Surviving

Cancer.  That’s a scary word.  Breast cancer.  That’s a scary word to a lot of women.  However, a study recently completed at Oregon Health and Science University (OSU) could bring a ray of hope to those who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dr. Kerri Winters-Stone, an exercise scientist at the Knight Institute at OSU, did a study on  female breast cancer diagnosees and survivors who are 50 or more and the effects of exercise.  Her study spanned three years.  She put her survivors on an exercise regimen designed at OSU for cancer-free women. The program focused largely on strength-training.  Dr. Winters-Stone wanted to prove that women with cancer can train in the same way, at the same level, and achieve the same results as women without cancer.

After one year on the program, her survivors demonstrated a complete cessation in bone loss in the spine and 25% more strength in their arms and legs.  Chemotherapy increases a person’s risk of bone fractures and falls, and Dr. Winters-Stone’s research has demonstrated a way to combat these injuries.

I was unable to find Dr. Winters-Stone’s own article or research in a document form for this particular study, but she has lots of other interesting publications on the same topic.  Her book is called “Action Plan for Osteoporosis,” and it was published in 2005.  It’s available on Amazon.  She also gives lots of presentations on this topic, and here is a link to one of her presentations.

Also, a dear old friend of mine writes a great blog that covers his own journey for weight loss and has good tips that anyone can incorporate into their own regimen.  Check it out here: 3xlandback.com

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Strength-Training

I think it’s safe to say that many women dislike or are afraid of lifting weights.  In the past, it has seemed like something for muscly men hopped up on steroids.  At least that’s how I think I regarded it at one point.  Also, when you’re at the gym and doing lat pull-downs, sometimes the guys glare at you for using the machines they regard as their own.  Testerone runs rampant in the weights section of any gym.

Happily, an article I just read proves that many of us are discarding this view and taking back the weights (if we ever had them in the first place).  This is great because weights help tone muscles.  This leads to stronger skeletal muscles, which leads to healthier bones and prevents bone loss.

The bad news is that women are particularly prone to injuries from strength-training because (1) we’re susceptible to bad form due to wider hips and (2) we’ve developed our muscles unevenly by only sweating away on cardio machines.  The article made the following suggestions for using weights and staving off injuries:

1.) Never skip a warm-up.  Don’t just hit the machines cold.  Spend 10-15 minutes on an elliptical or something first and do some stretches.  Working out stiff muscles could lead to a tear or strain.

2.) Concentrate on your form.  Make sure you notice which machines are supposed to work which muscles, and then concentrate on using the proper muscles while using that machine.  Keep your head up, your abs tight, shoulders squared to your hips, and be careful not to round your shoulders.  Also, remember to breathe evenly; your muscles need oxygen to work.

3.) Don’t perpetuate strength imbalances.  For example, you work out your abs but not your back.  This will encourage injuries.  If you do crunches, make sure that you’re doing supermans or something, too.  Another common strength imbalance is to work the hamstrings but not the quads.

4.) Ease into it.  Lifting weights is like anything else, and doing too much too soon can be disastrous.  Start out with little weight, and gradually increase.  Doing tons of reps with less weight than you could do is still really good for you, and can help avoid injuries.  Gradual conditioning helps to avoid torn ligaments and tendonitis because it gives your joints and connective tissue time to adjust to the weight.

These common sense principles really apply to all aspects of your workout, but I think you’ll notice an immediate difference in your weight training if you remember to warm-up and keep a proper form.  Embrace the weights!  There’s great satisfaction in walking up to a machine and using the same amount of weight as the strutting dude before you did.

I’m a published author!

Today, I’m published on the website All Things Physical Therapy.  It’s the beginning of my running story.  It’ll be a several-part feature which chronicles my journey through the world of physical fitness. I was invited to be a guest writer, and I’m totally flattered.  The link to my story is here: http://allthingspt.com/2011/09/12/the-marine-physical-fitness-test-and-the-law-student/. 

ATPT is a great resource for physicians and patients.  The website contains some simple physical therapy exercises, tips, and advice from a real live physical therapist who wants everyone to be as healthy as possible.  Please check it out!

Meatless Mondays: Fall Feast

FALL FEAST

The beautifully cool weather last week made me want to cook cozy food, snuggle into my couch, and drink red wine with friends.  I made this dinner over the weekend for a few people, none of whom are vegan.  Everyone loved it.

First course: lentil soup.

