard to avoid bread and gluten. I have rediscovered the sweetness of fruit and, bless their hearts, Ben and Jerry have introduced a line of frozen Greek yogurt that is as rich and satisfying as any ice cream. Better yet, they have competition in the slowly emerging market for more healthful food choices.

The fast food chains lag in this development, but demand could drive competition with them. Supermarkets are adding more organic and gluten-free sections as people (especially younger people) become more conscious of wanting to eat real food, with no surprises mixed in. Of course, I still can’t figure out food establishments that offer egg white entrees or veggie entrees and pair them with French fries or hash browns. Offer alternatives, folks.

Anyway, that’s my follow up report. So far, so good. Blood pressure in check. Weight down. Muscles emerging. Clothes too big (new wardrobe coming). A deep bow of appreciation to my fantastic coach, because I knew nothing about how to do this. And a final word to anyone who may be thinking about, “some day,” doing some exercise or losing some weight. Don’t wait. Life is really too short to waste on “coulda-shouldas.” Find a source of support and motivation and go for it. Change is not easy, but healthy change can be surprisingly rewarding in many ways. (I know, coach, not to you.)

bob@zestoforange.com

A Gratitude List for 2012

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

The last few years I’ve practiced the habit of making a gratitude list at the end of the year. Nothing formal. Just a kind of memo to myself about the the good things in my life and even in the world we live in.

Some people might find this corny or even delusional, given the state of much of the world. For me, that’s the reason for doing it. I have learned that if I focus on the positive people and situations in my life, the rest of the nonsense, over which I have little or no control, tends not to bother me, or at least not nearly as much as it used to. And positive stuff tends to follow.

I think this is how I got through the most inane and insane election season in a long time. Yes, I am grateful that Barack Obama was re-elected president. But I never for once took seriously the ship of fools the Republicans offered as possible opponents, including the zombie who eventually survived, Mitt Romney. After his opponents devoured him in the primaries, the man had no brain of his own. But the real saving grace in that scenario for me was that, even if Romney somehow won, he was still smarter than George W. Bush, and we survived eight years of him in the Oval Office. (Note to self: If you live in a country that elects George W. Bush president twice, you really can’t take politics too seriously.)

Worse than being too concerned about other people’s absurd political views, of course, is taking one’s own views too seriously. Hello, tea party members, how’d things go in this past election? Not so good, you say? All your extra- terrestrial, misogynist candidates lost? Yeah, I’m really kinda glad about that. I’m not so thrilled with what you’ve done to the Republican Party, but then, their party members chose over and over again to adopt your dumb (there’s no other word) positions on social and economic issues and, whaddya know? Americans rejected them one by one across the country.

For that, I am truly grateful, because I am a big fan of sanity and compassion.

What else? Well, I’m grateful the Mayans were wrong about that end of the world thing and that that mystery planet, Nibiru, didn’t destroy us. (Actually, I just threw those in to placate the folks who believed that stuff.)

That brings me to the personal stuff. I am grateful I have two healthy, smart sons who speak to me, friends who can be counted on (yes, even Facebook, which helped me find new ones), a brain (or is it a mind?) that still functions fairly well and lets me share these thoughts, a blog that lets lots of people read them, if they choose, an abiding sense of curiosity about the world, and a willingness, even in retirement, to accept new people, habits and thoughts into my life.

The latter have to do with a new diet and exercise regimen I have undertaken in the past few months, which I mentioned in a previous blog.

This is easily said, not so easily done. But this is not one of my old New Year’s resolutions that evaporates with the new year. So far, so good. I‘ve lost weight and had to buy new jeans and hoodies, because the XXL sizes are too big on me now. There are actual signs of muscle. Fruits and vegetables are not the enemy. Sugar is a stranger. I haven’t finished reading “Wheat Belly.”

I have profound gratitude for the surprising willingness I discovered to actually make these changes and to trust that this is the right new path for me to take, and for those in my life who make it easier, even enjoyable, to make the journey.

