I’ve been binging…again. It’s embarrassing, but I just can’t stop.
Oh, the problem isn’t with consuming too many adult beverages or watching back-to-back episodes of “Law and Order” all weekend.
My compulsive behavior is seasonal. As soon as summer’s fresh fruits arrive, I lose all control…helpless as a kitten…as I bite into my first Bing cherry of the year. Binging on Bings has been a problem for years! Once I start, the binge doesn’t end until my stomach starts churning or the bag is empty…whichever comes first. If not for the pits and stems, I wouldn’t even slow down to breathe!
It could be worse. At least cherries are a treat with health benefits. In fact, they may be small and sweet, but cherries are actually nutritional powerhouses! They’re packed with compounds that can protect your heart, provide antioxidants that may prevent cancers, ease arthritis pain and help you sleep.
But beware. According to Cathy Kapica, Professor of Nutrition at Tufts University, only real cherries deliver the goods! The pigment that gives cherries their signature shade is also what gives them their disease-fighting power. The deeper the red, the better.
But what if you want the benefits of Bings all year?
When fresh isn’t an option, go for frozen, sweet cherries. Picked and chilled at the peak of ripeness, frozen cherries are an excellent alternative and come conveniently pitted and washed. They’re great in smoothies or throw them into off-season fruit salads. (Just make sure the bag lists cherries as the only ingredient—without any added sugar.)
When it comes to the dried version, many brands use tart cherries, which are too sour to eat…so you’ll get some added sugar. Just know a full cup has 533 calories and more than 110 grams of sugar. But full of fiber and potassium, a quarter of a cup or less will liven up trail mix or salads.
Some studies suggest that tart cherry juice can help you sleep better and recover faster after a tough workout. Whether it’s straight up or blended with other juices, you’re looking at nearly 140 calories per cup. I cut my juice with seltzer or down a “shot” of juice before bed…for a good night’s sleep.
That said, avoid cherry jams and spreads…unless they’re all-fruit and use juice concentrate as a natural sweetener. And don’t be snookered by that healthy-sounding cherry yogurt. There might be a single cherry…maybe one and a half per container…and that lonely fruit is usually swimming in sugary syrup. You might consider buying plain Greek yogurt and swirl in fresh or frozen cherries.
Maraschino cherries? Don’t waste your calories! The fruit is bathed in salt to remove flavor and color, then soaked in sweeteners, dipped in artificial dye and packed in sugar syrup. Need I say more?!
Turns out, the cherries used in pie filling are close relatives of the maraschino! At eight to one hundred calories per one-third cup, with 20 grams of sugar and artificial coloring, I’m thinking special occasion only food.
Bottom line? If you want the health benefits of cherries, by-pass the cherry soda (it’s mostly flavored, fizzy water!) and go for the real deal.
Just don’t eat the entire bag at once!
Every once in a while, I need to shake things up a bit. You see, in many areas of my life, I’m a victim of habit. I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, go to bed the same time every night and often find myself stuck in a rut with the same workout routine.
That’s one of the reasons I value my walking buddies. Together, we break our routines by scheduling our “walk and talk” dates at a variety of fabulous walking spots around San Diego County.
Last week, my friend, Jo Dee Jacob suggested we walk around Lake Murray in La Mesa. Excellent choice!
As San Diego Girl Scouts CEO, I can tell you firsthand…Jo Dee walks the talk!! She’s all about health, fitness and wellbeing for girls…and it shows.
Once I adjusted to Jo Dee’s perky pace, we gabbed our way around the lake…and back. (You can’t actually walk the entire lake perimeter, so we used the dead end at the tail of the trail to log some extra miles!)
The path around the lake is flat and wide, so it’s not only great for walkers and runners, but for dogs and strollers, too! We passed through picturesque Lake Murray Park along the way. Despite the drought, ducks were swimming and bright, yellow mustard weed was blooming everywhere. (not great news for those with allergies!)
Once we reached the dam, touching the fence to be “official,” we turned around and power-walked back the way we came. Surrounded by nature’s beauty, time passed quickly as we logged 6.4 miles and talked a ton.
