Eat Your Frogs

“Eat a live frog first thing every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” – Mark Twain

The relative cholesterol of frogs notwithstanding* this has been my mantra for the past several days. As part of the seasonal reorganization of things here at my company, I have a new boss and new coworkers (sorta) and so there’s a bit of an administrative tax associated with that: the PowerPoint that describes your products. The weekly update email on how those products are doing. The monthly update PowerPoint on how those products are doing. The one-off PowerPoint to discuss the ProblemChild in your product, and the one-page Word docs to describe the individual projects of your Product. Then of course there’s the emails about each of these items.  It was a rough three weeks getting all of that in order, but now I think we’re there and it’s time to eat another frog.

America needs to eat a frog. Actually, your average American citizen needs to eat a *lot* of frogs, because it is Election season. Whatever their opinions are about the candidates for the Top Office are, and how much they do or do not like said candidates, that is (frankly) the least of the frogs Americans need to eat.

*All* of the 435 House of Representative seats are up for reelection this year. Thirty five of the 100 Senate seats are, too. One hundred and sixty three ballot measures are up in 35 states, and 72 citizen initiatives. In my home state we have some pretty big decisions to make, including the possibility of a carbon tax (the Economist covered it last week). There are initiatives about pot, about gun control, about taxes, and about minimum wage; I guarantee the average American has an opinion about some or all of those. I equally guarantee there are no simple choices.

Let’s take my home state: Washington. We have the aforementioned carbon emission tax on the ballot, which economists love but I guarantee you local businesses will not. Ditto the Minimum Wage initiative (actually economists are split on that one, depending on who you talk to regarding artificial price floors, etc.). Firearms make another appearance, this time around risk protection orders. Another initiative asks you to weigh privacy risks against proper compensation for home health care workers. There’s also not one, but two advisory votes (where we get to let the State House/Senate know how we feel about taxes they approved without subjecting them to vote). You may think we have a lot in our state but it turns out California and Alabama voters will have a much thicker pamphlet to read through.

All of these frogs to eat and yet, while the states are doing their best to saute them in butter and garlic (or is that braise them in red wine and tomato sauce?) our election year coverage seems largely devoted to the biggest frogs who, depending on the status of the Congress they are rewarded with, may be stuck in the mud anyway and unable to do much other than croak for the next two years.

Because of the howling cacophony over those “biggest frogs”, it’s rare you find an intelligent, balanced conversation over the little frogs (and possibly tadpoles) we need to consume. It’s almost like the sheer dread of that first big frog negates the fact that once we’re done chewing that one and swallowing it, we have to eat another fifteen, or twenty, or thirty frogs.  Unlike college, there isn’t going to be some sort of machismo pride on the line for chugging your frogs; there’s not going to be a team of your brothers and/or sisters cheering you on as you eat your frogs.  This is probably because they’ll be busy with their own frogs. Stopping to discuss the balance of flavors in the small frogs, or cooking method, seems ridiculous.

It is, however, the platefuls of small frogs that await us are what we’ll have to subsist on for the next two years (at least — remember Senate terms, for example, are six years), and they are not getting the attention they deserve. I’d argue the biggest frogs are over seasoned and will be cooked to a crisp, leaving little taste on the palette and not otherwise making any long-term impressions. It’s those carefully prepared, home-grown frogs we need to fill up on. On voting day,  you get to pick your frogs.

*50mg per 100g of frog meat, in case you were wondering, vs 88 for chicken. There may be a missed opportunity here.

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Bonus Round: Protein on the Go

Having finished up the protein powder comparison it’s another week until I tell you all about Premier Protein vanilla shakes, right?

Wrong.

Here’s how this ended up happening: PP was the only premixed I purchased and it sat in the fridge, faithfully, for the first week or so.  But then I got hungry, because one or two of the shakes didn’t quite cut it when I was doing a long run, or because I didn’t have time to pack a lunch as nicely for myself as I wanted to, and so I just threw a shake in there.

