Thursday, January 31, 2013

Healthy Cooking Finds

The past two weeks or so have been an eating roller coaster; mostly I've been staying on track but a well-meaning comment on Facebook has veered me off track. I know that there will be times I just can't know the nutritional information of a meal, but I'm not at the point yet where I can stop being careful about what I feed myself. I can acknowledge that I'm going to sometimes eat things that aren't ideal, and I'm learning to be okay with that (besides which, my birthday is next month and I'd like to not stress about the possibility of birthday cake), but I'm not yet at the point where I can spend multiple days not paying attention to what I eat. I've managed to lose 70-75 pounds since I got married - 30-35 of those pounds were even on purpose - but I have another 130 to go.

Just is time for my 20th High School Reunion.

I have no clue what my ideal weight is; I don't think I've ever been at my ideal weight; the plan is to get to 150 pounds and then figure that healthy weight.

In any case, in the meantime, I've been slowly trying to figure out how to cook healthier. To wit:
  • Through Groupon, that devlish siren of Internet deals, I discovered The Fresh 20, a budget meal plan that simplifies one's shopping lists and meal planning, such that one is given a list of 20 ideally fresh, healthy ingredients from which one can cook five weeknight meals for a family of four. There are three dinner-time plans - Classic, Gluten Free, and Vegetarian/Vegan - that are updated weekly. (There is also a six-week lunch plan.) Each plan includes a Prep Guide, a shopping list which includes the mention of which meal you'll need the ingredients for, the quantity, and that week's pantry staples; a cost estimate per item, per dinner, per serving, and the shopping cost total; and the nutrition label. (The meal plans are designed to be well below 600 calories for a full dinner.) One can subscribe to a specific plan for three months or 12 months (the latter plan is the option I gifted to my mother), although I found a $59 Groupon for all meal plans for 12 months. 
  • Cooking Light has an online 5-Ingredient Cookbook that, so far as I can tell, is free, and which includes different categories: soups, salads, sandwiches, vegetarian, chicken, meats, seafood, and pantry.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Desperate

The more time that passes since my college graduation in 2007 and my ability to find full-time work, the more despondent I feel. I wonder sometimes if I should stop trying to find a full-time teaching job, just try to find something, anything, that's ful-time that would also have benefits. Fortunately, my degree is in English, and not education, so potential employment is limited to education. But I'm also incredibly lucky that since for more than three years now, I have, in fact, been teaching, in my own classroom, first as an adjunct at Lehigh Carbon Community College, then at Utah Valley University, and now at Salt Lake Community College. During the time I didn't adjunct, I was a substitute teacher throughout Jordan School District, getting paid a decent wage because of my certification in secondary education.

However.

At a stop light my way to my volunteer assignment yesterday, I passed a middle-aged gentleman who was holding a cardboard sign on which a message was written that he had been laid off, had two children, and was desperate. I couldn't read the rest of the message - I was two lanes over - but the general feelings of discontent and irritation I have been feeling recently disappeared, and I felt horrible. "DESPERATE" kept jumping out at me.

Ed and I are by no means wealthy, but we are in no danger of losing our house, since we own it free and clear. Same with our two cars. I have no student loan debt. Despite a rather bumpy financial beginning to our marriage, things have evened out; we have no debt, aside from rotating the usual monthly-accrued credit card debt that we tend to pay off, if not completely every month, than nearly so. I'm not in a position, at least currently, where we're desperate for me to get a full-time job because we fear losing the house, or making the decision between eating, putting gas in the car so we could get to work, or paying the mortgage. (This was an actual thing we faced.)

Yet I get to do work I thoroughly enjoy, as does Ed. We'll never be rich. We'll be comfortable, but neither of us has careers that will make us wealthy. That's so much more than okay, though: I have a career that will allow us to provide at least part-time care to whatever children we're able to have; Ed has a career that offers us excellent health insurance and the ability to fly wherever we want for free. That puts us ahead of a lot of people. And I'm not interested in competing lifestyles. I just want our life to be comfortable and happy.

I have begun to make a habit of keeping cash in my wallet (usually because I feel stupid putting a soda on a credit card), but also because if I'm in a position to help someone in this kind of position, I give what I can. I had maybe $3 in my wallet yesterday because I kept forgetting to hit up the ATM, and I couldn't decide whether it would be better whether to give the gentleman the remnants of my wallet, or just keep going. Eventually the light turned green; the decision was made for me.

So I continue with a conscious decision to keep a little something extra in my wallet, to look for ways to help people who need it. It will never be enough, because it can never be enough, but I can look for ways to ease someone else's pain. I don't like to see desperation.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Eating & Exercise: What Works

Several months ago, one of my friends told me about a program called Eat-2-Liv, started by her dietitian sister-in-law, that was meant to focus on mindful eating and learning to eat better. I wasn't quite ready to register for the pilot program, which I would have found difficult to take part in through the holidays, but I did register for the session that began today. I have two friends enrolled in the program (my friend and her husband), and in the spirit of community and "doing this together," we've been posting on the FaceBook group as well.