Lake Murray is actually a reservoir, located within the boundaries of Mission Trails Regional Park. It’s centrally located between the city of San Diego and the neighboring communities of La Mesa and Santee. The lake is open for shore fishing and private boats. Small boat and kayak rentals are also available.
But the lake is most popular with cyclists, joggers, walkers and rollerbladers…anyone looking for a beautiful, safe spot to get a little exercise…for body and spirit.
FYI: The Lake Murray path can be accessed from I-8. Exit on Lake Murray Boulevard North. Turn left on Kiowa Drive.
You may not know Glen Henry, but I’ll bet you can point to someone like him—someone who believed in you, challenged you, encouraged you—maybe even gave you the shot that changed the very trajectory of your life for the better.
Glen “Coach” Henry was all of that for me—and more.
My mentor and friend went to be with the Lord last week—leaving behind a gaping hole in the hearts of family, friends and literally hundreds of men and women like me that “Coach” took under his wing over the years. Above: Tom and me with Coach Glen Henry and his wife, Karen.
As a hopeful, young journalist, I landed a job my freshman year covering sports for the “Northern Iowan” student newspaper at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in Cedar Falls. My “beat?” Men’s Swimming. My first interview? UNI Professor of Physical Education and Men’s Swim Coach, Glen Henry.
Coach was a force of nature in a wiry, five foot 10 inch frame. A fiery, but kind man, “Coach” patiently ignored my gross inexperience while giving me an impassioned interview about his UNI Panther swimming program.
He gave this fledgling reporter advice on how to organize my story, great stats, quotes and interesting tidbits of human interest. That interview with Coach Henry gave me the courage and confidence to pursue a career in journalism I never dreamed possible.
Coach even gave me a shot behind the microphone as official announcer for UNI’s home swim meets. And when my hometown lifeguard job fell through that summer, Coach offered me a job ($1.75 an hour!) at the municipal pool in Cedar Falls. Turns out, he managed the huge facility…and gave me enough hours over the next three summers to earn just what I needed for tuition and expenses.
Coach, his wife, Karen and three children became like family over the years…modeling what a strong marriage and loving family looked like…just what I wanted for my life.
While Coach could be understanding and fun, he also had high expectations and strict standards for the young people he took under his wing. When I arrived five minutes late to my first SCUBA diving class taught by Coach, the door was locked! And when I showed up at the pool to work in a too-tiny bikini, Coach gruffly ordered me to change into something that covered my “tush,” or I would no longer have a job.
Life lessons about discipline and professionalism I’ll never forget.
When tragedy hit the Henry’s ten years ago, “Coach” also showed me what a life of faith looks like. Weeks after retiring from UNI, “Coach” and Karen were injured when the Harley they were riding hit a patch of gravel on a rural road. Karen’s injuries were minor. Coach, a lifelong athlete, became paralyzed from the chest down.
As his amazing family formed a circle of protection around him, “Coach” continued mentoring, inspiring, singing country music and yes, coaching from his wheelchair. He remained cheerful, positive and faith-filled until the end. Because of “Coach,” I now know what it looks like to live victoriously, no matter the circumstances.
While I miss him terribly, because he lived in terms of eternity, I have peace, knowing Coach is now free to run, swim, dance and sing forever.
For all the “Coach Henry’s” out there…thank you. We couldn’t have done it without you.
I’m a terrible cook. And it’s my mother’s fault! Don’t get me wrong. Mom was an incredible cook. But she “enabled” me to become an inept cook by failing to insist I learn my way around the kitchen. Oh, I had to clean and do yard work on weekends, but sports and other after-school activities didn’t allow time for learning the fine art of separating eggs or reducing sauces. After swim practice, I’d come home to a foil-covered plate in the warming oven with a beautifully balanced, healthy meal…a la Mom!
I got away with it for years. Working the night shift is a great excuse for an empty fridge. Even my long-suffering husband tolerated his wife’s lack of culinary skills. Tom never once complained…even when dinner was a bowl of raisin bran with a side of apple slices!
