Posts Tagged ‘health’

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

Trump, Turmeric and Taoism

Friday, May 26th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Fit ... or fatigued?

Fit … or fatigued?

So, turmeric.

C’mon, admit it. You’ve jumped on the bandwagon for the latest health “super food.” Well, super spice.

If you haven’t yet discovered it, turmeric is a major ingredient in curry. It also makes mustard yellow. It also is believed to have benefits in fighting several chronic debilitating diseases including Alzheimer’s, arthritis and even cancer. It’s also supposed to be a mood enhancer. Side effects appear to be minimal. It can be ingested in tea, via tablet supplements, cream and, of course, in Indian food.

I added it to my daily regimen of B’s, D, aspirin and cod fish oil a couple of weeks ago. That regimen, along with a health-conscious diet and exercise, I can honestly say has helped keep me in relatively good health, especially for a guy who has recently been banged up in an auto accident. (Not my fault and I’m doing fine.) I do believe the diet and supplements are a main reason for my (usually) not looking, feeling or acting my age, which is several years older than the man who likes to remind us that he’s the president and we are not.

Volumes have already been written about the emotional health of Donald Trump, our narcissist-in-chief (NIC), and many more are sure to come. Frankly, I don’t care anymore. Everything about him is not normal and I refuse to normalize it. But I do wonder about his physical health.

How does someone with great wealth and access, literally, to any food, treatment, fitness coach or exercise regimen that would keep him fit and healthy for many years to come and allow him to continue to enjoy the fruits of his ill-gotten gains well into his nineties — a man also obviously obsessed with his appearance — how does he allow himself to become a belly-hanging, fried-chicken-eating, two-scoops-of-ice-cream guy who had to excuse himself from an event on his diplomatic trip to Saudi Arabia because of “exhaustion”?

Makes me wonder if maybe all those short speeches and quick, in-and-out visits to museums and sites of special interest aren’t only because of a short attention span. Maybe he gets tired quickly. Not that we’d ever know. In fact, we know remarkably little about the health of the man who, at 70, was the oldest ever first-time elected president.

The most recent “update,” as it were, from Dr. Harold Bornstein, who says he has been Trump’s personal doctor for 36 years, came in an interview with the New York Times in February. He told The Times that Trump undergoes regular physical checkups, gets all the important tests and takes a statin to keep his cholesterol and lipid levels at a healthy rate.

Bornstein, who could fairly be called a character, said Trump is healthy, while alternating between telling The Times that Trump’s health is “none of your business” (which is not true, since he is the president) and volunteering that he takes a prostate drug that promotes hair growth. Well, at least we know what’s important healthwise to the NIC.

Bornstein caused a stir during the presidential campaign when asked if he was concerned about Trump’s health, given his age and the fact he was running for the presidency. The doctor replied, “If something happens to him, then it happens to him.’’

Nice to know the doctor is in touch with his Taoist side. But really, who’s looking after Trump’s health on a daily basis? If he’s like most men in their 70’s (I’m going to generalize here) he’s inclined to skip doing some healthy stuff and do some not-so-healthy stuff instead. I don’t think it’s sexist to suggest that a lot of older men sometimes depend on someone else, usually a woman, to remind them about taking vitamins, or medicine or exercising or going easy on the dessert or getting enough sleep, etc. I’m speaking from my own experience here, not lecturing.

What we do know about Trump is that, while he’s at the White House, his wife, Melania, spends the week in New York City with their young son. Also, she doesn’t like to hold hands with him when they’re together. We know he watches a lot of TV and gets up early in the morning to tweet angrily about whatever bothers him — and apparently it’s a lot. Does he go to bed early? Don’t know. We know he likes chocolate cake and Big Macs and french fries and well-done steak with ketchup on the side. Exercise? Well, there is that golf every weekend.

