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Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Goes Around, Comes Around

A departure from my usual health topics today because sometimes things need to be discussed.  While on my power walk with Molly this morning, a neighbor stopped me to ask if I knew anyone who might want a dog.  Apparently, somebody had dropped a pair of Rottweiler's and one mixed breed puppy at his house.  The Rottweiler puppies were very shy but looked healthy and surprisingly well bred.  The other pup was no where to be seen at the moment.

I told my neighbor I would do something about the dogs so I marched home.  A couple of quick phone calls and the dogs were picked up within the hour by Animal Control.  They may already have a new home as someone who works in my husband's office was looking to adopt at least one dog.

I firmly believe that what you do in this life matters.  When you do something bad, it will come back to haunt you.  You can't foist off your problems onto someone else.  A lifetime of bad decisions and actions will take a toll on your mental health sooner or later.  By stepping up and taking responsibility for your own life decisions, you will feel more positive about yourself than by taking the easy way out.  Help is out there if you just ask.

So the topic of a trio of abandoned dogs applies to all areas of life.  They represent responsibility, stress, and even love and attachment.  How you approach these areas of your life will ultimately affect your mental and physical health.  So if you have a problem that you have ignored for far too long, spend some time this weekend in soul searching and decide on a solution.  Finally dealing with the problem will give you peace, a sense of accomplishment and make you stronger.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back Home

Well here I am, back home and you may be wondering if I gained any weight on our trip or if I'll admit it if I did.  You know I love to make confessions so here it is: I gained almost 2 more pounds by drinking the daily martini and having dessert, even if only half, every day.  There is a great lesson to be learned here: you just can't eat whatever you want, whenever  you want, without consequences.

To be honest, I was glad it wasn't more but no more excuses.  Time to lose at least 6 pounds and get back to my normal weight.  I haven't the stamina to follow the 17 Day Diet Plan as is.  Besides, my family won't want to eat that way and I'm sure not about to cook 2 meals each night.  So my plan is to follow the diet for  breakfast and lunch and snacks.  At dinner I plan to cook pretty much my usual fare but I'm going to be sure to have plenty of vegetables and lean protein.  I've had eggs for breakfast the past two days, vegetable soup yesterday and a green salad with chicken, broccoli, avocado and carrots today for lunch.  I've gotten plenty of water for me but not the eight glasses Dr. Moreno wants me to drink.  Last night we had chicken stir fry with cabbage, carrots, onion and sweet peppers while tonight it's pork chops, potatoes and carrots cooked in the crock pot with beef broth and seasonings.  My portions at dinner have been pretty small and I'm trying to avoid the carbs I love so much.  The results are that I've already dropped almost a pound since getting home on Saturday.

I have the terrible feeling that I'm really getting to the age when adding weight will be so much easier than losing it.  But that is no excuse for giving up and throwing in the towel.  If it's not too much trouble to take good care of your house or your car because they are expensive investments, then it's not too much trouble to take good care of the only body you'll ever have.

I'm also back to my regular exercise routine but I plan to step it up.  Every day I clean the barn, then three days a week I lift weights and do various exercises and stretches and three days a week I dance or do other cardio plus stretches.  Now that it's warmer, Molly dog and I are really going to take some power walks and swim season is just around the corner so I can swim laps.  Maybe I'll even scour the town for a good place to ride my bicycle.

The point is to exercise and eat better because it makes you feel good.  Use any excuse you need, swim suit season, a class reunion or to make your ex jealous because you look so good.  Just do it.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Food Allergies

Food allergies is a pretty big topic.  Most of you are probably acquainted with someone who is severely allergic to peanuts and know that an allergic reaction can result in death.  My discussion is limited to adult food allergies, the symptoms, the most common allergy producing foods, and treatment.  I had an allergic reaction after eating scallops the other day.  I've known for sometime that I'm allergic to shrimp but I've never had a problem with other shellfish.  Fortunately, I just broke out in hives which went away after taking Benedryl.  I'll be avoiding shellfish in the future as I don't want to see if the next reaction is worse.

Shellfish, nuts, fish, eggs and peanuts are the most common causes of food allergies in adults.  The symptoms may occur in minutes or within an hour or so of eating.  Symptoms include itching around the mouth, hives all over the body, asthma, difficulty swallowing or breathing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or most severe, anaphylaxis.  In an anaphylactic reaction, you experience a rapid, severe drop in blood pressure.  Other symptoms are dizziness, tightness in the chest, a rapid pulse, fainting and trouble breathing. 