Which has gotten me thinking about the exercising and eating I've been doing for several months now:

  • I bought a kitchen scale in November to weigh food portions. (Unless something is a liquid, I just can't get a feel for what two ounces, or 30 grams, or whatever, is.)
  • I can't quite remember when I joined Curves - last summer - but I've been going three to four times a week. Occasionally there's something going on which prevents me from going four times a week (or at all, like when we visiting my folks for Christmas), but I manage to make it in at least three times a week; the goal is to burn at least 1,800 calories a week just by working out. Sometimes that doesn't happen if I don't work out 4x a week, but it does otherwise.
  • I bought a scale in August, and began weighing in on a weekly basis in mid-September. I record my weight on the WeightRecorder iPhone app, in conjuction with the MyFitnessPal iPhone app to track my weight and food. MyFitnessPal also recalculates my caloric intake based on the amount of weight I've lost. I started out at 1,800 calories a day, and now I'm down to 1,450 calories per day. I can also add my Curves cardio exercise and calories burned.
  • And lastly, I bought the Striiv Play pedometer, which fits nicely in my pocket, and which calclulates my steps taken, stairs climbed, miles walked, calories burned, and minutes of activity. It connects to the iPhone app via bluetooth, and even interfaces with the MyFitnessPal iPhone app with a Striiv calorie adjustment. It's not perfect; sometimes it'll tell me, for example, that I've climbed 3 stairs when I've just walked up the 15 stairs in our house. 

Something is going right; I've lost 35 pounds since I've started using MyFitnessPal in mid- August, and 28.2 pounds since I've started using WeightTracker in mid-September.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Flawed Arguments

I was recently watching a documentary, How to Die in Oregon, about the physican-assisted suicide debate. It's an interesting one, mostly following folks who, of course, believe that people should have the right to control the circumstances in which they end their lives. One woman, whose husband died of brain cancer, was offended that there were those who would call such a process suicide, because, to her mind, suicide was done by those who were otherwise physically healthy, but who would be clinically depressed and therefore choose to end their lives.

Never mind the link between mental and physical health. I don't understand why it would be acceptable for someone terminally ill to end his life, but not someone whose mental health would lead him to the same conclusion. One who suffers from a mental health disorder might believe, as well, that he wanted the choice to end his life when he so chose.

There was also the argument made, by the same woman who was calling people, and reading from a script, that "your beliefs have to dictate to everybody else who doesn't have the same belief." That's always the issue, isn't it; "black and white issues" are not the same across the board, and if someone has very strong moral beliefs, especially about something like ending a life, trying to convince him that he's wrong for wanting to uphold his moral beliefs from a legal standpoint isn't likely to cut it. Making something legal does not make it moral.

Yet moral beliefs of a segment of a population shouldn't make it illegal. I do not like the idea of physician-assisted suicide; I do not believe it is our choice when to end our lives, but I've also never been in a position where I've been terminally ill and in horrible pain, so I understand why someone might want that option.

However, I see similarly flawed arguments debating gay marriage. I've heard arguments along the lines of "I know a lot of gay people, and they're all sexually immature" and "If we let two gay people get married, then we'll have to let any combination or number of people get married" and "it's forbidden in the Bible!" and "But they can't have children biologically."

Of course, you can't really forbid two people above a certain age from getting married simply because of immaturity, otherwise a lot of straight people would be forbidden from getting married as well. For every example of immaturity in the gay and lesbian community, there's one in the straight community; similarly, there are examples of maturity in both the gay/lesbian and straight communities.
Moving on: The focus of this argument is two adults, not one man and four women, or one woman and three men, or a man and a goat. Legalizing gay marriage at the federal level is not a gateway to deviant behavior (which, to be honest, would continue regardless of legal status for any other group).

At least in Catholicism, homosexuality is labelled as "intrinsically disordered," which sounds like something out of the a previous version of the DSM. In fact, homosexuality is found throughout nature, so the reasons for this not being acceptable behavior among humans is biblically based, and, again, based on a book that was written at a time when cultural and historical practices were different and communities much more insulated.

The last argument is simply unkind. Many people, regardless of sexual orientation, can't have children; forbidding them to marry because they can't have children seems ridiculous (Hello, adoption!), especially for older couples whose first marriage happens in their later years.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Eve Party

Last night Ed and I went to a New Year's party at our church. We were both still pretty tired after our travels, but we were really glad we went to this party. The DJs - a husband and wife - were pretty bad: They played mostly Mariachi and Latin music and disco music (is there Mariachi disco music?), which I suppose was appropriate since the husband was Hispanic and they were both of my parents' generation; there were persistent technical difficulties with the CDs and sound system such that a song would get stuck (kind of like a record), or stop abruptly. It was so loud that we couldn't have proper conversations with each other or the other two couples at our table; the other two couples at our table left before midnight.

But we danced a lot and made fun of each other's dance moves. We're awful, and we're so awful we made fun of ourselves, and we had so much fun, because we relish being those out-of-shape ugly people who are sickeningly happy and in love and don't care about how awful they look and dress and dance.

It was great.

And so begins a new year. I don't make New Year's Resolutions, really; I never quite saw the point. But this year I'd like to continue learning to take better care of myself. I'd like to continue taking care of Ed. I'd like us to - finally - take a honeymoon. I'd like us to start the adoption process for the first of (we hope) two kids. I'd like to continue being involved in my parish's women's group and Parish Council.
St Dec 2012 Messenger

Vitamins & Nutrition

Not only is it the first of the month, but it's the first day of a new year; it's time to find a way to help those around me via the charity through which I sponsor a child: ChildFund. I perused their Gift Catalog's Medical Needs category and chose the following ways to help this month:
  • Orphanages in Chernobyl need special vitamins for children with disabilities ($84): In Belarus, many children who developed or were born with disabilities as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster now live in large, isolated orphanages. Since the incident 27 years ago, the number of children with disabilities in the area has tripled. In addition to radiation exposure, children living in the contaminated territories are often more vulnerable to diseases and stresses. They lack basic vitamins to protect their health and special vitamins to reduce the impact of the harmful environment. Your gift will provide a year's worth of monthly vitamin packets for one child.
  • Medical Checkups and nutrition for children with disabilities in India ($31; I did two of these): Children with disabilities need specialized medical care that is not readily available in their deprived communities in India. Your gift will provide medical checkups to detect and diagnose problems as early as possible. It also provides nutritional supplements selected to help the particular needs of children with disabilities.