Let me say here that, like a lot of other Americans, I haven’t spent a lot of time worrying about the good health of the NIC. Rather, I’m curious about who is and wondering why the man himself doesn’t seem to care much. Maybe he thinks he’s perfect just the way he is. Or maybe no one dares to mention that he could use to lose a few pounds and maybe even take some turmeric to improve his mood. Skip all that TV and read a book before bed.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” One out of three is good only in baseball, Mr. NIC.  We know, because you told us, that you were surprised to discover how hard the job of being president is. It can be emotionally and physically demanding. Everyone wants something from you and no matter what you do, someone is unhappy. It could be exhausting even for someone who’s not going to be 71 in two weeks, as you are.

Look, it’s up to you, but I think I speak for a lot of Americans in saying if the demands of the job are taking a toll on you physically, no one would think less of you if you said you were stepping down for the good of the country to spend more time with your young son and young wife. Actually, it’s a very patriotic thing to do. Ask John Boehner.

Me, I’m going to stick with the turmeric and hope it improves my mood.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

The ‘Cost’ of Eating Healthy

Thursday, March 20th, 2014
The Breakfast of Champions

The Breakfast of Champions                      IR Photography

By Bob Gaydos

Since I began eating more healthful food (and writing about it), I’ve been paying more attention to the things people say and the choices they make when it comes to taking care of themselves. I’ve noticed they don’t always coincide.

While many acknowledge that a regular diet of red meat, fried, processed, salt-laden, sugar-soaked foods is not healthy, “eating healthier” often doesn’t eliminate the problem. Instead, the choice may be to eat less of the foods we say we shouldn’t eat, rather than eating more foods (fruits and vegetables) that are actually be good for us. We tweak. We cut down on the potato chips. Switch to diet soda. Try “low-calorie” prepared dinners. Get a small order of french fries instead of large.

This may be better than doing nothing and may cut a couple of calories. It also may save a little money.

Ahh, money. Personal finances can certainly affect the choices we make. In many quarters, the notion persists that eating healthy, while it sounds great, is just too expensive. This belief is fed in large part by TV commercials for the corporations that control our food supply. We are inundated with commercials designed to make us feel good about the particular food product (cereal, soda, fast-food, lunch meat). These are often aimed at children, who can influence parents’ food choices.

The products are marketed as inexpensive and good for us. But the processed foods that make up the bulk of the diet of most Americans are loaded with salt, chemical preservatives to prolong their shelf life and a variety of natural and artificial sugars to make them more palatable — and addictive. Large food corporations get big tax breaks and huge factory farms, which expose animals to disease and abuse, get government subsidies, which helps them to keep their prices down. Spraying crops with chemical pesticides lets big growers sell produce cheaper than organic farmers who don’t use chemicals. It makes Monsanto richer, but can hardly be considered good for our health.

Because of this government/corporate partnership emphasizing mass production of what is described as “affordable” food, many people who sincerely want to choose more healthful foods may feel they can’t afford to eat “all that organic, natural, chemical-free, grass-fed, free-range, non-GMO stuff.”

In truth, Americans can’t afford not to eat what used to be called, just plain food. Think about it. Why should food with nothing added to it have to carry labels that, thanks to years of brainwashing, make people think “expensive”? Why not just “apples,” “melons,” “grapes,” “berries,” “steak,” “chicken”? Why not, instead, require foods with all that stuff added to carry labels that say: “Added sugars, natural and otherwise;” “Loaded with salt;” “Chemical additives;” “Genetically modified;’’ “Full of fat;” “Sprayed with toxic chemicals;” “Fed tainted grain;” “Natural flavors produced in laboratories;” “Raised in warehouses;” or “No nutritional value”?

In a recent column, I offered what I called “the new breakfast of champions.” Instead of Wheaties and a banana, it consisted of 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 all-natural chocolate granola.

