Monday, November 5, 2007

Gruel and unusual punishments

I have osteopenia – not osteoporosis. Osteopenia means “less bone,” a thinning of the bones. I consider myself lucky my bones haven’t turned totally to Swiss cheese from years of constant dieting, heavy smoking since my teens (no, not for some years now), and simply from being a Caucasian female with a small frame. Then there is the bad luck of having a grandma who, in her early nineties, stood up one day and her fragile hip broke under the weight of her 98 pounds...

You are likely to have osteopenia, too, to some degree, if you are female and done with menopause, have ever engaged in some of the same dumb behaviors cited above, taken medication for a thyroid condition, or, at some point in your life, taken corticosteroids for three or more months.

In an effort to thwart the onset of osteoporosis, my gynecologist has had me on the highest dosage (70mg.) of the bone building drug, Fosamax, for several years. But a while back, articles and advertisements started popping up in newspapers and popular publications about a possible side affect to Fosamax -- a condition known as Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (ONJ), commonly referred to in the popular press as “Jaw Death.”

It would seem that cases were being noted in the medical literature of women taking bisphosphonate bone building drugs (Foxamax, Actonel, Boniva, et al) who, following dental surgery, became victims of the condition in which bone tissue in the jaw does not heal after minor traumas. Dental extractions and implants led to fractures and infections requiring long-term antibiotic therapy that did not always work and, often, to surgery for removal of dead and dying jaw bone tissue.

Throngs of tort attorneys began sniffing the air, scavenging for wounded bisphosphonate users in hopes of large Jaw Death civil action settlements. (Google “Fosamax” and one of the first links will take you to a consent form you can fill out and send to a concerned attorney.)

Which brings me to my obsession about false teeth….

I have one. I do not want anything to do with having false teeth. I apologize if I offend; it’s a blind, stupid prejudice that has lodged in my mind, and despite all logic, evidence, fact, and warm family stories about grandpa’s false teeth, I view having them with horror.

Sadly, however, coupled with my osteopenia is the fact I also suffer from periodontal disease. Eleven teeth gone missing in as many years. (No wonder I’m beginning to explore vegetarian foods.) Dim prospects for the future twenty-one.

I dream of clacking sets of startling white teeth.

Recently, however, due to improved technology and techniques, my periodontist, Steve, has offered me the option of dental implants. I can have two “teeth” planted in a fertile compost of cow bone and collagen surgically plugged into appropriate sinus cavities. While they wouldn’t "grow," they would become permanent parts of me. Maybe. The procedure is not guaranteed.

Two implants would cost $4,000, not payable by insurance. And then there is that nasty little risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw.

I’ll keep you posted.

Here's the Gruel portion

I love looking at food photography on the Internet. The most arresting photos seem to be attached to blogs* rather than commercially-sponsored sites. These photos truly seem a new art form. If you don’t think of it that way, give it a try. The photo of the bowl of oatmeal for this blog, after about a half dozen shots and 50 different edits, does nothing so much as evoke meager gruel on a dark, cold winter morning.

And it’s too bad. I enjoy oatmeal and wanted something attractive to entice some of you to explore its benefits. Oh, well…Anyway, the secret is to put stuff in oatmeal that makes it taste good. Sort of like what one does with tofu.

For instance:

  • I slice up overripe bananas and put them in snack bags and then in a big freezer bag to use for smoothies. But with cold weather coming on, I plop a baggie of bananas in my “quick” oats (not instant) and microwave for 2 and a half minutes. Then I stir in a big dollop of peanut butter.

Then there’s a more traditional variation:

  • Peanut butter and strawberry jam

  • Apple butter (a really good, spicy kind)

  • Toasted walnuts and raisins

  • And probably best tasting of all is walnuts and toasted coconut. But since there is not a single redeeming nutritional quality to coconut I don’t have that version too often.

  • My one cocoa attempt wasn’t all that great, but I’ll try it again with some vanilla maybe.

Any suggestions from your end?


Aunt Rose

* One of the best photo and food (unusual, extraordinarily tasty, international vegetarian) blogs that I’ve found is Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks. Follow this link to her world of beautiful and delicious foodstuffs

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Why God created zucchini

The photo is me and my sis-in-law, Gloria, during her recent visit. We are the same age and both grew up in Denver, but never knew each other in those days. And due to distance and other demands, we are only getting acquainted now. The relationship makes me feel bereft for never having had a sister.

Gloria retired from a 20-year career with the Post Office, but she is such a dynamo that she simply hasn’t slowed down all that much since. Despite both heart and knee surgeries she has completed a number of charity walking marathons; she’s learning to bead, taught herself soap making (a supply of which she mercifully provides, enabling me to survive Arizona’s parched winters). She works diligently at maintaining a network of friends, church congregants, and Red Hat acquaintances.

If I retired, I suspect I would be likely to adopt a more slothful approach to life: Reading, coupon clipping, napping….And after more than 50 years in the workplace, I don’t know if I could even set a personal agenda for the day that wasn’t dependent on the demands of other people. Horrible thought, eh?

While Gloria was here she said a friend was urging her to enter her Chocolate Zucchini Bread in the Oregon State Fair. Last week I received an email from her hubby, Tom, who hijacked Gloria’s email address book. Not only did she enter, she won the blue ribbon!

