A health and fitness blog: With an occasional food item

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Huckabee recipe

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is probably best known in recent years for losing 120 lbs. while in office. Surely that takes some doing, with all the foodie events politicians have to attend. (But he also took up jogging. Religiously.) The following recipe comes from a brief New York Times story Tuesday about Huckabee, author of "Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork" (Time Warner).
The recipe comes from his wife Janet. It was included with a "Farwell Arkansas" card from the couple. Mike Huckabee is a Republican candidate for President.

2 cans whole green beans
1 pound bacon
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup of butter
3 tsp. garlic salt

Drain beans and make bundles of 4 or 5. Cut a piece of bacon in half and wrap around each bundle. Place bundles in baking dish. Melt last three ingredients in saucepan and pour over bundles. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until bacon seems done.

The panic button -- stress part 2

Down here at the L-E, we've just received word we may be printing today/tonight in Macon, our sister paper to the east. (Update: It's LaGrange.) If so, you may be getting your paper about three hours ahead of time. Or not. People are scrambling around here more than usual. So I said to myself, "Self, let's find a helpful article on stress." Here's a tidbit, from stress.com:
"Stress is an unavoidable consequence of life. There are some stresses like the loss of a loved one that you can't hope to avoid and others that you can prevent or influence. The trick is in learning how to distinguish between the two so that you're not constantly frustrated like Don Quixote tilting at windmill and devote your time and talent to areas where you can make a difference. Try to follow the advice in Reinhold Niebuhr's, serenity prayer, "Grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I can't change, and the wisdom to know the difference."
About the photo: It's not about "hear no evil/see no evil." It's from a yoga class--a great stress-reliever.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Nutritious and delicious

Hope everyone is having a good Tuesday.
Some food for thought, so to speak:
To Improve Nutrition:
1. Buy whole foods -- whether canned, frozen, or fresh from the farm -- and use them in place of processed foods whenever possible.
2. Reject foods and drinks made with corn syrup, a calorie-dense, nutritionally empty sweetener that many believe is worse for the body than sugar, says Katz.
3. Start each dinner with a mixed green salad. Not only will it help reduce your appetite for more caloric foods, but it also will automatically add veggies to your meal.

To Improve Physical Fitness:
1. Do a squat every time you pick something up. Instead of bending over in the usual way, which stresses the lower back, bend your knees and squat. This forces you to use your leg muscles and will build strength.
2. Every time you stop at a traffic light (or the bus does), tighten your thighs and butt muscles and release as many times as you can. (Don't worry, no one will see it!) This will firm leg and buttock muscles, improve blood flow -- and keep you mildly amused!
3. Whenever you're standing on a line, lift one foot a half-inch off the ground. The extra stress on your opposite foot, ankle, calf and thigh, plus your buttocks, will help firm and tone muscles. Switch feet every few minutes.

P.S. Speaking of canned goods, as we speak I am looking at an encased (in plastic) can of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, sent to the L-E from Campbell's. It's been in the office for quite some time. Attached to the can is a "silver" label that reads Campbell's Classic Can With Conventional Lid. Limited Edition. One of 500. (dated 2003.) It's practically a museum down here. It seems to be a collector's item; let me know if you want it.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The blogger 'Brogger' is sick

Not me, but the guy in my department whose real name is Brad Barnes (bradbarnes.blogspot.com). He is sick, sick, sick. ... so say a prayer for him, or light a peace pipe--whatever your M.O.--or better yet, drop him a get-well note.

