Friday, March 30, 2012

What Does Healthy Look Like?

Today was the moment of truth. I gave myself until the end of the month to be able to complete 25 real push-ups simultaneously, AND I DID IT! My arms felt like they were going to fall off, but I did it, and I am so proud of myself. I am now wondering what my next little fitness goal should be – run the distance between the house and bus stop and back in under 8 minutes, or run two miles on the treadmill in 20 minutes or less. Honestly, I need to work on my flexibility – I’ve never been very flexible, and it seems to be getting worse as I age. So maybe I will try to fit yoga into my routine a couple days a week so I can touch my knees with my forehead.

This entire period of goal setting and exercising with the kids encouraged me to pose this question: What does “HEALTHY” look like? I know that I am medically “defined” as being overweight – 10 pounds shy of being at the high end of an optimum BMI – but does that mean that I am unhealthy? I am hoping not.

Instead of going by physical aptitude, physicians’ tests, and the like, most people today tend to dole out the “healthy” adjective to those that look a certain way. She will hate me for doing this, but the photo is of my little sister two years ago when she was competing in a Natural Physique Council bikini contest. Yep, she looks healthy to me! I could be envious and say that I was duped out of getting those good genes, but I know she worked really hard to look that way. She also has a degree in health and fitness and is a certified personal trainer. The interesting thing about her journey to that awesome body is that she said she would never tell a client to eat the way she did for good health. Food choices are very limited. She ate plenty, but her diet was not varied at all. And you should see what all the competitors ate the day of the competition…SUGAR, SUGAR, and more SUGAR.

It was not that long ago – it must have been before the rise of the supermodel – when somebody was referred to as “healthy” it meant they had some meat and fluff on their bones. Parents were worried if their kids were getting enough to eat, and having a little extra in the middle and on their cheeks was a sign of getting plenty. But where is the line between healthy and unhealthy? Can we really tell by “looking at a person?”

I try to remind myself on a regular basis when talking with my child that I need to focus on fitness and quality of diet - not what they look like or the numbers on the scale - but it has been a real struggle for me worrying about how they will be perceived by others.

I was shocked at my kid’s last checkup when my pediatrician called attention to my 3-year-old son’s numbers – he is in the 75th percentile for height and 85th for weight. “I don’t really worry about those things at this age, but we may look at it in the future,” she said. Really? LOOK AT HIM! He is solid as a rock and extremely healthy! So now I’m thinking all this number business needs to be thrown out the window as well. BMI, ideal weight, muscle mass, body fat percentage, waist to hip ratio? What is the real determination of “healthy?” We are unique individuals, and what is healthy for one, may not be healthy for another.

When I was in high school (late 80s/early 90s), I remember hearing a commercial on the radio for a weight loss product while I was riding with other students to a Quick Recall meet. The commercial was a conversation between two teenage girls who were making fun of another girl who weighed 150 pounds. I remember feeling like a complete loser, because I weighed about 160 at the time. “Do they think I weigh that much,” I fretted? “I’ll just have to lie if someone asks me how much I weigh.” And thus the reason why most men think any woman, who is “trim,” no matter how tall she is, weighs 120 pounds or less. WE’VE BEEN LIEING ABOUT OUR WEIGHTS FOR YEARS! I would be thrilled to be 150, or even 160 again, and I know I would look pretty darn good!

I always find myself comparing myself to the Biggest Loser contestants. "I weigh that much, and look nothing like that." "They must be much shorter than I am." "Honey, do I look like that?" Finally, I told myself to get over it. We have a wide-screen TV.

My new philosophy is that “healthy” is a feeling, and right now I’m feeling pretty healthy. Will it make me live longer? I don’t know, but at least I’ll be happier than if I was constantly worrying if my dress or pant size makes me an adequate human being. I hope to instill this in my kids as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Things We Like Thursday: Fuji Apples

Of all the produce I buy, I think most of my money goes to apples. Unfortunately, we are pretty picky about them, and our favorite - the Fuji - is among the most pricey.

We love them because they are crisp, super sweet and rarely mealy (nothing ruins my day more than biting into and then throwing away a mealy apple). I have noticed, however, that late summer is not a good time to buy them... grocery stores are trying to move the previous year's harvest, and they may not be the best quality. My suggestion is to try to buy apples from a local orchard at this time of the year.

Learn more about the Fuji apple.

Having been to a local orchard and talking with apple growers, I know it is tough to get the nice looking apples that we enjoy. Last month, I talked with a friend who grew up on a apple orchard in Ohio. You can view the interview below.

