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    Mandarin Grilled Chicken Salad

    You need:

    1 cup Romaine lettuce
    1 cup shredded cabbage (slaw mix w/o sauce)
    1 skinless chicken breast
    1/4 cup mandarin orange slices (they come in a jar)
    1/4 cup crunchy chow mein noodles
    2 tbs Newman's Own Sesame Ginger dressing
    1 tbs sesame oil (regular vegetable oil can be substituted if necessary)
    Dash of low-sodium soy sauce

    In a medium frying pan over medium heat, grill the chicken breast until juices are clear.  While the breast is cooking, splash a dash of low sodium soy sauce over each side.  Once the chicken breast is fully cooked, remove it from heat and allow it to cool.  While the chicken is cooling, prepare the salad by tossing the Romaine lettuce, shredded cabbage, and orange slices in a large bowl.  Cut the cooled chicken breast into bite-sized pieces and add them to the salad mix.  Transfer the salad to a large plate and sprinkle the chow mein noodles over the salad.  Add the salad dressing and enjoy.

    The beauty of this meal is that it is very filling due to the large volume of vegetables, has a very low calorie count, and tastes great.  If the Sesame Ginger dressing is not to your liking, try a vinaigrette or other low-calorie option.  Avoid anything "creamy" as such choices are  usually very calorie-dense and fattening.


    Shopping Day

    You can't change your body unless you change your habits.

    Today my wife went grocery shopping.  I could tell you everything that she bought, but without a framework for comparison, you would not know the difference between today's shopping trip and shopping trips that occurred for years leading up to today.  Keeping in mind the facts that my wife is shopping for a family of 6 and that she has always tried to keep meals fairly healthy, the changes aren't really that dramatic.  There are, however, some notable changes that I think should be mentioned.

    The first glaring difference is that there was no soda in today's shopping cart.  Normally, we would have purchased several 2-liter bottles of soda that we would have consumed in the first 5-7 days after buying them (we normally went through at least 2 liters of soda each day).  After we finish the 2-liter bottle that I opened this morning, we are a soda-free house - a concept that honestly scares me a good bit.  I haven't gone a day without soda for about 3 years.  It goes without saying that I am totally addicted to caffeine and sugar, and I derive a great deal of comfort from settling down with an ice cold soda.  I will have to drink coffee for a time to wean myself off the caffeine, otherwise the withdrawal will be a very unpleasant experience.  In the place of the soda in the shopping cart was water, sports water, and juice.

    Today's shopping trip also saw  a transition from white to brown.  White rice has given way to whole-grain brown rice.  White bread has been replaced by whole wheat varieties - including whole wheat tortillas, pita, a sandwich breads.  Even the pasta is whole wheat or vegetable based.  We still have white potatoes (though the brown yam varieties are better choices), but primarily because no one but my wife and one of the children like sweet potatoes.

    A really big difference between last month's shopping and today's is the number of fruit and vegetable varieties in the shopping cart.  My wife has always bought bananas and apples for the children to snack on, but this month we have the following fruit and vegetable options available in the house: apples, bananas, mandarin oranges, peaches, cherries, kiwi fruit, nectarines, watermelon, baby carrots, salad mixes, shredded cabbage, broccoli, ears of corn and green peppers.  We also reap zucchini, yellow squash, okra, and green beans from our garden,  Eggplant is beginning to bear fruit now and we should have some of it in the house soon.

    We did away with fatty ground beef and replaced it with lean ground turkey.  The difference in taste is marginal, but the difference in fat content is remarkable.  We also purchased some lean meat options like whiting fillets, skinless chicken breast, and shrimp.  Another good meat option is canned tuna or albacore.  A key point when buying tuna - make sure it's packed in water and not oil.  Oil adds a lot of calories that you really shouldn't give away.  There are some oils that are good for you, but I'm betting that they aren't the same as the oil in which tuna is packed.  Albacore tastes better than tuna (IMO) and is higher in the omega-3 fats (the good kind of oil I mentioned before), but it's more expensive.  If you can get it, great.  If not, it's not that big of a deal.

    A few other items ended up in the cart that aren't monthly usuals for us: whole grain cereals (especially for me, the sausage-egg-and-cheese-biscuit king), meal replacement bars that are high in protein, heart-healthy nuts, yogurt, and light mayo.

    Knowing all of this food information is helpful (I hope), but an even more helpful topic is how to put it all together to make a decent set of meals.  I'll post a separate blog that details my nutrition plan in addition to a series of blogs that have some pretty darned good recipes that we've concocted.

