Category Archives: Health and Fitness

Walking with the Stars

20140208_113725Every Saturday I take my daughter to Hollywood for her Second City Teen Improv class.  I then have 2 hours to kill, so after I drop her off, I continue on my drive, to a little restaurant I love for a great breakfast, just a couple of blocks away.  I park there, eat some fabulous something-or-other while reading my Kindle (and losing myself in another world) then head back to pick her up just before noon.

 This past Saturday, I felt like a bit of a physical stretch (I tend to be pretty active, so driving hours on end is a day-killer for me), so I parked in front of the theater and walked the couple of blocks to the restaurant.  And I realized that I was walking on the really old part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  

stars

The first star was Frank Sinatra and as I continued along this really dirty, smelly sidewalk, I kept company with Alfred Hitchcock, Count Basie, Edith Head, Lucille Ball and countless others.    I’ve lived in LA since 1996.

I’ve been to this area and on this street countless times over the years, and like most Angelenos, I just walk along the stars (which go on for blocks and blocks) without ever really looking down.  In LA, where time is ALWAYS of the essence, parking spots are gold, and cars are a must-have, not a nice-to-have, it was randomly wonderful that I decided to walk and look down.

Natural, Organic, She’s Ba-a-ack….

We are all on our personal journeys.  I went walkabout.  I’m back for now and thanks for your patience and so many kind words along the way!

Apparently I’ve still got a lot that I want to share and I have a bit more time in order to do so.  My interests are still 50 plus, but as you’ll see over the next few months, some of the areas that inspired me over the past few years have taken hold in a more urgent way.  When I went on hiatus, I just felt there were too many bloggers and facebookers, tweeters, tumblrs and pinterests that were too focused on all the things wrong in the world and I couldn’t continue to be a part of the ranting and raving when so many people felt hopeless…I couldn’t see how another complainer would be helpful to any reader.  There are enough political pundits without me having to give my 2 cents.  There were too many people out of work for too long for any of my suggestions to really be helpful…there were not enough jobs.  Period.

I had to go out and do.  So I did and now I feel that I’m ready to contribute again, in a positive and meaningful way, to the online world.  Hopefully most of you are still around and will be interested in a different, more attuned, and hopefully more joyful perspective on the planet.

In my journey, I’ve had periods of motivation, inspiration as well as the downs that come from change unattained.  The past 6 years have been filled with change and all in a positive way (even though it often felt negative and unempowering along the way) — from corporate executive to continued presence as a  well-known blogger on issues affecting the 50 plus generation, to the development of my other businesses — consulting and a successful pet services company.

Most of this new direction was  accomplished in my late 40s and now my early/mid-50s.  Where the energy came from was a surprise to me.  I was SOOO tired in my 40s.  And the ripple affect across the world from the 2008 meltdown really knocked my emotional socks off….too many friends and co-workers that were so horribly affected.  But I ultimately realized that the overwhelming feeling of fatigue and frustration was anger at myself for not taking positive action in my life.   So, I pulled up my socks (well…took them off, actually, and planted my feet in the grass) and turned my world around.

My new life, now, is the one I’ve always wanted.  I still consult to business, but I’m not bound to concrete.  I’m out of the corporate world on a daily basis and into the animal, natural world.  I spend a great deal of time in the outdoors, with animals and the people who love them. I’ve discovered that I’m a horrible gardener (yet I still plant every year), find delight in swimming every day I can in the summer, love to look at other people’s flower gardens, and can make some terrific breads and baked goods (and a killer chicken curry salad and a salmon with fennel and red grapes that is to die for.)

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I’m still infuriated and get enraged at social injustices, but I’ve also regenerated my inner strength by reconnecting with the planet as a creature of nature, by having the time to spend with my daughter, by realigning my priorities in life and being true to myself.  I spend my days in shorts and sandals, or yoga pants and Asics (my sport shoe of choice) and T-shirts and fleece jackets. My suits are reserved for consulting meetings. My dresses, heels and mineral makeup, for going out and having a great time.

Early on, in my pet services business (Poochbuddies if you are curious), as I was getting more exercise, I gravitated to natural products.  Better food, more fruits, vegetables, organics, grass-fed beef, free range chicken (I’m not a vegetarian…still like the meat, but I prefer the meat that has lived a better life).  I like to eat (I think you’ll have figured that out), I like to cook (also obvious).  I love the outdoors.  I love food bloggers and product bloggers and tech bloggers and natural offerings.  I like exploring and traveling and anything that connects me to the world is all good.  I love my smartphone (Galaxy S3…can’t live without it.) It’s all contributed to my better sense of self, a resurgence in vitality, and a reminder that I’m part of the planet.

