Saturday, September 24, 2016

"Got to Keep On Walkin'...."

I’ve always enjoyed going for a walk, but never really saw it as a exercise.  It’s worked to clear my head, diffuse my anger, and give me a healthy glow, but over the years it’s been kind of an add on to my “real” workouts.

But this spring, my husband and I moved out of our house in the suburbs to an area of the city that is infinitely walkable, and I feel healthier now than I have in years.

I’ve always liked exploring when I’m visiting a new city. After visiting Chicago, New York, or even cities out of the country, I’d always expect to gain weight from all of the foods that I try. But, because of all the walking, I usually come out even when I get home.I never made the connection that maybe it’s because I was walking so much !

I’ve already written about my Fitbit obsession, and this move has taken it to a new level. The move itself involved cleaning, packing, running bags of clothing to donate and lots of stairs. I thought I’d hit my highest step goal then.

However, moving day brought a lot of surprises. My storage closets are on the other side of my building, as is the trash bin, so it’s quite a few steps back and forth just for that.  

And once we are home, we don’t have to drive to all of the places I used to go daily. The grocery store, pharmacy, restaurants, bars and shops are all walkable. I now justify getting a Jeni’s ice cream cone by the fact that it’s 1,000 steps each way walking , so I must burn off at least some of the calories!


The best part is that we live one block from Forest Park in St Louis. I had been to the park before and driven by many times. I had driven to it’s museums, zoo, and theaters, and went to specific events, but I had never actually walked through the amazing landscape and pathways!

And as much as I still love my gym workouts, the health benefits of walking are many! Harvard researchers note :

It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes. Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were cut in half.

It helps tame a sweet tooth. A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research confirms that walking can reduce cravings and intake of a variety of sugary snacks.


It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.

It eases joint pain. Several studies have found that walking    reduces arthritis-related pain, and that walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.

It boosts immune function. Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.


So grab your fitness tracker, lace up your shoes and get out there. No equipment needed. Even a daily walk around the block can boost your health and clear your head, so why not give it a try?

"Got to Keep On Walkin'...."

I’ve always enjoyed going for a walk, but never really saw it as a exercise.  It’s worked to clear my head, diffuse my anger, and give me a healthy glow, but over the years it’s been kind of an add on to my “real” workouts.

But this spring, my husband and I moved out of our house in the suburbs to an area of the city that is infinitely walkable, and I feel healthier now than I have in years.

I’ve always liked exploring when I’m visiting a new city. After visiting Chicago, New York, or even cities out of the country, I’d always expect to gain weight from all of the foods that I try. But, because of all the walking, I usually come out even when I get home.I never made the connection that maybe it’s because I was walking so much !

I’ve already written about my Fitbit obsession, and this move has taken it to a new level. The move itself involved cleaning, packing, running bags of clothing to donate and lots of stairs. I thought I’d hit my highest step goal then.

However, moving day brought a lot of surprises. My storage closets are on the other side of my building, as is the trash bin, so it’s quite a few steps back and forth just for that.  

And once we are home, we don’t have to drive to all of the places I used to go daily. The grocery store, pharmacy, restaurants, bars and shops are all walkable. I now justify getting a Jeni’s ice cream cone by the fact that it’s 1,000 steps each way walking , so I must burn off at least some of the calories!


The best part is that we live one block from Forest Park in St Louis. I had been to the park before and driven by many times. I had driven to it’s museums, zoo, and theaters, and went to specific events, but I had never actually walked through the amazing landscape and pathways!

And as much as I still love my gym workouts, the health benefits of walking are many! Harvard researchers note :

It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes. Harvard researchers looked at 32 obesity-promoting genes in over 12,000 people to determine how much these genes actually contribute to body weight. They then discovered that, among the study participants who walked briskly for about an hour a day, the effects of those genes were cut in half.

It helps tame a sweet tooth. A pair of studies from the University of Exeter found that a 15-minute walk can curb cravings for chocolate and even reduce the amount of chocolate you eat in stressful situations. And the latest research confirms that walking can reduce cravings and intake of a variety of sugary snacks.


It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer. But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.

It eases joint pain. Several studies have found that walking    reduces arthritis-related pain, and that walking five to six miles a week can even prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. Walking protects the joints — especially the knees and hips, which are most susceptible to osteoarthritis — by lubricating them and strengthening the muscles that support them.

It boosts immune function. Walking can help protect you during cold and flu season. A study of over 1,000 men and women found that those who walked at least 20 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week, had 43% fewer sick days than those who exercised once a week or less. And if they did get sick, it was for a shorter duration, and their symptoms were milder.


So grab your fitness tracker, lace up your shoes and get out there. No equipment needed. Even a daily walk around the block can boost your health and clear your head, so why not give it a try?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Blue (Apron) is the New Black..."

My Spinach and Butternut Squash Pizza
Cooking is something that I am learning to enjoy. However, I like to get things done quickly, so I’m impatient with recipes that require any more work than grilling or roasting. I also tend to stick with salt and pepper and one or two “go to” herbs for seasoning. Rarely do I go outside of my comfort zone any time besides a holiday meal.