The smallest batch of PP’s you can get I think is 4 (unless someone breaks up a pack and gives you a one-off) and within a week they were gone. I didn’t think they’d go that fast and I also didn’t think it would be fair to compare a premixed to have-to-drag-the-blender-out powder, so here’s a comparison of 3 premixed proteins (all Vanilla!).

The contenders: Obviously there’s Premier Protein, which is available pretty much everywhere (Safeway, Costco, Amazon) and was the recommendation by my best friend’s hubs. I then tried out Muscle Milk in Vanilla, and there’s the old standby of Labrada Lean Body protein shake in Vanilla Ice Cream.

The flavors:

  • Premier Protein: basic vanilla, not fancy and not too rich.
  • Labrada: my favorite vanilla of the three, slightly lighter flavor (despite advertisement as “ice cream”
  • Muscle Milk: was fine for the first split-second but there’s a medicine-y aftertaste.

The textures: All three were much more watery than anything I did in a blender, although Premier Protein was the least watery. Then again I’m not sure how I’d feel about a thick shake for a shelf-sitting product.

The vitals:

  • Premier Protein offers 30 grams of protein at 160 calories. Somewhere in there there is 3 grams of fat and 25mg of cholesterol (it is a bit on the high side, while the packaging says 8% of my intake it would technically be 13%).
  • Muscle Milk offers 20 grams of protein at 130 calories, with 4 grams of fat and 10mg of cholesterol (so about 5% of my daily intake).
  • Labrada offers 25 grams of protein at 180 calories, with 7 grams of fat and 10mg of cholesterol.

The performance: These all performed equally well – not quite meal “replacement” (I don’t care what the package says) but with leftover veggies from the night before or to cure mid-afternoon drag they worked great!

The cost: I’m going to use Amazon as the great leveler of prices here; your mileage may vary.

  • Premier Protein: $7.46 as an add-on item of one 4-pack, or a 12-pack for $30.  First price would be $1.87/serving, second would be $2.50/serving
  • Muscle Milk: 2-4packs (so 8) for $24. $3/serving
  • Labrada: $31 for a 12 pack (that’s not a type-o!). $2.58/serving.

 

Grade: Premier Protein gets an A- (subtracting points for cholesterol, although it’s still less than my original shake mix by far), Muscle Milk gets a B- (minus points for being the most expensive and medicine-y aftertaste), and Labrada gets a B  (minus points for all of that fat).

 

 

Lean Green: Nutiva Hemp Protein

img_0243Nutiva was another Facebook friend recommendation and I have to say the packaging is different from the bags-o-powder thus far; in fact the packaging lets you know it’s a Non-BPA container and frankly once I’m done with the powder I’ll likely reuse it for other stuff.
One thing to note about Nutiva is it is green. Very very green. And so if you don’t normally mix your shakes with green stuff (the greenest thing in my shake these days is a questionable banana) you get a new color to drink.

img_0246The flavor: Kinda vanilla? Hint-o-vanilla. Hard to get a bead on it, because I was so distracted by…

The texture: I don’t think “mealy” is the right word, but maybe sandy? More time in the blender didn’t help; although blending it with softer textured things did a bit (e.g., the aforementioned banana). It’s very likely this was intended to be blended with many other things, and in fact there’s a recipe on the side that includes coconut and pineapple (and rice milk or almond milk, the latter of which would kill me). (Oh, and blending with psyllium is a *bad* idea for this, namely because it has it’s own fiber content, so you get to gelatinous goo phase much, much faster.)

img_0244The vitals:10 grams of protein per serving, making it the smallest protein provider of the bunch. However that doesn’t actually appear to be its focus as much as fiber, of which it also provides 5 grams. (It thinks each is 20% of my daily diet). 120 calories per serving means it’s bang in the middle of the current offerings, but where’s the 1.5g fat coming from? Still, no cholesterol.

The performance: Okay. And by okay I mean that I didn’t feel the need to eat until lunch (unless I ran that morning, which is 5 mornings a week) and it didn’t cause any reverse-broom or broom effects, as it were.