With her permission, here it is:

Gloria’s Blue Ribbon Chocolate Zucchini Bread

(1st place winner, Oregon State Fair, August 2007)

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon each, baking soda, baking powder & cinnamon

¼ cup cocoa

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup oil (this is correct, says Gloria)

½ cup buttermilk

3 eggs

2 cups grated zucchini

1 cup chopped nuts

Grease and flour 1 loaf pan (not a bread pan)

Bake @ 350 deg F for 50-60 minutes after mixing as follows:

(1) Mix dry ingredients together (flour, soda, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa and salt) and set aside.

(2) In large bowl or mixer beat eggs, oil, and buttermilk. Add zucchini. Add dry ingredients gradually and stir until well blended. Add nuts and stir in evenly. Scoop into pan and bake.

(*Special note: make high altitude adjustments as necessary. Gloria lives at sea level.)

For people like me who are calorie obsessed, this is a rather reasonable treat due to the small amount of oil. But, if you want to cut calories even more, Consumer Reports just did a review of sugar substitutes and reported that Splenda for Baking (not regular Splenda) worked decently in their test cake (not as good as sugar, of course, but it reduced the calories by more than half). Just remember though, if you try, the result will be just a pale substitute for the genuine Oregon State Fair 2007 Blue Ribbon winner!

I talked to Mom this morning and she said with all the end of summer festivities and the kickoff of fall party season at her rockin' senior citizen hi-rise that she has gained three pounds. (You may remember I bragged on her for losing 35 pounds and keeping it off for the past couple of years.)

I asked her when she was going to start on a little diet.

“Oh, to heck with it. I’m 89; who cares?"
To which I had no good reply.

E-you later, darlings
Aunt Rose

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Why is this woman smiling?

Actually, what else can you do? If you look closely you might see a couple of little round bandages on my decollete. Earlier in the day I’d been to the skin doc who plucked and/or snipped (ouch, ouch, ouch) dozens of tag warts from my neck, then cryogenized a pre-cancerous lesion on my upper lip, followed by a blast to the huge, lumpy mole that had grown wildly out of control on my collarbone since its humble birth as a simple freckle. (This after a one-hour, close-range sunlamp tanning session brilliantly conceived and executed by yours truly at age twelve.)

And about the pre-cancerous lesion on my upper lip: I might also give a nod to my maternal grandma who showed me how to French-inhale.

Ah, too soon old; too late smart.

Sorry that I haven’t been keeping up with the Old Broadsheet of late; I had wanted my computerless mom to see it, particularly the last posting where she looked so fine. And I thought she would enjoy being privy to some of her only living child’s thoughts and writings. After a long series of misadventures, she finally got a look. “Seems like a lonely person who just wants someone to talk to,” she said.

Thank you, Mom. You really know how to cut right to the heart of a thing.

I do not lack for fellow lonelyhearts. Technorati, the blog tracking search engine, reports more than 71.5 million blog sites in existence today. I, apparently, am not the only one who longs for connection. One must give credit to the Internet for its ability to foster intimacy, if only virtual.

Birds & Bees

On the home front, we have had a paucity of hummingbirds this year. Due to the cumulative effect of eight years of drought typified by last fall and winter being virtually moistureless, there simply were no wildflowers for their nourishment.

Because we had so few hummers I couldn’t understand why the hum-juice was disappearing at such a rapid rate. One of the wasp-waisted feeders that holds about three cups was entirely drained in one day while I was at work. Given the few black-chin hummers that had been hitting it, it should have lasted a week. So that weekend I did a short, one-cup refill, and then watched from my kitchen window to see if it was Orioles or finches or who were pirating the jug.

It was bees. They had no flowers either. As I watched, a small swarm of about 20 covered one hole and simply drained that feeder in about 2 hours with their relentless sipping. While I can’t be sure, since bees are hard hard to tell apart, it seemed like they were rotating their places at the hole; one would get her fill, squeeze out and lumber off, then a new bee would take her place in the pile.

I thought maybe this behavior had something to do with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), the latest disaster to befall our beleaguered Apis mellifera population, but several beekeeping blogs assured me that CCD was impacting only the big ag industry hives. Hobby and smalltime apiarists were saying that the commercial farmworker bees were being exploited and not getting enough love and attention.

The monsoon rains finally arrived here -- with a vengeance. Whether or not the current abundance of moisture will be sufficient to break the almost decade-long drought is problematic. But, as is usual in a land of little rain, dealing with too much water is a hassle: Muddy dogs, flooding creeks and roads, little critters on the move to drier ground (yourhome being that place).

One morning, I discovered ants had found their way into a space between the worn out grouting on the counter next to my kitchen sink and dozens of little pismires were on a reconnaissance mission to report back to the main force. I didn’t want to use Raid that close to foodstuffs and dishes, so I got out one of those handy-dandy “How to Do Anything” manuals that I occasionally fall for on the shelves at the grocery check-out stand. After a brief digital assault took out the scouting party, a generous application of cinnamon worked like a charm. No ants appeared again. I guess the smell discouraged or confused them.

I’ll let you know how cinnamon works out as grout.

