Sunday, February 28, 2010

Worth much more than 1000 Words

I've been reading the literature for the P90X workout program and learning what they want you to do before you begin working with the DVDs.
There's a basic fitness level test that they want you to take and pass before you start the program. It's nothing outlandish, 3 pull-ups for men, 1 for women, 15 push-ups for men, 3 regular or 15 from the knees for women, etc. There are other tests for strength, flexibility and the like.
It also gives you a place to write down your results so you can chart your progress from before you start the workout routines and then again after 90 days is over.

They also want you to take a photographs of yourself once before you start, again at 30 days, 60 days and finally after 90 days when you've completed the program. You're supposed to take a front view, shirt off picture (or with a sports bra on if you're a woman) with your hands on your hips, another with your arms raised to the side and curled in bicep flexes, two back shots just like the front views and one picture with a side view.
Don't worry I'll spare you posting them here, at least for now.

That got me thinking about how hard that can be, taking body shots of yourself especially when you feel like you're out of shape. I consider myself to be in decent shape and the idea still makes me a little uncomfortable.
That may sound odd to friends of mine who have known me to be, well, not exactly body shy but there's just something especially nerve wracking about having photos taken specifically for evaluation purposes.
However, I've come to realize taking those dreaded "before" photos is a damned good idea and I won't make the mistake again of skipping this step.

I believe I've mentioned on here before that although for much of my life I was the tall lean type, there was a period of time in my mid/late 30s that I started getting heavy and I really put on quite a few pounds. While I never got to the point that one might think of me as a fat guy, I did get quite a gut, pronounced love handles and soft, flabby arms .

Back then I was relatively new to Seattle. I was living with my girlfriend of the time, I had a few work friends but aside from that I didn't have a very large social circle. Even the couple local folks I knew from before I moved to Seattle I had very limited contact with for a couple years. I didn't even travel back home to visit old friends and family for the first couple years I was in Seattle.
Time went by and I managed to shed those excess pounds. My old girlfriend and I have long since parted, I left that job ages ago and have lost contact with just about everyone I knew from there.
It wasn't until after I started getting myself in shape that I started going out more, being more social and I began to meet the people that have become the wonderful circle of friends I now have. I've also since began traveling back east at least once a year to visit old friends.

The point of this long-winded piece of personal history is that when I tell friends I have now that I used to be heavy or at the very least, heavier, I sometimes get remarks to the effect of that's hard for me to picture, if not outright smirks of disbelief.
Last summer a couple of old friends came through Seattle to visit and the two of them went out to dinner with my girlfriend and me. Unprompted by me one of them pointed out to my girlfriend “you wouldn't know this to look at him now but Patrick got got fat there for a while”. The look on my girl's face, I could swear, was a look of Really? I always thought you were full of shit about that.
Of course I would never have to worry about any of these looks of disbelief if I only had some photographs of myself from back then.

There are a few different things that finally woke me up and got me motivated to change my diet and live a more active lifestyle. One that stands out very clearly in my mind is a snapshot my old girlfriend took of me back then. I was sitting on the couch watching TV and believe and I wasn't aware she was taking the picture at the time.
I remember when I first saw that photo, it was almost like I couldn't believe that was me; my stomach was hanging well over where my belt would've been, my arms looked bigger than they ever had before but not in a good way and my face looked puffy. However the thing that really struck me most about that photograph was that I just looked unhealthy.
Seeing myself look like that was startling and depressing.

It was quite a few years later when I went to go searching for photographic evidence of how heavy I had gotten, that I realized that I had no photographs of me from then. Even the photo I just described above I seem to have misplaced somewhere along the line. I swear I did not consciously get rid of that picture but some part of me obviously didn't want it around.

While I didn't have the interest in photography back then than I do now, I've always enjoyed taking pictures and I have photographs from just about every era of my life. During the time that I put on that extra weight though I apparently also put my camera in a drawer and forgot about it for while because I was taking no pictures back then. Again, I never consciously thought to myself that I wanted to avoid having my picture taken because I was out of shape. I think it must have just been some sort of an internal vanity self-preservation instinct that kept me from breaking out my camera.