I’m heading to Expo West this year (totally non-tech!), a massive natural products expo to see what has really changed over the past decade.  A lot, I know…organic, natural has gone almost mainstream…but there are 3 huge floors of exhibition.  Certainly more than one person can walk in a day or two or even three, but I’m going to give it a shot.  3 floors, hundreds of exhibitors, one day.

If any of you are going to be there, feel free to let me know!  Love to meet you.

I’m glad to be back and I hope you’ll continue with me on the journey.

Aaaaaahhhh.

Janet

New Year’s Resolutions….there’s an app for that.

It’s not even halfway through Janury yet and almost everyone I know has already started losing their steam on their resolutions.  So, here is some cool stuff to get you all remotivated and tickled pink about getting to your goals.  Yup…there’s an APP for that!

Top resolutions? (Totally unscientific…just looking at all the ones that I’ve tried and lost my will on over the years. )

Lose weight.  Check.

Exercise more.  (OK…did that one.)

Make more money. Check.

Spend less.  Check.

Save more money.  Check.

Quit smoking.  (Did that one.)

Etc, etc.

There is a company, Tecca , which is a gadget site for women (love that!) and they’ve actually come up with a selection of their favorite resolution apps.  Here you go:

1. Save time and your waist-line by eating at home- Answer: Ziplist (free for iPhone and Android)

Make meal planning and shopping a breeze by saving your favorite recipes from the web or even TV to your iPhone or Android. The best part is that with a click, the ingredients to any recipes can be added to your mobile shopping list, guaranteeing you never forget your list when you hit your grocer.  Shoppers save time by not having to back-track through the store, or forget those little impactful ingredients like a pinch of parsley. And by eating at home, you are more likely to save money and eat healthier because you know all the ingredients.

2. Succeed at Weight Loss- Answer: MyFitnessPal

Lose weight with MyFitnessPal, the fastest and easiest to use calorie counter for Android. With the largest food database of any Android calorie counter (over 1,100,000 foods), and amazingly fast food and exercise entry, we’ll help you take those extra pounds off!

3. Keep Track of Personal Finance and Budget- Answer: Mint  [Note:  I use Mint and I love it.  A great service although they try to solicit upgrades. JS]
This personal finance app puts all your bank, credit card, investment and loan accounts in one place, making it easy to stay on top of your budgets and spending. You can add cash transactions – a handy on-the-go feature that will help you track where your money goes at all times.

4. Quit Bad Habits- Answer: MyQuit Coach
MyQuit Coach application allows you to design a personalized plan to help you quit smoking. Through this intuitive iPhone app, you’ll evaluate your current status, set attainable goals and adjust preferences according to your needs. You’ll have the option to choose to quit smoking right away or gradually decrease your daily nicotine intake. Personalized inspirational photos, motivational tips and progress charts will keep you on track while achievement badges will reward you for progress. And you’re not alone with a
built in social support circle and the ability to update your Facebook and Twitter as friends cheer you on. [Note:  I think this one is a good idea now that it looks like Nicotine gum and patches aren’t doing the trick. JS]

5. Get Organized and Improve Time Management- Answer: Action Complete
Action Complete app is a task manager allowing you to create Projects, which are the larger goals comprised of individual Actions, Waits and Pending items that may come with completing a project. Every task and project can be tagged and associated with specific people and places, and the app offers several sorting options to sort by tag, people, places, urgency, or project. [Note: I’m a big fan of Google applications — and I use Google Tasks relentlessly.  Takes time to transition to a paperless to-do list, but it really works well. JS]

Let me know how you are doing on your resolutions and if any apps you have found are doing the trick for you!

Black bean brownies, anyone?

Here’s a quickie.   I haven’t tried this recipe yet, so I can’t weigh in (pun actually not intended) on taste, but  since the good doc forwarded the recipe and it caught my eye because it is chocolate AND since she and I share the same first name, I figure I’m game.  I’m such a sucker for chocolate and this is obviously a healthy concoction (certainly should keep you in action, anyway!)  I’m not crazy about walnuts, so mine will be walnut free.  Have any of you ever added in black beans as an addition to your chocolate recipes? 

If you give it a shot and like it or dislike it, let me know. 