Ingredients:

  • 10 c. vegetable stock
  • 1 yellow/Spanish onion
  • 5 large carrots (not the baby kind, the kind you would feed a horse)
  • 5 large stalks of celery
  • 1 lb. of lentils
  • 1 whole beef steak tomato (or many smaller tomatoes)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The Method:

  • Finely chop and saute the onion, the carrots, and the celery in the olive oil in the stock pot.
  • When the carrots and celery are soft and the onions are translucent, add in the vegetable stock and the lentils.
  • Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  • When the soup reaches a rolling boil, turn the heat down and simmer the soup for 35-45 minutes, or until the lentils are nice and soft.
  • About 30 minutes into the simmering, add in the finely chopped tomato.
  • Optional addition: top with finely chopped green onion.

Entree: stuffed acorn squash and banana bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 1/2 T canola oil
  • 2 c. vegetarian stuffing
  • 1/2 c. vegetable broth
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

The Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400* F
  • Halve the acorn squash, scrape out the seeds, and then thoroughly score the flesh of the squash.  You want to let all the stuffing flavors and seasonings seep into the squash’s flesh.
  • Mix all the other ingredients together and fill each side of the squash with half the mixture.
  • Tightly seal each half with aluminum foil and place halves into any type of roasting pan.  The bottom of the squash will become soft, and you don’t want that to leak everywhere.  Who likes cleaning ovens?
  • Bake for an hour.

Recipe: http://www.theppk.com/2007/10/banana-bread/  I used this recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen, which is a vegan baking site.  I made two changes, though: instead of vegan margarine (I am totally freaked out by this stuff and can’t believe it’s good), I used 1/4 canola oil and 1/4 unsweetened applesauce.  I also used vanilla almond milk instead of vanilla soy milk, and I didn’t add the apple cider vinegar.  Judging by how the bread literally vanished before my eyes, I think that the changes are OK.  I should say that any additions of dried fruit or chopped nuts would be outstanding, and I wish I had sprinkled the top lightly with brown sugar.  My grandma used to do that.

Dessert: Apple Crisp

Ingredients:

  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • White sugar
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • Brown sugar
  • AP flour
  • Quick oats
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt

The Method:
Preheat oven to 350* F.
Ok, I’m really sorry, but I don’t measure this recipe at all.  I roughly chopped the two apples, making sure the pieces were nice and big.  I added in at least 1/4 c white sugar and the lemon juice.  In a separate bowl, I mixed equal parts brown sugar, AP flour, and quick oats.  But how BIG the parts are is a matter of preference-how much crisp topping would you like?  I also add at least 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and two dashes of nutmeg to the crisp topping mixture.  I don’t like much nutmeg; I find it rather strong.  Last, add a pinch of salt.  This makes all the difference in the world.
Grease four 4″ ramekins.  Evenly divide the apple mixture between the 4 ramekins.  Evenly divide the crisp topping mixture, making an effort to cover the apples.
Bake for 30 minutes.

Extras:

  • Before dinner, we served 7&7s.
  • With dinner, we served a petit syrah.
  • After dinner, we served shiraz.
  • I decorated with more squashes.  However, I have my sights set on getting some pumpkins soon.  I love pumpkins.  Probably I should have made pumpkin bread instead of banana bread, but I had overripe bananas coming out my ears.

Tofu Scramble 1

Ok, I know that it’s not Monday, and I said I would only do these types of posts on Mondays so I could use the snappy, trendy term “Meatless Mondays.”  But it’s a more important day to me.  It’s my 3-month vegan-versary.  I find that celebrating small things enriches my life.

Okay, now that I’m done congratulating myself and philosophizing, I can begin exploring the myriad uses for tofu.  Tofu is the most versatile food with which I’ve ever cooked.  You can pan-fry it, bake it, use it to make cheesecake, put it in soup, put it in salad, or pretend it’s scrambled eggs.  This post is about one of my favorite recipes for a breakfast scramble.  It’s also painfully easy.  It requires only three cooking techniques: chopping, dumping, and stirring.  It is also a bit spicy and contains chorizo, which ensures that my roomie won’t eat any.  Sometimes I’m territorial about my creations.

First, chop up about a quarter of a yellow onion and about half a green bell pepper.  I don’t measure, I just use what it’s in the fridge for these types of projects.  But these ratios are tried and true.  Heat a skillet to medium-low and put in a little bit of water.  Again, it’s hard to say how much because I just dumped some out of the cup from which I was drinking.  After the water, dump in the chopped onions and bells peppers.

I’ve been sauteing things in water because this method cuts out oil.  And frankly, it seems to work the same.  I was quite skeptical initially, but cutting out a couple hundreds calories from the two tablespoons of oil I would have used previously seemed like a worthwhile calculated risk.

