Endurance Test

Dudes, I’m getting after it, today. I went to my annual physical, and I remembered to fast and to abstain from coffee, beforehand. That was hard, man. Hard, like mining coal, you know? I mean, mining coal without the benefit of coffee. (My kids and husband were all, “Gee, we’re really sorry you can’t have coffee, today.” Because, they KNOW. I mean, once, after knee surgery, Jeff got me home, settled with my ice machine and brought me a double shot, freshly brewed, because I’d had to fast prior to the procedure. We don’t mess around.)

The doctor’s office is located across from Whole Foods, so after the exam and the nine vials of blood, and leaving with homework—mammogram— (WTF, Middle Age? You suck!),  I grabbed an oatmeal from their awesome oatmeal bar. No kidding: they serve peanut butter oatmeal alongside the regular oatmeal. And some sort of quinoa concoction. (I tried one of those for breakfast, once. I like my quinoa in the evening, thankyouverymuch.) I made mine with half peanut butter and half regular, and then piled on fruit and nuts like I was at a squirrel convention.

Anyway, while I was at Whole Foods, I stocked up on necessities. Ingredients for Jeff’s meat sauce-over-polenta dinner, for instance. A tray of sushi for my lunch (thinking ahead!) and this publication, so I can keep current on important events of our time. And, you know, other times.

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Of course, it’s for the kids, silly. In fact, I’m just going to slide it into place on the coffee table shelf and see how long it takes them to notice it. (Who wants to handicap this one? 22 seconds?)

Anyway, they have a coffee bar in Whole Foods, and I had every intention of purchasing a cup. Or a gallon. Instead, I purchased this Kombucha tea, because it promised me better brain function. Sorry, a “clear mind,” which made me laugh so hard I got really thirsty. By the way, it’s delicious, but I wish I’d been awake enough to read the ingredients and notice there is sugar within. (Coffee, stupid.)

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I’ve been home for 30 minutes, have consumed most of the tea, and I’m just as slow-witted as I was an hour ago. Whose fucking idea was it to skip the coffee???

 

 

 

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Dr. Zizmor and the Bethenny Effect

You guys. Dr. Zizmor is retiring. I don’t even know how to process this. I haven’t lived in New York City for 14 years, and yet, so inextricably linked is this man—or, rather, his image—to my life there, I am feeling a distinct loss, imagining New York City subways without his rainbow-themed ads, his smiling (smirking?) face.

For the uninitiated: Jonathan Zizmor, MD is a dermatologist whose ads, like this one, have appeared on NYC subways for, well, a very long time.

When I first moved to New York and saw Jonathan Zizmor, M.D. looking down at me as I clung to the grip pole, I was mystified. My thoughts ran the gamut:

“What kind of doctor advertises on the subway?”

“What kind of person chooses a doctor based on the ads on the subway?”

zizmor

“I feel wrong even reading these ads.” And, yet, I was a captive audience. I had to read them. Even as I was reading the newspaper or a book, my eyes drifted upward to this man’s smiling face, and his promise of an improved face, body, skin. Wondering, all the while, “Doesn’t he know this is cheesy? Does he really think people sitting in the subway are going to read these ads, and think: ‘Yes. TODAY is the day for all those dermatology procedures I’ve been putting off, and I’m calling Jonathan Zizmor, MD to help me.'”

My zealous wonder (I would bring up these ads at dinner, with alarming frequency) was informed by the fact that I worked for women’s magazines, where the editors cultivated relationships with the best and brightest medical experts. The very thought of calling a doctor from a subway ad was preposterous.

Only today, as the announcement of his retirement at age 70, appeared and reappeared all over social media, did I figure out the fact that creating familiarity was Dr. Z’s stock in trade. It reminded me of an experience years ago when Jeff and I were at a party during the Sundance Film Festival.  We saw a familiar face across the room, and commented to each other that we couldn’t place her—one thing was certain, we knew we’d had dinner with her at our house. It was mildly embarrassing, therefore, that we couldn’t remember her name. Still, we found it irksome that she hadn’t come over to greet us.  Finally, we saw her speaking with another friend of ours, and when their conversation wrapped up, we asked the friend to ID her. Oh, said our friend, it’s Bethenny Frankel. We laughed and went over to introduce ourselves. “Bethenny, we were over there at our table getting mad at you because we thought you’d been to our house for dinner, and now you didn’t have the decency to say hello!” Bethenny cracked up. “You know, we have had dinner—if you watched me on TV while you ate. Right?” Right.

This is the genius of Dr. Z. It’s the Bethenny Effect. If you’ve ever taken the subway, you know Dr. Z. I’m willing to bet that he improved the skin of millions of subway riders, for all the years he worked, just by dint of the fact that he was an omnipresent evangelist for good skin.