The cost: The container I purchased holds 15 servings (about — you can do 2-4tbsp, they don’t give you a scoop and they don’t tell you if those are heaping or not; they do nutrition based on 3 tbsp), and can be got at Amazon for about $14 (Prime free shipping) so it’s probably the least expensive of the lot by “serving” (e.g., slightly under a dollar). However if you were trying to match protein with the original (so, 18 grams) or with Vega (the other vegan offering, which offered up 15 grams) you’d have to use considerably more.

Grade: B-.  The texture doesn’t work for my application but may for yours; and I already get my fiber from the psyllium powder. Bump it up to a B+ if you need fiber and mix with smoother textured items (e.g., peanut butter and the like).

 

 

Gold Standard Whey – Good, but…

Gold Standard Whey was recommended by one of my friends (I have like, four) who is a true badass.  Like get up in the morning at 4am, run 10 miles, then kick butt at work, do eleven billion hobbies, in bed by midnight people. He’s in data so he’s aware there is a curve that most people fall on and is completely ambivalent that he’s ruining it.

gswhey_labelHe posted this before and I’ve heard his recipe — he mixes with peanut butter and kale (he actually likes kale) and chocolate and I have no idea what else.  I put this stuff to the test plain, with psyllium, and with a banana.

The flavor: standard, regular, vanilla. Not to sweet, not too plain; not too fancy.  Very vanilla vanilla.

The texture: PERFECT texture. Truly. Not gritty, not mealy, not slurry, just a great texture. NB: like every other shake thus far (except my original), if you leave it alone in the blender it will seize up and make an impressive gelatinous goo.

gswhey_nutritionThe vitals: 24 grams of protein per serving, which this agrees should be 50 grams per day. 35mg of Cholesterol making it less than my original powder but still an impressive fifth of what I should intake per day (a little more). Only one gram of sugars and 120 calories.

The performance: I felt full, although here’s an unpleasant side effect: remember that “Nature’s Broom” effect some protein shakes give? Let’s call this one “Nature’s Cork”. What this did after standing in my blender it did to me, and while I gave it a legitimate week’s try there is no way I’m doing that again. No.

The cost: a one-pound bag of 14 servings can be got at Amazon for about $19 (free shipping with Prime) making the cost about $1.36 — not the most spendy but close to. But even if it was 50 cents the stoppage in my system is enough of a sign.

Grade: C-. I’m sorry, I just can’t get over the grinding halt of my gears. BUT! Protein shakes hit everyone differently, if I were to remove the gastrointestinal seizure I’d give it a B+ based on the other criteria.

Decibel – No Thanks Turkish, I’m Sweet Enough

I really wanted to like Decibel because I could tell they really wanted me to like it. The website is clearly meant to show professional, serious people doing extremely fit things. The packaging is black, white, and gold (in that order) and there’s a whole booklet on how awesome the product is, that is shipped with said product. Also, my trainer recommended it.

Quick break for this: one thing my trainer pointed out is protein shakes aren’t the same for everyone, and one thing to consider is how likely they are to act as (shall we say) Nature’s Broom. It never occurred to me that that would be a consideration.

So Decibel shipped from the UK and arrived while I was out of town, but I gave it a good week. This review is for Decibel Whey Protein Concentrate in Madagascan Vanilla.

img_0236The flavor: If I were making a shake that would be for dessert — you know, like the kind you get at a Dairy Queen or a Fatburger — then this is the shake to use. If you have a chronic sweet tooth and need your breakfast shakes to be dessert-level sweet, use this. I cannot stress enough how sweet this is. Unfortunately I tend to cut my shakes with things like banana or strawberries, which only serve to make the shake *more* sweet.

