Two a Healthy Life

One couple on a mission to become healthy

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Channeling my inner tortoise


Photo by matea2506

It is a classic tale, the tortoise and the hare, speed versus determination; however these two paradigms can be applied as approaches to running.  Being a typical man, when I started running I simply wanted to get faster and continuously pushed to turn in quicker times on my runs.  As I have mentioned before, I ended up over-training and having some knee issues.  Now that I am back training, I am approaching running from the other side.

Alex has never been concerned with how fast she was running, but chose instead to focus on how far she runs.  To date, she has never has any issues with over training or injuries (knocking on wood now).  We recently did a run together (our first run ever together) and it was ironically liberating to have to slow my pace so we could run together.

This experience put a spotlight on the issue of speed for me.  I continually try to push my pace (though I know I should be focusing on strengthening my legs and slowly inching up my mileage), so after that run I have committed to slowing down.

The marathon training plan that I am following has two runs a week for 30-45 minutes, but does not specify anything about distance you should run.  I am now using these runs to focus on my technic (breathing, foot placement, stature) and am recommitted to slowing down so that they are not as physically demanding.

This new strategy can be seen in the couch-to-5k and many marathon training plans that incorporate walking as part of the program.  Walking helps reduce the amount of stress on your body during a run, and can help people to increase their mileage more than running continuously can.  This all feeds into the idea of slow and steady build up.

I think I am like most guys, and when you tell us to slow down or take it easy, we just want to get out there and rip it up even more.  But what I have learned thus far is that the safest approach is one of slow determination.  With enough training you can eventually morph into the hair, but we all need to start out as a tortoise.

Run on!

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The danger of medjool dates

Photo By popartichoke

On a good day, if I am hungry and need a little something extra to tide me over before dinner (but otherwise have stuck to my diet), I might take a trip to the grocery store by my work. However, before I go I try to visualize what I am going to buy, because if I don’t then the cookies, candy, and even trail mix starts calling my name as I enter the door.

Medjool Dates Nutritional Information

Medjool Dates Nutritional Information

One of the treats that I used to get on these days was medjool dates (they are delicious).  I would get a bag of three or four and call it a day.  The only problem is that once I looked up calories of just one (66 cal.) with most of these coming from sugar (I should have known this seeing as they taste like caramel) meant that for four of these I would be  eating 266 cal. and 64g of sugar (which is a lot for a snack, I could have almost nine whole carrots for that many calories).

This is an example of how even when we think we are being healthy, it is easy to reach for snacks that “appear” healthy, but are just as bad as some processed foods (well maybe not as bad as that, it still has fiber).  A similar situation is how some parents try to pack dried fruits or trail mix instead of fruit snacks or Hostess cupcakes.  But those dried mango prices that were so popular at Costco a couple years ago are crammed with sugar.  And the average trail mix has significantly more calories in it then people would think, it is nuts and dried fruit, with chocolate.

Today I was able to grab a tangerine and call it good.  But I have to remind myself that if something tastes too good to be healthy, then it most likely is, even if it is fruit.

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Dying of Thirst: The New Coke Campaign

Coca-cola recently released a new commercial that is part of a bigger advertising campaign “coming together” that is focusing on obesity.  The following video is a keystone to this new campaign:

Coke mentions that of the 650 beverages in their portfolio, they offer 180 that are low or no calorie, but that is only 27.69% of their beverages, one of which is Dasani their water brand.  While I do give them props for adding calorie contents to the front of cans and introducing smaller portioned sizes, the industry (lead by Coke) is still fighting the Bloomberg ban on large soda sales in New York, which are sold in sizes that do not list how many servings or calories are contained in the beverage.  How is that “making it easier for people to make informed decisions?”

More calories per servicing then regular coca-cola

More calories per servicing then regular coca-cola

“For elementary, middle, and high schools our industry has voluntarily changed its offerings to primarily waters, juices, and low and no calorie options” states the ad, however, back in 2008 California schools (along with other states) “required elementary and middle schools to stop providing soda or allowing it to be sold in school vending machines [and] the ban has now gone into effect for high schools as well”.  I fail to see how states passing bans on soda in schools is the beverage industry voluntarily changing to serve healthier options.  Furthermore, the juices that they are touting (in the video it is Odwala Strawberry C Monster) which you can see the label to the left, has 240 calories and 43g of sugar for a 12-oz serving.  Just for comparison a similar serving of regular coca-cola has 140 calories and 39g of sugar.  How is this juice low calorie or a better option then soda?

“All calories count, no matter where they come from, including Coca-cola and everything else with calories.  And if you eat and drink more calories then you burn off, you’ll gain weight.”  Of all the lines in this ad, this is the one with the most truth in it.  All calories count is the best advice for people trying to loose weight.  And the only gripe I have about coke saying this is that soda is about an empty as calories get.  The human body, while amazing, is very poor at judging calories consumed in liquid form, which is why you could drink a 500 calorie milkshake and not fill anywhere near as full as you do by eating a sandwich and some chips for the same number of calories.

The most striking feature of this ad, is that while the subject is looking at the obesity problem in America, there is not one obese person in this ad.  Coke made sure to include beautiful, healthy looking people (some may have been a little heavy), with BMIs in the normal range.  How are they helping this issue, by not showing the people that they are speaking of?

At the end of the day, I would rather eat a sandwich then drink a coke.  I would rather have a hamburger then a milkshake.  My calories are precious and I want them to make me full, so I will stick with tap water and tea and leave the calories on my plate.