Among the responses I got was this one from Marshall Rubin: “I have no qualms about your ‘Breakfast of Champions,’ especially since it’s way more healthy than my morning bagel with cream cheese and a can of lightly-salted V-8 vegetable juice. But one thing wasn’t mentioned: the cost of your meal. I’m a retiree watching my quality of life decrease as I continue to get no COLA raises from Social Security and my NJ state pension. My bagel breakfast costs less than $2. What does your breakfast cost?”

Excellent question. First, let me note that I, too, get a Social Security check and a pension check each month. Now, let’s deal with the breakfast: The Greek yogurt cost $1 for the cup, so that’s already half your cost, Marshall. But all the other ingredients are bought in more than single-serving sizes — bananas at 59 cents a pound; grapes were on sale at $1.69 a pound; a one-pound bag of ground flaxseed meal (free of everything and delicious) cost $14. The trail mix and granola are pricey at $4.99 and $5.99 a bag, respectively. But, like the flax seed, they provide the healthful ingredients for many breakfasts. It all depends on how hungry you are.

Ordering this delicious breakfast (which can be changed for taste and variety reasons) — if you could find a restaurant offering it — would absolutely be expensive. We call it our $8.50 breakfast, but the cost is probably just a little more than the $2 bagel-and-V-8 breakfast. There is no comparison, however, in the health benefits. That’s what gets missed in the discussion about the cost of healthful foods.

Eating all that salt, sugar, chemicals, preservatives and other additives has made billions of dollars for those food/chemical corporations, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and fast-food companies while producing millions of overweight, out-of-shape Americans. Recent surveys show that, as a people, we are fatter and less fit. Also, prone to diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. But if we chose to spend money on more healthful foods to begin with, that would cut down on doctor visits, insurance costs and the need for so many drugs to keep from getting seriously ill, never mind staying healthy.

Again, it’s a choice. Tweaking an unhealthy diet is not enough. It seems to me that the only way to bring down the cost of eating healthy is for enough people to demand better choices from the major suppliers of food and more government support for providers of healthful food. (A calorie-counting campaign by the First Lady is not enough.) Some of this pressure, largely through social media sites, is already being felt by the food giants, but much more needs to be done.

Meanwhile, here’s a brief look at the health benefits of that breakfast of champions of mine:

  • Greek yogurt: Go for low-sugar and low-fat. Loaded with protein, calcium, and probiotic cultures. Also, potassium and Vitamins B6 and B12. Low in calories, lactose, carbohydrates and sodium. Also, it’s creamy and tastes great.
  • Bananas: Have no fat, cholesterol or sodium. They do have potassium, Vitamin C, fiber and Vitamin B6. Thought to be good for, among other things, heart health and regularity. Also contain tryptophan, which helps boost memory.
  • Red globe grapes with seeds: No fat or cholesterol. Contains resveratrol and flavonoids and antioxidants. Helps with weight loss, improves blood flow (helping protect against heart attack and high blood pressure) and may help fight Alzheimer’s. Promotes skin and hair health, helps fight aging and kidney disorders.
  • Milled flaxseed: Loaded with lignans, which provide the antioxidant benefits of fighting cardiovascular disease. Also loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, which promote healthy nerve function and Vitamin B1, or thiamin, which boosts energy. Great source of fiber and may help reduce hot flashes in menopausal women.
  • Trail mix: Almonds and pistachios promote heart health and good cholesterol levels. Source of protein, magnesium, calcium, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, iron, fiber. Cranberries fight urinary tract infection and can help decrease blood pressure. Raisins help fight constipation, boost energy and promote mouth and bone health. Also are anti-inflammatory. Cherries help fight arthritis and inflammatory conditions and help lower blood sugar.
  • Chocolate granola: The oats help lower cholesterol and promote intestinal health. Plenty of fiber. Don’t overdo the chocolate chips and enjoy the taste.

