It's All in My Head

Ravings With No Organic Explanation

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Yogamum Has Forced Meme to Blog...

...and I thank her for it. Sincerely.

And so follow eight random, moderately interesting and painfully truthful things about moi.

1. I like bad 80s club tunes. Lime, Company B, Debbie Deb. My iPod is 1-inch-by-1-inch gay club.

2. When I was a kid we used to go to a Folk Festival every year. We'd camp out, no running water, no showers, no flush toilets, just listen to music and *be*. We were allowed to roam about like we never could at home. In my very chaotic childhood, these are my happiest memories.

3. I'm terrible at math. Like, really, REALLY bad. Ask the IRS. We've exchanged correspondence on the subject.

4. I have only one sibling, and we don't speak. This breaks my heart every day.

5. If I could be anyone in the world, real or fictional, I'd be Carrie Bradshaw. I don't even want to know what that says about me.

6. I have been known to be reduced to uncontrolled panicked sobbing at the mere sight of any member of the cockroach family.

7. I went to an all-girls', Catholic, college preparatory high school, and actually had a pretty damn good time.

8. I am a recovering hypochondriac. And by recovering I mean that at this very moment I am not overcome by the certainty that I have a rare and incurable cancer that will slowly, painfully take my life and leave my children motherless. By the way, do you think this mole is shaped funny? The borders look a little asymetrical when I hold my arm like this and squint with my head tilted to the left...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My Humps

Don't you just love Alanis' parody?

Anyway, I just got some shots from the Leprechaun from my sister-in-law and had to share something. A major brag, if you will. I *hated* the picture on top. I was actually surprised to come across it again, I thought I had deleted all vestiges of it.

First photo is my tush in September, 2005. The second is from last month, 18 months, 37 pounds and 5 pants sizes later. (BTW, MomToTheLeft, if you're still interested in Gaelic, my shirt says "Kiss My A**"'s that for a starter phrase?)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Mama Got a New Pair of Shoes, When Will She Wear Them?

Got my new running shoes (Vapor 7, can't link directly for some reason) yesterday. Recommended for my overpronation. Hopefully this means no more blisters along my right arch. Well-cushioned, too. Can't wait to wear them.

I'm getting antsy to get out and run a 10. I haven't done much more than 6 since the holidays, and I can't catch a break with the weather. I usually have about an hour and half on Mondays free but tomorrow we're looking at more wind, rain, temps in the low 40s and, heaven forbid, maybe even snow. Snow. Past the midway mark of April. Intolerable.

Twenty-one days til Broad Street, and even with Mother Nature's cooperation my schedule is unwieldy. I'm starting to get nervous. I tend to put too much pressure on myself and need to let up a bit. Focus on finishing, and give myself a nice a generous time in which to do it. At this point, that looks like about two hours.

Our last race, scheduled for St. Patrick's Day (Irish Memorial 5K) was cancelled due to snow (5 inches, on the verge of spring...preposterous!). I hope to post on the previous one, the Leprechaun, soon, after I scan some pictures.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

There Is No Such Thing As Fourth Meal!

I'm not referring to the oft-recommended 5-6 small daily meals recommended by nutritionists (emphasis on small). I'm talking about an actual ad campaign that wants to promote the idea that three super-sized, super-fatty, high-carb, low-protein, low-fiber, nutriontally-void fast food meals a day are just one shy of perfection.

In case you haven't seen the ads, this particular gem comes from Taco Bell. The good folks at TB (a division of Yum! Brands, the folks who also bring you the wholesome goodness of KFC, Pizza Hut and that mecca of Omega-3, Long John Silver's).

Out of curiosity, I did some exploration at at Taco Bells Nutrition Calculator. Their "fourth meal" is not quite as unreasonable as I assumed. A regular old taco would add only 170 calories and 10 grams of fat to your other three meals, and even a full gram of fiber, unless you add a small Coke (who adds a *small* Coke?) and bring the grand total up to 320.

So what kind of impact would this have on your diet? Let's consider that the average American woman is 5'4" and weighs 152 pounds. For the sake of argument, we'll make her 30 years old, and give her a generous rating of moderate activity (jogging on a daily basis). Her daily caloric needs would be around 2200 (calculations courtesy of 24HourFitness' calculators). To be fair, she could indulge in a little over six of these meals, a bit more than the recommended four, were she to choose to subsist exclusively on tacos and Coke..

But let's be honest. How many people are really jogging *every* day? How many people are only ordering one basic taco and a small Coke when they go to Taco Bell?

