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Seven Exercises from Heaven

October 3, 2014

Tags: movement, order, aging, arm flab, arthritis, ashtanga, athletics, back, back - upper, barbell, bedridden, bench, bench pressing, bending backward, cancer, childhood, dairy, death, decline, diabetes, diet, dumbbell, Exercises from Heaven, expander, flexibility, foam roller, gluten, gym, half-cylinder, head, heart disease, immobility, inward looking, Iyengar - B.K.S. (1918-2014), kettlebell, knee, laptop computer, leg, lotus position, muscle, muscle-building muscle weakness, musculature, neck, Nelson – Carol, pelvis, philosophy, posture, pressing, push-up, relaxing, rotator cuff, rubber band exercise, sleeplessness, spine spirituality, sports, sports medicine, sports team, strength, strength training, The Diabetes Cure, Theraband, traveling, walking, wall, wall pressing, weights workout, yoga, yoga ball, yoga teacher, youth, zazen cushion

As I have mentioned too often, I never have been athletic – in school, I was the proverbial girl that nobody wanted on their sports team. But as I cleaned up my diet (starting with gluten and dairy), my muscle weakness and arthritis improved.

Movement is important. And the older you get, the more urgent it becomes. People generally think that heart disease and cancer are about the worst conditions leading to final demise. Immobility is worse. Not moving – either by choice, or because of illness – is the clear beginning of the end.

Every evening after dinner my husband and I go out for a walk, down the hill, and up the hill. Often I run uphill – slowly, but without pause. That alone is not enough, I fear, to keep old age at bay. Obviously, you can’t stave off death forever – decline is inevitable. But you can give it your best effort.

When B.K.S. Iyengar (1918-20140, the revered teacher of my yoga teacher Carol Nelson, recently died, a picture of him in old age went around the world. It showed him in lotus position but with barely any muscles that I could discern. Now, he was really old when the photo was taken, but looking at him it dawned on my that in yoga we need three accomplishments:

• Spirituality - I’d translate that as inward looking
• Flexibility - yoga certainly accomplishes that)
• Strength – more muscles.

The last one, strength, can be trained in some of the more vigorous forms of yoga like ashtanga, but I prefer the deep, gentle yoga Carol Nelson teaches. That leaves me with strength training for homework. Since I am still not fond of gyms and strenuous workouts, I do a routine of seven small muscle-building exercises at home. They take less than ten minutes – actually, less than seven minutes! You can do them all together in one setting, or interspersed during the day.

1. Bending backward over a zazen cushion or a half-cylinder
2. Bench pressing
3. Wall pressing (a modification of push-ups)
4. Rubber band exercises
5. Yoga ball
6. Kettlebell
7. Dumbbells.

As you might have read in my book The Diabetes Cure, my philosophy is that exercise should never be overdone – we have sports medicine because we have sports, is my constant saying. Every exercise will be repeated twenty-one times, never more. If initially you can’t do an exercise twenty-one times, do as many as you can do without undue force, and slowly build up to twenty-one.

More information about each exercise:

1. Bending backward over a zazen cushion or a half-cylinder

This is not a strength training. But I start with opening my back because my worst problem is upper back posture (in childhood and youth, I spent much time bedridden). – Slowly count to 21, while you wiggle your back in place and bend it backward over the cushion. – When I travel, I replace this with bending downward from the hotel bed.

2. Bench pressing

Since I don’t own a bench, this is not exactly bench-pressing. But it is similar. I use a bar with two five-pound weights – including the bar, it’s 14 pounds. The point is not to use heavy weights, but to use light weights slowly, and regular – every day. Position the barbell over your lap, and bring your body in position: Stand knees up, and pull your arms backward, and make a hollow with your thoracic spine: If you lie too straight and heavy on your shoulder blades, there is potential of hurting your rotator cuffs. Do 21 slow repetitions. Push directly upward with your arms – and never over your face. There are several deaths each year of people who have dropped the barbells on their faces …


3. Wall pressing (a modification of push-ups)

Stand a bit away from a wall or a kitchen counter or anything stable, and push up with your hands 21 times. Be careful not to slip when you stand away from the wall. - If you can do real push-ups on the floor: Good for you! But, like lotus position, I am unlikely to get proficient at push-ups in this life.

4. Rubber band exercises

Use an expander-like rubber band over a bar (or from a hook). Use it twice 21 times to pull your arms down and back. This is the exercise that makes arm flab a thing of the past. Occasionally, sleepless in bed, I add this exercise: Lying on your back with elbows at my sides, I push into the bed, arching my upper back, holding the position for 21 counts. The relaxing of the muscles afterward is a good sleeping aid. - When I travel, I take Therabands.

