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Just when you get on your feet again…

rima-sad-face…a nasty little virus knocks you down.

No, not swine flu thank goodness, but something toxic that took up residence in the back of my throat for a week. I came down with a virus shortly after my last post (same day), and after fighting it for days finally gave in and went to the doctor. It turns out it was part bacterial (treatable with a mild course of antibiotics), and part virus (not so treatable – my body just has to do it’s thing).

The good news is I’m on the mend, and the worst seems to be behind me – the fever has been gone for days, and my throat is now functioning again. The bad news is the virus moved from my throat into my eyes and lungs, so I now look like I’ve been smoking an illicit substance or two, and have the hacking cough to go along with it. Believe me, when my throat felt like I had an angry, adamantian claw-fisted animal trying to gnaw and scratch his way out of my gullet horizontally, I would have considered just about any solution. Fortunately, my doctor had a fix that did not require me to take up a new vice.

Because let me tell you, I really don’t need any more vices. Bread, refined sugar and Doritos are enough.

At any rate, I just wanted to post a quick note to let readers know I’m still hanging in there, and should be back to normal this week. I’ve got a few posts in the queue including one on my adventures into the land of making fresh green corn tamales from scratch, another round of suggested reading, and hopefully a significant post on healthy food options (and that’s all I’ll vaguely say for now). And if all goes well, a surprise or two.

Thanks for reading.


A Quick Story, and What I’ve Been Reading (Hint: it might be your blog)

Note to Almost Fit readers: This photo is, surprise surprise, ME, from a while back. I rarely post photos of myself, but I think I’m going to try to change that over the coming months to increase my level of accountability. At any rate, this is what I looked like – 4 years ago after having run 13.1 miles ;).

half-marathon-finishThat’s not physically possible for me to do

When my wife and I trained with a group for a 1/2 marathon a few years ago, part of our motivation was to spend time together. That worked sometimes, but the truth be told when we ran together, my wife was always holding her pace back a little, and I was usually pushing harder than was healthy for my body at the time. Essentially I was trying to “catch up” even though my body really wasn’t ready for it.

When we trained, I was put in a slower pace group. When I expressed my wish to catch my wife’s pace group to our coach through extra training, she looked into my eyes, put her hand on my shoulder, and quietly said, “I hate to break this to you, but…you’re not going to. I know you think that if you just work harder you’re going to get there, but the truth is? Not possible.”

I was rather shocked.

I mean, wasn’t she supposed to say, “Great Goal, Big Guy! You can do anything you want to do! Why, you can be President someday if you just put your mind to it! Go Team Go!”

But realistically? She was right. Part of me thinks that given a longer stretch of time and some really consistent training, I could eventually have caught up with her. But one obvious problem with the aspiration was that our event was only 3 months away, and there simply wasn’t time for me to get there in that short of a training window. But beyond that, I had to remember – my wife was literally less than 1/2 my weight, and in good shape. Secondly, for every hard run with my slower pace group, she was logging a hard run with her faster group. In other words, with every day we trained, we each got faster and stronger.

So what was the lesson? The coach was trying to help me to see that overtraining would not help me accomplish my goals, and with such a limited timeframe, my goal was truly unrealistic. If I wanted to complete the task, I was going to have to forget about the competitive aspect of trying to catch up with someone much faster than I, and just focus on where I’m at, and where I’m going.

Lesson learned.

Catching up – on Reading: Part 1

Read the rest of this entry »


Tour Addicted

As most of my friends know, in general I rarely watch sports on TV. I enjoy watching the occasional baseball game or series, college basketball when it gets exciting, and I love but rarely watch F1 racing. Lately I’ve been drawn to watching soccer, but my peak in interest is in large part due to wanting to enroll my son in soccer this fall. When I go to a restaurant or bar that features a television, I typically try to face away from the TV only because it’s such a huge distraction for me to paying attention to those I’m with.

With that said, there is one exception: The Tour de France. For some reason I am completely addicted, and have been for a while now. I don’t know if it is the history of the sport, the speed, or the location, but certainly all of these factors play a role. I enjoy events like the Olympics, but where I’ll casually watch the Olympics for a few nights, I am recording each stage of the Tour, watching it live online in the early morning hours, and rewatching it with my wife in the evening.

(I suppose the only other sport I really watch is Curling, but that is for completely different reasons. How can you ignore a group of people in regular shoes, scooching around on ice, sweeping madly with tiny brooms in front of a big moving rock with a handle? But I digress.)

The Tour is a little confusing at first, with the points system, cut-off times, different colored jerseys, and so forth, but in the end the critical stats are pretty easy to digest. The rider with the overall best time from start to finish is the winner. For a simple primer on the points system, how the colors of the jerseys work, and so forth, here’s a quick quide: A primer on the Tour de France.

