Friday, June 29, 2007

Strong People

Last year, I went to watch a Strong Man competition and ended up entering the event - kind of. It was an ad hoc effort that was a result of peer pressure.
Seriously, can't we steal street signs or streak through stadiums? And how 'bout a bunch of us girls get together for a spa day rather than peel atlas stones off the ground and make straining faces in public? I grew up in New England and the only time anybody yelled, "Hey, let's go drag a bus!" was when they could blow an .08 and someone wise would usually stop them.
Now, here it comes again, the Strong Man competition and if I was planning to go with some nonchalant, "Oh, that was this weekend?", my friends at CrossFit Eastside posted the photo and a reminder for all those entering.
Confronting. Thanks.
As much as I don't like the 'visibility' of it, I can't keep encouraging my clients to deal with their demons, If I'm not willing to. So fine, I'll pick up the heavy stuff which isn't nearly as heavy as the conversation I'll keep having in my head up to and throughout the event. It's part of the game, really. And I'll have all my friends around me carrying heavy stuff including me when I need it. They always do.
Yet again, the question is, 'What stops you?' and it's worth taking the time to answer every time it comes up. Because if it shows up here when the task is as simple as picking up the heavy things, you have to wonder where else this thread weaves through your life.
The other lesson, here: If you don't have friends like mine, find them. The support you get from the people around you makes all the difference. I'm sorrounded by strong men and women who cheer me on and push me. If I faultered, failed or gave into my fears, there would be a team of people tugging me from the front and nudging me from the back. If the weight won't budge, neither will my supporters. They teach me how to be a better competitor and a better coach.

Go, Stace!

Dustin is at home right now and not exactly honing his social skills in a binge of 'Call of Duty'. He has learned, however, countless ways to kill animated things. But, then again, I call him when I'm stuck in traffic - he's absorbed, I'm absorbed. I sorta talk about things that are only sorta interesting and partly because I'm calling caffeinated and he's an enabler. It's like drunk dialing and sometimes just as coherent. Caller ID, Dustin, seriously.

He's actually cannon fodder for the babbling aunt problem. He's taking the heavy fire and covering my sister, Stacey, so that she can get ready for the opening of her Yoga Center in Wolfeboro, NH on July 1st (please feel free to swing by if you're in the neighborhood).

I promised I'd mention that she squatted 230 pounds in her crusade for the ever-elusive Yoga booty (which can be found at the bottom of a squat). I believe this was on equipment of some sort, but she gets a pass for now since the hyperflexibility of a yoga instructor could make finding the bottom of a squat and then digging your way out of it a challenging task. She'll get there - we have the same determined gene.

Most of you know that the silence and seriousness of a yoga class makes me want to giggle uncontrollably, end each pose with Jazz hands and yell 'TaDa!" (it's a nervous response - my mother would have done the same thing). Even though Stacey and I don't directly share a passion for Ashtanga, I admire the heck out of her. Mostly because a lot of what she's doing right now scares the bajeebers out of her and she's doing it anyway.

Be courageous, Stace, forge ahead and leave me a trail of breadcrumbs. Oh, and when you make this a huge success - Jazz hands and a big 'TaDa!'

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Blocked by Take-Out

"All signs point to 2,000 calories . . . " or so says the Magic 8-Ball which is considerably cheaper and a more nostalgic way to flat-out guess caloric intake than calling the psychic hotline. All that conjuring and cyphering in an attempt to get meaningless numbers to put in a meal tracker so I will get off your back. And what's with my "so how's your nutrition . . . .?" question as if this is going to be a breezy conversation about weather and work. I know me, and frankly I'm a pain in the ass with that.

Chris is a client whose daily grind is fun and games while exercise grinds him down. He works for a gaming company and is just trying to enjoy a slice of life and maybe an occasional slice of pie without a whole lotta lip from me but, already on meds for his blood sugar, it's not a subject I'm going to drop unless his insulin level does. So, Chris, how's your nutrition?

He's made a commitment before but he's stymied by Styrofoam - yep, it's take-out that takes him out. The lure of 'it's possible' to balance take out meals clouds the fact that 'it's improbable' that it will be done successfully. Serving size and unknown additives makes caloric consumption anybody's guess. Any earnest attempt by Chris is still horoscope fodder fueled by wishful thinking.

