Tag Archives: blood pressure

A Healthy Lifestyle – Lived Sustainably

When I started writing this blog, one of the big topics I talked about was maintaining a low sodium diet. Where am I with that, these days?

I’ll be honest. The whole fitness-eat-right-take-care-of-yourself thing is harder to sustain than you’d think. Or maybe it’s exactly as hard as you think; maybe you’re more realistic in this department than I am.

The point is, I’m trying: I still eat my zero-sodium bread, I don’t add salt to the food that I cook – but sometimes the demands of life get in the way. And as I get busier, my conscientiousness about my diet gets less of my attention. So I pick up a slice, I stop in at McDonald’s for a burger, I eat half a carton of ice cream, I hit the gym once a fortnight instead of three times a week. It’s showing.

Time to re-up my resolve, and keep actively striving for balance. Wish me luck.

Awesome Awesome Amazeballs Awesome

The thing you always forget about performing is how quickly it happens. There’s an interminable amount of stuff that has to take place before a production, whether we’re talking a short film, a play, or a reading involving five performers converging on an old-time prestige venue like the Cornelia St Cafe.

That third one is a little specific, isn’t it.

Yesterday we had a live reading of Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change here in New York City. And by “we,” I mean everybody, with the exception of RJ, who wrote to us from New Zealand. Before about 4pm, the day is a blur. Literally a blur. I remember the gist of what I did: mostly sleep, since the night before was a rush of adrenaline and preparation and as with all these things, there never seems to be enough time. (Note “seems” – this is significant.)

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Low Sodium Pineapple & Mango Curry Recipe

Did some experimenting over the weekend and liked the results. Here’s what you need for this recipe:

1 pineapple
1 package of chicken (I think I used a little over a pound), cut into chunks
1/2 red onion, chopped
curry powder (spice to taste)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 bag frozen mango chunks
Ginger (to taste)
1 can chickpeas (optional – these tend to have a high sodium content)

Dump everything in the crock pot and leave it for a while.

Come back when the chicken is done cooking and it will be this amazing stew type thing. You will not be disappointed. And it’s super healthy because the pineapple makes it sweet, so no added sugar, and it doesn’t need any salt at all because that’s not the point of it. I like to eat it just plain like that.

2012-04-23 19.41.14

It’s very tasty. I had planned to have it for the whole week, but then my roommate tried some and my downstairs neighbor tried some, and let’s just say I’m going to have to buy another pineapple later this week. 🙂

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Really Sick

A few days ago, a friend’s blog featured a guest post on body image – specifically in relation to dieting and discipline, and the idea of a child being put on a diet by their parents, and how early exposure to a culture of dieting sticks with us throughout our lives.

This week, I hit my lowest weight since high school, excepting one transient moment when I was seeing a trainer and got a bit lower – that lasted all of two weeks, and was in no way sustainable, as I was simply counteracting all the crap I ate at the time with seven or more hours a week at the gym. The second I stopped using a personal trainer, those pounds crept back on.

This week, on the other hand, is a totally different deal. I’ve lost eight pounds in three days. EIGHT POUNDS! SINCE LAST WEEK. Noticeably shrinking waist circumference!  All my skinny clothes will fit again! Which means some of my larger-sized dresses are going to be too big for me now! I can give them away to other curvy ladies in need of some plus-size fashion! This should be exciting, right? Because giving dresses away leads to BUYING NEW DRESSES. Or something.

Oh wait, except I’m sick sick sick and haven’t been out of bed in four days, my last square meal was on Wednesday last week, and I’m convinced the only thing that’s currently keeping me alive is the all-natural root beer that’s delivering sugar to my system, except that it also makes my heart pound, so today I’m switching it out for Lady Grey decaf with honey.

Also (cough hack hack cough) I think I dropped a bit of my lung over there, mind passing it back to me?