And now that I’ve run out of excuses, I’ll be honest. When it comes to cooking, I would still rather address a joint session of Congress than prepare a meal for anyone! That’s why I’m sold on salads! Even I can toss a decent salad…and with a little planning, I can include enough nutritious additions to turn a salad into a meal!
Lately, I’ve been using a chart I found in the Mayo Clinic Health letter that has been enormously helpful to me in planning tasty, but well-balanced and filling dinner salads. Even if, like me, you’re a kitchen-phobe…I promise, you CAN build a better salad.
YOUR SALAD SHOULD LOOK LIKE THIS…..
Extras—Choose any one or no more than two: No more than 1 tablespoon (T) mayonnaise, 2 -T salad dressing, 3 -T sour cream or 1 teaspoon oil; ¼ avocado, about 6 nuts; about 8 olives; 2 –T chopped pickles; 2 –T dried fruit or ¼ cup salsa.
Herbs—As desired: Basil, chives, dill, fennel, mint, oregano, parsley, cilantro or tarragon
Carbohydrates and whole grains—Choose any one: Whole grains:1/2 cup barley, bulgur, couscous, kasha, millet, quinoa, pasta, brown rice or wild rice. Whole-grain breads and such: 1 small bagel, a slice of bread, a roll or pita. One serving, according to the label, of whole-wheat crackers, crisp whole-wheat bread, matzo, melba, pretzels, rice cakes or ½ cup croutons.
Protein—Choose any one: Meatless: ½ cup lentils, peas, tofu, tempeh, beans such as soy, black, pinto, garbanzo, white or kidney, or one egg. Lean meats, fish and seafood: Up to 2 ounces beef, lamb, pork, poultry, tuna, salmon, trout, sardines, scallops, shrimp, clams or crab. Low-fat dairy: Up to 1 ounce of cheeses, such as cheddar, cottage, goat, feta or Swiss.
Vegetables and fruits—Choose two or more totaling 2 cups: Artichoke, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, green onions, jicama, pea pods, peppers, radishes, squash, apples, apricots, berries, citrus sections, grapes, mango, melon, peaches, pears, pineapple, pomegranate or watermelon.
Leafy greens—Choose 2 cups or more: Among the varieties are arugula, watercress, cabbage, Belgian or red endive, escarole, collards, bok choy, cabbage, chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, green or red lettuce, bibb lettuce, iceberg lettuce, mesculin, radicchio, watercress, romaine and spinach.
Then…just add your favorite dressing…perhaps a lite, creamy style or squeeze on some lemon juice or drizzle a little red wine vinegar or olive oil over your salad. Go ahead! Create a healthy salad.
Summer’s almost here. Think about replacing your favorite hot meal with a full-meal salad that’s cool and delicious. With so many possible combinations of good, healthy foods, you and your family will never get bored.
I love Wednesdays! That’s the day each week I get to join some seventy-five of the coolest women I know for Community Bible Study (CBS) in Coronado. We gather first in small groups to discuss and apply the previous week’s lesson…then join everyone else to hear a lecture that takes a deeper look at the historical perspective of the scripture text.
And while I enjoy all the teaching and talking—I really look forward to our monthly fellowship “feeds!” Seriously, There’s something about women of faith and food! (Think church potluck!) We all bring something yummy to share after class. (They usually have me bring fruit…something I can’t screw up!)
Fortunately, we can always count on Trish, my small group leader, to show up with a piping hot pan of her famous “crust-less quiche!” Everyone loves it! No heavy, thick dough…just Trish’s fabulous combination of eggs, milk, cheese, onions and spinach. Surprisingly, her quiche slices neatly and firmly…even without a doughy foundation. Trish says it’s the cheese settling to the bottom of the quiche that creates the faux crust.
One day, after downing a super-sized slice of Trish’s mouth-watering, cheesy egg concoction… I asked her how she, a busy, young mom of four finds time to cook?! With a big smile, Trish assured me her quiche recipe is simple! I begged her to share it with me…then she agreed to let me share it with you!
Now that eggs are once again finding favor with doctors and nutritionists…I’ve been looking for ways to include the incredible edible into my diet regularly.
So here’s an easy egg recipe that’s big on protein, low in carbs and positively DEE-lish! (Did I mention it’s also gluten-free?!)
