Two a Healthy Life

One couple on a mission to become healthy

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Day 162: Healthy is Beautiful & Let it rain

She Said: 

This post is going to be a bit of a rant (you are warned).

I saw this photo floating around facebook today and I had to ad my voice to the thousands of comments it had already collected.

Healthy is beautiful but there are a few problems with the way this photo argues that point. To begin with – many of the girls in both of these photos are at an unhealthy weight.

I am still fat – technically speaking after over 40 lbs. of weight loss my BMI is still 3 points above “healthy”. For a healthy BMI I need to lose another 16 lbs.

Many women on the bottom portion of this photo have a BMI over 25 which makes them overweight. On the top portion several of the Victoria’s Secret models must have BMI’s in the danger range. A BMI of 15 is considered near starving.

I support a more positive message in the fashion industry but I refuse to use anorexic glamazons as an excuse for why I feel crappy about who I am!

I don’t look at stick thin girls and think ‘oh man I really want to look like that’ because I don’t. I really truly don’t want to be a size 0 or 2 but if a girl is a 0 and is truly healthy and happy – good for her!

I am not going to tear people down because of how they look in a photograph. I have no idea what they eat, how hard they workout or how much photoshop went into their picture before it appeared in my Vogue, Glamour or Elle.

What made me feel crappy about myself was getting out of breath climbing a single flight of stairs. I felt terrible going into GAP praying they would have 16’s and that they would fit. And I felt claustrophobic in certain stores where I knew there would be nothing in my size.

And- to be perfectly honest it’s good there wasn’t anything in my size. If I could find jeans that fit me in every store I walked into I might have had an unrealistic idea of how overweight I was getting.

On a more positive note Vogue magazine recently banned underage models who appear to be unhealthy. You can read more about it in an open letter Tyra Banks sent to them. She talks about how the industry has changed at that the size 4 she started out at would be considered overweight on today’s runways.

He said:

There was an article in this weeks Time magazine titled “When the Rains Stop”, which is talking about the drought that has hit large swaths of the US this year.  While I was reading the article one short paragraph caught my attention:

Still, American’s are comparatively well insulated from the increase in crop prices, largely because our diets are so full of processed goods that only about 15¢ of every dollar we spend on food actually goes to food. (Most of the remainder goes to packaging and advertising)”

What was striking about this paragraph wasn’t the fact that only 15¢ of every dollar is actually going to the food we purchase (when it is processed), it was the fact that the author could make this statement as fact without any real backup.  What that tells me is that this is such a commonly excepted fact there was no need for him to cite statistics or studies, people would accept it.

This is sad because it means that for most Americans this is the truth, the majority of the foods they are buying must be processed.  This is not hard to believe, when you go to the local grocery store, and the majority of the space in the middle is taken up by every concoction of “food” one could imagine.

I know that I have been blogging a lot recently about food and the food industry and I will try in the next couple of days to get off my soap box.  It is the same basic message, when I go shopping I have to stick to whole foods, to stick to the outside isles of the grocery store, and to know what I am putting into my body.  Hopefully by doing these three things, more then 15¢ of every dollar I spend will actually go toward the food I buy and not the package that is containing it.

Happy Eating!!

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Day 161: Getting to the meat of the issue

He said:

One topic that Alex and I have discussed several times over the course of our new lifestyle thus far is America’s consumption of meat (note that Alex grew up in a household where meat was on the menu for most meals).  Finally today I herd a newscast on NPR that basically summarized one of the reasons American’s need to consume less meat, greenhouse gas emissions.

If you are an avid reader, then you already know that Alex and I are primarily vegetarian during the week, but we do have meat on our free days.  One reason for this is the relatively high calorie content of even ‘healthier’ cuts of meat.  We find we get more bang for our calorie buck by just not consuming meat.

