3 Easy Ways to Eat Well

Like most people my life gets busier as I get older, and more demanding of my time. Well I had to get creative with food ideas and meal planning if I wanted to continue to eat healthy food and not go back to grabbing easy food that has been chemically altered so I can make it in a micro wave.

1. Most of us have a Rice Cooker or Crock Pot in a cupboard somewhere collecting dust and being neglected. Break it out, clean it off and read the instructions. You will see that you can make delicious and healthy meals without being in the kitchen for more than ten minutes.

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2. Food purchases that are healthy and don’t require a lot of work. There are a lot of fresh foods that require little or no prep time and can be cooked or eaten raw. Raw Vegetables as snacks are delicious, fruit will give you energy and I like to have an after work snack to get my energy levels up so I can keep going without a nap. (Naps are important at my age).

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3. Left overs. Like most men I live on leftovers because I don’t have time to cook and lets face it, some things taste better the second day. So when you do cook , cook for several days.

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You can alleviate a lot of food anxiety by using these easy methods for keeping your diet on track .

 

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Diet for Exercise

Exercise will only do so much-you have to change what you eat in order to help your body build healthy muscle and reduce body fat, while not giving up nutrients and energy. Sound impossible? Well, if you listen to the large corporate food companies that specialize in processed food, it is. The food you put into your body has a immediate as well as cumulative affect on your body. Yes,food does both. Think about it-a cheese burger will fill you and make you feel full, but long term, the saturated fats and cholesterol will accumulate in your body, and continued exposure to these types of food can have negative affects on your overall health.

So if you can build a negative affect over time, shouldn’t the opposite be true? Of course it is. I know healthy food is expensive, but so are medical bills for heart by-passes and cancer treatments. Not to mention medications for high blood pressure and diabetes. There are multiple studies that tie diet to heart disease  and colon cancer, among other things. So what is your health worth to you?

What I’m saying is that if you could prevent having to take these medications and treatments, would you? And how much is it worth to you? Make smart choices, do your research and have fun with it. Food should be delicious, and preparing and eating it should be an enjoyable pastime shared with family and friends- after all it is a huge part of many people’s history. So try different recipes, experiment, do things from scratch. You know, like we used to do before chemicals. Change from a meat based diet to a vegetable based diet that has meat as a side dish. You  will be amazed by how much lighter and more energetic you feel, your skin and hair will improve, (not to mention your “regularity”) and the money you will save on all that meat will more than pay for the vegetables. Yesterday I saw a Ribeye steak at the store and they wanted 13$ for one steak. I could feed a family of four on that with healthy food.

Don’t forget to eat your carbs! Carbs are important for your body and your mind. Yes , your mind.

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your brain needs carbs to function so don’t go cutting carbs out of your diet. Just make sure they are healthy carbs.

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Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and nutrients so in the beginning I would say indulge, you have some catching up to do. Remember food is fuel so just like your car only give your body the best fuel you can and don’t overfill your tank.

One of my favorite recipes is for Brussel sprouts

Shred two cups of sprouts very thin

Sautee sprouts with 2tsp of olive oil

1tsp of chopped garlic and salt and pepper to taste’

Cook on medium heat till soft.

this will make a nice side dish and can compliment anything.

Core Training and Martial Arts

I have been training in Martial Arts for about five years in Uechi Ryu or Pang Gai Noon. This is not considered a popular style in the United States probably for the fact that it is a traditional style that requires body conditioning that probably looks a little insane to the average person. Uechi Ryu  requires receiving body shots (lets face it,in a fight nobody gets away without taking a hit) and then moving into attacks. For this reason a type of Iron Shirt Kung Fu, or Iron Body, Depending on your history, is practiced. This practice means that there is a lot of focus on core strength. This focus is essential in the ability to refocus the attack back to the attacker. (See Qi Gong)

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The reason I’m writing this is My beautiful wife has lost her mind and decided to start training in Uechi Ryu also. Before she begins her training next week, she asked me about a month ago if there was anything she could do to get ready for training and the only thing I said was core strength and diet. So she began a light training regimen of crunches and leg lifts to help build her core muscles and a diet high in vegetables and a small amount of meat protein to build muscle and lose fat around her abdomen. Immediately she saw results in weight loss and core strength. Two weeks into the program she had lost 15 Lbs. and had increased her core workout to include a variety of exercises that included her arms, shoulders and legs. Over the last several weeks I introduced her to the heavy bag hanging in the garage.

heavy bag 2.JPGShe took to it like a fish to water and enjoyed hitting the bag with a combination of kicks and punches. The work out on the bag is intense and although it only lasts for fifteen minutes it will leave you drenched in sweat. Over the next few weeks she combined her core exercises  with the bag work and lost an additional 10 lbs, hit her goal weight, and you can now see her abs.