The texture: Not as moist in powder form as the Vega was, more of a ‘traditional’ powder. Blended with the usuals (or even stand-alone) it is *extremely* smooth; it even found a way to grind out some of the impact of the psyllium husks I use. Just like other shakes it will congeal if left and you want to rinse out your blender well.

img_0237The vitals: This has 23.6 grams of protein per serving, so more than  my comparison point and quite a bit more than Vega. However the nutritional panel, while including things like fat, does *not* include cholesterol. Also I noticed something else — this said my daily intake of protein would be 50 grams (backward-calculated form 23.6 being 47% of my daily according to them), while Vega declined to opine just how much protein I need, and my original Designer Whey agreed that 50 grams was it. What I find interesting here is technically it depends on what kind of diet you’re on, but some calculators tell me I should aim for as much as 1 gram/pound. I weigh  more than 50 pounds.

The performance: I stayed full, but the cloying sweetness would drive me to drink a bunch of coffee to kill the sweet; this resulted in a couple of over-caffeinated days and some dehydration (remember to drink water!). Also, that “nature’s broom” effect? Let’s just say it worked in reverse. You’d think the coffee would’ve helped with that.

The cost: Here’s where I’m glad I included cost per serving — I thought the bag was a bit large and I was right, this bag has 31 servings. It’s 18.99 british pounds per package not including shipping, and that was another 13 pounds. Just shy of 32 pounds translates to about $44,  which in turn means this is about $1.42/serving and the most expensive one so far.

Grade: B-.  More expensive, too sweet. If you are into sweet and you find your protein shake is not sweet enough, and/or if you don’t mind the extra expense, you can bump that up to an A or A-.

Next up: Gold Standard Whey in Vanilla.

The Valley Isle

Two years (and a couple of weeks) ago, my husband and I were married on the island of Kauai. The only attendee was our best man, ring bearer, and man of honor: my son. It was a perfect vacation, marked by lazy beach days and the obligatory helicopter tour.

We had decided upon our return that we’d save up and return to Hawaii in two years, and would go to Maui: I had been as a teenager with my parents but neither my son nor husband had been; all I remembered was that my brother and I had made a large pain in the ass about going to Lahaina all of the time. I think I was seventeen at the time.

Maui is an island composite of two volcanoes, effectively splitting the island into a “north” and “south” with a valley betwixt. We were staying in Kihei which meant that from Kahului (OGG – the major airport on the island, and on the eastside) you cross through the valley to the west side of the island, and drive down a bit (down the North, then South Kihei road along the Piilani highway). We rented a condo (pro tip: if you’re going to Hawaii with kids it is far cheaper to get a two bedroom condo with a kitchenette than it is to get a two bedroom hotel room; and the bonus is you can eat in for breakfast) and if you’re interested I recommend VRBO for that — check out the pictures and review the amenities. NB: groceries on Hawaii are more expensive than at home. Just accept it. It’s slightly less expensive if you buy local products.

As part of this trip I decided I’d reread James Michener’s Hawaii, for the bulk of the middle text takes place in Lahaina, and I knew we would be visiting there this trip. I had to reassure my dad — who good-naturedly teased me about this trip and asked if we’d go to Lahaina — that yes, we would be going, but no we would not be staying. Lahaina is a beautiful, historic town, but it’s also where you’d go if you *need* to be surrounded by shops and lots of people and that is frankly not me (or us). In Michener’s Hawaii it covers the missionary settlement in Lahaina and its formative years, along with the importation of Chinese and Japanese labor, the impact of the missionary settlement (and imported labor) on the Hawaiians, etc. At something like a thousand pages a Michener book should come on a kindle but it goes surprisingly fast, especially when your afternoon is beachside, listening to the rolling waves and watching your teenager boogieboard. I finished on day two.

