Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Missing the Farm-to-Work Program

This year, many of local Texas farmers have been suffering during this severe drought.  When I say suffering, I mean that their harvests have been smaller than the norm and certain programs that they rely on have had to back away until some well needed rain occurs.  Central Texas may have had rain at least one day in each of the last six weeks, but it doesn't even make a dent in the drought that we've been dealing with.  Where I live, we're still in a stage II watering restriction, which means watering twice a week, no new landscaping, no filling swimming pools, and no park irrigation.  It's been looking pretty brown, until the weeds took over a few weeks ago.

Anyway, back to our farmers.  At work, they have suspended our Farm-to-Work (FTW) program because the farmers were not producing enough vegetables or fruits for our demand.  This program was a super easy way for me to get new types of vegetables into my body, but I have to seek other mechanisms now.  Luckily, not to long ago, a local farm, Johnson's Backyard Garden (JBG), was advertising it's Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program through Groupon which eliminated the setup fees, so I took advantage.  Not only can you choose to have the baskets delivered straight to your home door, for a cheaper price, you can pick them up at a variety of drop-off locations (e.g., farmers' markets or houses which have volunteered to be a drop location).  In addition to just the vegetables, you can also get eadd-ons on an as-needed basis:  coffee, vegetable starters for your garden, eggs (which I have plenty of since I own chickens), oranges, and grapefruit - all organic.  Who wouldn't want to support a local farmer if the convenience is there?

Yes, my farm-to-work program is cheaper than JBG, but I have to consider two things:  1) Starting in about two months, my job moves downtown and therefore it'd be more difficult to get to the farmer's market that I would normally pick a JBG box up.  Also, with the job move, even if the FTW program was still going, I would have to go to the main campus for the pickup, and I'd have to do it by 4:00pm.  That's not going to happen.  So I like the possibility of getting the vegetables home delivered.  2) The FTW program is not certified organic.  I know this means very little since most local farmers cannot afford to get the stamp of certification; I've talked to a number of them at local farmers' markets.  My lawn, garden, compost, chickens, etc. are all organic.  I use very little pesticides and when I have companies come spray for ants and bugs, it's all organic and natural.  After my environmental health class back in 2003, I don't want to expose myself or anybody I live with to unnecessary chemicals that can cause cancer or other illnesses.  It's not for me.

Lastly, for those who live in the Austin, please consider supporting our local stores, venues, and farmers by purchasing a Go Local Card.  I fully believe if we begin to grown and support our local businesses, then perhaps our economy will strengthen.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

I was a crazy genius at one point...

I was a crazy genius at one point in my life; I'd say it was about two years during the period that I was losing the most weight.  How could I have forgotten such simplistic rules I created to help overcome certain lethargic ways?  On my way into work, I could not help but recollect the ways I used to maneuver to trick myself into doing things that I just didn't like to do.  I'm talking about things I loathe doing - revolving stairs, running, jumping jacks, sweating, eating greens, making protein shakes, etc.  Some of those things I hated because they were just difficult and made my muscles sore, while others made me envious.  I am quite sure that does not make any sense, but let me try and explain.  This fat woman, being me, envies those who can just run.  I have so many stressful days in which I just want to go outside and run out all the emotional and physical pain, but I cannot do so because of my weight.  Many people do not understand this about fat people; we want to do things, but we are trapped in pounds and pounds of fat.  This envy sometimes turns into fear (of failure) or hate (the easiest form envy can take) or self-defamation (so easy to be negative when everybody else is), and you have nowhere to hide because it is in your head just screaming to get out.  All I want to do is run and leave the world behind sometimes when it gets this crazy, but I cannot because of the years of neglect.  Walking just is not enough.  And what is worse, to be completely and utterly honest to all you strangers reading this blog, is when I am on a trail doing interval training or walking and I get encouraged by a stranger.  I know everybody is different, but I despise this because you do not know me, you do not know what I have been through, and you have no right to assume that I am going to fail again.  The only people I want encouraging me is my close network of friends that I truly value, and I hope they know I love them and value them.