5. Yoga ball

Lie belly-down over a yoga ball. Secure your feet at a floorboard or under a sofa. Lift your back from the hips 21 times without overarching your neck – it is better to let your head hang down a bit, and instead lift your arms. Gives wonderful strength in the lower back area, and will eventually strengthen your whole spinal musculature. – When traveling, one can do this exercise across a chair.

6. Kettlebell

Swing a small (5 pounds) kettlebell back between your legs and up to horizontal with your eyes 21 counts. Have a give in your knees. This exercise strengthens legs, pelvic musculature and arms. This is the one that always makes me pant. – I fear there is no good substitute for this when I travel as lugging around a kettlebell in my suitcase is not an option. I try to walk as many stairs in the hotels as possible – which has led to hilarious situations as we have from time to time ended up in the kitchen quarters or other off-limits work spaces.

7. Dumbbells.

Have a pair of small (5 pounds) dumbbells (or bottles filled with water or books). Push them up 21 times, high up over your head, and slightly backward – without creating pressure in your lower back area. This one took me the longest before I could do all 21 repetitions. – When traveling, I use my laptop as weight, and try not to drop it.

Lately, at yoga class, I notice how much easier the yoga postures are now that I own some muscles. The three goals – looking inward, flexibility and muscles – inform one on the other: They spread out through our bodies to keep us alive, healthy and, well, younger.

Today Is International No-Bra Day!

July 9, 2014

Tags: order, food, movement, water, alcohol, antenna, bedroom, bra, brassiere, breast, breast cancer, breast health, breast size, cancer, circulation, cold wash, comfort, convention, cups, dairy, darkness, diet, gym, hormones, jogging, July heat, lifestyle, lunch hour, nightshift, sleep, sports bra, starch - white, sugar, support, Today Is International No-Bra Day!, trans fats, underwire bra, vegetables

Sweltering July is probably the best reason to throw out your bra – even if for only a day.

Because it is hot in there – in the cups. A few studies suggest that a link consists with wearing a bra and getting cancer. Unfortunately, those studies are not the best by scientific standards. We certainly should demand better studies!

Personally, I believe that a bra that cuts off circulation and traps heat close to one part of the body might be doing harm – the more hours a day one is wearing it, the more likely. Some people think it is the metal wire in the underwire bra that might work like an antenna, attracting bad “waves”.

One certainly should never wear a bra to bed – give your breast some freedom at least over night! But going all without is not an option for well-endowed women, because heavy breast can hurt with every movement. Sports bras certainly have their place. I wince whenever I see a woman jogging and her breasts are bouncing up and down – ouch!

Many years ago, in my twenties, I threw my bras out and never looked back – an easy decision because I have not much to hold. For me, a bra was a senseless convention. I had a beloved aunt who was as small-chested as I. She would gleefully pronounce: “What I don’t have today, can’t sag tomorrow!” Her attitude made my small size a no-problem.

For other women a bra might be a life saver – no rule applies to everybody. Today is a good day to examine if you are wearing a brassiere for comfort – or for convention. Throw out the convention … if you dare.

We know (by good studies) that bigger breasts are more likely to develop cancer. But that might have different reasons: Women who are overweight have usually a less healthy lifestyle. And more female hormones lead to bigger breasts, as well, potentially, to breast cancer.

What makes healthy breasts:

• A good diet with fresh vegetables (and avoidance of sugar, white starches, dairy and trans fats). Don’t be fat-phobic: Olive oil, coconut oil and butterfat are healthy.
• Regular movements – just move through your day, as opposed to spending time in the gym.
• A daily walk during– for moving and for daylight and vitamin D. Vitamin D prevents cancer.
• Moderate alcohol consumption. Enough sleep and real darkness in your bedroom: Light at night seems to increase the likelihood of cancer (especially if you are working nightshifts – which I certainly have, extensively, in my life).
• And here is my favorite – and of course, there are no studies to be had: Wash your breasts with cold water every day – take a face cloth and 21 splashes to each breast.

Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!

