Archives for: July 2010
My sister and I are at my parents’ house for the next three weeks. We are sorting and cleaning and getting things ready to move or sell. I arrived Tuesday night, and we started to work bright and early Wednesday morning.
The days are physically active with a lot of walking, bending and lifting. In addition I brought hand weights and running shoes. Like all other women my age, I fight a constant battle against muscle loss. DD has pushed me this summer, and I have actually gained muscle. I have no intention of going backwards during this trip!
There are diet issues involved with being away from home for this long. DD is doing an internship, and my husband has stayed home with her. I can count on DD to make sure he is BTD compliant for breakfast and supper. If he doesn’t’ eat too much bread or too many crackers for lunch, he will be fine.
I have mentioned many times that my sister lives in Europe. When her family comes to America, they want to eat all of the old favorite foods – hamburgers, fries, donuts, pizza and the like. That won’t do for me at all. So I am cooking for myself. It will be meat and vegetables as usual.
Last night they took me to Salt Grass Steakhouse to say thank you for the work I’ve done on the estate. It’s been a labor of love, and I certainly didn’t expect such a lovely meal. It was a Type O delight - Prime rib, Caesar salad, and a huge sweet potato. The prime rib was cooked perfectly. I chose Caesar salad because our server said that the dinner salad was iceberg lettuce. Caesar was beneficial Romaine, and Parmesan is one of the few cheeses that are actually good for Hunters.
When we got back to the house, they introduced me to a TV program – The Mentalist. What a great show! My kids gave me a blow up pad from The Firm that is supposed to strengthen core muscles. You do regular exercises while you try to keep your balance on the pad. I worked out with 5 pound weights on the pad during the show.
My sister and I are reliving childhood memories as we sort through the things in the house. My parents knew how to have fun, and they lived out their faith in innumerable practical ways. If the first three days are any indication – it will be a happy time together.
We had someone majoring in Exercise Sports Science over for dinner this week. He made some comments about muscles that I found intriguing. The conversation started when I said that because I was so sedentary as a child, I had never developed my upper body muscles. He said that my muscles were fixed genetically; that I was born with all of the muscle tissue that I would have, and that what I did in childhood couldn’t change that.
I said I knew too many people who had been very scrawny, but through weight lifting had built up lots of muscle. Arnold Schwarzenegger certainly wasn’t born looking like he looks today! I also mentioned the constant battle that women over 50 fight with losing muscle mass.
ESS countered with information that was new to me. There is a difference between skeletal muscle tissue and muscle fibers. Skeletal muscles are the long cells that are attached to the bones. These muscles are determined genetically. The ones you are born with are the ones you will have for life. He gave an example of someone he knew who had a severe injury that resulted in the loss of a large part of the skeletal muscle on the calf of one leg. Years later after the injury had healed, the muscles were still missing and one leg looked very different from the other.
Muscle fibers (which come in three types and determine whether someone is a good long or short distance runner) can be built and can be lost. This ties in with what my PT son once said about the body not beginning to build muscle tissue until six weeks after an exercise program is started. The long skeletal muscles do the extra work for a short term increase in activity (like a New Year’s resolution to start an exercise program). The body waits until it perceives that additional strength will be needed for the long term before it starts construction of muscle fibers. It is the fibers that add bulk and tone to the body. Muscle fiber cells can increase; they can also shrink and be lost.
I asked about fat, hoping that what I had heard about fat cells was false. Unfortunately it is true. Fat cells can be created, but they cannot be destroyed. “This,” ESS said with a smile, “is why liposuction was invented.
When a person overeats, fat cells are created. Once they are there, they never go away. They can shrink or fill up, but they are permanent.
So what does all of this anatomical knowledge mean to those of us on the BTD.
1. Beware of any kind of overeating that adds more fat. You may tell yourself that you can lose the weight. In reality, you can shrink the cells, but the fat tissue is there to stay.
2. Take your children’s weight seriously. They will pay the price later in life for fat cells that they build when they are young. Children won’t understand this. It’s just another responsibility of being a parent. (I strongly feel that it is NOT a government responsibility, but a parent’s responsibility.)
3. When you start a weight program, do not be easily discouraged. You will not start building fibers for six weeks.
4. Especially for women, weight lifting is a lifetime commitment. To keep our bones strong, we have to keep those muscle fibers working.
Far too many women in my family have stooped shoulders. My Mom was not extreme – though her shoulders were rounded as she got older. My grandmother was definitely stooped. One of my aunts was nearly bent in half. I have a neighbor who is also extremely stooped. I watch her take her trash can out to the street, and I wonder what I can do to prevent this from happening to me.
The last time my son was home, I asked him. He said that a common mistake people make with weights is to do exercises that build their chests and ignore their back muscles. He says that if anything men are more guilty of this than women, and that the result is stooped shoulders. If a woman does not spend at least as much time building her back muscles, the stoop will grow more and more pronounced as she ages.
I asked what exercises I needed to do for my back. He showed me several. But the most interesting one was how to use a basic fitness center weight machine as a rowing machine. He showed me how to attach the wide bar onto one of the cables. He put a chair about 6 feet from the machine and told me to sit down. I held the bar near the ends and began a rowing motion.
He said to hold my core tight, bring the bar to my chest, lean back a little, and release the bar in a controlled manner. I’ve been doing this 2-3 times a week for 15 minutes. I use 50 pounds of weight. I guess I won’t know for years how well it is working.
I love the movie Ben Hur. My favorite scene is the chariot race, but a close second is the sea battle where Ben Hur is rowing a Roman ship as a galley slave. As I’m rowing I imagine that scene. I’d rather be strong to the end like Ben Hur, than get dragged screaming from the deck because I lacked stamina.
I confess. I’m guilty. I have stashed away enough pumpkin so that DD and I can have a can a week until the end of the year. I also paid way too much for it. But pumpkin is beneficial for both of us, and we didn’t want to do without.
I remember last Thanksgiving hearing something about a pumpkin shortage, but I didn’t pay any attention because I could still get pumpkin at my local grocery store. Admittedly there was no pumpkin at Walmart - even between Thanksgiving and Christmas - but I speculated that it had to do more with some food supplier being at odds with Walmart than any real problem.
My grocery store carried large and small cans of Libby’s pure pumpkin, plus their store brand of pumpkin. I always liked the small cans of Libby’s best. During the winter the store stopped stocking small cans of Libby’s. I switched to the store brand, but by spring that was no longer available either. By then it was nearly time for DD to be home for the summer, so I didn’t mind switching to the large cans of Libby’s.
At that moment, I should have seen red flags. I should have googled pumpkin shortage. I should have stocked up. But no. I didn’t want to believe anything was really wrong. (Perhaps a parallel could be drawn to those who don’t want to believe that deficits are getting worse, unemployment is getting worse, and the economy is getting worse while the Washington administration promotes policies just the opposite of those which are proven to end a recession. Sorry, I didn’t intend to get political, but the comparison is so obvious.)
Last week large cans of Libby’s were gone from the shelves. There were small cans of organic pumpkin for double the price. “Outrageous,” I cried. “No way am I going to pay that much.”
I had to go to the city for an appointment so I tried several grocery stores. It was expensive organic pumpkin or nothing. I came home and googled pumpkin. I found out that for the last three years the pumpkin harvest has been small. One year it was drought, another year it was too much rain. One year they didn’t even harvest enough pumpkin to get seed for replanting.
So I have bought out the organic pumpkin in three grocery stores. DD and I will have pumpkin for the rest of this year. I hope – for the farmers’ sake as well as our own – that this year’s harvest will be better.