Archive | July, 2010

Pandora’s Box

27 Jul

“While advocates argue that genetically engineered animals offer a promise of more affordable and more abundant food, opponents say it will only make profits more abundant and that the food could make you sick.”

The US has among the most lenient policies when it comes to genetic modification in that produce that has been altered need not be labeled as such.  The pending approval of genetically altered salmon is generating a great deal of attention presently to this controversial issue.  While watching the news tonight a ‘special report’ came on regarding this hot topic.

One of my favorite NPR programs, This American Life, did a piece back in ’07 featuring three stories of consequences that follow from human beings doing what we do best: “poking our noses everywhere, fixing things that may or may not be broken. . .  Scientists try, unsuccessfully, to create perfect pigs.”  Have a listen to Act 1:  Pandora\’s Box.

I’ve read and seen enough that I’m left wondering how this can even be debated.  I’m curious to hear your thoughts regarding if and how this topic sits with you and what questions it raises in your mind.

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So you joined the CSA?

26 Jul
Beautiful Bounty

So you’ve taken the first step in eating a more healthful, nutritious, and conscientious diet and joined our CSA, Eat with the Seasons (eatwiththeseasons.com).  Now what?  For the uninitiated, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  In the simplest terms, this is a subscription service to a farm.  In return for a reasonable monthly fee, you can depend on local organic produce delivered weekly (in our case, you can pick up the produce starting Tuesday afternoons at FIT).  When Danielle and I first decided to split a share in the winter of 2009 (a whole share each would have been too much), we were more than excited about the prospect of getting fresh local fruits and veggies while supporting local farmers.  What we soon realized though, was that despite sharing the “box,” it was at times hard to find uses for all of the foods.

Danielle and I have found that the best way for us to effectively utilize our box is to order mostly vegetables.  In general, these tend to be more durable and have longer shelf lives than fruits.  Anyways, fruit is definitely better as fresh as possible, so it works out better to just buy that as I eat it.  So how do I decide how to ration out my vegetables so that I can use all of them while they’re still fresh? Since some of you may be new to the CSA route, I figured that I would give you all some ideas by describing how I use my box, especially as the options can change weekly.

Well, the greens are definitely the first thing to be eaten, as they will wilt and brown quickly.  It is great to know that when I open the refrigerator to make my lunch, there is always a fresh assortment of lettuces and other greens to build a salad or create a side dish.  Any of the root vegetables I get are usually not of any urgency, as they can stay relatively fresh in the refrigerator for quite some time.  Leeks, fennel, squashes, well those go into dishes as soon as possible.

The nice thing is, having the produce availability come out on Thursday gives me plenty of time to plan my weekly meals.  Radishes and cucumbers coming in the box? I’ll make sure I have some red wine vinegar and olive oil on hand to make a summertime salad.  How about Brussels sprouts? I better have some bacon on hand – cook the bacon, rendering its fat, then brown the sprouts in the smoky, salty grease.  The bell peppers that are becoming available go great sauteed in eggs, or else stuffed and roasted in the oven.

To give a few other ideas, I will be sharing what I have used each weeks’ ingredients for.  I don’t often use recipes, but feel free to shoot me a question if my suggestions make you lick your lips.

Week of 7/20 – 7/26

Arugula, Spinach, Bell Pepper, Cucumbers: all went into a tossed salad with some smoked salmon, a tomato, lavender goat cheese, avocado, and dressed with olive oil

Cucumber: Eaten raw and sliced as a side to crock pot chuck roast

Bell Pepper, Garlic, Onion: added to a sweet potato and bacon hash eaten alongside fried eggs (cooked in the rendered bacon fat)

Hope that helps with what you get in your Eat-with-the-Seasons box.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.  Ultimately, isn’t eating also about the joys of tastes and textures?

FIT Member Spotlight July 2010

14 Jul

Name: Allison Deeter
Age: Thirties
F.I.T. Member since August 22, 2007

Goal: Get stronger!