So what is your favorite type of apple?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

First Inspiration

While I am not at all a fan of politics or expressing which party I hang my hat, I am a fan of the First Lady’s efforts to improve the health of this country. In fact she has inspired me to do two things:

1) Push-ups

I did not see the show, but I saw the coverage of the push-up contest between Ellen DeGeneres and Mrs. Obama. Michelle was able to complete 25 push-ups – real ones – live on the show. I can do 25 sissy push-ups fairly easily, but I admit I have not attempted many of the other lately. I worked on it in my college days, and I think I got up to about 10. The challenge is ON for me to get to 25. After about a week of working, I can do 15 (some of the time). I hope to be at my goal by the end of the month. I also expect to keep it up throughout my life. I just hate hearing my back crack and pop at every attempt. I am sure it will get better, though.

2) Scheduling Joint Exercise Times with the Kids

I finally came to the realization that if I want my children to exercise regularly, I am going to have to do it with them. If I’m stuck in my office working, they aren’t going to be beating down my door wanting to run and play; they sit and play in front of the TV. This week we came up with a regular exercise routine and will also schedule time for “fun” activity several days a week. Our goal is to complete 300 jumping jacks, 30 squats, 30 push-ups (girly-ones count for now) and 30 sit-ups before the end of the day. We have also been working on completing the half-mile round trip between our home and the stop sign down the road. The hills make it quite a bit of a challenge. Playing tag, jumping rope, and riding the horses have also made the list of things to do more often. Unfortunately, my schedule and rising gas prices are going to make getting involved in organized sports somewhat difficult, so we will be happy with activities we can all enjoy.

I am looking forward to these challenges, and making plans is something my daughter enjoys (must be those engineer genes my husband gave her). If we stick with it, I definitely expect a healthier and happier family on the horizon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Things We Like Thursday: Green Juice

I always worry that someone will think I am being paid to endorse a product, but that is never the case. I do however want to give a shout out to our favorite things in this household. Who knows, you may discover something you have never tried before.

This first "Things We Like" post goes to green juice, at least that is what my kids call it. Naked's Green Machine looks terrible and smells weird, but it tastes wonderful. It is an awesome way to get some fruit and green veggies into your child's diet. I do admit that it is a little on the pricey side, but I'm a believer in paying for nutritional content.

Check it out at

Bolthouse Farms makes a similar product - Green Goodness - and usually one or the other is on sale.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Chickens are NOT Vegetarians

It’s amazing what will get me riled up enough to take time out of my job and mommy duties to rant. This week it was the newest commercial from my favorite chicken company (that’s sarcasm by the way). I do have friends in chicken, so I won’t name them specifically, but I’m sure if you’ve been watching TV lately, you know who I’m talking about.

The latest marketing tactic is to tell us that their birds are fed an all vegetarian diet – no animal byproducts or bone meal. This is on top of their previously used tactics to tell me that their chickens will never be given hormones or steroids and they are raised cage-free, facts in which all chickens destined for meat can claim.

Why does this make me mad? Because chickens are not vegetarians, nor do I think they want to be! I know this because I watch my chickens on a regular basis. They scratch up any little critter that they can find and devour them lightning fast. While they share corn and greens, they fight over bugs and worms. They are also a bit on the cannibalistic side, having eaten on each other in their younger days. And you won’t believe the frenzy that ensues when one of their eggs crack. It is gobbled up lickety split. The last time I threw a cracked egg out of the coop, I saw one hen grab the shell, and the others chased her around the yard for at least 10 minutes. I wish I had my video camera.

I guess I’m having a hard time believing that a consumer of meat worries about whether or not the animal’s diet was vegetarian or not. I get that a vegetarian pet owner may want their dog to eat a meat-free meal, but a chicken?

I remember one of my first days at the University of Kentucky in Animal Science 101. Dr. Ely asked the class, “If a horse, a cow, a sheep, a pig, and a chicken were enclosed within an acre of land with no other food than what was provided on that land, which would survive the longest?” It was a pretty easy guess that it was the chicken. They can eat anything and everything. I expect that even the corpses of the other animals and the resulting insect banquet would be fair game. The chicken, like many other species that are easy “survivors” are opportunistic consumers. Much like us, they eat what they can find.

I have no problem with my food animals being supplemented with disease-free animal byproducts. In fact, I think it is a pretty good use of resources. I know for a fact that most any intensive animal operation looks at animal nutrition as a top priority, and if bone meal is a good way to add adequate calcium in diets, I think it should be used. I believe the same for protein and fat. In the real world, most animals let nothing go to waste. They eat the bones and the guts. Heck, my chickens even eat poop. This is definitely not a case of the chickens thinking animal byproducts taste bad.

The “what effect does this have on me” scenario in my opinion is not that we are getting “better” meat, but it’s going to cost you more because they need to find higher-priced nutritional supplements. So I say, “Let them eat guts.” I know they enjoy them.
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