Go pho it! Will Vietnamese soup keep me lean and avoid statins ?

Today's spinach/ tofu pho

Today’s spinach/ tofu pho

Pho. I’m still unsure about how to pronounce this Vietnamese soup, but I am getting pretty good at whipping up a big bowl at lunchtime.

My cholesterol numbers from blood work done last October are a concern, specifically my LDL of 140. Given my family history and the new guidelines, I was prescribed Lipitor by a local cardiologist. I filled the prescription, but decided to let it sit on the shelf until April, when I’ve scheduled a visit with my primary care physician. I’ll get another lipid profile blood test and check the new numbers.

I asked for options, so the cardiologist gave me a dietary recommendations protocol to lower LDL. He told me that some of his patients had lowered their LDL by 40% by following these guidelines.
In sum, I am avoiding all deep fat fried foods (no more fried clams), and high fructose corn syrup, which pretty much eliminates most of the food sold in a supermarket.
Meat, bread, pasta, and potatoes are on my “ Reduce” list.
Let me introduce my “Include Daily” dozen: plants, psyllium powder, a handful of nuts ( mostly walnuts and pistachios), fish / fish oil capsules, a bar of dark chocolate, 1 cup v8, 1 cup yogurt, extra Virgin olive oil, red yeast extract capsules, soy/soy milk or almond milk, and a glass of red wine.
I am taking this grand nutritional experiment seriously. There are already immediate benefits-like weight loss. I have always carried 212-215 pounds on this 6’2” in winter. Right now, I’m down to 199. I like that.

I think the pho is responsible for the weight loss, and I am banking on it even helping the blood work results in April.

Pho is a traditional hot soup, primarily served with noodles, beef, and vegetables and herbs. I have tweaked it. It’s typically 500 calories for a 22 oz. bowl. More commercial bowls are prepared to yield 300-800 calories. I have kept track of the calories of the ingredients. This lunch nets me 400 calories, maybe some day as much as 500.  There is no oil in the soup-it has low carbs, and no fat, except when I occasionally make adaptations, like this kielbasa/ sweet potato pho.

kielbasa pho

kielbasa pho

Here’s my new daily lunch recipe. It’s really tasty. I vary it with different veggies, and protein. :

20 oz. well water
vegetarian broth ( powder) 30 calories
2 ounces wide rice noodles 180 calories
assorted sliced veggies- e.g., green onion, broccoli, carrot slices, mung bean sprouts 50 calories
miso 30 calories
herbs-1 slice fresh ginger, basil,
vegetarian protein source- tofu, Quorn, chickpeas 100 calories
lime juice
Lan Chi Black Bean Sauce with Chili
I have yet to add hoisin sauce, buy may work that in too.

I start eating with chopsticks and finish with a spoon.

Here are a couple more pics of my gustatory creations.

standard bowl with Quorn

standard bowl with Quorn

This lunch takes about 15 minutes to prepare. Go Pho it!

fresh mung beans in this one

fresh mung beans in this one

Resolution for 2015: Visit Maine State Parks and Public Lands

Start 2015 off by doing the right thing and purchasing your very own Maine State Parks Pass (day use).  Veterans and those that are 65 (and over) get in for free!

I just sent in my $35 , primarily for  bypassing the $3 daily fee to hike the extensive and superb trails in nearby Camden Hills State Park.

View from Ocean Lookout- from Camden Hills Park page

View from Ocean Lookout- from Camden Hills Park page


The great State of Maine has over 700,000 acres of  Parks and Public Lands, with a huge variety of locations.  Their updated web site is easy to use and very helpful in planning your encounters in the outdoors.

2015 is my year to stay local, and have #microadventures.  I am very excited about the approach taken by Alistair Humphrey in his soon-to-be-released paperback ( Feb 3, 2015)  Microadventures.  The Kindle edition is available in the USA via Amazon. The book is my favorite outdoors read for 2014.  Check it out.  It’s highly British, but the approach can be adapted anywhere.

Have fun.

Nature is the Real Gym  !

 

1,000 mile Maine challenge completed !

Back in February, Carey Kish laid down a challenge that I decided to embrace- walking 1,000 miles in Maine in a calendar year.

