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Archive for April, 2012

Rattlesnake Round-up!

If there is one event that could truly sum up the essence of South Texas, we have found it: Rattlesnake Round Up!!!!!!!!(You should read this with a monster truck announcer them in your head by the way)In the year that I have lived in South Texas, I have come to understand that there are 3 pillars that make up what Texans call a good time.  The first and probably most important one is beer, the colder and cheaper the better. Beer works as a social lubricant that ties together Latino and “’Merican” culture.  For example, take brisket; a fine cut of beef that Texans love to cook slow and low. Now, take a taco; a true staple in Latino food. Blend them together and you have a south Texan original. The second pillar is Texas Country music, which is not this high polished tight jean wearing stuff we all think of. It is completely normal for the music down here to be a blend of Mariachi and country that somehow flows together quite well. The last pillar that is a true necessity to get people together down here is pure danger.

The Rattlesnake Round up in Freer Texas is a quintessential example of a good time down here, and we loved every minute of it. It was about an hour and half from where we live. One of the best parts of taking a road trip in South Texas is the fact that most of land is divided into hunting ranches, which by themselves is nothing exciting but many ranchers down here fly in large African game to their private ranches, which adds a safari like quality to your road trip. It is quite normal to see gems brook or kudu while driving around, this trip was no different.

When we finally arrived, we pulled into a large dirt lot. As always the wind was gusting up to 30 miles an hour, so the air consisted of a nice brown tinge that immediately covered you in a fine layer of sand and dirt. We heard gun fire as soon as we opened our door. Shocked by this we made our way through the parking lot, paid an entry fee and went to see all of the commotion. It was a Wild West reenactment, with hard looking men wearing some serious mustaches shooting at each other with blanks (pillar 3). We met our friends, by the entry gate they had drinks in hand (pillar 1).

We went straight to the rattle snake pit. Inside this pit of doom (at least that’s what I call it) were about 30 rattlesnakes that ranged from 1 to 4 feet in length. You might be thinking in your head HAHA! Pillar 3 but no, sadly that was not the dangerous part. Pillar 3 was the fact that the men inside this pit would grab random pissed off rattlesnakes (their demeanor was quite evident by the rattling) by their head and tail and would drape them over little children for their parents to snap a quick photo (pillar 3). Call me crazy but growing up in the suburbs of west Chicago, if someone saw a man who looked fresh out of Deliverance wrap your small child in a rattlesnake and you smiled and took a photo, there is little doubt in my mind that child protective services would be on speed dial somewhere.

After about ten minutes of staring in utter disbelief, we made our way to the rest of the festival. I know you are all wondering if we had a snake wrapped around us for a photo, but sadly we did not.  This seemed to be a privilege reserved for the youth…..after all a rattlesnake bite is only mildly life threatening to an adult the true danger lies with the children! Past the snake pit was a flea market filled with wonderful trinkets, rattle snake belts, wallets, key chains with rattle or head your choice, hair clip, bracelet, boots, note pad cover and just your good old snake head in alcohol. Nothing really jumped out to me or Sara as being our style so we just passed on by.

At the end of flea market was a crowd gathered of mostly children clapping. Deep down inside of me I knew something truly unique and strange was coming my way, disappointment did not follow. There was a monkey, the same kind you see in outbreak (pillar 3). He was on a chain, wearing a banana coat with a sombrero, and for only 1 dollar (which the monkey would collect from you) you could allow your child to step into the ring with the monkey and he would climb up your kid sit on his or her shoulder and you could again take a photo.

We made our way to the beer tent (pillar 1) by the stage, where some country band was in a full on jam session (pillar 2) then to the food tent where I was enlightened on a new favorite food, the brisket taco covered in Pico de gallo. As I sat down eating my meaty treat, I looked around and took in the environment as a whole. Kids running around throwing fireworks at each other (pillar 3….again), dancing, eating and drinking, throw in a shady looking carnival in the background (my wife and I rode the Zipper, and if you have to ask just what that ride is, you have truly never lived….or almost died). It was really just a good ol’American shindig and we loved every minute of it!

Do you guys have any crazy festival stories? (or texas stories? 🙂 )

-Kevin

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Guest Blog from Jennifer Fulwiler

We are very excited to bring you a guest today; Jennifer Fulwiler from Conversion Diary (a wonderful blog about Jennifer’s journey from atheism to catholicism). One of my favorite things about her blog is how she candidly discusses her diet and relationship to food. Through a combination of prayer, research, medical insight, and just listening to her body, Jen was able to figure out how the foods she was eating affected her health, and she did a complete diet overhaul, which she calls the Saint Diet. Below are some questions I asked her about her diet, both before and after her drastic change. For more info on the Saint Diet, check out Jennifer’s blog!