And, maybe this was the magic—riding with Dr. Z made you forget, for just a minute, that you were in a grimy subway car. Maybe you were thinking about making the world a better place—surely that was the idea behind the rainbow? Whatever the case, Dr. Z was there to take you away from the guy with leg sprawl, next to you, and from the other guy crushing up against your back. So, thank you Dr. Zizmor. I wish you all the best in your retirement.  Though it begs the question: What ad will replace Dr. Z, in the city’s zeitgeist?

 

The Unhealthy Health Writer

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You know how, sometimes, you read health stories in magazines, or you listen to a report on TV about the latest research, and you think: “I can’t possibly do all the things the world recommends to keep myself healthy?”  Well, imagine you are a health writer, and your job is to be on top of the latest research—to find that magic bullet that is protective against breast cancer and heart disease (oh, right, it’s exercise, and maybe chocolate, and possibly wine, but only if you have no family history of breast cancer and you’re half orangutan. Ok, I made that middle part up, whatever.). You spend your days mentally checking off the boxes in the “I’m not supposed to do/eat/think this column.” Or, if you’re me, you think: ‘Oh, great, I just ran three miles, but I forgot to stretch, and now I’m sitting on my butt writing for the rest of the day, and I read somewhere that that could be worse for me than not exercising at all.’

And then, of course, the science changes. Things you thought you were supposed to avoid (hello, eggs), turn out to be just peachy, thankyouverymuch. Still, you can’t shake the notion—or, at least, I can’t shake the notion—that while I’m doing research on a story on heart disease prevention, it’s a sort of sacrilege to down three mini-quiches at the coffee shop while I send email queries to experts. I know, I know, I’m a rebel without a cause. Here are some other things I do, dead wrong:

I don’t sleep much. At all. Instead, I struggle to stay awake to see how House Hunters: Renovation turns out. (Hint: It cost more than they budgeted to spend. There were unexpected delays. It’s more beautiful than they can imagine. And they are now trapped in a museum quality masterpiece of a house that they cannot afford.) Sleep is one of those things experts like to tell me, for attribution, that make a difference in weight gain, weight loss, inflammation, heart health, and a host of other health issues. That’s all well and good, but if the Property Brothers are on my DVR, well, they’re not going to watch themselves!

I over-caffeinate. This works out well for no one. Except for the imaginary people who are chasing me.

I forget to floss. My awesome dental health professional, Mike, likes to tell me I can get by with a few days a week. This, to my ears, is code for “not at all.” Oops.

I try to “win” yoga. This is defeatist in about six different ways. First of all yoga is where you are supposed to find your Zen, go inward, and forget that other people are in the room. Missy, the instructor in my Wednesday morning class, overheard me telling a pal, before class, that I had gotten so enchanted with the idea of “flipping the dog” and doing “wheel” pose, because the substitute instructor said something about “reaching for a goal,” in the previous week’s class, that I spent the rest of the week with a pinched nerve in my neck. So, the whole class got a lecture about checking our egos at the door, and just doing what our bodies want in the moment. My body, it wants to WIN, dammit.

I bite off more than I can chew and burn the candle at both ends while thinking up other cliches to describe my predicament. This is a version of the lecture I received from my parents for my entire educational career, every time I took on a role in the school play, plus wrote for the school newspaper and joined three fun clubs, at the expense of my GPA. That last part just makes me a bad writer.

I don’t stretch after I work out. Not enough, anyway. My hamstrings are forever tight. I have failed massage. Twice.

I eat sugar. Not tons. Unless there’s a bag of marshmallows in the house. Then, watch out, people.

I want fries with that. Every time. Never, ever, ever do I substitute the salad.

I spend too much time on social media. It’s an occupational hazard. I am endlessly curious, and also always in pursuit of a story idea. And if three friends whine about the same thing—sore hamstrings from spinning, guilt over eating something yummy, or whatever…it could be a trend!

All in all, none of these are terrible health sins. I still subscribe to the “everything in moderation, including moderation,” mantra. But I know, too, that I let myself get away with too many of these things, too frequently. Especially the sleep thing. So, what are you letting slide? What health habits do you consciously overlook, and then berate yourself for doing so?

 

 

 

 

 

 

S@&t working moms say

Twice in two days, I was struck by the hilarity of the juggle.

First, a chat with my friend, ski coach and favorite congressional candidate, Donna, about why we can’t seem to do one thing at a time, and how frustrated we feel about doing things only partly to our standards. We live fragmented lives, and hope for the best.

