Friday, June 30, 2006

To Eat or Not to Eat: That is the Hummus

I’m going to be honest, my friends, I’ve been struggling to write today’s post. It’s not that I have a lack of topics to discuss; I’ve actually started this post about five times. I was going to write about how I got back on the wagon with a trip my trainer on Thursday that was so intense I nearly got sick. Then I thought, “No. I’ll tell them about some of the things the psychic told me that have come true.” But, alas, I was not inspired. So I decided that I would write something honest, raw, without my usual veil of sarcasm. I started to write about my goals and my hopes for my 27th year. But, let's face it, I don't have any. Just kidding.

I’ve decided that this post should be about hummus. Yes, hummus.

In order to provide my readers with an accurate description of hummus, I searched it on Wikipedia. Here is first paragraph of the hummus entry:

Hummus (Arabic: حُمُّص‎; Greek: Χούμους; Hebrew: חומוס; Armenian translit: hamos; also spelled houmous, hommus, hummous or humus) is a dip made of chickpea paste and tahini (sesame seed paste), with flavorings such as olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and paprika.

If I were to contribute to the hummus entry on Wikipedia, I would write this:

Yum.

You can access the full entry here:
Wikipedia Hummus Entry

Why hummus you ask? Well, because I have a problem. Some people overindulge in alcohol or drugs, some people overindulge food in general. I overindulge hummus specifically. I cannot get enough hummus. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and still crave it.

You might argue, "But Lou, hummus is healthy. It's low in fat and calories and it's high in protien." True. But, when you consume anything in extreme quanities, it becomes, as the experts say, not so good.

And, as most things in my life, it gets worse.

If you are a hummus lover, like myself, you probably know that hummus goes best with pita bread. So, with each container of hummus I consume, I quadruple the damage with a package of pita bread.

I know it sounds like I'm joking, but it's seriously a problem and I can't figure out why I crave it. I've heard that when your body craves certain foods it's often because your body is lacking the nutrients provided by that food (I attributed a serious cheese phase to my body needing calcium). But seriously, how many chickpeas does one person need?

I'll leave you with that "food for thought." Nothing like ending a post with a pun.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Wagon, a Birthday, a Lack of Self Control, and My New Job

My friends: today, I turned 27 and quit my job. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I had a complete mental break down because I’m officially in my late twenties; I gave my resignation at my job, effective immediately; checked myself into a mental institution and I’m typing this from the padded walls of my room in a psych ward.

Excellent guess, but you are wrong. I have been having a continual minor mental break down my entire life, and it has never led to my unemployment. No, these events are mutually exclusive. But they did happen on the same day. (OK, not technically, I quit yesterday, but it was announced today, which is why I couldn’t blog about it until now.)

Leaving a position is always a little strange. I have been at my current job at a public relations firm for about a year and a half. While that does not even come close to the amount of time some people spend at a company, I feel like one of the veteran members of my team and it’s strange to know that within weeks (maybe days) after my departure, no one will ever even think about “when Lou was here.”

But, change can be good, and I’m ready for a new challenge and a return to my roots in not-for-profit marketing and communications. That’s right, after a three year hiatus which included a graduate education and an introduction to “agency life,” I’m going back to where I began. Well, not the actual organization, but… you know what I mean. I think it will be an exciting and positive change for me.

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t posted in about a week. Well, change is pretty much the theme of my life right now and I spent the better part of last week in Ohio helping to move my boyfriend to Chicago. (To be fair, I am using the word “help” loosely.) Not only did I fail to post, but I ate take out food for about 7 days straight (I’m talking hardcore take out like Denny’s, Wendy’s, Big Boy, pizza and who knows what else—YUCK!) and I missed a weeks worth of workouts, including an eight mile run. The question is: could it get any worse?

The answer is: Yes, by skipping tonight’s workout to go out to dinner for my birthday instead.

Next question: Where do I want to eat dinner?

I’m back on the wagon tomorrow! Promise!

Monday, June 19, 2006

I Predict that I will Post a Blog Entry (Oh My Gosh! I was Right!)

Why is it that I never feel inspired to write a blog entry on the weekend? I tried so hard last night to get my thoughts about Saturday’s run as well as other random, miscellaneous (yet important) happenings on paper. It just wasn’t flowing. So I gave up. Now, I sit here Monday morning (at work mind you) with the desperate need to update the masses about my life.

