What Is That You’re Eating???

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

Yesterday evening, we had to make a mid-week grocery trip. We normally have a few items to pick up here and there, but not enough to make it much of a shopping excursion. But for whatever reason, this week was different. We’re finding that some items just don’t keep as long as they used to, so we buy in smaller quantities and fill up more often. And yes, sometimes we just forget things. It happens.

In some cultures, the idea of going through a supermarket with a shopping cart filled with a week’s worth of groceries is as foreign as the thought of walking through an outdoor market full of fresh meat, breads, and produce would be to us. But that’s exactly what they do. Every morning, street vendors set out fresh food, and people buy what they need for that day. Nothing ever goes bad.

When I watch shows filmed in other countries, one thing that always catches my eye is the size of their refrigerators. They remind me of the ones we had when I was a kid – the old Kelvinators with a latch on the door and a freezer on top that needs to be defrosted with a hair dryer and ice pick every month. I’ve had one or two of those myself. What we’ve got today is a monstrosity by comparison.

And yet, we still run out of room. Every time we go shopping, something else gets pushed to the back. Then, when you need something, you can’t find it. So, you go to the store and buy more. And as you’re rearranging everything else to make room for what you just bought, you find the one that’s been sitting there all along. Except now, the expiration date has passed, and it has to be thrown out.

There’s something to be said for downsizing and only buying what we need. Freshness is never an issue, because you don’t keep things around long enough for them to go bad. Storage isn’t a problem. And it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what’s for dinner – you’re eating what you bought today because tomorrow it’ll have to be thrown out. All they really store is grains and dry goods.

And you know what? The people in those countries live longer and enjoy a better quality of life than those of us in the modernized world. They’re healthy, vibrant, and active well into their golden years for one simple reason – they didn’t allow technology to replace what nature intended.

I’ve noticed the strawberries in our local grocery store have gotten bigger over the years. I guess that could be due to improved farming practices, but I have to be honest – when I look at them I get images of a strawberry field catching the runoff from a nearby nuclear plant. It’s not very appetizing. And truly, those monster strawberries just don’t taste as good as the smaller ones anyway.

A lot of that could be the result of selective breeding, or even some level of genetic restructuring. And it’s not just strawberries. Peppers, tomatoes, bananas, and most other produce has gradually gotten bigger. I’ve seen navel oranges that are as big as a grapefruit. But, is bigger really better?

According to the USDA and agricultural universities, the nutrient levels in our produce have dropped significantly over the past fifty years, in some cases by as much as 70%. You may be filling your belly, but you’re not doing much for your body. It’s just one of the reasons nutritionists now recommend eating 7-10 servings of fruit and vegetables each day. It’s the only way to get the nutrients we need.

But how many of us actually do that? I know I don’t. If I’m being completely honest, I probably get 3-4 servings a day. Of the good stuff, that is. I get plenty of the junk I don’t need, which is why I have to keep buying these big pants. For a nation that’s so full of overweight people, we are among the most malnourished populations in the world. We’re eating plenty. We’re just not eating right.

If we could set aside a few conveniences and borrow a few habits from other countries, we could begin to turn that around. Instead of seeing how much food we can store in our refrigerators, maybe we should try shopping for a day or two at a time. Instead of loading a cart with groceries, shop with a hand basket. And instead of filling the cabinet with canned goods, fill it with beans and whole grains.

By being more selective about the foods we buy, we’re more sensible about the foods we eat. Things don’t sit around and go bad, and we don’t have to load up on preservatives in the process. When we open the refrigerator, we can find what we need. And, over the long haul, our bodies and bank accounts will both benefit as a result.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Do Your Body Right

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not the image of fitness. I see a lot of other people my age and younger who aren’t nearly as healthy as I am, but when it comes to body weight and the ability to move it around freely, I’ve got some work to do. I guess that can be said for a lot of us.

And something I’ve noticed over the years – every time I talk to my doctor about any of a variety of issues, the response always included “diet and exercise.” Blood sugar is getting a little high? Diet and exercise. Need to take off a few pounds? Diet and exercise. Blood pressure needs to come down? Diet and exercise. I’m starting to think there’s a conspiracy.

And if you read the label on any of the multitude of weight loss products, where they brag about how the pounds and inches will just melt away, there’s always an asterisk next to that comment. Scroll down to the bottom of the label, that line you can’t read without a magnifying glass. It says, “When combined with proper diet and exercise.” Well, duh!