It doesn’t help that this whole “loose jeans resulting from being quite sick” is also throwing a spotlight onto how feminism plays into my own life. Can I be happy to have lost a few pounds, when it’s through illness? When I tweet that my jeans are loose and I’m not sure that I care why – and then a moment later confirm that actually, I realized I don’t care why, but I’m going to have to parse the implications of that vis a vis feminism – and a friend, normally more committed to these things than I, then follows up to my “my jeans are loose” comment with “rough life” – are she and I both playing into a mode of approach that we both struggle, on a daily basis, not to reinforce? Does the fact that we acknowledge the ickiness of the logic behind the feelings give us the ability/permission to express them, nonetheless?

Those eight pounds didn’t go anywhere because of any healthy decision I made. They got lost because I got sick. I have felt physically miserable for days. MISERABLE. (Does anyone else ever forget, so quickly, just how bad it feels to be sick? Because I swear I never think it’s as bad as all that until the disease is IN ME and I feel like THIS:

Me, for the last four days

So the minute I think, well, at least this is one positive thing this stupid illness has done that’s good, I also slam into a wall of the following logic:

“Don’t feel good about this. It isn’t healthy. Feel good about healthy things. Don’t feel good about being too sick to move, waking up in a cold sweat for four days just because at the end of the rainbow there’s a pair of loose jeans. This isn’t sustainable any more than having a trainer and working out seven hours a week was sustainable. This isn’t real weight loss, it’s not going to put your body in better condition, and you better be able to keep something down today because quite frankly writing while lightheaded is not fun at all.”


I’ve been working hard to lose weight for a long time. Primarily for health reasons, and I can say that honestly because the one thing that motivated me to *actually lose weight* was a health reason. So I shouldn’t feel guilty if I have a little twinge of glee, no matter what the cause, when I get a little closer to knowing what that “healthy weight” is going to feel like when I get there.

But I do. Do I ever.

Not only because I know I didn’t lose those eight pounds under anything that could possibly be interpreted as healthy circumstances, but also because those loose jeans tapped into just how ingrained and destructive my own weight (and weight-loss) expectations are.

Falling short of your own standards is never fun. Especially not when you’re sick.

Year 2 Start – Low Sodium Living in NYC

Three years and over sixty pounds ago, I rocked up to New York City on the chilly, bright morning of January 14th. Over the course of the next three years I got a trainer, learned how to work out, and started my first successful campaign against an unhealthy body – my own Battle of the Bulge. But it’s been so much more than that, not the least of reasons for which is because of a series of health-related factors that have started to come into play.


Over a series of posts in this blog, I’ve detailed my progress over the last year; after hitting a low weight back in October on the heels of a two-week trip to New Zealand (it’s amazing, how not knowing what you can and can’t eat can lead to dropping weight like it’s going out of style) the number on the scale has crept slowly upwards throughout the holidays. It got so bad at one point in October that I stopped using the weight-tracking software I’d sworn by for three months; day after day of seeing the revised calculation for the day you’ll hit your “goal weight” become further and further in the future is not, even for a few months’ time, my idea of good motivational practice.

And so I arrived at the end of December having gained about 10 pounds since my adult-low back in October…and then I put on another 10 pounds over the final week of the year. I don’t know how I do it (well, I have some inkling, but that’s for another post) but I manage to weight on like nobody’s business the second I stop paying attention. I wasn’t too worried about it at the time. “I’ll do what I did last January,” I told my roommate, “and just be really serious for the first two weeks of the month about going to the gym and eating healthy and all that.”

Having reached the two-week mark today, on the same day as my three-year anniversary in the City, I’ve decided that I’m going to have to spend the rest of January and most of February being “really serious…about going to the gym and eating healthy and all that.” The weight’s going down, but in order to get back to that post-New-Zealand weight – and then go even lower – it’s going to take more work.

Thus begins year two. Book two, stage two, chapter two, whatever you want to call it. The goal is to emulate what I did right last year while at the same time learning from the mistakes and the weight-bubbles of the last 12 months. So I’m back to shopping carefully, checking the nutritional information on everything, putting thought and effort and planning into when and what I eat, exploring even more low sodium recipes and healthy cooking techniques, and dedicating myself to spending more time and effort on productive exercise.

Any tips?