Here’s Carey’s original article about that idea. As Kish notes, ” Consider the enormous health and fitness benefits of such a sustained challenge. Regular hiking and walking are proven to help decrease the risk of all kinds of nasty stuff, like coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon and breast cancers. You’ll lose weight, and reduce stress and anxiety levels. And you might just establish a new exercise pattern for years to come.”

Carey’s right in that you do it mostly by regularly walking a 3-5 mile sessions from your home. In my case, I added close to a hundred miles in Baxter State Park this season. I added another 50 in the Hundred Mile Wilderness, hiking with the Jocomotive and G-Man. Camden Hills State Park got a fair number of sessions.   I thought I was going to add up another 42 miles via the Grafton Loop Trail up off Route 26 above Newry, but that will have to wait until 2015.  I logged a few longer days of hiking with my pal Guthook in Acadia National Park this fall.

I was thrilled to pick up 7 more miles yesterday in Acadia doing the South Ridge Trail to the summit of Cadillac Mountain ( 1,528′).  I had the pure pleasure on cranking out a fast pace with my son Lincoln and his fiancee Stephanie.

That's the Atlantic out there !

That’s the Atlantic out there !

It was one of my best Holiday presents.

Did you know that Cadillac is the highest mountain on the Atlantic Coast north of Brazil (another cool fact from Carey Kish’s Maine Mountain Guide) ?

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The 2014 numbers primarily came from data that I was tracking via the Strava app.  I have hit 1,094 miles to date. Strava only aggregates miles for runs, bike rides, and swims. You have to enter backpacking and walking mileages as runs.  I usually gather my data from my iPhone 5S, but sometimes log exercise using my Garmin eTex 30 GPS to gather .gpx tracks that I then download into my Macbook air and upload to Strava.

My iPhone 5s also allows me to run the free Fitbit app, without requiring the $99 wrist band.  With the launch of the M7 motion coprocessor in the iPhone 5s, Fitbit has decided to offer “basic” tracking from the phone itself.  Fitbit is fun to use, automatically counts daily steps, and also allows me to enter my daily food intake, and log body weight.

Goals are a big part of what keeps me going.  I plan trips this way- think of things I want to do and then jot them down on the calendar and they take place, as the time nears.  I tell others , and goals take firmer form- finally as actions.  Carey’s 1,000 mile goal is a welcome addition to my life.

This is also the first winter that I have dropped under 200 pounds at this time of year. I think that hiking more miles has made the difference- that and cutting out french fries.    Normally, I’ve run about 212-215 at the end of December.  This is good!

I plan to take on the 1,000 mile walking-in-Maine challenge again for 2015.

Who’s in with me for the ride, err…. the walks?

 

Why I am renewing my Outside magazine subscription

I just renewed my subscription to Outside magazine.   The days are long past when I have had close to a dozen magazines in my mailbox every month.  I am now down to just three:  Outside, Backpacker,  and Dirt Rag, an east coast mountain bike magazine.

Why Outside?

It’s always find at least one major article that I find interesting in each issue.  However, I just re-read the January 2013 issue.  outside-january-2013_fe

It was in an old pile of stuff. I was surprised to find four featured long articles that appealed to me.

Here’s what I’m talking about:  An article about how short-intense workout efforts might be more useful than long slow hours in the saddle ( referenced below).  And then there’s an article about James Balog’s 2014 Emmy Award Winning documentary- Chasing Ice ( check this one out on Netflix). A detailed and balanced report about the “who doesn’t have it?” App Strava follows, and there’s even a killer story about how sports psychology can make a difference in mental fitness.

With so much online right now, we really don’t need to have any print coming in the mailbox.  I still like to engage in reading a magazine now and then, and I’m still impressed with the quality of the offerings in Outside.  The twice annual Buyer’s Guides that come with a couple of the issues don’t generally offer me  anything . I  don’t keep them around, and pass them on.

May be I can pass the print copy of January 2013 on as well, as I just realized that all of the individual links that I’ve posted above can be found in one place on the Outside web site.  All the past issues are online.  I think that’s now the norm, but it’s still pretty incredible!

 Brian MacKenzie’s Controversial New Approach to Marathon Training |

How Exercise Helps us Tolerate Pain

The NYTIMES ran a health article about this admittedly small sample research project today.