Happy New Year.

bob@zestoforange.com

Turns Out, You Really Are What You Eat

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

By Bob Gaydos

I don’t eat salt and sugar anymore. Well, I try not to, as much as is possible in America. Also no red meat, French fries or soda. I know, downright un-American.

As I write this, I‘m sitting in Dunkin’ Donuts alone, eating my oatmeal with fruit (fair) and veggie egg white (pretty good) breakfast. Medium coffee, no sugar. Ketchup Bob, who usually joins me, had a previous engagement. We’ll have to talk about that ketchup some other time.

The low-salt/sugar diet started about four months ago, the result of a long-delayed physical checkup and a decision that I wasn‘t ready for the slow-but-steady surrender to couch potato oblivion. Not by a long shot, it turns out to my pleasant surprise.

The doctor said I was too heavy and my blood pressure was too high. Vitamin D was too low. A couple of pills, some exercise and a new diet were prescribed. The pills have the blood pressure down to my former well-within-acceptable range and I have lost about 30 pounds (more to come). I am also walking two-to-three miles per week and have started what I call an exercise regimen, but my coach calls a reclamation project. I say it’s just semantics, but we’re working on it.

It turns out, the diet switch wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. There’s a lot of salad in my diet now, more fruit and veggies and a lot of chicken. Also sea food. I have ventured into the previously mysterious world (to me) of vegan cuisine and have eaten sushi for the first time. More to the point, I’m prepared to go back for seconds. I have also relearned the art of using chopsticks (brown rice, please).

I am also happy to report that there are mighty tasty organic cookies (double chocolate) and that chocolate itself, if it’s mostly chocolate, is still good as well as good for you. And there are plenty of healthful salsa and chip varieties to satisfy that other craving. And Greek yogurt with fruit.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not nearly settled in to this new diet. Not even sure what it will eventually turn out to be. I may splurge on an occasional steak or ice cream cone. Fanaticism is not one of my shortcomings. The doctor asked me to read “Wheat Belly,” a best-seller that launched the no-gluten craze. I’m not even sure I had a wheat belly, but I’m reading the book and I’ll have to get back to you on that. At the very least, I know that too much bread isn’t good for me.

The exercise regimen, on the other hand, has turned out to be more challenging. Even walking a half mile was exhausting initially.

Weight training (dumbbells, not barbells) was, to be honest, humbling at first. My male ego had to wrestle with seeing the fairer sex easily do repetitions I could not finish. Pushups? Forget it. The only exercise I managed to feel OK doing at first was crunches. (And by the way, they’re paying off.) I’m also doing a lot of stretching and believe me my body needed it and I feel it.

I am happy to report that I am now doing a two-mile walk each week, with a one-mile stroll tossed in most weeks as well. There are also sessions on a stationary bike (soon to be increased, coach) and a general heightened awareness of how I walk (also tossed in for the coach).

So what? you say. Why should you care about what I eat or do with my body? Well, honestly, you don’t have to care. I’m doing this diary entry as a sort of selfish exercise in self-discipline, to remind myself that what I’m doing is working. I feel much healthier, look much healthier and even think in a healthier way than I did before I began this radical change. That’s win-win-win. I’ve had to buy new jeans and they are already too big.

It has always been my belief that it is never too late to do something if you really want to do it. Motivation is key, of course. As well as self-discipline and support and encouragement. Making this change a matter of public record also has the effect of making me stick to it as much as possible because I won’t like being asked whatever happened to your diet, chubby?

And, who knows, maybe it will influence someone else who is slipping into coach potato oblivion to resist and pull him or herself out of the cushions. Life is too short to fritter away. I have a long way to go, but the joy, they say, is in the journey. So I’m going to try to have fun as I go along. (More stretches? Really coach?) I’ll keep you filled in on the details.

Next week, Bob, the ketchup talk.

bob@zestoforange.com