Then, the next morning, I haul my butt to the gym. The butt is tired. It did TRX on Monday (ouch), spin on Tuesday, in which its buddy and neighbor, the lower back got tweaked, and then skied itself into oblivion on Wednesday. There was a twisted ankle at some point in the ski day, and I resolved to keep my butt in a chair for one day.

I am not good at the whole butt-in-the-chair thing—sometimes I write while standing up. And in order to write (butt-in-chair activity of choice and necessity), I must have my brain turned on. Which only happens if I exercise, first thing. Sadly, I don’t exercise before I get dressed. More on that, in a moment.

Anyhoo, I was attempting to take the day “off” from exercise. Which meant I was not going to attend my friend Keri’s “Buns and Guns” class. This involves many squats, lunges, curls, flys, and plyometric jumping. It is an aggressive, grueling 75 minute workout. And I love it. But, on this day, I would simply rock the elliptical ARC machine in the cardio loft. Keri pulled into the parking space next to mine, and we headed for the loft, together. We hopped on adjacent machines. We chatted. She looked at me, her expression a little bit off—”I didn’t eat breakfast. I don’t feel right. I’m going to grab a snack.”

This is not unusual—she’s a busy working mom. Meals get skipped. It happens. She returned, fed.

“Why don’t you just drink a smoothie?” I asked, after she explained that breakfast had fallen victim to the morning rush of trying to sign forms, write checks, and all the other crap we have to do in order to ship our children off to school in the morning, prepared.

“That’s the funny thing. I made one for them. But not for me,” she said.

And then, she looked at me. Really looked.

“Um, did you know your t-shirt is on, inside-out?”

“No. But that doesn’t shock me. I can’t think until I’ve exercised. And, apparently, getting dressed requires thought.”

“Shoot, you’re ahead of me: You ate breakfast.:

And, scene.

Juice Fast, Schmuice Fast….I Want a Burger!

It started out innocently enough. Or, perhaps, not innocently, at all. My kids got sick.

Obviously, there was only one thing to do: I bought enough produce to feed an army, and then I set out to puree it into a variety of tasty combinations. It was my reflexive response to both children falling ill on the second Monday of the new year.

Salad in a glass

Salad in a glass

After the strep cultures (one positive, one not yet positive), there was a prescription to be filled, and a request for yogurts, and for chicken soup. Which I was more than happy to make, from scratch, because it’s one of the few things I do well, always.

As I chopped, sautéed, simmered, and stirred, I thought: Immunity. Must. Boost. Immunity. This would be my own kind of Survivor challenge—husband away for the week, children sick and hanging out ON MY PILLOWS in my bed, Sundance Film Festival looming. I would make many juices and shakes, in an effort to scare germs away.

Then, my dear pal Florida Keys Girl posted, on Facebook, that she wished she were the type of person who liked kale smoothies. I felt, in that moment, fortunate (and a little sorry for her). I LOVE kale smoothies. I like to drink my lunch—most of a salad, plus some protein powder and almond milk, and I’m good. It’s quick, effective, and I can sip while I work. Salad requires two hands (or one hand and more coordination than I posses), and a table. A smoothie is a one-handed operation, to be executed anywhere. The couch, the car. I can type and sip. I can drive and sip. And I am easily distracted. Often, I make a salad and forget to finish it. I’m not like this at breakfast or dinner, mind you. I like to eat. But lunch is hard–it’s a flow-stopper. One would argue (and I have argued) that the midday meal should be savored, enjoyed and treated like a proper break, a mental reset, if you will.

But, seriously, I don’t have time for that. So, I drink my lunch. And, yes, dear reader, it would be more fun to drink, say, martinis, for lunch. Or wine. Florida Keys Girl makes this point even more persuasively, by the way.

But I have to drive places in the middle of the day. So.

Anyhoo, I set out to follow this one-day Juice Cleanse. It had shown up in my e-mail, because health writers get those sorts of things in our e-mail in-boxes. Nevertheless, a juice cleanse is something I never, ever thought I would do. When other people announced their juice cleanse intentions, I would say things like, “I like food.” But I was starting it in the middle of the day. So, I reasoned, I could make half a go of it. So, I had about half the juices and smoothies (“Dad,” said Lance to Jeff on the phone, later. “She was running the blender, ALL DAY!”), and then I made soup for the kids, and decided I should eat some. Hey, it was liquid. With noodles. Yum. Of course, because I’d only half-cleansed, I was still hungry. So I had grape nuts. And almond milk. Which is a smoothie ingredient. Which is good for you, right? Right.

Grape Nuts in Almond Milk = smoothie? Maybe not.

Grape Nuts in Almond Milk = smoothie? Maybe not.

