Friday, May 27, 2011

southwestern tuna steaks with avocado salad

I made this up, based on a fish tacos recipe for the marinade. This is one of our favorite quickie dinners lately; we've been having it once a week. Takes about 10 minutes and serves 2. All amounts are estimated--I never measure. :-)

2 servings tuna steak (or swordfish, or mahi mahi--any firm-textured fish you like, really)
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
2 tsp taco seasoning
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
dash of cayenne
salt & pepper

Fish should be thawed and at room temperature. Mix together honey, oil, lime juice & seasonings. Salt & pepper fish, place in a shallow dish and pour oil mixture over. Let sit while you chop up the salad.

Avocado salad
1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
1/2 medium tomato, chopped small
2-3 Tbs minced sweet onion
juice of 1/2 lime or to taste
1 Tbs minced fresh cilantro
salt & pepper to taste

Mix and let stand while the fish cooks.

Heat nonstick skillet over medium heat; add a generous drizzle of olive oil and put the fish in. Add any leftover marinade. Cook the fish about 3-4 minutes on each side or to desired doneness. Remove to 2 plates, divide the avocado salad between them, and add a dab of Greek yogurt or sour cream to each.

Monday, May 09, 2011

don't call it luck

I know this is disingenuous, but what is it about people that they can't live and let live? Why does everyone have to tear someone else down to protect their own ego?

There's a lot of noise out there now about discrimination against overweight Americans. Well what about those of us who are actually NORMAL weight? I am rapidly becoming the minority among American women--a slim, athletic female. Does that mean I discriminate against the obese? Hell, no. My best friends in both high school and college were overweight. My ex-husband was obese. So is my sister, who is one of my favorite people in the world. Most of my friends nowadays are far bigger than me. But do I give them a hard time? Do I sabotage their diets, or tell them they need to diet, or give diet books for Christmas gifts? Of course not. That would be fabulously tacky.

So why then, do I find myself increasingly on the defensive against people--casual acquaintances, generally--who seem to feel it's fine to pick on ME for being thin?

"You just have the right genes." "When I was your age I was that skinny, too." "Wait until you have kids." "You must STARVE yourself." "Just wait til you blow out a knee and can't do kung fu anymore."

All of which are jealous, snarky ways of saying, "Just you wait--you'll get yours."

It's rude. It's insecure. And it's fallacious.

The way I look is not an accident. It's also not merely age, or genes, or kung fu--perhaps 5% of each, if I'm being generous. My physique is the result of a planned, deliberate lifestyle I embrace daily because it's a helluva lot easier to maintain than to lose. I want to be able to hike, climb stairs, do a 360-degree jump kick, fit into my clothes, enjoy good sex, stay out of the hospital, and avoid insulin dependence.

I do not starve myself. I do not work out like a demon. I hate working out. I do not weigh portions or count calories.

My age has little to do with it. I'm 37, and I'm leaner now than I was 15 years ago. When I was 23 I was drinking 3-4 Pepsis every day and going out to dinner at Chili's three times a week. One day I hopped on the scale, saw the number 143, and said, "Nope. Not gonna do that."

I did not join a gym. I did not starve myself. I thought about empty calories I was consuming. I cut out soda, and French fries, and I lost eight pounds in two months.

My genes have little to do with it. My sister unfortunately got the bad thyroid from my dad's side, but she is probably correct in suspecting that a couple of years of very poor diet triggered it. The rest of my family is not obese, although they've thickened a lot in the last decade. We were all pretty slim when we were living in the same house, eating food we cooked ourselves every night. It was only after they got married and had kids that my siblings and their spouses started to swell. My parents, too, since they were eating out more.

I'd say 90% of the meals I eat are prepared at home. We eat lunch out on Saturdays, usually, because we're away from home. The people at Blanc Burgers probably think I'm crazy because I take the bun off my Inside-Out burger.


I am a carnivore. I eat meat, eggs, dairy and cheese. I eat plenty of animal fat, butter, and olive oil, which I believe are essential to the health of my body. I eat lots of salads, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, green beans and peas, not to mention onions and root vegetables. I try to have a vegetable with every meal.

I buy these foods as natural/organic/grass fed/local as my budget and resources will allow. I sincerely believe in sustainable farming and the part that animals play in a healthy ecosystem. Sadly, I am not a farmer and my yard is too shaded to allow me to grow produce at this time. However I buy all our meat from local farmers, our beef, chicken and eggs from free-range animals, and I'm constantly looking into new sources for dairy and vegetables.

I don't eat food that comes out of boxes or bags, even if they do say "organic" on the label. There are no crackers, chips, or prepared meals in my pantry or freezer.

The only food I buy in cans are tomatoes, beans, tuna, and salmon. I keep a couple cans of tomato soup on hand in case one of us is too sick or lazy to cook. They usually sit there for months. We don't get sick often.

I eat very little wheat or corn. I'll usually have one or two servings of either during a week--a sandwich or a taco, for instance, when we're out on the weekends. I will sometimes have a piece of sprouted-grain toast for breakfast.

