Archive for September 27, 2012

Moderation is Key…a guest post by Amy Neal

Here’s something that’s been rolling around in my head for a few days: What’s happened to moderation? Specifically, moderation in the way we eat.

Don’t get me wrong… I think healthy eating is important (although I often don’t do enough of it), but I can’t help but wonder what extreme eating habits will do to our thought processes in the long run.

Let me give you an example:

One day last week, I packed pretzel sticks in my daughter’s school lunch to go along with her wheat bread sandwich, apple, and water.

Nothing crazy unhealthy in that lunch, right?

But kids were begging her to share her pretzels because their mothers “don’t buy that kind of stuff.”

Pretzels?!  Really?

I don’t consider pretzels “health food,”  but I do think they are certainly a better alternative than something like Funyuns or Cool Ranch Doritos (not to mention a much better alternative when it comes to good breath for the rest of the day!).

My point here is not how good or bad pretzel sticks or any other foods are.  My point is this… when we totally deny ourselves or our kids anything—pretzels, cookies, soft drinks, chocolate cake, etc.—are we teaching anything about self-control or moderation?

I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to be able to control themselves and not go hog wild when the opportunity arises to drink a Coke or eat a piece of candy.  I want them to understand that eating a cookie is okay, but eating six cookies at a time is not.  I don’t want them to sit at the lunch table at school and beg other kids for some of their food because I “don’t buy that kind of stuff.”

And if they do beg for other people’s food at least let it be something good like a homemade chocolate chip cookie—not pretzel sticks, for crying out loud!

I guess ultimately what this all boils down to for me is that having self-control is important in all facets of life, and hopefully learning how to apply it to what we eat will carry over to the rest of our lives.

AMY NEAL is a 30-something, coffee loving, sun-seeking stay-at-home mother of three who is married to her high school sweetheart and lives in small town America.

You can take your Emmys and shove ’em up your …

Jena Malone taunts the mani-cam on E!


The Emmys were on this past Sunday, and, for the most part, it was more of the same old let’s-make-women-feel-bad-about-themselves crap.

The biggest offender was E! television’s new stiletto and mani-cams, the latter being a camera set at the end of a tiny red carpet that women could “walk” their nails down to show off their manicures.

It’s not enough that E! already has the Glam Cam 360-degree camera and the glam-o-strator? Now that have to add two more ways to scrutinize women’s looks? Is any part of a woman’s body safe? What will they have next? The vagina cam?

I mean, really.

To make matters worse, the broadcast ended when Homeland won best television drama, and the creator of Homeland thanked “all the wives” for their support.

All the wives, Homeland guy? Really?

As much as you might want it to be, you are not living on the set of Mad Men. It’s time for you and the Emmys to grow up.


Run free: why we should all run and walk and move as much as we can.

Next time you’re not sure you want to get up off the sofa to exercise, think about this…

There was a time when women weren’t free to exercise wherever and whenever they wanted.

In fact, women were still not welcome in the Boston Marathon as recently as 1967 (just three years before I was born).

That was the year Kathrine Switzer (pictured above) signed up for the Boston Marathon covertly (by using her initials rather than her whole name) and ran in the race. But while she was running, race director Jock Semple spotted her and tried to pull her out once he realized what she was doing.

According to Switzer, Semple “stopped the bus, jumped off, and ran after me. Suddenly I turned, and he just grabbed me and screamed at me, ‘Get the hell out my race and give me those numbers,’ and then he started clawing at me, trying to rip my numbers off. And he had the fiercest face of any guy I’d ever seen—and out of control really. I was terrified. All of a sudden my boyfriend, Big Tom, gave Jock the most incredible cross-body block that sent Jock flying.”*

(You can see Semple above chasing after Switzer like a madman above.)

After that, other runners protected Switzer, and she finished the marathon.

Not only that, Switzer went on to win the New York Marathon in 1974.

Women used to have to fight to be given the right to exercise and participate in athletic events. Don’t we owe it to women like Semple to exercise that right as often as we can?



You can see Kathrine Switzer’s story and more pictures from the marathon here

Let’s get even more physical

I recently joined a new Facebook group where people in my area can track their exercise. It’s called “Miles of Motivation,” and the idea is that you’ll be more motivated to exercise if you post your workouts in a public forum.

What has surprised me the most is how much other people exercise.

For years, I thought that by working out every day I was exercising way more than the average American. And though I still think I exercise more than the average American, I realize that I don’t even come close to exercising more than the average healthy American.

Because the people in “Miles of Motivation” aren’t just working out three times a week or even once a day like me.

No, these folks are pushing themselves way harder than that. They’re working out at least once a day and sometimes two or three times a day. Or they’re working out for hours instead of for just one hour. They’re walking a mile with the dog AND going for a run. They’re biking in the morning AND attending a boot camp class at night.

In the healthy living section of this site, I talk about the importance of working out more than once a day. What I’m seeing on “Miles of Motivation” is even more proof of the fact that if you want to be healthy, you’ve got to get your butt moving more than once a day.

The USTA and fattism: two things that shouldn’t go together

Taylor Townsend


The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has gone after the top-ranked women’s player on the junior circuit just because…wait for it…they think she’s fat.

Her name is Taylor Townsend, she’s sixteen, and she’s poised to be one of the next great American tennis heroes.

