Earlier in our country’s history, when many Americans engaged in farm work or other demanding physical labor, they sat down to meals with plates filled with heaping portions of meat and potatoes. Almost as an afterthought, a cooked vegetable, maybe canned green beans or corn, was added.
Today, this entrenched eating pattern is making us fat and may be increasing our risk of cancer. To live more healthfully, we need to increase our intake of vegetables and grains and reduce our consumption of animal fats. With a little imagination, we can eat better tasting food even as we eat healthier fare.
1. Get creative with your vegetable dishes and consume them first. Use exotic mild spice blends like Asian curries to enhance flavors.
2. Prepare two contrasting vegetable dishes for every meal. For example, steamed green broccoli and white cauliflower provide visual contrast. Or try steamed green kale and white beans drizzled in a bit of olive oil.
3. Replace the meat-and-potatoes meal plan with “one-dish” meals where meat is an incidental ingredient. Here’s one: sauté brown rice in a bit of olive oil with spices and onions. Then add water or broth and cook in a large pot. About 10 minutes before the grains are done, add chopped vegetables of your choice. If you to wish to add protein, add a cup or so of chopped cooked chicken or, perhaps for color contrast, 2-3” pieces of salmon.
After a very short time, this new way of cooking will bebe the “norm” for you and your family and guests. NoNo one will miss the heavier meat and potato fare. They will, however, appreciate your thoughtfulness in preparing nutritious, delicious—but not fattening—meals.
Before long, you’ll be sharing your new ways with family and friends, encouraging them to adopt healthier habits as well. Here’s to good eating and even better health!
2. Don’t assume you have to do all your exercise in one time period or that exercise happens only in a gym. In fact, short exercise breaks throughout the day are good for you and may be more practical, especially for caregivers and others with demanding schedules. Take the stairs, park at the edge of a lot and walk rather than drive to the mailbox. Purchase a videotape and work out 20 minutes at the beginning of your day.
3. Don’t exercise over pain. The “no pain, no gain” approach to exercise is dangerously wrong. Just the opposite is true. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to slow down. If your body hurts, back off. Exercise should make you feel better, not worse.
4. Don’t make exercise one more dreaded chore on your to-do list. Find exercises you love to do. Consider your exercise time as your daily treat, a mini-vacation from the stress of everyday life. Focus on your body while you are exercising. Make the wonderful experience of feeling your body become more alive and energetic its own intrinsic reward.
At last—I finished The Fat to Fit Meltdown Manual: Create Weapons of Mass Reduction in Your Community (ISBN 978-0-9766030-5-4) and I have the published book sitting next to me as I write this.
What started out as a 30-page spiral-bound workbook designed to help organizers create a community weight loss event turned into a 110-page paperback, complete with information, charts and forms.
Elisa Parker helped me with much of the detail because it was a huge sorting, sifting and organizing project. When I led the Nevada County Meltdown in 2004, I didn’t expect that it would take on its own life. Plus, I was busy organizing an event with volunteers, an event for over a thousand enthusiastic neighbors and friends who were busily e-mailing me and each other.
To recreate the event, I sorted through e-mails, letters, registration and team forms, checklists and class notes. I also reviewed video footage and photos. The materials filled two large boxes. I was both grateful to have saved almost everything and daunted by the tedious task of organizing materials in a useful and comprehensible way.
When I had a working draft, I sent it to key participants, who added their own perspectives. They fleshed out elements that I had forgotten about or simply wasn’t aware of. Thanks to the extra sets of eyes, the manual is as complete as we can make it.
The manual retails for $89; group discounts are available. Also, if you want to organize a Community Meltdown, you can write me and get permission to reprint parts of the book.
This is my Christmas present to myself—ending the year with one useful and completed project. Maybe I’ll put a bow around it and tuck it under the Christmas tree. And then I’m going to take a badly needed rest!
Ever wake up in the morning, step on the bathroom scale and then feel discouraged and resentful because your body weighs more than you want it to?
If you’ve suffered this experience, you aren’t alone.
A lot of us struggle to feel good about ourselves when our bodies don’t look as trim and fit as we’d like. If our body image doesn’t measure up to our standards, then our self-image doesn’t measure up either. For many of us, self-image and body image are inextricably linked.
What’s the solution?
Elisa Parker, an associate of mine, suggests trying meditation. “The wonderful thing about meditation, especially for someone seeking to lose weight or dealing with body image, is that it can potentially free you from your body for a few brief moments.
“By clearing the mind and releasing feelings of anxiety, including critical thoughts about your body and yourself, you can enjoy the freedom and joy of simply letting go.
What a wonderful way to have a vacation from your body.
An additional side benefit is that you often end up with more of a connection to your core self.
“Beginning to meditate isn’t without its challenges; your mind wanders, you question whether it is a waste of time and you wonder if you are doing it right. And on top of that, those darn irritating thoughts keep popping up.
“Meditation might include clearing the mind, visualization and focus, or even movement like yoga or tai chi to still the mind.
“Find a quiet and comfortable space in your home where you won’t be disturbed. Select a time during your day that works for you. I prefer the evening, when my family is asleep. Try mediating for five minutes, focus on your breathing and expand from there.
“Like the acquisition of other skills, the more you practice, the greater the benefit you might experience. Over time, your capacity to enjoy a sense of balance and harmony between and within your body, mind and spirit could increase.”
Elisa’s comments are worth pondering. How paradoxical that letting go of our thoughts and ideas even for short periods of time allows us to return to our bodies with greater appreciation along with an increased sense of calm and well-being.
In addition to stress release, meditation might even help with weight loss. Ruth Quillian-Wolever, Ph.D., clinical director for the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine in Durham, NC, and her colleague, Jean Kristeller, Ph.D., of Indiana State University, are conducting a two-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health to determine if there is a link between meditation and weight loss. They will have the results in 2009.
I’ve always used my sixty-minute workout each morning to enjoy the experience of being in my body. I contrast that experience with the one I’m having now—sitting at a computer with my mind dictating thoughts and my fingers tapping on the keyboard.
Lately, I’ve added a few minutes of focused meditation at the end of my morning routine. I guess I’m ready to add a spiritual workout to my physical workout. What about you?