Eight Months Down The Low Sodium Line #lowsodium

One of my friends is expecting an addition to her family soon. Since she found out about her pregnancy, our conversations have turned to topics around the changes her body is going through as it creates a new life. On a different scale, my body’s been working on its own transformation since January, as my low sodium diet has become more ingrained. (She says, on an afternoon when she split some excellent hamburgers and fries at work.) A few weeks ago, my doctor agreed that I’d made enough progress that the medication I’d been taking on a daily basis could be retired from my daily schedule.

What does that mean? It means I’m now making another transition; I had gotten lax in my habits because my health had improved, and now I have to get strict again. I’ve got to reboot and re-motivate, and make sure that I stay on track going forward.

How far have I come? Not as far as I’d have liked. I’ve lost about 26 pounds since January, but I’ve also gained five or six of them back. I got very disciplined for a while about what kinds of food I kept in the house, and what I ate for every meal – but as the points on my blood pressure monitor went down, I’ve loosened up a bit, and now they’re creeping back up. All the habits that I thought I had under control have proven harder to maintain than I originally thought they would be.

Sometimes following the same routine – the careful regimen that I established in support of all those healthy habits – becomes difficult or impossible, because the demands of life take over. What I’m trying to do now is search for new, innovative ways to make sticking with my healthier habits fit my lifestyle. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments – do you know any tips or tricks for packing a super-low-sodium lunch? Or is there a restaurant in Manhattan that you’ve found is especially friendly to those of us who want our meals prepared without salt? Let me know if you do, ’cause every little bit helps!

It’s not going to be easy, but I’ve definitely learned how to do healthier cooking healthier nachos and adapted my grandparents’ awesome pizza into a Low Sodium Pizza Recipe, so if I can keep exploring those options (and find a way to go back to eating more fish, since I seem to have let that slip recently) things should be okay.

Fingers crossed!

Low Sodium Pizza Crust Recipe

Aside from the ingredients mentioned in my shopping list, earlier, you’ll also find a couple large mixing bowls and a wooden spoon useful.

I promised to share my grandmother’s pizza recipe with a friend who’s trying to lose weight and lower their blood pressure, so here is the salt-free version of my grandmother’s excellent pizza dough recipe.

First thing to do: Take a large water glass (I’m going to use the measurements I find most convenient, because let’s face it, our grandmothers didn’t have a lot to spare, and they had to find ways to fix it when things went wrong. One of my foremost thoughts when I’m cooking is, “I’m sure I’m not going to fuck this up to a point where I can’t actually eat it.” This can be very liberating.). Pour the contents of one packet of Fleishman’s Yeast (It’s what I use, use whatever brand you want) into the bottom of the cup, and one teaspoon (either the measurement kind or the smaller spoon in your flatware set, it really doesn’t matter) of sugar in on top of that.

Now, turn on the tap and wait until the water runs hot. (Okay, not HOT hot, but like….hotter than warm, you know what I mean?). Fill up the glass of drinking water. Mix it with a spoon, vigorously, and don’t be afraid to mush clots of yeast against the side of the glass. You’re not going to hurt it. Once it’s more or less mixed in, put it aside. Really don’t worry if you can’t mix it all in, the chemical reaction will still be close enough that you’ll wind up with a result you can use in your first attempt without embarrassing yourself.

So put the glass with the water aside. No, like, where you’re not going to knock it over. Watch a music video, reply to your IMs. You have anything between 3-8 minutes before you need to worry about what’s going on in the glass. Why, you ask? Because all you’re doing is making sure the yeast hasn’t gone bad. If it hasn’t, then when you return to your glass of warm/hot water, you’ll find out that it’s got a thin foam (like the foam on a badly-poured pint of guiness) maybe ¾ inch thick, resting on the top. If it’s gone bad then nothing has happened and you should probably give up now (though if you’re like me, you already have the flour and olive oil in another bowl, so you’ve got to make the best of it…)

Hopefully at this point you have a few eighths of an inch in a water glass, mixed with sugar, with some foam on the top.

