Tag Archives: health

Sam’s Guide to Swimming

Swimming is an art form just like competitive street polo and professional Hungry Hungry Hippos. It is relatively quick to pick up, but mastering it takes a lifetime.

When swimming, if you find that you tend to sink to the bottom of the pool easily, not to worry. It is simply that you are heavy. No, you’re not fat. You’re just dense. No, not stupid, just, well, never mind.

In ancient prehistory, our ancestors were the ultimate endurance swimmers. We would swim for miles chasing the large fish that once inhabited the African ocean until they’d eventually become exhausted and be unable to continue to flee. Modern humans have fish delivered to their doorsteps already killed and cooked, and they no longer use these skills, but they lay dormant in all of us. One day in the near future the carbon generated by our fish delivery systems will heat the atmosphere to the point that the icecaps melt and the entire world will be one great African Ocean, and the people that survive will be the ones who can best return to these ancient practices. Kurt Vonnegut agrees with me.

In a modern pool, one of the most important secrets to swimming faster is to be able to turn around quickly when one reaches the wall. The commonly accepted technique to deal with this is the flip turn. Here is a professional performing a flip turn. Be wary, though, pool walls are something humans never dealt with during our evolution, and thus can be very dangerous. As an amateur, you should be sure to have someone nearby to resuscitate you when water gets in your nose and you drown. With practice, you will learn to stay conscious long enough to get to the surface and clear your nose of water to breathe again. Good safety practices have dramatically reduced the high death rate from flip turns in the history of the sport of swimming.

In this modern era, it is tempting to sit on your couch and have cooked fish delivered to your door. Remember that you can take better care of yourself if you drive to the supermarket to buy fish and cook it yourself with only a small amount of added oil and salt. Swimming in a pool is also good for your health, once you have mastered the technique of not dying. So get out there and swim!

Image Credit: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/d5/ea/5d/d5ea5dc123ba7402dc950f41384f2815.jpg

Informal Qualitative Personal Psychometrics

Two of my co-workers took an energy management class recently. I happened to join them the other day when they went to meet with some of their former classmates. It was a lunch meeting, so I had my usual salad. The people at the table who had not seen this before were aghast that I was eating what amounted to kale, spinach, lettuce, and carrots with no dressing whatsoever.

Without time to think of a better answer, I said “dressing is superfluous.” A little later I brought up the conversation again. I said I had considered a while ago what it was that made me reluctant to eat salad. The inconvenience of fast-decaying greens made it difficult in my house, but at my work the high quality salad bar resolved that issue. As I mentioned in last week’s post, eating in and of itself is a calming activity for me. Salad greens and carrots, I learned, were not outright unpleasant to eat so much as just boring. Therefore with an interesting main dish, a large salad is a perfectly acceptable side. I do not trust salad dressing as a regular part of my meals. In general, it’s a highly processed vector of salt, sugar, and other mysterious chemicals to wreck an otherwise healthful salad. The fat in dressing is supposed to be helpful for properly digesting salad nutrients. My mother is a public health researcher, and after a very long conversation that I had to repeatedly bring back on track when she reacted with horror to every hypothetical food I suggested as an example of the non-salad parts of my meals, I managed to get her to agree that if I am eating something fatty elsewhere in the meal there is no need for additional fat directly on the salad.

When I said this, one of my co-workers immediately identified it. “Psychometrics,” he pronounced. “You are using psychometrics.” I found this characterization amusing. I would normally refer to this as introspection, but it may also be reasonable to think if it as a sort of informal, qualitative, personal psychometrics, or IQPP. Just kidding. I’m going to refer to it as introspection.