How often does the average day for an American consist of eating several different kinds of meat with every meal.  Bacon on a breakfast sandwich, turkey, ham or roast beef for lunch, and then chicken or fish for dinner.  Do you really need to eat that much protein in a single day?  The average adult male needs around 56g of protein and the average adult woman needs around 46g of protein a day (WebMD).  ½ of a boneless, skinless chicken breast (of average size, not the monster ones) has 27g of protein; that is 48.2% of a males daily protein needs and 58.6% of a woman’s daily needs.  That is just half of a chicken breast that could be eaten for dinner or lunch.

When you think of what you eat for the rest of the day, the protein can really add up.  Do you have milk or cream with you coffee, a handful of almonds for a snack, Greek yogurt for breakfast, beans or chili for lunch, maybe even a piece of tofu thrown in somewhere?  Take a random day and count the amount of protein your consuming and then compare it to what your needs really are, chances are you are consuming significantly more protein then your body needs, and we are doing this on a nationwide scale.

The general response when people bring up the need to consume less meat is something akin to ‘Dirty Hippies!’.  That is why Alex and I are quit reasonable in what we feel people need to do.  We are not advocates for vegetarianism or veganism (but you if you want to do that we support it).  What we are proponents of is the limiting of meat consumption to special dinners during the week or on the weekends.  Really people don’t need to eat meat more then three times a week if they are eating a balanced diet.

Next time you go to make pasta and want a meat sauce, throw in soy meat instead (I do this and I honestly can’t tell the difference).  Or if you are going to make lasagna, skip the meat all together and just make it with vegetables.  Often I think people get the idea that they have to replace the meat they want to eat with a substitute meatless product that they don’t like.  That isn’t nessarily the case, just think of other recipes that don’t require any meat at all.  Have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch instead of Turkey.  And just have an egg on an English muffin and skip the bacon.  Once you give up meat with every meal, you will find you don’t miss it most of the time.  If you feel like you have to have meat with a meal to feel full, try to use the meat as a garnish, instead of the main ingredient.  And always keep in mind that a servicing of most meats in the size of a deck of cards.  Kinda makes you rethink that double quarter pounder with cheese and bacon.

The basic reason why we all need to consume less meat is the massive effect it has on the environment and the strain that it put on ecosystems.  Evolutionary speaking, humans evolved to eat meat and vegetables was because we basically needed to be able to eat whatever was around.  We ate meat, but certainly not everyday and not for every meal.  We need a mind shift in America to thinking of meat more as a delicacy (an animal did give its life so you can eat) and less as an everyday, every meal option.

Here is a great film that summarizes what I have been talking about (for those too lazy to read:

Happy Eating!!

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Minestrone Soup


Nathaniel saw this recipe in Runner’s World magazine and it quickly became one of our healthy life staples. As I was eating a bowl of it today I thought I would share the recipe with all of you. This soup is so delicious I might serve it at a dinner party in the future!


2 quarts good-quality vegetable broth
1 14.5-ounce can petite-diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, cut into small dice
1 celery stalk, cut into small dice
1 peeled carrot, cut into small dice
2 teaspoons Italian seasonings
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 cans (15 to 16 ounces each) small white beans, not drained
8 ounces frozen green peas
8 ounces coarsely chopped escarole
1 cup ditalini (or any bite-size pasta)
Sprinkle of salt and ground black pepper


Microwave broth and tomatoes together on high until steaming (5 minutes).

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add onions, celery, and carrots; saute till tender (5 minutes). Add Italian seasonings and red pepper; saute until fragrant (one minute).

Add broth mixture and remaining ingredients; cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; continue to simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and pasta is tender (15 minutes). Serves eight.

FAT: 4 G


Day 157: The food industry misses one key ingredient…love

He said:

When you look at food, what do you see? When you look at a cookie or muffin, what do you notice about it?  What makes you want to eat it?  You see the gooeyness of the chocolate chips and the smell of sugar, and the golden-brown color that comes from cooking just the right amount of time in the oven.  When you bite into it it is going to moist, sweet, rich, decadent, but how much of that taste is real and how much has been engendered?

