Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Does 2014 Make You Look Fat?


Ignore negativity, and reject the pressure to conform.
    Let's begin with the premise that all body types have their own special attractiveness, and that each is potentially healthy. We've got to stop trying to jam ourselves into shapes that are not in our genes. But let's face it: Most of us are far from optimally healthy. This year, maybe your resolution to shape up will stick!
    Every year about this time, my previous posts on exercise, weight-training and health in general go viral for a few weeks. Then, interest dies down, and I guess people go back to their cheese-pizza, couch-potato, "fat-pants" lifestyles. I fear that most of us don't really give the idea of "a new Me" a chance. We hurl all our fantasies about a fit body and wholesome lifestyle out the window, and say, "Maybe next year."
    I wish I could convey to you how rewarding this process can be. If you regard it as a huge, exhausting, multifaceted overhaul, of course you'll retreat back into your cozy status quo. But if you begin every day to make lovely new choices from one moment to the next, you will sense the benefits immediately. Eat a banana, walk around the block, do some light stretching while you're watching TV. Pleasure will befall you.

    It seems that we are constantly being urged to love ourselves. For a number of complicated reasons, I haven't been able to accomplish this. But I do love my body, which somehow feels separate from loving myself as a person. 
    We should love our bodies, no matter what condition they're in. Feel compassion for what you've put your body through. Feel gratitude that it continues its struggle to serve you and protect you and enable you to do what needs to be done. It is a magnificent apparatus. When I'm in bed, I hug myself, and say, "Thanks!"
    I began to love, admire and respect my body in the 1970s, when I embarked upon my study of nutrition and physiology. Up until that time, as a 21-year-old who had just moved to New York, and ate a lot of garbage, and didn't exercise at all, I didn't give much thought to my body. As long as I looked good ("summon the hair, makeup and wardrobe people!") I was untroubled.
     But my reading quickly converted me to a new way of thinking, and it has served me very well in the ensuing 45 years.
    I grew up in Salt Lake City, where the Mormons often use the phrase, "Your body is a temple." What the hell did they mean?
    Now I was beginning to understand. Our bodies are incredible  creations. I don't believe in God, but whoever designed this masterpiece of flesh and bone was quite a genius. We really should treat it as a temple, with respect and reverence.
    Instead, most of us treat it as a garbage dump.
     Right away, I stopped eating meat (if you don't want to do this, don't let it deter you from all the other measures you can take) (although, you really will feel cleaner and more humane if you do!). I stopped eating sugar. I switched to nonfat milk, and later omitted eggs and dairy from my diet entirely. I love unsweetened chocolate soy milk on my oatmeal, and I drink my strong coffee (which is a health food in itself) black. (Soy is an excellent source of protein and isoflavones. Tofu is a great favorite of mine, as are tempeh and TVP, which is roasted, defatted soy granules that add a chewy texture and nutty flavor to any soup or stew. Speaking of nutty, soy nuts are great. And real nuts are great, but I have trouble eating "just a little handful," which is what's recommended. I'd rather eat a whole can in one night and not have any more for a week.)
    I had stopped eating white flour and saturated fats while I was still living at home, when my mother discovered olive oil and the world of whole grains. I began drinking eight glasses of water a day. Nurses still comment on how "well-hydrated" my skin is. 
     As I learned more about the nutritional benefits of foods, I threw all the unwholesome and fattening stuff out. No chips or crackers, no chocolate cheesecake, no candy, no cheese, no temptations.
    I stocked my kitchen with fresh produce, all kinds of dried beans, brown rice (and spelt and kamut) and other interesting grains such as amaranth, couscous, buckwheat groats, barley and millet. Whole wheat pasta is delicious. The rotini feels so good, wiggling around in your mouth. I serve it with tomato sauce, plus some kind of bean -- garbanzo, for example -- and greens.