I am going to get of my soap box to get back to the point of this post.  Matt (my previous trainer) always said, "You think too much.  Just do it."  The weight loss has always been a mental game, and I was winning at one point!  What changed and how do I go back!?!?!?!?!  Well first, I need to wake up the sun, so I need to back to tricking my body that the sun is up when my alarm goes off.  I used to do this with a timer on my nightstand light, but now that my outlets are covered, I need to get me one of these sunrise alarm clocks.  Second, since school and work puts me working strange hours, I need to bring my gym bag up to the office space with me and change before I leave the office.  The chances are, if I am dressed to go to the gym, I will go to the gym.  Lastly, my new trainer is all about measure progress, so hopefully if I continue to do those things I hate at the gym, these exercises will get easier and before I know it, maybe I will like them.  All you need is a little bit of hope.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Christina Perri - A Thousand Years

Since it's Valentine's Day, I have to choose a song that's a bit sentimental to me right now.  Christina Perri's song "A Thousand Years" is just beautiful.  If you have not listened to it, you just might want to.

Monday, February 13, 2012

AeroShots - A Scary Concept in Multiple Ways

A few days ago, AeroShots came to surface in the market as *the* new product to use for a caffeine boost.  As a full time doctoral student and a full time employee, I know what "tired" is, and quite honestly, as a behavioral epidemiologist, this new product scares me.  The product is being marketed to multiple types of people including: 

1) Those who are worried about energy drink calories (it's a "calorie free" product). 
2) Those who are just too busy (who isn't) with their "Anytime, Anyplace" slogan.  Since this product appears to have been created in the ArtScience Labs, the main focus is on urban teenagers and university students.
3) It's chapstick looking container, nobody would know what you are using; it's a private matter anyway (almost like a drug in my opinion). 

On the FAQ page of this product, I found some interesting facts that are even more alarming.  The nutritional content includes "a mix of caffeine, B vitamins, sweeteners, and other ingredients:  natural lime flavor, citric acid, and sodium bicarbonate.  It does not contain the mystery chemicals found in some other energy products.  Note:  AeroShot may contain traces of soy and wheat."  I wonder what other ingredients they might be forgetting to list here?  And sweeteners?  Well a lot of research exists concerning these things, with conflicting information, of course, but none-the-less, one may want to consider limiting his/her exposure to them.  The site does recommend that children not use this product, but as we know with energy drinks, not much regulation has occurred on limiting the number of energy drinks a child can or should consume.  I'm amazed at how early children start with caffeine these days; do they have that much pressure in their lives?  My parents did not really allow me to drink coffee until I was 16 or 17, and even then, it was me testing what I liked and what I didn't like.  One study found that 75% of the children surveyed had consumed caffeine daily, which negatively affected their sleep patterns.  Get rid of the caffeine, get healthy children?

I'm also curious about the inhalation process; I'm assuming it speeds up the process of ingestion, but I could be wrong.  I didn't see anything about what is recommended as in a time frame between hits, the website only states that they recommend only using up to three AeroShots per day.  I suppose it wouldn't be a huge issue only because if each AeroShot is equivalent to a large cup of coffee, I know a number of people who exceed that within a couple of hours.  Again, I just wonder if digesting a powder would be any different than drinking a liquid.  I wish the Federal Drug Administration regulated supplements; this is something I have been wanting since I was a 23 and in my masters program in which I researched supplements in my environmental class.  Perhaps someday.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Pork Chop Cacciatore (Crock Pot)

6 bone-in pork loin chops (7 ounces each)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water, divided
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4.5 cupes cooked egg noodles (I used whole wheat)

1.  Sprinkle chops with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, brown chops in oil in batches.
2.  Transfer to a 4-5 quart slow cooker coated with cooking spray.
3.  Saute the mushrooms, onion, celery, and green pepper in drippings until tender.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.  Stir in tomatoes, 1/4 cup water, basil, and remaining salt; poor over chops.
4.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or until pork is tender.  Remove meat to a serving platter and keep warm.
5.  Skim fat from cooking juices if necessary; transfer juices to a small saucepan.  Bring liquid to a boil. 
6.  In a bowl, combine cornstarch and remaining water until smooth.  Gradually stir into the pan.  Bring to boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. 
7.  Serve gravy with meat and cooked noodles.

