Thursday, May 28, 2009

10 Things I Learned from Bollywood Dance Class

In April/May, I took a six week class in Bollywood Dancing. Bollywood Dance has become internationally famous by way of the popularity of Indian movies, and has most recently gotten more attention in the U.S. as a result of Slumdog Millionaire. I was drawn to this class because of an interest in world music, and a desire to do something physical in addition to my normal workouts in the Man Cave.

I got more than I bargained for in this class! Each class was an hour of intense cardio – where I ended up sweat-soaked and wobbly-kneed. But it was GREAT.

Here are the 10 things I learned:

1. Moves that look really cool on a 19-year old Indian girl look somewhat less cool on a stiff, 53-year old Caucasian broad.
2. Patting your head while rubbing your tummy is good training for the coordination of arm/foot movement required.
3. Overly enthusiastic hip-shaking risks injury.
4. Choreographers can actually be cruel.
5. Indian folk dance and hip hop DO go well together!
6. Flirty Bollywood Dance moves are much less sexually explicit than what we see in American music videos – but very hot in a suggestive way.
7. Dancing is a great workout for your core muscle groups.
8. Hip waggling is less attractive when your belly is jiggling along with it.
9. When a choreographer says, “This part goes a little fast” – it’s an understatement.
10. Doing something outside your comfort zone is very empowering and satisfying.

What’s that class you’ve always thought of taking? What are you waiting for?
P.S. The picture above is not of our class. (Duh.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eating & Thriving, the Low Carb Way

The first time we went to the grocery store to stock up on low-carb food items, we were flummoxed and frustrated. We didn’t understand enough about the do’s and don’t’s – the good foods vs. the “bad”. What freaked us out is that we knew we couldn’t eat the way we had been eating for years.

1. Eat three meals a day, or four or five smaller ones.
2. For the first month consume only a total of only 20 carbs a day. As your body learns to burn fat more easily, you can re-introduce a few more carbs. (Get a carb counter guide for frequent reference.)
3. Read nutritional information labels on any prepared foods! Look for how many grams of carbs are in a serving size. Be sure they are what you would really consume in a sitting, because some serving sizes are ridiculously small.
4. Supplement your fiber intake using Psyllium Husk Powder - a taste-free additive to salads, eggs, or sauces.

1. Protein is good. Most proteins have no carbs. Eat steak, chicken, seafood, and eggs guilt-free.
2. Berries are the best fruit to eat. A half cup of raspberries is 3 net carbs.
3. Fiber is good. A gram of fiber negates a gram of carbs. But beware - a gram or two of fiber in a “healthy” snack bar won’t help much if the bar contains 23 carbs that mostly come from sugar.
4. Many veggies are high in nutrients and low in carbs. Go for lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, eggplant, cauliflower and cucumber. (See the bad news veggies.)
5. Get your dairy via cheese (5-6 oz per day).

1. Avoid bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and cereal. Sorry.
2. Most fruit is fairly high in carbs (e.g. a medium-sized apple has about 17 net carbs).
3. Corn, peas, carrots and beans are starchy veggies higher in carbs.
4. Some “healthy” snacks are loaded with carbs. A quarter cup of raisins has 30 carbs.

Now for some ideas about how to change your eating habits:

Instead of a Cheeseburger, have a bunless Beef patty with cheese
Instead of Potatoes, have Mashed Cauliflower (we use butter & cheese & a touch of cream)
Instead of French Fries, have sauteed Eggplant
Instead of Potato Chips, have "Soy Crispettes”
Instead of salad Croutons, have Parmesan Crisps (add Psyllium Husk Powder for more fiber)
Instead of Crackers & Cheese, have Salami & Cheese
Instead of sugary Desserts, have Sugar-free Candy or Berries
Instead of a Milkshake, have an Atkins shake blended with ice
Instead of Pizza...well, if you find a replacement – let me know!

It’s not always easy, but it works! In restaurants, ask for extra vegetables in place of potatoes or rice. And send the busperson with the bread basket away forthwith! Sometimes it’s just best not to be tempted.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mastering the Carbohydrate Challenge

I inherited many wonderful attributes from my father. Unfortunately, I also inherited a problem with high blood sugar. Two years ago, I began taking prescription meds to help my body absorb insulin. I had developed Type 2 Diabetes. Some of this was my own doing, as a result of an unhealthy diet, weight gain, and a lack of exercise. One of our goals for the first year of retirement was to “Get Healthy”. I needed to lose weight and wanted to get off my meds. No excuses anymore.