The next day, I made another round of smoothies and juices. All hail the Blendtec. These juices were filling, I figured, because I had not used a juicer to get rid of much of the fiber. Yes, I thought. I can do this. Then, for dinner, I made quiche for the kids, and, well, eggs are liquid until they’re cooked, so I ate some. And the roasted fingerling potatoes. Because, vegetables have a lot of water in them, so same diff.

Still, I couldn’t help notice that the Juice Cleanse had some mojo.

People, over those first days, there was, I dare say….a lot of peeing. Wow. Who KNEW? By the second morning, I found myself feeling decidedly not bloated. Which was sort of a surprise, because I hadn’t realized that I was bloated, at all, in the first place. Maybe this had some merit. Especially since running the infirmary here at the Rothchild Ranch had 86’d my gym workouts for the week. And (the ultimate insult) my Wednesday ski clinic. Anyway, I figured that not-bloated-feeling meant my two half-days were adding up to something. Then, a three-day cleanse came into my in-box. And I thought…maybe I can do this. I could try to do three full days, next. Or maybe two—since I had the equivalent of one day under my belt. Hmmm….

Day three as Nurse Mommy—one child goes back to school, the other does not. I make my morning smoothie. And then, I make a green juice–my favorite from the previous day. Avocado. Broccoli, kale, chard, arugula, lemon.

there's broccoli in them there smoothies

there’s broccoli in them there smoothies

Then, a berry smoothie. The cleanse instructions say you’re not supposed to wait more than two hours between smoothies (Courses?). But this is my issue—I can’t remember to stop working to eat lunch most days. Hence, the salad smoothie at 2:50 pm, most days. So, I got three drinks in eight hours, not six, and then I had a big gap in the hours that consisted of: pick up kid, collect assignments for other kid, pick up antibiotic for second kid who FINALLY got a strep diagnosis confirmed, buy more smoothie ingredients, unload said ingredients into fridge, prepare snacks for kids, take healthier kid to karate, call spouse on business trip….HOURS, and no food. Nothing but the smell of burgers grilling at the bar next to karate. Suddenly, there were no other foods in the world that seemed as appealing as a burger. Still, I went home, I made up for lost time, sort of. Green juice with celery, spinach and cucumber. Then, coconut water, berries and protein powder.

Then, while helping a child with homework, I roasted the remaining head of kale. Because it’s yummy. And I couldn’t blend another damn thing.

Kale, chewable version. How novel.

Kale, chewable version. How novel.

More peeing. I must be doing something right. Except there are four drinks left unmade in my day. And I’m good at juice cleansing until 10 pm. Which is, I’m told, a very bad time to eat. There is actual food in the fridge. Things I could chew, swallow. Feel in my belly. Enjoy. I’m all for this. Except—I’m feeling, good. Energized. Plus, I don’t want to feel bloated. Yet, I can’t shake the feeling that the only juice worth drinking is grape–aged grape juice. From Napa. Or Sonoma. Or Burgundy. Or the Loire Valley. Or Trader Joe’s in any other state than Utah. (I can hear my pal, grapefriend, cheering madly from the bleachers.)

I’m pretty sure that I’ve confirmed that I cannot live on salad smoothies, alone. But I’m glad I have this little weapon in my arsenal—fun new recipes, and a nice little pick-me-up to remind me why I should not eat too many burgers.

All of which just underscores my favorite mantra: Everything in moderation. Including moderation.

BLURRED LINES AND BODY IMAGE

Good Body Image: You know you want it.

I have to give a big shout-out to my scratched cornea for upping my self-esteem and giving me a new perspective on that catchy Robin Thicke tune, Blurred Lines.

Bear with me. First, I’ll admit, I have been conflicted about the lyrics—for all the reasons you’d expect. Still, I totally dug this version with Jimmy Fallon:

But I hadn’t given the song much thought until I scratched my cornea and was stuck wearing my glasses to exercise. By the way, I happen to really like my glasses. They’re sorta retro, with funky purple and green frames, and there are flowers on the inside of the temple pieces. Flowers, people. Do you know how happy this makes me? Yes, I bought them in the tween department at the optometrist. And yes, I totally rock progressive bifocals in them. Which, it turns out, makes it way, way easier to read the monitor on the spin bike, even if I feel kinda grossed out by the combo of sweat and specs.