Saturday
Overall, the seven-mile run at 6:45am was good despite the heat and humidity. Dehydration was the one minor mishap. It wasn’t serious, but toward the end of the run, maybe mile five and a half or six, I started to get the chills and goose bumps. This is not normal when it’s sunny and 85 degrees. Our pace leader told me that it was a sign of dehydration to which I replied, “But I drink more water than anyone I know.” True enough, but the problem is that I’m drinking too much water and losing my electrolytes in the process. So, I’m going to have to start drinking Gatorade to replenish the nutrients my body is losing during the long runs. Other than that, I stayed strong during the entire run.

Sunday
I went to a psychic party on Sunday despite the fact that I woke up with a painful earache. I’m going to be frank—I love this kind of stuff. While I think my boyfriend might call me “suggestible,” I consider myself “open-minded.”

First, the psychic read my palm. She told me that I lack confidence in my aesthetic abilities. In response, I asked, slightly confused, “does that mean I don’t think I’m good at, like, decorating my house?” Then, she read my tarot cards. She actually did this twice. The first reading was for present or near future. The second reading was for six months to a year from now. Here are some interesting tidbits about my future:
• I will soon make a career switch that will mean more money and less work (I like that combination!). But, in the not so distant future, I will make a major switch in my career that builds on something I’m already doing and takes it to another level.
• My boyfriend, who is moving to Chicago next week, will be very attentive to me and will be very focused on our relationship until he becomes distracted in mid-August or early-September (funny, that’s about the time he’ll be starting his master’s program).
• I will take a trip very soon and it’s going to be very exciting and I’m going to have a really good time.

Some of what she said seemed counter-intuitive to my personality, but other stuff seemed dead on, and some of it was a bit unsettling. So we’ll see. She actually recorded the entire session, so I have a tape of it. I’m going to listen to it and I’ll keep everyone posted on whether or not the psychic’s predictions come true!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Bad Idea: Running Up 40 Concrete Steps to Catch the Red Line in Flip Flops (that are a size too big)

I don’t own a car. I rely on Chicago’s public transportation system to get me pretty much everywhere.

Every day, I ride the El to work and from work. A year and a half ago, if you would have asked me, I would have said that I was “livin’ the dream” (the dream being that I would live and work in the city sans car and all of the stress that comes with driving in rush hour gridlock, instead taking advantage of the fabulous public transit this city offers). And I actually would have said “livin’” with an apostrophe. I might have added “l-i-v-i-n” if I was in a movie quoting mood.

Fast forward to today, and if you ask me, I will tell you, “The dream has turned into a nightmare.” I’m just kidding; it’s not that bad. I still love not having a car, not paying for a car or car insurance, and not getting stressed out in city traffic. It’s nice to read a book during my commute. But, eventually, the love affair with public transit ended (doesn’t it always?) and some very cold, harsh truths began to take their toll on the relationship. These include: watching your train or bus drive off with out you on it; running like a maniac down the street to catch the bus or train; not getting a seat and having to stand after a long day (some people don’t mind this; I do and I will fight you for a seat. “Out of my way, Grandma!” I’m totally kidding… or am I…)

This morning, I ran to catch the El. And while I made it, it was not without a price. As I ran up the last few steps to the platform, the train pulled into the station and I, eager not to miss it, picked up my pace and tripped on the last step. Sadly, this is the second time this has happened in the last two weeks. And yes, as the title of this posting suggests, my shoes are too big and I’m sure this was a contributing factor.

Running to catch the train is a bad idea. If I fall again, which is likely, I could potentially hurt myself. If I hurt myself bad enough, I could miss out on training for the half marathon, which could lead to me attempting to run the half marathon unprepared (because by then I would have healed) and passing out half way through the race course effectively ending my "little engine that could" style running career.

Patience, my friends, is just one of the many virtues that I lack.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What is This “Park” You Speak Of?

As my blog grows in popularity (some have even described the growth as “exponential”), I thought it appropriate to explain the “Park” portion of the title “A View from the Park.”

As some may have suspected, it has absolutely nothing to do with running or working out or what I ate today—unless I happen to eat a park, a ballpark, a Ballpark brand hotdog, or all of the food that is available in a park, which isn’t entirely out of the realm of possibility, I suppose. However, that is not the intended meaning.

In fact, the Park doesn’t refer to anything all that witty or clever, it’s arguably barely relevant, which may disappoint my legions of fans who have come to expect great things from my quick wit, cleverness and relevance. Perhaps I have set the bar a bit too high.

Nonsense.