Results: When Alli first started her workout program, she could not do one strict pull-up, PR now is 11 straight pull ups with an underhand grip.  PR for bench press is 120lbs… and now she is a push-up machine.

Likes: will tolerate most exercises, but doesn’t really have a favorite.

Dislikes: ROWER!!!  (even though she is great at it) and burpees.

Key to success: Alli is a very disciplined and motivated client when it comes to her workouts.  She wouldn’t consider herself to be competitive against others, but she is competitive with herself.  I believe the main key to her success is she found activities she likes.  For Alli, working out isn’t work… except rowing; it’s enjoyable and purposeful. She runs because it reliefs stress, not because she has to.

In Ally’s words: “I find coming in with a sense of humor and a good attitude makes everything that much easier and enjoyable.  Shaun, you have both.  I also like seeing how much more I can do.  I don’t know if you remember, but when I first came in I couldn’t do one real push-up.  I like that you set things up to challenge me alone these lines.”

Frittata Recipe

2 Jul

Ingredients:
•    Olive Oil or Butter (wipe pan to grease)
•    1 bunch Rainbow Chard, rinsed, tip of stalks trimmed, chopped
•    1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
•    1-2 small cloves garlic, chopped
•    1 cup spring onions
•    8 ounces nitrate-free, pastured bacon, diced
•    8 fresh, pastured eggs – available at Farmers markets, through csa, or at FIT
•    ¼ cup raw cream – available at Country Sun in Palo Alto and the Campbell farmers market
•    ½ tsp celtic sea salt
•    ½ tsp fresh ground pepper
•    1 cup fresh raw milk cheese, crumbled (approximately 4 ½ ounces) – also known as Farmstead cheese available at farmers markets. An alternative would be a high quality cheese, ideally from grassfed cows.
•    Fresh Italian Parsley

Preparation
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Wipe 8x8x2 inch baking dish with oil or butter to grease.  Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Add rainbow chard and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Drain, squeeze dry and add chopped garlic. Cover and let sit.

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions to skillet and sauté until slightly browned, about 2 minutes.  Add bacon and sauté until desired crispness; keep separated with a fork.  Remove from heat and cool.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper in large bowl to blend.  Add chard and cooled bacon-onion mixture, then add cheese; stir to blend using wooden spoon or fork.  Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish.

Bake frittata in preheated oven until the center is set, about 45-55 minutes.  Transfer baking dish to rack and cool frittata 15-20 minutes.  To transfer the frittata from the baking dish to a serving dish, place a platter on top of baking dish, using oven mitts, hold the baking dish and platter firmly together and invert frittata onto platter, place serving platter atop frittata and invert again so that frittata is right side up.  Cut frittata into 20 pieces.

*This dish can be made up to 1 day ahead and chilled in the refrigerator, and re-warmed at 325 degrees F until completely heated through, about 10 minutes.

Garnish with fresh parsley and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Myth – Eggs are Unhealthy

2 Jul

Eggs are an excellent source of protein, essential amino acids (yes, all 9!), along with vitamins and minerals that directly contribute to both eye and hair health.  The egg is also a satisfying snack or meal, reducing the chances of over-consumption of a less nutritionally dense food choice.  The concern most frequently raised when eggs are recommended as a healthy part of a diet relates to heart and cholesterol health – for more on that, see Real Fats posted here.

Children and Strength Training

2 Jul

Myth #1 “Strength Training Will Stunt My Child’s Growth”
A common misconception concerning kids and strength training is: “Lifting weights will stunt their growth”. This, however, is completely opposite to the facts. The fact is that a well planned and supervised youth strength training program can be very beneficial for muscular development, neuromuscular coordination, and improved endurance, both cardiovascular and muscular. Additionally, strength training can provide numerous mental improvements.(Faigenbaum et al)

