Wednesday, August 28, 2019

On The Rebound

Image result for rebounder trampolineDon't worry, this isn't a relationship thing! I'm still happily married, as far as I know. No, this is rebound in the literal, physical sense: "to bounce back through the air after hitting a hard surface or object." Okay, now that I read it, what I actually did this week wasn't quite that dramatic. I wasn't crashing headlong into walls or anything. (But if I run out of things to do before the end of the year, I might have to resort to it!)

I'm referring to the rebounder, aka mini-trampoline. The fitness craze from the '80s actually predates that decade by quite a few years. Ed Russell invented the first mini-trampoline in 1938. He passed the prototype to his friend, Victor Green, who patented the "small trampoline" in 1975. Not long after, in 1980, a (now-famous) NASA study outlined the benefits of rebounding compared to running. (If you're ever itching to learn about gravireceptor stimulation, I imagine this study is a must-read.)

Many a rebounder trampoline might have been relegated to the garage after the '80s, but if the internet is correct, and we know it always is, there are still plenty of fans bouncing up a sweat these days. Benefits of this exercise are said to include muscle toning, cardiovascular improvement, stimulation of the lymphatic system, and better coordination and balance. Another big draw is that it is lower impact than running, which many of us who remember the '80s no doubt appreciate.

I like getting a bit of exercise before work, but now that it's darker in the mornings I'm having to find alternatives to my walk around the neighborhood. Rebounder to the rescue! Yes, they are again for sale on the internet and in sporting goods stores. The fancy ones are pricey, but the run-of-the-mill ones seem just fine to me. Maybe not NASA caliber, but then neither am I.

Every morning, I put on music and bounced for 15-20 minutes. I'm not embarrassed to report that it was really fun! Maybe it was all that lymph jostling around, but I felt like I started my days with more energy and enthusiasm. I'm sure I looked like a total spaz, so this is one of those activities that is best done solo. But that's not enough to keep it off the Take It list.

Image result for rebounder trampoline cartoon
Hey, if it's good enough for Santa...


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Under Pressure

Image result for acupressureMy husband, who is as traditional as they come regarding doctors and medicine, recently started acupuncture treatments for back pain, and he's having positive results. Acupuncture, as is widely known, has a long history as a (primarily non-western) method for supporting health and wellness. It is commonly available these days and is even occasionally covered by insurance. The major drawback is that, for most of us, it's not something we can do at home. "Stick this needle in my back, would you?" is not a request that lends itself to marital harmony. Luckily, acupuncture has a less-pointy brother that does not result in an ill-advised game of pin the tail on the spouse. Acupressure for the win!

Acupuncture and acupressure are based on the concept that humans have a vital life force (qi) which can become blocked as it flows through meridians in the body. Stimulation of certain acupoints is said to relieve the congested energy and return balance to the body. As with many alternative health practices, medical research hasn't yet proven that it works--or doesn't work, for that matter. So I thought I'd do a little experimenting on myself this week just for fun.

A quick internet search returned many, many online resources, so I kept it simple and started with acupressure for beginners. The technique is easy--just apply deep, firm pressure, either static or with a massaging motion. Finding the right spot is a little trickier, but, again, the internet has lots of pictures and diagrams.

Image result for acupressureAcupressure is often used to alleviate pain, nausea, headache, and anxiety/depression, but I didn't have those kinds of issues last week. I was, however, awake at two in the morning googling acupressure for insomnia. I learned that I should apply gentle pressure to the "spirit gate" point, located on the palm-side wrist crease below the pinkie finger. All three nights I tried it, I was able to fall asleep after a few minutes with no problem.

My other favorite points are called "wind pool" and are found at the base of the skull, where the neck muscles attach. Stimulating these points is said to alleviate respiratory symptoms, reduce stress, and calm the mind, but it mostly felt really good. I also had positive, if somewhat vague, results with the Tai Chong (Liver 3) point on the top of the foot and the "bubbling spring" point (such great names) on the sole.

I know I've just barely scratched the surface, but I'm intrigued by this introduction to acupressure. Maybe it has actual physical benefits, maybe it's endorphins, or maybe it's a placebo effect. I'm fine with any of those explanations, so I'm keeping this one as a Take It.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Sweet Smell of...

Image result for perfumeMy sister is one of those people who always smells good. When she stays with me, her fragrance lingers in the guest room after she's gone. She loves perfume and knows about top notes and middle notes and all the other stuff that makes it sound like she should be talking about music. (She's also pretty fluent in French, so maybe to her it's parfum.)
Me, not so much. My French is remedial, and my knowledge of perfume is worse. I'll occasionally give myself a spritz of the one fragrance I have in my closet, but only when I'm feeling fancy. As I found out this week, though, perfume is a really interesting and complicated subject.