If Chris could cook, he wouldn't eat out so much but it's not something thirty-somethings just start doing - where do you jump in? For starters, might I suggest the shallow end of the pool? Easy, familiar food. If this transition felt like a lifestyle and not a life sentence, this wouldn't be such a heartbreaking change. I suggested making his favorite take-out meals at home so that we could get a more trustworthy answer when it comes to caloric consumption and serving size. I'll find solutions to his favorite foods and he'll prepare them and give me feedback. Oh, and you too. Now you get to ask him the dreaded question. All together now, "So, Chris . . . . "

As I'm sure you gathered from his name, Chris is Korean. His first choice for a recipe revamp is Korean Barbecue Beef. This is a bit misleading because there's very little revamping necessary other than Chris' commute home which no longer routes through the parking lot of his favorite Korean restaurant. The recipes follow, as well as some tips:

Zone Primer
Balance your macronutrients. Really, do I have to say more? Don't let me get rolling on this. We could be here until Chris starves to death.

To determine serving size, it's best if you have a digital scale. Put a bowl on the scale, zero it out, place the entire recipe in the bowl, determine the weight, divide by the serving size, and then weigh out your portion on your plate. You can do this with multiple side-dishes, just zero out your plate on the scale each time before you add your next item.

Bulgogi (Korean Barbecued Beef)

3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound beef top sirloin, thinly sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 green onion, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic, sugar, salt, black pepper, and MSG. Place beef, carrots, and onions in the bag; seal, and shake to coat the vegetables and beef with the sauce. Refrigerate for at least 2 1/2 hours. I prefer to marinate mine overnight.
Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat. Remove meat and vegetables from marinade, and place on a large sheet of aluminum foil; seal. Discard marinade.
Place on grill, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or to desired doneness.

What I would do: Buy the best quality meat - lean and grass fed - and marinade it longer. Lean meat will be a bit tougher but the vinegar will break down the muscle fiber if you give it a little time. Also, I would replace the sugar with Agave Nectar and 1/2 the amount - though, frankly, a teaspoon of sugar may be too meager to worry about. Also, I'd use Tamari instead of soy sauce - same taste, less sodium. This isn't a lot of marinade, so I would increase the garlic and rub the meat with the garlic and onion, salt and pepper the meat directly and let it sit a bit before I put it in the bag with the other ingredients.

Servings Per Recipe: 4
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 243
Total Fat: 15g
Cholesterol: 61mg
Sodium: 1058mg
Total Carbs: 6.3g (Count this as a Block and you'll see why later)
Dietary Fiber: 1.3g
Protein: 20.2g (That's Roughly 3 Blocks if you're zoning)

Korean Cucumber Salad

1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 green onion, sliced
1/2 carrot, julienned

In a medium bowl, stir together vinegar, black pepper, and red pepper flakes.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in sesame seeds, and reduce heat to medium. Cook until seeds are brown, about 5 minutes. Remove seeds with a slotted spoon, and stir into vinegar mixture. Mix in cucumber, green onions, and carrot. Cover, and refrigerate at least 5 minutes

Servings Per Recipe: 2
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 96
Total Fat: 7g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 9mg
Total Carbs: 7.3g (Count this as one block)
Dietary Fiber: 2.7g
Protein: 2.6g

What I would do: Don't toast the sesame seeds in oil - ESPECIALLY in vegetable oil. Carve a few grams of fat out of the salad since the BBQ is already a bit high if your following zone proportions, and save yourself from potential rancidity. If you really want toasted sesame seeds, toast them dry on a cookie sheet under the broiler but watch them closely.

Korean Squash

5 medium zucchini, sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot, combine the zucchini, green onions, vinegar, soy sauce, water, sugar and sesame oil. Season with black pepper. Mix to blend, then cover and cook over medium heat until zucchini is tender, about 20 minutes.

What I would do: Cut the sesame oil in half. As I mentioned before, you're already running hot on fats with the BBQ. Same goes for the sugar. Substitute with Agave or honey.