I'm not even commenting on the content of the meal. Cholesterol, saturated fat, transfats, growth hormone, antibiotics, and recently, E. coli and rat feces. I won't say that if you made your "fourth meal" an ounce of cashews and a banana you'd be getting complex carbohydrates, protein, unsaturated fats (the good kind!) and potassium, stay full longer, and still fall 60 calories shy of the Taco Bell meal. Okay, maybe I *will* say that, but that's not the object of this post. This post is merely a rant on the role marketing plays in the American obesity epidemic. I shall try to stay on topic. No promises.

The real bee in my bonnet lately is the McDonald's "snack time" campaign. You've seen them. Same guy appears in various contrived situations, wrap sandwich in hand, declaring any and all abnormal behavior he encounters to be the results of "missing snack time."

Low blood sugar can be a terrible thing. Shakes, headaches, muddled thinking. We've all been there. Fear not, Mickey D's to the rescue! You may think "snack time" means a couple graham crackers smeared with peanut butter, a granola bar, a piece of fruit, some popcorn or heck, even a few cookies, but thanks to the marketing genius of the McDonalds Corporation, we are now aware that an entire sandwich must be consumed to avoid embarassing behaviors like trying to dig your way out of your office through the drywall with a spoon or surprising your wife with three cheerleaders in her newly redecorated sports-themed living room.

So let's for a moment examine this "snack." The same people who brought you 500-calorie meals (with toy!) for toddlers now offer a line of chicken wraps that have 260-330 calories a piece, with up to 16 grams of fat. Again, add in that small Coke (do they even sell small anymore? I thought the sizes started with "bucket" and worked up to "50 gallon drum") for up to 480 calories. In what universe is this considered a "snack?" Consider that 4 ounces broiled chicken, a cup of long grain rice (a generous serving!) and a cup of cooked carrots with a glass of water and lemon comes to 458 calories with only 6 grams of fat. I've never heard that called a "snack." Most people call it "dinner."

Don't get me wrong. I love food, I love to eat, I have bad habits and I've made mistakes in the past and surely will in the future. What bothers me is the deliberate, reckless marketing of huge portions of unhealthy food to the public. To put it out there that it is completely acceptable, even necessary, to have a "fourth meal" of low-grade beef and cheese "product" or that a fatty sandwich packing upwards of 300 calories is a little between-meals-somethin'-somethin' is grossly irresponsible, bordering on immoral. When you consider the plentiful locations of these establishments in communities that cover the entire socio-economic spectrum, and the price/portion ratio, it's hardly a secret these entities prey on the poor.

I don't mean to ride Morgan Spurlock's coattails. In fact, I think he missed the mark a bit. He left people an out; they can always fall back on the fact that *of course* a person eating nothing but fast food for an entire month would gain weight, lose muscle mass, have cholesterol/triglyceride/liver enzyme/blood sugar issues, feel sluggish and become physiologically addicted to the product. A more realistic experiment may have been to visit McD's four or five times a week over the course of year so that people would get a better picture of what their true habits are doing to them. Of course, I don't blame Mr. Spurlock for one minute for wanting to get the experiment over and behind him within 30 days, and his points were not lost on me.

There's a lot of lip-service paid to the obesity problem in this country yet, as with everything, it is Corporate America who gets the final word. Next time you visit an impoverished neighborhood, if you ever do, count the supermarkets along your way. Consider the weight of the packages you load into your minivan or SUV each time you shop for your family. Now imagine that you have no car to transport those packages from the market, if you can find one, and your main objective is to fill bellies until pay day with whatever keeps the Mom-I'm-hungries to a minimum. Consider that low-grade ground beef costs $.99/pound, while grapes cost $2.39; that Kashi or Grape Nuts cost twice as much as the big Malt-o-Meal sugary-poofs; that soda is cheaper than milk. Pardon my cynicism, USDA, but your new-and-improved food pyramid is a load of crap. Start making fresh, chemically unaltered, nutritionally valid foods available to even the poorest Americans and we'll talk.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Quickie Post - Petition

Only have a moment but wanted to pass this along. The site is owned by former Democratic presidential candidate General Wesley Clark. Please sign the petition!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Three Weeks, Three Miles

Yes, I'm averaging a mile a week at this point.