1. Can you briefly describe your relationship to food before you started your Saint Diet? What a typical dietary day for you and how successful did you feel you were at dieting?
I used to joke that I had an alter ego, whom I not-so-affectionately called Jen-Tron the Eating Machine. There were certain times when I simply could not control myself. When I was in this mode, someone could have offered me $500 not to eat that fifth helping, and I would not have been able to accept that offer. It was that bad.
When I was trying to eat well, I would lean toward natural foods, whole grain breads and pastas, etc. It tended to work okay for a while, but inevitably Jen-Tron would rear her head at some point, and I’d end up eating way, way more than I needed to, in the form of excessive snacks, massive dinner portion sizes, etc.
 
 
2. What made it click for you that your relationship to food was much more than willpower, but something physiological?
There was one specific moment when I realized I had a problem: I was at a wedding, and ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a while. She began talking to me about what was new in her life, and had some exciting news to share. At that same time, the dinner buffet line opened up. I wasn’t all that hungry — I’d eaten a heavy snack right before we left for the wedding — but I became obsessed by the buffet line. I saw that there was fettuccine alfredo, and all I could think about was getting a plate-full of that. I was so terrified at the idea of not getting that pasta that I could not concentrate on what my friend was saying, no matter how much I wanted to. I kept telling myself to listen to her, but my thoughts were utterly fixated on that food, like I was a drug addict in need of a fix. That’s when I realized this was more than just a willpower issue.
 
 
3. How did you determine what foods triggered a negative response, and was it difficult to give up those foods?
I had heard a lot of testimonies of people whose lives changed after they gave up wheat, and I suspected that I might have some sort of addictive issues with that food, so I started by just giving up gluten for Lent one year. For the first time in my life, I didn’t hear from Jen-Tron. I could finally exercise some control over what I ate. It was such a powerful experience that I stuck with it.
At first it was hard. In fact, twice I fell back into eating pasta. But after the second time I had a “relapse,” my health got so bad that my husband became seriously concerned. I felt like I was 100 years old, I was in pain all the time, I slept 10 hours at night and still needed naps. As soon as I gave up wheat again my health completely changed and I felt fantastic. That was over a year ago, and I’ve never been tempted to go back to eating wheat. Now when I look at a bowl of pasta I associate it with feeling like I’m on the brink of death.
 
 
4. How has the Saint Diet affected your life? What’s your diet like now?
The “Saint Diet” has morphed into a mostly Paelo diet. I basically follow the eating guidelines laid out in the excellent book The Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet. Since I’ve been following that food philosophy, cutting back on portion sizes, and going on regular jogs, I have lost over 30 pounds and have more energy than I did when I was eighteen (I now weigh less than I did when I got married). And it’s worth noting that this all happened after I had my fifth baby in six years. If I can do it, anyone can!

Thank you so much Jennifer for spending some time with us on our blog!

-Sara and Kevin

High Fructose Corn Syrup

My wife and I took a trip to our local grocery store, with one goal in mind; we wanted to unearth all the food that unexpectedly has high fructose corn syrup, or maltodexdrin (which is another corn sugar product). The battle continues on how healthy or unhealthy these products are. HFCS has gotten a bad reputation for increasing blood glucose, diabetes and obesity. The research is controversial whether the claims are true, but what I find more concerning is how many products contain this sugary corn product.

To be honest I didn’t think it would really be a challenge to find products with HFCS, but I had no idea how easy it would be. We decided to start in the frozen food section. I could have written this entire blog without having moved out of the hot pocket section. It is truly amazing how almost anything processed, contains at least HFCS or maltodextrin, if not both. The following photos are just a few of the food products where we found HFCS, some of which, like activia and Smart Start, we were surprised by. There were also multiple products specifically marketed towards children containing HFCS. 

What is your opinion on HFCS? Do you avoid foods with it?

We Published Our Book!

We have officially published an ebook! We’re so excited! It’s available on the kindle and on amazon.com. Here’s the link

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007VI58SI

Or, you can just click on the book cover. If you don’t have a kindle, you can still read the book right on your computer. Just download the free kindle app, and get started.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the book, so please feel free to write us reviews. The book is only 99 cents, so it won’t break the bank!

Thank you so much for your support!

-Kevin and Sara

Weekly Review: Chia Seeds

So, I finally did it; I broke down and bought some chia seeds.  I’ve been reading about them for several months and wanted to try them, but we still have this whole jar of flax seed, and do we really need another seed in the fridge? But, this weekend, I went to Austin to visit some friends and one of them mentioned how eating chia seeds had really improved her complexion.
“Really?” I said. And that’s how it goes sometimes; you think your decisions are all to benefit your long-term health, but in the end, vanity wins. I bought chia seeds this weekend not to decrease my risk of heart disease or high blood pressure, but to get awesome skin.

So what are the benefits of chia seeds?