September 13, 2012

Tags: food, order, Today is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day!, book, wheat, diabetes type II, diabetes type I, gluten intolerance, blindness, kidney failure, amputations, neurological damage, brittle diabetes, hospital, diabetes, end-organ failure, gym, garden, cello, a walking after dinner, exercises, writing a book, fresh food, fish, meat, dairy, sugar, sweetener, trans-fats, processed food, gluten, daily bread, evolution, genes, monotheism, hunter and gatherer, eating nibbling, Nature, holy, cattle, sheep, husbandry, religion, rules, timetables, schedules, Kellogg – Will Keith (1860-1951), breakfast, cornflakes, industrialization, prosperity, scarcity of food, adaptation, calories, burger, obesity, celiac disease, diarrhea, skin rash, bloating, neurologic, psychiatric, symptoms – gluten-related, gluten intolerance, under-diagnosed, lectins, Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, seeds, digestion, arthritis, depression, heart disease, cancer, celiac, wisdom of the body, toxicity of wheat, morphine-like substances, brain, longing, cocaine, heroin, agriculture, extinction, monotheism, guilt, over-hunting, ice-age, bison, elephant, deer, cow, gruel, ploughing, farming, corn, sugar, addiction, starvation, bread, pizza, cake, cookie, muffins, vegetables, addictive food, wheat kernel, harvest, milling, minerals, flour - white, diseases, vitamins, iron, flour - “fortified”, root vegetable, celiac, rye, barley, oats, dinkel, kamut, grains, hulls, waste, starch, bread - sprouted, gluten, sprouting, degenerative diseases, wheat, dairy, sugar, trans-fats, redemption, plant food, vegetables, herbs, fruit, beans, nuts, fish, rabbit

Not that I should luxuriate in writing blogs while I am finishing my diabetes book, but to call attention to the problems with wheat – on this occasion I just have to do it.

Since this is my big theme presently, let me roll up the whole gluten conundrum from the diabetic side: Ninety percent of people with diabetes type II are overweight; ten percent are not. Now – what gives the ten percent their diabetes?

Genes, of course. But genes account only for part of the puzzle. Most slim diabetics have either type I diabetes (which I will not discuss here), or they have gluten intolerance. Disclosure: I am one of those ten percent, and while I don’t yet have full-blown diabetes with all the dismal consequences down the road like blindness, kidney failure, amputations, neurological damage, my number always hover at the upper border of normal or the low border of diabetes. For somebody who has brittle diabetes and ends in the hospital frequently, this seems a good place to be, and sure it is. BUT: By the time people are diagnosed with diabetes, a good third already shows sign of end-organ failure. Which means: They really already have advanced disease. I don’t want to wait doing nothing and closing my eyes.

So, what do I do? I move, for starters. I don’t go to the gym, but I work in the garden, play my cello, go for a walk after dinner with my husband, and do tiny exercises every time I get up from my chair during my long writing sessions (aaah – writing a book about health is not such a healthy thing, after all).

And I eat healthily. Fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, some fish, much less meat (but meat I do eat – and recommend), no dairy, no sugar, no sweeteners either, no trans-fats, and basically, nothing processed.

But back to gluten. We pray for our daily bread – and are not aware how recent the “daily bread” was invented – not longer than five to ten thousand years. Which is nothing in terms of evolution and our genes. Actually, our “daily bread” is around not much longer than monotheism – the belief in a single, singular god. I find that interesting: When we were hunter and gatherers, eating and nibbling and plucking from Nature wherever we went, we had multiple gods – the ones that were hidden in the groves, in the deep lakes, in the skies – and everything was whispering to us: Holy, holy, holy.

Then agriculture was invented with cattle and sheep husbandry, and we learned to sow and to reap, and suddenly there was that one stern god over us, telling to adhere to his rules – one obviously needs rules and timetables and schedules and order to be a farmer.

Forward a few thousand years to Mr. Kellogg, who gave us our breakfast cornflakes, and modern scientists who gave as bigger kernels of wheat, and then all the abundance that came with industrialization and prosperity – and here comes the modern American wave of obesity and diabetes. Where for millions of years always was scarcity – and that is what our bodies were adapted to for millions of years – now we can get the whopping calories of a burger for one dollar. Without to move out into the woods and hunt and gather.

If gluten is at the root of those ten percent of slim diabetics – so what! you exclaim, because you are fighting the pounds for most of your life. Gluten makes a few of us very sick – with celiac disease. Gluten makes a lot of us fat, with sickness down the road from the excess pounds.

Celiacs have no immune tolerance for gluten; they might get diarrhea, skin rashes, bloating, and all kinds of weird symptoms – including neurologic and psychiatric. Half of the symptoms are not showing in the belly, which is one reason gluten intolerance is still one of the widely under-diagnosed disease – even that the last ten years has turned the tide a bit.

The funny thing is: Wheat does not want to be eaten. Like basically all nuts and seeds, the wheat grain contains a family of compounds called lectins that are there to protect the grain from being eaten. The wheat plant has no interest, so to speak, to be gobbled up and extinguished. On the other hand, from the wheat’s point of view, of course, it is extremely advantageous that farmers everywhere now growing this seed that originally had a very narrow distribution, namely the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia. Somehow we managed to spread it more or less worldwide – or did the plant entice us to do its business?