Maxing out

This just in: An Associated Press report that warns against TOO much exercise. There seems to be a threshold where overdoing it doesn't really add much, physiologically speaking. Here's the story:
GUILDERLAND, N.Y. - Robert Irwin boosted his running to 80 miles a week when he was in his 20s. It felt good, until it started feeling bad.
“I really started to break down,” said Irwin, now 34. “I got plantar fasciitis in both my feet, ended up getting bone spurs. I had a really bad hamstring that hampered me for a couple of years.”
Irwin, now a chiropractor in suburban Albany, dialed down his workouts to about half that. He worked his way back up over the years to a more manageable 70 miles a week —with breaks when needed.
Irwin found out that, yes, it really is possible to exercise too much. Overzealous exercisers can run their way to stress fractures, spin their way to insomnia or even overdo it to the point their immune systems are compromised.
The danger is real for both tiptop athletes and middle-agers trying to work off the holiday paunch. Problem is, the line defining when exercise becomes risky is a blurry one. There are different thresholds for different people. But medical experts work off some general guidelines.
“The real sweet spot, as you would expect there to be in any biologic system, is around an hour a day,” said Dr. Mehmet Oz, a surgeon at Columbia University and co-author of “You: The Owner’s Manual.” “After that, it’s hard to show a great benefit.”
There are no widely accepted recommendations for when adults should lay off exercising — partly because health officials are worried about Americans being too sedentary, not too active. But it’s also difficult to say with precision when healthy exercise becomes unhealthy among a population that includes extremes — from triathletes to couch potatoes.

“It’s so idiosyncratic, that’s the tough thing about it,” said Carl Foster, a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
William Haskell, professor at the Stanford School of Medicine, says that in general the risk of harm begins to outweigh the benefits for adults after more than an hour a day. Above an hour, it’s questionable whether you’re going to get much more from it, he said.
An obvious concern is increasing the chance of injuries related to wear and tear, like a muscle strain, sprained ankle or a torn cartilage. Oz notes that those sorts of injuries can be a double dose of bad news: Not only do they immediately sideline exercisers, but they can cause nagging problems decades later.
There are concerns beyond breaks and bruises, of course. Middle-aged men who suddenly ratchet up activity after years of inaction can risk a heart attack. And even hard-charging athletes will sometimes show signs of lethargy, decreased immunity or headaches. The cause of so-called overtraining syndrome among athletes is unknown, but Foster said failure to rest could play a part.
How to bounce back
Oz’s rule of thumb is that bodies don’t bounce back as well after more than 12 hours of exercise a week. He said overexercise can create more oxidative stress, in which oxygen molecules called free radicals are formed that damage DNA and cells in ways that, over time, can accumulate to spur cancer.
Over time, oxidative stress has been linked to health problems, including cancer.
In general, doctors’ advice is listen to your body. If you are tired or achy, take a rest. Take days off and vary the intensity of your workout. Irwin counsels runners to watch out for signs they’re working out too hard, such as a resting heart rate 10 beats a minute over the normal rate.
“You have to have recovery time even if you are healthy,” Irwin said. “Give yourself some time to rest.”
Foster offers some specific pointers for beginners trying to burn off the holiday bulge: Cross-train and give yourself six months or so to build endurance. Respect the limitations that come with age, he said, and “don’t try to be 19 the first week. “
But whatever you do, don’t stop exercising.
“This is not America’s big problem. The opposite is,” Oz said. “And people shouldn’t use this as an excuse not to exercise.”
Hello, Cyberspace friends: What have you experienced? What do you think?

Sunday, January 28, 2007


We got a belated Christmas newsletter Saturday from a friend in Atlanta. She sends them out only every five years or so. The letter was 12 pages long (with footnotes no less!), but as our friend pointed out, that's only 1.6666 pages per year. ... It is among the best 12 pages we've recently read. Among the many gems in it was this: Five things for a complete life by Rabbi Harold Kushner (contained in his new book, "Overcoming Life's Disappointments"): Family, friends, faith, work and the "satisfaction of making a difference." Note he doesn't say happy life, which we tend to confuse. It seems he means "complete" as in "content."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Winter weight gain