Take a break

My niece April encouraged me to read Dean Koontz’s Life Expectancy, but I didn’t need any arm twisting. When it comes to escapist lit, I am a long time and huge fan of Dean Koontz. His books range from the terrifying to the odd with great doses of comedy and romance thrown in for good measure. Life Expectancy readers should prepare to be transported by the epic struggles of mild-mannered pastry chef, Jimmy Tock, versus psychopathic clown, Punchinello Beezo, fighting for the very soul of Jimmy’s youngest child. Wildly entertaining with outloud laughs and, strangely, a genuinely inspirational message.

For a quickie immediate getaway visit this link my friend Jan sent with a wonderful series of pictures of a nesting hummingbird and the hatching of two eggs.

Bye for now.
Aunt Rose

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Cautionary Tale or A Stock Market Tip

That’s my ma, Rachel, and a canine pal, taken during my Colorado visit in May.

Mom is 89 and in good, almost remarkable, health. She has two chronic conditions: glaucoma and osteoporosis, both diagnosed when she was in her early 80s. She’s been faithfully taking meds and is holding her own against both.

This last winter was a wicked one marked by lots of nasty Colorado weather. One day while clearing the snow off her car (she’s still driving), she slipped and fell on the ice. She landed on the point of her right elbow. Perhaps because of the Fosamax, she broke no bones, but her arm swelled like a football and turned black. She lost the use of it for about a month -- couldn’t brush her teeth or cut up her food or do any of the things you normally do with your right hand and arm when you are right handed.

During our May visit she confided the worst part of the fall was psychological; she realized someday it might be possible she would need to have assistance with daily living. This was an amazing admission, never before uttered by my tough, independent mom.

She took me to visit a pleasant assisted-care living center near her apartment and said she wouldn’t mind living there in the event “something happened.”

Okay. I’ll acknowledge that Mom is getting old, but I can’t envision that life in her future. I just see her living a long, healthy life (which she has already done) and then a fast-moving “something” takes her life in a matter of weeks. No long term suffering for months or years. No expensive assistive care, massive amounts of drugs and continual application of lifesaving procedures. My (hopeful) thinking is based on a concept called the Compression of Morbidity, a term describing a long, healthy life followed by a compression of the incidence of disease and illness into as short a time period as possible.

I doubt I’ll enjoy a Compression of Morbidity since I didn’t start worrying about my health until after developing three chronic conditions by my early 60s.

Still, as a war baby (born in 1942), my odds are far better for a longer, healthier old age than the Baby Boom Generation that started to roar through American society just four years later.

My views were reinforced by an online report, “When I’m 64: How Boomers Will Change Healthcare,” issued in May by the American Hospital Association. Eek. By 2030, more than six out of ten Boomers will have at least one of these major chronic conditions: hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and/or cancer. One in three will be considered obese. There will be eight times more knee replacements than today. The rest of the report is equally dire.

My advice? Well, the obvious would be to start getting healthier. Next best advice? Consider investing in medical care stocks. At least you’ll be able to defray some of your doctor and hospital bills with the dividends.

Read the full report at:

Alli: Friend or Foe?

The new OTC diet drug Alli (pronounced ally) is being snatched off pharmacy shelves at a phenomenal rate even considering its cost of about $2 per day. The pill isn’t an appetite suppressant but works by blocking the absorption of fat in the intestine.

But, as we all know, nature abhors a vacuum, and that fat has to go somewhere. Detractors have suggested users not take Alli on a first date or while wearing white pants.

Still, control groups demonstrate the drug can help dieters lose up to 50 percent more weight than they would while undergoing the typical reduced calorie/increased exercise regimes. In other words you could lose 15 pounds instead of 10 but you still have to limit calories (particularly those troublesome fat calories) and increase the amount of exercise you do.

In other words, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Now for something even better: Lipodissolve

Rich Scottsdale matrons are undergoing a hot new cosmetic procedure call Lipodissolve. A recent article in the Arizona Republic reports the treatment involves a series of injections of “synthetically produced but biologically natural entities” into areas of unwanted fat. The fat cells become inflamed, break apart, are metabolized and exit the body with normal waste within a few weeks. The fat doesn’t come back either.

Additional details? Well, it’s not illegal, nor is it for use over large areas of the body. And there aren’t yet any long term studies of its successes or failures.

I can’t help but think back to the early days of liposuction. A woman in our small town underwent the surgery. She looked great; got rid of her chicken wing upper arms and saddlebag thighs. Her belly disappeared. But either she didn’t get much counseling or chose to ignore any medical advice, and continued her eating patterns of old. Within six months she had gained back much that she had lost to the suctioning, but it was now lodged in odd new locales: no belly, but a massive midriff; her upper arms were still slender, but her forearms bulged like Popeye the Sailorman.

E-ya’ later, darlings.

Aunt Rose

Monday, May 21, 2007

Blink. Life happens.

I’ve been remiss. I had to prepare and give a speech and write a final paper for my Oral Communications class and, probably more enervating, at the community college where I work, the president was fired and my boss was selected to take his place.

[How does that commercial go? “Life comes at you fast.”]

Anyway, she’ll move on without me. The secretaries stay with the job, not the boss. This is not altogether a bad thing; I’d have to buy a wardrobe of highfalutin duds. And as Thoreau put it, “Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”

Have you read Blink? It’s a fascinating and delightful exploration of making snap judgments (and why, more often than not, folks are on the money when they do). The author puts forth some jaw-dropping contentions on topics as diverse as war gaming (his war gaming anecdote may forever change -- or reinforce -- your views on US Army strategies in the Mid-East) or why upper-middle class blacks usually pay more than whites when buying a new car, or how we might retrain our police in dealing with intense life and death situations and vastly increase the odds of everyone coming out alive.