In our trips to Lahaina, we first visited the Baldwin Home. This is not the missionary that Michener based his central character on (Abner Hale) although by reading his bio and reviewing his living quarters I’d bet money it’s who he based his missionary/doctor character on (Dr. Whipple). Entrance to the Baldwin home is a mere $5 for adults, kids are free; it’s a quick review but a beautiful home. Head a bit south and west from there and you will come upon the Lahaina courthouse, which has in its confines a lovely art gallery (Maui is big on art galleries and if I had had a spare $1500 I would have purchased a particular map of the island) and a museum showing (very briefly by museum standards) the history of the area: you can see an original sperm whale tooth (declaring the power of the Alii Nui — basically the Royal person gets to wear it) hung by 80 strands of braided human hair (no joke); you get to see original fabric created by the Hawaiians (and how it’s essentially paper-based and involves a lot of different beating implements to get it into shape), as well as several currencies used on the island (until Hawaii came to the US as a territory and then a state it used Mexican, American, Spanish, Portuguese, Netherlands, etc. currency). There’s a bit of stamp collecting and a history of the last kings of Hawaii, as well as the timeline of the “center” of Hawaii — the capital of which did not move to Honolulu until just before the Civil War.

Just outside the courthouse is a beautiful Banyan tree, with at least seven roots (this tree has one main center and then has tendrils out to at least six other root systems, so basically it looks like seven trees that are all interconnected) and to the right (south) of the tree is a corner of what was the old fort — hewn from coral block. Up the street (eastward, about 3 blocks) is the old Lahaina prison, where you can see the prisoner’s quarters, read the costs and relative frequencies associated with various crimes (they have 3 year snapshots so you can see the impact on adultery that is, I believe, inverse from public drunkenness — if I remember correctly; I should have taken a picture). Lahaina is not all preserved history, though, and if you want a truly amazing collection of souvenir, ice cream, eatery, jewelry, and skin-care shops you’d be hard pressed to find a larger set on the island.

Lahaina though is not the be-all and end-all of Maui and it would be a shame to ignore other areas. Here’s a brief review if you’re thinking about going; for us we consider the Maui box “checked”:

Kihei/Wailea – beautiful beaches. At Kamaole beach park (I or II) you can snorkel with sea turtles (we did). There’s a rough selection of shops and even a health food store (Hawaiian Moons, which also has ready-to-eat food). The best dinners we had were at a place called the Monkeypod kitchen (we went twice) in Wailua, which is just south of where we stayed in Kihei. For runners, a good run is from north to south Kihei and then up the Wailua hill– it’s a solid one mile of uphill but the downhill is a patient grade and you will very much enjoy it. A good deli is the 808 deli on south Kihei, just across from the second Kamaole beach park.

Paia (pronounced Pah-EE-ah) has a couple of blocks of shops and it’s on the Road to Hana (a southward road along the east side of the island which is more about the journey tha the destination). Best pizza ever is at a place called the Flabread Company, where you get a pulled pork, pineapple, goat cheese and maui onion pizza. Don’t argue. Just get it.

Kanapali – also a good beach, specifically the DT Fleming beach just north of the Ritz. Not pretty — there’s bits of wood everywhere — but the boogieboarding is top-notch (per the teenager). Unless you value a burger at $25 get your food before you arrive there; there’s picnic tables and the restrooms are NICE!

Ha’Iku – make sure to visit the North Shore Zipline Company (which is ironic since they’re actually on the south of the island but whatever). Seven zip lines and for those of us on the trip that were afraid of heights (hi) it was transformative. The crew there is patient, kind, and will not let you chicken out of things. They are also witty intelligent guys. The pictures they take are well worth it — you don’t see the photographer all that often but he does take some amazing pictures.

Wailuku – Maui Ocean Center & Aquarium. Hands down one of the best aquariums I’ve ever been to (it was built in ’98 so I couldn’t nag my parents to take me to it), they have actual sharks (juveniles — as they mature they’re released back into the wild) and they’re staffed by local University marine biologists. Sea turtles, hammerhead and reef sharks, informative exhibits and a nice, non-confrontational gift shop (e.g. you don’t have to exit through it).

