Tuesday, March 08, 2011
I wrote a few days ago a rant about public education in defense of teachers. I wrote it with the intent of supporting the rallies and protests in certain states.
It seems the theme is reoccurring in unusual aspects of my life.
I went to a Barnes and Noble yesterday to buy a Nook eReader. I mostly wanted it because I want to be able to read while working out. I am an only child. When I was little, I read mountains of books to entertain myself. I still love to read, but I don't read as often as I once did. I thought since I have about an hour to myself during workouts, it would be a great way to add book time.
I've been in Savannah about a year. I work at home full time, so I don't have contact with office coworkers. Thus, it's been difficult to make new friends.
I've been meaning to join a pilates and spinning class to help fill the social void, but I haven't done it yet. While I was in the bookstore, it occurred to me that maybe I should join a book club.
While I just bought the Nook, I was browsing some of the new releases to get an idea of books I might want to buy. A woman said to me, "Are you looking for something good to read?" "Do you have a recommendation?" I asked. She pointed out a few titles and said, "Our book club really enjoyed these."
I was taken aback. Wow - weird! I said, "What book club?" She immediately became guarded. "Oh, it's just a small little book club with friends. We've been going for years." I got the message. It's an exclusive, private thing. This is one of the things I have difficulty adjusting to. It seems to be an 'east coast' thing. There is a culture of exclusivity. This same conversation in Denver, Seattle or San Francisco would have been met with an eager invitation to join at such and such coffee shop on Tuesday.
I thanked her for her recommendations, then went home and looked up a book club on Meetup.com. I found one near me, and immediately clicked the button that I was attending. The meeting is in 2 weeks.
The choice of books for this meeting also seems to be uncanny. It is "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua. When I wrote my blog about the teacher's strike a few days ago, I added that my parents were disappointed when I got B's on my homework. This book is about a Chinese-American mother who is very strict and unorthodox by Western standards raising her two daughters in America. She pushes them very hard to excel.
If anyone is interested, I'll write separately about my thoughts on it. I'm enjoying the book immensely. My perspective for the book club should be very different. I see a lot of my upbringing in the story, a lot of myself, and many of my own concerns about raising a child at some point in the future. If we have children, I want to make learning fun like my parents did for me. I want to push them to be the A student and reward excellence like the asian model. But I want to encourage them to find who they are and their own calling in life. In essence, I want to combine the strengths of an achievement based education like the asians, and the freedom and independence of the Americans. The best of both worlds. I think it is possible, because I think my parents were able to do that for me.
I'm looking forward to the book club meeting. For whatever reason, it seems fate has brought book clubs and a discussion about culture and education into my range.
Monday, March 07, 2011
I've been trying unsuccessfully to wake up at 6am and get an hour workout before starting work at 7 for the past couple of months. While I've long since grown out of the college girl "sleep til 11" phase, early rising isn't one of my strongest traits.
This morning I did better. I managed to get OUT of bed at 6, at least, but through rather unpleasant circumstances. The cat hacked a furball, so I had to get up and clean it up.
I turned the light on and laid back in bed. With the light on, I didn't immediately snuggle up in my still warm blanket and snooze. At 6:30, I was sufficiently awake to get my workout clothes on and to the gym.
I've been trying to exercise before my breakfast. I've read a number of reports lately that say studies show more fat is burned, and less fat is stored when starting exercise from a fasted state. I thought I would give it a try for a while. There is a definite performance tradeoff, though. When exercising on an empty stomach, I cannot workout as hard. I don't have as much energy to do very intense cycles. But I do not get dizzy or experience any of the unpleasant side effects that some people have on an empty stomach. I don't have any side effects other than feeling a sluggish, so I am going to continue to do it.
From my preliminary observations, it may be working. I did get a noticeable drop in my waist size in my first week. I've been doing a split routine. I'm trying to get 1 hour of exercise in a day. I'm doing 30 minutes in the morning before breakfast, and 30 minutes before lunch or before dinner. My second workout is usually much more productive as I am in a less fasted state than before breakfast. So, I am doing both. A fasted worked, and a non fasted workout.
The other benefit of this, if the study is correct, muscles are primed to handle insulin better when starting from a fasted state. This may be important for preventing insulin resistance, or lessening insulin resistance.
If you are training for a competitive event, you should never run on empty. Your performance and training will suffer drastically. Some people can't work out on an empty stomach because the low blood sugar will make them dizzy. If you get dizzy, stop. However, if you have no ill side effects other than not having enough energy to go full out, then this may be an effective way to burn more fat.
Also, this refers to cardio workouts ONLY. NEVER try to lift weights on an empty stomach!
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Many of our friends have the mistaken impression since we like to travel that we're high flying globetrotters, dining at the finest restaurants in London and Paris.
We aren't, and we don't. When we travel, we travel like a local.