Nutrition Facts
Serving:  1 pork chop with 3/4 cup noodles and 1/2 cup sauce
Calories:  371
Total Fat:  12 g
Saturated Fat:  4 g
Cholesterol:  110 mg
Sodium:  458 mg
Carbohydrates:  29 g
Fiber:  3 g
Protein:  35 g

Diabetic Exchanges:  4 lean meat, 1.5 starch, 1 vegetable, 1/2 fat.

Friday, February 10, 2012

School Meals Are Getting a Makeover!

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), on January 26, 2012, the final rule on changing the nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs was approved. 
"Through the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act championed by the First Lady and signed by President Obama, USDA is making the first major changes in school meals in 15 years, which will help us raise a healthier generation of children."  (FDA, 2012)
Yeah!  It is about time!  And, on top of everything, the implementation is gradual for the breakfast program, whereas the school lunch program is expected to start next school year (SY 2012-2013) for most of the new requirements!   I'm Jamie Oliver is excited for the changes, but would it be enough for him?

In my opinion, that is only step one.  Next up, we need to work on physical fitness and health education in the schools.  I'm not sure about other states, but in Texas, health education is no longer required (as of 2009) and schools/school districts have the option of axing it for other requirements.  This is concerning because health class covers basic nutrition, alcohol awareness, and sexual education.  Even in school districts didn't want to have the discussion of some of these issues, at least have class on nutrition; it's greatly needed in this society!  That same year, one semester of physical education was "removed from the state's recommended high school program" (Huffington Post, 2011).  Apparently these modifications are to allow students to take courses that interest them, but sometimes we have to do things we don't like to, that's what growing up is about.  None-the-less, when I was in high school in Massachusetts, we had a lot of flexibility in what we wanted to do in physical education; we always had 2-3 options:  basketball or volleyball; football, golf, or ultimate frisbee; racquetball or weight training; soccer or lacrosse; etc.  What they could have done better was require us to take different sports in physical education so we could find something that we liked and stuck with throughout the years of growing up and going to college.  Our children deserve to have the best lives possible and that is not sitting in a chair or on a couch all day; it's about being outside and having fun without worrying about being made fun of.  So I say, this is one great step forward, the change in nutrition standards for school breakfast and lunch programs!  I just wish some of the items were to be implemented sooner than 2017 or 2022... (USDA Timeline)

Friday, February 03, 2012

Austin Coffee Places

I get frustrated when I see articles like this after I sign out of my yahoo e-mail account: The Best Independent Coffee Shops in Austin, Texas.  Seriously?  Who paid him to pick those coffee places?  (As a side note, that is why you will not find ads on my blog.  Nobody is paying me to have space on my site.)  None-the-less, he seemed to have forgotten that Austin doesn't end at the University of Texas, but rather it extends to the northern sector as well.  Here's a non-hipster's list of coffee places in and around Austin.

1.  Epoch:  By far this is the coffee shop to go to.  Epoch is open 24/7, has plenty of seating, a great patio, and lots of power outlets throughout the coffee shop.  Not to mention, the people who work here are super friendly and just so easy going.  I can't speak highly enough.

2.  Kick Butt Coffee - at the Triangle.  They do have one additional store on Airport, but I've never been to that location.  I'm surprised have few people know about this place.  It is never super packed and I can find a seat to get homework done with no problem.  Kick Butt Coffee does hold open mics, which can be rather entertaining.

3.  Dominican Joe Coffee Shop is located on South Congress and Riverside.  Now that I live just outside the city, it's a bit more difficult to get down there to hang out, but it was a great place to hang out with friends or grab a coffee to extend a date.