The first known perfumes date back to ancient times. A 3,000-year-old cuneiform tablet identifies a woman named Tapputi as the first recorded perfume maker. Perfumes never really fell out of favor in the the Arab world, but in Europe, the Dark Ages were dark times for perfume. Credit the French for getting the ball rolling again during the time of Louis XV. Perfume apparently came in handy for masking body odors, but putting it in wine, as the French did, was perhaps a step too far.

Every perfume is comprised of one of more of the eight basic categories: oriental, spicy, woody, floral, aquatic, green, fruity, and citrus. The bright top notes of a scent evaporate after a few minutes. The middle or heart notes last from four to six hours. The base notes emerge an hour or so after application and tend to evaporate more slowly.

Image result for perfume
Let me guess...citrus?
I decided that a week of perfume might be a nice upgrade for me, so I ordered a set of tester-sized designer scents I knew nothing about. Every morning, I tried a new one from the likes of Donna Karan, Michael Kors, and Cartier. Being a generally not-fancy person, I was surprised at how fun my perfume week was. A little spray in the morning gave my mood a boost on the way out the door--although I can't tell you whether any of the scents were woody or aquatic, just whether they smelled Good or Not Good. I tried to remember to sniff my wrists occasionally during the day to keep track of the developing heart notes, but usually I forgot. 

After seven days, I don't think I'm on my way to developing a perfume obsession on par with my sister's, but I'm not at all opposed to calling this one a Take It.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

V is for Vegan

Image result for vegetables in the shape of a vPlant-based diets are having a moment, as the expression goes. Even Burger King, purveyor of cheap meat for decades, has hopped on board with the Impossible Whopper. Plant-based proponents cite the health, environmental, and moral benefits of eating less meat, and some of those arguments are pretty convincing.

I am a life-long carnivore who ate at Burger King plenty when I was growing up. These days, I try to make so-called sustainable meat choices when I can. Over the past year or so, I've been eating less in the way of animal products in general. But I've never gone vegan. Until last week.

Full disclosure: I did not adopt a strict vegan lifestyle. I still wore leather shoes and might have ingested honey at some point. But I did make a very conscious effort to remove animal products from my diet. I've been dairy-free for a while now, because I feel better without it, so I didn't have that cheese monkey on my back. (Mmmm, cheese monkey.) Eggs and meats of all kinds, from fish to steak, however, were scratched from the menu.

Here, in convenient bulleted-list format, are my top takeways from Vegan Week:
  • It wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be. Breakfast was usually fruit, nuts, and plant-based yogurt. I had salads and beans as my go-to lunches. The dinners were more challenging, but I love roasted veggies and cauliflower in any form, which helped. And pasta made from lentils, that's a thing.
  • It was easy to overdo the carbs. I don't keep track of macros, but I'm sure the quinoa, the hummus and cracker snacks, and my old foe potato chips skewed my totals too far in the direction of The Land of Delicious Starches.
  • I didn't feel more hungry than usual. Sleep and exercise were unchanged, and I felt pretty good getting up in the mornings.
  • Some vegan foods, especially substitutes for meat and cheese, are highly processed and contain a ton of ingredients. Compare a beef burger (Ingredient: beef) with a Beyond Burger [Ingredients: Water, Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Contains 2% or less of the following: Cellulose from Bamboo, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Dried Yeast, Gum Arabic, Citrus Extract (to protect quality), Ascorbic Acid (to maintain color), Beet Juice Extract (for color), Acetic Acid, Succinic Acid, Modified Food Starch, Annatto (for color)] Reading labels can be important.
  • Mushrooms are a vegan's best friend. I'm kind of lukewarm when it comes to mushrooms, and I think I ate more of them last week than I have in the last two years. This included portobellos in my veggie fajitas and surprisingly bacon-y tasting "bacon" that son #1 and I made from shiitakes. (Here's the recipe from Detoxinista if you're curious.) And after a week, surprise! I'm still lukewarm when it comes to mushrooms.
  • Salad with mushroom "bacon"
  •  I not ashamed to admit that I did miss meat. I wanted to share in the chicken wings at a local brewpub. I wanted my husband to prepare something delicious in the smoker. I wanted a non-impossible burger and fries. 
Now, for the moment of truth: I'm not ready to commit to a 100% vegan meal plan, so this week is technically a Leave It. But I am going to try follow the advice of food guru Michael Pollan: 

Image result for michael pollan eat food mostly plants