One of the first IQPP introspection-based lifestyle improvements I’ve made surrounding food in particular has been to recognize the pace at which I cease to enjoy a food. I have long been aware that my second bite of ice cream is not as good as my first, and that by the time I get to the bottom of a large soda I am either hardly noticing the flavor anymore or actively feeling sick. Selling food in small quantities is not something that capitalism encourages. The economy of scale and simple matters of supply and demand mean that the more food companies can get you to eat, the more money they’ll make, even with extremely steep bulk discounts. At my work, I have an unlimited supply of free lemonade and every week we have our aluminum cylinder of peanut M&Ms refilled. It lasts about two days on average. This resolves the issue of purchase volume as I am free to commit myself to no more than one M&M at a time. All that remains is self-control. By focusing my attention on the diminishing pleasure achieved by each additional peanut M&M, I have resolved the age old paradox, “you can’t eat just one.” I also use the roughly quarter-cup plastic container given for these snacks when I feel like I want some lemonade. A sporadic single peanut M&M and a quarter cup of lemonade now and then maximize my pleasure-to-sugar ratio when I might otherwise be distracted by temptation or feel sick from overindulgence.

With Halloween nearly two weeks past now, we’re still receiving bags of candy in our break rooms. After helping myself to four pieces of candy, I decided it was time to stop. This did not relieve me of temptation, though. Introspection to the rescue! Shortly after picking up a full-size bag of sour skittles, I analyzed my response to it. Without even opening the bag, I was already enjoying the experience. The crinkling of the gaudily colored packaging paper and the feel of the rough sour crystal-coated skittles inside served as the lead-in to the eventual experience of eating this snack. I decided to try treating it as the entire experience, and walked back to the break room to put down the bag of skittles.

Another treat from my childhood, Nerds, is a small, tangy candy that comes by the hundred in colorful little cardboard boxes. Lifting one of these boxes in my break room, I felt and heard the candies jostling and bouncing around. This was part of the experience, no doubt like the skittles carefully designed to keep people coming back and filling up on more sugar. Again, I was able to make it the whole experience. Every single time I saw that particular box of Nerds I picked it up and tilted it, remembering the joy I had received from others like it as a small child while suffering none of the consequences of adding so much sugar to my diet.

Do any of my readers have healthy eating strategies? Share in the comments.

Omelette Syndrome

“The Cleaners” will continue next week. Today let me tell you about something particularly interesting that happened to me this week. You see, I’ve been eating a lot of eggs lately. Poached, added to fried quinoa, and made into omelettes, these eggs have copious vitamin B-12 and, equally important, are delicious. I get them from the Raleigh Farmer’s Market where organic vegetables may be hard to come across, but ethically raised free-range animal products are readily available. The below eggs are from some special breed of chickens and, if you look very closely, they have a subtle green tint. The tint is subtle enough that I might not have noticed if I hadn’t been told, but apparently these eggs are very popular with customers, which supposedly makes up for the fact that the chickens that lay them are finicky and difficult to work with. For my part, I looked at the green eggs and told the vendor “I do not like them.” She looked surprised and told me she could get me normal eggs instead and I had to point out to her that I was Sam.

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In any case, I have been enjoying cooking with these eggs. They’re so easy and fast and versatile and delicious! Below is one of many omelettes I have made from Farmer’s Market eggs. This is a four-egg omelette with a filling of Tilamook cheddar and roasted vegetables and tofu. I roast the vegetables and tofu ahead of time to add them to many dishes. The dressing is Food Lion brand yellow mustard. Alice says I’m highly opinionated, and I disagreed until I realized I can make a reasoned argument for why mustard is the best condiment. It’s sugar-free and the coloring comes from turmeric so it has no artificial colors or flavors – just vinegar, ground mustard seed, salt, and turmeric. Delicious, gaily colored, and good minimally bad for you! Maybe I’m opinionated, but mustard is the best condiment. IMG_20150112_175626825

Here is a picture of poached eggs on top of roasted vegetables and tofu.

IMG_20150201_133027348Just a week ago, I started getting some unexpected tearing in my right eye. It happened multiple times a day for seemingly no reason. After three days I consulted some optometrist friends, and they couldn’t identify a cause, so I chose to ignore it and hope that it would eventually resolve itself.