That’s all for now. I’m getting hungry. Meanwhile, for the skeptics and those wondering about the cost, why not give it a try? Use your own combinations of ingredients and let me know what you think. It couldn’t hurt and you might be pleasantly surprised at your choice.

bob@zestoforange.com

 

 

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

 

 

 

John Roberts, Unlikely Hero of the Left

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Chief Justice John Roberts

By Bob Gaydos

So, John Roberts, hero of the left wing and savior of Obamacare. Who wuddda thunk it?

Actually, the chief justice’s law school professor, for one. Laurence Tribe, who taught Roberts as well as President Barack Obama at Harvard Law School, opined on Tuesday, two days before the historic Supreme Court ruling was revealed, that he felt Roberts would vote to uphold the law, as much to reinforce the image of the court as an apolitical neutral umpire as to rule on the law’s constitutionality.

In an interview on MSNBC, Tribe said, “I think that the chief justice is likely to be concerned about the place of the court in history and is not likely to want the court to continue to be as deeply and politically divided. Doesn’t mean he will depart from his philosophy. You can be deeply conservative and believe the affordable care act is completely consistent with the United States Constitution.”

Which is pretty much what Roberts did, siding with the four so-called liberal justices to preserve the major legislative victory of Obama‘s presidency. Of course, the airwaves and the blogosphere exploded Thursday as anyone with a law degree and an opinion on the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act and a means of transmitting that opinion to a large audience explained why Roberts did what he did. Or, as many Republican politicians did, to call Roberts a traitor to their cause. Safe to say, many of the latter group aren’t too concerned with the nuances of judicial restraint and co-equal sharing of power among three branches of government.

I don’t have a law degree and I don’t belong to any political party, but, hey, I‘ve got a blog, too. And without pretending to read Roberts’ mind, some things seem obvious in the wake of this ruling:

  • Obama got a huge boost in his re-election campaign, since repealing the health care act as unconstitutional was all Republicans have talked about for months. Case closed. It’s constitutional. Spin it any way you want, the president wins this one.
  • Republicans are now going to have to find an actual plan to replace Obama’s if they want to continue their argument. House Speaker John Boehner seems not to care about that. All he keeps talking about is repealing the act, which the Senate will never do. Plus, with so many provisions in it that Americans like (no refusal for pre-existing conditions, kids on parents‘ plan until age 26), that will not be easy for any Congress.
  • Mitt Romney, who actually has talked about replacing the health care act after he repeals it as president, seems to be stuck with offering up his own plan, which he introduced as governor of Massachusetts. That plan, of course, is what Obama’s plan and an initial conservative plan, was modeled on. So Romney continues to talk in circles of fog and disingenuousness.
  • Roberts obviously possesses a chief justice’s concern for the way his court is viewed. He does not, for example, think justices should be offering strong political views on issues that are not contained in the case on which they are ruling. (Justice Antonin Scalia, who acts as if his life term gives him the right to pontificate and criticize — as he recently did on Obama’s order sparing tens of thousands of young immigrants from deportation — obviously doesn’t get the neutral umpire view.) Roberts both criticized the Obama health plan (an overreaching regulation of commerce by requiring insurance) and ruled on its constitutionality — it’s a legitimate tax, even though Democrats didn’t have the guts to call it that.
  • By stressing that the court’s role is not to judge the law, but to decide if it can be upheld and, if so, to do so, Roberts demonstrated control of his court and reassured some Americans who have had an increasingly dim view of it since Bush v. Gore. It falls to Congress the power to pass laws, he reminds us, whether they seem wise or not. This is a definition of judicial restraint.
  • Spinning the 5-4 ruling as a conservative victory for the future because Congress is warned off trying to expand use of the commerce clause to regulate behavior and Republicans will be energized to actually replace the Obama health plan with one of their own doesn’t come close to the overwhelming victory it gives an incumbent president seeking reelection right now. If I’m a politician, I take that trade anytime.

So, Chief Justice John Roberts, intentionally or not, hero of the left wing.

 bob@zestoforange.com