Do you have diabetes or have a family member who is diabetic? Given the prevalence of the condition in our overweight society, you probably do. My mother is a borderline diabetic, my son-in-law is being treated for diabetes and my older brother just received a diagnosis of diabetes.
That's why an article in the July 30, 2007 issue of Business Week caught my eye. The article, written by Catherine Arnst, reported research results from East China Normal University in Shanghai.
Arnst writes: "When scientists...fed diabetic rats pumpkin extract for 30 days, levels of insulin in their blood returned almost to normal, as did the number of insulin-producing cells."
Evidently, pumpkins, besides being a source of antioxidants, also contain a molecule that helps the pancreas regenerate insulin-producing cells destroyed by diabetes.
Those of us who have diabetes or know someone who has it might want to discuss this report with our doctors. The research that is going on in today's world is amazing, isn't it? Makes you wonder what tomorrow will bring.
I begin my day with a 60-minute floor workout in my living room. My home gym equipment consists of an exercise ball, a 6-foot piece of doweling that my husband picked up at a lumber yard, a luggage travel strap, two 5-pound weights, and a mat that is actually a small, quilted, washable throw my stepdaughter gave me as a gift. My entire home gym cost less than $100.
My personalized routine, which I've developed and revised over time, keeps my back flexible and builds upper-body strength. It also helps me retain my sense of balance, so critical for preventing falls as I age.
I supplement this morning routine with about 8-10 hours of tennis during the week, usually as part of a doubles team. Currently, I am on a USTA team for women 60 and over. (We're doing well in our league, thank you!)
I also attend clinics to improve my game. In these classes, I'm surrounded by young people who challenge me to perform at their level.
Playing tennis keeps my legs and arms in good shape. The repeated spurts of running followed by resting are good for the heart. And playing outdoors with my friends is good for my spirits. I feel like a kid when I am running around hitting tennis balls (or trying to).
I love the quiet meditative nature of my morning routine, and I also enjoy the competitive play with my friends on the tennis courts.
Having fun is important; I am not a highly disciplined person. Finding two ways to exercise that are thoroughly pleasurable accounts for my consistency. After 50 years of being a slug, I've typically averaged around 2 hours of exercise a day for the past 5 years.
Insight from my own transformation-from fat to fit-leads me to encourage others to find forms of exercise that they love to do, from gardening to dancing to kayaking.
Life is short. I don't want to waste time or effort on grim exercise routines! (Or sitting at this computer.) Must run. See you on the courts!
When checking out the calories in various food items on the McDonald's Web site, www.mcdonalds.com I have to admit I was surprised when I stumbled across valuable heart health tips in an article written by Dean Ornish, MD., the founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute.
Dr. Ornish argues that comprehensive lifestyle changes can make a difference in preventing or reversing coronary heart disease. These changes "include stress management, moderate exercise, group support, and a low-fat whole foods nutrition plan. Most people experience substantial improvements in weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, vitality, and quality of life."
When I read his comments, I stood up and cheered. I am, after all, living proof of his medical theory.
Another idea he proposed, however, added a dimension to my thinking that I wanted to share. Like you perhaps, I typically think about foods that I should avoid eating to keep from gaining weight. Dr. Ornish encourages us to get beyond that mentality. Instead, he wants us to eat affirmatively-that is, eat food that will nourish our bodies. He says:
" It's not just about what you exclude from your diet that's harmful, but also what you include that's beneficial. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and soy products are rich in substances that, in my opinion, can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease as well as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer."
"Just 3 grams per day of fish oil or flax seed oil are rich in omega 3 fatty acids that, in my opinion, may reduce your risk of a heart attack by 50% or more. Also, this may help reduce your risk of prostate cancer, breast cancer, and arthritis."
Research over time will validate the truth of his theories about fish oil and flax seed oil. (My own theory is that laughter is the best medicine.) But the idea that we need to eat affirmatively for health purposes (and not just limit caloric intake) is a solid one that I need to reinforce in my own approach to eating.
If you want more information from Dr. Ornish including free recipes, you can find them at his Web sites: www.Ornish.com and www.pmri.org.
I work hard, so I want to enjoy my vacations. At the same time, I don't want to give up everything I've invested in losing weight and getting fit.
I could give in and indulge myself, knowing I'll shape up later. But if I decide to indulge, I may need to brace myself when I see the number on the scale when I return home.
I could go on an austere vacation, spending precious time feeling sorry for myself, frustrated that I never get a vacation from eating carefully.
Is there a middle ground? Yes. Here are four ideas that I use:
Drink plenty of water. By staying hydrated, you'll be more aware of whether your body is hungry or thirsty. You won't be eating when all you really wanted was a glass of water.
Seek fresh food. Buy lunch at the local grocery story. Pick out a salad and some fresh fruit. Or purchase a carton of yogurt and order a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread. If you want to eat out, find places that offer healthy options. For a list of those options in the area you are traveling, go to www.healthyhighways.com
Keep a cooler packed with healthy drinks and snacks. Include some fruit and other healthy snacks such as a jar of peanut butter, a carton of low-fat cottage cheese, or hard-boiled eggs. Some rental cars have built-in coolers.
Take your fitness clothes and gear along. Look for parks that you can walk in, hotels that have exercise options, and fitness centers that have day passes.
Facing higher numbers on my credit card statement after returning from vacation is tough enough. I don't wan to face higher numbers on the bathroom scale as well.
You can borrow my tips and add your own. That way, both you and I can have wonderful vacations and come back feeling fit, rested and relaxed.
I just spent three exciting days at the AARP Convention in Boston (September 6-8). I think I got more than my money's worth from the $15 registration fee.
To give you an idea of the range of activities, I listened to Maya Angelou and Whoopi Goldberg chat on stage on topics ranging from food and menopause to mortality, and I talked to Scooter, LL Cool J's trainer as LL Cool J signed books 2 feet away.
I also gave two presentations on AARP's Fat to Fit Community Challenge, which begins January 1, 2008, and I will be mentoring. A photographer took my picture as I began speaking and within minutes the photo was on the Internet.
Elisa Parker (who works with me) and I spontaneously made an on-site videotape promoting sign-ups for the Fat to Fit Community Challenge. Oh, there were a couple of book signings thrown in for good measure at the Barnes and Noble on-site bookstore.
One of the more bizarre experiences I had involved a robot "buddy." The robot is being developed through a research program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The robot functions as a fitness partner and requires the owner to report his or her daily eating and exercise habits.
The way the robot's eyes moved and responded to mine made the robot seem alive. Most embarrassingly, I found myself talking to the robot as if it were a person. In the same "futurist" section that I found the robot, I played a couple of games of virtual tennis, standing about 8 feet from the monitor and swinging the remote control as if it were a tennis racket. I lost.
My mind is reeling from all the people I met and the exciting developments featured at the convention. As I digest the experience, I'll write about it here. Watch for the photo of the robot and me. And yes, the robot interacts so appropriately that you could swear it is holding you accountable. Incredible idea!
But for now. It's back from the future and home to California.