Myth #2 “Weight Training is Only for Athletes!”
Early exposure to a properly coached and structured weight training program can engrain a sense of belonging and self worth, no matter what a child’s skill level or athletic drive. There is always room for success in a training program.  Some children may grow stronger, get faster, become more flexible, or just feel better. The fact is that every child can grow on its own terms in a training setting. The harsh reality of sports is that some may not make the team, or they get picked last for a pickup game of basketball; this leaves kids with a negative view that can exclude them from activity for a lifetime. This lack of physical activity due to a negative early view of exercise can result in multiple issues such as, adult onset diabetes (type II) and heart disease.  Every child has the ability to expand his or her physical skills and have a positive self-view from participation in a supervised exercise program. The earlier children are exposed to exercise, the better their chances are for an active and healthy lifestyle in the future.

Myth #3 “Kids just get hurt lifting weights”
The fact is that most youth injuries occur in training when children are left unsupervised. (Kilgore). Bad lifting technique, too much weight, and overuse injuries are all preventable in a supervised and well planned youth program. The actual number of weight training* and weightlifting** related injuries are much less than any common sport played by our nations youth. For every 100 hours of training time, weightlifting has a far superior number than most sports.

Table from USAW.
Sport                                     Injuries/100 hours
Soccer (school age)                6.20
UK Rugby                                1.92
USA Basketball                      0.03
UK Cross Country                 0.37
Squash                                     0.10
US Football                            0.10
Badminton                             0.05
USA Gymnastics                   0.044
USA Powerlifting                  0.0027
USA Volleyball                      0.0013
USA Tennis                           0.001
*Weight Training                 0.0035 (85,733 hrs)
**WeighLifting                     0.0017 (168,551 hrs)

Fact– A well planned resistance training program for youth and adolescents can be a very safe and effective measure to ensure a healthy and positive approach to fitness that will last a lifetime.

References:
1.)Misconceptions About Training Youth Knowledge To Share With Parents And Administrator
by Lon Kilgore PhD

2.) USAW Sports Performance Coach guide

3.) http://lylemichelimd.com/articles/refereed/85a.pdf.  Avery D. Faigenbaum, etal

Myths and Misconceptions Concerning Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

2 Jul

I often find myself amazed by some of the comments and questions I get surrounding individuals with intellectual disabilities.  Do people still think that way?  I then have to take a step back and remind myself that working with this population, learning the history of the disorders and reading the latest research is my passion, and while some do share my interest, the whole world does not.  People are not ignorant for asking these questions; the ignorant individual is the one who does not take the time to teach, instruct and dispel the myths and misconceptions associated with their passion.  This month, I hope to dispel and explain a few of the most common myths associated with individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Myth:  Individuals with Autism, Down Syndrome and other Intellectual Disabilities have physical as well as mental disabilities.
While many individuals with Intellectual Disabilities do experience physical handicaps throughout their lives, it is more often due to a lack of care and attention to their health and wellness rather than the intellectual disability.  The physical challenges faced by individuals with Intellectual Disabilities, such as obesity, heart disease, and poor muscle tone, can often be prevented or at least delayed (just like the rest of the population) by increasing physical activity and improving nutritional habits. Lack of health and wellness education and available resources are the biggest obstacles for physical condition within this population.

Myth: Individuals with Down Syndrome only live to be in their twenties.
This is probably the number one comment I hear and one I hope quickly dissipates!  While many, many years ago this was the case, the average life expectancy today for individuals with Down Syndrome is age 55 with many living into their sixties and seventies (www.nads.org).  Life expectancy continues to improve as more attention is focused on their physical capabilities, and health improvements.

Myth: There is an Autism epidemic
This is another comment I often hear and one that you will repeatedly see in news headlines.   Yes, the number of individuals diagnosed with autism has increased over the past twenty years, but I am not convinced it is because of a ‘sudden outburst’ of cases.  Some facts to consider:
-The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders) did not include a diagnosis of autism until 1980.
-Until then, those who had ‘autistic-like characteristics’ were diagnosed as schizophrenics.
-In 1994, the DSM increased the spectrum and diagnosis of autism to include Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder otherwise Not Specified (PDD-NOS) (www.autism-pdd.net)

Therefore, in the eyes of many in the field of psychology there is not a surge in cases, but rather a broadening of the diagnostic criteria, which has lead to a greater number of individuals diagnosed with Autism every year.  Additionally, this disorder has been given more media attention than other Intellectual Disabilities, which has resulted in greater population awareness.