When we eat food that is highly processed, we are eating food that has been labored over by dozens of people contemplating everything from how that package should look to how sweet it should be to how quickly it should dissolve in our mouths.  Here is a great quote from Mike McCloud, a former executive from Coca-Cola:

Thirty years ago, he said, a triple chocolate muffin was made with real eggs, real chocolate, and real butter. It rich and flavorful, but it was also small.  Then “greed took over” said McCloud, explaining a shift in attitude among food companies.  Their new mindset: “I don’t want to sell a two once muffin that’s made with real butter. I want to make a five once muffin for pennies more and make more profit on it.” As a result, today’s muffins are much bigger, but most of the real ingredients are gone.  Instead of butter they are likely to contain some blend of shortening and oil.  Often the ingredient label will list “palm or coconut oil,” a clue that the manufacture is buying the ingredient that is cheapest at any given moment.  Powered egg substitutes replace whole eggs, and an array of inexpensive, processed sweeteners are used. In lieu of real food, the industry is baking with “a chemical mix of preservatives and oil,” McCloud said. (The End of Overeating, Kessler Pg. 128-129)

This was the head of the biggest soft drink company in the world, saying that companies only care about selling more food that is made cheaply (and we wonder why Bloomberg wants to band super-sized drinks).  This has happened across the board, sugar in soda was replaced with high fructose corn syrup, Cheetos are only made with a cheese powder, and fruit roll-ups contain no real fruit.

The point of all of this is that when you let the food industry, and by food industry I mean scientists, cook for you you are going to get food that is designed to be highly addicting and made from ingredients that no real chief would ever use and come in a size that is not a real portion.  The executive from Coke even said it, the muffin from thirty years ago was made from real food and it was small, probably in a real serving size, unlike a Costco muffins, where each one has four servings.

One more quote from The End of Overeating to solidify my point, in reference to chicken in the meals at Chili’s restaurant:

Another common way to get marinade into meat is through needle injection. Hundreds of needles are used to pierce the meat, tearing up the connective tissue.  “It’s been prechewed,” said Billy Rosenthal, former President of Standard Meat.  (The End of Overeating, Kessler Pg. 71)

The next time you order meat at a chain restaurant and you comment on how juicy and tender it is, think that maybe a machine chewed that meat for you?

What all of this is coming to is the need to get back to two basic principles:

  1. Americans need to take back the spatula and start cooking again. “The average U.S. adult eats 4.8 meals per week in restaurants(UPI)”, which means that most people are eating the majority of their meals out.  As we can see from the industry, when we let the industry make our food, the quality will be poor and we will be presented with double what we would eat at home.
  2. There needs to be a focus on whole foods (not the grocery store).  If you can list the ingredients in about 80% of the foods on your plate then you know you are on the right track.  Yesterday’s dinner I made from zucchini, eggs, tofu, mushrooms, and some Hoisin sauce.  Other then the Hoisin sauce, the rest of my dinner was completely composed of whole foods of which I knew exactly what they were.  When was the last time you at a meal at a restaurant and was sure you knew exactly how it was made?

In the end the age old adage is tried and true, you are what you eat.

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Day 156: Cravings

He said:

Doughnuts on the kitchen table, a coworker’s candy bowl, cookies at a local meeting, we have all been in situations where food is present and for no apparent reason we become transfixed on that food until we have some.  I won’t even necessarily be hungry, but if someone brings in doughnuts for the office, my mouth will begin to salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs in anticipation of the sweet, doughy goodness.  This is only part of the toxic and ever present food environment that we live in now.

Three instances from the past week will help to illustrate this phenomenon in a more concrete way.