I like working out in a gym, weightlifting and flexibility training. I even like yoga. My problem was always a matter of convenience. My gym has several locations in the area, but they’re all several miles from the house. And, you know, my horse doesn’t like traveling long distances, especially in the cold. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

But a few weeks ago, the YMCA opened a new location a half-mile from the house. Worse yet, it’s right on the way to work. And it’s open ALL DAY. I’m starting to think I’ve run out of viable excuses. So, a couple of days ago, I took the plunge and got us signed up. My wife and I both. As luck would have it, it’s right on the way to every store she visits. Now we both have to go.

I had my first workout the day we signed up. Whatever your goal, or your taste in exercise, they’ve got you covered. Well, everything you can do in public, anyway. And as I looked around at all the equipment and facilities, it occurred to me that there’s no way I’ll ever get it all done. So, you have to pick and choose. You have to find something that will help accomplish your goal.

And, I think that’s one of the most important parts of any exercise program. You have to start with a goal. What are you trying to accomplish? If it’s just weight loss, they’ve got a routine for that. If you want to strengthen and tone as you go, there are exercises for that. And if you just want to be able to grunt and throw around really heavy weights, well … there’s a gym down the street.

For most of us, knowing how to accomplish those goals is a challenge. If you just go into a gym and watch what everybody else is doing, you’re not working on your goals – you’re working on theirs. Exercise programs need to be tailored to your specific condition and your specific needs. Walking is good for everybody. But a treadmill is just a little too much impact for my lower back. At least now.

You could work with a trainer, even just long enough to figure out how to use certain machines correctly. But, be careful because trainers are like those leftovers in the back of your refrigerator … some are a lot better than others. There are lots of books you could read, or you can just surf the internet and get the information for free.

And, believe me, the internet is loaded with info. I was looking for specific exercises to help reduce the size of my … you know, mammaries. I think that’s the technical term. And you know how Google reads what you’ve typed so far and suggests some options? Well, when I typed in “Getting ride of mo …” the first thing that popped up was “Getting rid of moobs?” Seriously? Do they have a camera or something? Like nobody out there is trying to get rid of mosquitoes? Thanks!

The point is, do a little research. Talk to people, read, surf the internet, whatever it takes. Because the same machine one person uses to slim down will help another to bulk up. And it’s critical to do the exercises correctly. Form comes first, then you can work on being macho.

We all need to exercise. And, with very few exceptions, we all need to exercise a lot more than we do now. Start with a goal – know what you’re trying to accomplish, and why. Then take a little time to find out the best (and safest) ways to accomplish that goal. Start easy and build up. It’s not a race. And don’t try to keep up with the person next to you. Just keep up with yourself.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

But the Label Said ‘Low Fat’!

What have you got planned for the weekend? I hope you’ll get out and do something really fun, or at least find some time to cuddle by the fire. Looks like that cuddling thing may be our best bet because, if the weatherman is right, we’re in for a brutal weekend. Snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures. Lovely.

For most of us, it also means a trip to the grocery store to re-stock all those healthy alternatives we’ve been consuming all year. Yeah, there may have been just a note of sarcasm in that. I think most of us go in with good intentions. Yet, when we get home, we can never seem to find all those good things we’d intended to pick up. The store must have been hiding them in the back.

I read an article yesterday that said eating healthier is the number one New Year’s resolution each year. And I read a couple of others that suggested exercising more and losing weight were at the top of the list. I guess it just depends who you ask. But it’s pretty evident that health and fitness weigh heavily (no pun intended) on our minds.

If that’s the case, why is obesity such a problem in this country? According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 39.8% of adults in the United States are obese. Not chubby, not overweight, but obese. And, the problem becomes more prevalent as we get older. So, not only are we big already, we’re getting bigger.

Ask your doctor about losing weight, and the first thing they’ll talk about is diet and exercise. If you’re looking for the silver bullet that’ll make the pounds magically disappear, that’s as good as it gets. Granted, some people opt for surgery, and in some cases that may be the appropriate treatment. But, regardless of how we lose weight, unless we change our habits, it’ll come right back.

And that all begins at the dinner table. Nutritionists suggest we spend most of our time in the grocery store on the outer perimeter of the store. That’s where you’ll find fresh produce, lean meats (and some not so lean meats), seafood, and dairy products. It’s also where you’ll find the bakery, so be careful. You might want to skip that section altogether.

But, aside from a few healthy products like beans and whole grains, the middle of the store is where you find all the junk that got us in this shape to begin with. Unless you get all your meals from a fast-food restaurant, in which case we need to have an entirely different conversation.

There are exceptions to every rule, and stores have learned to mix in some of the good stuff with all that other junk, because one of marketing’s best-known secrets is that if you can get a customer in front of a product, you have a better chance of selling it. If the sign over the aisle said “Junk food” we’d walk right on past. So, they mix in a couple of good things to get you on that aisle.