The author is Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for The New Yorker. He also had a monster big seller a couple of years back called The Tipping Point where he analyzes what three incidental details or people, will cause a book or television show or product or even historical action to gain epidemic or even legendary prominence. Paul Revere’s ride is his first example. Did you know there was another rider heading the opposite direction from Revere that same night, giving out the same warning? Have you ever heard of him? Me neither.

When I was at the eye doc’s I picked up a pamphlet in the waiting area on “floaters,” those annoying bits of flotsam that wander across your vision and tend to hover right where you are trying to look. The pamphlet didn’t give any clue as to what happens to floaters so I asked the medical assistant, “How do you get rid of floaters?”

“You don’t want to know,” she answered.

Well, actually, I did. I’d had lots of floaters as a kid, but they seemed to have gone away or, as suggested in the pamphlet, I’d simply gotten used to them. But about six months previously, I was driving to work when this Lincoln Log suddenly lumbered out of nowhere and lodged directly across the center of my right eye. Whoa. I blinked and rubbed and tilted and shook my head, but the tree limb was there to stay.

It’s been a very long year, but it has disintegrated to one smallish spot, but one that still manages to lodge right where I’m looking.

One of the resources I consulted suggested naming the floaters to keep track of them and see if there are any major changes in the number or frequency of their appearance. This guy is Elvis.

Apparently the older we get, the greater the incidence of floaters as a result of degenerative changes in the vitreous humor. (Youthful floaters are caused by embryonic cell debris that eventually settles out of sight.) And other than naming them there have been few genuine options for floaters developed over time.

Until now.

The Arizona Republic recently ran a long article about Dr. John Karickoff of Falls Church, Virginia. Apparently Dr. Karickoff is the sole (legitimate) practitioner in the United States of a treatment that gets rid of floaters. He uses lasers to demolish them during an in-office procedure that takes from 5 to 30 minutes. According to his web site, there are no side affects, no lingering consequences, and insurance often will pay associated costs although Medicare reimbursements fall far short of the approximately $1500 bucks per eye the good doctor charges. Blink.

Today’s pic is one of ten that the Hubble Spacecraft team chose as their favorites from all the thousands of photos of the universe sent back to earth from the esteemed spacecraft. These are astounding photos, really, but still don’t do the universe justice!

I’m off to visit Mom this week. I’ll let you know how that old broad is doing. She’s my inspiration.

E-ya later!

Link to Dr. Karickoff (

Link to Hubble photos

Sunday, April 15, 2007

And now for the hard part...

I achieved my weight goal (as well as a bonus extra one pound) on the 30th. Now comes the hard part -- maintaining. Here's where aerobic exercise fits into my picture. (I've told you all about my brief morning commitments to grunting, groaning and listening to my body go snap, crackle and pop.) That’s toning and stretching; walking is my choice of aerobic workout -- It's handy, easy-to-learn and, outside of a good pair of shoes, requires no large investment.

Walking has to do with feeling fit and being healthy. I don't like to connect it to weight, but I do use it as an incentive. I get out my pedometer at the start of the walk. When I get home, the number of calories I have burned (my little Omron peddie does the math for me) are freebies. I can choose to deduct them from the day's total calorie count (if I'm trying to make up for being naughty bad during the week). Or, if I've been eating the appropriate number of daily maintenance calories, I can use them to reward myself with a small treat.

I know. I know. I am rewarding myself with food which is an absolute no-no when it comes to weight management strategies. But, and perhaps I’m fooling myself, I like to think that I am making a distinction between considered food choices versus emotional eating or mindless munching. In a world of so many diversions (television, reading, video games, napping, movies, Internet surfing, chatting on the phone, depressed pouting, and just generic zoning) we are not ordinarily inclined to heave ourselves up off the sofa and take a walk. When we do, I think we need a reward so we’ll be inclined to do it again!

After my mile and a quarter today, struggling much of the time against a very strong head wind, I had a small piece of homemade (not made by me, but by a friend who is a gifted baker) angel food cake. Calorie outgo, 77; calorie intake, 70. I feel righteous on so many levels....

Sleepless in Snowflake:

I haven’t been sleeping well lately, and resorted to my compulsion to research the topic to death. Here are a couple of my findings:

The standard remedy for sleeplessness is staying awake.

  • No napping allowed
  • No lying awake in your bed grinding your teeth because you aren’t dropping off. (You have to get up from bed and go somewhere else and do a quiet activity for 15 or 20 minutes)
  • And (the one I’m finding the hardest of all) not going to bed early when you didn’t sleep well the night before. In fact, you have to stay up later than you did the night before and get up at the same time. It’s a killer.

If I try to stay awake at night by reading I tend to nod off. So I am staying awake by watching videos. And as we don’t have a movie theater within 30 miles of home, I have lots of catching up to do. But what I am finding about most movies as I try to stay awake is that three out of every four of them is a bomb, and that the fourth one often is only marginally worthwhile.

On the other hand, once in a while you find a remarkable film. One of these is, Everything is Illuminated. My niece April recommended the movie sometime ago, but I am not a fan of Holocaust-themed anything so I put it off. But last week was Passover, and April’s birthday, and it had been a stressful week at work without much sleep for several nights so I thought I would check it out. (Also, the video had moved from first run to cheap checkout price.)