Molokini Crater – you get here via snorkeling tour and there’s tours and tours. We went a little higher-end and from a volume-of-people-on-the-boat perspective it was worth it; the Alii Nui tours are staffed by professional, gracious people who know what they’re about. You wanna dive? You can dive. You wanna Snuba/Hooka dive? Yep. You wanna snorkel? rock on. You wanna snorkel but you’ve never done it before? Yep, they can help you with that. Full breakfast and lunch plus snacks, they provide towels and sunscreen, and it’s five hours of sheer fun. Plus they sail back for a bit, so if you are a sailor at heart — or like to pretend you are — I highly recommend.

Better than Expected: Vega Protein Smoothie

In my quest to find a protein shake that won’t make my cholesterol go up and will leave me full for the morning (and actually provide, you know, protein) I have taken on a challenge to compare a variety of shake mixes. You can read about that here.

This review is for Vega Protein Smoothie in Viva Vanilla.  This is the *only* shake mix that got 3 or more thumbs-ups from the Facebook/Twitter request for recommendations, and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised.

vegaThe flavor: undeniably vanilla with no pretensions and no aftertaste.  For the most part I blended it with soy milk (hey, extra protein!) but the instructions say it can be mixed with water and I tried that today — again, not bad.  I can definitely taste the flavor difference from my original shake but I’d be happy to substitute this permanently.

The texture: this is where things get interesting. I know the internet hates this word but here we go: moist. The protein powder itself is incredibly fine but also moist, and as a result if you are, say, working with a borrowed blender, be prepared to blend longer than a granular powder. Also, when mixed with psyllium husks if you don’t get the proportions just right you end up with an incredibly thick shake once it’s stood for a bit.  I’m a sip-while-puttering person myself, so that was an unpleasant surprise.  I fooled with the ratios and discovered the following: mixed with 8oz water and 2tbsp husks, it’s fairly watery and holds its consistency.  Mixed with 8oz of soy milk and 1tbsp husks, it’s a decent smooth shake (not watery but not stuck solid, either). Mixed with 8oz soy and 2tbsp husks, get ready for a spoon.  If not thoroughly blended you get pockets of pasty goo, I’d say it took about 1.5-2 minutes of solid blending to get the right consistency.

nutritionfactsThe vitals: This has 15 grams of protein (so about 3 less than my comparison point) but zero cholesterol and only 80 calories. Ingredients include broccoli and pea protein but the powder itself is a bland looking ecru and you’d never know you were eating vegetables (for those of you who like to be healthy but have an aversion to green things). (I have no such aversion). No fat, and 4 grams of carbs, not bad.

The performance: I stayed full each morning to lunchtime, which was the requirement, and that included morning runs for the most part.

The cost: you can get this off of Amazon for slightly under $13, for 12 servings; so slightly more than $1/serving.

Grade: A-.  Negative points for slightly less protein per serving and for texture toying. Would use again, but I’m on to the next blend. Stay tuned!

 

The Great Protein Shake-Off

After discovering my favorite protein shake was accounting for 20-30% of my cholesterol intake for the day*, I did what anyone else would do these days: I publicly whined about it on Facebook and Twitter. This promptly got me two pieces of information:one, that my initial feelings that I should get off of Facebook because I wasn’t sure it was useful were incorrect, and two, a ton of my friends have a favorite protein shake.

The Great Protein Shake-Off is simple: all of the protein shakes must have LESS cholesterol per serving than my current (reviewed below). They must be vanilla flavored (chocolates vary too easily and anyone on the receiving end of a caroby chocolate smoothie knows the gall bitter disappointment of said variance). They will be mixed with my usual ingredients: mixed berries (frozen, available at Trader Joes), Psyllium husks (a fiber additive, let’s not get into it), and unsweetened/unflavored soy milk.

Before we get into it: NO, I can’t use your favorite Almond milk or nut-based proteins. I’m allergic to tree nuts in a very go-to-the-Hospital, stop-breathing kind of way. Hence soy milk.

IMG_0135The Current: Designer Whey

With that, let’s look at the point of comparison, my protein shake for the last 3 months: Designer Whey in Vanilla. I can get this at my local Trader Joes for $11.99/container and each container has 12 servings so call it $1/serving.  It has a pretty basic vanilla-y flavor, not too rich and not too sweet; no aftertaste (which I like). It doesn’t tend to clump in the blender (which some do). I know we said we wouldn’t talk chocolate but if you don’t have to worry about your cholesterol they do have a good chocolate flavor.

