Carnism: It’s worse than it sounds

Tonight for dinner I ate a delicious, spicy bean burger and nothing was killed in order for me to have a healthy, high protein meal. Saturday night, my friends and I cooked Spinach Stuffed  Portabello Mushrooms. Yes, a few mushrooms had to come out of the dark, but they didn’t come kicking and screaming.


For almost twenty years I was a vegetarian, eating animal by-products, i.e. yogurt, cheese, eggs. Then I moved to Imperial Valley, “Where the Sun Spends the Winter.” That was in the year 2000. There was no health food store and it was uncommon to find organic anything in one of the few supermarkets. Where had I landed! I felt like a foreigner in a world of meat-eaters. Everywhere I looked: meat, meat everywhere. Tri-tip (which is a cut of beef specific to this area), steak and ribs. Eating out for me became a thing of the past.

And it wasn’t long before my vegetarian lifestyle became a vague memory. I began to eat fish. We all know how healthy salmon is. And somehow we convince ourselves that it is not cruel to kill and eat them. You know that those fish tossed on the deck of a ship are screaming in pain, don’t you? Don’t laugh; it’s true.

January of this year I couldn’t do it anymore. Fish feel pain. Fish have mothers. For the first time I heard the word carnism. It basically means that eating animals is a belief system that conditions us to eat certain animals. Carnism is invisible in that if we had to slaughter our own meat, we wouldn’t be so willing to eat it.

chicken-headI’m pretty much a city girl.  I still remember visiting my grandparents in rural Texas and being chased around the yard by my cousin swinging the head of a decapitated chicken. I was horrified. My aunt chopped the head off that chicken while it was still alive. I had gathered eggs from that very chicken in morning. Alive, she chopped the head off an alive chicken. I didn’t become a vegetarian then, but I pretty much blocked the image of the murder of that chicken from my mind and continued to eat fried chicken after church every Sunday.


Of course we eat only certain animals. We have some arbitrary system and belief system that drives our choices. Would you eat stew made from Labrador Retriever? OMG!! We can’t even imagine it. My sweet little chihuhuas, Taco and Daisy for dinner—no way in hell! I would fight to the death to save my dearest

I promised myself I would keep my posts to around 400 words, and I haven’t said all the words I have on the subject of carnism, but I’m going to quit writing.  So stop and think when you cut your steak, chicken, pork or fish tonight. What if it were Daisy! Bon appetit!






Thought for the day

In my small town situated on the Mexican border, Mexican food is to die for. However, there are not many healthy food options. Last week a juice bar opened next to my work—well, there are no words to express my excitement. I can’t afford to go everyday, but I am praying that they generate enough business to stay open.


Breakfast of champions

Oatmeal—gotta love it. Mom always said it was the “stick to your ribs” breakfast. I didn’t love it. In fact, you could say I hated it. Cornflakes, Raisin Bran, Frosted Flakes—that was my kind of breakfast.


Somewhere along the way, I stopped eating breakfast entirely. It definitely wasn’t the most important meal of the day for me. Occasionally I would stop at Winchells or Krispy Kreme for my morning sugar and caffeine fix which evoked memories of the sugar high from my childhood.donut

Then, like so many of us, I decided to get healthy. Here comes oatmeal—again. Didn’t like it any better this time. But did you know that you can turn a healthy bowl of oatmeal into a delightfully, sinful concoction? Add some butter, brown sugar and milk. This is way better than Frosted Flakes. Wow! I loved this healthy breakfast.

Eventually, I saw the delusion I had created with my so-called healthy oatmeal. Out it went. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t avoid the oatmeal hype.

Suddenly, like an epiphany, I saw that oatmeal really was the perfect start to my morning. It’s bursting with fiber and heart protective nutrients. And because of the hype, it was available in individual packets, microwavable and, sadly, loaded with sugar. I loved it! Then I read the label and realized that inadvertently I had once again created a sugary oatmeal monster.


This had to stop. I was on a mission. Oatmeal for breakfast or bust! In comes steel cut oats. Why I was willing to spend 30 minutes cooking them, I don’t know, but I was. Maybe I was growing up. I added a small amount of brown sugar while cooking and found that the creamy texture and slight sweetness was eminently satisfying.

Finally, after many years, I am an oatmeal junkie. Part of my weekly meal prep is cooking a week or two’s supply of steel cut oats, dividing into muffin tins, freezing and packaging individually for my own version of instant, slightly sweetened breakfast of champions.

I don’t want to bore you with all the healthy, nutritious details but the final analysis of the steel cut oats and regular oats debate is that nutritionally they are the same with one minor difference. Steel cut oats have a slightly lower glycemic index which makes them a better choice by a smal lmargin. Make your own decision—just eat the oats.