The “Park” refers to my new home in Rogers Park, one of the many eclectic Chicago neighborhoods. For those of you not familiar with Chicago, the city is sectioned off into neighborhoods, each with its own individual “personality” and vibe. I have heard people say that Chicagoans are very “neighborhood-centric.” I think people just tend to take pride in their little section of this fabulous city.

Rogers Park (or the “RP”) is no different. It’s the northern-most city neighborhood along Lake Michigan. It’s a changing, growing area and there’s a steady stream of young professionals moving into newly converted, affordable condos, yet the RP manages to retain its “old hippie” vibe.

While cool restaurants, bars, and shops are slowly beginning to pop up in Rogers Park, there are already some definite gems, like my personal favorite, Heartland Café. It’s a bar; it’s a restaurant; it’s a crazy hippie hangout stuck in the 1960s. My friends, it’s all of those things, but mostly, for me, it’s the place where I order hummus. Yum.

On the downside, Rogers Park is far, in my opinion, from everything… including my job, my gym, my old neighborhood Lakeview, and pretty much everyone I know. Chicago is big and the Red line El train is slow. But, there are positives and negatives to every neighborhood in the city.

So that’s the “Park.” I imagine you’re asking, “Lou, what if you move?” Excellent question dear reader to which I have a clever and witty (and somewhat relevant) answer: Chicago is full of parks; I’m sure no matter where I go I’ll be near one of them.

(Pizza + Diet Coke) - Advil = Not So Good Run

Yesterday’s CES run can only be described as one thing—rough. Actually, you could also describe it with synonyms of rough, like tough, hard, difficult, grueling… this is an abbreviated list from what came up under the “Thesaurus” in Word. Sometimes I’m so terribly clever (or smart, bright, intelligent, witty, quick). Thanks Microsoft Office, I won’t say you never gave me anything.

The CES run was a 5K predictor race meaning that it sort-of simulated an actual 5K race. We predicted our times prior to starting the race and then we would compare that to our actual time. The purpose is to see how good you are at judging your pace. Well, my running buddy was booking it like nobody’s business and while I felt compelled to keep up and managed to do so, it was not pretty.

You know, some runs are good and some runs are bad. I think there are people out there who run marathons, and once in a blue moon, a five mile jog just isn’t pretty. So, it’s normal to have a bad run once in awhile. But, for the most part, lately, I have been having really good runs. So what was different about yesterday?

Well, I have narrowed it down to three possible reasons:
1) I ate pizza yesterday. It’s terrible really. At work, we had a lunch meeting and my team ordered pizza. I knew that saying “no” to the pizza just isn’t an option in my world, so I was smart and managed the damage with portion control, only 2 slices, and was determined not to snack the rest of the day. That’s a great plan if you’re on Weight Watchers and not going to run a “race” after work. I probably could have used a little pick me up before I ran. Plus, my trainer is not going to be happy with me tonight when I tell him about the pizza (he’s very against white flour, as well he should be).
2) I had a diet Coke with the pizza. Now, I could be wrong on this one, but it probably contributed, along with the pizza/no snack, to my energy crash. Once again, my trainer is not going to be happy, he’s really against diet soft drinks (with good reason, I’m sure).
3) I didn’t take a painkiller before I ran. OK, so maybe it’s not “good” that I medicate myself before I run, but I do. I generally take two Advil before I run because my muscles are generally always in some amount of pain. So, an Advil takes the edge off. However, yesterday, I forgot to bring my Advil and I really thought I’d be OK. When I don’t run with a painkiller, I can generally “run through” any discomfort; however, that wasn’t the case yesterday.

That pretty much sums up my theory about yesterday’s bad run. The good news is, I ran faster than expected. I actually predicted a 40 minute 5K (which is pretty slow), but ended up running a 37 minute 5K. That’s just a little bit faster than a 12 minute mile. Good for me, not so good for most others, but hey, it's a journey--for me, a fairly slow, yet slightly painful journey.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Do You Want Fries with That? Not if the Government has Anything to Say About It

There was an interesting AP article a few weeks ago about the obesity epidemic and whether or not restaurants should be held accountable and if the government should intervene to “encourage” (or “force”) them to have healthier menus and smaller portion sizes.

Check it out:
  • FDA: Restaurants on front lines in obesity fight


  • I had a great discussion with a coworker and with my boyfriend about this article. First of all, at the root of this idea of the government enforcing nutrition guidelines on restaurant, we have a good old fashioned argument about capitalism and government involvement in our personal lives. My boyfriend will go on a tirade about government intervention in people’s personal lives all day if you let him—he’s against it, FYI. But, there’s another sad fact that this article makes blatantly clear—people will not take responsibility for their own actions.