Dr. Janet’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Brownies with Walnuts
By Janet Bond Brill Ph.D. R.D., LDN
Author of Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease

Serves 16

A dark, moist chocolaty treat. 

Nonstick cooking spray 
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup packed Splenda Brown Sugar Blend 
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats 
1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
1 tablespoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup chopped walnuts 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Place the black beans in a mixing bowl. Add the brown sugar, oats, cocoa powder, olive oil, espresso powder, flax seeds, vanilla, and salt. With an electric mixer, blend the ingredients until the black beans are mushed up and the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, top with walnuts, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the edges pull away from the sides of the pan and the middle of the brownies is firm. Let cool before slicing into 16 pieces. 

NUTRITION PER SERVING (1 brownie):
Calories: 140
Fat: 6 g (0 g EPA, 0 g DHA, 1g ALA)
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg
Sodium 89 mg
Carbohydrate: 16 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: < 1 g
Protein: 3 g
The above is an excerpt from the book Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease by Janet Bond Brill, Ph. D. R.D., LDN.

If you have had a heart attack, or know someone who has had one…

Each year, roughly 1.5 million Americans have a heart attack — and most of them survive. But I’ll bet you didn’t know that research shows that just one year after their diagnosis, the vast majority fail to adhere to the dietary changes that could prevent a second heart attack (think olive oil, fish, and figs). Personal loss is what forces many of us to make deep changes in our precious lives.  After losing her father to his second heart attack and worried about her husband after his first attack, Dr. Janet Bond Brill penned Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease (Three Rivers Press, $15.00, February 1, 2011).

Bond Brill has really put together a good self-help book. The first half explores what heart attack is and how our systems work.  The second half sets us on track to change our eating habits to healthier choices.  There have been a zillion diet/self-help books thrown at us over the years, some sound, some not so much … Atkins, the Zone, South Beach, Cookie, Mediterranean and more.  So it takes a bit to convince me to read on when it comes to food and nutrition.  A couple of things that made me read through her pages:

  1. She gives an excellent education on how our anatomy, organs and body systems react to food and why…and why the bad foods are really bad…and why the good foods are really good.
  2. She delivers a very good assortment of recipes (most were very appealing to me). Based on the Mediterranean Diet concept (fish, olive oil, figs, dark greens), she gives enough of a recipe base plus meal plans to get anyone started on eating right.
  3. Just as with a diabetic meal plan, you need mid-meal snacks, she sets those up for you as well (those could have been a bit more inspired, but everything else is quite appealing.)
  4. Because the cooking is fresh and simple, prep time for any meal is very little — about the same I currently spend on my meal prep at home — I can prep and bake a fish dinner with full-on veggies, quinoa/rice/couscous/pasta, etc in less than 30 min.  I realize most people nowadays prefer to pick up something pre-prepared and pop it in the microwave for 10 minutes, but adding just another 20 can make a radical difference in your life.

My own food choices approach a more vegetarian/pescatarian diet every day.  Ever since watching the movie “Food, Inc.” my eating habits have changed radically.  My choices are mostly organic and locally grown produce, very little chicken and beef (and then, only free-range), and virtually no processed food.  It’s been almost a year and not only have I lost fat (and weight), but I feel great and I’m convinced that this was the right lifestyle choice for my family.  After months and months of persuasion, my daughter is finally starting to take a shine to a broader array of veggies, and defines some of the best smells in the world, as those emanating from my kitchen.

I’m including the Q&A sent by the publisher, because it is worth the read and may convince you to make some healthier eating choices, even if you aren’t a “self-help” book type.

 

Too much to say…but you know I’ll say it

My head is burbling with pre-election jumble, thoughts about healthcare and so much more…so, to start, here is this week’s link to the Blogging Boomers’ Carnival #180, hosted by the always astute, John Agno.  Definitely worth a stop over.

Onto the muddled state I find myself in…all thoughts, comments, yeahs or nays welcome.

Thought #1: Health care.  I am one of the self-employed corralled into an individual health plan and therefore subject to limits based on what I’ve been able to afford to buy into.  You’ve heard me complain about the cost of my premium, but what I forgot to mention (some of you emailed that your own plans were more costly) is that I’m on what is called a 40/60 plan with no limit on the deductible and no preventive coverage, and a $40/visit co-pay.  So if I go to the doctor 10 times in the year (let’s say I had been injured, or got whooping cough), that is $400 for my co-pays, plus 40% of each visit.  If I were hospitalized and the bill is a mere $10k, I’m on the hook for $4k, etc.  So here is where I’m a bit confounded right now.  We are all aware that there is a pertussis (whooping cough) epidemic in California.  I’ve received emails and voicemails from LAUSD reminding me to innoculate my daughter with the tDAP vaccine.  Because the vaccine is considered preventive care, it is not covered by my plan.  It will cost me $85 – $90 each for my child and I to be innoculated. 