I know the bi weekly work outs will be tough but when I started I didn’t prepare and the first six months were an ass kicking experience. Hopefully the preparation my wife has done will make it easier for her in the beginning. If you are considering a new exercise regimen make sure you set realistic goals-nothing will  keep you from moving forward faster than setting unrealistic goals. Remember, it will take time. Patience and focus will carry you through the times when you feel like you aren’t making progress. Trust me, when you start to see a difference in the way your clothes fit, it will help drive you forward. Treat yourself to a gift when you reach your goals. I find new clothes are a great gift-enjoy your new self and keep your passion alive.  And remember, all the exercise will not do anything for you if you don’t change your diet. Diet is 80% of the equation! Please read my articles on proper diet.

 

Skin Care For Men Over Fifty.

I would like to address some thing most men ignore. You are watching your diet, exercising, but you, like most of use, have totally ignored your skin health. Your skin is not only the largest organ on your body, but it will tell you what you are doing wrong. If you are not drinking enough water, your skin will look dry. If you are lacking certain vitamins in your diet, your skin will tell you. If you are ignoring your skin you are ignoring your health. I know we have all been told that you shouldn’t go out in the sun without sun block, (didn’t hear that when we were kids). This will help to keep any further damage from occurring, and don’t just pick any one, go for max protection. A daily regimen is important also. I have been testing several products over the last three months and can make some recommendations.

If you are exercising then you are showering more than the normal person (I hope) and most of us think, “We are men we use soap!” well yes we do but you don’t have to use any soap. Nivea makes a range of products for men that are not that much more expensive than plain old soap. Nivea Men Pure Impact 3-1 body wash is great.

download (1) I have tried a couple of different body wash products but this is great. Nice fresh scent without any heavy perfumes, and it leaves your skin clean without feeling oily. Nivea Men original Moisturizing Face Wash is my favorite product

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Every morning and every night before bed I use this to wash my face it leaves my face feeling clean without feeling tight, I follow this up with Nivea Men protective lotion to keep my skin protected from excessive drying and damage throughout the day. There are other products out there but from the ones I’ve tried these have given me amazing results. My skin has become much younger looking and the wrinkles around my eyes and ears and the sun spots on my cheeks were beginning to fade. Try a few things see what works best for you, these are only recommendations. Remember the most important thing you can do for your skin is drink water followed by a well balanced diet. The more vegetables you add into your diet the more your skin will improve. If you are losing a lot of weight keeping your skin as supple as possible will help to keep the skin sag to a minimum. No one wants to look like a Turkey Necked Basset Hound. Remember there are no quick fixes anything that is worth while will take effort, commitment, and time.

Back and neck pain.

I have touched on my struggle with back and neck pain and I am ready to say “I am pain free”. Yes I am pain free for the first time in 30 years. For the last three years I have been working towards a goal of pain free, medicine free health. Well I was able to achieve a success in some measure due to a very simple belief that my body could repair itself to some degree if given the proper care and nutrients. Now there isn’t any easy path, or quick fix, or miracle drug. They don’t exist! The real key is steady growth and constant care of your body and mind to achieve your optimum capacity for health. Some of you have read my post on back pain and exercises to alleviate some of the pain. I have also touched on the importance of diet in the equation for better health, also you have to stay positive mentally with your goal always in sight,  and the final ingredient is staying active.  You have to stay moving in a positive direction as much as possible.

In this article I am going to touch on a little bit of each aspect. I am going to go old school and quote a little Hippocrates.

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Excess in any aspect of your life is never a good thing. To achieve my goals I had to remove anything that was taking to much of my life and find a balance. I also had to address the issue of food and nutrients. A well balanced diet is the key to giving your body the nutrients it needs to repair itself. Don’t waste your money on some nutrient rich supplement when you can actually eat food that is good for you and lose weight at the same time.

Exercise: I have talked about finding an activity that will keep you active and flexible for about four hours a week. I chose Martial Arts, but Yoga, Dance, anything that will keep you moving and active is a plus.

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Focused exercises on the area of injury are also a must. You have to work the area of damage in order to activate the bodies repair mechanism and build a stronger guard against further damage.

