Friday, May 4, 2012

Shiny and sparkly, and splendidly bright; Here one day, gone one night...

Yesterday I read an article online about a black hole that swallowed a star.  I was drawn in by the magnitude of that thought. How can a sun be swallowed up?  Why would nature allow something so bright and important to be extinguished before its time?  It is, of course, the relentlessness of nature that would allow such a thing to take place.  The star, following the path it had for millenia, ran into an immovable force, an object that by all definition is pure nothingness, yet weighed millions of times more than the star.  In 138 days, a star that had shone brightly in the nothingness of space for thousands of years was taken away from us.  There is one less star shining in our night sky, one less beacon sending us signals from places unknown, one less point in an unknown constellation.

While I was reading this article, my family was losing one of its brightest stars to the black hole that is cancer.  My cousin, Linda, lost her battle with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia today, taking part of all of us with her in the process.  Linda would not want us to dwell on her death, but to celebrate her life by remembering that bright spot in the sky, allowing it to burn in our memories, and moving forward with our lives.

When I started this blog last year, Linda was the first follower that I had.  I was so happy, I came home and told Erin, "I have my first follower." It is that support that I will pay forward, that character that I hope I can display in my own life. I am going to start now and urge everyone reading this to do what they can. Every year, 10,000 patients need a bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor, but only half of those patients recieve one. Please go to http://marrow.org/ to learn about bone marrow donation and sign up to be a donor or make a monetary contribution. I know I will.

I'm starting with the man in the mirror (Ooh!), I'm asking him to change his ways (Ooh!)

A lot of people have been asking me about my recent weight loss.  I have been on my new path for about 65 days now and have lost about 26 lbs.  I look better and I feel fantastic.  I sleep much better and I wake up in the morning feeling energized and ready to take on the day.  I do not like to use the word 'diet', because that is not what this is, so instead I am calling it a lifestyle change. This change focuses on things that I can eat instead of the things I cannot. As with most things in my culinary life, I can thank Food Network's megastar, Alton Brown, for most of my success. In the episode "Live and Let Diet", of his show Good Eats, Alton outlined the strategy he used to drop 50 lbs in 9 months. Alton's system, as are most of his recipes, is simple in form and implementation and wonderfully geeky in its science. Alton's complete plan is available in his newest cookbook, Good Eats 3: The Later Years (Click on the link to buy it from amazon.com), which not only outlines his diet plan but also packs a ton of great recipes. Try his Shrimp Gumbo, you will love it! His plan involves the implementation of 4 lists:

List 1: Foods I must Consume Daily

- Fruits - specifically red and purple fruits which are higher in antioxidants
- Whole Grains
- Dark Leafy Greens - (i.e. Chard, Collards, Spinach, etc) Lettuce does not count
- Nuts
- Carrots
- Green Tea

List 2: Foods I must consume at least three times per week
- Oily Fish
- Yogurt
- Broccoli
- Sweet Potato
- Avocado

List 3: Foods I can consume only one time per week
- Red Meat
- White Starch - white rice, pasta, potato
- Dessert
- Alcohol

List 4: Foods I cannot eat
- Fast Food
- Pop
- Processed Meals
- Canned Soups
- "Diet" anything

I have used these lists as a rough guideline for my own weight loss.  I have not followed them exactly for a few reasons, one being broccoli.  Try as I might, there is nothing I can do with that vegetable that can make it taste good.  The basis for the lists is simple: focus on the foods that you like that are high in noncaloric nutrients. I must say that it was surprisingly simple to cut out the foods in list 4. I have not had "fast food" since January and to be honest, I do not miss it. While I have cheated a little on the pop issue, it has not been much.  I used to drink at least one large McDonald's Coke every day.  Since January, I can count on one hand the number of cans of pop I have had. The other lists are really easy to incorporate and are easily adaptable to most palates.  For example, if you do not like broccoli, substitute with cauliflower.

Alton had one more rule to share, and that was always eat breakfast. I have been eating breakfast every day for the last 60 days or so and it has certainly worked for me.  Prior to my change, I never ate breakfast. Alton prefers to drink his breakfast and I have found that I do too.  A smoothie in the morning is not only a super easy way to incorporate a day's worth of fruit into your diet but also a hand-held, easy to make breakfast for on-the-go lifestyles. A few months ago, I posted about our smoothies which you can find here: Playwurfood.blogspot.com - smoothies, or you can just scroll down to find the recipe for a new version we have been gobbling up.

The final part of my plan has been exercise.  I went from not working out at all to working out 4-5 days a week for 35-55 minutes, alternating between upper body, lower body and full body workouts.

I hope this helps someone out there.  I myself have never felt better and as you can probably tell, I love telling people about it, so if you have any questions, please feel free to drop them in the comments below and I would be happy to answer them for you. Enjoy!

Orange Dream Smoothie

4oz Orange Juice
4oz Fat Free Soy Milk
4oz Peaches (Frozen)
4oz Mangoes (Frozen)
4oz Strawberries (Frozen)
4oz Pinable (Frozen)

Place all of the ingredients into your blender carafe and cover. Refrigerate overnight or up to 8 hours.

In the morning, or when the fruit is partially thawed, place the carafe on the base of the blender and start blending at the lowest speed.  After all of the fruit is blended, increase the speed to medium (if you have it) until you achieve a vortex.  Blend on medium (or low) for 1 minute. Increase speed to high and blend for 1 minute. Serve immediately. Enjoy!