For those of you a little less vain than I, and are interested in integrating these little seeds for loftier reasons than a nice complexion, there are quite a few health benefits as well.  Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, so in theory they should be good for your heart and your gut. But, I wanted to know whether the research actually supports the claims, and here’s what I found.  Chia seed consumption was found to decrease blood triglycerides and increase HDL (the good cholesterol) in rats who consumed large amounts in their feed (Ayerza 2007). Adding chia seeds to a sugary diet also improved blood sugar and insulin levels in rats, especially in those who had markers for diabetes (Chicco 2009). Both studies sound exciting, but the effects in humans are not as conclusive. Neimen et al gave overweight adults two servings of chia seeds every day for 12 weeks and saw no improvements in body weight, body composition, inflammation, or blood pressure. However, this study did not control for the diet of the participants. When all participants were on a reduced calorie diet, adding a mixture of chia seed, soy and oats led to a greater reduction in inflammation, and markers of diabetes.

So should we eat chia seeds?

Mostly, yes. Certainly they don’t seem to be a miracle drug, and if you don’t make any other changes to your habits, chia seeds probably won’t reverse your heart disease or diabetes. But, they do appear to give you an extra boost when combined with other healthy choices. So, if you’re looking to improve your overall health, chia seeds are a great addition to a healthy life.

How do I eat them?

They are teeny-tiny seeds that you can sneak in almost anywhere. They don’t need to be ground up to be absorbed (unlike flax), so you can sprinkle them on salads, on yogurt or even eat them plain. I’ve been adding them to my morning smoothie to make it a little more filling; the fatty acids and fiber help increase satiety. Another goofy thing about chia seeds is that if you let them sit in water for a few minutes, they create a gelatin, similar to tapioca. You can use the gel to make super-healthy desserts!

Have you ever tried chia seeds? I’ll let you know if I think they actually help your complexion!

-Sara

More Bad News About Sugar

I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you a bit that sugar is not the healthiest thing you could eat; in fact, it’s probably one of the worst. Sugar has long been linked to obesity and diabetes and nearly every diet you can think of will suggest you limit or eliminate sugar from your diet. (For more on how sugar affects your waistline, check out our previos blog about carbohydrates, and this great nytimes summary article about research and sugar) Excess sugar consumption can increase your insulin resistance, add inches to your waist and even potentially increase your LDL (bad cholesterol) and risk of heart disease. So, overall, not great.

But, I just came across a study that spells even more bad news for dieters: sugar may actually decrease your body’s ability to feel full. Researchers from the University of Minnesota studied the effects of a long term sucrose diet (a form of sugar composed of glucose and fructose, most commonly referred to as table sugar) comopared to a diet of cornstarch in laboratory mice. They knew that after each feeding of sucrose, opioids (reward and pleasure-inducing chemicals in the brain) are released in the short term. However, they found that once the animals had been on a high sugar diet for several weeks, their brains were less able to produce oxytocin, a chemical associated with feelings of satiety or fullness, and the sucrose-eating mice were more likely to over-eat.

So what does this mean for us?

First, it confirms why many of us reach for chocolate, cake, or ice-cream when we’re feeling down; the short rush of opioids will temporarily make us feel better. However, the positive effects are short lived. If you have a diet that is high in sugar, your body will start to lose it’s ability to tell you when you’re full, which can lead to overeating. Plus, many processed and pre-packaged foods contain a surprising amount of sugar, either in sucrose form or as high fructose corn syrup. Even if it’s in your tomato sauce, it still counts as sugar. The best thing you can do for yourself is try to slowly reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, which isn’t always easy.  

Honestly, I absolutely love sugar, especially candy and chocolate, so anytime I tell myself I’m going to cut them out, it’s all I can think about! So, I try just focusing on adding things without sugar; good, whole foods that make me feel healthy when I eat them. The more good stuff I put in my diet, the less I have room for the bad stuff.

Do you have a lot of sugar in your diet? Have you ever noticed changes in your eating habits when you have more sugar?

-Sara

We’re Publishing an eBook!

Over the course of the past few months, Kevin and I have been working on an ebook, and we’re so excited to share with you that it’s almost done! The book is called “Honey, Do I Look Fat? How to Successfully Lose Weight While in a Relationship.”  It is composed of three sections; effective communication, motivation, and an exercise plan.  We wanted to tell you all about the book before it’s published because we would love your input. We still have time to add a few things, so we’ll give you an outline of what’s in it and we would love any suggestions! Let us know if there’s something you want to know more about or if there’s a section you’d like seen included in the book.

In the effective communication section, we first teach you some self-assessment techniques to determine how your health and fitness compares to the norms.  Then you’ll learn about the Stages of Change model which will help you determine how receptive your partner is to making a change in their diet and exercise habits. We also teach you how to avoid the 4 big mistakes couples make when having discussions, and we teach you how to be an effective listener. We also include some tips for initiating a conversation about diet and health with your significant other.

In the motivation section, we teach you about goal setting, and how to overcome some common excuses for not exercising. Then we give you some tips on how to get out the door and get started. The book ends with a 2-level exercise plan (for beginners and for more advanced exercisers) which includes both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training.

Please let us know if you have any suggestions! We’d love to hear from you!

The book will be published within the next two weeks and it will be available on the Amazon kindle and through amazon online. We’ll post a link as soon as it’s up!

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