Category Archives: Health

My experience thus far with the Fast Diet’s 5:2 eating plan

First let me say, I don’t “do” diets. However, I am interested in exploring new approaches to healthy living. Kathy and I eat mostly fresh foods, not too  much, and we exercise regularly.

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. — Virginia Woolf

About four weeks ago, I ran across an article about the new Fast Diet that has been taking Great Britain by storm…especially among men. I couldn’t resist. I ordered the book and had it in my sweaty little hands two days later thanks to Amazon Prime (one of my favorite addictions).

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage. — Erma Bombeck

The article in the New York Times said, “With an alluring cover line that reads, ‘Lose Weight, Stay Healthy, Live Longer,’ the premise of this latest weight-loss regimen — or ‘slimming’ as the British call ‘dieting’ — is intermittent fasting, or what has become known here as the 5:2 diet: five days of eating and drinking whatever you want, dispersed with two days of fasting.

“A typical fasting day consists of two meals of roughly 250 to 300 calories each, depending on the person’s sex (500 calories for women, 600 for men). Think two eggs and a slice of ham for breakfast, and a plate of steamed fish and vegetables for dinner.

“It is not much sustenance, but the secret to weight loss, according to the book, is that even after just a few hours of fasting, the body begins to turn off the fat-storing mechanisms and turn on the fat-burning systems.

“I’ve always been into self-experimentation,” said Dr. Michael Mosley, one of the book’s two authors and a well-known medical journalist on the BBC who is often called the Sanjay Gupta of Britain.

“This started because I was not feeling well last year,” Dr. Mosley said recently over a cup of tea and half a cookie (it was not one of his fasting days). “It turns out I was suffering from high blood sugar, high cholesterol and had a kind of visceral fat inside my gut.

“Though hardly obese at the time, at 5 feet 11 inches and 187 pounds, Dr. Mosley, 55, had a body mass index and body fat percentage that were a few points higher than the recommended amount for men. “Given that my father had died at age 73 of complications from diabetes, and I was now looking prediabetic, I knew something had to change,” he added.

“The body goes into a repair-and-recover mode when it no longer has the work of storing the food being consumed,” he said.

“What Dr. Mosley found most astounding, however, were his personal results. Not only did he lose 20 pounds (he currently weighs 168 pounds) in nine weeks, but his glucose and cholesterol levels went down, as did his body fat. “What’s more, I have a whole new level of energy,” he said.”

A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.  — Aesop

After reading Dr. Mosley’s book, the Fast Diet seems not so much a diet in the usual sense of the word but more of a lifestyle choice. And a pretty easy one at that. Kathy and I decided to try it. We follow the prescribed calorie intake for breakfast and dinner on fast days (We chose Mondays and Thursdays.}. On the other five days of the week, we go back to our normal eating and beverage habits. I even binged big time on Special K bars over the Easter weekend. Who wouldn’t!

We are now three and a half weeks in and the change for me is noticeable. I started at 164 pounds and am now at 156. My Body Mass Index dropped from 25.7 to 24.4 according the the Mayo Clinic BMI online calculator. At 5 feet 7 inches, this moved me from the “overweight” category to “normal.” Most notable is the fact that the weight loss was from my mid-section…exactly what most of us want to happen. I dropped from a 34 inch waist to 33 and now even the 33 requires a belt to keep them hitched up. Gotta love it!

Obviously, if you have a medical condition, you should consult a doctor before fasting of any kind. Barring that, the Fast Diet seems a pretty easy trade off for the results I’ve seen. My energy level is the same, if not better. And fasting days have had no impact on my ability to complete my weight training regimen on fast days. Pretty cool!

There are other benefits to intermittent fasting that are discussed in the book as well that you may find interesting, including increased mental acuity. It also provides for adaptations to the 5:2 plan if you don’t need to lose weight but are interested in the added benefits of fasting for short periods.

If such things are of interest to you, I would certainly recommend you pick up a copy of this book or download the Kindle version. It’s a quick and interesting read and could change your life.

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.  — Voltaire

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance…and health and well-being.

Just for fun!

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The most wasted of all days is that in which we have not laughed.~Nicolas Chamfort

We’ve all heard the saying “Laughter is the best medicine.” And Proverbs 17:22 reads “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

An article on Helpguide.org tells us…

Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.