Keeping a positive attitude during this process is as important as diet and exercise. When you are stressed and depressed your body doesn’t produce the proper amount of chemicals to allow for nutrient absorption and muscle growth. Something as simple as just saying to yourself ” You can do this” is all it takes. Seems pretty easy, but can be the most difficult hurdle. See “Happiness and Letting Go”

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It sounds strange but sometimes we can create or own disease. Yes through stress and poor lifestyle choices we can make ourselves physically ill. Make the choice to live a healthier happier life and you will find yourself making good positive choices and  living a pain free, drug free future like me.

 

Self Realization and Fulfillment

I have found in my life that many times I have changed paths of attaining happiness. Some paths were spiritual, Some were physical, and some were mental. The problem I had in my youth was the fact that I listened to the people that had different views of what was important to them. This however was not what was important to me. The “Question” then becomes what is important to you? Well…. I thought, when I was younger, that career was important, but that can be confusing when you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. (not sure I’m there yet) I spent my youth going from One job to another, and college was a waste of time for the most part. Colleges need to streamline their curriculum to only include the courses you need to get your degree and quit adding bullshit courses that have nothing to do with your area of learning. Its just a waste of time and money.

As I got older money , I was told was the most important thing, and the ability to acquire money was the path to happiness. In my search for the almighty dollar I meet a lot of like minded people and came to the realization that I wasn’t happy and I was constantly stressed and the people I met weren’t happy either. As I got older most of these people are now trading in their wealth to try to regain their health and happiness. Seems a little backward to me, trading your youth and health for money that you will then use to pay to try to heal all the medical problems you got from the stress and long hours you had to give to attain your money. Does anyone else see the problem with this, or is it just me? On a side note I always found this study interesting. This is a chart of diminishing return for money spent vs. happiness

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As I got older and got married, started a family, I realized I was spending less and less time with my family and more and more time at work. This was not the family model I wanted for myself or them. Growing up in a family were my father worked a lot and was gone for days at a time I remembered what that was like. I would have gladly given up all the nice things we had for a better relationship with my father. With both parents working it becomes even harder for a child to have a healthy relationship as they grow when all they see growing up is two parents chasing their careers and fighting over money when they were home at the same time. I didn’t want that as my son got older than four so my wife and I talked about it and came to the conclusion that we would choose happiness over wealth.

Now that being said I am not suggesting anyone live in poverty, no what I’m suggesting is scale back your life style, cut out the extras that don’t mean anything to you. Spend more time with the ones you love and build strong positive relationships with the ones you love. By doing this we discovered that we could cut back our hours at work by almost half. This is huge! My wife was able to cut back to only 20 hrs a week from forty plus and I could cut back to forty five hours a week from my usual seventy two hrs a week. We still had more than enough money to pay the bills and money for retirement and vacations. Our marriage was stronger and we had more time to spend with our son.

Now I want to touch on the spiritual side of my journey. I was raised an Irish Catholic and consider myself recovering Catholic now. I realized at a very young age that there might be more than one answer when it came to spiritual happiness. So I embarked on a journey of self discovery of spiritual realization. And yes I dabbled in mind altering psychedelics in the seventies. I lived in the Haight- Ashbury district in San Francisco for a while I dabbled in other religions and beliefs, and ended my journey realizing that everything I needed was within me. I settled on Buddhism as a belief system because through the years I saw that life gives you back what you put into it. I wanted to have a happy, positive existence so I figured I had to put happy, positive thoughts and actions into my life. Buddhism seems to be the closest thing to this belief system. So when someone asks I simply say Buddhist and wait for the look of disbelief on their face. I’m not going to get all warm and fuzzy here I just wanted to explain my position.

My physical journey began when I started buying slip on shoes so I didn’t have to bend over to tie my shoes. Some times something so small can be the trigger you need to make a life changing decision. I made the decision to try to reverse the damage I had done trying to attain some imaginary dollar amount before it became a medical issue. I embarked upon a journey of physical health through proper diet and exercise. I also found a sort of spiritual peace through this fitness program centered around Martial Arts.

Now, lets pull all this together into something that makes sense. Three things had to happen for this to work.

  1. Focus on whats really important to you. Family, relationships, etc.
  2. find a spiritual belief system that works for you.
  3. Make a commitment to take care of yourself through a proper diet and exercise.

You will find if you can pull these things together you will have a life filled with love and possibility. You will also have time to pursue your passions what ever they may be. You stress levels will go way down, you wont try to control every aspect of your life and the lives of the people around you. Also you will have time to give to others that need your help because for what ever reason their life is out of balance. There is no greater joy in life than being of service to others. So live your life with purpose and joy and it will positively affect everyone around you.