Barefoot Running

2 Jul

Myth: You Need the Latest and Greatest Running Shoes for Injury Prevention.

So it is now summer, and you can stuff those scratchy wool socks into the back of your closet for the next several months; don some deck shoes or driving mocs without socks, slide into those long ignored sandals … or strut around the way nature intended: shoeless entirely.  While it may be socially unacceptable, and frankly a little unhygienic to walk around town barefoot, isn’t this the way we were intended to move through space?  Weren’t our feet designed to move us along the ground using the elastic properties inherent in their muscles and tendons and bones for structure and support?  If you listen to the large and ever-present shoe companies – Nike, Adidas, Clarks, Jimmy Choo – you might get a different impression about the utility of those funny shaped appendages at the ends of our legs.

In reality, every function needed for mobility, locomotion, and balance while standing upright is already present in our feet.  Wearing shoes can actually exacerbate underlying conditions, if not create new ones.  For example, even the least structured and supportive shoes are created with an elevated (and usually softened) heel support, which impedes ones natural gait.  This soft and elevated heel allows you to land on the thin skin and minimally cushioned heel of your foot, which would never happen if you weren’t in shoes.  Landing on your heel is also less efficient – in the neighborhood of 4% more energy expenditure – than landing on the ball of your foot with soft, smooth steps.  Over time (how long have you been wearing shoes?) the subtle lift of the shoe will also actually start to shorten your Achilles tendon and calf musculature.  This has dire consequences throughout your body’s kinetic chain: decreasing mobility of the ankle joint, decreasing available knee extension range of motion, increasing patellofemoral shear forces, shortening the leg hip flexors, and potentially more issues farther up the body.

In fact, studies even indicate that injury rates may be greater for shod runners than barefoot runners.  In Haiti, for example, lower extremity injury rates are substantially higher in those wearing shoes (Robbins and Hanna, 1987).  Robbins and Hanna also suggest that plantar fasciitis (a very common runners injury affecting the supportive connective tissue running along the bottom of the foot) may be decreased in runners who doff their shoes frequently.  They postulated that the impact from foot strikes is transferred to the more elastic musculature sparing the fascia.  More recently, Robbins and Grow (1991) found that individuals wearing expensive “corrective” running shoes reported more injuries than those wearing less expensive (less structured) shoes. Bergman et al. (1995) also found that forces at the hip were lower when running barefoot, implying that forces throughout the body were less significant than with shoes.  So, what does this mean for those who just want to be healthy and move? How about spending sometime with your shoes off?  Running barefoot might not be for everyone, but that doesn’t mean some unshod time won’t be good for you.  Gradually increase the time you spend without shoes, and maybe you will notice that you are moving better, your balance improves, and some of your ailments disappear.

For additional information or questions, please contact me at: matt@focusedtrainers.com

Real Fats

2 Jul

Myth: Saturated Fats are Unhealthy

It seems when it comes to health and fitness, there’s always something new – a new finding, a new method, a new diet . . . and it can be hard to make heads or tails of all that you read and hear.  Ultimately, it comes down to who you trust and common sense.  Our philosophy at FIT, when it comes to exercise and diet, is that the human body is basically the same as it was 100s of years ago, so the question becomes what has changed that’s lead to such an increase in disease and how do we fix it? Back in the 80s, nutrition advice was all about how bad fat was for us.  Not only in terms of weight gain, but also in terms of disease.  People began drastically reducing their fat intake and consuming fat free substitutes, industrialized fats like margarine, refined oil and trans fats that have now been shown to be unhealthy. In truth, all real fats as they are found in nature, those that have not been damaged by heat or processing, are vital to the body and its functions.  Saturated fat, which gets a pretty bad rap, helps fight infection, enables the production of sex hormones, aids in digestion of fat soluble vitamins, extends the body’s use of omega-3 fats, and enables the body to absorb calcium.  In addition to what it does for our bodies, put simply, saturated fat tastes good.  While this news on fat is encouraging, the discussion would be incomplete without addressing concerns about cholesterol and heart disease.