I’m on a search for the free vaccine, however most free or low cost clinics listed through LA city insist on a full medical exam for each of us prior to the exam, even though we both have regular doctors.  The cost for the exams will be the same, if not more, than the cost of shot.  So, it will cost me about $170 for the shots, which I plan on paying for.  Money is tight for everyone…so let’s say that I didn’t get the innoculations.  If I caught whooping cough, aside from potentially dying, wouldn’t the costs for my health care be a whole lot higher than $170?  I’m just saying….

Thought #2: Oh my gawd!  Watching the lead up to the Nov. 2nd elections is PAINFUL.  Painful.  Worse than listening to fingernails scratching against blackboard (those days are long gone…only whiteboards and dry erase markers now…) is watching the sound byte lies permeating the ads on both sides of the aisle.  However, since the GOP is spending a bit more on their ads, they seem to be even more out there in the “let me lie, but call it marketing” campaigns. 

One of my faves is the Christine O’Donnell “I am not a witch” ad.  Dressed in somber colors, lit up like a ghoul against a dark blue backdrop, with a bizarrely haunting piano track, I swear I can see ghosts floating around behind her. 

Another fave for sheer idiocy is the anti-Meg Pinnocchio nose-growing ad.  I can’t stand Whitman, but seriously…this ad is laughable. 

But my absolute favorite ad (this time for sheer brilliance) is again, a Jerry Brown sponsored anti-Meg Whitman ad, juxtaposing her sound bytes against Arnold’s bytes from his first campaign.  Yup…same words.  I’m sure she’s had a conversation or two with her campaign manager and speech writers about it.  Enjoy.

Thought #3:  Self-esteem.  Have you noticed everyone is suffering a bit at the self-esteem front?  Could it be because 41% (or just about) of the employable workforce is unemployed?  Do you keep hearing people say “well…with 10% of America unemployed 90% are working”.  False.  Untrue.  Bad math.   There are about 300 million Americans.  You have to take out the retired (forceably or otherwise) and children and other non-working family members as well as those in “institutional” roles…i.e. non general population workforce.  Then there are also those who have given up looking for work (about 2 million). Then look at the numbers in the perspective of the American non-institutional workforce.  You get a true employment to population ratio is 58.5%.  How many of those in America who CAN work are in fact, working.   Here is the report…if you head down to the bar graph at the bottom of the report it is easier to figure out.  (Look for 58.5% and you’ll see how the labor metrics work.)  So 14.8 million are unemployed out of a potential pool of 150M civilian laborers.  That’s how it shakes out.

Anthem has a lot of nerve…and I’m furious

I’ve been advised, that as of October 1, 2010, my health insurance plan premiums are going up.  Not the 40% originally planned by Anthem Blue Cross, but a whopping 17%, meaning that my monthly payment for me and my daughter will go from $439 to $527. Annually that means an additional $1020 out of my pocket (for a total of $6324 per annum) on top of my $40 copay per visit and my annual deductible.

The letter from Anthem talks in circles about health care reform and how these changes may or may not have affected my policy and that my age and that of my daughter (10) may have something to do with the increase (a basic bunch of crap to tell us that any excuse is allowable for raising rates) and again in circles about how they realize how tough the economy is:

At Anthem, we understand that raising premiums creates many challenges and is hard on individuals and families, especially in these tough economic times.  We know that we can do better — and we will — but we can’t do it alone.  We’re all in this together.  We’re working with doctors, insurers, regulators and you to improve the health care enviornment. And we are investing in many initiatives to reduce the cost of care, including:

  • pushing harder for higher quality health care from our partners
  • negotiating for the best rates for health care products and services on your behalf
  • making more tools available to help you better manage your health and out-of-pocket costs
  • continuing to provide significant discounts through access to our large nationwide provider networks

…blah…blah…blah…

This past year I turned 50, which meant it was time for me to have a preventative colonoscopy.  Considered an out-patient surgery by my plan, my cost, plus co-pay would have meant close to $1000 for me.  I was not able to take care of it last year and it is unlikely I’ll be able to afford $1000 for that procedure this year.  Interestingly, the new health care reform bill will be phasing in the cost of colonoscopy to be part of the included wellness health program that insurance companies will have to cover.  I guess I’m being charged that amount anyway.  Not only am I furious, I’m disgusted.  The spirit of health insurance reform is to help Americans have affordable health care coverage and actually be able to take preventative steps to stay healthy.