I’m grateful for the experience, and would recommend it without reservation to anyone who wants a movie to ponder rather than her or his own navel. Since it’s a holocaust movie you know it’s not going to be fun. On the other hand, the first third of the movie is almost rollicking comedy. The character of Alex, the Ukrainian youth filled with huge admiration for anything Western (particularly bling, clothes, music, dance and Michael Jackson) is wonderfully realized by a genuine Russian fellow named Eugene Hutz. The American Jew searching for family ties in the old country is portrayed by Elijah Woods (Lord of the Rings) in a set piece performance of an oddball kid who collects family memorabilia such as his dying grandmother’s false teeth.

I make it sound weird. It’s not. Need a diversion from food, from stress, from life? Spend a buck ninety-nine. It’s a swell investment.

Fruit futures…. The photo accompanying this posting is me with a crown of plum blossoms. My two plum trees were smart enough to bloom in early March. My peach and apple trees, unfortunately, choose April and suffered a week of hard freeze. No peaches this year, no Rose’s special Xtreme Apple Butter. Life can be hard.

E-you later, darlings.

Aunt Rose

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Those dogged last pounds...

Last fall, after a summer of schlepping several miles a day in cute sandals, I developed a case of Plantar’s Fasciitis, more commonly known as Heel Spurs. I won’t go into the actual damage I wreaked upon my usually reliable feet, but I’ll tell you it’s a painful, burning in your heel that makes you want to get off your feet right now! And the podiatrist concurred that I should have listened to Dr. Mother Nature as that’s exactly what I needed to do. (That and wear ugly old lady shoes with orthotic inserts.)

As a consequence I did very little walking through the winter. That lack of activity, far more than a modest amount of overindulgence during eating season (October 31 – January 2), resulted in a five pound weight gain.

As detailed in earlier postings, I went on my not-so-world-famous Ground Hog diet.

And, as some of you may also recall, I don’t like to exercise while I am dieting because I think that’s just asking too much of a human being.

However I did rely on some old standby tricks to boost my calorie expenditures.

  • I got out my pedometer to establish a baseline measure of my daily steps.
  • I parked further from the door at work.
  • (And if we’d had any buildings in the whole of Navajo County with an elevator, I would have opted to walk up instead of taking it!)
  • I took to drinking bottled water to increase the frequency of my visits to the ladies room.
  • Also, I relied on an increased number of senior moments. You know what I mean: You rush into a room to do something or… was it to get something? Anyway, you’ve forgotten, so you retrace your steps back to whence you came to see if you can recreate the thought. And maybe yes, maybe no. But at least you got in 40 to 50 extra steps!
  • Additionally, I assumed major responsibility of door duty for our dog, Big-Un (that’s Biggie in the pic). I picked up probably anywhere from 50 to 100 calories a day by getting up to let the dog out and then let the dog in, let the dog out, let the dog in, let the dog out, let the dog in…

Nonetheless, I am “plateaued.” That last pesky pound standing between me and achieving my weight loss goal is just not going to come off without my adding real exercise to the picture. For me, that’s walking.

Thanks to my ugly shoes, my foot is better. And the weather’s warmer, and, if the truth were told, I actually love to walk once I’m out there. In town, I enjoy peeking in people’s yards and getting their dogs all excited (I carry a large walking stick). Or when we walk in the country sometimes we see other animals beside rabbits (antelope and coyotes most commonly), and I am always dragging home dried up animal bones or unusual rocks. (Someone will have to explain to me sometime the human urge to collect souvenirs).

So I am going to start walking again today. And if you wish to join me, please do. Just remember: wear decent walking shoes.

Too soon old; too late smart.

E-you later, darlings!

Aunt Rose

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Keep movin'

Old age is the body slowing down; death is the ultimate lack of motion.

I was athletic as a kid, but, as an adult, developed an antipathy to exercise. Working for a living sucked my energy supply nearly dry. And who wanted additional activity as the work week blurred into weekends of more enervating stuff: cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping?

About five years ago, though, I bought a book that literally changed my life: 8 Minutes in the Morning by Jorge Cruise. It’s still popular and still in print.

Cruise was a minor fitness celeb until 8 Minutes elevated him to major guru status. The book itself is nothing out-of-the-ordinary – it’s solid and sensible with good organization, simple, do-able exercises, a fairly reasonable diet plan for losing two pounds a week, but, WOW, that brilliant premise.

I wonder how long he and co-author Tony Robbins (Yes, that Tony Robbins -- the master motivator) juggled numbers to come up with 8? Positively perfect! Not too long, not too little, but just right! And the idea of the morning routine works beautifully as well. Get your brief little exercise program out of the way and you are done for the day! None of this weaseling business that happens when you come home from work at night: “too busy,” “too tired,” “tomorrow,” “tomorrow,” “tomorrow….”

Five years later I still get up before breakfast, five mornings a week, and do my brief, little fitness workouts. These exercises have nothing to do, in my mind, with weight. I do them because (1) if I don’t, I don’t feel as good or vigorous during the rest of the day (Maybe it’s psychological? I don’t know. But perception is reality.) And (2) they are a habit.