A French meal that anyone can prepare

In terms of food, what do you eat when you watch the Tour? After all, French cuisine can be exceptionally technical cooking, and a little intimidating at times. However, the French tradition does not require an elaborate preparation. In fact, keeping it simple is also a hallmark of French dietary practice. Buying the best ingredients you can afford and enjoying them in moderation sums up a simple approach to an afternoon of relaxation – with the Tour de France or otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »


A Rough Patch, Old Habits, and Spring is Here

Writing this entry, I hear myself promising that this won’t be one of those “where have I been?” posts; that said, I realize that some explanation might be in order, so apparently I am ignoring the voices again (it’s a joke Mom, a joke! :) ).

For writers, and particularly blog writers, there are a million theories on the rights and wrongs of keeping readers engaged. Some insist that you should post very short pieces several times a day; others insist that it’s maybe 3 times a week is plenty, and possibly better, if the quality reflects the time that’s been taken.

Regardless, there is one thing that is nearly universally agreed upon among successful blog writers: Posting regularly is the key to keeping readers engaged. In particular, if you post several times a week on average, you should never, ever, just disappear from your site for a couple of months with little or no explanation.

Guess which cardinal sin I’ve committed.

However, the flip side is the break that I’ve taken from Almost Fit will hopefully stimulate a flurry of new articles, and has led to a few moments of fitness clarity (I hope). Time will tell.

State of the Almost Fit Nation

First and foremost, my weight for the most part has remained stable for the last few months, which is relatively positive, though hardly what I would consider great news. And to the point, my general level of fitness has definitely declined. This is especially true in the cardio department, where I find myself these days having to catch my breath at the top of a long flight of stairs. Not bent over gasping, but winded to be sure.

Since starting my current employment contract back in the fall, overall I gained an average of 2 lbs each month over the first 4 months, but I’ve not really gained much more in the last 3 months. Honestly this doesn’t come as much of a surprise for the following reasons: Read the rest of this entry »


Winter Soup Recipe: Seasonal Vegetable Potage

vegetable potage in a bowlThe truth be told, I really enjoy the colder months of the year. Living in the Pacific Northwest means that along with the change of seasons, we get a fair amount of rain, but generally I don’t mind… Although as I write this I immediately picture our close friends in warmer climates raising an eyebrow or two, knowing that I do dip into a little seasonal depression (Sharon, Stephanie, stop glaring…) from time to time. In fact, generally by the end of February I may try sticking my head in the microwave to pick up a few rays just to improve my demeanor. (Just kidding Mom. Mostly.)

From a food perspective, figuring out what exactly it is that we will eat each day in mid-winter has at times been a challenge. From late spring to the middle of autumn we have an abundance of fruits and vegetables growing in the garden and being provided through our CSA, not to mention farmer’s markets. But by the end of fall, all but one or two farmer’s markets are closed for the winter, and both our garden and our CSA have scaled back to very little. The other factor however, and maybe most important, is this:?

We are simply not in the habit of eating primarily seasonally in the winter months.

My whole life I think I’ve eaten my way through winter by consuming mostly packaged foods, some out of season fruits and vegetables?(and as a result, often less than decent), with the occasional in-season dish. That has changed this year, but it hasn’t been easy; and I must say, we sometimes slip out of the groove a little.

I think that is why, in catching up with my favorite sites and blogs, I was particularly interested in a recipe that I came across at Blue Kitchen. I have followed Blue Kitchen for a while now, however I lost track of the site in the fall. I found it again, and was thrilled to return to this article:

Potage Crecy: French for: “It’s cold outside – you need some creamy carrot soup”?

A handful of basic ingredients – carrots, potatoes, leeks, stock, fresh thyme and cream – proves once again that the French are masters of sublime simplicity, in this colorful, subtle soup.”

The potage described looked wonderful, and seemed like a very simple way to cook something seasonal and hearty on a cold evening.

There was only one problem: the carrots.

Read the rest of this entry »


How to save a ton of money by buying fresh organic produce

Welcome to Almost Fit. My focus at Almost Fit is on improving health by doing one thing: Eating real food in moderation. No low fat this or low carb that, just real, whole foods in reasonable amounts. I have lost 26 lbs this year (so far) by eating decadent foods, having a beer or two, and occasionally exercising – though I’m always working on increasing that last bit. If this sounds interesting, have a look around and let me know what you think. Thanks.

photo of produceIn part one of this series (“Want to save money and eat well? Join a CSA“), I introduced one of our primary methods of saving money and eating well: Participating in a CSA. This is part 2.

One of the biggest contentions with basing your eating habits on local, organic, minimally processed food is that it is just too expensive for most families. The truth be told, I don’t discount this opinion at all – in fact, for many of us, the cost difference in a grocery store is more than we can justify. Being frugal has not only become a pastime, in this economy it is increasingly a requirement.