Servings Per Recipe: 6
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 103
Total Fat: 4.9g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 1230mg
Total Carbs: 13.5g (Count this as one block - the other carbs were shy of the 9 grams, this is heavy so it will even out a bit)
Dietary Fiber: 3.1g
Protein: 3.7g

This turns out to be a 3 block meal. That's pretty tiny for a male, but the fat content is a bit high and I wouldn't want to up the serving size of beef for that reason. I'm going to ignore the fat blocks for now because our goal is to improve his habits first. Plus, I'm convinced that this is a vast improvement on what he's been eating.

I would consider having some fat-free yogurt for desert after the meal. It's a 1-1 protein/carb block and it will make up the difference in the meal without adding more fat.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My apologies for skipping out on my blog for the last couple of weeks. Honestly I was stymied by reading material, I went to Vancouver to help out at a CrossFit certification and I wrote an article for a grappling magazine in Oregon. Where does the time go?

Recently I ran into my old 4-H cake decorating teacher - no joke - and she remembered me because I never use to eat the frosting. Funny, 'cause now I have a secret frosting fetish. For those of you who feared finding me face-down in a bowl of buttercream after a PMS induced episode - honestly, I'm fine. I'm still clean and attending the meetings.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

. . . . and shoved in

Never stray from the walkway in flip flops. It sounds like an ancient proverb of sorts, but in my neighborhood where the postage-stamp park behind my apartment building is just fragrant enough to cause every dog within radius to reflexively hunch it's hindquarters and leave an offering to the God of Defecation, it's wise to tread lightly. And honestly, their worship timetable matches Mecca until even the best canine noses get hopelessly confused by all the markings (human noses are impacted differently). Every now and then I see some Newb* sprawled out in the fertilized grass of septic central and I wince (these are the same fresh-faces who haven't learned to Tow-Zone jockey the illegal parking after the last meter maid rolls through).

Given my convenient location - except when I'm downwind - I wonder if I should get a dog but then, I can't even keep intestinal flora alive and for me, healthy bacteria would make a better pet. Think Sea Monkeys. Certainly a more useful infestation than the one that is now on the bottom of my soiled flip flop - so much for the walkway theory.

My digestive tract has always been an underperformer. For some reason, boyfriends have always been intrigued and eager to tinker with my transit times (we're not talking bus schedules here - and, if we were, let's just say I'm on a Sunday schedule). Frankly, unless you know me REALLY well, you should stay out of my medicine cabinet and my bowels. That said, it is true that the root of most of my maladies begins in my gut. I had ulcers when I was 21.

Since I've always suspected that the stress of various food allergies caused a bacterial genocide, I often call in reinforcements in the form of probiotics. And, no, I have no idea if this actually works. I may be sending the little buggers in to be slaughtered D-Day style by my angry intestinal mucosa or to die of exposure while stuck to the gum I swallowed in elementary school. I spent the last week trying to answer that question but the studies provided little help other than a darn good sleep aid. I believe the way I explained it to Stacey, my sister, was that it allowed me to effectively drool between my keyboard keys and perhaps nullify my warranty.

I think 'Protection against gastrointestinal diseases--present facts and future developments' from Kasper H of University Hospital, Clinic of Internal Medicine, W├╝rzburg, Germany, sums it all up rather nicely:

"The importance of the intestinal microflora and, more specifically its composition, in physiological and pathophysiological processes in the human GIT is becoming more evident. Examples of such processes are translocation, the production and resorption of endotoxins, immune-modulation, and colonic motility. This leads to new possibilities for prevention and therapy of diseases, mainly of the gastrointestinal organs. New discoveries are specifically related to the beneficial effects of lactobacilli which have been discussed for decades. It is possible to increase the proportion of lactobacilli in the gastrointestinal microflora by consumption of fermented dairy products or by oral administration of specific non-digestible substrates such as oligofructose. Results from clinical trials and scientific studies have confirmed the preventive and therapeutic effects of selected strains of lactobacilli in viral- and bacterial-induced intestinal infections, in positively influencing immunological parameters, in normalizing the intestinal motility, and in inhibiting metabolic events in the gut lumen which promote colonic carcinogenesis. Nevertheless, there are still unresolved issues which can only be answered by well designed and well controlled clinical trials.

Cleared that right up, huh? You're welcome. No, clearly the 'experts' aren't clear at all. Maddening.