How are you doing on the laughter front? Did you have at least one good laugh today? If not, or if you’re ready for another good chuckle, I’ve included a copy of a string of emails my boss gave me just before Christmas. Since Human Resources is one of my responsibilities at my place of employment, he thought it an appropriate “gift” for me. While politically incorrect on many levels, it is funny and it did make me laugh…and it’s a good reminder that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

It’s titled “Office Christmas Party.” Enjoy!

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 1
  • RE: Christmas Party

I’m happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23, starting at noon, in the banquet room at Luigi’s Open Pit Barbeque. No host bar, but plenty of eggnog! We’ll have a small band playing traditional carols…feel free to sing along. And, don’t be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus!

A Christmas tree will be lit at 1:00 p.m. Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time; however, no gift should be over $10.00 to make the giving of gifts easy for everyone’s pockets. This gathering is only for employees. A special announcement will be made by our CEO at that time!

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Patty

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 2
  • RE: Holiday Party

In no way was yesterday’s memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Chanukah is an important holiday which often coincides with Christmas, though unfortunately not this year. However, from now on we’re calling it our “Holiday Party.” The same policy applies to employees who are celebrating Kwanzaa at this time. There will be no Christmas tree and no Christmas carols sung. We will have other types of music for your enjoyment.

Happy now?

Happy Holidays to you and your family.

Patty

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 3
  • RE: Holiday Party

Regarding the notice I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table…You didn’t sign your name. I am happy to accommodate this request, but if I put a sing on a table that reads “AA Only,” you wouldn’t be anonymous any more. How am I supposed to handle this?

Somebody?

Forget about the gifts exchange. No gift exchange is allowed since union members feel that $10.00 is too much money, and executives believe $10.00 is very little for a gift. NO GIFT EXCHANGE WILL BE ALLOWED.

Patty

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 7
  • RE: Holiday Party

What a diverse group we are! I had no idea that December 20 begins the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which forbids eating and drinking during daylight hours. There goes the party! Seriously, we can appreciate how a luncheon at this time of year does not accommodate our Muslim employee’s beliefs. Perhaps Luigi’s can hold off on serving your meal until the end of the party (the days are short this time of year), or else package everything for take home in little foil swans. Will that work?

Meanwhile, I’ve arranged for members of Overeaters Anonymous to sit farthest from the dessert buffet. Pregnant women will get the table closest to the restrooms. Gays are allowed to sit with each other. Lesbians do not have to sit with gay men; each gender will have their own table. To the person asking permission to cross dress, no cross dressing will be allowed. We have booster seats for short people. Low-fat food will be available for those on a diet. We cannot control the salt used in the food thus we suggest for those people with blood pressure problems to taste first. There will be fresh fruits as dessert for diabetics since the restaurant is unable to supply “no sugar” desserts.

Sorry!

Did I miss anything?

Patty

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 9
  • RE: Holiday Party

People, people! Nothing sinister was intended by having our CEO dress up like Santa Claus! Even if the anagram of “Santa” does happen to be “Satan,” there is no evil connotation to our own “little man in a red suit.” It’s a tradition, folks, like sugar shock at Halloween, or family feuds over Thanksgiving turkey, or broken hearts on Valentine’s Day. Could we lighten up? Please?????????

Also, the company has changed its mind in announcing the special announcement at the gathering. You will get a notification in the mail, sent to your home.

Patty

  • FROM: Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director
  • TO: All #&$**@ Employees
  • DATE: December 10
  • RE: The #*&^@*^ Holiday Party

I have no #&*@*^ idea what the announcement is about. What the #&^!@ do I care? I KNOW WHAT I AM GOING TO GET!!!!!!!!  You change your address now and you are dead!!!!!!!  No more changes of address will be allowed in my office. Try to come in and change your address; I will have you hung from the ceiling in the warehouse!!

Vegetarians!?!?!?  I’ve had it with you people!!!  We’re going to keep this party at Luigi’s Open Pit Barbeque whether you like it or not. You can sit quietly at the table furthers from the “grill of death,” as you so quaintly put it, and you’ll get your @#$^&*! salad bar, including hydroponic tomatoes. Buy you know, they have feelings, too. Tomatoes scream when you slice them. I’m hearing them scream right now! HA! I hope you all have a rotten day!

Drive drunk and die, you hear me!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Bitch from HELL!!!!!!

  • FROM: Terri Bishop, Acting Human Resources Director
  • TO: All Employees
  • DATE: December 14
  • RE: Patty Lewis and the Holiday Party

I’m sure I speak for all of us in wishing Patty Lewis a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness, and I’ll continue to forward your cards to her at the sanitarium. In the meantime, management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of December 23 of with full pay.