Whatever it was, it's clear to me now that during that time I didn't want to be social, I dressed to hide my form and I clearly did not want to have my picture taken. I didn't even take pictures when I was joined a gym to mark my starting point. That was probably because I didn't have faith in myself that I stick to my plan and get myself in shape.

It's a shame because now I would really like to have photos of myself from back then. Certainly it might be a good thing to show on this blog. An image of how I looked at 35 compared to how I look at 45 might add a little bit of credibility to what I have to say.
For myself I wish I had pre-fitness pictures just to remind myself where I've been and what I can accomplish when I make the right choices.

So yes, before I start this P90X thing I'm going to take those photos. Even if I don't show them to anyone else, I'll have them for myself as either mementos of what I accomplished or reminders that I need to try harder next time.
None of us like the idea of being the “Before” picture but that is after all part of the process of becoming the “After”.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I'm really proud of Jamie Oliver

I'm sure most of you are familiar with Jamie from his Naked Chef books & TV show. Let's face it, the guy is simply very marketable as a celebrity chef. He's young, good looking and personable and his approach to cooking has kept with a consistent and accessible theme; keep it simple, fun & delicious.

What you may not know, is that he has also made healthy eating as a pet cause and has been active and effective in promoting it, especially in regards to children.
If you haven't watched his Eat to Save Your Life videos on You Tube I highly recommend taking 45 minutes out of your day to see it.

In 2005 he began a campaign to improve the meals in the British school system and now he has turned his attention to American school meals.

Of course, how do you bring an issue to the attention of the American people? You do it on TV. Take a look.

It premieres Friday March 26th on ABC and you can read more about it on his website.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lean is flavor too.

I've mentioned before the old kitchen mantra Fat is Flavor; I used to hear it, and say it, all the time.
You don't hear it so much anymore. I'm not exactly sure why; it may just being fading from use the way a lot of the old kitchen slang has. I especially miss calling people "shoemaker" if their cooking is not up to par. If I caution my cooks these day to not get "shoe-y" in their work, I have to back up and explain what I meant. Sad to see the traditional insults be lost to history.
But I digress.

I think part of the reason that Fat is Flavor isn't used as much anymore may have something to do with the growing popularity of leaner cuts of meat. Certainly there is still plenty of fat to be found on restaurant menus; the pork belly trend alone is clear evidence of that.
However, the active use of special flap cuts, shoulder "tender", flank & pork tenderloin to name just a few, have made it clear that there is plenty of flavor to be found in the lean cuts as well.

Today I grilled up about sixty pounds of one of my favorite lean cuts for a customer of mine; boneless lamb loin. Hardly a whisper of fat but with lots of that sweet, delicious lamb flavor. If you haven't tried this cut before I highly suggest making a stop at your local butcher and picking some up.

I grilled up the stuff for my client today as you can see.

Even though I'm still sticking to mostly softer foods I couldn't resist sneaking a few thin slices: delicious.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A bump in the road

The whole blogging thing to some extent is really an experiment for me. I'm trying to figure out if I have the talent to effectively share what I have learned and what I do in practical application each day via the written word.

One of the things I keep hearing as I try to learn more about the blogging process is that I need to "find my voice" and figure out who my audience is and to speak to them.
This all sounds very good and I'm certain is valuable and useful advice. I'm just not sure I fully understand it. I guess at this point I'm trying to find my voice and work out exactly what I want this blog to be. The food/fitness partnership is certainly a big part of it but I also want to include my photography as well. Plus I think it needs to be about me & my life to some extent. That is what any blog truly is, yes?

I want to share what I've experienced in the past, those things that have brought me to where I am today as well as certain things I have observed in working with others who are trying to find the balance of health, fitness and a happy, pleasureful life.

Of course I also need to talk about what's happening with me right now. After all living a healthy life is an ongoing process. It's nearly impossible to strike a perfect equilibrium with our bodies and our lives where we maintain a certain level of health without fluctuation. Our health is constantly in motion and are almost always either getting better or worse, more fit or less healthy, thinner or fatter. For most people this is a pendulum swinging back and forth and the real secret is to do as Scott Smith says "Be more gooder than badder".
It's okay to take that step backwards so long as you make sure to take those two steps forward as well.