    Be well.


    When Life gets in the Way

    As should be expected, I am all geared up to get started with a new nutrition and exercise program when life decides to rear its ugly head.

    You know how life can be sometimes.  Unexpected.  Unpredictable.  Just plain annoying.  I don't have a whole lot of these kinds of times, but when they come their arrival is usually with the worst possible sense of timing.  One thing I don't need right now is distractions.  Changing a lifestyle is not an easy thing to do, and distractions just take my focus from where I need it to be (on making a dramatic life change) to where I would rather not have to go.

    What are the distractions, you might ask.  Let me tell you.

    First, I have a vehicle that needs new tires.  4 of them, to be precise.  This morning I went to get some estimates on how much it would cost to replace 4 tires.  The first total I got came in at nearly $800.  Now, I seldom buy full sets of tires (in fact, this is the first time ever), so I did not realize that 4 pieces of steel-belted rubber would cut so deeply into my wallet.  When the counter guy saw my pallid face and shaking hands, he played with the numbers a bit to bring the price down to just shy of $700.  Still a bit out of my budget.  He finally, did some digging and found a set of import tires that had a higher durability rating that might be good for me.  The price: $505.  Better, but overspending a budget is something that my wife and I talk about before I do it.

    I later learned that my tire size is an odd one, making the availability of a full set a little more difficult (and more expensive) to come by.  Lucky me.  I'll work it out, but since I want a gym membership to go with my new tires, it might take 2 trips to the tire store rather than just one to get a full set of tires.

    That incident pales in comparison to my other life issue.  After discovering that the tires I want cost several useful body parts, I drove out to a rental unit that I have.  My tenant there has been kind of iffy for the past several weeks, and since it's the early in the month I want to make an appearance at the front door earlier rather than later for my rent.  When I got there, I found it to be quite - disturbing.  Yes, that's the word I need.

    My tenant is gone - moved out without notice.  Before leaving, she kindly ripped out my carpet and destroyed the shoe molding around the entire living room.  She replaced the carpet with some kind of vinyl flooring that looks like it came right out of the 70's.  There are holes in walls in every room (not big ones, just big enough to be a pain in the butt) and mismatched carpet in the hallway that she put over the new floor I installed before she moved in.  An entire part of the wall is missing in a bedroom, as is the closet door it was attached to.  She destroyed the door to the second bedroom and threw out the access panel to the HVAC unit, leaving a gaping hole in the wall where none should exist.  There's enough trash and junk around the house to fill a small dump truck.  Then there's the bugs.  Lots and lots of bugs.

    She also vacated the premises with a window AC unit and three space heaters - about $300 worth of appliances.

    All of that means simply this: getting another tenant in there is going to be expensive.  No one would want to live there as it is.  Just cleaning it isn't going to be enough.  It needs a lots of repair-some of it major, heating and cooling, a LOT of cleaning, and a good bit of yard work.  $1000 might get me out of it, but who has $1000 just laying around?  It's also going to require a lot of my time - time that I would rather spend writing this blog or working out or something more productive than cleaning up someone else's mess.

    Distractions, distractions, distractions.

    They happen.  I just have to make sure they don't take away from the real goal here - to look like a million bucks on my 40th birthday.

    Be well.


    Where I Am at 39

    In order to understand where we are going, we have to understand where we are. Naturally, this blog is going to come across as negative, defeatist, and unpleasant. This is to be expected, since looking like I do has a negative impact on my overall being. Never mind that it's hard to describe my body and how it makes me feel with any degree of "ooh-la-la". Bluntly, I am fat, out of shape, and gross. Glossing over such a description only creates mental and emotional barriers that are all but impossible to overcome. Before I can change, I have to admit that I have a problem.

    For those of you who may be just sitting there eating a bag of chips and drinking a soda but are in otherwise fine shape, the following is a wake up call to what you could become without a specific change in your life. For you twenty-somethings out there, this is a reminder that you won't be in your twenties forever - and bad habits that your metabolism is currently managing with little difficulty will become raging issues in the next decade or so. You are about to read what could be your future - I am the living anecdote for what abusive personal behaviors can create.

    Grossness - I am your poster-boy!

    Let's start with the basics. I'm going to walk over to that scale over <~~~~~ there and weigh myself real quick-like. My scale measures body weight, body fat percentage, and actually saves the data for comparison at a later date. So, I'll be right back after I weigh myself....