Happy Holidays!

Terri

Well, there you have it. I hope it at least made you smile.

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance…and much laughter in your life.

Don’t waste time. Clean your plate.

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I don’t know about you, but after 60+ years (Dang it, I’m old!) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these two exhortations…don’t waste time…clean your plate.  I’ve heard them from the time I could string two sentences together and I heard them again last week (though they weren’t directed at me in that particular instance).

It’s interesting how platitudes such as these can influence cultural and individual behavior. And in many instances such behaviors can become unhealthy habits.

Think about time for a moment. Do you manage it or does it manage you? Olena Marukhnyak, a Brooklyn high school student wrote an interesting essay titled Perception of Time in Different Cultures. I found it to be an interesting read. One sentence in particular stood out to me…(in America) “We do what the clock tells us to.

Ms. Marukhnyak goes on to say, “Values of a country have a great effect on its time perception. Individualistic countries move faster than those that stress collectivism. The US stresses the individual and emphasizes achievement of one rather than conformity to a group and its success. We believe that one has endless possibilities and opportunities to achieve their goals, thus prompting people to work towards the realization of these goals. The Protestant work ethic introduced the “time is money” mindset. From that moment on, this has been the driving force of American lives. Every moment counts. If you have already done some work today but have free time on your hands now, you should go and do some more work. If you don’t have free time, then you’re doing a good job. Stress of individualism puts a lot of stress on a person in the US. We feel like if we don’t do what we were supposed to do at the time we were supposed to do it – hell will freeze over. In societies that stress collectivism, individuals do not worry as much about getting things done. Since everyone is responsible for the same thing, then if you don’t do something it means that someone else will do it. So why should you if you don’t feel like it? In the US, there is very little feeling involved. We do what the clock tells us to. If it’s past midday, we have lunch. If it’s past six o’clock, we have dinner. If it’s ten at night, we go to bed. We don’t eat when we’re hungry and sleep when we’re tired, for there are designated times to do these things and going against the clock is outrageous.”

How do you view time? How would you feel if you were asked to sit quietly and do nothing for just fifteen minutes? Could you do it? Or would you be tempted to reach for your phone, iPad, tv remote, newspaper, book…or just blurt out some words just to break the silence?

A Gallup poll shows that roughly half of Americans feel they don’t have enough time and 40% feel stressed as a result. So if we fall in the too busy and highly stressed group, what are we to do? Paradoxically, we must slow down. We must learn to sit quietly and do nothing for at least fifteen minutes per day. Call it what you will…meditation, mindfulness, prayer, quiet time…but you (and I) must do it.

There is plenty of scientific evidence to support the benefits of meditation or quiet time.

The brain waves of meditators show why they’re healthier. Neuroscientists have found that meditators shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex—brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. In other words, they were calmer and happier than before. (The Benefits of Meditation/Psychology Today)

Who doesn’t want to feel calm and be happy?!! Give meditation/mindfulness/quiet time/prayer a try. Start with just five minutes and work your way up to fifteen minutes. It’s tough at first, at least it was for me. Stick with it. I believe you’ll be glad you did…so will those who have to live with you!

Not sure how to begin. Click here for some tips. And if you are interested in reading more about “mindfulness”, read The Mindfulness Guide for the Super Busy by Leo Babauta.

Now, about that empty plate. During my growing up years (some would say I’m still in my growing up years), I was frequently told, “Clean your plate. There are children in Africa who don’t have enough food so we mustn’t be wasteful.” How’s that for a guilt trip supreme? Be that as it may, the “inherited purpose” of cleaning my plate became a habit that I still succumb to to this day.

Cleaning your plate is an especially unhealthy habit given that we live in the days of super-sized portions in fast food and family restaurants alike. You’ll be pleased to know that 96% of the main entrees sold at the top chain restaurants in the U.S. exceed daily limits for calories, sodium, fat and saturated fat recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USA Today).

For Americans in particular, eating is largely a habit. We eat whether we are really hungry or not. Foods of all kinds, and particularly junk foods, are readily available to most of us. Preparing meals at home from fresh, whole foods has given way to fast food stops and the purchase of prepackaged meals at our local supermarket.

Because we are so conditioned to seeing vast platefuls of food before us, it’s doubtful that many of us can visualize what a healthy plate of well-balanced foods looks like. Part of learning how to eat better, then, is to retrain your brain to recognize—and embrace—more realistic portion sizes,” according to Dr. Jean Harvey-Berino and Joyce Hendley, editors of EatingWell.com.