Many of us actually live in tourist towns ourselves. I've lived in Denver, Seattle and Savannah. Do you eat in your local tourist traps?
No, you don't. Not unless you have visitors from out of town who insist on going, right? You warn them its a tourist trap, but they want to go anyway.
When I visited Korea, I had the great benefit of having my family with me. We ate in hidden side markets for just a few dollars. The most expensive meals I had were near the US army base, where the prices were inflated. McDonalds, Quiznos and Pizza Hut abounded.
In the UK, I had the benefit of my fiance who is British. We were briefly fleeced in London because he didn't know where to go, either. The rest of the time we had really great local food for not much money. No suit and tie required.
In Barcelona, we wandered the markets where the locals shopped and ate. Americans kind of stick out like a sore thumb. They'll wear a Hawaiian print polo ANYWHERE. We avoided the restaurants where there was a congregation of khaki's and polos.* We looked for congregations of Spanish locals. Where did they go? What did they eat? We'll try some of that.
We drove along the Spanish coast where there are no tourists. Fortunately my Spanish was just good enough. As you get farther away from the metropolitan areas, the number of people who can speak English decreases. They were very eager to share their culture and food. The Spanish were very friendly to us, and were very polite about my poor Spanish.
Once upon a time in Mexico, we were in a grocery store looking at an overwhelming array of tequilas. This nice man came up to us, pointed to a bottle of tequila on the shelf, and gave a thumbs up. We took the local's recommendation, and were not disappointed.
This is my favorite thing about traveling. Experiencing the culture through the people and the food. We've been on vacations with family and friends who never leave the resorts or the confines of the tourist areas.
I can understand. Until I actually visited these places, if you just go by the horror stories you hear in the news, it would seem like you shouldn't go anywhere. But I'm sure you know where all the bad areas of your local city are, too.
It is true that many people in certain foreign countries may be very pushy about trying to sell you something. Have to remember that if you make over US$35K, you are in the top 1% richest people in the world. Most people in the world are very poor, and very desperate. You don't have to feel obligated to give them money. You do have to be smart about avoiding getting pick pocketed. But this is true in the metro cities I've lived in, too. Use zippered purses, and don't keep your wallet in a back pocket. I would do this while visiting LA or NY, too.
While we were in Spain, we bought a blind, old homeless woman a sandwich. She was genuinely grateful. On the other hand, we had a bellboy in a 3rd world country tell us that he thought a $20 tip for carrying our bags was appropriate because $20 didn't mean as much to us. We did not give him a $20 tip.
If you can blend in, you'll be hassled less. People in Europe and Asia are generally very well put together. Not runway models, but not running through town with a pair of Crocs. In Asia, there are tailors everywhere. Americans look very 'dumpy' in comparison with oversized t-shirts, pants that don't fit right, and athletic shoes. I am not exaggerating. You can spot the American from 100 yards. It is embarrassing. If I were a timeshare salesperson, that's who I would make a b-line for. And they do.
* I'm picking on the Americans because I'm American. My fiance is British, and he had a few facepalm moments with British compatriots as well. Apparently the British have a terrible stereotype of being loud and rowdy when they travel in the EU. About as famous as Americans with their colorful polos.
Saturday, March 05, 2011
In my last post, I gave high praises to teachers and the job they do. I don't know how they do it, day in, day out. Especially kids in grade school. I'm tearing my hair out trying to teach an adult friend about good nutrition.
She has to learn about portion sizes. We once went to a Chipotle, and she shocked me with a comment about how small the burritos were. Never heard anyone describe a Chipotle burrito as 'small'.
We went to a friend's wedding in the Bahamas. She was really uncomfortable the whole time. It made me realize how insulating fat can be. It was very hot, but it seemed to be unbearable for her.
She reminds me of me about 10 years ago.
She didn't know me when I was very overweight, but she knows that I was. She only really knows the new me. Not supermodel thin, but healthy; cycler; kayaker; snorkeler/diver.
She asked me several times questions about fitness and diet. She still holds to the archaic idea of 'diet' though, not lifestyle change. Like, how you change what you eat is what you will do for the rest of your life. Not soup and salad until you get to your bikini weight.
She says my new blog has helped inspire her to make some changes. She bought some of the pots I recommended for making single serving sizes of food. I told her to only eat half her box when she grabs teriyaki for lunch. There's actually 2-3 portions in the to-go teriyaki. Splitting in half will get her used to smaller, more normal sized portions. It's how I learned.
I keep encouraging her to join Spark. She hasn't done it yet. I hope she will. Keeping a food diary is essential. You can't change your life unless you know what you are putting in your body.
I told her to make a few changes at a time. I thought I was getting through to her, making progress. Then she said, "Ok, I can do that. I can make a few changes at a time. Like, no beer with fried foods."
Arg. Not quite what I meant...but...ok...sure. That will save 140 calories.
Well. It's a start.
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