    ...... dopey, doh.... mmmmmmmm hmmmmmmmm.... here it comes......

    There. 198 lbs at 28.3% body fat. Those stats put me in a category of overweight but not quite obese, which is 30% body fat. What does that mean? Of my 198 pounds, 56 of them are made of pure fat - adipose, blubber, grease. By comparison, a person of equal weight (198 lbs) with a 6-pack and well defined musculature would have about about 14-17 pounds of body fat.

    Since my muscle tone is pretty much nil, I'd say that I have about 40 pounds of fat to lose while trying to develop muscle mass and definition. A tall order, but not an impossible one.

    So, I carry about 40 extra pounds of body fat with me everywhere I go. Now let's talk about the effects this has on my body. I'll list them for the sake of brevity, but these are the actual physical effects that I deal with every day (or night):

    • Fatigue
    • Lower back pain
    • Heartburn (gastro-esophogeal reflux)
    • Achy joints
    • Headaches
    • Low self-esteem
    • Poor body image
    • Self-deprecating statements (speaking badly of oneself)
    • Bloated feelings
    • Flatulence (there, I said it. I fart - OK? Everybody does it!)
    • Temper
    • Very LOUD snoring
    • Poor sleep patterns

    There are also some potential effects that are unseen and more dangerous:

    • High blood pressure
    • Hypertension
    • Strain on the heart
    • High cholesterol
    • Arterial blockage
    • Diabetes or pre-diabetes
    • Sleep apnea

    Pretty nice life if you can get it, huh? Well, I've discovered that the easy way to achieve the results you see above is to do absolutely, positively nothing good for yourself for a few years. Do that, and you'll be all caught up with where I am now.

    You'll then understand why I'm not excited.

    Now let's look at how I got where I am - what kind of behaviors got me the results that I'm describing? Well, you know me - I'm going to tell you.

    Breakfast - fast food, usually a sausage-egg-cheese biscuit. Oh yeah, and a soda. First thing in the morning.
    Lunch - fast food, usually something like a bean burrito, nachos, and a soda. Always soda.
    Dinner - I love my wife. She cooks great meals for me that are nicely balanced - meat (chicken, fish, beef, pork, venison), carbs (potatoes or rice), and a nice green vegetable. And, of course, I add a soda. Unfortunately, as good as the actual dinner happens to be, I usually screw it up later with...
    Dessert/evening snack - Ice cream or chips and dip or salsa - and soda.  Usually around 10:00 PM or so.

    The above eating program is guaranteed to add pounds to your butt and inches to your waste guaranteed or your money back. As an added bonus, you get all the aches, pains, and health risks associated with the program at no extra cost!

    All kidding aside, I was consuming somewhere between 4000-5000 calories per day (the above list leaves out between-meal snacks that were frequently consumed) with little to no activity outside of walking to and from my car and around the building at work. Since it takes about 3500 calories to burn a pound of fat, it becomes obvious that the 2500 or so calories I actually burned each day did not balance with the amount I was eating. The net result is a lot of extra food being converted to waste that is excreted or fat that is slapped on my already jiggly belly.

    On a side note, I once heard someone say that it is impossible to lose or maintain weight when one is drinking his/her calories. Soda is little more than refined sugar and water. There are few calories in soda, but the body has to do literally nothing to process them. The net result is that the caffeine jacks the metabolism and the sugar immediately transports every bit of food in the system to the butt, thighs, and belly in the form of fat. Caffeine is also a diuretic (it makes your body release water), which causes dehydration, muscle stress (including the heart), and fatigue.

    Soda = bad. Water = good.

    As you have seen, my dietary practices were, shall we say, lacking in true substance.

    Finally, let's talk sleep. I generally operate on somewhere between 5-6 hours of sleep. The end result of that is I'm sometimes slower than a January molasses flow, both physically and mentally. I have periods of lethargy, usually right after lunch, and I become a danger to myself and others while driving. At my age (39 for those who might have forgotten), I should be getting 8 hours at a minimum of quality sleep, with 9 being preferred. Sleep is the time when the body recharges and repairs itself. Without proper sleep amounts, the body heals more slowly and recharging is almost impossible

    So, there you have it. My lifestyle in a digital nutshell. Naturally the next step is to identify what good eating habits look like - and no, I'm not talking about starvation diets or fads. I'll get into the specifics soon; that discussion with be the subject of my next blog. Stay tuned.

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