  1. A coworker brought in doughnuts (seeing the theme here) for the department and decided to leave the box on my desk for people to snack on.  I had already had my morning meal and was about to have my mid-morning snack (almonds), so I wasn’t really hungry, but as soon as the doughnuts showed up I was thinking about having one.  I was able to put them out of my mind, have my snack, and focused on my work, but every now and then I would think about the doughnuts.  After I got my morning coffee an hour later I moved them into the break room and ten minutes later they were gone.
  2. Went into the break room to have my afternoon snack (low-fat cottage cheese) and someone had left a package of cookies on one of the tables for people to eat.  I looked at the package, thought about what I had eaten that day and started to justify how I could have one and it be all right, I opened the packed ready to grab one, and then knew if I had one then, I would eat it, my cottage cheese, and then have another one after.  In that instant I knew it was easier for me to just not have a cookie then try to only have one, I was able to close the package and have my cottage cheese and then flee the break room.
  3. On Monday we had a department lunch (I feel like I work with the foodiest people ever) of pizza.  We do this every couple of months and I have told everyone I am on a diet so I don’t partake of the pizza, plus what I have found out about myself is that I do not like pizza that much and in true fashion I was able to sit in the luncheon and not partake and not think about the pizza at all.  I had no craving for it and didn’t even think twice about not having any.

In my cravings, what I have learned about myself is that I have a sweet tooth and if I am going to indulge or think about food it almost always is going to be sweet things. For Alex, she loves savory food, and doesn’t really give in to sweets too often (though she does have chocolate every day, in moderation).   What has become easier as this whole lifestyle has progressed is controlling cravings and understanding that I don’t need to indulge all the time, plus having a free day where I can eat the way I want helps tremendously.  On the day with the cookies, I told myself that if I really wanted a cookie I would wait till Saturday and then go to this really good cookie store in SF.  That was the other thing about those cookies, they were safeway store bought cookies, and even though I really wanted to eat it in that instance, in the back of my head I knew it was not going to be as good as I had built it up in my head.

The point on that one being that if you are going to splurge make sure you get the good stuff, because there is no sense in wasting the calories on something that isn’t exactly what you want.  Most of these ideas are being formed from a book I am currently reading called The End of Overeating.  I am only about halfway through, but it has already been enlightening, and I think I will do another blog post just on that book and its main message.  But it has opened my eyes to how I crave things and some ways of getting around those involuntary hunger pangs.  At the end of the day we should all try to become more aware of what are bodies (and brains) are telling us and just remember, half the time your brain is telling you you’re hungry, but your body isn’t.

She Said:

It is really interesting to see how you prioritize food when you are on such a strict diet. As Nathaniel said – I eat chocolate nearly every day.

I buy dark chocolate chips like you would use to bake cookies with and keep them in the fridge. I never eat more than 100 calories worth in a day and the bag lasts weeks.

While I do love chocolate the main reason I have chosen chocolate chips is because they are really easy to portion out. If I am getting close to my calorie limit for the day and choose to put cheese on my omelet then I can count out half as many chips and still have a treat.

Nathaniel however is really the one with the sweet tooth. I am more into savory foods – I’d much rather have wonton soup or bacon than a doughnut. Pizza would distract me in a meeting to no end and I’d probably spend an hour arguing with myself about eating or not eating a slice. (I’ve done this.)

Another reason Nathaniel doesn’t “daily cheat” the way I do is because once he gets started he knows it’s going to be hard to stop at just one cookie or one doughnut.

The other day I ate the crème filling out of a cookie and tossed the cookie part. I don’t want the cookie part and eating it just doesn’t make sense if I don’t like it. Nathaniel thought I was insane…

My most common cravings are wonton soup and meat… and I’ll explain.

Wonton soup is much healthier for you than Ramen and I can actually eat it during the week without breaking my calorie allotment if I’ve run more than 3 miles.

I actually crave wonton soup more than any other singular food item because I know I can eat it and feel full after the indulgence.

Meat is another story – Nathaniel and I are mostly vegetarians during the week but I grew up in a more meat heavy household than he did (his mother is a vegetarian).

Sometimes I think back to those delicious grilled steaks in huge portions my Dad gave me growing up and I really miss being able to eat a half-pound of really nicely grilled beef without guilt. Fried chicken is eaten for dinner about once a week in my parents’ house. Dad cooks bacon everyday and meatloaf, carnitas, chorizo, bbq, roast beef, prime rib, salmon, shrimp and roast chicken were all on heavy rotation during my childhood.