Not sure. But nuts and seeds contain lectins that hinder digestion and make people sick with arthritis, depression, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so on – the celiac who runs to the bathroom ten times a day is only the tip of the iceberg. And it shows the wisdom of our bodies: To get rid as fast as possible of a toxic substance.

Wheat is addictive – it contains morphine-like substances that play with your brain and your longings just as cocaine and heroin do. I always picture how the first farmers, sitting placidly and satisfied in their hovels, invited the last hunters who came in from another fruitless hunt for something to eat (the rise of agriculture happened parallel to the extinction from overhunting the very large ice-age mammals – they had bison the size of elephants, and deer like cows at that time. The rise of monotheism happened at the same time … did we feel guilty for the overhunting??). The hunters got their bowl of gruels or their flat breads; it must have seemed heaven to them. As they never got enough of it, they came back for more and more, until they one day decided to plough a piece of land, and settle down as farmers themselves.

So, if you want to get healthy and/or slim, you first have to break the wheat (and corn! And sugar! But those are other topics …) addiction. You don’t die of starvation, if you leave out bread and pizza and cakes and cookies and muffins. You just get healthier. The food to eat: Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. And some brown rice, as rice does not seem so addictive as wheat. It just doesn’t taste so yummy, yummy that you want more and more of it.

In all of this, I haven’t even talked about what they do nowadays once the too-big, overinflated-by-starch wheat kernel is harvested: They mill it and grind it and take the good stuff out, namely the coarse outer layers that contains vitamins and ls . The make white flour from naturally brown flour, and because it is known that white flour contains nothing healthy and leads to deficiency diseases down the road, the “fortify” the flour with vitamins and iron.

Believe me, nothing is as well “fortified” as the original grain. I mean the really “original” grain which we cannot retrieve anymore because the first grains were so puny – not much more then a few hard nibs in your mouth while you were searching for the really belly-filling rabbit or root. If you want to do wheat at all (and if you are a celiac, you can’t have it ever again! Also not rye and barley; perhaps not even oats), at least stick to dinkel and kamut, some of the older grains. Not as old to go back to the dawn of times, but going back a few thousand years, to the first cultured strains. They contain more hulls and “waste”, less gluten and starch. You also can try sprouted breads where most of the gluten has been used up in the process of sprouting.

Our modern degenerative diseases have to do with mostly four culprits: Wheat, dairy, sugar, trans-fats. Our redemption lies in the plant world: vegetables, herbs, fruit. A few beans, a few nuts. Some fish. And occasionally … a rabbit.

Listen To Your Body

October 29, 2011

Tags: water, movement, food, herbs, order, acupuncturist, addiction, advertisement, alcoholic, all-you-can-eat, arthritis, aspartame, asthma, beans, body, brain, breakfast, Brussels sprouts, buffet, caffeine, cereal, chocolate, cleansing, coconut oil, cold shower, craving, deli, dairy, deficiency, diet, diet coke, dinner, doctor, drinking booze, East Coast, exercise - moderate, fast meal, fat, fate, friend, GAIA, gut feeling, gym, hankering, health hype, health news, herbalist, herbs - women's, herbs - fresh or dried, homeopathy, hunch, hunch skills, husband, information maze, joint ache, junk food, left-overs, Listen To Your Body, lobster, M&Ms, marshmallow, meal - freshly cooked, meat, medical wisdom, medicine - conventional, mood, müsli, museum, natural, newspaper, nutmeg, official line, olive oil, onions, osteoarthritis, Own Your Health, passion, patients, pepper, phytogen, placebo effect, pool, pregnant, raisins, salt, scale, scientific breakthrough, sixth sense, sleep, soul, super-food, supplement, sweets, triathlon, thyroid, thyroidectomy, turkey, unscientific, vegan, veteran - homeless, vitamins, weight, Western diet, Weisman - Roanne, wine

A stalk of Brussels sprouts survived in my fridge while we were traveling to the East Coast. Last night, I suddenly had the vision that I would like to eat those green little roses – and of all things with raisins!

No clue where it came from. The sixth sense? But I knew I had to get up a bit earlier this morning to actually cook this strange breakfast for myself. Since the nearly twenty years I don’t indulge anymore in the ubiquitous müsli or cereal breakfast, I usually eat dinner left-overs or open a can of beans, throw in a handful of fresh or dried herbs, pepper and salt, and some olive oil – it is a fast meal, but no junk food.