I don't eat vegetable fats, except for olive oil. I won't touch anything that says "hydrogenated" on the label.

I don't drink alcohol, generally. I never drank ANY until I was in my thirties. My parents were strict teetotalers and so I never developed the taste. Occasionally I'll have an aperitif of sweet wine after dinner, or half a margarita if we go out for Mexican.

I don't eat fast food. About once a year I'll get a craving for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, or some Long John Silvers' batter-dipped fish. Then it takes me another year to forget the unpleasant slickness in my mouth and the uneasiness of my liver and gut while they deal with the starch and soy oil.

I don't drink soda. I haven't had a soda in probably 13 years. I drink water, milk, or green tea. Occasionally a little orange juice, but I prefer it in a smoothie cut with full-fat Greek yogurt, banana, and raw egg.

I eat potatoes maybe once or twice a month. I eat pasta maybe three times a year. I eat rice if my kung fu teacher invites us to dinner.

I eat very little sugar--probably more than the hard-core Paleo people would approve, but far less than the average American. I was totally sugar-free for a couple of years, I did the Splenda thing, and I decided, as little sugar as I ate anyway, I might as well use the real stuff and make it taste good. Laura Ingalls Wilder's family ate homemade pies and cakes and it didn't kill them. So if I want dessert, I have to make it myself--not a tough choice when you consider how I hate the taste of grocery-store baked goods. At our house we go through a pound of evaporated cane sugar every three months or so, depending on whether it's a birthday month and I do any baking for others. Otherwise, I make a home-baked treat--pie, single-layer cake, or a batch of cookies--about once a month. Half the time I end up throwing away the stale leftovers.

Most of my breakfasts are protein and fat, lunches are salads with protein and fat, and dinners are meat and vegetables with a side of fat. Do you see a pattern here? Do you see any of that fat on me? Do you think maybe the whole low-fat concept is a lie?


Don't say I burn it off doing all those martial arts.

I do three kung fu/tai chi classes a week, and only one of them could be considered aerobic. There is no doubt that kung fu/tai chi has made me stronger, lighter on my feet, helped me maintain my flexibility and sculpted my muscles. Kung-fu kicks are especially good for toning a woman's butt and belly.

But I don't believe the kung fu is the sole reason I "stay skinny." There are plenty of fat dojo masters and tai chi masters out there. My sifu, who is a very fit looking 60 (and does all his own cooking), theorizes it's because they don't lift their legs enough or bend at the waist enough. I'm willing to agree that's a part of it. But I really think 75% of one's body shape is determined by what one eats.

Look at any movie or TV series made prior to 1980. Look how slim all those people are--even the ones who are supposed to be "fat." Look at Jackie Gleason in the Honeymooners. He was a well-padded guy but he had none of the sloppy gelatinous look people have today. Look at Mr. Carlson on WKRP in Cincinnati. Thick around the middle, sure, but his arms and legs weren't fat. And the thin people didn't have that bony, strained look that skinny actors have today.

Do you know what happened right around 1980? The FDA and the AMA started telling people to cut out animal fat. And restaurants and food producers started relying on vegetable oils, particularly corn and soy, to replace the animal fats in their products. There are plenty of people out there debating the science and politics behind this switcheroo, so I won't go into it here, but I wholeheartedly believe that those vegetable oils are the cause of American obesity and chronic disease, including cancer. So I avoid them.


In all fairness, there are some other issues that have helped me stay lean.

I have no children. I have never been pregnant. That was by choice. I didn't want the responsibility and I didn't want the effect on my body. I know some people think it's a selfish choice, and I say... darn right. My body. My time. My choice.

I have never taken hormonal birth control. That was a choice, too. Even though I had terrible cramps as a teenager, and trouble with acne (allergy related) in recent years, I feared the impact of artificial hormones on my body. I've had too many women tell me they quit the pill and dropped 20 pounds. The only time I tried BCP's, I took them for 3 weeks and gained eight pounds. My sister had to have her gall bladder removed due to side effects of the Pill. Thank you, no.

I am not into menopause yet. That may very well change the game for me, but I doubt it. There is a lot of new evidence coming out about hormone interplay, how sugar affects insulin and insulin affects sex hormones. I'm keeping a close eye on that stuff.

I still know a few women who are peri- or post-menopausal who managed to avoid extreme weight gain. We'll see where my life is at when that time comes, and what choices I want to make about my body and lifestyle. I don't intend to quit the tai chi, so I don't expect a lot of drastic obstacles.

For the last ten years I've hovered between 125 and 128. When I start creeping up toward 130, I cut back on sugar and eat more vegetables.

I'm not obsessive about my weight. I'm obsessive about my health--mental and physical. So I have brownies when I really feel like baking them. I enjoy the baking process and the eating--preferably when shared with friends. Then the other 29 days of the month I eat meat and vegetables and do my kung fu.

There is nothing--NOTHING--"lucky" about it.