    Greens are one of the most spectacular foods on Earth. They are so cleansing! I add them to every dinner. You can easily grow a huge crop of kale, spinach, chard, bok choy, collards, arugula and mustard, beet and turnip greens in your garden that will keep growing back all summer, and give you plenty to blanch and freeze for the winter. Feel their spirit inside you! They do have spirits!
Anja Langer is one of my fitness heroes.
    If you don't like gardening, buy frozen spinach and whatever other greens you can find. We enjoy the turnip greens -- nice tang. Even canned greens aren't bad, if you dump them into a pot of beans, onions, peppers, sliced carrots, cabbage, and tomatoes. Experiment with spices. I never use recipes -- I just let the spirit guide me as I throw turmeric, cumin, coriander, curry, fennel, allspice, nutmeg, cayenne, caraway, mustard seed, whatever, in there. If I'm doing a curry sort of thing, I use allspice, nutmeg, even cinnamon and raisins, as well as curry powder and turmeric (that "super food" which wards off dementia. Cinnamon regulates your blood sugar. Black pepper helps release the antioxidant properties in all your other spices). Yams add a great sweetness and body to the broth. Soy sauce enriches the broth immeasurably. Serve over brown basmati rice, or a whole grain, with a salad, and you're set.
     Sweet potatoes (usually labeled as yams) are another spectacularly nutritious food. Forget about the maple syrup and marshmallows, for god's sake. They are as good as any dessert, without any meddling from us! They are so nutritious that they practically knock you over with their power. They are delicious baked, but I don't like to use the oven, so I slice them thinly and add them to practically everything.
    As you've probably heard ad nauseam, the cruciferous vegetables are essential to a good diet. They boost your immune system robustly, and appear to help prevent several cancers. I have cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and/or kale every day. You need lots of onions and garlic, too. Just ask Oz -- he does get a few things right. 
     No more sodas for me, diet or not. I am suspicious of artificial sweetener. So I buy club soda -- I love that refreshing fizz -- and squeeze some lemon or lime into it. It's quite classy, I think, kind of like a cocktail, which I used to have quite a few of, every day. It's pure: You're not putting any chemicals into your body.
    If you have resolved to make 2014 the year that you get healthy, I urge you to read about nutrition. When you understand what various wholesome ingredients do once they're in your body, you will be much more motivated to eat them. You'll be able to feel their forceful good works shooting through you.
    Visualize. This strategy has helped me to accomplish so many things in my life, including getting fit, and staying fit. When you are eating a big salad of leafy greens, grated carrots and beets, cabbage, red onions, broccoli florets and bell peppers -- tossed with red-wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper -- just imagine the majestic rainbow of vitality that is unfolding inside you

         With each bite, you are delivering precious vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and high-quality calories to your faithful digestive system. Yum! (Plus: you can eat a huge amount, and LOSE weight.) As this process proceeds, your body will be flooded with the wonders of Nature. Every part of you will be rejoicing! Over time, these benefits will migrate to your skin, hair and nails as well. You'll be fabulous through and through.

     VISUALIZE. When you walk into the grocery store, head straight for the produce section. It's a wonderland. Your body will be a wonderland, to use John Mayer's terminology, if you infuse your system with all of those celebratory colors, shapes and textures. Can you see the beauty? Can you imagine what it must do for every particle of your being? These foods are alive. They give life. I think mangoes are the most magical fruit there is (the flavor of Heaven, if there were a heaven), but I love them all. Kiwis are so cute. Peaches, pineapple, papayas and berries make me swoon. But if all I can afford is apples, bananas and oranges or grapefruit, I'm satisfied. I eat one of each every day.
    Most of what you will find if you roam the other aisles seems expressly designed to kill you. I'm serious. All those prepared foods, packaged foods, snack foods, even most of the cereals, are appalling (I buy plain rolled oats, Grape Nuts and shredded wheat -- pure grain without all that crap). I think the nation's food executives should be criminally charged for creating and stoking the mass addiction to sugar, salt and fat. It's a disgrace. It is literally murder.
     A documentary, "Fed Up," which will premiere at Sundance this month, compares food conglomerates like Kraft, Coca-Cola and Kellogg to the tobacco companies that lied to consumers about the dangers of smoking. It urges to consumers to agitate against this conspiracy of manipulation, torture and death that medicates citizens to opt out of democratic society with its implicit message: "Just Sit There. Now that the pizza's gone, open a bag of chips, dude. Don't they feel great, going down the hatch? I bet you can't have just one!"
     I found that once I understood food and nutrition, I lost interest in garbage food. That German Chocolate cake looked like poison. "Just have a little piece!" I don't want even a little bite! I don't want to pollute the fresh, clear river of Health that is running through me. Unwholesome food is pollution. Stop polluting your temple, ladies!

