Grow Your Own

8 06 2012

One of the great things about this time of the year is the access we have to fresh produce. And while there is plenty to be found at the grocery store, local farm stand and farmer’s market, I need to go no further than outside my door to begin enjoying nature’s bounty. We have several small garden’s going this year and delicious organically grown veggies are quickly on the way.

I recently tried one of our homegrown strawberries. It was tiny but packed such an amazingly intense and sweet flavor, I could not believe it. The giant strawberries purchased at the store have nothing on these little wonders. Since I can remember, I have always loved strawberries. They are my favorite fruit. My grandmother told me a year ago or so that when she and her mother immigrated to the United States from Italy in the 1930’s, they initially went to work picking strawberries. So you see I’ve been genetically programmed to love them. it’s in my blood. I really hope though that we get a decent yield because the few that we have gotten so far have been an absolute (and fantastic tasting) tease!

Speaking of grandparents, mine have their garden in full swing again this year. This means that when I go over to visit them, I always leave with fresh, home grown produce. My grandfather, though in his 80’s, spends a huge amount of time in his garden. It is his pride, joy and therapy. I’ve been enjoying some of their sweet leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and several other varieties. I also am adding fresh dandelion to my salads. While I admit that i’ve never been much of a fan of it, since going plant-based I now try to eat a wide variety of different things in order to keep meals interesting.

The only downside to all of this fresh produce is the washing. I think I had to quadruple wash this latest batch. The piles of dirt at the bottom of the sink were the proof that all of the effort to clean had been necessary.

There is a certain satisfaction that comes from growing your own food both in the taste and the quality. I know that in our garden, the use of compost, compost tea, occasional garden maintenance and regular conversations with the plants goes a very long way towards bigger yields. And the act of gardening itself can be a really nice stress reliever. Admittedly,I have not been the guy who has toiled out in our garden this year. But when I have gotten my hands dirty, I have continued to find a peace that comes with it. As if the generations of landscapers and gardeners of my family have smiled down on me. My great grandfather used to say “a cool breeze is God’s air conditioner”. I think of that often when a slight wind picks up in the midst of harvesting our bounty on a hot summer’s day. I’ll probably never be the gardener that my grandfather is or that his father was before him. But I’m happy to grow what I can. I’m fortunate at the age of 37 to have three living grandparents. Growing your own food and enjoying vegetables and fruits was one of the great things I have learned from them.





Slowly Chipping Away at the Weight

22 05 2012

And so begins week 22 of my switch to a plant based diet and increased exercise regiment. This week I lost two additional pounds which brings me to 67 pounds lost so far.

Really, it should have been 4 pounds but I went majorly of course this weekend. I had beef (not the end of the world for me but a definite rarity nowadays), a lot of wonderful Italian bread and wheat pasta 3 days in a row. It left me definitely feeling less healthy and has served as a reminder that I really need to stay on course. So the rest of this week, I’ll be sticking closely to the plan – plantbased!

Made some delicious stuffed peppers tonight. I’ll be packing one or two for lunch tomorrow. I continue to suffer from a sore back which is making getting any exercise done rough right now. It’s been two weeks of on and off back pain that mysteriously travels around various parts of my upper back. I’m tired of it.

It’s been a very busy few days. It feels good to be back blogging again. Welcome to all of my new readers. There were nearly 400 of you yesterday. That’s pretty great for a Sunday and for a blog that isn’t even 6 months old yet.





Success is NOT a Straight Line

2 04 2012

And so begins week 15 of my switch to a plant based diet and a healthier lifestyle.  For the first time since starting this journey to better health, my weight flatlined this week and the needle on the scale did not move.  I’m not really sure why as I did not over eat.  I actually spent most of the week feeling unsatisfied and not full which is a discouraging thing when you trying to lose weight.  The body is smart and when it feels like this, it believes there is a shortage of food and tries its best to hang on to what you have.  It wasn’t until last night when I ate stuffed peppers that I actually felt fully content afterwards.  This was a heavier meal than I typically like to eat prior to the day of a weigh in.