When I started reading about some of the subscription meal prep delivery companies, I was curious. Was it worth the money? Would I be able to make the recipes? Would I like the food?  I finally settled on Blue Apron, and tried some of their meals last week.

According to a 2014 article in Forbes Magazine, Blue Apron was founded in 2012 by Matt Salzberg, a Harvard M.B.A. with venture capital experience, and Ilia Papas, an engineer and former consultant, and chef Matt Wadiak. The company creates meal kits: precisely portioned ingredients and specific instructions needed to cook exactly three dinners a week and sold on a subscription basis.

Portioned ingredients
Blue Apron’s approach, the meal kit, offers the convenience of delivery while keeping home cooks in the kitchen. The precisely portioned dinners minimize waste and allow consumers to try ingredients they might not otherwise buy, at a price they can afford–about $10 per meal per person.

Originally named Part & Parsley, Chef Wadiak insisted that the new name be based on the traditional garb worn by French chefs in training: blue aprons.  He wants home cooks to learn new techniques and get comfortable with “different cultivars.”

I tried two recipe kits that served four people, and one kit that served two. (The kit for two, Asian Cod, belonged to my daughter who does NOT like fish). They contained all the ingredients needed to cook the meals, complete with recipes and step-by-step photos.

The meals came neatly packaged in a cardboard box lined with ice packs to keep the contents fresh for a few hours. The meats, fish and chicken were vacuum-sealed, which gave me an extra week or two to use them, just in case I couldn’t be home to cook one of the nights.

Each recipe was well explained and included all ingredients needed, so making dinner was almost as easy as ordering carry-out, without the guilt.
The photos included with the recipes showed the major steps in the process with instructions below the picture of how to prep and cook all the ingredients.


They post the upcoming two week's menus on the site, so you have the opportunity to make sure the menu looks good before ordering. Nutritionally balanced, each meal comes out to around 650-700 calories per person. In a restaurant, you have no idea how much oil, butter, salt or other secret calories are going into your meal, so you definitely have more control.

Although Blue Apron is a subscription service, you can opt out of any week or skip a few weeks depending on your food preferences or eating plans.

And even if you don’t order one week, the recipes are free to anyone browsing Blue Apron's website and aren't restricted to paying customers. So you could potentially pick up the necessary ingredients at your grocery store (But that kind of defeats the purpose of having everything you need right at your fingertips).

So my take on the meal kits:

Packaging: I’m obsessed with food freshness and tend to buy the food I’m going to cook that same day, so I was a little wary of the “packaged” produce and proteins, but I was pleasantly surprised. The kale and spinach were bagged, but still tasted delicious. The herbs were plentiful and free of any spots. Vacuum sealing the proteins made them taste like I had just purchased them at the store and the quality of the cheeses, and condiments was superb.

Variety: You can list your preferences and dislikes when you sign up, so they won’t send you something you are allergic to or don’t eat. But, there are six choices for three meals and I don’t think you can pick the exact ones you want delivered.
The ingredient variety was outstanding though. I used spices, marinades, herbs and veggies that I haven’t cooked with or tried before. Tamarind on the cod, jasmine rice, kale in a casserole and squash and spinach on a pizza; I never would have considered those combinations.
Cod with tamarind over jasmine rice


Convenience: Delivered to my front door, everything I needed, and exact instructions. What could be better?

Taste: Ok, this is the most important and the meals didn’t disappoint. Blue Apron uses high quality ingredients and the flavor combinations are outstanding. I never would have thought to mix honey, ricotta cheese and black pepper and dollop it onto a hot pizza, but the flavor was incredible.
Lime zest in jasmine rice, freshly grated white cheddar and Amish chicken in a casserole. Yum!!
It’s really like going to a new trendy restaurant in your own kitchen.

Chicken and Kale Casserole with White Cheddar 
Will I subscribe to the meals? I’m pretty sure I will try a week of meals from time to time. I’d be more likely to subscribe if I could choose the exact meals I wanted delivered from the week’s menu.
If you are looking to cook more at home in the new year, or, like my friend Sarah, who cooks like Martha Stewart, but is tired of planning and shopping for meals. Or, just looking for more interesting ingredients,  check out their website, www.blueapron.com  for information and sign up for their emails to get the weekly recipes and delivery choices.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"Take Two Cups and Call Me in the Morning..."

Happy National Coffee Day!

 For years my motto has been “Who needs sleep when you’ve got coffee?” People warned me of the perils of caffeine. They told me my moods, my heart and my outlook on life would suffer from drinking the wicked brew. Guess what? Now doctors are saying that coffee is actually BENEFICIAL to our health! So “nyah na nyah” to all the naysayers over the years; If you wait long enough, some study will prove true what you’ve known all along!

Stanley Segall, Ph.D., professor emeritus of nutrition and food sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia has revealed that caffeine provides “a number of beneficial effects on a laundry list of conditions”. Caffeine can increase both mental focus and alertness, and improve memory. It can cure a headache, and even help guard against diseases that cause cognitive decline.