I haven't been blogging much lately because I've hit one of those little bumps in the road that happens in all our lives. Nothing major mind you, but enough to throw me off my game as it were. I was thinking that I have nothing to write about because I wasn't working on anything positive that I should share. It occurs to me now that this is the kind of thing that should be shared as well. We all go off track and that should be every much a part of the blog as when I am scoring high on my diet, exercise and motivation points.

This current little bump in the road I've been facing is a dental matter of all things. It seems to have some sort of issue with my jaw in which I've lost bone in one area. Due to that my dentist told me that I had a few lower teeth that I was going to lose; it was only a matter of time. So after much discussion and second opinions it was decided that they were to removed these teeth preemptively before they became too painful and put in a bridge to replace them.
Well as these things tend to go the process hasn't been 100% smooth. Some 10 days after the initial procedure I'm still on pain medication and I still have trouble eating many foods. I don't need to tell you, this is gotten very old very quickly and I really want my mouth to get back in working order again.

The combination of being on constant medication and having a severely restricted diet has left me feeling weak, listless and completely without motivation.
While the reduced calories I've been able to take in have kept me from putting on excess fat, in fact I do believe I've lost some weight, my inability to take in a decent amount of animal protein combined with a lack of resistance training isn't doing much good for my muscle tone. Granted it's not much of a change, it has only been a couple weeks but I can feel the difference.
I miss the gym and I also know that having taken a break for this long starting back up again may require a bit of a push. I just hope that I can get off this medication soon because it's draining my strength and my will and that's not the way I like to live my life.

So what can I do before I doze off early on the couch? I can plan and I can prepare.

I've been thinking about doing some sort of change in my workout regimen. It's good to keep your body challenged by new activities and also I want to try different things just to see how my body reacts.
One of the workout programs has become very popular and I've heard some very good things about is Beach Body's P90X program. If you haven't heard about it or seen the infomercial it's a 90 day home workout program that uses only a pull-up bar, dumbbells (or resistance bands) and a workout mat along with DVDs of various exercises.

I am not a fan of fitness and weight loss products you buy off TV or anywhere else for that matter but from all reports this one does have some merit. If I'm going to keep myself abreast of fitness info and trends and be able to offer informed advice than I should at least investigate this a little bit myself.

So that's what I'm doing right now. Even if I don't feel up to working out at the moment I'm gathering info and planning my next step. I guess I'm trying to do is keep my head in the game and at the very least and keep some sort of momentum while I'm sitting still, if that makes any sense?

Everything I've read about P90X so far has made it seem relatively solid. So as it stands right now I'm thinking I may start this around the beginning of March. If that's what I end up doing I'll write about it here at all as you can keep me accountable.

Right now even though I may have pulled my car over to the side of the road, I still have my eyes focused further down the highway.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Boneless "short ribs"

I'm going to make this post brief because tonight is after all the season premiere of LOST. Also after tonight Dexter is slotted to be removed from On-Demand and I haven't seen the finale yet. So I have "work" to do tonight. ;-)

The flap meat or "boneless short ribs" were a success, of the sort anyway. They came out tender and delicious although I believe they could've been better. Partially because they were cooked in a crockpot rather than a true braise in the oven but as I said before I was nervous about leaving them unattended in the oven for so long while I was at work. The crockpot was simply a safer choice.

Also next time, along with adding some herbs and other seasonings, I will increase the amount of red wine and let it reduce a bit before adding the meat and I will also decrease the amount of stock I use. Then again, ideally I would make a reduction sauce from the cooking liquid after the meet was finished. I didn't do that this time. I was testing out the quality of the meat first and foremost this time around.

Still, it was a delicious dinner and I look forward to making it again, the right way that time. In fact I think I may cook up some of this for Super Bowl. I'm not sure yet but it's a notion I'm kicking around.
Here's an idea of what the meat looked like when it was done.

Okay, enough of this, time for me to get to "work".