Posts Tagged ‘fitness’

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

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