Greetings From Michigan!

December 20, 2011

I’ve landed in the Great Lakes State – my home state – and I’ll be here through the day after Christmas. Then it’s off to a whole different part of the world… but that’s an announcement for a whole ‘nother day!

My flights today were great. I had a short layover in Phoenix, and, during the Burbank-Phoenix leg, I had a window seat… except that, as you can see in the picture, I got gypped out of a window! From Phoenix-Detroit, I had an aisle seat, which I like because I can stretch a leg into the aisle. Added bonus today: the middle seat next to me was empty, so I could stretch my other leg in that direction!

Tomorrow morning I’m heading to a local gym – the same gym I frequented when I was here in September – and seeing what kind of deal they can cut me for a week. In September, they charged me $25 for 2 weeks, so their 1-week rate must be less than that, right?

I’m hoping the change of fitness-related scenery will provide me a little boost. I’ve been struggling lately to motivate myself to work out. Last week, when I was terribly ill with a cold and/or flu, I ended up missing four days of exercise in a row. I’m not complaining – just an observation. It’s the longest stretch of non-exercise I think I’ve had all year. Plus, two days prior to that little stretch, I had a planned rest day, so, in total, I worked out twice that week, instead of an ideal six times.

Normally when circumstances prohibit me from exercising for a day or two, I start feeling antsy to get back in the gym. Apparently when circumstances prohibit me from exercising for four days straight, I lose all interest in the gym altogether, because that’s how I felt when I got healthy and strong enough to resume exercising. My motivation had disappeared quicker than Santa up the chimney! My first workout back after recuperating was a run. I hadn’t gone running since Thanksgiving Day (when I ran my first 5K with my sister), and at first I felt great. About 15 minutes in, though, my tune had changed, and I couldn’t wait to finish. I had pre-determined my route, so I was nowhere near home by that point, so I kept running, and banned myself from checking the time. All told, I spent 41 minutes on the sidewalks of North Hollywood, and went exactly 4 miles. My route:

I calculated my speed at 5.8 mph (and, yep, I’ve added it to my running chart!). Even though I was fairly miserable by the run’s end, I was happy and proud I stuck it out.

The next day (Monday), I hit the gym for the first time in a week, and had a good workout – 40 minutes of weightlifting and 16 minutes on a bike, plus a little warm-up on the treadmill. Today was a looong travel day – I left my house in California at 5am and walked in my parents’ door at 6pm – so no workout. Tomorrow, it’s gym time. I can’t miss many more workouts – not with all the holiday goodies around!

Keep it up, David!

PS – Wondering why I didn’t weigh myself this morning? It’s because I vowed to not weigh myself again until 2012, as a way to combat a developing obsession with my scale. I found a new hiding spot for my scale, and it’s working like a charm! Find out where it is here.

PPS – Remember the micro red amaranth I purchased last week? A few days ago, I included it in a big kale salad I brought to a dinner party:

The salad was simple and easy (pre-chopped and washed kale, tomatoes, persian cucumbers, micro red amaranth, and bottled nonfat balsamic vinaigrette), and it was a big hit. I thought the amaranth tasted a little like lawn cuttings (in a wheatgrass sorta way, not an off-putting sorta way), but a couple of my friends thought they tasted like beets. Or maybe it was just the color that reminded them of beets!

OK – I’m off. Because of the holidays, my posting schedule may be a little erratic, but I’ll be keeping it up, and so should you!

Holidays Parties and Produce Haul

December 13, 2011

I got a special request from a reader for a blog topic! A reader named Andy wrote this:

“How about blogging on how to get through holiday parties and family get togethers, when you’re surrounded by goodies and comfort food? I’d love some ideas.”

That’s a great idea, Andy! I’ve already been to one holiday party this year, and have a couple more coming up, and they can be terribly stressful and tempting if you’re really working hard to eat well and stay on program. Here are my thoughts on how to navigate a treacherous sea of cookies, egg nog, sugar plums, and figgy pudding. (I’ve never had a sugar plum or figgy pudding, and I’m only presuming they’re not healthy options.)

1) Don’t Arrive Hungry. It doesn’t matter if it’s a full-blown dinner party or a simple get-together – eat something healthy before it starts. Get some food in your stomach so you aren’t ravenous – that way, you won’t be reaching for every mini-quiche or piece of fudge that crosses your path.

