Monday, December 28, 2009

Litter of a Different Nature

It is safe to assume that I am a non-smoker. Cigarettes are just plain bad for you (even "socially"). Modern science has brought this fact to everyone's attention, yet smoking still exists. I can understand old people having this addiction, but anyone younger than forty, who is addicted, is just weird. When they were young, they understood that smoking is no longer cool; it's quite the opposite. Why did they begin in the first place? It's expensive, it stinks, it turns your lungs black, it is far from 'cool', and it kills you.

Basically, hemoglobin carries oxygen to the lungs. However when Carbon Dioxide, or nicotine, is available, they replace oxygen and are carried to the lungs in its place. Alveoli, where gas and oxygen exchange occur, decrease resulting in less surface area for gas exchange (oxygen supply to the lungs). This leads to emphysema and long-time smokers get to carry around an added accessory, known as the oxygen tank. Sadly, many second-hand smokers (non-smokers subjected to smoke) also get to carry around these fun devices.

Much to smokers' chagrin, a growing number of laws forbid smoking indoors and near entrances; some countries are even outlawing it completely. Hopefully, this number rises, as well as cigarette taxes in countries that have yet to outlaw smoking. Smokers argue that this is unjust, claiming that smoking only affects the smoker. Evidence reveals otherwise. Additionally, it smells horrible and it makes other people's hair and clothes reek. It’s an all around annoying habit.

They are also litterers. I am an urbanite who cringes every time I watch a smoker throw their cigarette down on the sidewalk. They always do, it is inevitable. This is why San Francisco recently upped their cigarette tax - to afford the extra costs that are required to clean up after smokers. The extra taxes and laws are well-deserved. Furthermore, they should not be able to take additional 'smoke-breaks', while the smart people have to toil away to pick up their slack. They should not be able to congregate outside their place of employment causing patrons to walk through their cloud of stench to get to the entrance of the building.

That’s today’s rant. I haven't updated in awhile thanks to finals, school, and the holidays, but mostly due to shame. I did not make it a month without sugar. It started with an accidental Mimosa (orange juice and Champagne) during brunch in San Francisco. It was an accident, but sugar is still sugar. I also knew Thanksgiving was just around the corner and I love cranberry sauce. If anyone has tried cranberry sauce without sugar... Anyway, the short-lived trial made me realize that sugar is easy to accidentally ingest, or forget about. However, I will repeat the challenge in the coming year; this time I will succeed.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Speaking of Fast Food



This van has been parking in my neighborhood recently. It was love at first sight. Okay. It was hate at first site, until Sheldon told me to look closer, then it was love at first sight.

At first, I looked away because of Ronald. I have had a burning hatred for McDonald’s ever since I was a child. Animal cruelty issues, gluttony, laziness, low-quality food, global litter, you name it. As a result, the mere portrait of Ronald McDonald makes me nauseously turn away. What can I say? Clowns are creepy. Couple them with something even creepier, like fast food, and they become terrifying!

Once I looked closer, I had to smile. Indeed, McDonald’s wants your soul... and your wallet. In exchange, they will give you 15 pounds of body fat per year, elevated triglyceride and LDL levels, and low-quality food with a bout of E. coli on the side.

Anyway, this van belongs to a clothing company called Iron Fist Rocks. They make cute, punk-style clothes. I couldn’t find any connection between their merchandise and the anti-McDonald’s theme, but I appreciate it. Thank you for making my day, Iron Fist Rocks. Perhaps, one day, the food industry will be ruled with an iron fist.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Global Litter

One can safely assume that I am not a fan of fast food, for obvious reasons. The evidence is clear; it strongly promotes many of the top killers in the United States (CVD, Diabetes, cancer, obesity, etc.) and they promote (yes, promote) animal cruelty. They request that their suppliers produce meat as cheaply and inhumanely as possible. That is one reason why fast food is cheap!


However, my issues with fast food go beyond industry politics, health, and even animal cruelty. Basically, fast food restaurants all look the same; they’re ugly right down to their cheap, plastic backyards (playgrounds). They bring down the aesthetic qualities any city could hope to have. They generate immense amounts of litter. Styrofoam cups and plastic containers decorate the streets thanks to fast food consumers. Another charm is their association with crime rates. Many factors contribute to the effect of fast food chains on increased crime rates, but that’s another book. Thankfully, Eric Schlosser wrote Fast Food Nation, as I’m no sociologist.