In our case, frugality has its perks: We are actually saving money by eating better – thanks to our local CSA.

Read the rest of this entry »


10 Simple Ways to Build Weight Loss Momentum

Welcome to Almost Fit. Almost Fit focuses on improving your health by eating real food in moderation. If you enjoy this post, please consider subscribing. It’s free, as always. Thanks.

As of today, I am standing on the verge of a new weight loss accomplishment: my lowest point in 3 years. I am literally teetering on the edge of a personal milestone – a big one, toward which I’ve been working for a while now. Today I want desperately to cross that threshold, break through this plateau, and set the weight loss ball solidly rolling downhill again. I feel as though I’ve been pushing the weight loss rock uphill for the past few months in anticipation of this moment, and today, it is finally here.

So how do I create the momentum to make it happen?

The concept of momentum fascinates me. For such a powerful force, momentum requires such a little spark to get started. My first big memory of experiencing the power of momentum was when I was 5 years old living in the Seattle area during the golden age of the Seattle Supersonics.

At the final game of the 1978-79 NBA championship series, from the moment we set foot in the gigantic Kingdome the overwhelming sensation of energy permeated every atom in the space, and not just because of the notorious echo. As the game progressed and the Sonics’ momentum built, I very clearly remember it feeling similar to standing directly in front of a loudspeaker at a rock concert – it is a very physical experience, and a powerful influencer.

The Sonics’ momentum ultimately worked in their favor; they won the game and the title. The exuberance of the crowd was overwhelming.

In fact, the momentum that had built was so contagious that it felt as though you could fly if you simply had the will to do it.

We all harness momentum in various ways, but sometimes it’s difficult to really latch onto it when we need it most. Great athletes and musicians can do it on demand. The beauty is, momentum only needs a small spark to get you going, and all of us have the power to light that fire.

So how do you kick off the spark of momentum? Read the rest of this entry »


High Fructose Corn Syrup: The Cure for Common Sense?

Welcome to Almost Fit. This is part 3 of a series on High Fructose Corn Syrup, and includes the second set of ten reasons why I avoid it. Part 1 was On High Fructose Corn Syrup and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Part 2 was 5 Reasons Why I Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup. If you enjoy this article, please consider sharing it with a vote on Digg or StumbleUpon. Thanks.


In the previous article, “5 Reasons Why I Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup“, I described at length the first five out of ten reasons why I don’t believe a word from the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), much less their expensive ad campaign to try to convince consumers that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is actually good for you. Although they may succeed in that attempt, in my opinion, the campaign is really designed to accomplish something bigger: confuse the public into a state of inaction. And unfortunately, it’s working. I have read more comments across the Web and heard, even from my own family members, more expressions of confusion over the subject than I possibly ever have.

I guess that’s what you get when you spend $30 Million dollars on an ad campaign.

Although my budget is eh, slightly less, my hope is that this series, alongside the many others on the Web (many of which are much more concise, for what it’s worth), will help folks to see through the thin veil that the CRA has dropped over common sense. Read the rest of this entry »


Chicken part 4: The Ancient Chinese Secret to finding real food

photo of a Paris alleywayThis is part 4 in the Almost Fit series on pasture-raised chicken. Part 1 is How to buy chicken without getting punched, part 2 is How to save money on chicken at the grocery store, part 3 is Demystifying chicken labels: From Organic to All Natural, and this is part 4. If you enjoy these articles, please consider sharing it via StumbleUpon. Thanks.

“Research is the act of going up alleys to see if they are blind” – Unknown

Finding locally grown and raised products can be a challenging proposition to say the least, particularly in metropolitan areas where going directly to a farmer may be more difficult. On the other hand, people looking for high quality food at an affordable price are also to be found in increasing concentrations in cities these days, so with demand, there may likely come supply.

What is your experience?

For us, though we live 20 minutes outside of downtown Portland, we’ve found nearly all of our local resources with a little persistence, a listening ear, and being willing to speak up a little when the subject arises, even among (oh, the horror!) strangers. Read the rest of this entry »


Almost Fit on the road this weekend

This is a quick note to let regular readers know that I’ve taken the weekend off to spend time with my wife and children, but I will be returning in a day or so. It is our anniversary this weekend, so we’ve arranged for a close friend to watch the kids while we have a quiet, candle-lit dinner with a view of the ocean.

I think that is a good reason to miss a post or two. :)

I’ll post the next installment of how to buy chicken without getting punched, as well as a startlingly good recipe for roasted chicken, in the next few days. Part 1 is here, and here is a link to Chicken part 2, How to save money at the grocery store.

Thank you for reading, and your comments are always greatly appreciated.

Best to you,