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Upper Back and Neck Pain

In previous posts I wrote about lower back pain but many of us suffer from back and neck pain. Most people feel the pain during movement of their neck and shoulders. These pains can be stress related, Sleep related, work related, exercise related. but the cure is the same, and if you don’t treat it as soon as possible it can lead to disc damage, nerve damage etc.I suffered from neck and shoulder pain when I was younger working as a pastry chef. I would stand twelve hours a day six days a week looking down at my work table. This caused the disk to shift in my neck and pinch the nerve causing pain that began in my neck and radiated down to my shoulders. I went to my Physical therapist, “Mom” and she gave me a booklet. This booklet gave a few exercises that increase mobility and help put the disk back into the proper position. I don’t suffer from this problem anymore and haven’t for years but I am very conscious of my neck and any possible injuries. I have noticed lately that my neck makes an audible clicking and grinding noise when I rotate and  turn my head so into the internet I go looking for answers, and this is what I found.

The real reason for this was fighting, I was having difficulty in my training keeping my chin tucked in, I noticed that I had some minor posture issues also and when I began to do exercises to correct the problem I felt and heard the popping and cracking in my neck. It sounded like breakfast cereal had taken up residence in my neck (Snap, Crackle and Pop). This was a serious concern because the last thing you want during a match is to have your chin sticking out. So Possible causes

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Proper posture in the neck is a big reason most people have neck and upper back pain. Working on my feet and having  my head in a downward position for 10 to 12 hours a day, I have done some serious damage to my posture but it is correctable.

Cervical Osteoarthritis, although this often goes un-diagnosed, it is common to have a stiff neck and pain occasionally and most people just think they slept wrong, or they strained there neck (Somehow). fortunately this condition is not degenerative and neck exercises can help with this condition.

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I do these exercises as part of my martial arts warm ups and it does help with my flexibility and seems to ease the pressure in the back of my neck. but I still have the popping and grinding when I roll my neck. So on with the search for answers. Next up is probably one of my favorite subjects, Diet. A diet high in omega 3 fatty acids and high in antioxidants,fiber,  Calcium and Vitamin D can aid in the building and maintaining good skeletal health. This is also the diet for high blood pressure, Diabetes, weight loss, In other words,and I know this is getting old, A proper diet is the biggest and best thing you can do for over all health.

Water is another key ingredient. Drinking plenty of fluids aids in keeping your fluid filled inter skeletal structures healthy and flexible.

There are other things that can lead to skeletal degeneration. The big two are alcohol and tobacco products. The alcohol depletes the  calcium and magnesium, and tobacco products is damaging to your bones.

 

 

 

Looking in the Mirror

I woke up on this birthday morning I took inventory of my progress during this whole process. Diet, Check, Fitness, Check. Hair, yep nothing there. Moving on… Skin? What is going on with my skin? I know I’m Fifty Two but, Wow! looking a little rough around the edges.I noticed when I went on my vegetable dominated diet my skin is softer and more supple. OK guys don’t give me any grief about this. skin is the largest organ in the body and is a really good indicator into what is going on with your body. A lot of us, especially those who grew up in the sixties and seventies, Spent our summers out in the sun. Sunblock didn’t exist and we wouldn’t have worn it anyway. If you were like me you did a far amount of smoking and drinking, and maybe other things,when you were younger. And drinking water to stay hydrated was for camels. All that being said we probably did some serious damage to our skin and your skin is, shall we say, the window to your health.

Our skin is a big part of our appearance and the good news is we can do something about it. Over the next few weeks I will be delving into the world of male skin care, Some of the things I will be dealing with are exfoliating (removing dead skin cells), Moisturizing (using a skin moisturizing products to keep the skin on my face smooth and supple and trying to repair some of the damage I have done to it in the past. The good news is most of the damage we have done can be reversed. This isn’t about looking younger, this is about taking care of what you’ve got so that it will last longer and in good condition. Think of it as putting a good wax job on your car to prevent it from being damaged by the elements.

On a more serious note your skin can be an indicator of some serious health issues ranging from diabetes to cancer. Deep and numerous wrinkles around the face and neck can be an indicator of low bone density. Velvety brown-grayish patches are an indicator for diabetes.Dull dry skin is an indicator that your body is ;ow in Omega-3 fatty acids. These Omega-# fatty acids are important they regulate brain function, and lower the risk of heart disease, arthritis and and cancer.Low Omega-3 can also cause dandruff. Persistent itchiness that feels like something is under the skin in conjunction with rapid weight loss, shortness of breath, and loss of energy is a strong indicator of cancer. Discoloration and swelling in your lower limbs could be a venous insufficiency.  There are numerous other diseases that manifest in the skin, too many to list here. But if you would like an honest assessment seek out a dermatologist. The Dermatologist will let you know if there are any serious problems and can make recommendations on treatment.