Anyway, it has come to my attention that entire cities are dedicated to fighting McDonaldization! I am not alone in my battle. Ever go to a quaint, coastal town? It wouldn’t be so quaint if it was littered with these fast food atrocities; it would be ugly. Sadly, that is what is happening; a McD’s can be found all the way from the Louvre to the Great Pyramids. Thankfully, governments are increasingly implementing city codes which make it difficult, if not impossible, for fast food chains to build. It is not legally possible to prevent them completely, in most cities, but they can prevent drive-thrus. After all, what is a fast food restaurant without a drive thru?!


Coronado, California is one such city, along with Berkeley and Davis, California. My research is incomplete, but I know there are more cities (especially historical charms) with even more concrete regulations that absolutely prevent these abominations to beauty.


Sadly, during my stay in beautiful Berkeley, I did see a McDonald’s. However, as ugly as the golden arches will always be, note what a difference a lack of a drive-thru makes! It’s a step up.




Fast food isn’t easy on the eyes, and it’s even harder on the hips. If you don’t have time for slow food, skip a meal; it’ll do a body good.


P.S. Sugar Update!

I am still going strong. It has been tough and I was accosted by a cotton candy vendor on my second, sugar-free day. I find myself ogling pastry stands and homemade food has been my only ally.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Unintentional Exercise


An escalator and a set of stairs... guess which one is empty. Can someone please explain this troublesome aversion towards burning a few extra, unwanted Calories? At the same time, many people who avoid the stairs also have gym memberships. This baffles me; it’s free exercise!

While using the airport and BART in San Francisco, I couldn’t help but notice this phenomenon, as evident in this photo I took. The only thing this contributes to is obesity, type II diabetes, cardiac disease, and lonely stairwells. It’s criminal. Taking the stairs is an excellent opportunity to practice preventative medicine. Therefore, I implore you to take the stairs unless you are handicapped, injured, or carrying luggage.

I live on a 3rd floor, but I only take the elevator/escalator if I have luggage, or if I am with friends that abhor the use of stairs. In fact, I have come to realize that it is socially unacceptable to take the stairs. It really is. I’ve been in the company of elevator/escalator-users, but I took the stairs, instead. It was awkward. Today’s message, my growing friends: exercise whenever possible! It won’t kill you; it might even keep you alive.

See you in the stairwell.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Daily Bread

I don’t mind stealing bread... if I could find any. Until that day comes, you can keep your bread boxes unlocked. Health food stores and supermarkets have an entire aisle dedicated to this staple. Unfortunately, they are bastardized versions of what we used to eat (and what most cultures still eat). How hard can it be? There are only four ingredients necessary to make bread: water, salt, yeast, flour. That’s it! Just like beer, only four simple ingredients are needed to created a plethora of breads, each with their own unique flavors. Instead, there are at least twenty ingredients in today’s everyday bread, half of which are preservatives, half that are unpronounceable, and of course... sugar!

In my quest for decent bread, I have come to realize that I am to blame as much as the food industry. For instance, there is fresh bread available (not widely, but it’s there). I do not buy it because I don’t consume my daily bread. I love my sandwiches and toast, but not on a daily basis. I love fresh bread, especially fresh sourdough bread (*ahem* Boudins). Unfortunately, when I buy fresh bread, it becomes as hard as a rock in one or two days. Hence, the abundant ingredient list of preservatives necessary in sandwich and toaster bread. Yes, they’re there for people like me.

I think this stems from our culture. I am not in the habit of going to the local street market to purchase my daily supply of bread, like the French. Again, I would not be able to eat it all. Also, we do not have daily farmer’s markets here. They are growing and improving, but not nearly to the point where that would be possible. I dream of the day when I can walk a few blocks down the street and purchase that day’s supply of fresh fruit, veggies, and bread. Until that day happens, I have a challenge on my hands.

For example, I have two loaves of Orowheat. They’re still edible despite the fact that they have been in our fridge for a month, now. This picture needs to change, but until I consume my daily bread (won’t happen), or they sell smaller loaves of fresh bread, I am doomed. I may just need to start making my own bread. Next month’s challenge, perhaps?

Speaking of challenges, this is day two of my sugar-free month. Instead of sugar, I put some cinnamon in my Americano this morning. It still tastes like the motor oil I’m used to, but now it’s less sweet. Not a big deal. However, I am going to be in San Francisco for three days; this is where sugar-free is going to be a challenge!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Take on Fake

Meat! Of course I have an opinion on fake meat. It is a recent trend that is now grazing supermarket shelves and the options grow larger for those who look past the supermarket, and make it to the health food stores. Last week, Sheldon (my partner, boyfriend) purchased some beer brats (vegan) and Kielbasa (vegan) for me to bring to a BBQ.