Trish’s Crust-less Spinach Quiche
1 TBLS vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 10-oz. package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
5 eggs, beaten (Trish confided sometimes she throws in a sixth!)
3 cups shredded Muenster cheese (or any other cheese blend)
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally until soft. Stir in spinach and continue cooking until excess moisture has evaporated. In a large bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach mixture and stir to blend. Scoop into prepared pie pan. Bake until eggs have set—about 30 min. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Compared to the rest of the world, we live in a place of plenty. Catalogs fill our mailboxes, enticing us to buy more “stuff.” Heck, shopping is a national pastime!
Why, then, aren’t the fabulous boots I bought in March still making me smile? How is it that I still complain I have “nothing to wear,” despite a closet full of clothes?! Isn’t it strange that somehow, more is never enough? Rather than happiness and fulfillment, more “stuff” often leads to frustration and dissastisfaction. Sadly, these negative emotions can seep into other parts of life…affecting relationships, work and family.
What if I could simply replace desire with gratitude?
That’s what a dear friend of ours does every day…and it’s changed his life! We’ve known Bob and his family for years. Bright, accomplished and always something nice to say, Bob has achieved enormous financial success. But that’s not what makes him happy. Bob’s joy comes from giving generously and his ongoing attitude of gratitude.
“From experience,” explains Bob, “I can say that gratitude is important to my health. In fact, I try to start my business day by asking myself who did something the day before that deserves my appreciation…and then expressing it.”
Bob believes the daily discipline may be as important to his health as physical exercise. “For certain,” he says, “it helps my day begin on the right note.”
A growing number of scientists are siding with Bob! According to recent research from the Mayo Clinic, “gratitude, when exhibited as a regular part of life, not only explains a high sense of well-being, but also can be fostered in simple ways to increase happiness and fulfillment.”
We all feel thankful at times. But gratitude--especially as it correlates to a higher sense of well-being--isn’t just an emotion, but a way of being that focuses on noticing and appreciating the good things in life, and acknowledging that the sources of goodness are frequently outside the self.
Bottom line, practicing gratitude means you’re able to be content in the moment even while pursuing long-term plans. A grateful approach enables you to be happy, despite the imperfections of life.
Having a thankful heart may lead to a lower risk of mental health problems, greater happiness (call it joy!), increased sense of fulfillment, positive relationships (a great bonus!) and even better sleep!
But the trick is putting gratitude into practice. The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living has a few tips:
1. Start your day with gratitude. Like Bob, making gratitude your first thought in the morning, you start your day on a much more positive note.
2. Be thankful for the simple things. I love this one! Throughout the day, take note of the things you often take for granted. I may be thankful for a promotion at work, but can’t recall the last time I was grateful for electricity, running water, clean clothing or a cup of coffee!
3. Look for the positive in the negative. Try to see your struggles as necessary forces that focus your energy on what’s really important.
4. Acknowledge your riches. If you’re feeling bad, count your blessings…health, a car, warm home, steady job, children and grandchildren. The list could be endless!
5. Keep a gratitude journal. As you think about the people and things you’re thankful for, reinforce your thanks by writing them down.
6. Say thank you. Express your actions in words and deeds. The whole world would be better if we all said, “thank you” more often.
Sound like too much sweetness and light? Maybe. But as the science continues to prove otherwise, I think I’ll send a thank-you note to someone special. Hmmmm. Feeling better already!
Do you remember when we didn’t talk about cancer? I sure do. As a child in the 60’s, when our next-door neighbor was stricken, my Mom told me Mrs. Palmer had the “C” word.
In the 80’s, many suffered in silence because no one dared talk about AIDS.
Fortunately, we’ve become more accepting when it comes to cancer and AIDS, but for many suffering from mental illness…the stigma still sticks.
Oh, garden-variety depression and anxiety may get a pass. Pop a Prozac and you’re good to go. But heaven help you if you have something more complicated…such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Muffy Walker knows all about stigma. Her son was ostracized as a child because of the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Now 21, his symptoms are managed through medication and he leads a productive life.