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It is important to note that the best thing you can do for your skin is diet. Diet affects all of the organs that aid in the production of new skin cells and blood flow. These organs if fed and nourished properly will begin the healing process in your skin almost immediately. A proper diet will give your skin the nutrients it needs to repair.  Look for foods high in vitamin A, dietalso foods high in antioxidants such as berries and plums, Omega-3 oils from Salmon,walnuts, flax seeds. Oils are important, look for oils that are cold pressed, or virgin as these contain the highest amount of essential nutrients your skin needs. If you have been paying attention or read some of my other blogs you will see that this is also the diet recommended for weight loss, Heart health, Arthritis, Diabetes…. It’s all connected.

Next you need to start a regular regimen of skin care that includes washing exfoliating and moisturizing. Remember this isn’t about extending life. I am attempting to improve the quality of life in my seventies and eighties. I’m betting on the long game, but why not enjoy the here and now while doing it.

 

The Baking Gene

It seems every year I have this unsettling urge to bake around the holidays. I don’t know when this started, I don’t know where it comes from, But it begins when the temperatures start to drop here in central California around the first of December. I will bake on an almost daily basis right up until the week before Christmas then it just stops. My family has gotten to expect this bounty of sugary delights every year and begins stock piling flour, butter, sugar (brown and white) and of course eggs. There will be a stock pile of other things like nuts and fresh fruits also but not for healthy reasons.

I don’t make the same things every year, and I don’t take requests, although they try, because this is a compulsion. I never know which direction my whimsy will take me, so I never know what I will be baking from one day to the next. I usually start slow, Banana breads and assorted cookie dough.  and work my way into candies petite fores and pies. by the end of the three week binge of sugar and flour confections drizzled in chocolate and caramel and butterscotch. I don’t want to see a cake or pie for months. I think the trigger is Thanks Giving, I always start baking a few pies for the holiday and about a week later I have worked my way into a baking frenzy.

Now I have to inform my dear drooling readers that I have trained and worked as a pastry chef. I’m not talking about the person that decorates your birthday cake at the grocery store, I’m talking professionally trained Pastry Chef. Years ago I worked in a Michelin starred restaurant as the pastry chef and even got mentioned in an article in Gourmet Magazine. But, I left that life a long time ago and now find myself with a compulsion that pops up once a year. (like a really sweet smelling Aunt that shows up to visit for the holidays). So I have come to the realization that it happens and started thinking, “Hey maybe I’m not the only one”. If this is true and there are others out there then I am here to help.

First lets talk about setting yourself up so you can fulfill your addiction to baking without giving up hours of your life standing in a kitchen. “Mis En Place” is everything! Some of you are saying whats Mis En Place? well Mis En Place is the ingredients you will need to make your master piece. We, however, are going to take it a step further. For most cooks and chefs,

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But I am going a little further because there are certain things you can make ahead of time and all you have to do is bake them off or assemble the finished ingredients.

Cookies are a perfect example most of the time spent making cookies is in the baking, what I am suggesting is make your dough ahead of time, wrap it in plastic in a long two inch round tube and refrigerate until needed. By doing this when the urge to bake hits you just have to cut the cookies to the required size and bake off a batch. Easy Peesy! so instead of all the cleanup of baking from the beginning you just have to clean one pan. This will cut your kitchen time in half and you can make an assortment of different doughs so that when the need strikes your in and out in twenty minutes.

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The same can be done with sponge cake. With a little preparation you can bake off several sponges at once the freeze them until needed. some of you are asking what the  hell am I going to do with a frozen sponge? well sponge cake can be very versatile and you would be surprised at all the different and creative uses for sponge cake.

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You can roll it with fruit our cream filling.

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You can make one of my favorite delicate petite fors. You can also make cakes. One of my favorite is a Chantilly Cream and fruit compote filled naked cake.

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With the proper time spent setting up your Mis En Place you can be a rock star in the kitchen. Once you have the basics down try something a little harder. Remember though baking is not cooking, baking is chemistry with a delicious outcome. Weights and Measures are in the recipe for a reason, these are not suggestions, these are chemical equations. Do not deviate from the recipe or you will pay the price. Soundtrack: “Evil Maniacal Laugh” Just remember this is about creating not killing yourself to make others happy. Pastry is art!