Lest you think I am preaching from my soapbox here, I can assure you I know whereof I speak. For many years, our meals were mostly from canned and prepackaged foods with a number of trips to Mickey D’s, Taco Bell and Wendy’s thrown in.

Over the last four years, my wife, Kathy, and I have worked diligently to simply “eat better.” As a result, here’s where we are today. We use fresh and whole foods almost exclusively for cooking at home. (And we often cook together which gives us a chance to catch up with one another at the end of the day.) We eat all kinds of foods including the occasional dessert so we are definitely not on a stringent diet. In fact, we are not on a diet plan at all. Fast foods have all but disappeared from our diets…we seem to have lost the desire for them. We are simply eating better foods, in lesser quantities and enjoying it more!

Here’s how we like to enjoy our meals…we do love our food and beverages!

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One of our favorite sources of flavorful and nutritious recipes is Cooking Light magazine. Don’t worry. It’s not filled with recipes for rabbit food and cardboard-tasting crap. Trying new recipes from the magazine also keeps us from falling in a rut and eating the same things over and over. We also pay attention to portion control. This is often a problem for me so I frequently have Kathy “load” my plate! Finally, by choosing fresh and whole foods and reducing our portion sizes appropriately, we’ve found that our weekly food budget is pretty much unchanged from what it was before we began our eating well adventure.

What to do? Start by limiting yourself to palm-sized portions on your plate. Eat more slowly. Put your fork or sandwich down between bites. Don’t super-size your order at fast food restaurants, if you find yourself at one. Pick up a magazine like Cooking light and try a recipe that looks good to you even if you think you can’t boil water. You might surprise yourself and end up being the next Guy Fieri. Last but not least, read Eating tactics for the holidays…and always.

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance…and epic good health always.

Technology Giveth, Technology Taketh Away

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The ways in which technology has benefited global society and each of us individually are immeasurable. Tasks are easier, medical treatment has advanced dramatically, transportation is quick and easy, communication with anyone in the world is at our command, and gratification of all kinds is instantly achieved.

I am grateful for the technological advances on all fronts; my life is better as a result. No doubt yours is too. But if we allow it, technology can weaken us and short-sheet the joy and satisfaction in our lives. Smart phones, personal computers and tablet devices chip away at the 24 precious hours we are given each new day.

I love technology and I love personal technology devices in particular. I have an iPhone, an iPad, two MacBook Pro computers and a Kindle. And I use them on a daily basis…or do they use me? That’s the question I have been asking myself at I enter the year 2013.

I really don’t make a practice of making New Year’s resolutions but this year I am going to purposefully use technology to my advantage and not let it tear chunks out of my days bit by bit.

Think about it. How many times do you check your email just between the hours of 8:00 am and 11:00 pm? How often do you check text messages? How many times do you check Facebook? How many times do you check Twitter? I’ll bet you don’t know the answer to these questions but, if you did, the numbers would be much larger than you think.

Try this simple experiment for one day. Keep a small notebook or notecard and a pen or pencil with you and each time you check email, text messages, Facebook or Tweets, just place a check mark in your notebook or on your notecard. At the end of the day, total the number of check marks in each category and multiply by 15 seconds (Sometimes there are new messages; sometimes not but 15 seconds is a reasonable average for time spent.). Total the number of seconds spent for all categories and divide by 60 to see how many minutes you invested in checking these types of messages during your day. (Add in time spent playing game apps and the time invested grows dramatically for most people.) Now, it’s up to you to decide if that investment of time “checking stuff” is worth it on a daily basis. If so, carry on and enjoy! But if not, how can you better utilize your precious moments?

Ferenc Máté in his book A Real Life: Restoring What Matters: Family, Good Friends and a True Community shares the following with respect to technology.

How the slew of our communication gadgets has affected us is best summed up by the following three quotes. The first is by Gerald Celente, the editor of The Trends Journal. “Technology is supposed to free us from shackles of work and give us more leisure time. But it has proven the opposite. A 2005 Leger Marketing survey found that the majority of people feel technology has meant more work and less time with their family. Whether it’s cell phones, Blackberrys (smart phones), video games or email, we have become a culture enslaved by electronics. Humans are being trapped in a high-tech cycle that is freezing their minds away from the moment, from looking at life and and taking in what’s around them. While technology has radically altered the externals of life, it has done nothing to enhance the internals: moral, emotional, philosophical and spiritual values.”