Generally, I shy away from fake meats, but make many exceptions, due to laziness and lack of time. You many wonder why, as a vegetarian, I would want to avoid these. Well, I'll tell you. I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. By processed foods, I mean a list of ingredients too long to read with unpronounceable chemical content that probably should be avoided. Of course, I do not avoid processed foods in the traditional sense (traditional bread, fermentation, etc.). My problems with most fake meats is that they are over processed and some even contain some shady ingredients. They are also on the expensive side.

However, I was impressed with these "beer brats" and "keilbasas". The *ingredient list is relatively short, for a convenience food, and simple. They also tasted great and grilled wonderfully. Add to that, they are supporters of The Humane Society of the United States http://www.humanesociety.org/. As it turns out, they are a line of Turtle Island Foods, Inc. I should have known! When I do venture to the dark side and eat processed 'meats', they are to whom I invariably turn; simple ingredients and industry values. A rare bird, indeed! Speaking of birds, they supply my thanksgiving Tofurky and supplies run out quickly! I better get to the store...
http://www.turtlemountain.com/

Anyway, now you know how I feel about consuming these 'meats', so you will also get to read about my thoughts on others who consume them. I say go for it! If it will keep someone with a meat craving from supporting factory farms, it's a good thing. Furthermore, the health hazards of ingesting conventionally produced real meat (antibiotics, hormones, excessive saturated fat) far outweigh a lengthy ingredient list. For those of us who prefer the art of making our own cuisine from fresh ingredients, well, that's great, too... provided we do not judge those with less time on their hands, or who lack the skills in the kitchen!

Lastly, fake meat is not a new techno food trend. It was first developed in Japan and China and remains popular in East and South East Asia, where there has been a high concentration of vegetarians for centuries. It is simply wheat gluten, or seitan. We have the increased growth of the Asian population, and Asian supermarkets, to thank for the growing abundance of fake meats (originally derived from two simple ingredients: water and wheat gluten).

* ingredient list and nutritional information in Tofurky brand Kielbasa


I thought I would not be able to eat one of these for lunch, today, because sugar would be listed in the ingredients!! Wrong. No added sugar! The only sugar is that which naturally occurs in vegetables or grains. This in itself is quite a feat. Sugar really is added to everything, including my favorite salad dressing, Newman's Own Balsamic Vinaigrette!

Sugar

I have a problem with it. I should clarify... I have a problem with our nation's consumption of sugar. Sugar is not the root of all evil, but like the ocean, polar bears, cobras, and other potential dangers, it should be treated with respect. Instead, it is consumed in bulk. This bothers me due to the growth of Type II, obesity, et al. The sugar lobbyists' hand in matters also make me squeamish.

I am an individual who scrutinizes my diet and exercise, but I still have my vices. A few of these vices include:
occasional junk food (cereals, packaged garbage, "health bars", etc.)
sugar
salt
and ethanol

I will digress for a moment to state that I am also a strict vegetarian. As a strict-vegetarian, I eat a pretty healthy diet. I chose this path due to my love of animals, but I enjoy the many health benefits that go along with it. I do not judge others in their dietary choices, but find that I am judged quite frequently. Primarily by men. Especially men who live in The South (my definition of The South includes Arizona) and who are hillbillies.

Now, back to sugar. The U.S. consumes way too much of this white powder. Sugar companies ensure that this happens. As I have mentioned, I am an over-consumer of sugar and I don't even eat junk food (processed or fast food).

For the next month (until December 12th), I will not consume any "added sugar". This includes the consumption of cookies, candy, and many other things. Sugar is even hidden in many foods, so if I do indulge in a processed snack, it will have to be well-scrutinized. I never add sugar to anything I make at home, so that will not be a problem. Additionally, chemical sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, saccharine) and sugar alternatives (agave, syrup, etc.) are a no no. Truly 'natural sugars' (i.e. fructose via eating a piece of fruit) are okay, of course. It's going to be a tough month!! Hopefully, I make it, but I may not!

Also, keep in mind that this blog will not be a daily diatribe of my day without sugar. That is just a side challenge. However, it will be my daily diatribe.

Introduction

This blog is intended to convey my personal opinion about the numerous health (nutrition and exercise) issues that intertwine with our daily lives.