Meditate to Activate?


A funny thing happened at the gym the other day.

I caught myself smiling as I pounded the elliptical.  In fact, this has been happening all week.

That’s not all.  These days, I’m actually looking forward to going to the gym.  It’s something I want to do.  And in just the last week, my workouts have become more intense.  I’m working out longer — 45 minutes as opposed to 35 — and at higher levels of difficulty.  Also, I’m not checking the clock every five minutes to see how much longer I have to endure.

So I asked myself:  Self, what gives?

I think the answer is:  Meditation.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been meditating nearly every day, anywhere from 10 to about 45 minutes, depending on how much time I have and my powers of concentration at the moment.  I took up meditation a little over five years ago, but haven’t been practicing with any real dedication or discipline until fairly recently.

I know it’s made a big difference in my emotional health.  And, although I can’t prove it, I think it’s making a difference in my physical well-being as well.



The Price of Spontaneity

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Banh mi: The Vietnamese po' boy

Spontaneity is the quality of being able to do something just because you feel like it at the moment, of trusting your instincts, of taking yourself by surprise and snatching from the clutches of your well-organized routine a bit of unscheduled pleasure.

— Richard Iannelli  (Don’t ask me who he is; I have no idea, but I like the quote.)

 Enjoy every sandwich.

— Warren Zevon

The other day my brother Jeff came over to my apartment to help me out with some fix-it type chores.  Wait, no, he didn’t help — he did the chores while I watched (until I got bored).

Before launching in, we wanted a quick lunch, but I had nothing in the refrigerator, so I suggested nipping down the block to Henry’s for a couple of banh mi sandwiches.  Banh mi is like a Vietnamese po’ boy: a fresh demi-baguette filled with julienned pickled carrots, daikon radish, cucumber, cilantro, sliced jalapeño pepper, paté, mayonnaise, siracha sauce and various meat-like options, such as pork, grilled chicken, Vietnamese salami, sardines, tofu, etc.  It ranges in spiciness from not to very, depending on your personal preference (of course, I like it hot!).

IMHO, it is absolutely delicious.  I got hooked on banh mi last fall while doing a culinary walking tour of Chinatown, where there is good banh mi to be found.

So nip down the block we did, where we picked up a couple of banh mi sandwiches with grilled chicken.  Back at my place, we devoured them with a lovely Grüner Veltliner.


Week Whatever: Progress Is Slow!


This is me not obsessing about my weight.

It’s been a while since I posted, due to a combination of frustration, embarrassment and, oddly enough, hope — hope that, if I wait one more day or one more week, I’ll have lost a couple more pounds that I can report.  And I have lost a little bit since my last post about two weeks ago (that was Week 9, making this Week 11).  I weighed in at 179.5 this morning, down 2 pounds, but still above my low, 177.5, about six weeks ago, before my whirlwind wining-and-dining tour of such exotic locales as San Juan and Cleveland.

Honestly, I thought I would be further along on the weight loss journey by now.  I thought I would have lost much more.  Five-and-a-half pounds isn’t much to show for 11 weeks of effort.

Deep down, though, I know I haven’t been trying hard enough.  The ugly truth is that I hate dieting, although Weight Watchers very deliberately bills itself as a plan, not a diet.  Still, it comes down to eating less overall and especially less of certain things that I enjoy very much, like wine, cheese, anything salty and crunchy … I could go on, but you get the picture.


Week 9: Getting My Mojo Back!


Where have I been the last six weeks?  Seems like  here, there and everywhere.  Not that it’s been terrible, mind you.  You can’t really complain when you’re flitting about to places like San Francisco, LA, San Juan and DC.  (You could grouse a bit about Cleveland, Ohio,  but it was my own idea to go there for work, so I can’t.)

The point is that I haven’t had much of a routine lately.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I have strayed from my mission.  You know, the whole losing 30 by 50 thing?

Which is why I am where I am today: 181.5 pounds.  That’s a full 4 pounds over what I weighed three weeks ago, when I was 177.5.  So my net loss after nine weeks is only 3.5 pounds.  Not very impressive. 

Not that I am surprised, given what I’ve been doing — and not doing — lately.

And yet, I have to tell you that I am not discouraged either.  Now that I am back home, with no looming travel obligations, I am psyched to be in my routine again. 


The HCG Starvation/Pregnant Women Urine Hormone Crash Diet: Seriously?


So your best friend’s getting married in six weeks and you want to look hot in the cleavage-baring, spandex-like dress that Ms. Bridezilla has foisted upon her hapless bridesmaids, whom she’s confused with Jennifer Lopez.  What’s your best option?

 A)     Go with the flow and buy the gown in your current size.

B)      Commit to losing 5 pounds in six weeks and go a size smaller.

C)      Swear a blood oath to lose 30 pounds in six weeks by embarking on a starvation diet and injecting yourself daily with a hormone made from the urine of pregnant women that is thought to cause morning sickness.

D)     Leave the country until after the wedding.

 Many women apparently would choose C) the hCG diet, which, in addition to adopting a daily routine similar to that of a heroin addict, requires consuming only 500 calories a day. 


The Best Laid Plans … Aft Gang Kaput


How is that life always gets in the way of our plans? 

My plan, for example, is simple enough:  Lose 30 pounds by careful, more conscious eating (some might call that “dieting” but I’m looking for a longer-term, more satisfying approach here) and being more physically active, mainly at the gym.

Yet, how easily that plan is scrapped!


What’s With The New Weight Watchers Plan?


Stephanie Rost, RD, WW's director of corporate program development

Once upon a time, an overweight Brooklyn housewife named Jean Nidetch went on a diet prescribed by a local clinic and dropped 20 pounds.  She felt pretty good, until she found herself slipping back into bad habits.  Determined to keep the extra LBs at bay, she got together several of her weight-challenged friends and started a support group.

And so was born the forerunner to Weight Watchers, officially incorporated two years later  in 1963.

Today, millions of people in 30 countries around the world attend weekly Weight Watchers meetings or participate in the program online.  I wonder how many LBs that translates to?

I’ve tried Weight Watchers a few times over the years and have always been impressed by its sensible, lifestyle-oriented approach to weight loss and management.  It’s what I’m doing right now, as a matter of fact, although it is a little different this time.

Last fall, WW announced its new PointsPlus program.  Although the philophy is basically the same — change the way you eat for life, instead of crash-dieting for the short term — “PointsPlus is a completely new system, ” according to Stephanie Rost, RD, WW’s director of corporate program development.


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