Be careful of deceptive packaging as well. Low-fat usually means extra sugar. Sugar-free means they’ve added a bunch of other stuff you don’t want. And don’t even get me started on terms such as “light”, “healthy”, or “reduced calorie.” Read the labels, and then compare them to the full-bodied stuff. You’ll probably find one is just about as bad as the other.

And here’s another suggestion – when you read the labels, look for words you can’t pronounce or that don’t look like anything that comes from a farm. If those words dominate the list of ingredients, you may want to pass. Also, ingredients are listed in order of magnitude – the first thing you see is the primary ingredient, usually flour or sugar. Something to keep in mind.

It’s no secret that obesity is a leading cause of health problems. If we want to improve our health, we need to maintain a healthy weight. But it doesn’t end there. To achieve optimal health, we have to give our body more of the nutrients it needs and a lot less of the rest. That all begins with the food we eat. Supplements help fill in the gaps, but a handful of vitamins and a Big Mac won’t cut it.

So, if you’ve resolved to lose some weight or improve your health, pay attention to what you’re bringing home from the store this weekend. Eating healthier isn’t hard and, contrary to what some will say, it’s no more expensive. It’s just a matter of making healthy choices. You already know what you need to do – just do it.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Checked Your Belt Lately?

I had to buy a new belt yesterday. Normally, that wouldn’t be worthy of mention, but in this case, it wasn’t to make a fashion statement or even because the old one was just worn out. It broke. As I was putting it on, tugging against one side to embed the waistband of my pants deep into my belly, the largest metal piece of the buckle broke. Guess it had enough.

It was only a matter of time. When you take something that’s only meant to hold your pants up and put enough force on it to lift a railroad car, sooner or later it’ll snap. And that’s about what it takes to keep these pants up. I think maybe the gods are trying to tell me something.

You see, I carry all of my weight in my belly. According to health experts, that’s not a good thing. And because of that, I have two choices – I can wear my pants lower than a teenage boy on date night or wear my belt so tight it cuts off my spleen. Because, once my pants slip down past the middle of my belly, the laws of gravity take over. It’s really embarrassing in church.

So, I combined my trip to Belts R Us and stopped by the gym on the way home. Between lower back issues and that pesky brain surgery, it’s been a few months. And it shows. But I was a good boy and waited till the doc gave me the okay. He said to start easy, which isn’t a problem for me. Truly, I think he’s afraid of all that pressure from my midsection pushing against my brain.

Weight loss is never an easy thing, especially when you get to this age and you’ve been carrying it around for thirty years. I read an article a few years ago that said, once your body builds fat cells, they never go away. You can empty them out, but like politicians and the IRS, they’re always holding their hand out for more.

It doesn’t help that we’ve seen these reality shows where people lose up to 100 pounds in a few months. And it sets a very unrealistic expectation that, if you do things right, rapid weight loss is the natural result. Also, for the duration of the contest, these people spend their lives under the constant supervision of doctors and nutritionists, exercising several hours a day.

Even then, according to a study reported in the New York times, within a couple of years the overwhelming majority of contestants gained back most, if not all, the weight they had lost. In fact, some weighed even more. Care to guess why the show is off the air? Maybe it’s because they didn’t want to face a ten-year reunion show.

I feel for anybody who’s trying to lose weight. It’s hard, and we live in a world that is increasingly detrimental to those of us with the fat gene. First of all, finding a healthy meal, even at home, is getting harder by the day. Go out, and all bets are off. More often than not, one plate of restaurant food contains a whole day’s worth of fat and calories, with little or no nutritional value.

And, to reward us for our weakness, we have clothing stores and the airline industry. Even if you can find a pair of pants big enough, there’s no way you can squeeze them into the coach seat on an airliner. And they won’t upgrade you to first class just because you’re fat. The best they’ll do is hand you a seat belt extension in full view of all the other passengers to humiliate you even more.

Okay, we’ve had some fun here, but the reality is, obesity is a huge (no pun intended) problem in this country. Beyond broken belts and embarrassing moments, it’s slowly becoming a leading cause of premature death. And we can’t count on corporate America to make it any better. After all, the fatter we are, the more belts they can sell.

We’ve talked before about diets and weight loss, and there are no easy answers. But I believe if you talk to your doctor, get some exercise, and follow a sensible diet that consists of healthy alternatives, it’s not that hard. It’s all about taking in fewer calories, getting optimal value from those calories, and increasing our metabolism through both nutrition and activity.

Many of us will struggle with weight the rest of our lives. But, like any struggle, it’s possible to maintain the upper hand. We just have to be sensible, set realistic goals, and find something we can live with for the long haul. Slow and steady wins the race. Seems I’ve heard that somewhere before.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!