At this point in my life, I take my gut feelings seriously. So I browned two large onions in coconut oil before I added the Brussels sprouts rosettes and a cup full of raisins. I let it simmer with some pepper and salt, until the rosettes were soft and the raisins plump. It was delicious – why had I never thought of adding raisins to this dish? The taste mingled the sharp black pepper and the sweet raisins to a new experience. Usually I serve Brussels sprouts with a good sprinkling of nutmeg.

Why do I take my hunches seriously? Because I figure my body wants to tell me about a slight deficiency. Of course I don’t follow hunches for marshmallows and M&Ms, because they are not natural – although I might turn to dark chocolate if I had a craving for something sweet.

Nearly thirty years ago I followed a hunch to visit a certain museum – five hundred miles away. And through that museum, I met my future (and now) husband … but that is a different story!

Why do I bring up something as unscientific as hunches?

Because daily we are bombarded by health news and scientific breakthroughs and advertisements for new super-foods – it is hard to find our way through this maze of information. I early on decided that I need to see – and feel – the difference in my body, my mood, my soul before I believe any new health hype.

For instance, I always craved more fat in my diet than medical wisdom allowed me to eat. It always seemed that my brain did not function well without enough fat – and I am talking good fats here, mostly olive oil. At that time, I was still timid and told my patients to stick to the official line in conventional medicine, namely to cut out fat. But secretly, I bathed my vegetables in all the fat I desired.

And interestingly, it was me who kept her weight since age twelve, not the people who had been advised differently. I was the one who weighed herself every day on a scale – contrary to what medicine was teaching at that time.

So, now, when you take a new supplement: Do you take it because your doctor/your herbalist/your acupuncturist/your friend/your newspaper told you so? Or because you feel suddenly so much better than before?

Over the years I found out that rarely do I feel better with ANY supplements. Exception are the phytogens (female herbs) by GAIA which I gave been taking for many years now. But I do feel better when I take my daily cold shower (or my daily laps across the pool), when I eat less at dinner and nothing thereafter, when I do moderate exercise throughout the day but feel miserable in the gym. I feel good about myself when I drop a small coin into the hand of a homeless veteran, but feel shabby when I argue to myself that he probably is an alcoholic who deserves his fate (nobody deserves that fate!!).

Over the years I found out that vitamins and homeopathy don’t do anything for me, but freshly cooked meals do. That leaving out dairy cured my asthma, and improved my osteoarthritis vastly. That I need about double as much sleep as my husband, and that I definitely need my small thyroid pill after half of my thyroid was taken out years ago. Without that tiny pill I turn into a nagging bitch (as my husband found out!).

Mind you, I don’t give in to silly cravings like drinking a ton of booze. But the occasional glass of wine seems to be fine. And when I was pregnant, I took very seriously my sudden hankering after lobster, and made my husband drive to a seafood restaurant late at night!

When one turns vegan, most people feel wonderful, initially. Because it is a cleansing diet, after the overload on meats, delis and dairy products of the Western diet. But do you still feel wonderful after a few years on this diet? Or do you believe the vegan ideology more than what your body tells you? Do you feel great after an all-you-can-eat buffet, or do you feel like a stuffed turkey? Do you feel great after a diet coke, or do you have the lingering suspicion you might be addicted to the aspartame and caffeine? Do you feel good after a triathlon, or do all your joints scream?

The big problem of course is that our brain can make us believe what we want to believe, deceivingly. It takes years of practicing your hunch skills before you can trust those wild notions coming out of nowhere. After all, there is something like the placebo effect, which may make you feel good erroneously – at least for a time.

But nobody else can answer the question “How are you?” – except you. Because every body is different, and only you can feel how you are. As my friend Roanne Weisman puts it: Own Your Health!

And, hey, I feel perfect today after Brussels sprouts with raisins!

Arching Your Back

May 12, 2011

Tags: movement, Arching Your Back, breathing, exercise, gym, head, heel, kyphosis, neck, posture, relaxation, shoulder, sleep, spine –upper, widow's hump

One of my biggest health challenges is posture. My upper spine gives me trouble, which likely is going back to my childhood when I was bedridden for a long time, and never having been athletic and muscular anyway. Sometimes, that bent there is called widow's hump, or kyphosis.

Also, I don’t like the gym. So I do my five Alexa’s Alternatives, daily (or nearly daily). But I am sitting at the computer for long hours – like you, too, I guess.

Here is the newest exercise that I figured is useful for my posture – which makes half a dozen now. I am always on the look-out for things that can be done while doing something else. This one also helps to go to sleep, or to wake up - whatever is required. It is best done in bed, because I always worry about the potential for hurting, even with such an easy, straight forward exercise. So a padded surface is ideal.