I started the research knowing that I didn't know anything. What I concluded was neither does anyone else. I was a little disappointed because I believed 'they' did 'studies that show' and that all the positive affects had been proven. I just needed to look polished and point Vanna White style at all the pretty data. Apparently, my intestinal tract is Area 51 - all kinds of folks think something is going on there but the 'proof' is often just nutty speculation - or not.

And then in walks Sara and inspiration. Sara is my secret handshake client. Back in the day when I worked for Corporate Colossus, I couldn't give any useful advice or information even when my trigger finger was damn itchy. I 'pssst' Sara a couple of times only to discover that she was well-informed and a secret nutritional ninja. I remembered that we talked about making coconut milk kefir - purposely fermented, not like the compost I'm making in my fridge - and that she was giving it to her kids. Gasp!

So, our conversation went something like this. Well, exactly like this, I e-mailed her the questions:

CG: I'm writing a blog entry about probiotics and prebiotics and I need to know more about your Coconut Milk Kefir. What made you decide to try this?

S: So technically it is young coconut water, not the oh-so-sexy coconut milk. I started it mostly because it was recommended by the nutritionist we were seeing in Philly as a way to get probiotics into my kids easily w/o dairy. Also because I love scary food experiments.

CG: Why did you start feeding it to your kids?

S: Started feeding it to Theo because he has a brain injury and food allergies. So if the belly is considered the second brain, we obviously need to heal his gut. Both for his physical health, but also to support healing his brain. Most people agree that his food “allergies” (which are technically sensitivities because they don’t include an immediate and severe reaction) are a symptom of a leaky gut. The Body Ecology Diet (which is the best book I’ve seen at putting all the random nutrition theories and factoids together into one almost workable theory) suggests a variety of steps to heal the gut

Eliminate reactive foods until the body can handle them
Eliminate hard to digest foods (think wheat, soy, dairy)
Enhance digestion using food combining (so various digestive enzymes don’t essentially cancel each other out), adding in appropriate digestive enzymes and actually taking small bites and chewing the food!
Crowd out the bad bacteria and yeast by adding in lots and lots of the good
Stop feeding the bad belly bugs (no sugar, no half digested foods making it into the intestines)

CG: What were your expectations and how did you manage to dodge CPS?

S: My expectation was that the kids would enjoy the experience of making it, groove on the taste of it and consume about 1 cup/day. Didn’t work. They loved the experiment, hated the taste of it. I found it hard to kefir the young coconut milk, either it was bitter and harsh or really dull and yeasty tasting. Sadly, I do have a printout by my front door with the title “The Social Worker at Your Door: 10 helpful hints.”

CG: What have you found that works?

S: Jennifer Adler suggested kefiring juice. I hesitated a bit because I don’t feed my kids juice – you know the drill – too much sugar too many empty calories. But, we tried it and the kids LOVE it. So now I easily get the probiotics into them. I think (without any science behind me) that the bacteria feed on the sugar thereby reduce the total sugar buzz. Using juice instead of the coconut water reduces the lovely nutritional impact, but it has removed the power struggle. And because I’m focused on a holistically healthy child, I’m choosing slightly reduced nutrition over emotional scarring!

CG: What differences do/did you notice when this was/is part of your diet?

S: Honestly, we throw so many changes at Theo at once it is hard to say what real changes this one thing makes. That said, I think it has improved Theo’s digestion. In the risk of TMI, for him this means less time spent on the toilet both passing stool and feeling “finished” and less smelly poop. Two giant bonuses when you’re in the bathroom at Costco.

CG: How did you go about selected an OTC brand?

S: I bought the brand that the Body Ecology site sells because I didn’t want to spend tons of time researching just the right kefir granules along with the 20 other changes I was trying to make. Their info says you can use one packet for about 7 batches. I started kefiring juice with one of those packets and we’ve done about 15 batches so far. I’ve also split it twice to share with friends.

CG: Have you ever been in a Turkish Prison (you're married to Bill - don't say you don't know 'Airplane' references)?

S: You know how they say you marry your father? My dad, my brother, my high school sweetheart and my hubby all LOVE Airplane. Subsequently, I have a mental block to all such references and I no longer hear any of them. La la la la la la la la.

*Newb: short for 'newbie'. This vocab word courtesy of my newphew, Dustin. He never called me a Newb of course because, as aunts go, I'm pretty cool. But maybe he just humors me 'cause he knows I'll sweep a leg all Karate Kid style.