It took me less than a month (about 3 weeks) to ingrain these exercises into my daily life. Five years later I'm still faithfully doing them.

The routines have changed over the years. Now I do three days of yoga, one day of “trunk work” (crunches, back extensions, wall squats, leg lifts – no lunges though; my knees are going). And one day a week I lift free weights. I started with two pound weights and, now, am up to ten pounds. But I’ve dropped lifting from two days a week to one because it takes my tired, old muscles that long to recover. Still, I have the buffest shoulders of any 65-year-old that I know!

On Saturdays, I clean house; on Sunday, weather or not, I and the old man and the dog head out to the weeds and chase rabbits. (The rabbits always win. We like to say everybody has a good time, and nobody gets hurt.)

And then, there’s the joy of walking….more about that next time…

My first issue of Weight Watchers Magazine arrived last week. What struck me was the endless number of full-page ads featuring sumptuous spreads of gooey treats and desserts (all allegedly non-fattening). But, excuse me. People are trying to lose weight here. And if I don't happen to have a quart of imitation, artificially inseminated, lo-fat, zero carb, Rocky Road ice milk in my freezer, I do have a half-gallon of genuine, full-octane Blue Bunny Burgundy Cherry Chocolate. Oh, woe!

My sis-in-law, Gloria, sent me a subscription to Eating Well Magazine at Xmas. It is by far the superior periodical: Great recipes, readable and interesting articles, and a focus on adjusting your lifestyle to become a healthier person, not just a thinner one. Highly recommended.

I was one pound short of my weight loss goal at the end of February, so I've stayed on the Ground Hog diet another week. My failure to lose was directly due to several days of pouty inattention to what I was eating, topped by a fine Tex-Mex dinner with friends where I overindulged a bit…well, actually, a lot. But I’m back on the wagon now.

E-ya later, darlings

Aunt Rose

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Do or Diet?

I’ve been on diets since I was in high school when a tough, little firecracker body gave way to a pudgy, squarely-built teen with bulging saddle bag thighs.

In the intervening years I may not have tried every diet that slithered out of the closet of poor self-esteem, but surely most of them: Dr. Atkins, Pritkin, Cabbage, Hollywood, Grapefruit, South Beach, Sugar Busters, Blood Types and that stand-by classic Reach for Your Mate and Not for Your Plate. They all worked. For a while. Then it was time to try out a new one.

As a fatty, you really have only two choices in life when it comes to your weight. On the one hand, you can eat the way you always have for four or six months out of the year, until your body swells up like Mylar balloon, and you become wracked with remorse and guilt, endlessly boring your friends and family with whiney, empty promises of: “starting next week I’ve just got to go back on my diet.”

And maybe, a month later, you actually pull out your copy of the The South Beach Diet and start back on phase one, 10 pounds later moving into phase II, and on until you’ve lost a goodly totally of maybe 15 pounds. But by then you know on the one hand you still haven’t reached your goal, and you also know that you simply cannot face another single day of pretending pureed cauliflower tastes as good as mashed potatoes. And you fudge (often with fudge) and crash and burn…again…and…resume eating the way you always have.

On the other hand, if you choose the path I have taken, you don’t even get to eat naughty stuff ever, let alone for four or six months out of the year. You undergo a lifestyle transformation called, “eating right.” I liken it to a religious conversion.

As a convert, you get to endlessly bore your family and friends with holier-than-thou, cautionary advice like, “You shouldn’t be eating that; it’s not good for you.”

Unlike saints, however, I usually gain a few pounds either through holiday overindulgence or not walking when it’s cold weather (or both). I try to get rid of them before going beyond five pounds, because after that it becomes a major production that takes over my life. And I don’t want losing weight to be a major project. I just want it to be an ordinary task that I may have to do on occasion like Spring Cleaning, or going through the closets, or taking the dog to the vet. Just something that needs to be done.

I don’t do much aerobic exercise when I go on a diet (I don’t change my morning routine – I still do yoga and lift weights) but I don’t join a gym or visit the swimming pool. I don’t deny that it’s possible to lose weight faster when you both diet and exercise, but it’s also possible not to.

Exercise makes me hungry. If I go out and walk at a nice brisk clip for about a half hour I usually come home feeling a little peckish. Good person that I am, I eat an apple and small handful of walnuts. Guess what? I burned 150 calories walking and then consummed 220 from the snack.

Exercise is a whole exciting topic. Stay tuned.

Want logical, practical, step-by-step motivational diet advice? Check out John Walker's, "Hacker's Diet," It's an excellent, no nonsense blueprint with great advice.

Many thanks to Jamell O'Toole whose charming painting "Rose in Crystal Vase "(inspired by my Capricornian heritage) graces this post.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Duchess of Pork

I was going to reveal my enormously helpful theory on diet and exercise in this blog (Next time; I promise), but I got sidetracked after receiving “A personal message from Sarah, The Duchess of York.” (That’s her pictured, not me, in case you might be confused.) Her note was included in a solicitation to subscribe to
Weight Watchers Magazine.

My initial reaction was, fee, fie, fo fum, Fergie. Even though not an official royal anymore, you still have money and personal trainers and professional chefs to help you achieve a fine figure.

But after giving the matter additional consideration and doing a bit of research on the Internet, I came to a grudging admiration for this woman, not just for losing weight but for literally remaking her entire life. When her marriage to His Royal Highness Prince Andrew of England began to crumble, Fergie did what most of us do when we’re unhappy; she shopped and she ate.