Food allergies can begin at any time.  I always loved shrimp as a child and it wasn't until my twenties that I finally had a reaction.  I ate shrimp a few more times and finally quit after having the same reaction each time.  I did continue to eat other shellfish without any problems until Tuesday.  About an hour after dinner, welts starting popping up and quickly spread all over.  It itched badly and one eye was swollen.

The treatment is simple; don't eat whatever causes your allergy.  This may mean you have to carefully read all ingredient lists and be careful in restaurants.  Benedryl will help with swelling, hives and itching.  See a doctor or seek help immediately if someone has trouble breathing or swallowing.  Once you've had an anaphylactic reaction, you need to wear a medical ID bracelet and carry an Epipen at all times in case of another episode.

Hopefully, you will never have any food problems but be aware of the symptoms.  I will miss eating shellfish terribly. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Break

As I write this morning, I am on spring break vacation with my children.  If you remember, I confessed a couple of weeks ago that I had put on some weight due to eating too much "good" food.  Now here I am on vacation which always includes eating more than usual at our favorite restaurants.  I'm sorry to say that I had not lost any weight prior to leaving but not because I didn't exercise or try to eat better.  My goal this week is to not gain any more.  Will that be possible?  I don't know but I have exercised even more than at home.  Yesterday we went on an hour long bike ride.  I wish we had bike paths or safer places to ride in Jonesboro.  My whole family loves to bike on vacation but we don't at home because there is no convenient or safe place to bike.  I'm not keen on the idea of my family pedaling down one of the main roads in Jonesboro, battling traffic.  It was a good workout because I sure felt it in my gluts and thighs.  I would love to add cycling to my regular routine.  Maybe someday.............

In addition to working out, I have tried to watch the calories some.  I've eaten a lean breakfast every morning and tried to cut back on portions.  I've had more water each day than I drink at home and watched the snacking.  I've had fish every day and plenty of fruit and vegetables while avoiding too much cheese and heavy sauces.  Still I've not been that good.  I can't resist having a martini with dinner but only one.  I also have split dessert every night with someone.  We'll find out the results when I get home since there are no scales here.

I was recently asked to review a book for the blog - The 17 Day Diet by Dr. Mike Moreno.  Read the full review on but I think it is a worthwhile diet plan if you are really dedicated to improving your lifestyle.  If you are looking for a miracle in a week, skip it.  When I get home, I think I shall try it to knock off those 5 or 6 lbs I want so badly to banish by giving the 17 Day Diet a try.

I hope you will survive your spring break trips or upcoming vacations without gaining too much weight by keeping up with some exercise and watching what you eat if only a little bit.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Good Mental Health

I've been thinking about the tsunami and all the Japanese who suddenly lost family members and about my brother in law Hugh, who just passed away.  Mental health is a key component of your overall health and our relationships with others play an important supporting role in our sense of self worth.  Sad that it takes a tragedy to wake us up and make us remember how important our loved ones are.  Spend some time with someone you love today.  Let them know how special they are to you; it will benefit you both.

Poor mental health such as depression or anxiety can affect your sleep, energy level and cause you to have digestive problems.  People who have a more positive outlook often recover better from illnesses.  Pour yourself into developing better relationships and use a little less energy on your career.  You'll never regret time spent with family and friends but you will regret being a workaholic at some point.

From the number of people who attended his funeral and visitation, it is obvious that Hugh payed attention to his relationships.  But don't wait till the funeral and tell the relatives how great someone was and how much they meant to you, let that person know today.  For today, put aside petty grievances and just enjoy your family.  That doesn't mean you should work at bad or harmful relationships.  Trying to maintain a relationship with someone who hurts you can damage your mental health and physical health.

The weekend is upon us and the weather where I live promises to bring a touch of spring.  Spend time with loved ones but also consider spending some time helping others.  That too, will do your mental health a world of good.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mixing and Matching Is Good

You know how excited I get when I find a great recipe so here we go.  My sister gave me a copy of the Food Network magazine for March where I saw an article on Mix and Match Baked Pasta.  I liked the concept of picking your favorite pasta, making a basic tomato sauce, picking mix-ins from meat to vegetables, adding flavorings and cheeses.  Check out the magazine for further inspiration but here is the formula I used with a twist of my own.  I even gave it a name because it was a huge hit with my family.