 

 

 

 

 

Because I’m going to add soy chorizo in a bit, I don’t season the onions and peppers at all.  That stuff’s got plenty of kick for me.  I do have one secret ingredient, though . . .

 

LIQUID SMOKE.  While the veggies are cookin’ up, I add several liberal dashes of liquid smoke.  I live in a relatively small apartment in a large city, and I don’t get to grill.  This is a reasonable and extremely inexpensive substitute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the veggies are about halfway to done, add in one block of tofu.  Just crumble it up.  You can squeeze the block a bit over the sink first to get rid of excess water (that way you don’t have to wait to cook all the liquid in the tofu off in the pan), but I hardly ever bother with pressing.  It seems like a terrible waste of paper towels to me.

 

Please note my incredible fancy crumbling technique.

Also, I used Trader Joe’s organic tofu, which does not state its texture.  If I had to make a recommendation to someone without a TJ’s (after I was done sympathizing), I’d suggest using firm texture tofu.

 

 

Right after the tofu is crumbled in, add an entire package of TJ’s soy chorizo.  Now, I said I wouldn’t use weird meat substitutes.  They are often over-processed, and I feel that they largely destroy my attempt at healthy eating.  However, TJ’s soy chorizo is NOT full of weird things.  The ingredients are textured soy protein, water, soy oil, distilled vinegar, salt, spices, red pepper, garlic.  This is why I condone the use of TJ’s soy chorizo.  The small life lesson here is to ALWAYS READ THE NUTRITION FACTS.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is in the package.  See how festive?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is out of the package.  It’s not that pretty.  Mix it all up quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much better.  I let this mess cook for about 5 minutes.  Like I said, the idea is to let the moisture cook off.  This makes the tofu have a more egg-like texture.  I promise-you won’t even miss the eggs when you eat this.

After it’s cooked for about 5 minutes, I add some toppings that just need to be heated through because they’re already cooked.  Today I chose corn and homemade salsa.  Usually I don’t have corn, but last weekend I went to a family Labor Day thing, which means I came home with much food.  And it’s the end of summer; end of summer corn on the cob is pretty outstanding. My lovely mother cut all the corn off the cob for me and sent me home with it in a little baggie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stir all the new ingredients together with the tofu scramble.  Let it cook for a minute or two longer to make sure the corn and salsa are nice and hot.  You’ll notice immediately that there is no more room in the skillet.  I used my highly developed culinary skills and kitchen acumen to determine that the tofu scramble was done.

This is how I eat it.  In enormous bowls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, to examine the damage and slightly tout the benefits of this dish.  There is no cholesterol.  The only oil came from the chorizo.  The entire package of tofu had only 450 calories in it and the chorizo only 700.  Oh, and I don’t count the calories in vegetables.  I figure that any health benefit outweighs the calories.  Please feel free to adopt my admittedly skewed reasoning.  I tend eat this in about 5 or 6 servings, depending on how gluttonous I feel.  Therefore, 1/6 of this dish has only 191.667 calories.  However, because it’s full of protein, I always feel nice and full after eating it.

Happy vegan-versary to me!

Things I Like

Thursdays are always good days for me.  The New York Times publishes its Style Section.  I’m closer to the weekend, which is always important even if my weekends are busy with boring things.  Today is the Coach Factory Store online sale.  This semester I have no Thursday classes.  So life is good.  In keeping with my cheerful theme, today’s post is about all the things I like when working out.

This is Incredible by Victoria’s Secret.  I think it’s the best sports bras I’ve ever worn.  It literally acts as a cage to minimize what we’ll call “the bounce factor.”  Sports bra are a tricky thing, and come in many shapes and sizes.  Some are compression bras (ow).  Some form two separate cages, like the one here.  In a state of desperation, I was wearing two sports bras while running for awhile.  That was ridiculous, and it made my shoulders pinch up while I was running so that I would get side stitches almost immediately.  Obviously, this is undesirable.  My problems were solved when I invested in this bra.

I am listening to this Audiobook right now on my iPod.  I find that often, I’m a lazy you-know-what because I like to sit on my bum and read all the time.  I would read all the live-long day if someone would let me.  I realized that I was blowing off running in favor of the elliptical because I can read on the elliptical.  Well, frankly, the elliptical is no substitute for trail running.  But voile!  Books on tape!  All the same enjoyment!  All the same ability to lose yourself in a wonderful story!  The Three Musketeers is nice and long, and it’s usually what I listen to now.  Sometimes, however, I pick my books based on my mood or my setting.  For example, I find it quite exciting to run along Lake Shore path in the dead of winter while listening to Jack London’s “Sea Wolf.”  Something about the imagery in my head from the book combines with the sullen grey lake and icy wasteland of Lake Shore Path to give me fits of joy.  Tip: iTunes has a whole section of classics for under $3.  Three buckaroos.  I find things like this important, and if you’re like me, you do, too.