The researchers have even found that a blast of caffeine can temporarily enhance athletic performance, especially when it comes to stamina and endurance by keeping muscle and heart rate-stimulating compounds active longer. Along with all of this, a 2007 University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) study reported that caffeine can also reduce muscle pain.

Of course this doesn’t mean you can buzz through 2 or 3 pots on a daily basis. Stick with a limit of 300 milligrams of caffeine per day. An 8-ounce serving of coffee contains about 150 mg of caffeine, while the same size serving of tea has 40 to 120 mg. Cola has about 50 mg, and a 1 and 1/2-ounce serving of dark chocolate has 31 mg.


So don’t feel guilty drinking that first, second, or even third cup of coffee this morning. 
After all, it’s medicinal, right?

Monday, August 3, 2015

"Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, Knees and Toes..."

   
There’s always something new and different to talk about in the fitness and nutrition world, but none of it is any good when you’re in pain.

   We all experience a sore shoulder, tight hips, heel pain or a strained neck now and then, but when the pain becomes so severe that it keeps you from functioning normally on a day-to-day basis, it’s time to do something about it.

   My husband has complained of knee pain since I first met him over 37 years ago. He was an avid snow skier, water skier, and tennis player in his 20s and 30s. Although he lost over 120 pounds seven years ago, he carried that extra weight and extra pressure on his knees for years. Since then, between lifting weights and spinning classes, he finally wore his knees down.
He’s been seeing an orthopedic doctor for years. He tried cortisone shots, physical therapy, and a number of other fixes. They had talked knee replacement and the doctor said to him “You’ll know when. You’ll tell me.”

   So when this last episode hit, a torn ACL and pain so bad, he couldn’t even sit in the back seat of a car with his knee bent, he knew it was time.
I was a little unnerved by the fact that he was having a bi-lateral total knee replacement. (He said he was only going to go through the rehab once) Every time he went for an appointment, the doctors and therapists would say, “Wow, that’s ambitious.” And the thought of him not being able to walk for an extended period of time really worried me.

   But, three weeks ago, he had the surgery. And the whole process has brought me back to the benefits of working out and keeping our bodies strong.
Ready for surgery with his purple socks!

    His recovery process actually began weeks before he even had the surgery. The physical therapists put him on an exercise regimen to strengthen his leg muscles and upper body muscles, so he could walk and get himself in and out of chairs following the surgery. Tricep and shoulder exercises to push off into a standing position. and exercises to strengthen the quads and hamstrings to support the new knees as they healed; all to prepare for what was to come.

   I can’t say enough about the surgeon, Dr. Donald Bassman, and the staff at Missouri Baptist Hospital.They kept me informed throughout the surgery with a text message beeper. I even knew when the right knee was finished and when they started on the left knee. (My husband must have enjoyed the anesthesia because apparently, when he came out of it, he thought he was on top of a mountain looking down at a sea of Minions)

   
Ice Therapy machine
During his time in the hospital section, they showed me how to use the ice therapy machines and the CPM (Constant Passive Motion) machine that he’d be using at home. They had him standing up the first day and walking with a walker the next day. By the third day, they were able to move him to the Acute Rehab wing of MO Bap and thus began the intense, accelerated rehab training to total recovery.

   
Sock puller. hook and grabber
Considering that his legs had been cut, bruised, rotated and bent in the surgery, he was taking pain pills, and his endurance was zapped, it was amazing what they had him doing. We take the daily functions in life for granted, but because he still was unable to stand or bend with full balance and flexibility, he had to learn new techniques and use new tools even for getting dressed. They showed him how to use the long handled shoehorn and shower brush, a “grabber” and hook, even a sock puller. That in itself was exhausting, but then he spent 3-4 hours each day working with the physical therapists.

   The exercises worked on bending and stretching his legs and climbing stairs. They had him walking for long periods of time and doing strengthening exercises. He’s pretty competitive, so they would challenge him and he’d keep pushing.

   I was most impressed with the patience the physical therapists have. Even a bend of 2 degrees more than the one before, or a small one inch lift of the leg made a huge difference. Imagine pushing your workout to its limits for that extended period of time. Needless to say, he was wiped out after the tough sessions.


   The physical and occupational therapists, nurses, aides, food service and housekeeping people were all incredibly kind and caring. When he was released to come home, I was confident he would be able to maneuver the house and the stairs and, along with out-patient therapy, continue with the rehab training they had given him.

   He’s been home over a week now and I’ve seen him bring that intensity to recover home with him. I know he is in a lot of pain, but he pushes through the workouts they gave him. I see him get stronger every day, and I know his pre-surgery workouts have helped accelerate the healing.

   His out patient physical therapist, Marysa has worked with him before and she challenges him to work harder in every session. I’m just amazed at the progress he has made. If someone who just had knee surgery can work that hard to get stronger, there’s no reason why a healthy adult can’t get in a workout a few days a week.
Going easy on him to start before she works him to exhaustion!


   He’s looking forward to the eventual outcome of being able to live a pain-free lifestyle. I’m pushing for him to be able to dance with me at the upcoming weddings we’re going to this winter. (I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to keep up with me, but I know he’ll try, lol!)