But Muffy wanted more. In 2007, she co-founded the International Bipolar Foundation (IBF) and since then, has been a tireless advocate, working to erase the stigma of bipolar disorder.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month…the month we talk about mental illness. Muffy Walker is issuing a challenge in a campaign she calls, “Say it Forward.” She and the IBF hope we’ll all join forces to educate and inspire people to learn the facts about mental illness and break the barrier of stigma.
Let’s “Say it Forward” as often as possible during the month of May by sharing the following messages and facts:
Let’s talk about Bipolar Disorder. More knowledge leads to more clarity.
Fact: Bipolar Disorder affects 30 million people worldwide.
Let’s talk about my reality. It’ll change your perception.
Fact: Bipolar Disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide.
Say it forward so others won’t feel as alone as I did.
Fact: One in four suffer from mental illness.
Silence is not golden.
Fact: Mental illness knows no age limits, economic status, race, creed or color.
It was never a character flaw. It was always a chemistry problem.
Fact: With support and treatment, seventy to ninety percent of patients have a significant reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life.
What if we talked openly about mental illness, as we do cancer? We should.
Fact: Stereotypes and stigmas hurt everyone…including those with mental health problems, their families, friends and society as a whole.
My loved one lives with Bipolar Disorder. So now I live to tell about it.
Fact: Your story can convey to others that having a mental illness is nothing to be embarrassed about.
Think you’re scared. I was scared. Until I learned it wasn’t my fault.
Fact: Bipolar Disorder is a neurochemical brain disorder.
Muffy Walker and the IBF believe truth has the power to affect change. I want to be part of this change. Will you join me?
Together, we can fight stigma and encourage our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors to seek help when they need it.
After thinking about running a marathon for years, I finally pulled the trigger at age 45. It was 1998…the first running of the “Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. Nervously waiting for the starting gun in the nine-minute mile section, I went over my race strategy and prayed for the best.
Concentrating on the two major pieces of advice I’d received from the experts, I took it out slowly and drank plenty of water. I was told lots of water was key to finishing the 26.2-mile run without bonking.
For years, the mantra has been drummed into endurance-sports competitors: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Swig water every chance you get—whether you’re thirsty or not.
Maybe not! Mounting research supports very different advice. Athletes are more likely to suffer severe harm by drinking too much water during competition than by drinking too little! In extreme cases, people have died after drinking too much liquid during a race.
New studies suggest that 3% dehydration levels during competition—which experts once warned against—don’t hurt performance and might actually help it. More and more, experts advocate a simple rule: During a race, drink when you’re thirsty.
In his book Waterlogged, Tim Noakes, sports medicine physician and professor at South Africa’s University of Cape Town, says the body’s instincts are an athlete’s best friend.
“If you drink to thirst, you maximize your performance,” he says. Noakes blames the sports-drink industry for encouraging athletes to drink more than they need.
Ultramarathoner Dean Karnzes says he drinks gallons of water in events like the 135-mile run across sizzling Death Valley. In last year's New York Marathon, however, temperatures were in the mid 40’s. He says he drank only once: a half cup of water at the 15-mile mark.
There’s a wonderful water aerobics class at the pool where I swim. I’ve observed class members frequently stopping to chug from their water bottles. We’ve been so inculcated with the message that we have to hydrate, even in a 45-minute gentle exercise class, people force themselves to drink.
I know. We’ve all heard the stories of dehydrated athletes needing intravenous fluids after a long race. That’s why the notion that more water is better than less still persists.
But after feeling sick and bloated following my second marathon, I have to wonder—should I have backed off on the water and Gatorade? One woman I know felt ill at the 18-mile mark of her marathon and later became delirious. She was hospitalized and diagnosed with hypoantremia. Her excessive fluid intake caused dangerously low sodium levels in her blood.
This, of course, isn’t the final word on water. But, until I hear more, listening to my body is probably the best bet.
(If you’re training for the “Rock ‘n Roll” in June? Good for you…and best of luck!)
Two women near and dear to me face a daily battle with their weight. It breaks my heart to watch as they valiantly fight their lifelong enemy…food.