A low-carb approach seemed to make sense for me. Not only would it result in weight loss, but it would deprive my body of the simple carbs (e.g. glucose) that go right into the bloodstream and spike insulin production, making it difficult to control my blood sugar level. Complex carbs (starches) break down into glucose molecules more slowly, so don’t have as quick and dramatic an effect on blood sugar. Carbs are not bad – some are required to fuel the body with energy. But too many carbs (simple or complex) can be problematic, especially for people who tend toward diabetes.

I used a lot of information from the Atkins Diet to modify my eating habits. I replaced sugar with Splenda, stopped eating bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice, and ate more carb-free proteins, salads, and low-carb veggies. I also started being more physically active. Every morning, I tested my blood sugar.

Here’s the amazing thing… After just 3 days of lifestyle changes my blood sugar level dropped dramatically, to the point where I had to discontinue my prescription medication to allow my blood sugar to rise into the normal range! Now it stays there without medication. In 8 months I have lost 25 pounds by reducing my carb consumption and doing cardio exercise 4 to 5 days a week. I am thrilled, and so is my doctor.

A sample of a meal plan for an average day follows. I don’t specify portions here, but they should be reasonable, as calories can’t be completely ignored.

BREAKFAST: Coffee w/Splenda, 2 eggs scrambled with cheese, 2 slices bacon, 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt, 6 fresh raspberries.

LUNCH: Canned tuna fish with mayo, sliced cucumber, 1 small sugar-free Peppermint Patty.

DINNER: Caesar salad, tilapia baked in olive oil & lemon with capers, cauliflower mash, several glasses of wine.

Sorry for my soapbox, but I’m not quite done with this subject. Next week, a few specifics about counting carbs, “healthy” foods with “hidden” carbs, and some tips on how to avoid feeling deprived on the low-carb lifestyle.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I'm Not Always in My Pajamas...

The question people ask me most often about life in retirement is, “What do you do all day?” (One friend calls and asks, “Are you still in your pajamas?” He hates it when the answer is yes. Life has settled into a casual routine here on Bittersweet Place…

MORNING: Coffee first! Then a little morning news and some Today Show. This is usually followed by powering up the PC and checking eMail, Facebook, and LinkedIn to see what’s shakin’ among my network peeps. Then I unload the dishwasher and we have a low-carb breakfast. Time to make the bed and dress in workout clothes. Workout in the Man Cave (5 days a week, for about an hour and a half) includes time on the elliptical, some weight lifting, and/or some Wii games.

AFTERNOON: A light, low-carb lunch (more on the low-carb discipline next week) followed by a shower or bubble bath. Throw in some laundry – then fold and put away clothes. Check eMail, etc. again. Write for one of my blogs. Recreational or educational reading for an hour or two – or run an errand (grocery, hardware, or drug store). Make some phone calls (social or “administrative”). Check to see what the stock market did today. It’s almost Happy Hour…

EVENING: Begins with a glass of wine or two in the front room, watching the neighborhood go by, talking with Ron, and planning dinner. Ron is the family chef, and usually makes dinner (low-carb again). I’m the cleaner-upper; loading and starting the dishwasher and wiping up the kitchen. The rest of the evening, we usually watch something on TV, pop in a movie, or read for a while. Between 10 and 11pm we head off to bed.

That’s the norm on an uneventful day. We can’t believe how fast days go by, with just these simple activities. How did we ever get anything done when we were working? Thank God for the luxury of time we so sorely needed for our mental and physical health. So far, this has truly been a period of recovery for us.

Now that the weather is finally getting nicer, there are more and more activities available. Our neighbor has started a book club. We have tickets to a handful of Cubs games. Next week, the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago opens, and as members we get a pre-opening preview. On occasion, we like to go out to lunch or dinner (Alfredo at Fornello’s knows us by name). There is great theatre here, and we have been to see a half dozen shows already. Summer will be full of opportunities to go to street fairs all over the city. Lake Michigan, the beach at Montrose Harbor, and the golf course at Waveland will soon be beckoning. It’s great to be in Chicago in the summer.