This is the brand with which I have fallen in love.  Now, don’t take my word for it.  Get fitted properly at a store like PlayMakers or Fleet Feet.  See a shoe specialist, try on lots of pairs, and be sure to hop about in them.  However, after having done all these things (and probably looking a bit silly while hopping), I found that I like Brooks best.  I think Asics are too boxy.  I think Mizunos are too heavy.  Now, granted, I am limited to a certain number of shoes because I over-pronate slightly, which means I need a shoe with a medium level of support.  Now I have my Brooks, which I adore.

Hats and gloves.  I like hats and gloves when I run in the winter, or even when it’s simply windy in the fall.  I believe that there’s no such thing as a day that’s too cold for running, there’s just a person without proper gear.  I have found that as long as I have a thin layer of fabric over my whole body and an ear-band and gloves, I’m ready to go.  The extremities seem to be the key.   I become very miserable very quickly if my ears hurt; it makes my whole head hurt, and then I wimp out on my workout.  I don’t actually run in a boxy hats like this fancy lady; I wear a fleece ear-band.  But doesn’t she look nice?

Yes.  I think that properly protected puckers are important.  I don’t know why, but having chapped lips makes me incredibly uncomfortable.  Therefore, I slather on chapstick (preferably some Burt’s Bees) before any workout.  It really is an integral part of my workout.  I guess I’m just high-maintenance.

That there is Flogging Molly, the Irish punk phenomenon.  When I prefer to listen to music instead of books during runs, I listen to something with heavy drums and provocative lyrics.  I like Flogging Molly because I can (1) run in tempo, which forces me to pick up my pace, (2) feel motivated and bad-ass at all times, (3) imagine that I’m a movie, and I’m more awesome than I am in real life, and (4) I really just like Flogging Molly anyway, even though I almost died in a mosh pit at one of their St. Patrick’s Day concerts.  Flogging Molly gives me such courage that I even write in run-on sentences.

This charming band of misfits is Guster.  I prefer to listen to Guster while I lift weights and stretch.  Unlike many people, I really enjoy the singularity and focus required to lift weights.  I narrow all my awareness to just working the proper muscles at the right time, and Guster’s soothing alternative tunes really help me get in the mood.  I find lifting weights extremely relaxing when I treat it as a meditative experience.

That’s all for now!  What do YOU like best when working out?

By the way, I do not have a deal with VS, Brooks, Burt’s Bees, Flogging Molly, Alexander Dumas, or Guster.  I just like their things.  I’m not profiting in any way by touting their things.

Who is the fairest of them all?

Apologies for leaving any faithful readers I may have hanging.  It’s not like me to ignore responsibilities, self-imposed and otherwise, but last week I moved AND started my last year of law school.  Then I went out of town.  And then I found five dollars . . .

At any rate, I’ve still been reading about women’s health issues, if not writing about them.  I’ve stumbled across a terrifying trend.  News outlets of all sizes, mediums, and political persuasions have been reporting on this horrible habit.  This egregious offense.  This appalling action.  Well, really it’s a lack of action.

Many women won’t work out because they’re afraid of getting dirty and ruining their hairstyles!

Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin said that she often hears women saying that they can’t work out today because they don’t want to sweat their hair back or ruin their up-do.  The rationale is completely skewed.  Women spend tons of money on products: self-tanners, make-up, styling gels, cremes, face washes, manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, clothes, heels, Spanx . . . but not their actual bodies.  Is it because these things promise a quick fix with no effort?  Is it because all the benefits of exercise are just plain ignored or forgotten?  Is it we believe mink eyelash extensions make us beautiful and not cardiovascular fitness?

I think it’s a combination of all three.  Therefore, I’m going to tout the positive effects of a healthful diet and exercise.  My skin is clearer, I always have energy, I’ve cut out caffeine, my jeans fit better (!!!), I sleep well at night, I’m less anxious, and I feel more confident because I’m more graceful.  Think what it could do for you.  I’m not really a health nut.  I ate a disgusting amount of tortilla chips today, but I didn’t put any make-up on.  I truly believe that being fit makes you beautiful.  No amount of self-tanner can hide a lack of self-confidence or those bags under your eyes.

I realize this isn’t exercise science, but I think it’s important that we become aware of this issue and combat it.  Don’t worry-I’ve got some other great material lined up, including a recipe for Tofu Scramble for my painfully neglected Meatless Mondays section.

Until then, keep gazing in your mirror, mirror on the wall.