Medically speaking, Sara and Michelle (not their real names) are obese. And while many label those who overeat as lazy and undisciplined, I’m convinced my friends are neither. I don’t think it’s their fault.
You see, for some of us, it’s no problem. When I’m full, I stop eating. Beyond that, it’s uncomfortable. But for some people, that feeling of satiety never comes. My friends have confided they never feel full, constantly think about food and are hungry all the time.
So I’m encouraged by news of a ray of hope for folks like Michelle and Sara. According to a new study, a single dose of nasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin may help people eat less.
These findings, reported by the Endocrine Society, confirm those in animal studies showing oxytocin reduced food intake. It sounds too good to be true! That’s why further studies are needed, but study investigators believe the hormone is a promising treatment for obesity and its health implications.
Oxytocin is widely referred to as the “love hormone,” because it’s associated with parts of the brain that control emotional, cognitive and social behaviors. The nasal spray form is available in Europe, but for now, can only be used in clinical trials in the U.S.
I found the study…involving twenty-five men...fascinating. Thirteen of the men had a healthy weight. Twelve were either overweight or obese. After fasting, they were randomly assigned either the spray with oxytocin or a placebo.
One hour after inhaling the nasal spray, the men had breakfast, which they chose from the menu. Each meal came with double portions. The researchers then counted how many calories each man ate.
Then men returned at a later date and the experiment was repeated…with each man receiving the opposite treatment. On average, the men who took the nasal spray ate 122 fewer calories and nine grams less fat. Even more encouraging, the oxytocin spray appeared to increase the use of body fat as a fuel for energy.
For decades, medical scientists have tried diets, pills and shots… in search of the “magic bullet” that will end obesity for good. Is there “magic” in oxytocin Probably not. But if it could develop into an effective weapon in the battle against weight, perhaps my friends and millions like them could eventually win the war against weight.
Since I can remember, a high-fat diet has been a big, fat no-no.
For years, that message has been firmly ingrained in the minds of every American…touted by doctors, lawmakers and food suppliers. From grocery stores to vending machines, we’ve been told low fat (or no fat) is the way to go.
Despite the decades-long fight against fat in food, obesity rates and health complications, including heart disease, continue to rise. After all this time, a growing number of scientists, doctors and dietitians are not only questioning the low-fat doctrine, they now admit the theory that consuming fat causes heart disease is based on bad science.
Are you kidding me?! All those years of sacrificing rich, whole milk and creamy yogurt for their watery, tasteless fat-free substitutes was for naught?
The findings come from the recent publication of a major analysis by a team of British and U.S. researchers. The report looked at previous studies on the topic and concluded there’s no significant difference in death rates in people who ate less saturated fat than those who didn’t.
Not only that, according to the analysis, while reducing fat intake did result in lower total blood cholesterol levels, it did not correlate with any discernible health benefit. (Check it out in “Open Heart,” a publication of the British Medical Journal)
Apparently, the original evidence for the dietary fat/heart disease connection was shaky, but once published, took on a life of its own, causing lawmakers and medical professionals to act without good, scientific validation including:
- No randomized, controlled trials
- Statistically insignificant study results
How could this happen?
It seems a number of studies done in recent years have found the link between dietary fat, weight and heart disease is exaggerated. And get this - researchers now say being slightly overweight isn’t harmful and might even be beneficial.(What next? Twinkies found to be a superfood?!)
If these studies and new analysis hold up, the implications for the medical system could be huge. How will doctors advise their patients? Companies could lose billions in sale of low fat fare. Government dietary guidelines would need a major makeover.
But before you run to the store for a quart of Haagen Das, there’s no consensus yet, as the debate rages.
Some not only question the validity of the new findings, they wonder how (or even whether!) to inform the public about them. Some say the possible paradigm shift would cause mass confusion. Others say (and I agree) medical science should be concerned with facts first - not with an overly simple message- when the truth is complex and nuanced.
What to do? For now, I’ll continue to eat plenty of the “good” fats found in nuts, avocadoes and fish. But I’m done with see-through skim milk, chewy non-fat cottage cheese and eggs without yolks. For now, I’m eating food the way God made it…until I know more.