How Exercise Helps Tolerate Pain

I don’t need this study to include more than a meager sample of 12 to know it’s the truth.

At this point in my life I regularly engage in a level of exercise that pushes me right to the pain zone: mountain biking, backpacking, hiking, snowshoeing, or snow biking.

My wife tells other people, “Everything Tom does for sports has to have suffering in it”.
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It’s pretty simple. If I am going on a challenging hike, I want to experience it as easier that other activities that I have suffered through. For example, I’m headed up to Katahdin for a week of backpacking. I have prepared by carrying a mass of iron chain that pushes to weight in my back pack to 23 pounds. I train on steep trails, where I m pushing to 3.5 mph.

Hurting helps.

The Workout – Video

I really like the looks of this workout .  I plan to take some of the exercises and work it up.  Great time to do it right now, with the full bloom of summer in Maine beckoning me to be outside. I Don’t miss the YMCA gym at all! 

The Workout | Becoming Rocky Balboa – Video – NYTimes.com.–<  Open up the brief video!  I’m not sure we’d get such a crowd up here.

What’s Your “Fitness Age”? – 2014 version

The first “fitness calculator” I learned about was Dr. Oz’s Real Age.  It became popular several years ago.  Real Age is an online calculator that is based on the results of answering questions about 125 factors related to a person’s overall health, including health, feelings, diet, and fitness ( i.e., How often you eat fish versus red meat to exercise and sleep habits, asthma, smoking, aspirin use, cancer history, parental longevity, and conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.). I took it once but didn’t get too worked up over using it more than once, even though my ” real age” was about 10 years younger than my actual age.

Now there appears to be a much briefer method of determining your relative fitness that is based on just 5 factors.

This 2013 study, from the  Norwegian University of Science and Technology,  reveals a more efficient, low-tech means of precisely assessing how well your body functions physically. It culminated in each of the 5,000 participants in taking a treadmill test assessing peak oxygen intake (VO2 max), or how well the body delivers oxygen to its cells. From the study, “VO2 max has been shown in large-scale studies to closely correlate with significantly augmented life spans, even among the elderly or overweight. In other words, VO2 max can indicate fitness age.”

The real value of this study is it’s apparent ability to establish one’s own VO2 max without the cost and inconvenience of paying for the medical procedure.  The researchers found that  just five measurements — waist circumference; resting heart rate; frequency and intensity of exercise; age; and sex — into an algorithm allowed them to predict a person’s VO2 max with noteworthy accuracy, according to their study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise

The researchers have used all of this data to create a free online calculator that allows you to determine your VO2 max without going to a lab. All you need to establish is your waist measurement and your resting heart rate.  You plug these numbers, along with your age, sex and frequency and intensity of exercise, into the calculator, and you’ll learn your fitness age.

From the NYTime article, “The results can be sobering. A 50-year-old man, for instance, who exercises moderately a few times a week, sports a 36-inch waist and a resting heart rate of 75 — not atypical values for healthy middle-aged men — will have a fitness age of 59. Thankfully, unwanted fitness years, unlike the chronological kind, can be erased, Dr. Wisloff says. Exercise more frequently or more intensely. Then replug your numbers and exult as your “age” declines. A youthful fitness age, Dr. Wisloff says, ‘is the single best predictor of current and future health’.”

I have been recording my heart rate on a daily basis for the past two months with an iPhone app called Cardiio .

Cardiio app on iPhone 5s

Cardiio app on iPhone 5s

While there are manual methods that don’t rely on a watch, the program’s charting features give you the ability to aggregate and share data. I  sent the summary results to my doctor, as I am concerned about my occasional heart rate drops into the high 30’s.  While heart rate is one of the five measurements in the Norwegian study that drove my “fitness age” to 38, I want to stick around to enjoy my fitness.

She referred me to a local sport-aware cardiologist for a screening after my own office EKG results were normal.  I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, I’m going to try and drop another inch off my waist line, continue hammering the backpacking and bicycling, and doing my TM twice daily, which I feel has resulted in a decreased resting heart rate after practicing it twice daily for 42 years.

What’s Your ‘Fitness Age’?. <<- click here for full New York Times article.