She’s also the number one junior women’s tennis player in the world—yes, I said in the world!—but the USTA thinks she needs to take a break to focus on her fitness. According to The Wall Street Journal, “Her coaches…told her this summer that they wouldn’t finance any tournament appearances until she makes sufficient progress in one area: slimming down and getting into better shape.”

Excuse me, what?

How can you be the number one tennis player in the world and not be fit enough to play tennis?

Sorry, but that logic just doesn’t make sense.

But the USTA does not agree, so they didn’t support Townsend’s trip to the US Open this year.

Townsend, who is 5’6″ and 170 pounds, didn’t let that stop her. When the USTA wouldn’t pay for her travel (which they normally do for players of her caliber), Townsend’s mother paid her daughter’s travel expenses and entrance fees out of her own pocket.

It ended up being a good decsion because Townsend won the doubles title, her third Grand Slam win—including winning the Australian Open in singles—this year.

So if Townsend keeps winning, why doesn’t the USTA want her to play?

Maybe it’s just me, but it sounds to me like a clear case of fattism.

As Serena Williams said, “Women athletes come in all different sizes and shapes and colours and everything.” And, of course, there’s a long history of large men being successful in the athletic arena. And that’s because muscle isn’t small. Muscle is big and thick and in your face.

Which is why the USTA has to get over their desire to try to fit all athletes—and by extension all people—into one skinny little box.

Talk about your cake and eat it too

It’s September 11th, and as a result, I thought it might be nice to focus on the positive.

The positive being dessert.

One of the things I believe most strongly about being healthy is that we have got to allow ourselves indulgences from time to time in order to stay both mentally and physically balanced. It’s so important to me that it’s number two on my list of steps for healthy living.

That’s why I was so happy tonight when I was leaving my boot camp class and a bunch of the other boot campers were recommending desserts to each other.

Not low-cal desserts. Just regular, old fashioned calorie-laden desserts.

These are women who burn about 700 calories in 45 minutes three times a week, and many of them are fit enough to appear on the cover of Shape magazine. But they were recommending desserts to each other.

It all came up because one of them is hitting a local festival this weekend and mentioned that she’s really looking forward to eating an elephant ear. That led to a conversation about elephant ears, which led to a conversation about where to get the best red velvet cake (Noshville in Nashville, Tennessee), which led to a discussion of a hard-to-find red velvet ice cream, which led to a discussion of Graeter’s ice cream now being available in most grocery stores.

In other words, it was a dessert love fest.

As I started to head home, it hit me—this is what being healthy means. It doesn’t mean denying ourselves the good things in life—be they red velvet ice cream or forty-five minutes of planking and push-ups. But it does mean finding a balance between those two extremes.


Same old story—diets don’t work.

I heard a story tonight that I have to share.

I went to hear Neil White talk about his memoir, A Sanctuary of Outcasts, in which he details his time in a Louisiana prison that also served as a leprosy colony.

White told stories about several of the other prisoners, and one stuck with me…the man who was convicted after he founded Physician’s Weight Loss Clinic. Apparently, this moneygrubber learned in med school that the Russians had created a drug called “DNP” that raised the body temperature of Russian solders in order to keep them warm during the colder months. DNP also increased their metabolic rate, so the Russian soldiers lost weight.

This told White’s fellow inmate that he could sell DNP to help overweight people lose weight fast, especially since people will pay anything to be thin.

The only problem was that the product hadn’t been approved by the FDA, leading to a 48-million dollar fraud and his imprisonment.

The whole story reminded me yet again what I’ve known for years…diets don’t work and most diet programs are complete scams.

If you haven’t given up dieting yet, let this be the story to convince you. Diets are unhealthy, they cause you to gain weight in the long run, and increase obesity among all Americans.

Enough said.

She works hard for her money…
but lets her health go a little bit too

I’ve had a challenging few days…

…this weekend I put the “labor” back in Labor Day, reading almost fifty short stories, reading and writing a review of a dense novel for the local paper, reading half of another novel I’m teaching this week, and prepping for all of my classes. All that was on top of regular life stuff like laundry and cooking and grocery shopping.

This meant my resolve to be healthy slipped a little bit.

I still worked out at least 45 minutes a day (barely making it to that minimum), but I also got less sleep than I should almost every night and ate two meals in front of the TV over the course of the holiday weekend (because it felt like the only time I could watch TV) and ate more than I should when I did eat in front of the TV.

(Incidentally, the latter told tell me that giving up eating in front of screens—which I did a few months ago—was one of the smartest things I could do for my body, and that I must stick to it even if it means giving up TV completely for days at a time when I’m overwhelmed with work.)

Now that I’m back on top of my workload, I’ll be able to avoid these bad habits and tow the healthy line more fully.

But I’m still frustrated.

I’m frustrated because I wonder if there will ever be a time when I don’t give into bad habits when I get busy. Will I ever maintain my resolve to live healthy when the going gets tough?

Sometimes I think that if I can’t do this—if I can’t be healthy when it’s hard to be healthy—that I’ll never be as happy as I could be.

So it is with renewed resolve that I go to bed tonight, ready to fight tomorrow for the discipline to be healthy all the time—even when I don’t have the time or energy to be.

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