How to avoid gaining too much weight in the winter? Not that we are really having one where I live, but nonetheless here are some tips from Michele Stanten, Prevention magazine's Fitness Director:
1) Grab some travel brochures and plan an active spring vacation. There's nothing like a hike in the Tetons on my calendar to get me off the couch and away from the mac 'n' cheese this time of the year. For you, a goal might be taking a ski trip or beach vacation, fitting into a favorite spring outfit, or signing up for a half marathon. Here are more motivation boosters to help you stay the course (also see "Why Now's the Hardest Time to Diet" ).
2) Soak up some sun.
Less daylight affects the production of hormones that make you feel tired, which may explain why most people's activity levels dip by 20% in winter. Studies show that early morning light is the most potent energy booster, so leave your bedroom curtains open or head out for a morning stroll.
3) Compete with others.
Challenge friends and family to an "exercise-off." Whoever works out the most in a week or a month wins a massage, facial, or manicure.
4) Try this mineral. Research last year found that chromium helps prevent weight gain. Now, an 8-week Cornell University study shows it curbed appetite and cravings by 50% in people with depression who took a daily 600 mcg chromium picolinate supplement.
5) Embrace the season.
Forget staying home by the hearth. If you really want to feel toasty, go snowshoeing. It's as easy as walking and blasts 544 calories an hour (based on a 150-pound person). [we can't do that in south Georgia, but we can try other things, like bundling up for a walk.]
Any thoughts on any of the above?
To explain the photo: I found this picture of a cat on the Internet; and I imagine that our cat Bisquick will look like this after the exorcism.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Funny quote

Good morning. Here's a great quote to kick off your Friday:
"Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average. Which means you've met your New Year's resolution."
Jay Leno, comedian & television host (1950 - )

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Number of meals?

You may ask yourself: Do I put on the feedbag for meals, or eat smaller portions and healthy snacks during the day? Here's what Go Ask Alice (www.goaskalice.columbia.edu) has to say: Many of the articles on "nutrition" in fashion magazines suggest the "right" times to eat and the number of meals to eat to prevent weight gain. It is common to hear that eating late at night causes excess fat to be produced. This is not true -- it is OVEReating at any time, not simply eating at night, that causes someone to gain weight, particularly if they're not exercising or expending enough energy during the day. ...
The bottom line is: eat when you're hungry and avoid overeating. The number of meals you have per day and when should depend upon your schedule and the total number of calories you want to take in. If you lead a typical student lifestyle, three meals a day may not work best for you. ... Carrying healthy snacks with you during the day is the best way to avoid overeating at meals.
Any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Health tips

Today's health tips:
10 Essential Health Tips
(The Basics to Practice Every Day)

"He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything." -Arabian Proverb

1. Move More
Make it a daily challenge to find ways to move your body. Climb stairs if given a choice between that and escalators or elevators. Walk your dog; chase your kids.
2. Cut Fat
Avoid the obvious such as fried foods, burgers and other fatty meats (i.e. pork, bacon, ham, salami, ribs and sausage). Dairy products such as cheese, cottage cheese, milk and cream should be eaten in low fat versions. Nuts and sandwich meats, mayonnaise, margarine, butter and sauces should be eaten in limited amounts.
3. Quit Smoking
The jury is definitely in on this verdict. Ever since 1960 when the Surgeon General announced that smoking was harmful to your health, Americans have been reducing their use of tobacco products that kill. Just recently, we've seen a surge in smoking in adolescents and teens.
4. Reduce Stress
Easier said than done, stress busters come in many forms. Some techniques recommended by experts are to think positive thoughts. Spend 30 minutes a day doing something you like. (i.e.,Soak in a hot tub; walk on the beach or in a park; read a good book; visit a friend.
5. Protect Yourself from Pollution
If you can't live in a smog-free environment, at least avoid smoke-filled rooms, high traffic areas, breathing in highway fumes and exercising near busy thoroughfares. Exercise outside when the smog rating is low. Exercise indoors in air conditioning when air quality is good.
6. Wear Your Seat Belt
7. Floss Your Teeth
Recent studies make a direct connection between longevity and teeth flossing. Nobody knows exactly why.
8. Avoid Excessive Drinking
While recent studies show a glass of wine or one drink a day (two for men) can help protect against heart disease, more than that can cause other health problems such as liver and kidney disease and cancer.
9. Keep a Positive Mental Outlook
There's a definitive connection between living well and healthfully and having a cheerful outlook on life.
10. Choose Your Parents Well
The link between genetics and health is a powerful one. But just because one or both of your parents died young in ill health doesn't mean you cannot counteract the genetic pool handed you.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Spin Doctor