 

IMG_0136Nutrition-wise, we are looking at 18 grams of protein per serving, 2 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbs, and a whopping 60mg of cholesterol (*it says this is 20% of my diet. AHA recommended cholesterol intake for someone with cardiovascular issues is 200mg/day. So no, this is more like 30% of my daily allowance).

I was thinking I’d just go back to Labrada — they have Labrada vanilla shakes at my gym — only to discover Labrada has MORE cholesterol, not less, so I will be gifting my recent Labrada purchase to David the Awesome Trainer who makes me bring my crying towel to the gym.

Maybe he will let me get away with less than 100 push ups.

The Contenders

Here are the contenders, as recommended from Facebook and by direct message. (HEY – if you’re reading this and you have a favorite and it’s not here, please dm me — I’ll try it. I even ordered some stuff from the UK). I will review each one for texture, flavor, cost, aftertaste, and anything else that occurs to me is potentially useful for someone considering these.

  1. Vega Protein Smoothie in Viva Vanilla flavor: I’m about to go on a trip and this will be my protein shake for the duration. Review to come in roughly a week. Recommended by friend from high school (it’s a measure of my trust in her that I am not taking a back up). Purchased from Amazon.
  2. Gold Standard Whey in Vanilla Ice Cream. Recommended from friend at work who thinks 10 mile runs are nbd. Reminds me a little of you, Tolga. Purchased from Amazon.
  3. Nutiva Hemp Protein in vanilla. Also recommended from friend from high school (different friend).  (Remember, I reached out on Facebook).  Purchased from Amazon.
  4. Premier Protein Vanilla shakes. Recommended from best friend’s hubs (also very good friend), purchasable from Amazon and Costco. Couldn’t find powder so going with premixed.
  5. Decibel Nutrition Madagascan Vanilla. Recommended from David the Trainer. Purchased from Decibel directly (not available via Amazon) and shipping currently from the UK.

Next post in roughly a week: Vega Protein Smoothie. DM any recommendations to me via Facebook or on Twitter (handle: bobbie.conti).

The Illusion of Control

It’s a testament that my Cardiologist remembers my father when he asks me why I’ve come to see him and I reply by saying “this” and hand him my laptop with my Cholesterol charted over the last 9 years. The chart was full-on Excel, broken out into the different types (HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, Total Cholesterol, and my ratio on a 2nd series). I am not the only one in my family to chart a bunch of things in Excel and come armed to a doctor’s appointment with data. “Ah,” he said, “You’re discovering that your cholesterol is going up in spite of what you do to make it not.”

I had explained about the diet and the exercise, I had explained about seeing it go down back in 2010 and in 2012 when I undertook larger physical activities (namely the Ride to Conquer Cancer and the STP), and how with Ragnar (last year and this) there was no downturn. With a restrictive diet there was no downturn.

I was prepared for him to tell me it is genetic (it is, both of my parents and their families have related histories) and I was prepared for him to tell me that short of “drastic changes” I wasn’t going to be able to make my LDL go down without help. I’m not a drastic person so I didn’t want to ask what “drastic changes” were, although I should have just for comparison.

Naturally, I expected him to whip out the ol’ prescription pad and prescribe a statin.

Nope.

“With young healthy people,” he said, and I could have kissed him for the “young” part except I had already figured by the waiting room that I was a good 20 years younger than his usual patient, “I don’t like to put them on statins.”

There’s another reason he’s not putting me on a statin, and that is because I have osteoarthritis in my joints. I’m able to run because I have a fabulous physical therapist, orthodic inserts in my shoes, and I use Hokas. But statins tend to cause joint pain, and I already get joint pain if I’m not careful, so statins, for me, right now, are not the magic bullet. The plan is to take 3 additional supplements, for 3 months, and come back for another round of lipid panels. The 3 supplements? Vitamin D (5000 IU, rather than the 1000 I’m already taking), CoQ10, and Cholestene.