By the late 1980s, early 1990s, she had accumulated millions of pounds of debt as well as quite a few around her hips. In cruel headlines, the British tabloid press labeled her, “the Duchess of Pork.”

Redemption occurred when Sarah, no longer known as Fergie, came to America, got thin, and cleaned up her reputation (A wicked streak of Schadenfreude causes me to illustrate one memorable occasion of her naughtiness: a 1992 topless, toe-sucking frolic on the French Riviera with a Texas businessman.) Nonetheless, she soldiered on to author several children’s books, champion many charities, and join the ranks of “Rent-a-Royal,” becoming the spokesperson for numerous publicity campaigns in this country, including Weight Watchers. She eventually made enough money to to reimburse Queen Elizabeth, who had paid Fergie's debt to the British treasury, and become wealthy in her own right.

The moral here, if there is one: When someone has turned her life around, you can’t simply ascribe it to position or luck or money; she has also made a tough decision and stuck with it.

Oh, by the way, I signed up for the magazine.
Not because the Duchess asked, but because of their offer of scores of winning recipes, like..."Chocolate cheesecake. Fudgy Frosted Brownies. Rum Truffles. Carrot Cake....Recipes that SATISFY -- and help you lose weight."

I was hungry.

E-you, darlings

Aunt Rose

Link of interest:

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Kaizen for you and me

You're likely acquainted with the quote, "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step." The phrase tidily embodies Kaizen, a Japanese term for the philosophy of making small steps toward continual improvement. While Kaizen is more often found in business literature as a way to improve production, it's also a way of losing weight --ounce by ounce, inch by inch.

But many people seem put off by this small step approach, and I fear that here is where some of you may disengage. You want that weight off NOW, this minute. No matter that it took months and years to gain your 20 or 30 or more pounds.

Still, in your heart of hearts you know that, outside of surgical intervention (even that has no guarantees) there is no innovative, overnight way to drop pounds! Losing weight happens when we burn more calories than we consume. This takes time, this takes effort, this takes facing the fact that we must change our behaviors.

And do me a favor, stop blaming your weight problems on “stress.” Stress doesn’t make you gain weight, depression doesn’t make you gain weight, anxiety doesn’t make you gain weight. What makes you gain weight is your behavior. "I am unhappy (stressed, depressed, anxious, guilt-ridden, blue, grumpy, unloved, and old). Therefore, I will be "nice" to myself and eat a chocolate eclair. Now, of course, you are unhappy, stressed, depressed, anxious, guilt-ridden, blue, grumpy, unloved, old AND fat.

I know that many of you will not be moved to begin changing your eating patterns by my puny efforts at logic, lecture or double dares. Perhaps, however, you might be better persuaded by considering the case of the raw chicken.

There, in front of you, on the kitchen counter is the pale, naked, goose-bumply, 6-pound roasting hen you've brought home from the market. As you gaze at it, it begins morphing before your very eyes into 6 pounds of chicken fat, yellow, thick, gooey, sticky, globular gook, oozing across more than a square foot of your counter to depths of over six inches.

Now, you cannot tell me that if you remove six pounds of a similar fatty substance from your own body that, no matter who you are, how old you may be, and how much you currently weigh, that you are not going to look and feel better for having gotten rid of it.

So go pick a diet, any diet you find reasonable (most of them are) and stay on it for the month of February. Sweet, fun-filled, tidy little four-week February. The time will fly by.

This is the Ground Hog Diet because you start it on Ground Hog Day. Weigh in that morning, naked and after you pee. Then set a goal to lose no more than 7 pounds by the end of the month. Then do it.

There is a rule I'd like you to follow -- but just one, and this is it: Once you weigh on Friday, you may weigh yourself only once a week thereafter -- same day, same time, same outfit, same empty bladder. Deal?

E-you later, darlings. I've got to go cook a chicken.

Special note: I would suggest there are literally hundreds of thousands of web sites devoted to diets and recipes and tips to succeed. Some of it's legit; some of it's nutty. But try to avail yourself of some of the more reliable information. Find some of the truly clever hints to get you through rough spots during the day or that tell you the best kind of food journal to keep (one that notes not only what you are eating, but WHEN you are eating).

Here's a page from an intriguing web site called the Open Directory Project to get you started:

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ground Hog Diet

Like many Americans, every year my list of New Year’s resolutions always has, “lose weight.”

While I don’t jump right into dieting; I do stop indulging, and will resume my normal eating habits. And I don’t weigh myself until about the third week of January. By then I figure my body has registered the extra calories from the holidays but might have dropped a half pound or so from my eating normally again. This is what I call my“Eeeek” revelation, or baseline weight.

From there it’s simple to set a goal of how much weight I want to lose – generally an amount equivalent to one step lower on the standard Body Mass Index (BMI) chart. Nowadays this generally amounts to a modest 4-5 pounds. But don’t pooh-pooh me by assuming I’m just a lucky, small person. Over the years I’ve probably lost close to 300 pounds, but that’s not such a big deal. What’s significant is that for the past ten years I’ve managed to keep 12 of them from coming back!

