Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Meals Banned in San Francisco . . .

"McGuilty" by J Salvador

. . . and while most healthy eating advocates are rejoicing at
this news (which actually won't go into effect until December 2011 -- barring any litigation or appeal,) I personally am feeling a bit more mixed. And not out of nostalgia of Happy Meals in my younger days (though I know better than to eat a McNugget now.)

I'm all for eating more healthy and less processed foods with a half-year shelf life, but I just don't think enacting citywide bans are the best way to change eating habits, and prefer the carrot rather than the stick approach (no pun intended) as far as public health policy goes.

Instead of banning certain foods, why not further incentivize healthy eating? Engage the kids in farmers markets and kitchens, have them meet the people who are raising, growing and preparing healthy foods,
educate them about the ills of junk food.

Besides, I can see all sorts of loopholes and ways this ordinance can backfire . . . toys may be sold separately (further lining fast food companies' coffers) or parents may be buying adult-sized portions for their children since the kids meals are off the menu.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lesson & Thoughts As I Gradually Re-embrace Meat . . .

Nigiri Trio #1
So, seven months after I embarked on an animal-free April (which transpired into meatless May, jumping off flesh June and so on...), I finally gently slid off the vegetarian wagon and went back to eating meat, starting with sushi @ SugarFISH Downtown. Was it an epic struggle? A profound epiphany? Not really (and I say the same thing about starting and maintaining my months-long vegetariaism,) I simply craved sushi and decided now was just as good a time as any... it's half a year longer than my planned monthlong experiment, anyways.

No surprise to anyone, during the veg-stint most people asked me "WHY?" And as I've replied numerous times before, the short answer is really "no reason in particular" or "to see if I can do it and for how long." The slightly longer answer involves animal-eating's impact on health, the environment and humane treatment of animals. Now, I'm not PETA vigilant about any of those aspects (but I do give them kudos for their very helpful online resource on transitioning into & maintaining an animal-free diet,) but those factors combined did make me want to rethink my relationship with meat (and the quantities I, and everyone else in the U.S., get served of it nowadays.)

According to MyPyramid, someone of my height (5' 5.5"), weight (145) & age (28) should be eating around six ounces of protein a day (in meat portions, that's about two decks of playing cards worth, before cooking.) And note that I said protein, since that category (and my recommended 6 ounces a day) includes meat (land, sea or airborne), beans, eggs, nuts and seeds.

Speaking of nutrition and health, for most part my body didn't change -- I didn't drop any weight (thanks my love of dairy and desserts) and I didn't take on a sickly pallor or lose muscle mass, though my blood-iron has been on the low side (always just a bit under the requirement to donate blood) despite my regular consumption of iron-rich plant-based foods. So, in returning to meat-eating (and its easier-to-absorb heme-iron,) I look forward to making my regular pint donations again.

Having read and watched a good deal of books, essays and documentaries about the food industry, which usually pays special attention to how animals are raised, farmed, caught and slaughtered, I definitely want to be more conscientious about the meat that I do consume, and going vegetarian for this length of time helped recalibrate my food mentality; namely, that I don't need a dead animal on my plate to consider it a real meal. Heck, moving forward I may even be a "weekday vegetarian" (though unlikely to label myself as such.)

Of course, re-embracing meat in a humane, healthful and planet-friendly way is gonna be a learning process (for example, at the SUGARFISH dinner I found out towards the end of the meal that the featured seafood came from all over the world; not exactly eco-friendly in terms of carbon footprint; and as divinely delicious as the meal was, this is surely something I'll take into consideration for future sushi outings, which is simple as asking "which seafood on the menu is locally and sustainably caught/farmed?" or keeping a Seafood Watch pocket guide or smartphone app handy. Or just enjoy in moderation.)

But I definitely look forward to sharing those lessons with you here as I gradually and conscientiously step back into an animal-including diet. But in the meantime, I'll follow Michael Pollan's simple, sagely advice to "Eat [real] Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants."

And in closing this post, my favorite vegetarian meal during this animal-free period -- the chef's tasting @ Melisse (with the omnivorous Mr. Grumpy)
Melisse Collage

Monday, November 1, 2010

Motivation Monday: Don't 'Phone In' Your Workouts!

While I'm pretty vigilant about working out 5-7 days out of the week, there are certainly days when I haven't given it my all. I'm sure everyone has these moments, just slogging through the motions without paying attention to precise positions, proper postures, or a complete follow-through of the movements.

So, I was rather inspired to hear personal trainer Angela Parker (of Body Inspired Fitness) to tell me and others to NOT PHONE IN YOUR WORKOUTS.

When I did a weekend bootcamp workout with her last week (more on that in a near-future post,) Angela made it loud and clear that she expects 100% participation and focus out of her attendees. And I definitely agree that the more mentally-engaged I am with my exercise, the more effective it felt and the more satisfied I am after since I *knew* that I did give it my all, pushing through limits I didn't think I could do (this time, it was doing 100 bicycle crunches in one session! Yowza for my obliques!)

I do yoga regularly so I'm aware of the mind-body connection (it takes a lot of willpower to maintain those postures!) but I was floored by how that can be channeled into a helluva active interval cardio & strength routine.

And it's not just all in the head too, if you're not focused on the workout, you're not truly engaging your body in the exercise... which means less effective fat burn & muscle-building and even a greater risk of injury (esp. if you mindlessly let momentum carry you through the motions.)

So next time you workout, instead of challenging yourself by upping your reps or sets or how many pounds you can lift... see if you can stay mentally focused on your exercises throughout the whole session. And once you notice how making that 100% effort feels, you may never wanna go back!