Current research is calling into question the link between cholesterol (and therefore, saturated fat) and heart disease.  There are ample studies that have shown no correlation between cholesterol and heart disease.  Some research has even found a decrease in the rate of disease and death with higher cholesterol levels in women and men over the age of 50.  Heart disease, as it is known today, was first diagnosed in the early 1900s.  The argument can be made that diagnostic techniques and scientific advancements have led to the ability to diagnose this disease, which had led to greater awareness.  An alternative argument would be that our food has changed, which has led to disease(s) that were previously non-existent.  My best guess is that the answer is a combination of the two.

As for medical science and diagnostics, any advancement in knowledge and technology can only be to our benefit.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about our food supply where advances in technology have not all been for the better.  Put simply, all our food is not created equal.  When it comes to produce, many beneficial nutrients are lost in the creation and packaging process before they even get to the point of being what we consider ‘processed’.  As far as animal fats are concerned, fat from industrial animals are not as beneficial as those from animals raised in their natural environment with the feed they would naturally consume.  Grass fed beef and dairy animals, as well as pastured
poultry, eggs and pork, are all sources of essential omega 3 fats. However, wild fish is still the best source of omega 3 fats.  Looking back, industrialization of agriculture began in the mid-1800s with the introduction of machines and fertilizer .  Recalling that heart disease was first diagnosed roughly 50 years later, we might consider how our agricultural methods have changed and take a page out of our ancestors’ book with regards to farming as well as food preparation.  The moral here, whenever possible utilize foods that you can trace back to their source, meaning buying produce from farmers markets or CSAs (community supported agriculture), finding meats that have been raised sustainably and humanely, and omnivorous fish that are caught, not farmed. When the above is not possible, eat as close to those guidelines as possible.

As for food preparation, we need to question much of what has been touted as ‘healthy’ now that we know more about the benefits of saturated fat.  Saturated fats are more stable when heated than monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated, and are therefore less easily damaged.  Damaged fats appear to be the unhealthy, which is why using unsaturated oils for cooking is not advised except over low heat.  Heating fat to smoking point is a sign of damage.

The Best Cooking Fats
Saturated Monounsaturated Polyunsaturated
Heat-Stable                           Moderately Stable                             Unstable
Ideal for Cooking                 Acceptable for Moderate Heat        Ideally Used Cold

Beef                                        Canola Oil                                            Peanut Oil
Butter                                    Lard                                                       Sesame Oil
Coconut Oil                          Macadamia Nut Oil                            Walnut Oil
——————-                         Olive Oil                                                Flax Seed Oil

Traditional Healthy Fats
•    Fat from grass-fed cattle, sheep, bison and other game
•    Butter and cream from grass-fed cows
•    Lard from pastured pigs fed a natural diet
•    Eggs from pastured chickens, ducks and geese
•    Fish oils (preferably wild), especially cod liver oil
Vegetable oils
•    Cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
•    Cold-pressed, unrefined flaxseed oil
•    Wet-milled, unrefined coconut oil
•    Cold-pressed, unrefined walnut oil
•    Cold-pressed, unrefined macadamia oil
•    Cold-pressed, unrefined sesame oil

References:

The Diet Argument By Uffe Ravnskov, M.D., Ph.D. [Teksti on lainattu kirjoittajan luvalla tekeillä olevan kirjan johdantoluvusta]

A timeline of Agricultural Developments http://robinsonlibrary.com/agriculture/agriculture/history/timeline.htm

Real Food by Nina Plank