Unfortunately, I had to work and conduct business while looking like the native American in the old anti-littering ads. I was always worried people would think I was crying, especially when my advisor was delivering me some bad news about some extra work I’d need to do. My co-worker Andy repeatedly apologized whenever he accidentally dropped a paper on the floor or missed a shot at the trash can. On Wednesday I was sitting in an empty room at the Unitarian Universalist Church waiting for someone to come to the intergenerational game night I’d organized and I worried that someone would come in and think I was crying from lonesomeness even though I was happily passing the time working on my computer. Good news: shortly afterwards a lovely family did arrive with their adorable daughter and we all had a great time.

Then on the sixth day, I bicycled into work and as I was locking up my bike I burst into a fit of sneezing. When I looked at my handkerchief, among the usual contents of a nose there was a large piece of omelette. From that moment forward, my symptoms ceased. One of my optometrist friends, Kelly, agreed with me that the omelette had most likely ended up in my oral-nasal passage during some recent breakfast, then managed to climb up into my right sinus, where it stayed, blocking my tears from draining properly and forcing them out into my eye, until I managed to sneeze it out. She also agreed that this event was patently bizarre. “LMFAO,” she said, “my advice to you, based on my experience in optometry, is to only figuratively inhale your breakfast from here on out.”

26 is the new 80

Yesterday I dramatically underestimated how old some folks I knew as children had grown. I figured middle school, but they’re both in 11th grade. Outrageously underestimating the ages of children is what elderly people do. Now in my second quarter-century of existence, I am having a quarter-life crisis.

Now, I’ve heard that as you begin to get older time starts to move more quickly. Given that it seems like a week ago I was just starting at NC State and just yesterday I first met my now girlfriend of almost a year, I imagine that if this process continues consistently, by the time I’m fifty I’ll be seconds away from ninety-nine and then dead. On my deathbed I’ll be telling the nurse “I feel like I was being born just five minutes ago.”

I also am beginning to get ailments that doctors just say I’ll have to put up with for the rest of my life. Well, one. I got my first “floater”  a little while back. It’s just a little dot that hangs around on my eye and gets in the way, especially when I’m working on my computer. Apparently they’re normal at only 26, but it took me a while not to feel existential dread about my inevitable demise every time it appeared in my vision. I suppose a crucial part of aging gracefully is coming to accept each new manifestation of my physical form’s slow, inexorable decay as it comes.

So, now it’s time for me to get serious about my life goals. Clearly I don’t have much time left, so I’ve got to start achieving them, pronto! That means I have to define these goals. Here they are roughly in no particular order:

  • Satisfaction and security in my career
  • Love and mutual support in my relationship
  • Being the change I want to see in the world
  • Some form of self-expression through my writing
  • A community that will not be mostly dead when I’m even older than I am now

The key of the last one is to avoid being alone in old age without having to have children, which are a drag on at least four of my five life goals as presented here. I suspect this can be accomplished with the proper intergenerational community involvement. In any case, I’ve got to get to work on it! Who knows how fast the years will start flying by?

My Personal Trainer

That time I climbed mount Iwate

Now that she’s been sick and nearly bedridden for two months, my girlfriend Alice is at about the same level of physical fitness as I am. This makes for an interesting opportunity – while she trains herself back into shape, I can train alongside and get into shape for the first time. So far, things are progressing nicely. I suspect that even recovering from a debilitating disease, Alice is still finding she has to go easy on me, but that’s not much of a surprise.

Currently our plan is to exercise for twenty minutes each time she visits, which is frequently. We’ve just started recently, so we’ve only had two workouts. The first workout we used a Wii game in which you perform various exercises that are measured by Wiimote instruments strapped to your body. I thought that I had mine in the right position, and when I squatted as the game asked me to my on-screen character squatted, but the game still didn’t register it. So, I did about five or six squats for each one registered, and then I squatted over and over again twelve or thirteen times with no response on the part of the system. Fortunately, we were on our second run-through (the first did not have this issue) so eventually we turned off the system and called it a day.

Nevertheless, my quadriceps are quite sore. When I’m in a state like this, I feel that I can begin to empathize with the plight of the arthritic. I walk stiffly, fall rather than sit into chairs and couches, and approach stairs with suspicion and distrust. I dare say I haven’t been this sore since that time I climbed Mount Iwate.