You lie in bed, on your back. Now put some weight on your heels and on your head/neck/upper spine area. On breathing out, very gently push your back up into an arch (it feels like an arch - it looks more like a board, actually). Let go on breathing in. Repeat twenty-one times.

Make sure you don’t strain the neck. Stay as soft and mindful of the neck area as you can be. No force. You can’t will your body into better posture – just nudge it!

Do this in the morning and in the evening. It helps an upright position, straightens the neck area, and relaxes across the shoulders.

What it does: It strengthens the muscles in the back of the body - especially the neck - while most things that we are doing all day long are strengthening the front muscles (if we do anything for our muscles at all). This exercise balances front and back and will pull you upright. Within short time, you will experience the new freedom in your neck!

Fast Will Not Last – A Step-By-Step Weight Loss Program

May 4, 2011

Tags: food, water, movement, herbs, order, allergies, anti-cancer, arthritis, asthma, bedtime, belly, beverage – diet, beverage soft, bisphenol A (BPA), BMI, breakfast, butter, cancer, carbon filter, celeriac, chard, cheese, chemicals in water, church, clean out the attic, cooked food, dairy, deli, diet beverage, depression, diabetes type II, dinner, dinosaur kale, environment, Fast Will Not Last – A Step-By-Step Weight Loss Program, fat - good, fish, fluoride, friend, gardening, garlic, grains, green leafy vegetable, gym, heart disease, herbal tea, inflammatory substance, kale, Kant - Immanuel (1724-1804, kohlrabi greens, legumes, light, lunch, lunch hour, margarine, meat, milk, obesity, olive oil, Own Your Health, play with the kids, political campaign, politics, protein, putter in the garden, reading project, red beet, reverse osmosis filter, ride a bicycle, root vegetable, rutabaga, sausages saving the world, shelter, sitting, sleep and weight loss, soft beverage, soup kitchen, spinach, spreads, starches, stevia, sugars, sweeteners, tap water, turnip, vegetable, vitamin A, volunteering, walk a dog, walk - daily, water - bottled, water – filtered, weight loss – fast, weight loss – realistic, Weight Loss Program - Step-By-Step, Weisman - Roanne, whole grains, winter, wrist bone, yoghurt, yo-yo dieting

Fast Will Not Last – A Ste

After politics, I better return to my own turf. My forte is one-to-one talking with on people, not saving the world.

Ali - on Roanne Weisman’s blog Own your Health - has asked me this question: How can I lose weight fast?

Truth is: Fast will not last.

Most common request seems to be: “Now it is May – can you help me lose fifty pounds till September, because I will marry in September.” My answer is always: “No!”

Weight loss should be really slow so that the body does not go into survival mode and defies weight loss. As disappointing as this may be, it is the only way to success. Yo-yo dieting has been shown to be especially detrimental to the heart, so don’t even start that process!

Here are my rules:

• Do not lose more than two pounds per month!
• Weigh yourself every morning.
• If you inadvertently lose more than two pounds per month, don’t gloat about, and don’t be disappointed if you regain some of that weight.
• Once you have lost those two pounds, put your focus on keeping off those two pounds. The real challenge is to not regain any pounds during the month.
• Weight loss does not happen by diet alone, and not by sweating hours in the gym. Weight loss comes from a healthy lifestyle.
• One of the most important parts of that healthy lifestyle is getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to high stress hormone levels in the body, which leads to cravings and overeating.
• The next day is won the evening before: Prepare breakfast and lunch, and plan dinner for the next day, then go to bed early. Don’t hang around in front of TV or computer beyond your “tired point” – because then you get a second wind and can’t fall asleep. Best bedtime is between 8.30 and 10.00 pm. If you think you can’t do that every night, give it a try one evening per week – and observe the difference in how you feel.
• Below is the step-by step program. Take a new step either every week or every month, or when you feel you need to do more for your health, or when the weight loss progress stalls.
• The most important question: Is your weight loss goal realistic? If you are of Dutch ancestry, you might never get to be a dainty as many Asians are (only a rule of thumb – there are small Dutch people, and large Asians!). For that look up your BMI - for instance here: http://www.aarp.org/health/fitness/info-05-2010/bmi_calculator.html?CMP=KNC-360I-GOOGLE-HEA-FIT&HBX_PK=bmi&utm_source=Google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=bmi&utm_campaign=G_Health&360cid=SI_148921798_7430108821_1.
• Your BMI will give you a weight range. If you are small-boned, you should be at the lower part of that range, if you are big-boned, at the higher end. How do you know about your bones? Compare your wrist bones with those of other people to get an idea where you stand.
• If you still have a protruding belly, you are not at your ideal weight.
• In every meal have some protein and some good fat. Legumes provide protein.
• Most important is your intake of vegetables, which should be mostly cooked, especially in the winter.
• Cut down on meat to once a week, and do not eat deli and sausages at all. Have some fish – preferably small fish.

