Saturday, August 6, 2011

What's Small and Green and Isn't a Leprechaun?

181.8 lbs. It’s not 177 lbs., but I’ll take it.

So yesterday, Friday, August 5, 2011, I listened to my own advice and pushed past a couple of my own “limits.”

Limit One Busted:

I completed 1 hour on the Rotating Staircase of Death. 140 floors. This is higher than the Empire State Building and higher than the late World Trade Center. I did it at a slow pace but I did it (It helps that the built in TV was showing my favorite “Law & Order” episode, the one where Lennie and Ed end up investigating 4 murders and a kidnapping in one day. It sounds kind of dark and heavy, but it’s actually pretty funny. I’ve decided that Law & Order reruns are to my age group what “Matlock” and “Murder She Wrote” are to the age group 15 to 20 years older than me). I was going to follow it up with an hour on the elliptical or the treadmill, but fell the call of duty (files to be reviewed), not to mention a Red Sox game (playing the Yankees aka the Forces of Darkness aka the Pinstriped Damned) in Fenway to hear. The good guys lost (they won today in splendid form. Jacoby Ellsbury is such a nice boy, 6 RBIs) but there’s an interesting kind of side note here.

Shaw’s supermarket chain of New England is a big sponsor of Red Sox radio coverage and Joe Castiglione, the Red Sox color commentator, is an enthusiastic Shaw’s shopper. You don’t need to get the weekly circular from the newspaper; Joe almost tells you what the specials are. Last night, Joe and his partner, Dave O’Brien, had the chief nutritionist (I couldn’t swear as to her title, but she knew what she was talking about) for Shaws as a guest in the booth.  Shaws just introduced a new program called Nutrition IQ to help shoppers make better, more informed choices about the foods they buy. Color coding not only tells you what the nutrients are, but what they do for your body. Granted, most people will just stare blankly at the signs or ignore them so completely that they won’t even register on their consciousness, but if you’re reading this , the chances are good that you, too would think this is a great idea. The example she gave was bananas. Now, people tell you it’s good to eat bananas because they have potassium and we need potassium. Fine. WHY do we need potassium? (And you smart alecks who have studied organic chemistry or bio-chemistry or just think you’re Hermione Granger, keep your hands down. It’s a rhetorical question, anyway). Do we just go forward in life blindly eating bananas (or oranges or parsley) for the potassium without questioning WHY we should have potassium? Hell, no! We are independent thinkers! Well, my friends, potassium is good for us because it helps control blood pressure. It’s an electrolyte and you know when you get muscle cramps? Potassium helps ease those suckers (Please note: bananas do not help with menstrual cramps unless they are first blended with a lot of rum. Quite a lot). According to the information I got from the radio last night, the sign next to the bananas will not only tell you that they’re a good source of potassium, but also that potassium regulates your blood pressure. Here’s a link for more information on the program:

I know I repeat myself, but the primary purpose of food is to provide the nutrients we need to keep our bodies functioning properly. The way I look at this is that a pound of tomatoes is a lot cheaper than a month’s supply of Lipitor or Crestor or Plavix or _______ med and you don’t need a prescription for them. Here you’re going to get the information at the source.

The first, last and only person you can ever really count on to have your best interests at heart and take care of you is yourself. I despise the term but “self-parenting” applies.  As the grown-up in the relationship, it’s necessary for you to make the right decisions and enforce them. Personally, I find it a lot easier to not only make the right choice, but to stick to it if I have all the information I need to make a sound decision. Here’s to hoping that Nutrition IQ spreads to Krogers, Safeway and Albertsons (aka Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons, their stage names in Southern California). The ancient knight in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (“We named the dog Indiana”) said, “You have chosen wisely.” That dude was 619 years old, so he may have been making good use of Nutrition IQ.

Limit Two, Not So Much Busted as Well…

As part of the “eat healthier” quest, which includes making plant matter the main source of food (I am a dedicated carnivore. My maximum is 3 days without meat before something dark and primitive at the back of my head says, “Get me prime rib and get it NOW.”) , I picked up the Vegetable Trio at Trader Joe’s the other day. It consists of sugar snap peas, asparagus and (gulp) Brussels sprouts. The sign under the bags at TJ’s  promised me “nuttiness and sweetness in a delightful blend”(You know, I’ve heard a lot of adjectives used to describe Brussels sprouts. “Delightful” has never been one of them). Asparagus has never been anywhere near the top of my vegetable list, either. In fact, its standing in my world is similar to my standing when graduating law school: bottom 20%. It’s down there with Brussels sprouts. Our dog, Max, was a bigger fan of asparagus than I was. However, I do like peas. A lot. One out of three. In baseball, a .333 batting average is a league leader. I know that Brussels sprouts are loaded with nutrition:

Asparagus has anti-cancer benefits, detoxifies the body, contains folate, blah, blah, blah.

I was not about to be intimidated by a miniature cabbage and its sidekick, no matter how evil. I followed the directions on the bag (cut corner, throw in microwave and steam), got the butter (LIGHT butter, 60 calories per tablespoon. Don’t have a cow) and black pepper (PLENTY of black pepper) standing at the ready and poured out a bowl. I dug up a bite containing the dreaded greens.

I lived. There actually WAS a nuttiness to the asparagus (which I had NEVER tasted growing up. What the hell?) and the peas were great. The Brussels sprouts, well…

Here’s a recommendation for a great book: “Good Omens” by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. The premise is that the Anti-Christ gets misplaced at birth and grows up as a normal kid. It’s hilarious, trust me.  Even if you read it 5 times like I have; it’s still funny as hell each time. You will learn that all cassette tapes (okay, so it’s a wee bit dated) left in a car’s tape deck will turn into “Queen’s Greatest Hits.” One of the minor characters is a British psychic who, when she has clients coming in for a reading, will put a pot of Brussels sprouts on the stove to boil, thereby creating a comforting, homey atmosphere that puts British people at ease.

My family hasn’t been British for almost 400 years.

 Nevertheless, because they are good for me, I ate the Brussels sprouts. I still don’t like them: it’s a texture thing and it’s the same for collard greens as far as I’m concerned: I find myself chewing them for what seems like hours before they’re ready to swallow. They’re tougher than Boston hockey players (or disappointed Canucks fans). I hear people exclaiming over their “sweetness” if roasted or deep-fried or whatever. Because I want the nutritional benefits, I will find a way to make peace with them.

The “reward” for these feats was the lower number on the scale this morning. Before I dug in on my workload today, I hit the gym for weight training. I am happy to report that I have completed 4 of the required 6 weeks to qualify for the President’s Active Lifestyle Award and have a good start for Week 5. Half hour per day, 5 days per week, 6 out of 8 weeks during this summer. I have been wearing my unearthed “smaller person” jeans regularly (Yea!) and I find I’m getting back on track as far as motivation (that’s what boosting dopamine and serotonin levels in the head will do for you). Diet-wise (as in nutrition, not calorie restriction, although more mindful eating habits, portion control and better food choices certainly play a part), things are getting much better.

I will succeed. I just wish Brussels sprouts weren’t such a good idea.


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