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The Dreaded Holiday Pound

He said:

Alex and I have been talking about Thanksgiving coming up, and how you have to watch out for the weight you gain during the holidays.  Several articles and blogs have covered how you will gain weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas (I might even throw in Halloween if you’re a real candy junkie), but “The skinny on Holiday Weight Gain” from the New York Times does a good job of cutting between the myths and realities of the whole situation.

What I have gleaned from the readings I have done (and the NYT blog agrees), you will put on weight during this time of the year (it will vary for each person, but for most it will be one pound) and almost all adults do not end up getting rid of this weight.  The average adult gains two pounds a year, which means one whole pound is coming from a month long period of time.

Three things that I have done in the last year to combat the thanksgiving effect are:

1)      I use Thanksgiving as my free day for that week.  This way I don’t feel guilty about eating what I want, but it also makes sure that I don’t splurge before or after the holiday.

2)      Last year I did a three mile run in the morning before going to my sisters for dinner in the afternoon.   This year Alex, my cousin, and I are going to run a 10k in the morning before we go home to help cook.  A little calorie burn the morning of will put you ahead of curve and make you feel a little better about indulging at dinner.

3)      I don’t take leftovers home (except for maybe the carcass of the Turkey for some killer homemade soup).  This last one may be the most important in sticking to your diet in the days following the holiday.  If that half a pecan pie or tub of mashed potatoes aren’t in your house, you can’t eat them.

The above clip is from Mad Men, where Betty Draper has gained weight and is going to weight watchers.  This scene struck me a being very sad, because no one wants to be watching their weight on Thanksgiving when everyone else is indulging. I say have what you want, maybe don’t go back for seconds, and don’t feel bad about it.  It is one day, and if you are vigilant before and after, you can skip adding that dreaded holiday pound.

Happy Holidays!!

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Tis the Season….for hot milkshakes



I walked into Starbucks today to get my normal black coffee (a major step forward for me recently is to only order a Grande instead of the normal Venti I was going for, slightly patting myself on the back) and after the barista brought me my coffee proceeded to tell me about a holiday promotion that they are having until January 2 and gave me the foldout pictured below and above. 

Several things struck me about this encounter, the first being ‘why does this barista think that someone who ordered black coffee with no room wants to buy five hot milkshakes?’.  Looking at the particulars of this offer, you have to buy five of their specialty drinks before you can get a free drink (of any kind I think).

Looking at the four drinks that are part of this offer: Eggnog Latte, Gingerbread latte, Crème Brule latte, and the peppermint mocha, all of which are part of their espresso drinks.  From the chart below (which was pulled directly from the drink with the lowest calories would be a tall Gingerbread Latte coming in at only 190 calories (not bad, but have you seen a tall, one looks like a giant drinking out of a regular sized cup) and the worst being the Venti Eggnog Latte tipping the scale at a whopping 610 calories.

Even if one were to order the smallest drink with the least calories you would still be taking in an extra 925 calories (that would be the 950 for those lattes minus 5 calories per five cups of regular coffee).  ON the other side of the scale, if you ordered the worst drink you would consume an extra 3,025 calories, plus the extra drink you are going to get free.

Some of you might say so what to an extra 925 calories, but with Thanksgiving, Diwali, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Years, and Halloween right behind us, I don’t think any of us can afford any extra calories this time of year (more of this later about how the extra calories you consume on Thanksgiving can stick with you the rest of the year).

Is it too much to ask that Starbucks not temp us with special deals (really I have to buy five at least $3.00 drinks to get one free), advent calendars, cookies etc?  I just want a regular cup of coffee, no room, and nothing else, so please stop asking if there is anything else I want with my coffee.

Thank you.


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Day 189: The workout squeeze

He said:

I was talking with a friend over the weekend and he was lamenting the fact that a full day at work leaves little time for anything else, including exercise.  While I agreed with his gripe, I also commented that exercise couldn’t be looked at as a hobby, but instead had to be classified under bona fide necessity.

Trying to fit the gym, running, or any form of exercise routine into an already packed lifestyle can at first seem daunting.  Once your get off of work, most people only have five to six hours to get home, eat dinner, play with the dog, or do chores, before they have to get into bed and do it all over again.

The real mission is multitasking your exercise in with other activities you like to do.  I have audible (audio books) on my phone that I listen too while I bike, which lets me get my reading in for the day while on my way to work.  Of course the old standby of listening to music while exercising is good as well, but you could also pull that stationary bike out and ride for half an hour while you watch Mad Men.

What Alex and I do most weeks is make sure we have everything we need to make dinners in the house on the weekend, so that way dinner eat night is a snap.  I make a big stir-fry on Monday night, and it lasts me the rest of the week, and I mix and match that with a salad the next night and maybe a omelet or two when I get bored.  Pre-planning meals will save you time and it will also help you stick to your diet so you don’t end up eating a cheeseburger because there was nothing in the fridge at home.

When it comes to squeezing in exercise, just look at your normal routine and see where there are places you could cut a couple of minutes.  Only watch one TV show a night and DVR the other for the weekend.  Or just spend twenty minutes mindless checking your friends statuses on Facebook, and put the other ten towards a jog.

In the end, I told my friend that if you put two good days of an hour workout in during the week, you could supplement the other days with a quick twenty minute bike ride or jog and then one more workout on the weekend should do it.  Make it work for you, but just make sure you get it in.  After a couple of weeks, you will be surprised how you mange to fit exercise into your packed schedule and might even find you have more energy too!

Good Luck!!

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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!!