2) Drink, Drink, Drink! (Water, Water, Water) Drink a big glass before you go, and drink a glass or two before you eat a thing. It’s another trick to help you feel full without consuming vast amounts of gingerbread or cocktail weinees. It also might be helpful for you to carry a glass as you navigate the party –  keeping your hands occupied with a cup might help prevent you from scooping up handfuls of nuts or M&Ms.

3) Identify the Healthiest Options. Survey all the offerings before putting anything on your plate. Is there a veggie platter? Is there fruit? If it’s all snack foods, are there pretzels or crackers or other baked items, as opposed to chips, which are fried? Find the most guilt-free item, and stock up. I find it helpful to know what I can turn to if I’m really feeling peckish later on.

4) Make Your Splurges Count. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s a party – enjoy yourself! If there are foods you wouldn’t normally eat that you want to sample, then go for it – but be reasonable. I like trying new things, so I’m more likely to splurge on someone’s homemade cookie that I’ve never tried before, as opposed to a platter of Oreos that I’ve eaten 10,000 times before.

5) Walk Away. If you hang out by the chips and dip, chances are you’ll probably eat more chips and dip that you should. So do your chit-chat and catching up away from the food table.

6) Eat Slowly. It’s not a race! Fix a plate, walk away (see #5), and take your time eating it! Set your fork or plate down in between bites. No one’s going to steal your grub.

7) Bring Something Healthy! If it’s a potluck (and a lot of holiday parties are), bring something guilt-free to share. I bring food to parties all the time, and I never bring anything I can’t eat copious amounts of. If it’s not a potluck, call the host and offer to help. If they decline your offer because they have it under control, than follow their wishes and come empty-handed. But if they take you up on your offer, than huzzah! Swing through the produce section and knock yourself out!

What am I forgetting? If you have tips for getting through holiday parties, leave them in the comments section!

Moving on…

I went to Whole Foods earlier today, and ended up bringing home a veritable buffet of fresh produce. Check it my haul!

Clockwise from Top Left, we have: carrots, Persian cucumbers, a pineapple, apples (more on these later), holiday grapes, celery, bananas, satsuma tangerines, broccoli and cauliflower, mushrooms, a bag of kale salad, head of garlic, 2 kiwis, orange and yellow bell peppers, a brown onion, 2 red pears, 4 tomatoes, and some green beans. That’s 20 different types of produce!

A quick note about the apples: 4 of them are of the Pink Lady variety (one of my favorite varieties), and 1 of them is an Arkansas Black, a heirloom variety of apple. I’ve never bought an Arkansas Black before. Here it is up close:

Looks like an apple.

I bought one other new-to-me item, and I found it in the sprouts-and-sprouted-bean section:


I’ve heard of amaranth before, but I’m a little sketchy as to what it is, and I haven’t done any research yet. But my understanding is that it’s a grain than can be used to make flour and cereal. I don’t know if all amaranth is red, or if this is a super-special product, but I will look into it.

I was drawn to the package by the color – this amaranth is a deep fuchsia color, and it’s beautiful:

I’ve bought sprouts many times before, and I suspect these will end up either in a salad or a sandwich (or possibly both!), and I look forward to trying them.

The nice woman who was bagging my groceries at the check-out counter thought, when she first saw the package, that it was saffron, and I think that’s a reasonable mistake – saffron is also deep red stems. I have a little saffron in my spice cupboard – this is what it looks like:

Some fun facts about saffron: it’s the most expensive spice on the planet. Distributors typically sell it by the gram, and one online retailer I just visited was selling top-quality Spanish saffron for $21 a gram – which means one pound of the stuff would cost over $9,700! That package of red amaranth weighs 1.75 ounces, and if that was saffron, I’d be out hundreds and hundreds of dollars!

Saffron is so outrageously expensive because it’s a beast to harvest. Saffron is the stigma of a particular type of crocus flower. Each flower only has three saffron threads inside it, and they have to be harvested by hand. An entire acre of crocuses will only yield a few pounds of saffron per season.

The good thing is that a little saffron goes a long way. My father’s side of the family is Spanish, and I grew up eating Spanish food regularly, so I know that only a tiny pinch of saffron is all you need to flavor a giant pot of paella.

That was a fun tangent, wasn’t it? You never know what you’ll learn after I make a swing through the produce section!

Keep it up, David!