Last week, I passed up the most tempting chocolate mousse cake at work along with bagels and cream cheese.  I visited my grandparents and passed up wonderful italian bread, prosciutto (which I love) and hard provolone cheese.  I hit the weights, I stayed active.  I  really stuck to eating mostly veggies and legumes. I did mostly  everything right and at the end of the week, I still came up short.  I can live with it though.

The things we most want in life, shouldn’t come easy.  As much as we hate it to be, getting there should be difficult.  Achieving what we desire should be a struggle so that when we finally have what we want in our grasp, we can truly appreciate, cherish and savor it. – for the rest of our lives.

I don’t feel depressed.  I feel a little angry.  I definitely feel inspired.  I feel ready to kick it up a notch and get what is mine.





Tasting the Agony of Defeat

30 03 2012

So the local blog awards were held last night and johnnysized.com succumbed to the very stiff competition. With just three months of this page being in existence, I think it went as well as could be expected. The fact that it was nominated in three categories made me proud. But victory is so sweet and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to win. It does motivate me to work harder for next time. Things that we truly want should not come easy so that when we obtain them, we really savor it and appreciate it. I was very glad to see some of my friends win. Both those that did and didn’t are passionate about their craft and are inspirations to me. I made a few new friends as well and I look forward to reading their work.

So I came back home a beaten man. What to do? Bag of potato chips? Pint of ice cream? No!

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Curls!

In a suit and tie no less – because one should be professional at all times. I curled until I could curl no more.
—————–
As some of you may know, I dabble in the arts. Being of Italian descent, I thought it would be fun to audition for a local series about “the mob” (more info coming in the next several weeks when I’m allowed to discuss it). Ironically I was offered a part as a Russian Mob enforcer. The problem here is two-fold. I need to figure out a Russian accent pretty quickly. That is doable. The other issue is that the headshot I used to get the part is a bit dated. I weighed at least 60 pounds more at the time. But now, I’m the incredible shrinking man. So hitting the weights hard and regularly is imperative. I need to be lean, mean and hulking!

Da svidaniya comrades!
For now,
Johnny





You Can Feel 18 Again

28 02 2012

For those that are new to this blog, up until last week I’d spent over 5 months on antibiotics for a nasty staph infection. Staph is something that many of us naturally carry on our body and in our noses. Most of the time we are immune to it, but on occasion it does find a way into our systems and it can be very stubborn to get rid of. I happen to live in an area with many, many hospitals. It’s the medical capital of the northeastern United States. Because staph originally comes from hospital settings and has now found its way out into communities, this part of the country has seen dramatic increases in people becoming infected. It is an exponentially growing problem and you are now more likely to get it at the gym or while pushing your shopping cart than you are at a hospital.

I’ve never been a big fan of meds, always preferring to let my body try to fight things off naturally if possible. I don’t even use pain relievers, unless I’m burning up from a fever. But when I became sick with staph, my body was in no condition to do any serious fighting. Lack of sleep, lack of exercise and a horrendous diet left a gaping hole in my body’s natural defenses. My immune system was left weakened and susceptible. With the severity of my staph infection, I was happy to be on antibiotics and to eventually find a medicine that would do a good job in fighting it off, as I had tried a number of different ones that really didn’t do the trick. What I never expected was to be on meds for so long. At my last doctor’s appointment just before Christmas, I fully expected to be given the green light to forgo the meds, but was instead told to continue on for two more months as a precaution. At times the dosages were so high that several times a day I was suffering from “medicine gut” a term I coined to describe the fire in my belly that would rise up my esophagus. The ironic thing about being on meds for so long though, is that I eventually started to somehow believe that I wouldn’t be well without them. I was literally scared to go off of them. I had become sort of psychologically dependent on them. Being off of them for a week now has definitely raised my confidence level that things are going to be alright. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still nervous but am feeling better.

Before I got sick, I was so completely exhausted. My life was a vicious circle of poor choices leading to worse health leading to worse choices. At times I have been over 400 pounds. I don’t even no how much over 400 because even the scale in my doctor’s office wouldn’t go higher then that. It’s hard to carry that much weight around all day long. I’d get home and just want to get horizontal. I was eating poorly which also sapped my energy. Then I would turn to sugar to get an energy bump. When that rush wore off, I’d up the amounts of sugar. One day I actually totaled up my sugar intake and found out that often times I was consuming hundreds of grams of sugar daily. I was doing nothing to improve my situation and physically and emotionally I began sinking deeper and deeper.