And as Eric Slate wrote in Adbuster Magazine, “As many people fall further into their personal gadgets, scientists and psychologists are now beginning to classify technology dependency as a major health problem, putting it in the same categories as alcoholism, gambling and drug addiction. The stress it creates is causing arthritis, migraines and ulcers. But most troubling, it is having a powerful impact on our personal development. It seems the more ‘connected’ we are, the more detached we become.” The ultimate irony in an age in which we — and especially the technology savvy young — constantly “communicate” is that we are losing the ability to speak. The following quote is from jobweb.org, a site that offers career and job-search advice for new college graduates. “Unfortunately the very qualities employers look for are the qualities they find lacking in many new graduates. Employers say new graduates lack face to face communication skills. They say many students tend to lack presentation skills, teamwork skills, and overall interpersonal (gets along well with others) skills.”

That’s the dark side of technology, but for 2013 let’s focus on the bright side. A good and satisfying life is a balanced life. So, we need to find the proper balance for technology among the other critical areas of our lives: family, recreation, work, health, community and spirituality. Simply being aware and mindful of how quickly technology can consume your time will move you toward better life/technology balance. Here are a few suggestions that I have found helpful.

  • Avoid checking your smart phone during meals or conversations with family, friends and co-workers. Look them in the eye when you are talking to them.
  • Don’t text while driving or walking!
  • Try to establish four or five time slots a day for checking email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Don’t text while driving or walking!
  • Put your electronic gadgets away or turn them off for a couple of hours each evening while you spend time with family and friends.
  • Don’t text while driving or walking!
  • Establish what you feel is an appropriate number of minutes/hours to use your electronic devices each day and do your best to stick to it.
  • Don’t text while driving or walking!

For more on this topic, see When Technology Addiction Takes Over Your Life by Jennifer Soong. There is a short list of “how to” ideas at the end of the article.

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance…and a well-balanced life in 2013.

Eating tactics for the holidays…and always

Tschetter Farms - South Dakota

Tschetter Farms – South Dakota

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” – Michael Pollan

It seems fitting to publish a short post about eating well now that we are in the midst of the holiday season; a time notorious for binge eating and drinking. I should know; I’ve been an active binge participant for decades now.

Michael Pollan has written an excellent little book on eating well. It’s called Food Rules. He has also nicely summarized the book’s message in seven words. “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Those seven words are everything we will ever need to know about eating well.

To explain just a bit, “eat food” means to eat foods that are not heavily processed and contain additives and preservatives that cannot be easily pronounced. For example, instead of buying apple slices in a plastic package that have been sprayed with preservatives to keep them from turning brown, buy a whole apple. And avoid prepackaged foods when you can. Instead of buying hamburger in a plastic tube or in a styrofoam and plastic shrink-wrapped package, buy it fresh at the meat counter and have it wrapped in butcher paper.

Next, “not too much.” Wow! If we all simply followed this maxim, the diet industry would disappear! Pollan explains that “not too much” has a couple of components. First, a serving size for anything you eat shouldn’t be larger than your fist or the palm of your hand. Now, unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we can have ten fist-sized servings of anything we want. Two must haves for each meal are protein (beans, nuts, lean meats and low-fat dairy products) and whole grains (whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals). Protein along with the fiber from the whole grains will leave you feeling satisfied longer while eating less. Now that’s a win-win!

Finally, Pollan says “mostly plants.” That doesn’t mean you have to live on salads. He’s simply saying that we should try to add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to our meals. Plant foods are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. They also contain lots of phytochemicals, many of which contain disease-fighting properties you can’t get elsewhere.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a challenge to always follow these simple rules. However, I did manage to stick to holiday treats tonight that at least had nuts in them…fudge and peanut brittle…and I kept the serving size to no more than the size of my palm. 🙂 I doubt that Mr. Pollan would give me a passing grade on that one.

Pollan encourages us by saying that we don’t have to be perfect at this; we just need to try and continually improve our food purchases and our eating habits here and there by following his simple food rules. It does get easier to stick more closely to the food rules as we continue to practice them.

If you haven’t read Food Rules, I would encourage you to do so. It’s an easy read that you may well get through in one sitting. Then give the rules a try for 30 days. If you do, I’d be surprised if you don’t find that you have more energy, feel better and weigh less than when you started. What’s not to like about benefits like those?!!

Does this really work? Yes, it does. My wife, Kathy, and I can vouch for the food rules cuz they certainly work well for us…even though we occasionally fall off the wagon around the holidays.

Wishing you grace, peace and simple abundance…and a long and healthy life.