[Road to Wellness] Now We're Cookin', Weeks 3 and 4

I don't know about y'all, but this wellness shtick is not as easy as I thought it was going to be. The hardest thing I've found is that I have absolutely no willpower. I'll do well for one day and then reward myself the next day with a trip to Keifer's for a pita with mozzarella (and feta cheese dressing) and cottage fries (big slabs of fried potatoes).

I tried to justify it by walking there in 100-degree temperatures. My sweet hubby, Mr. Gunter, and I have walked a few times together. We must look pretty funny trudging around Belhaven: him in Converse low-tops, his wallet chain jingling, me in flip-flops. (Note to self: Buy comfortable, and cool-looking, walking shoes.)

I've also tried to cook healthier at home. One night last week I cooked some whole-wheat pasta and sautéed some garlic and scallions in olive oil. The recipe called for a quarter cup of soy milk, but all I had was soy creamer, so I added that instead. The smell was immediately sweeter. My creamer was French vanilla. Damn! I had to start all over.

Week Three

Exercise: Increase your walking to 20 minutes at least three days this week. If you're still not walking, yet, consider this: Recent studies have shown that only 100 minutes of walking a week (that's 17 minutes a day for six days) give us significant health benefits. I've actually loved the walking part of this gig. I like to go at about 8 or 8:30 p.m. when it's nice and quiet in the neighborhood. This week, try picking up the pace a little, and get your heart beating. Call around and make an appointment to talk to someone at a health club or gym. Try to find a place that offers many different opportunities for workouts, i.e., yoga, Pilates, weight training.

Eat: Continue with the ideas from last week (salmon, olive oil, green tea, soy of some sort, etc.). Go back to the health food store and check out the organic produce. We're going to try to eat at least one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables daily this week, so let's try to make them the healthiest we can. The Environmental Working Group says we can cut our exposure to health risks from pesticides in produce by 50 percent by avoiding buying un-organic versions of the "dirty dozen" at the regular grocery store. You should always buy organic versions of strawberries, green and red bell peppers, spinach, cherries, peaches, Mexican cantaloupes, celery, apples, apricots, green beans, Chilean grapes, and cucumbers. A hefty list, I know. But, most can be bought regularly at Rainbow Co-op, and some from mainstream grocery stores.

To increase your fruit intake, try this tip: Eat a piece of fruit first thing in the morning (eating an apple while driving makes me feel kinda naughty). Your body will digest it better, and you'll start your day off with a sense of accomplishment.

Create: Is there something that you've always wanted to try? Pottery? Swing dancing? Or is there something that you used to enjoy that you've given up because you're "too busy" or too set in your ways? Get real! Don't you owe it to yourself? Pick up that guitar that's been gathering dust in the closet. Get out that sack of beads that you were going to make jewelry out of. Figure out the best place in your yard for a garden and start planning the fall planting. In the immortal words of the god Nike: Just do it. You owe yourself.

Boundaries: Get a small book on yoga postures. Don't think of this as part of your exercise. It's more important than just exercise: It's about stress relief. And I'm not just talking to the girls; guys, you're in this, too. An extraordinary number of American illnesses are stress-related. Yoga has been shown to greatly decrease stress while increasing flexibility, muscle tone and your ability to focus at work and at play.

Week Four

Exercise: This week increase your walks to 30 minutes four times a week. Take the leap to sign up for an exercise class; Pilates is good for building strength and flexibility. Water aerobics are good for older people and those with disabilities. Both are fun.

Eat: This is my favorite part. Keep up with the stuff from last week. Add another daily serving of fruits and vegetables. And then—dum dum dum—garlic! Consciously add more garlic—a natural antibiotic and medicine that Dr. Andrew Weil says helps lower high blood pressure—to the foods you eat. A quick idea to try is adding chopped garlic to oil and vinegar for a punchier salad dressing. Try to separate your consumption of proteins and carbohydrates. Our bodies digest them better separately.

Create: Practicing using your creativity to give to someone else. Buy some colored post-it notes and create a scavenger hunt for someone (a child, a spouse, a cat.) Get a plant for work and name it something silly. Refer to Ralph in conversations you have with people and with other plants.
Boundaries: Join a club, any club, and make yourself a whole slew of new friends. Pick a charity and volunteer your time. Buy a book of poetry and at least glance through it. Listen to a new radio station.

— by J. Bingo Holman, July 24, 2003


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