    Are you ready to get your asses in gear? It is so hard -- I remember it well -- to get started. I was just sick about the specter of having to exercise, but I was also sick about being flabby and pot-bellied. I wanted a hard, tight body with some cute muscles. I wanted beautiful posture. Once I got started, there was no stopping me. And the endurance and self-esteem you'll get from fitness will enhance every aspect of your life.
Learn about your anatomy, and you'll enjoy it more.
    Everyone says they don't have time to exercise. You do. If you make it a priority -- if you schedule it, and remain staunch -- you'll find that everything else still gets done. As a matter of fact, I found that I got my various "chores" done much more quickly and efficiently after a workout. I walked into the house, threw in a load of laundry, started something going on the stove, and then became a vacuuming maniac. When you make something a requirement, everything else falls into place. When I was working full-time at the newspaper (starting time: 6:30 a.m.), I jogged to work and back.

But first, I stretched, to get in the mood.
    I used to waste so much time agonizing about exercise. Could I force myself to do it? Did I really have to do it? Did I truly give a damn? Once I finally got myself out there, I could already have done 10 miles. But within minutes, I was "in the zone," as my body shifted into "Just Do It" mode.
    I prefer to exercise alone, but I think it helps most people to have a "buddy." You feel obligated to show up. And less self-conscious. Pretty soon, you won't feel self-conscious, if you ever did. Nobody's noticing. If they are, they're saying "good for her!"
    As my previous posts, below, describe in detail, you need to make an initial push that will be hard and possibly make you feel like hell. If you get sore, consider it a badge of honor: It means you've worked hard enough to ignite your muscle-building mechanism.
This feels so good, you won't believe it.
This hurts so good, if you can stand it.
    After a brief initiation period, the magic kicks in: the magic of moving, of muscles warming and building, the magic of striding along to music and realizing that this is how your body is supposed to feel. Energized, strong, competent, jazzy, centered.

Anja teaches you that it's within your reach.
    Endorphins are quite magical. These neurotransmitters are produced in a variety of situations, exercise included, and are considered to be opioids, in that they create a sense of well-being -- even exhilaration. You may have heard the term "runner's high." It is endorphins released by the pituitary gland that bring forth this shimmery, glowing sphere of pleasure. Even a nice session of stretching will produce it. You'll get an attitude readjustment and a body realignment at the same time. An excellent adventure!
    When you give your body what it was meant to have, you will begin to feel this shimmer.
Feel the sparkle in every pore!
      I go jogging in the dark, and head home as dawn is breaking. I am in another world during that time. There is a sensation that this interlude -- this time out here, in nature, paced by music I love -- is the part of my day that will bring real grace to the rest of my day. The feeling grows and spreads and gives me optimism. I feel that I can cope with what awaits me when I get back home.
    Happy "You" Year. I know you can do it.

This post will make it impossible for you NOT to exercise, and it will help you avoid many of the pitfalls I experienced, including just about every possible injury.

This one reinforces the value of walking/running and gives tips on staying motivated
This describes the pleasure and great value of weight training.

This is all about taking responsibility for your own health and avoiding doctors.

A brief history of how I became vegan.