Mama Mia's Baked Pasta
1 16 oz. package bow tie pasta
1 35 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
4 Tbsp. olive oil
4 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup water
sweet Italian sausage
2 Tbsp. low fat cream cheese
1 medium zucchini, sliced thin
1 6 oz. package fresh spinach
1 bunch parsley
1 package basil
1/2 cup low fat, low salt cottage cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Remove casings from sausage and brown in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Rinse, drain and place in a 13X9 baking dish that has been lightly greased.  Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and add to meat in dish.  Meanwhile, reuse skillet to brown zucchini in 2 Tbsp. of oil.  When lightly browned, add to meat in baking dish.  Heat  remaining oil in skillet and saute garlic until fragrant.  Add tomatoes, crushing them with your fingers as you add them to the pan.  Add water and 2 Tbsp. of cream cheese.  Stir in fresh spinach and let simmer.  Using a food processor, process the basil, parsley and cottage cheese until chopped and blended.  Stir into sauce.  Pour sauce over pasta mixture and mix well.  Top with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly.

While this recipe isn't hard, it does have several steps but it was worth it.  I'd serve this with a salad and bread to any guests; it is that good.  The twist I used was the cottage cheese to make the sauce a bit creamier without the fat cheese would have added.  Since there were so many nice vegetables in it, I didn't feel the need for a side, I just served bread.  Give this recipe a try this weekend and see if you don't like it too.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Comforting Soup For Cold Spring Nights

It's not quite spring yet though some days are warm and sunny with flowers poking up and other days are gloomy and a bitter wind whips through your hair.  If you are tired of the same old food, try this easy soup to warm up.  It has a pleasant texture and mild taste

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
1 package long grain and wild rice mix
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 lb. sliced fresh mushrooms
1 1/4 cups chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cans chicken broth
1/2 tsp. tarragon
1/4 tsp. thyme
dash of pepper
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk

Prepare rice according to package directions omitting butter.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan saute chicken, mushrooms, onions and garlic in oil until chicken is no longer pink and vegetables are tender.
Add the prepared rice, broth and spices and bring to a boil.  Combine cornstarch and evaporated milk until smooth and stir into soup.  Return soup to a boil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until slightly thickened.

 You can find reduced fat or no fat evaporated milk to cut the fat content of this soup.  Serve with a nice whole grain bread and a salad to get in those servings of vegetables.

I'm happy to report that after the turmoil of the last few weeks, my husband is making an effort to get back on track with his exercise.  He did his weight workout yesterday and should make it again on Friday.  I believe that unless you do some sort of manual labor you really need to add weights to your workout routine.  Keeping those muscles toned and fit not only makes you look better, but it increases the amount of  calories you burn daily.  Also, fit people are less prone to accidents.

This weekend women can attend the Women's Health Conference at the Southwest Church of Christ starting at 8 a.m.  There will be several free health screenings plus several informational sessions to attend.  This health fair is sponsored in part by Cardiology Associates.  It's a great opportunity to check on the status of your health.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tough Time For The Cardiologist's Wife: A Confession

I make confessions about our problems from time to time to encourage you.  I want people to understand that we are not perfect; we don't always eat right and we certainly don't always exercise enough.  We fall off the wagon but we get right back on.  We keep striving for our goals and working to maintain our health.

So here is my latest confession.  With all the parties we've had to attend lately, plus Hugh's funeral, I've been eating poorly, not getting enough exercise and yep, I've gained 5 pounds.  I am not happy.  Spring break is two weeks away and I am not in swim suit shape.  I weigh myself every day to keep track of my weight.  Your weight will fluctuate even over a 24 hour period so you should weigh yourself at the same time of day.  I don't worry when I'm a pound or two over my ideal but anymore I consider to be a trend in the wrong direction.  I think weighing myself every day is a good motivator and a way to stop problems before they bloom into disasters.

Funerals are not good places to count calories.  Right after the visitation, I walked right into a wonderful spread prepared by friends and neighbors.  I was so hungry that I ate a piece of pound cake as an appetizer.    (As did several others I might add.)  Then I ate a plate of deliciously cheesy chicken spaghetti, green beans, roast pork and fresh fruit.  After dinner we sat around several tempting desserts, trying to ignore them and talk anyway.  It was truly pointless.  I had a piece of very moist blueberry cake.

After the funeral, the kind ladies of the church had lunch waiting on us.  Southern women know comfort food and these ladies had an assortment of casseroles, ham, fried chicken, breads, salads and desserts that would lead anyone into temptation.  I did limit myself to one dessert, but barely.

The next two days included an engagement party and a birthday party with plenty of cake and tempting treats.  My sister just had to make a new cake and trot it over to our house to try.  It has truly been a difficult time to watch the calorie count. But I'm back on track, eating better and plunging into the exercise.  For a few days, I'll try to cut back on portions to help loose that 5 pounds.  I'll have to be extra careful this coming weekend as I'll be at a three day swim meet in Little Rock.  Not only does that mean lots of sitting while Grace swims but I'll be too close for comfort to the best bakery in all of Arkansas.  Nobody ever said life is easy.