(Can we just take a second to have three cheers for a Cardiologist who is Director of Cardiology for the hospital chain and has been practicing some 30+ years, offering an initial alternative medicine approach? Usually you have to seek that out. )

So, here we go. We’ll give this a try and see if it works; I feel like I’m in good hands.

Next up: The Great Protein Shake Challenge!

 

Choices and Consequences

I have struggled with my weight pretty much all of my life.  I remember being roughly eight or nine, seeing that I had skinny calves — what 8 or 9 year old doesn’t? — and despite my chubby belly, thinking I was skinny and resolving to eat *more* to fill out the calves.

I remember being in high school and feeling overweight and the solution then was to just not eat (or more accurately try to skip lunch or replace lunch with diet pepsi). What I wouldn’t give to have the body I had in high school (okay, okay, minus the acne).

I remember being just back from the student exchange, freshman year of college, and weighing 230 pounds and knowing that the reason the random guy in Statistics class asked me out was because he knew I’d be grateful. (Sweetly verified by his friend in a side comment).

I remember going to the gym with  my friend Colleen — the person who introduced me to gyms and I wish it had been sooner — and by virtue of a hairy-chested trainer named Vinny and a spreadsheet of exercises, losing all of that weight and getting into the best shape of my life.

I remember thinking that was that and I wouldn’t have to struggle with my weight anymore. Then I got married at 200 pounds. I remember getting our wedding pictures and crying for two hours.

I remember eating nothing but Slimfast and Lean Cuisine when my then -husband (USMC) would deploy, walking 3 times a week and thinking I’d finally kicked it.

I remember moving back up to Washington in 2000, having gained it all back.

I remember deciding that if I was going to have a baby — my son was very, very planned — that I was going to need to be healthy if not for myself then for him. And so before I got pregnant (2002) I lost the weight again, and for the most part have kept it off (I have fluctuated by about 10 pounds here and there ever since). I have been in and out of gym memberships (the current one is the longest lasting) and signed up for random events (half marathons, a triathlon, a couple of double-century bike rides and a couple of Ragnars), and for the most part have been doing okay, weight-wise.

Here I am at 42 and the issue is not weight. I recently lost a little and that’s fine, but my goal has been health — being able to run, and trying to be good about what I put into my mouth. At my annual exam in April I got my blood tested and my cholesterol had eeked up; having a family history of cardiovascular problems I took it as a warning bell and tightened up: I quit dairy (except for nonfat greek yogurt and lowfat frozen yogurt). I quit red meat (ok, I had red meat twice in 3 months). I kept up the running (training for Ragnar helped). I took fiber daily. I haven’t had anything to drink since May 1st. Protein shakes for breakfast nearly every morning, with berries and bananas using soy milk.

Three months later I’m back at the doctor’s office, back giving blood, and my triglicerides went down but my LDL shot up 20 points. I have been tracking every bit of food I eat since February (I’ve been using MyFitnessPal off and on for about six years) and I couldn’t figure it out… until I looked at breakfast. My protein shake, the most virtuous thing about my day, has 25% of my daily recommended cholesterol. I wouldn’t have thought it — why would a *protein shake* have cholesterol (I mean, they engineer the crap out of the contents so why not engineer that out?). Vigilance, ever vigilance.

I have an appointment with a cardiologist this Wednesday. You know you get to sit at the big kids table at Thanksgiving dinner when you can not only chip in on the political debates and discussion about the markets, but you also have your own set of health issues to contrast and compare in on, and you officially have a Cardiologist (to go with your other specialist doctors).

So here I am: nearly 43. Weight-stable (losing a little still and that’s fine). Active. I have arthritis and high cholesterol, low blood pressure and Raynaud’s. I have three of those in check. Now I just have to lock down the fourth.

Once more into the breach, dear friends…