from today's Ledger-Enquirer

Staff Writer
Frank Pacheco slips out of a pair of sneakers and into heavier shoes with special cleats. He tightens the shoes. Then he puts on a headset with a microphone and turns on some loud, upbeat -- very upbeat -- music.
For the next 50 minutes, he won't travel far. In fact, nowhere at all. He will sit in the same place and challenge his students, as he does, to pop out of the bike saddle at certain times; ride faster; crank up the tension; towel off; and drink plenty of water. By the end, he will have left puddles of perspiration on both sides of his stationary bike.
Until 2003, Pacheco was just another guy at a gym, staying in shape by attending Group Ride classes at North Columbus Athletic Club. In the U.S. Army since 1986, he's a Ranger and former Ranger instructor who began parachuting out of airplanes about two years ago with the Silver Wings. They often drop into sporting events such as college games and NASCAR races.
The Army also sees to it that he stays in shape, but while at the gym he was spotted as a potential instructor by gym owner Jason West.
"He was always a good member -- polite, personable. I just knew that if he said he was going to do something, he'd be determined and he'd be good at it," said West. "He brings the magic."


After he got the training to teach classes on the local level, Pacheco set a goal to become a national instructor. As of mid-December, he's one of only five nationally certified trainers with the Marietta, Ga.-based Body Training Systems. He got the official phone call one evening while sitting on a bench outside the club. He is the only one in Columbus. The others are spread about the United States.

What certification means is that he trains other riding instructors around the country; and as an added perk, he'll be featured on BTS training videos, the first one this spring. The national certification process began for him about a year ago, which meant extensive travel, taping and evaluation. There was a lot of competition; he was pleasantly shocked when he was chosen. As an added marketing tool, Pacheco sent a pitch to BTS in the form of a tape of him parachuting onto a field, and facing the camera with the words "Group Ride" written on his palms.

Because of all the travel for BTS, "I don't have much of a social life," joked Pacheco, 38, a divorced father of two young children. "But this is what I want to do when I get out (of the Army.)" Being part of such a small team means mostly weekend travel. Most of it is on the eastern side of the U.S., but he has also trained in Portland, Ore.

The workout

At North Columbus, Pacheco teaches about four times a week, in a room with two ceiling fans, a mirrored back wall and dimmed lights. The gym has four other instructors for Group Ride, which is sometimes called spin. He is the only male.

The main light in the Group Ride room is on the instructor, who may face as many as 29 riders at a time. The group goes through seven songs, followed by stretching. Pacheco and other teachers encourage people to go at their own pace and skill level but to maintain certain form.

The BTS song track changes every quarter, but the routine is such that riders get variations including rolling hills, intervals, chasing and hard hill-climbing. The difficulty is manipulated by turning a black knob on the bike.

Pacheco said he's motivated by situations like this: "About a year ago, a lady came into class in the middle of the warm-up. She took a bike up front. I could tell she was intimidated. She walked out in tears."

Eventually the woman came back in the room, and he led her through private instruction. She stuck with the class.

"She went from intimidation to a smile on her face," he said.

As the name Group Ride suggests, every rider starts and finishes at the same time; the difficulty level depends on each rider. "The big focus is being part of a team," said Pacheco, whose certification with BTS is also "not about individuals or superstars."

The BTS program has other group fitness classes: Cyntergy (similar to yoga); Power; Step; Kick; and Groove. Pacheco is also certified in Power, which utilizes weights.

Outside of the gym and outside of the Army, Pacheco rides a Fuji Roubaix a couple times a week, usually on Fort Benning or along the Riverwalk. He admits a weakness for peanut M&Ms. But now that he's part of this elite Group Ride team, he's trying to take better care of himself -- including taking vitamins and watching what he eats more closely.

"My metabolism's not what it used to be," he said.