According to actuarial charts from the dark ages of my youth (“If you are 5’ tall you should weigh 100 pounds, then add 5 pounds per inch to see your ideal weight.”), I was always hopelessly overweight. I carried a residual poor body image forward far into my adult years. Then, about a decade ago, the Body Mass Index became trendy. The BMI chart is far kinder, with its broader (so to speak) categories. (There’s a link at the end of the blog in case you aren’t familiar with it.) It made me feel better about myself because I wasn’t as overweight as those other charts had dictated. (It was the same delight I felt when the clothing industry revised women’s pant sizes, and I started wearing a size 10 for the first time ever!)

Anyway, I have my goal, so I outline my diet strategy. Since I have always been a calorie counter, I’ll calculate how many total calories are contained in the pounds I want to lose, then divide by the number of days I plan to stick to the diet (28). The resulting, astoundingly small figure is the number of calories I may consume daily for one month. (There’s a calorie calculator link at the end too.)

Sometimes I like to quick start the diet with a few low-carbohydrate tactics borrowed from South Beach and Atkins, etc. But I can’t stick with those for long; I’m too much of a carb lover. Mostly I aim for a diet eliminating the usual ‘naughty white stuff’ (sugar, butter, cream cheese, white flour, etc.), while allowing modest amounts of meats, whole grains, nuts and beans and lots of fruit and lots and lots of veggies. And, I’m sorry, but I don't ask me to give up potatoes. I mean, for heaven’s sake, the Irish lived off nothing but spuds for a century. I’ll give up butter and I’ll give up sour cream, but not the potato itself.

Then I start read about dieting. I buy books. I look up dieting tips and hints on the Internet. I think about dieting. I start eliminating or reducing a few of my major dietary weaknesses (wine with dinner every night becomes wine on weekend nights only), soups and salads replace sandwiches; portions shrink; I measure oil when I cook instead of eyeballing it.

Then, on February 2, Ground Hog Day, I start my diet. It’ll be a bit harder than usual this year because Ground Hog Day falls on a Friday and weekends are hard times to start dieting. But I will gird my burgeoning loins and set to the task.

Join me? I’ll give you lots of tips and support during that month. And there is only one simple rule that you have to abide by.

I’ll tell you about it next time…

Now, if you’re interested, here’s some fun/interesting/useful information to get those juices flowing (unfortunate imagery).

Here’s my favorite Body Mass Index (BMI) site: The whole site offers an entirely pink and pleasant visit.

You can find the official BMI chart and what its ranges indicate on this reliable, non-commercial site:

Want to figure how many calories you burn a day at your current weight and how many you have to cut back to if you want to lose a certain amount? Check out this professional nutritionist website with a Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculator:

And for low-techies, here’s the gold standard, handy, dandy portable reference book to figure calories, The Calorie King Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter, 2007 by Allan Borushek. It’s a jam-packed compenium of diet facts, tips and recommendations, with calorie lists for fast food, canned, frozen and brand name foods as well as generic foods like apples, salmon, etc. The 2007 edition has updates for net carbs and fiber for folks opting for low-carb regimes. It’s available at for $7.99 + S&H.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Introducing The Old Broad Sheet

Yesterday was my Mom’s birthday; she turned 89. I called her (she lives in Colorado and I live in Arizona) to congratulate her on her “achievement.”

She says she doesn’t know how she managed to live so long; it wasn’t any thing she consciously did. Whatever it was, it worked. She looks maybe 75. (Hell, on a bad morning, I look 75.) Two years ago she joined TOPS and lost 35 pounds and has kept it off. (A considerable achievement since she lives in a senior housing complex where the two major activities are playing cards and eating.) She takes just three medications – two for her eyes (she has controlled glaucoma) and Fosamax for her bones. Her blood pressure averages 110 over 70. She says she feels “remarkably well...for an old broad.”

Hello. I'm Rose. I turned 64 at Xmas, and I don't buy the hype about your sixties being the new fifties (I think that’s Madison Avenue sucking up to aging baby boomers). I am simply not the person I was at 54. Lots of deterioration has taken place in those ten years.

Now I have tasked myself with the goal of fighting a good fight against getting old. And as I am not a person given to extremes, my approach is to do so in a sensible and moderate way. (No eating weird stuff or taking massive amounts of vitamins or running marathons…yet.)

I’m lucky to have that lovely genetic inheritance (not just Mom, but both grandmas, made it to their late eighties, early nineties). Still, science says genetics account for only a third of the picture. You can control the other two-thirds.

And on the flip side, life holds no guarantees. My daddy died at 70, my brother at 62 (both of lung cancer; I smoked for nearly 40 years). So my personal goal is to see that however many years I have left to live are ones where I am healthy, active, feel good (and look good, too, since I think people treat you nicer when you are attractive, even old ladies!)

Why am I sharing this personal goal? It probably stems from my having been a librarian for twenty-five years. As a group, librarians suffer from what I call “enlightenment compulsion.” I mean, did you ever meet a librarian that didn’t just inundate you with stuff when you had a question about anything?

Plus, I’ve been interested in wellness and nutrition topics for years and consider myself a bit of a maven. And I suspect many of you have thoughts and ideas and suggestions you’d be willing to share about aging and wellness and your own ways of “keeping it together.”

If life and time permits, I’ll try to show up weekly with a new posting to the Broad Sheet. And next time the topic will be weight management featuring Aunt Rose's "Ground Hog diet."

E-you later, darlings.
Aunt Rose