As of Monday, I’m exploring my options with Kaiser (an HMO organization) and we’ll see if I can do better there.  Disgusting.  Shame on Anthem, the state of California’s LARGEST health benefits company.  They say they are

“committed to help transform health care in California and make sure we meet your needs.”

If anyone from Anthem leadership is a Gen Plus reader, let me assure you…you are definitely NOT meeting my needs.  Where is a 17% increase warranted in ANY company right now? Auggghhh!

Half a billion eggs

I switched my eating lifestyle about 6 months ago — going from the types of food that most North Americans eat — to organic meat, fish and poultry (i.e. free range and living with a bit more respect than the “product” farms”); and organic and locally grown produce.  I stopped buying any prepared foods and bake and cook all my own.  For awhile I’ve been in my own inner turmoil over eggs.  Because I bake so much, I use a great deal of eggs.  And there is a world of difference to my extremely slim pocketbook between $1.49 for a dozen extra-large eggs at Trader Joe’s, and $3.79 for a dozen large free-range organic eggs.  I’ve done my research and it seems that the nutritional value between organic and non-organic is virtually the same.  That the brown eggs cost more because the chickens need additional feed.  And that the choice to buy organic eggs is largely a moral choice.  Well, I couldn’t bring myself to buy the less expensive eggs because I can’t deal with the idea of eating the eggs from these poor chickens who sit under each other, being defacated upon, and basically spending a life just sitting in a cage and laying eggs.  It seemed to me that it couldn’t possibly be a clean enough environment, and that the chickens must ingest some of that poop.  Which would lead to them having to be treated with massive amounts of antibiotics to keep them from getting … salmonella.

Well, I may be spending $4-6/week on my eggs, but I’m not one of those who is going to get sick from one of the FIVE HUNDRED MILLION (yes — 500,000,000 ….500M) eggs that have been recalled.  Talk about food conglomerates owning the food chain.  How is it possible that we have left ourselves in the hands of such huge monopolies, whose bottom line is only about bottom line?  Having worked in corporate environments for so many years, I understand adhering to minimum requirements, but I have also seen what minimum requirements are…and I can guarantee you, they are to minimize the exposure of a company, NOT to guarantee the safety of the North American consumer.  Here’s a CNN article on the mess.

If there is any more “in-your-face” example of how the food chain has been corrupted, I’m not sure what it would be.  the salmonella is not on the shells of the chicken eggs.  It is in the eggs.  The laying hens are contaminated from eating tainted feed, or ingesting fecal matter from other chickens, or from myriad reasons.  So either the chickens will be destroyed, or they’ll be treated with massive antibiotics to get rid of their infections.  Which will pass, again, through to the eggs.  We are what we eat and as a society we are far too reliant on major industry.  When something like this egg disaster happens, you can see how fragile our food-chain system has become.  That is why it is SO important to support your local farmers.  At the very least, I can get local supply of free-range chicken eggs if I need to.  At the very least, I can get seasonal produce from the farmer around the corner. 

It doesn’t matter that it is more expensive — my pocketbook is very tight, yet I’d rather eat food that I know will not make me sick…if we stop supporting local growers and they shut down, what happens when we really have a contamination crisis and can’t count on quality of the product from most of the mega-growers?

Here’s another thing to think about.  When is the last time you found a bug in your salad, a worm in your tomato, or  in your lettuce?  I’m sure you’ll be hard-pressed to remember a time.  When I switched over to locally grown and organic produce, I started finding a few bugs here or there.  A ladybug in my salad.  A worm in one tomato and an ear of corn.  A bit of rot on a lemon.  The last time I remember finding a worm in a tomato was probably about 15 years ago (and I launched it across the table at my sister…not on purpose…which was what I had done all through our childhood, whenever I found a worm in my veggies or fruit).  This summer when I found a worm in my corn I was actually amazed and delighted.  It meant that the corn had been grown in an environment where a bug might actually wander into the crop.  If none of you remembers the last time you found a bug in your produce, what does that mean about the environment in which they are grown?  All I’m saying is think about it.