And here are the weight loss steps:

Step # 1: Buy a green leafy vegetable (chard, spinach, kale, dinosaur kale, kohlrabi greens, etc), cook it with olive oil and garlic - and eat it.

Step #2: Leave out all soft beverages - including "diet" beverages.

Step #3: Drink herbal teas when you are thirsty. Or plain (or filtered) tap water. Don’t drink bottled water.

Step #4: Leave out all dairy (cheese, milk, yoghurt, etc). Milk is a highly inflammatory substance, totally alien for people beyond infancy, that leads to all kinds of diseases besides obesity: diabetes, arthritis, depression, cancer, allergies and asthma, heart disease, and so on.

Step #5: Buy a root vegetable (red beets, celeriac, turnip, etc), cook in salt water until just soft enough to pierce with a skewer. Serve with olive oil, pepper and salt as a warm salad. Rutabaga, because it is usually waxed, needs to be peeled before cooking. Cut in cubes, boil with a bit of water and pepper and salt.

Step #6: Go for a daily walk. Best is during lunch hour, for the anti-cancer effect of light. Ten minutes in the beginning is fine. Go with a friend – so that you may stay with this habit.

Step #7: Leave out all sugars. And don’t use any sweeteners. They fool the body into thinking you get sweets – and then your body wants more food. Besides, most sweeteners except stevia carry their own health concerns.

Step #8: Find a new vegetable every week in your supermarket – try out what you don’t know (most vegetables are delicious with garlic and olive oil). Some fat is required with all vegetables because otherwise you cannot absorb the vitamin A in them.

Step #9: Leave out all grains and starches until you have your ideal weight. Then you might re-introduce some whole grains – but only if you are not regaining.

Step #10: Observe how much you are actually sitting during the day. Sitting is detrimental to your health – and of course, we are a sitting culture. Think about ways to move more: Putter in the garden, clean out the attic, walk a dog, play with the kids, ride a bicycle. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant recognized this principle and kept his handkerchief at the other end of the room, so that he had to get up from his desk to blow his nose. Try to come up with your own – and better - movements!

Step #11: Stop all margarine, spreads and butter. If you still eat bread, dunk it in olive oil.

Step #12: Volunteer somewhere – in a shelter, a soup kitchen, a church, a political campaign, a gardening project, a reading help for youngsters –to get out of the house and do good!

P.S. This is a long entry. But it boilds down to two points:

1. Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables - eat more, and more varied!

2. Put more movement into your day - little movements here and there.


P.P.S. Recheck this blog - I might add new points as they come up!

I Hate The Gym – You Too?

February 6, 2011

Tags: movement, water, food, adhesives, aeration of rooms, anger, asbestos, birds’ songs, bliss, brooks, building materials, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, cleaning supplies, confusion, copiers, correction fluid, cosmetics, craft materials, degreasing products, depression, detergent, drywalls, endorphins, energy - increased, engagement, exercise, ficus, floor coverings, flowers, garden, glues, grass, green, gym, high blood pressure, houseplants, I Hate The Gym – You Too?, indoor, indoor pollution, lacquers, meta-analysis, molds, muscles, music, NordicTrack machine, outdoor, outdoor pollution, paints, Parkinson's, permanent markers, philodendron – heartleaf, printers, radon, revitalization, skiing - cross-country, smell, snowstorm, soil, sounds, spider plant, tension, terrain - uneven, upholstery, varnish, wall-to-wall carpeting, waves, wax, wind, window open, wood preservatives, workout

My intense dislike of the gym just got a scientific underpinning: A meta-analysis reveals that exercise done outdoors has more benefits that the one indoors. A meta-analysis is not a study from scratch but reviews already existing studies. In this case, researchers tried to figure out if there are benefits to exercise in a natural outdoors environment vs a confined gym.

The disadvantage of a meta-analysis is that the original studies might be flawed – in spite that the researchers tried to weed out those studies – and that their flaws get compounded. In this case, the original studies were furthermore hampered by not using objective measurements of wellbeing but “self-reported” statements: People just talked about how much better they felt outdoors than indoors.

And so the 833 individuals sound less scientific but gushing when reporting how they are feeling after their exercise in nature: “Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.”