It's not that I haven't been finding other satisfying, calorie-burning, muscle-building activities. I'm actually quite proud that now, in mid-February, I can claim that I have not once let bad weather deter me from my appointed rounds, be they at 5 am or after dinner. In fact, I seem to be building a reputation as a, shall we say, nutcase? at the gym. My instructor at my 6 am Body Pump on Thursday remarked that she was afraid she'd get up and no one would be in class, but then realized that at the very least, *I* would be there. She also added that she knew I was probably pulling my hair out the night before when the Y cancelled all classes, including my beloved Body Attack (she was right, even though I was and still am nursing a mild chest cold). Oh well. I could have worse obsessions.

No, it's not lack of exercise. I'm maintaining stamina and lung capacity through cardio classes like RPM, Body Attack and step interval. But I need to run. I need to train. I need to run fast and maintain enough wind to talk trash when I'm done.

In 20 days we run a five-miler benefitting Special Olympics with J's family. We're coming together as a family to do something fun and healthy and to benefit a good cause (chosen for our nephew who has Trisomy 21).

Sounds sweet, doesn't it? You'd be surprised. Since this was planned in November, it's been a no-holds-barred, balls-to-the-wall, smack-talking, cut-throat competition. About half of us participating train regularly, and I will *NOT* be beaten by anyone who doesn't. J's brothers torture me every chance they get, and this training period has been no exception. In fact, I think the bar has been raised considerably. But this time, this time I'm going to show them, even if I have to cough up a lung in the process.

So today it got up to 30 degrees and I ran three miles. Doesn't sound like much, but I cannot overemphasize my disdain for cold weather. I felt good. My breathing was under control, my bad knee was tired but not painful. I'm not sure what my time was, and it wouldn't be accurate if I'd timed because of certain conditions, which leads me to my next point.

If you live in Southeastern Pennsylvania, it's going to snow. Maybe sooner, maybe later, but it will happen. Just like last year and the year before that and the year before that. Buy a freakin' shovel!

Ahem. Okay. So three miles today, my first time out since the end of January, when I put in five. Eight miles a month, woo! I am *unstoppable*! Beijing, here I come!

I see we're going to break freezing this week so things are looking up. Possibility of hitting 60 next Sunday, and, with apologies to Al Gore, I hope it stays that way.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

We're Here to Pump You Up!

Can you believe it's been 20 years since Hans and Franz made the scene? Holy guacamole I'm getting old.

I'm finally getting around to posting another Les Mills review, this one on Body Pump. Please, hold your applause til the end.

I've weight-trained before, both independently and with the help of my former-fitness-instructor husband (that is, he's no longer a fitness instructor, he's still my husband). I am a firm believer in its benefits. Cardio is great, and necessary, and as a runner I can't think of any better way to burn calories and shed weight, but there is more than a word's difference between "fit and trim" and "fit and flabby," and I'm not in this to achieve the latter.

I signed up for BP on a whim, just curious as to what it was all about, when I joined a new gym. They were promoting it pretty heavily as "the fastest way in the universe to get in shape", and it was only a small fee, so I climbed onboard. I had my first class in early November, and I was in love. A sick, self-punishing, sado-masochistic version of love, but love nontheless.

I suppose by now I should define "it" more clearly. A quick overview: Body Pump is a one-hour high-rep strength-training class. We use dumbbells, barbells and our own body weight as resistance. The routine consists of 10 choreographed tracks, each lasting 4.5-5.5 minutes. Each track works a specific muscle group: warmup, legs, chest, back and hamstrings, triceps, biceps, glutes, shoulders, abs, and a cool down. Bar weight is individualized. Every 8-10 weeks a new release is launched and a new muscle group is focused upon, or, as I like to phrase it, most severely punished.

Simple enough. It's easy to learn the choreography (everything based on 4 beats), and while form takes a little more work, it's not overly difficult and the instructors are knowledgable and helpful.

It hurts. It hurts a lot. And the more it hurts, the better it is (yes, we're still talking about exercise, Gutterbrains!). It also burns 600-700 calories an hour, increases bone density, and builds strength and flexibility. I'm doing it three times a week (the max recommended) including two pre-dawn classes, and when I can't get there because, let's say, oh, I don't know, someone doesn't get home from work in time to watch the kids, it gets ugly. Real ugly. I'm hooked. I've got a fever and the only prescription is more barbell, baby (okay, okay, no more SNL references, I promise).

As for the claims to being the fastest way in to get in shape, I can't say. I haven't tried them all. But I will say this: I started BP in early November and by Christmas I had dropped a full dress size. No weight loss, no dieting, no increase in cardio training, just tearing down and building up muscle two hours a week. This is why. I can't recommend BP highly enough. It promises to change the shape of your body, and if you put the effort out, it makes good on that promise.