Sunday, September 25, 2011

Keeping Healthy: Diet

In a few days I'll be celebrating my fifty-seventh birthday.  As the years go by it has become more and more important to counteract the effects of aging with good diet and exercise.  I'll share some of the practices I've developed and am currently following, starting with diet in this piece and exercise in the next.

The three goals I have with diet are focused on getting results concerning the issues of weight, cholesterol and antioxidants.  The means to get good results have to be realistic for me, meaning that I can't set a regimen so restrictive I can't follow it.  That means I have had to commit most of it to habit, and I have to allow myself some exceptions and treats from time to time to stay sane.  I am 5'8" tall and weigh 160 pounds.

Let's start with breakfast.  I eat after my morning exercise and shower.  My typical breakfast Monday through Saturday includes a bowl of cereal with 1% milk.  I like some variety, so I have a rotation of six cereals that I rotate from day to day.  I buy cereals without high fructose corn syrup and added sugar.  Yes, I have had to read the ingredient labels.  I look for ones that have higher fiber content.  To save you some time, those criteria eliminate Kellogg's products!  My rotation includes Shredded Wheat, Kashi Go Lean, Raisin Bran, Grape Nuts, Wheat Chex and Cream of Wheat.  The Chex are a little marginal nutritionally, but as I said, I get a bit of a treat now and then!  I heat up the Cream of Wheat on Saturday because I have more time that day, not having to go to work. 

I throw six to eight blueberries, three to four blackberries or raspberries and half a banana, cut up into bite-sized slices in there.   The berries are great for innumerable vitamins and powerful antioxidant effects.  Antioxidants work to prevent the basic biochemical deterioration that is at the heart of the aging process itself.  I also have a 12-ounce glass of water and eight ounces of prune juice and another fruit juice.  I know that's a lot of hydration, but remember I have breakfast after a good workout.  Most of us don't get enough fluids as it is.  I'm careful with the fruit juices.  I drink 100% prune juice and Healthy Balance fruit juices or 100% orange juice.  The Trim brand is good too, but our market doesn't carry it anymore.  It's easy to buy junk fruit juices that are full of sugar and calories.  I read the labels and avoid those.

I also take supplements with my breakfast.  The list includes Vitamin C, a B-Complex, Fish Oil for good antioxidant and cholesterol-fighting properties, Oscal with D and Calcium, Glucosamine, and a Centrum Silver multivitamin.  Yep, that's six tablets.    

On Sunday I typically splurge and have eggs and toast with canola margarine.  Sometimes I'll fry some lean turkey to go with the eggs.  I continue with the fruit and vitamins.

Lunch at work has become a consistent routine.  I have an apple or orange, a 4-ounce Activia lowfat yogurt, a couple of cherry tomatoes, about a dozen almonds and a handful of walnut halves with water to drink.  It's low-cal yet high in energy, vitamins and minerals, and promotes the good cholesterol.  If I need an afternoon snack I'll have some peanut butter, sometimes on soda crackers (unsalted tops!).  Breakfast and lunch have really come to be comfortable and ingrained as habits.  That makes the pattern easy to follow.

My keys at dinner are not as regimented, but incorporate some basic principles.  I have red meat no more than once a week.  Frozen or otherwise pre-prepared meals are as rare as hen's teeth, since they're usually full of fats and preservatives, often including way too much salt.  Speaking of which, I do not put salt on anything other than corn on the cob, which I love but have maybe twice a year during the summer.  In order to fill up before the high-calorie items I always start with the salad and/or vegetables and always drink plenty of water.  In fact, one dinner a week is customarily a salad meal.  Potatoes and other starch like rice are OK as long as they're not smothered in stuff like butter and gravy, other than once in awhile as a treat.

Stuff like chips and sodas have disappeared altogether.  When they're not around they're not even a temptation anymore, and I don't miss them, even though I used to be a Diet Coke junkie.  I confess I have taken lately to frequently having a little square of dark chocolate after dinner.  It does have antioxidant effects, and that's all the rationalization I need, there!  And it helps to allow yourself to go out at least monthly or have a splurge meal once on the weekend.  Few can stick to a fairly strict pattern without a break now and then without getting frustrated and chucking the whole thing, and I feel that's a main reason most diets fail.  I've been doing this for a few years though, and am very happy with it.  I feel better, get sick less, and have seen improved blood tests and energy longer at work.           