When I did get sick with staph, I slept for days. I couldn’t even eat. I was nearly bedridden due to exhaustion. I lost 17 pounds in two weeks (some of which I would later gain back). It was a miserable time. And as overdramatic as it probably sounds, there were times that I wondered if I was going to even make it. I felt that bad.

Twenty two weeks on antibiotics gives a person a long time to mull over their situation. I researched ways to fight staph naturally and began using a variety of supplements. I began looking at my diet. Some blood-work confirmed that I would need to make some serious lifestyle changes if I was going to get well and get off meds. Shortly after switching to a plant based diet, I began to feel energized like I hadn’t been in so long. I never crashed. Some nights I had to tell myself it was time to go to sleep because I still had energy. I couldn’t imagine feeling much better. But after being antibiotic free for three days last week, I actually felt the best I have in 18 years. It’s not an exaggeration. I literally felt 18 years old again. The fog lifted and I felt so good – physically and emotionally. For two days I wanted to pinch myself. I felt like I had found the fountain of youth.

With a plant based diet that has been modified to also assist with my other health issues, there are a lot of things that I find myself missing. I do miss meat. I do really miss cheese. I miss bread. I miss Snyder’s hard pretzels (with sharp cheddar cheese). I miss fried foods. Sometimes I think of how nice it would be to have a coca cola on ice. Today, I broke down and bought three small peppers stuffed with prosciutto, hard provolone cheese and marinated in olive oil. Three no no’s. But I felt like a little bit of this stuff might actually do my system a favor as I’ve been eating nothing but fruits, veggies and beans lately. They were so good. It was the taste of my grandmother’s kitchen growing up. But afterwards, I felt rundown. And that’s what I don’t miss. And that’s why I will never go back to how I used to eat. Sure I’ll be less militant when I’m healthy and I know I will eat meat and cheese again, but I’ll never go back to having such an unbalanced diet. I feel too good to ever go back to that. It is worth the trade off. It is worth missing these things.

You really can put lightening back in a bottle. You really can feel 18 again. It’s not bullshit. If you want to feel young again put good gas in your tank. If you want to lose weight, cut out the things that the body has difficulty processing and eat more naturally. Go plant based for two weeks and tell me if you don’t feel absolutely incredible. I’m not telling you its gonna be easy. It’s gonna be very hard but everything that is worth something in life comes with a price.

Some people have asked how to make the switch to a plant based diet easier and I have said get really, really sick and see how easy it is. Because short of that, I doubt I would ever have found this path. In a few weeks, I hope to put together a daily menu for people who want to try a plant based diet out for a couple of weeks. If you are already on the path, consider leaving me some of your favorite plant based recipes below in the comment section or email them to me at johhnysized@gmail.com. Keep them easy. Remember what it was like when you first started. how overwhelming it can be.

If you aren’t yet on the path but suffer from fatigue, want to lose weight, etc. – consider going plant based just for a few weeks and see what a difference it can make. Even smaller steps like cutting out sugar, or processed foods could allow you to feel and see some real noticeable results. Learn from my mistakes, if you are unhealthy, don’t wait until you are so sick that you have no other options.





A Delicious New Take on Soup and Salad

19 02 2012


I’ve been eating an awful lot of veggie wraps lately and they have been delicious.  I’ve enjoyed all sorts of variations of peppers, bok choy, broccoli rabe, mushrooms, lettuce and sprouts.   Here’s a pic  of the veggies that were going into one of my recent wraps.  Doesn’t that look fabulous?!

The wraps themselves have been high in fiber while low in fat and calories.  But my weight has leveled a bit and I need to switch it up and get some more variety this week.  I’ve recently got a hold of some wonderful plant-based cookbooks that are giving me some excellent ideas.