My parents cook delicious meat and that’s probably one of the reasons this is the thing I miss most. Meat, unless we are talking about the leanest of seafood is just not calorically efficient for it’s volume which is the main reason I’ve kept pretty vegetarian M-F.

Today I put a half cup of shrimp in my egg white omelet for dinner and even with cheese my dinner was only 330 calories.

Nathaniel’s Mom baked a lot and loves sweets so that’s probably one of the reasons he does too.

Nathaniel likes to spread jam on low calorie toast for a snack… I like to spread soft light swiss cheese (laughing cow).

When you are fighting your cravings it’s really interesting to think back to how you developed those food weaknesses.

If you could pick one food that would count at zero calories when you ate it in any amount what would you choose?

Me? Bacon.

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Day 155: Clean Eating

She Said:

Nathaniel and I headed down to Santa Cruz on Friday night to spend some time with his parents before our 10K on Sunday… and like so many people do we decided to celebrate the special occasion with some delicious delicious food.

Bread, pork, duck, beer cheese… and some VERY luxurious hot chocolate had me feeling guilty but it was nothing compared to how I felt physically the next day.

I’ve become so accustomed to clean eating that my body rebels when I overindulge to the extent that I used to.

One fond memory involves me lying on the floor with a stomachache watching Nathaniel wash dishes after our St. Patrick’s Day dinner. My body just couldn’t handle the fattiness of the corned beer.

Another time we invited one of Nathaniel’s co-workers and wife over – we both felt so crappy after the cheese platter we polished off when they left that Nathaniel slept on the couch by choice so we could both be alone in our misery.

Saturday morning I felt hung-over as I woke up. Not from the beer but from the food. All of Saturday I got a head rush every time I stood up… it was terrible. Saturday night I had a small bowl of soup and a salad for dinner – as a result I woke up Sunday morning feeling normal again.

It’s amazing what the food you used to eat all the time will do to you once you correct your eating habits. I really do miss things like cheese and milk and bacon and bread… and I still eat them, but in far smaller quantities.

Our bodies are incredibly adaptable to the sugar, fat, salt, nicotine and alcohol (depending on your diet) that we put into them everyday… When we make drastic changes to what we ingest they respond in both negative and positive ways.

Now that my daily caloric intake is 1/3 of what it used to be and is 95% whole foods I can really feel how my body is responding to crap food when I eat it. I used to drink regular coke on occasion but now… I’d almost be afraid too.

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Day 154: The good run

He said:

So today when I got up there were a couple of aches and pains in the legs, which actually made me feel good because it means that I pushed myself yesterday.  The official time came in at 41:24 and I placed 425 overall out of 15,000.  I am happy with this, but it leaves room for improvement.

The whole day, whenever I got up I would be sore and I was thinking I might not do my run tonight, but that would put me behind on my marathon training (already had to take it easy last week for the race) so I got home, laced up and started out on my run.

About two blocks in my knees were hurting, the legs felt weak, I almost stopped, but I felt I had to push on a little more just to see.  About half a mile in the legs started to feel good, the pain went away, and the run became enjoyable.  I got into a nice easy pace and then something occurred to me, this was a great run.

Today was the first day I felt like a real runner.  I was out running, not paying attention to my time or how fast I was going, not chasing PRs or working on speed training, I was out there, because I wanted to run, I needed to get the wind in my hair (ironic considering I was wearing a hat).  It was a comfetable, easy 4 mile run.

That was the other funny thought that hit me, even five months ago, the thought of there being an easy, 4 mile run would be ridiculous followed by lots of panting and straining to breath.  Now I can get out there and march if off with no problem.  It still amazes me how far both Alex and I have come, but we aren’t resting on our laurels, we both still have goals to meet, new frontiers to conquer.

Feeling good, onward!!!