    Now, I love food. I mean, I really love food. I can talk about food, read about food, watch food TV, write about food and most importantly eat food all day long. And I don’t pretend to have dieting all figured out. I’m not perfect, I’m not skinny, but I’m certainly not blaming anyone else for the food I put in my mouth or trying to get the government to step in and take control for me.

    The argument is often made that restaurants need to provide people with the nutritional content of their food because people, when armed with all pertinent information, will make the right, or in this case, healthy, decision. I do appreciate when I can look at nutritional information and it does help me determine what to get, but that’s expensive and unrealistic for most small restaurants in the city. However, the majority of large chains do offer this information and it’s arguable that most people choose to ignore it.

    It’s really up to the individual to make healthy decisions about his or her lifestyle. If you can’t get your massive platter of food fix at McDonald’s or Olive Garden or where ever you eat, you’ll get it somewhere else if you really want it. So then what? Will the government send secret food agents to watch us as we prepare dinner in our kitchens? Will we be fined if we use too much butter or ingredients that aren’t organic or if we don’t have the proper serving of vegetables? Sounds crazy, but it’s a slippery slope my friends, a slippery slope.

    Endless Stairs and a Slow Day at Work

    Blogging while at work is probably not appropriate. But today is s-l-o-w with a capital S-L-O-W. My day is so not stimulating that I’m actually struggling to come up with a compelling blog topic. I suppose they all don’t have to masterpieces (or any of them).

    I did make it to the gym this morning. Tuesdays are cross training days, so my trainer has me doing 30-45 minutes on the step mill. Let me tell you about the step mill. The step mill is a torture device that is designed to make you walk up stairs forever. It’s not a Stairmaster; it’s actually steps that go around and around and around. I managed 30 minutes on the step mill and also got in some weights. Besides the fact that I hate the step mill, it was a pretty good workout.

    Tomorrow I run with the CES running group and Thursday I see the trainer. I may do weights on Friday and Saturday is the CES long run—7 miles this week, it will be the farthest I’ve ever run. Here’s to hoping that I won’t pass out.

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    A View of the V-8

    I managed to get back on the wagon this morning after my three (or was it four?) day hiatus. So, this morning, I got up at 5:15am and rode the El down to the gym and ran for 42 minutes. I actually followed the 5/1 program, meaning I ran for five minutes and walked for one, rather than the 3/2 program. I need to push myself a little more and the 3/2 ain’t cutting it. So, I ran faster and longer than usual.

    I have to say, it was a great run. Unlike most people, I really enjoy the treadmill runs. I like the outdoor runs when I’m with a friend or a group, but by myself, I prefer the treadmill. I just put on my headphones and go. Right now I’m listening to Death Cab for Cutie over and over and over while I run. Being on a treadmill lets me really push myself and track how long and how fast I’m going. I sprinted my last five minutes of running which really took it out of me and when I started to do weights, I nearly passed out. Oh well. I’ll do weights tomorrow.

    I have also resolved to eat better this week and listen to my trainer, so I am upping my protein, sticking with whole grain carbohydrates, etc. He suggested V-8, which I tried for the first time today. It doesn’t taste terrible, though it’s not super pleasant, but the smell is horrible. It’s been sitting on my desk all day. I’ve drank about half the can… and it’s a small can! Perhaps a daily V-8 just isn’t in the cards for me.

    Sunday, June 11, 2006

    The Battle of the Bagel (and cream cheese... and some other stuff)

    On Thursday night, I went to see my trainer. I go with a friend to cut down on the cost and we love it. It's a great indulgence and our trainer cracks us up (he doesn't actually know that). Despite the fact that half the time it looks like one or both of us might pass out, it's great.

    So, on Thursday night, I was bragging about how I get up at 5:30am to go to the gym during the week. I finally admitted that my health, my well-being and my fitness and weight loss goals were not the only motivator. My gym has free bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. So after I workout, shower and dress, I sit down in the cafe and have a bagel (usually only half) and cream cheese (only a TBSP of light). My trainer is not happy with me about the bagel and told me that all those calories are sticking to me. He slapped his thigh when he said this, so I'm assuming that my thighs are the sad losers in this bagel battle. He told me to eat 25 almonds or 2 cups of Cheerios instead. Bye bye gym incentive.