In the northeast US right now, it’s fairly cold.  And nothing beats the chill like a nice warm homemade bowl of soup.  I’m looking for something different though and I think I’m going to give this a try and see how it goes:  Broccoli Rabe  Soup!  I don’t know what it is about Broccoli Rabe but I am just absolutely crazy for the stuff.  Through the course of last week, I ate three heads of it.  I know, I just said I need to switch it up, but I’m not letting go of my Broccoli Rabe!   I’m going to add carrots and onion chopped very finely, lots and lots of garlic, mashed white beans as a thickener and then add some seasoning to my veggie stock. I’m going to let that simmer for a few hours and then add trimmed and chopped broccoli rabe!  I imagine you could substitute  escarole, spinach or kale if you prefer one of those.

I’m also going to make a Roman-Style Marinated Broccoli Salad.  It’s really quick and easy.  You take a package of broccolislaw (big time saver), add 3 chopped plum tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and season to taste.  Combine, sprinkle with a bit of parsley  and then refrigerate for several hours.  This will be a really nice side salad to that soup.

I can’t wait to make these.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  Pics to come!





Something to Chew On!

31 01 2012

So much of what can be bought in our supermarket is completely over processed, nutrient deficient and made to sit on a store shelf for a long, long time without going bad. Have you read any labels recently? We can’t pronounce half of this stuff, many of which are chemicals made in a lab. It’s downright scary. Flame retardants in your chicken mcnuggets, sodas and energy drinks?? Chips with Olestra – causing anal leakage! Yuck! Carcinogens like Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Hydroxytoluene, Saccharine, Aspartame, nitrates, Potassium Bromate, Blue #2 are found in every thing from rolls, hot dogs, bacon, kids cereal, candy, bubble gum, soy sauce, stuffing mix, sugar substitutes and the list goes on and on and on. It’s downright scary. And so I continually find myself asking the question, why don’t we eat closer to the source? What is more natural than fruits and vegetables – especially organic ones?

As recommended by a recent Men’s Health online article – here are a few natural foods that provide enormous health benefits:

BOK CHOY – This is a great one to try if you’ve never had it. I’ve blogged about it before. It’s full of vitamins, a bone builder and a cancer fighter!

BANANAS – Good for your brain and nervous system, With tryptophan it calms you while the potassium helps you recover quickly from strenuous workouts. It’s also a great immunity booster.

KIWIS – Also packed with potassium. Contains lutein which is fantastic for your heart. And if you’re going organic you can even eat the nutrient rich skin. Who knew?

BROCCOLI, CAULIFLOWER, KALE, BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND CABBAGE – Loaded with calcium, minerals, vitamins and anti-cancer rich antioxidants.

SPINACH – In studies, it has actually killed cancer cells. It protects the liver, may ward off Alzheimer’s and is a fantastic way to help prevent osteoporosis. If you are experimenting with a plant based diet, Spinach is also a great way to get protein.

LEEKS – Great for your arteries, prevent against prostate cancer and supports healthy sexual functioning.

ARTICHOKES – Eating these daily can cut the risk of strokes. They contain more bone building material than any other vegetable. They are rich in fiber and help maintain the immune system.

CHILI PEPPERS – Anti-inflammatory, immunity booster, metabolism booster, anti-cancer properties, blood thinner and endorphin releaser. Wow!

GINGER – Immunity booster and powerful colon cancer suppressor.

BLUEBERRIES – The most antioxidant rich fruit known to man.

CINNAMON – Reduces blood sugar levels when taken regularly (cinnamon sticks in a glass of hot water is a good way to do this), prevents against blood clots and bacterial infections.

SWEET POTATO – Prevents against diabetes, enhances nutrient metabolism, boosts immunity and has anti cancer properties. Good for the heart and liver. Protects against Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons.

TOMATOES – Filled with lycopene, a potential cancer fighter that is good for your heart and boosts immunity.

FIGS – Gives your body the proper PH to fight off pathogens (I should be eating these like crazy). Reduces blood sugars and boosts immunity.

MUSHROOMS – Are a great cancer fighter. Sautéing them in red wine reportedly magnifies their immunity boosting power.

POMEGRANATES – The juice from the seeds of this fruit are cancer fighters. A recent UCLA study found that this fruit can slow prostate cancer cell growth up to six times it’s normal rate.

APPLES – One a day really does keep the doctor away. They have the highest source of anti-inflammatory properties found in fruit. Good for your heart and fights against a variety of diseases including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Join me in incorporating some of these regularly into a daily diet.








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