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Local Election Endorsements for November 8

After extending invitations and holding candidate interviews, the Tulare County Democratic Central Committee has made its local candidate endorsements for the November 8 election.  The recommended candidates for Visalia City Council are Amy Shuklian and Raymond Macareno.  The recommended candidates for Visalia Unified School District Governing Board are Lucia Vazquez in Area 6 and Lita Reid in Area 7.   

Visalia City Council members are elected at large throughout the whole city.  Since three seats are up for election, voters will be able to cast three votes, and the top three vote getters in the six-candidate field will  be elected to four-year terms on the Council.

Amy Shuklian is an incumbent council member and the Vice Mayor of Visalia.  She has a deserved reputaton as an extremely hard worker and is known for her openness.  Amy got her start advocating for a dog park and recreational facilities, and has helped bring both to fruition.  She has never missed a Council meeting, and is known throughout the area for her accessibility and effectiveness in working together with city, county, state and federal agencies and electeds to get things done for Visalia.  Always attentive to the voice and concerns of the people, she intiated a monthly open house where she makes appointments and meets with citizens to hear and help with their issues.  Amy well deserves a second four-year term.

Raymond Macareno is currently a service center Director and the former Executive Director of the Tulare County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  Raymond combines a strong service ethic with a knowledge of the needs of small business.  As such, Raymond would provide a voice and sounding board for communities that currently are not represented on the Council, particularly in the Hispanic community.  Raymond's multifacted talents and experience merit his election to the Council.

Lucia Vazquez is running unopposed in Visalia Unified School District Area 6.  The School Board has for the first time gone to area elections, and Lucia will be representing a heavily Hispanic and low-income area that has not had representation before.  A Consultant and Researcher for Proteus, Inc., Lucia is not content to rest on her laurels as an unopposed candidate.  She is running a vigorous campaign to get her name out and meet her constituents.  She believes that education is the means up the ladder for today's youth as it was for her, and feels that parent outreach and involvement is a key to fostering an attitude of success.  That is something she intends to work hard on.

Lita Reid is our choice for the School Board in Area 7.  Lita has a proven record of community involvement and the commitment to make a difference.  She is a practicing attorney and was a longtime newspaper editor.  She realizes the constraints current budgetary realities impose, but has a systematic approach to keeping funding where it will have the most impact, in the classroom.  Her dedication to the education of the whole child, rather than simply teaching to standaridized tests, marks Lita as worthy of support.          

Monday, September 5, 2011

In Observance of Labor Day

Happy Labor Day, everyone! We celebrate Labor Day both to pay tribute to the dedicated work done by American workers and to commemorate the improvements in our quality of life won by the steadfast efforts of the American Labor Movement.  The first Labor Day was celebrated on September 5, 1882 by the Central Labor Union in New York City.  By the time Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894, it was already being celebrated in thirty states.  As you enjoy the day off today, don't forget to think a moment or two about the sacrifices made throughout the years to win the pay, rights and benefits that even non unionized workers today enjoy.

One of the earliest focuses of Labor was workplace safety.  In 1904, 27,000 American workers were killed on the job just in transportation, manufacturing and agriculture.  In 1914 35,000 died in industrial accidents and 700,000 were injured--and that was in a population only one-third that of the United States today.  Particular incidents such as the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911 galvanized the people and finally moved protective legislation.  In that disaster 146 workers, mostly women, burned or leaped to their deaths from the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of a New York high rise.  Without running water, fire escapes or fire extinguishers, with the doors locked and the fire department's ladders not reaching past the seventh floor, the tragedy was inevitable.  100,000 marched in support of workplace safety regulations and the politicians finally had the courage to overcome employer resistance.

The Populist and Progressive Parties of the 1890s and early 1900s stood for the rights of union membership and collective bargaining.  They campaigned for the 8-hour day, railroad, banking and telecommunications regulation, health and safety protections and a minimum wage.  Though both parties eventually went defunct, virtually their entire programs were eventually adopted, much of them co-opted by the Democrats and Republicans.  They endured violent assaults that killed many workers in such strikes as that at the Homestead Steel Mill and Pullman Sleeping Car Company.  

Such standard practices as lunch breaks, weekends, overtime and holiday pay, vacations, health benefits, worker's compensation, health and safety standards and enforcement and even the concept of national immigration restrictions owe their existence to the organized labor movement, which is nothing less than the democratic action of workers banding together to support humane treatment, due process and a just compensation in repayment for the value they add to their employer's bottom line.

In these times when once again large employers and conservative politicians are trying to roll back the benefits common people have won through years of struggle, give a thought or two on this Labor Day to the workers down through the years who risked their jobs, safety and sometimes even gave their lives for the pay and working conditions most of us now enjoy.