 

To Overeat or to Waste?

My eyes were bigger than my stomach this evening. I made some taco salad ( a la ChefScript) and filled a small baking dish with it. It turned out that I didn’t actually need a small baking dish’s worth of food, but I ate most of it anyway and felt uncomfortably full for a few hours. The food I didn’t eat I put in a tupperware to eat later. Now let’s imagine I did it right. Let’s imagine I ate exactly as much as I needed and then put all of the rest in the tupperware. Sounds easy, right? No? Join the club.

Let me bring up my sister now. If we think of  my sister, me, and food, usually one of the first points to come up is that she eats much less than I do. However, we are in fact much more similar than an outsider might expect. Recently my family received a collection of many different kinds of cookies from a friend of ours. It took only moments for us to figure out which were the best ones and which were less exciting.

One of the less exciting items was a small collection of homemade fig newtons.  People ate it and enjoyed it, but one was still left laying on the table still waiting to be eaten a week after it had arrived. One day, my sister came to me holding this last fig newton, and asked if I wanted it. I said she was welcome to it, and she said, “no, I asked if you wanted it. I was only going to eat it if nobody else wanted it.”

I responded, “if you will not get pleasure from that newton you should not – are you already eating it?”

My sister had started picking apart and eating the fig newton that she didn’t like before I could even finish talking.  This eating of food just to be rid of it appears to be endemic to all of my immediate family besides my mother. My father is the worst of all, making it into a dubious talent, dubbing himself the “human garbage can” and eating everything that is left over after dinner so he won’t have to put it away. He has a habit for throwing excess fruit and desserts into a blender and making a mystery smoothie. These smoothies are actually pretty delicious. He and I are the only people who will drink them, though.

My point, though, is that it is unwise to eat unhealthful food that one does not like just to be rid of it. If it’s good food like kale, it makes sense to eat that. We can store food when there’s a lot of it left, but things that won’t keep or are bad enough they might never be eaten must be handled in some other way, or we doom ourselves to being, well, human garbage cans. If we simply allow food to go to waste, though, maybe that’s even worse than eating a little bit more than perhaps we need.

What can we do with the food that we have now decided not to force ourselves to eat? Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Repackage it into something else. Kale ribs, chicken bones, onion skins, garlic peels, all of these things make great soup. You still discard them eventually after making the soup, but at least you’ve gotten closer to using it all effectively. Dad’s leftover shakes are a pretty good example of this as long as they’re actually good, which they almost always are.
  2. Compost it. Nature’s recycling always has been and still is the best around. If you don’t have space for an official composter, just find an area without a lot of traffic near where you live and make a compost heap there. If people start complaining, yeah, you’ll probably have to stop doing it, but hey, nobody’s said anything about my compost heap yet.
  3. Give it away. Obviously the efficacy of this is limited when we’re talking about leftovers, but excess cookies? My sister almost had the right idea when she tried to foist the last fig newton on me, although she would have been better served by just leaving it on the table where it would have probably found someone to enjoy it on its own.
  4. Feed it to your pet. Be careful with this one. An excess bit of meat could be good for a dog or cat, and a rabbit might enjoy some carrot greens, but for the most part you should probably steer clear of #4. Actually, for liability purposes, let’s say that Sam’s Blog’s official stance is Don’t ever do #4.
  5. Throw it out. Maybe, just maybe, certain foods are better off wasted. Take a twinkie for example. What is a twinkie? Maybe tossing junk food out with actual junk isn’t such a moral travesty as one might think. Obviously lovely cookies from a neighbor do not fall under this category.

Hopefully this list has given you some ideas how you can handle your excess food without forcing it into your own stomach. Actually following that advice is harder than it might initially seem for some people, though, so just keep working at it and maybe you’ll find that you like not being a garbage can. Maybe you never had this problem in the first place and it really is only my sister, my father and me. If you’re among us, do post a comment and let us know how you resolve your need to do away with excess food in your own stomach.