4.  Green Muse Cafe has a great atmosphere, but can be a hit or miss.  The coffee is great and the patio has a decent lay out.  Sometimes you can find seating, sometimes you can't.  Sometimes the barista is a socializer, sometimes he/she does his/her job.  I only shy away from it because it's so far south from where I work and live.

5.  Scooter Coffee House should have better hours, but they could be much worse!  It is always quiet when I go there to study, and they play halfway decent music.  And surprisingly, they have a drive-through!

6.  Halcyon - Don't even bother after the makeover.  It lost all it's flavor.

7.  Mozart's Coffee Roasters feels like a tourist trap half the time.  Great patio and atmosphere, though.

8.  I haven't been to Austin Java in quite some time, but I've been to a couple different locations.  One was for a book club that I participated in and the other was for local live music (the patio was nice).  I'm not sure how great it would be to get school work done.

9.  La Tazza Fresca is the place to socialize, especially since it's sort of close to the university.  I have never seen it quiet and more often than not, I get stuck studying at the bar.  I'm not complaining, but sometimes it's a bit loud and not for somebody who really needs to get work done, but would prefer to socialize with a friend or two, or make a friend or two.

10.  Spider House is overrated in my opinion.  I've been once and wasn't impressed.  It was crowded and way too busy.  Perhaps it's a bit better with the new acquisition, but I have no desire to go back, and the bus goes past it on my way to school from work.

As you can tell from the above, I've been to many different coffee places throughout Austin, north, south, and central.  I know many people have a variety of tastes when it comes to coffee and atmosphere, and hopefully one of the above will work for you even if it may not have fit my personality.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Physical Activity Thoughts

I met with Brant, my new trainer, today.  The first day is always the most nerve-wracking because you don't know what his training style will be like and whether or not there will be chemistry to optimize your success in reaching your goals.  Yes, I'm still a bit nervous, but I know he's the right trainer for me.  I knew a year ago when I attempted my half marathon and Brant rode his bike as I jogged perhaps a mile.  He was at the half/full marathon to encourage his clients, so that told me Brant was a trainer that wasn't in it for a paycheck, but because he cared.  None-the-less, when Brant and I chatted today, he said something along the lines that coming to the gym should not stress me out since he knows I have limited time.  He's right.  When did going to the gym stress me out?  It is time consuming, and I'm super busy with working and going to school full time, but in the end, it should not stress me out.  Back when I lost a lot of weight, I liked going to the gym; I felt great starting my day off at the gym or on the trail.  Fitness helped me sleep better at night and kept me focused during the day; it allowed me to take work stresses out.  So a new quote of mine is, "Physical activity should not stress me out; it should reduce stress."  I will not get the best workout possible if I'm anxious or stressed out at the gym because I have a thousand and one other things to do, so therefore I need to make it a priority in my schedule again.  Brant also wants me to pick a target race, probably a 10K to train for, some time this fall; I think he wants me to nail that half marathon eventually just to show myself that I can fail, but then then eventually I can conquer.  Too bad I'm Miss Negative when it comes to that, but perhaps he'll make be a believer.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

All or Nothing

After much thinking last night, I have realized that I'm an "all or nothing" kind of girl in almost anything that I do.  If I'm not "all in," I'm definitely not "in" even at a "luke warm" rate.  If that makes any sense.  But I was going through same examples in my head, and I definitely see a pattern:

When I lost the most weight, I was all in.  When I gained the most weight back, it's because I didn't do anything to help me succeed.

I was all in when I trained for the half marathon.  Probably why it was devastating to me not to finish, and feel like a loser in the process.  

I am at my best when I'm "All In" with my faith as a Christian.  Life just seems easier. 

Relationships - those that I invest in, I'm all in.  It's why I have so few close friends; I won't be fake with you.  Those that I love, I will lie my life down for.

So when it comes to me...I'm all in.  I'm going to focus on me and my health; nobody else will.  I deserve it.  If it means counting calories the rest of my life, I have to be okay with doing so.  I have to lay down my pride and just admit that I just may never be able eat anything and everything like so many people can.  God has to have a plan in all of this.  He just has to.