    The next day, I was traveling for business. I do a fair amount of traveling and every time I walk into the airport, my first question is, "What am I going to eat?" Stop number 1, you guessed it, the Great American Bagel. Stop 2 - McDonald's for a McFlurry. I know, McDonald's -- yuck. I don't even eat McDonald's food, but I make a special exception for ice cream in airports. If they had a Ben and Jerry's, I would have gone there. I can down a pint of the the light half baked ice cream like nobody's business -- but I digress.

    The traveling was not so good for the diet or the exercise. I told my trainer that I would do weights on Friday... didn't happen. And to make matters worse, I missed my long run on Saturday, which was only 5 miles and if I could have physically gotten up at 4:30am before the event I was staffing, I would have done it. Traveling just physically takes it out of me.

    I'm back now in Chicago and I've resolved that I will try my best to eat the way my trainer is telling me to eat -- lots of veggies, lean protien, whole carbohydrates, I'm sure you know the drill. For breakfast this morning, I made myself eggs with spinach, whole wheat toast, which I spread half an avocado on (it's good, I saw the woman on Healthy Appetite on Food Network do this, but I'm also such a fan of the avocado that I will eat them whole just by themselves), and a bowl of fruit. I'm hoping I won't be hungry for awhile.

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Sunday Night Sit-a-Thon

    It's Sunday evening and I'm sitting here watching a re-run of Grey's Anatomy realizing that, yes, tomorrow begins another work week. I feel the only appropriate response is a grunt. Since you can’t hear me grunt, I’ll just type it. Grunt.

    The weekend always flies, doesn’t it? Sigh.

    Saturday was crazy busy. I woke up at 6am for the weekly CES Saturday morning “long” run. We went six miles. I’m in the white group. The white group does a 3/2, meaning that we run for three minutes and then we walk for two minutes. On this particular day, the group somehow spilt with the first half of the group leaving the second half of the group in the dust. I ended up in the second group and the pace was SLOW. Too slow. It was a little frustrating. I think I’m going to start running our short runs at a 5/1, run five minutes, walk 1 minute. I need to push myself a little. We’ll see how it goes before I change the long run.

    After the run, I met some friends at the Bagel in Lakeview for breakfast. I love the Bagel. I used to live right around the corner from the Bagel. The service is quick, the food is good, and I really like their chive cream cheese. It’s excellent. Nearly every out-of-town guest that I have hosted has experienced the Bagel. And they have all loved it.

    After breakfast, I met another friend and went downtown to Printer’s Row, where we met my boyfriend at the book fair. It was pretty cool. Tons of tents with old books, new books, historical books about Chicago, and of course my favorite, cookbooks. It was a beautiful day, the kind of day that makes the long, cold, dark Chicago winter all worthwhile.

    And now it’s Sunday night. And tomorrow begins another work week.

    Grunt.

    Friday, June 02, 2006

    A View from the Park

    I finished my first race on April 1, 2006. The Shamrock Shuffle in Chicago is the largest 8K race in the world and that’s what I ran. My time was 1 hour, 1 minute, which isn’t exactly stellar, but the goal was to finish and, even if only barely, I finished.

    A friend of mine ran the race with me and when we crossed the finish line she looked at me and said, “I feel great. I feel like I could keep running. I could totally do a half marathon.”

    I responded, “I don’t know why anyone would want to run further than five miles.”

    Three weeks later I signed up to train for the half marathon with my friend.

    I started running in January 2006. I started running because it was a new year and I made a resolution. I started running because I quit smoking in September 2005 and after awhile, I decided I needed I needed a hobby to replace that habit (preferably something a little healthier). I started running because I was slightly bored. I started running because I wanted to lose 10 pounds.

    I started training, first just to be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping, because I needed a place to begin. Then I needed a goal. And when I crossed the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle, I stopped running. And I didn’t start again for three weeks. It turned out that I wasn’t ready to start running simply for “pleasure,” I needed another goal. I wanted to train again. Hence, the half marathon.

    I signed up with a training program through Chicago Endurance Sports (CES) and have re-committed myself to running… or in this program run/walking. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider myself a RUNNER… yet. I’m not sure what I consider myself, but when I talk about my training, my pace, my still first-time “runner” status, I often use the term “ragtag,” but I’m fairly certain I’m misusing the word.

    I’m starting A View from the Park to document my journey to the half marathon and beyond, whether I run there or not.