I believe them even without a proper study because going to a gym would make me depressed – and I am not a depressed person to start with. On the other hand, when I putter around in the garden, I am suffused by bliss. Working out on my ages-old NordicTrack machine in the basement strengthens my muscles; going cross-country skiing lifts my spirit.

Clearly, working out in a gym increases endorphins and makes one feel better. But outside, we have the added benefit of light in our eyes and on our skin – which has been shown to decrease depression and boost vitamin D production. For once, Boston did not have another snow storm today so that I could not fill my outdoor needs by snow shoveling but I hacked away on ice for a good hour – to prepare for the next snowfall which is forecast for this week.

Outside, there's also less pollution. Contrary to common assumptions, indoor pollution generally is much higher than outdoor pollution (unless you live directly at a busy highway or near a spewing factory) – thanks to detergents and other cleaning supplies, cosmetics, wood preservatives, paints, varnish and lacquers, drywalls, molds, radon, asbestos, carbon monoxide, copiers, printers, correction fluid, glues and craft materials, wax, permanent markers, adhesives, degreasing products, building materials, upholstery, wall-to-wall carpeting and other floor coverings – to name some.

Therefore it is recommended that we aerate each room at least twice a day by pushing the windows open for fifteen minutes. And that we sleep with windows open all night. Asking around, I find that not many people do either.

Outside has usually uneven terrain – different from the even floor of a standard gym. The unevenness leads to better muscle workout – without that we notice the extra effort. This lowers blood pressure and might stave off Parkinson's.

Another advantage of the great outdoors is the color green: We are hard-wired to love a green landscape because green signals plants that produce oxygen and food for us, and hold precious water in place. Green is soothing to our eyes, and to our minds. There is not much life in eternal ice or the dry desert – green is our life. You can reduce indoor air pollution by having houseplants – heartleaf philodendron, spider plant and ficus are not hard to keep alive.

For the benefits of outdoors, let’s not forget the smell of flowers, mowed lawns, freshly turned soil. And the sounds: birds’ songs, rustling wind, lapping waves, babbling brooks – music to our ears.

Of course, researchers now call for better studies to measure all that. But you and I have known it all along: Outdoors is better!

Puttering Around The House

November 22, 2010

Tags: movement, anemones, asters, balance, carpentry, daylilies, declutter, exercise, fall, gardening, gym, iris, leaves, oak, painting, peonies, phlox, puttering, Puttering Around The House, quadriplegia, raking leaves, roses, safety on ladders, sanding, scraping, spackling, spring bulbs, tannin, wallpapering

Last week, I painted the kitchen ceiling. That gives me bragging rights – but that is not why I want to talk about it.

Probably because gyms bore me to tears – I have never entered one except in hotels where there’s nothing else to do – I try to incorporate my daily exercise by puttering around the house.

The last leaf has come down in the yard and I neatly piled it on the beds. I am for recycling, even in the garden, and would never dream of having the precious gold hauled away. Next spring it will feed my flowers and bushes (mostly; oak leaves, with their high tannin contents, need about two seasons to decompose). This method asks for sturdy plants – they need to be able to pierce through the piled leaves in the spring. So, you won’t find dainty little things in my garden. Roses, peonies, iris, daylilies, phlox, garden asters, anemones, spring bulbs – and many more – find their way up to the sunlight. And of course, my garden never looks as tidy as that of the neighbors.

But I didn’t want to talk about gardening – although gardening is one of the things that keep me in form. The focus is on turning inward now, appropriate for the dark season, and aiming at the cluttered corners of our place. One by one I am tackling them. In my youth, when I had no money, I learned to paint and wallpaper and lay down carpets. I even built a closet. Now I return to my old skills because I crave the exercise. All we who spend the day at the computer, need that exercise.

So, it was the kitchen ceiling last week. Scraping off the flaky paint, spackling (“spackle” – a totally new word for me; in the hardware store, I had asked for “putty” – wrong word for what I needed!), sanding, painting. And all that work done on a ladder with arms above the head. I alternated arms because I want to grow an even body. Still, it was hard work. Also dangerous. My dear friend Jackie, years ago, fell off a stool hanging curtains, resulting in quadriplegia. So I was mindful all the time to not lose my balance. Hers is another story – but with alternative therapies (acupuncture, massage, etc) – Jackie regained the use of her arms, and even some of her legs. We will spend Thanksgiving with her and her family – a wonderful tradition for many years.

Too many stories interfering! Two points I want to make: Find chores in house, garden, attic, basement to do that keep you moving. And try to use also your non-dominant hand. That challenges your brain, makes you more nimble, and balances your body.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

Tags - see also the non-captalized entries below!