Take your bag of flour and pour a couple of cups (small coffee cups, 1 cup measures, or the rough volume of – the same space filled by – your hand. Obviously some of our hands are bigger than other hands. That doesn’t matter. It’s a general equation. We’re not cooking prize-winning loaves here, just pizza dough that won’t clog our arteries and bust up our wallets. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and this will be good enough to fool most people into thinking it is.

Now, pull out a bottle of olive oil. Unscrew the top of the bottle and shake out a tablespoon or two (these are roughly the size of soup spoons, but honestly, it doesn’t matter). You’ll notice the olive oil pooling in the flour, the viscuous fluid coated on its outermost layer with the powdery paste.

Tip about half the yeast-sugar-water into the bowl that holds the flour and oil. Normally, you’d dash some salt into the mix around here, but since we’re trying to reduce our sodium intake, we’re going to forego that small pleasure. If you’re using canned spaghetti sauce or regular mozerella cheese, and you have the patience to spread this dough really thin, you won’t taste the difference so much after the first week or so. (If you like doughy pizza, I’m sorry, but this is one of those sacrifices I feel is worth it for what you save in sodium intake).

Mix things. Vigorously.

It’s my understanding that there are mixing machines and attachments that will assist you in mixing the dough at this point. It’s also my understanding that a perfectly serviceable mix can be completed with a wooden spoon and a mixing bowl, which is what my grandmother had on hand on most occasions. It’s tiring. But in some ways this is a good thing; it lets you get in a little repetitive weight gym-type crap while you’re cooking, um, pizza.

Now the thing is, the mixing is the complicated part. It’s the part that you have to kind of practice, which is why I’m recommending you start off by using only half the water/yeast/sugar mix.  You’re going to want to add more flour, unless you’re miraculously gifted when it comes to cooking (in which case, I think you’ll get better value buying an actual cookbook), so having some more liquid to balance that out may wind up being a good thing.

Ultimately, this is not (at this point) a fool-proof recipe, because in the end you need to figure out the best consistency for your dough. It’s better that the dough is wetter rather than being too dry. The dough should feel like a pale white girl’s drying skin when the weather’s just a little on the dry side because of winter (a poetic, if inspecific representation of the texture of the dough, I admit) when you’re done with it.

If you’re OCD-like-me, pat your dough into a nice, round, soft ball. Cover it up with saran wrap, or just a hand towel (if OCD isn’t your thing). Put it to one side for forty minutes (or much longer – I’ve left it on a radiator for upwards of an hour), and when you come back, you get to punch the dough really hard and watch it deflate around your fist. Once you’ve done this, you can leave it alone, or you can let it rise again, or you can spread it super-thin to the edge of your pizza crust – you want the ultimate width to be about a quarter of an inch after rising, which means paper-thin to the point of there being holes in the dough is okay once you spread it. Which you do after spreading olive oil all over the baking sheet you plan to use.

Anyway, I feel kind of bad about just leaving this blog because it’s just a recipe for pizza dough – not a real recipe for a meal. But at the same time I do think that cooking pizza dough is one of the things that enabled me to eat more healthily while living in the UK and USA, since I could control what went into a recipe.

If you do need to turn this into a pizza NOW, here’s what you do:

–          Add sauce (your own from-scratch recipe or not, you’ve already saved hundreds of mg of sodium in making the dough and not including salt over buying something ready-made). I recommend sticking to a minimal amount, because when I eat pizza, I’m looking for more of the blend of flavors than quantity of the bled, so a thin coat should be fine.

–          Scatter some shredded cheese on the top. In later blogs I hope you’ll all remind me to tell you about how to spread fresh mozzarella over a pizza crust, but for now, read the serving size and use that much times the number of people you anticipate eating the pizza)

Add some chopped fresh veg for flavor and let it cook at the highest heat your oven has available for slightly longer than you think it should. Your cheese may wind up a bit brown on top. That’s fine. Take a slice, turn the heat off on the oven, and slide the rest of the pizza back in. Ultimately it will look a bit brown on top, but it’ll be like slow-baked cheese on top of doughy goodness.

Enjoy your pizza, and remind me about what I should elaborate on from the above.

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