“The Three of Us”

We are three amazing women who like to be fit. We met and work out at Snap Fitness in El Centro, CA.  If you saw us, you probably wouldn’t match us up as workout buddies, but we make a great team. The Three of Us

Our ages are 33, 51, and 67 and we have differing levels of strength, flexibility, and endurance. One thing we have in common is our stubbornness. Things can get very interesting! Our goal is to keep each other motivated and committed to at least four workouts a week.

Each of us has one or two little body issues—hip replacement, arthritis, exercise-onset-migraines, bone spurs, sciatica—you get the idea. We modify the exercises to accommodate our bodies.

Last week we started a twelve-week workout program. Here’s our workout for the first three weeks. We do three sets of 12 reps for everything except abs, where we do 20 reps.

Week 1 workoutWe determine the order of our exercises based on the location of equipment in the gym and how crowded it is. We do super-sets rotating through three exercises, unless I can convince my partners to include an interval component—fat chance, but I keep trying.

I like circuit training and abs. Tonette hates circuit training and abs. I like body weight exercises. Both Tonette and Alisha like to lift heavy weights. We compromise.

Share the upcoming three months with us! We’re planning on having some fun. We’ll share our workout and nutrition tips and look forward to hearing about yours.

Lose Fat Not Pounds

In grad school I gained over 30 pounds, which on my small boned 5’5” frame is substantial. I was 38 years old when I started back to college and a single mom. It took 2 years to finish my BA, having completed my first two years when I was 18. It took me another 1 ½ years for my MA. So far so good. I managed to keep running, even fitting in two marathons.

I was now 41-years-old and off to the University of Washington for my PhD. Not only did my metabolism come to a screeching halt like it does for many of us at age 40, but I was running out of money and needed to finish my doctorate in less than 4 years. At the University of Washington that breakneck speed is not encouraged nor supported. I was on a fast track with the goal to graduate before my son finished high school and I ran out of money. Between the research and taking an unbelievable number of classes each quarter, I made it. But there was a price to pay.

That price was 30 pounds of fat. I did nothing but research, read, study and write. And this was before the internet, so I spent hours in the library. You guessed it—no exercise, no running, no gym time and no time to cook healthy meals. Sadly, Starbucks was taking off in Seattle and a daily latte and muffin were what I used to jumpstart my day. As proud as I am of my doctorate, I don’t enjoy looking at my photographs—my face was round and I had cankles. The only redeeming feature of those pictures was the shapeless purple velvet gown and silly cap we wore that covered up the round belly and non-existent waist.

JB Seattle Marathon (422x800)


“No problem,” I thought. “I’ll run a marathon and lose the weight and get back to pre-grad school shape.” Dream on!

Graduation was in May and the Seattle marathon was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Six months—ideal time to train. It took about a month to re-acquaint myself with the discipline running required, but then the endorphins kicked in. Thanksgiving arrived, and when I took my place at the starting line I weighed only ten pounds less than on graduation day. When I looked around at the other runners, I knew that to look and feel like I wanted, cardio exercise was not enough.

Working out at a gym has never been my favorite fitness activity, but I knew it was necessary. I had to stop the naturally occurring loss of muscle mass that starts around age 35 known as sarcopenia. and build sufficient muscle mass to help me look like I wanted to look. Every 10 years after age 35 we lose an average of 5 percent of our muscle mass unless we do something about it.

When not training for a running event, I ran between 30-45 minutes per day. I decided to add 20-30 minutes of strength training to my workout and within weeks noticed a change in my body.

JB Potato Chip Rock (600x800)

In addition to strength training, I increased my intake protein which is what our bodies need to build muscle. Most of us over 35 do not eat a sufficient amount of protein to continue to build enough muscle to compensate for sarcopenia.

An easy way to determine how much protein you need is eat your weight in grams. My weight stays around 125 which means I need approximately 125 grams of protein per day—not easy.

Three ounces of chicken breast contains 25 grams of protein. I try to keep my caloric intake at less than 1500. One ounce of protein equals 4 calories, so 125 grams of protein accounts for 1/3 of my daily calories. Most protein powers added to a smoothie contain around 30 grams of protein. Now I’m at half my protein requirements.

It helps to keep in mind that all calories are not equal. A gram of protein is actually used by our bodies to build muscle. Whereas whatever carbohydrates (also 4 calories per gram) are not used to provide energy turn to fat, usually around our midsection. Protein burns fat; fat doesn’t burn fat, it just sits there.

Women especially worry about bulking up if they strength train and eat more protein. Don’t! It isn’t going to happen. We don’t have enough testosterone.

If you want to look toned, lose weight and feel strong add strength training and protein to your daily fitness program. Check out other blog posts for protein suggestions and strength exercises and workouts.

Body Fat versus Body Weight