Monday, January 22, 2007


The Associated Press has this story today, which reads in part:

Gisele Bundchen has entered Brazil's growing debate over anorexia, saying families are to blame — not the fashion industry.
"I never suffered this problem because I had a very strong family base," the supermodel told the local Globo newspaper on Friday. "The parents are responsible, not fashion."
The 26-year-old model was in Brazil for the annual Fashion Rio, a weeklong showcase for some of the country's top designers.
Anorexia became a hot issue in Brazil after the deaths of four young women last month, including 21-year-old model Ana Carolina Reston.
Splashed across the front pages of newspapers nationwide, the subject has held morbid fascination for Brazilians, and was even the theme of a popular TV soap opera. It also sparked a debate within Brazil's fashion industry.
"Everybody knows the standard for models is to be thin," Bundchen said. "But you can't generalize and say that all models are anorexic."
Other countries, too, have begun to address what they see as the dangerous link between high fashion glamour and an unhealthy image of women. In September, Madrid's Fashion week banned underweight models. Italy's designers followed suit in December, requiring models to submit proof that they do no suffer from an eating disorder.
Bundchen, who left home for a three-month modeling job in Japan when she was 14, said family support was key to her.
"You leave home, the protection of your parents, but you still know you have their support," said the Brazilian, who has five sisters. ...

By way of confession, I have (thankfully) not suffered from anorexia, or bulemia, in which someone purges food. I have friends who have. It's certainly more complicated than wanting to look good or break into the fasion biz. Like any addiction, there are strong ties to one's mental/emotional outlook.
Yet I do find myself angry, at times, over the general message to women that they/we need to be a size 2 or 4 in order to be sexy or attractive or whatever. ... Comforting thought: Marilyn Monroe was a 14.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Up in smoke

The New York Times is reporting a story today from Bangor, Maine (www.nytimes.com, near the bottom of the site.)
It's about banning smoking in cars in which children are riding.
In my sleepy town on the Chattahoochee River, restaurants/bars recently banned smoking. Legislators are discussing the same in Alabama, which has caused some (as in Georgia) to complain about Big Brother. ... And here's a bumper sticker I saw in town recently: "At least I can still smoke in my car." But maybe not in Bangor.
As a non-smoker, I agree with this, especially where children--who have no say in the matter--are concerned. Yet, how far do you go in letting people make choices for themselves? And do as they wish in the confines of their homes/cars?
Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Though he may not have intended this, Charlie brought up an interesting point when he mentioned moderation. I thought about moderation in exercise. Sometimes we, myself included, can be so concerned about fighting the Couch Potato Syndrome that we go to the other extreme, neglecting relationships and other things. ... Yet, one person's definition of moderation may be another's extreme. A friend in graduate school HAD to run every day, and usually for great distances. She turned into Cruella Deville if she didn't, or so she said. Endorphines are a powerful thing. ... Any thoughts on this?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Spinning the life away

The name of my college phys-ed teacher came to mind in the spring of 2000, when I fell on the pavement three times after buying my first road bike. Other people saw this.
"Thanks, Scott," I muttered. Anyone who knows the words "clipping in" knows the difficulty at first — essentially locking your feet into place into bike pedals with special shoes — plus there was a whole new gear system to master. Twenty-seven gears in all. Hills are a particular problem, at first, in steadying oneself. But the bruises were worth it, and Scott truly remains in my debt because he gave me a gift some 20 years ago. It was this: The main point of physical exercise is prevention. Not fitting into some new article of clothing (although that would be nice), but being fit enough to ward off all kinds of things, namely the things that come with obesity. Heart disease. Diabetes. Stroke. Keeping fit isn't about a crash diet or starving oneself for a special occasion; it's about finding physical activity you love and sticking to it. It's about feeling good in physical and other ways, and not just a short-lived New Year's Resolution.
Now here we are with this fitness and health blog, a new venture at the Ledger-Enquirer.
The name comes from my preferred form of exercise — cycling — or "spinning" in group classes at my gym. (Though done on stationary bicycles, some confuse it with doing something with yarn.)
In this blog, I'll post interesting articles and tips; reports from health/fitness goings-on in the Chattahoochee Valley; and engage in conversations with you, the reader. I hope you will pass along interesting articles and happenings as well. Aiming for instruction rather than sermons, I don't have all the answers, and I have no medical training whatsoever. Like life, this blog will be a journey, a work in progress. That said, the subjects of health and fitness have become a passion and a lifelong pursuit, even before college, and I have found some things that work. And some that don't.
Please post often, with feedback, and your own ideas and suggestions. May we all get fit together.
I have but one request when posting, to me or anyone else: Be kind.
And have a great workout.