But, out of necessity, I muddled through TRX and spin and circuit training classes for the better part of a week, before I got to my favorite Wednesday morning yoga class. Whereupon, I rolled out my mat and parked my glasses next to it. Because, seriously—I couldn’t possibly manage a yoga practice in my glasses. Plus, I do a lot of it with my eyes closed, so I figured I could just take it a step further, and up the ante on drawing my focus inward. (I can do this—extroverted as I am, it’s a little complicated, but I get there. Sort of. A guy who works out in a lot of the same classes as I do, stopped me after a recent yoga class and demanded to know what I do for a living, because, it seemed, I gave off a big old aggressive ball-buster vibe, even in the Zen yoga room. Sigh.)

“You’re far from plastic…”

So, anyway, there I am, humming along to the big, group Om, trying to find my inner something or other. I’m in up dog, down dog, and then, somewhere in the middle of Warrior I,  I opened my eyes, and let my gaze fall just past my fingertips, toward the mirror in the front of the room. Again, I have a hard time maintaining inner focus, so I usually use the mirror to spy on my fellow classmates and see who’s better at Yoga than I am. You notice how I completely miss the point of the class and get all competitive about it? What the hell? Right. So, I’m trying to spy with my uncorrected vision, which, admittedly, isn’t going to be super-effective. And I notice this lithe, strong figure. “Wow,” I think to myself, “That woman has a cute figure! She’s so petite, her waist is tiny, she has cute curvy hips and super-toned legs. Where’d she come from?”

Suddenly, I realized I knew her—“That’s ME!” I almost said it out loud, but caught myself.

“You’re a good girl!”

And it hit me—when I have corrected vision, and I’m in the middle of a workout, my focus is trained on my (admittedly, perceived) flaws. The “squeezy parts,” courtesy of childbearing and a bout with Cushing’s Syndrome. Lumps and bumps that don’t even show up in street clothes.

In the past year, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of energy on getting in the best shape of my life—partly because I desperately don’t want to get sick again. It’s unlikely I could get Cushing’s Syndrome, again—it strikes only one in one million people, so the odds of a tumor growing on my remaining adrenal gland are not high. Also, I know that exercise won’t prevent Cushing’s, in the first place, but I figure if I can keep myself in good overall health, I can put myself in better stead to fend off other diseases.  Fitness, as my friend Kathy Smith likes to say, is like building a great foundation for your house, so no matter what happens to the structure above, you’re always working with a firm, solid foundation.

The result of all this sweating is that I’ve gotten rid of some 30 pounds—and all the clothes that used to fit them. I’ve developed a minor shopping addiction—skinny jeans, cute tops, dresses—all in sizes I hadn’t seen since high school. But there are lots of days that the only evidence I have that I still look the same as I did the day before, or the week before, is that all these teeny-tiny clothes, still fit, no problem. Because when I look in the mirror, I zero in on the “trouble spots,” which, really, are no trouble to anyone but me.

And so, the blurred lines. I could see a pretty shape, a healthy shape. And not a single detail to distract me from the overall picture—the picture of health. So, in the spirit of Jimmy Fallon’s Thank You Notes:

Thank you, scratched cornea, for giving me a reason to not see what I shouldn’t, and to focus on what I should.

20 Celebrity Icons of Breast Cancer

Today, you can click over the story I wrote for Prevention.com. It’s also live on msn.com today. These stars have helped, in a variety of ways, to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. Why is it important to all of us to follow their lead and raise our voices? Here are some interesting stats from cancer.org

How many women get breast cancer?

The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for breast cancer in the United States are for 2011:

  • About 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women
  • About 57,650 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be found (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 39,520 deaths from breast cancer (women)

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.

I have seen a dear friend through breast cancer treatment. My grandmother survived breast cancer. I’ve had many, many friends be diagnosed themselves or see a family member through diagnosis and treatment. So it’s personal—yet even if I didn’t have those personal connections, I would feel connected to this cause. It strikes too many of us, and it hits too close to home. When I hear about someone I don’t know getting diagnosed, I get chills down my spine.

In fact, I woke this morning to the news that E! News correspondent and reality star Giuliana Rancic, who has been very public about her infertility struggles (which probably made countless women enduring the same struggle feel less lonely), has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her public attitude is inspiring—she says she had a mammogram at the behest of her IVF doc, and that after her treatments conclude, she’ll continue to try to conceive a child. “I feel like this baby saved my life,” she said in People.. I send my wish to her—and all the women who received a diagnosis on the same day as Guiliana—for a healthy recovery, and for the space she needs to get mad, sad and frustrated that she got sick at all.

By making her diagnosis public, she follows in the footsteps of other celebrities who have used their platform to raise awareness about the disease. Like them, you should take it personally. I’ve reported on breast cancer for over 15 years. You can see some of the stories if you click on the Healthy Lifestyles tab, above. Read them. Get inspired. Get your physical, get your mammogram, and if you do get sick—get the best care you can.