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Danville Express

Column - August 28, 2009

Diablo Views: Right now I'm a latte

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

You are what you eat. I don't know who said this but it sure takes the fun out of eating junk food- which is good. I'd rather think of myself as a peach than a marshmallow.

Among my recent e-mails at work was a news flash: "End of summer can begin healthy habits." That took me by surprise because I always take stock of my eating habits at the end of winter when I know I will soon have to leave the house in short sleeves and skirts. Something about those nice bulky sweaters, long pants and boots signifies an opportunity to become calorie-permissive.

The press release reasoned that with fall and back-to-school bells comes a new sense of adventure, which can lead to a healthier lifestyle. That's a nice positive approach. Because one could just as easily say: "You're about to be so busy that you'll be grabbing food whenever and wherever you can."

This upbeat message was sent by Take Off Pounds Sensibly, more commonly called TOPS, and I take my hat off to any ideas to help us eat better and get into shape, especially sensibly. I always remind myself that I have only one body that I'll stay in for my whole life so I'd better take care of it. It's not just about looks but about general well-being and staying healthy. What I eat affects the way I feel, my energy level and my frame of mind. As does exercise.

TOPS was making the point that at this time of year you can no longer avoid outdoor walks or exercise by complaining about the heat. The press release quoted Amy Goldwater, a former body-building champion who is the physical fitness expert for TOPS, who noted that the group has long promoted walking as a way to get in shape. She said walking three times per week is a good goal for beginners and should eventually lead up to 30 minutes per day.

I've found that the most important thing about exercise is to make it convenient, which is a good case for walking in your own neighborhood. Starting right at your door eliminates travel time to a gym or other exercise venue, which can easily take 30 minutes in itself. With walking there is always the boredom factor, which is why walking groups are so popular. When I had a dog, I was walking a few times a week; I bought a cheap headset radio to keep me entertained. The radio never did work that well so when the dog died, I stopped my neighborhood walks.

Now my regimen is yoga, deep water aerobics and tennis. Danville Yoga Center is right behind the building where the Danville Weekly office is located so that is convenient. Time flies during yoga as we flow from one posture into another with the teacher giving us tips on breathing, body alignment to enhance the flow of energy, and healthy living in general. As we were sitting in a posture this week inhaling deeply and exhaling deeply she pointed out how the breath was traveling to every muscle and tissue and said some wonderful words: "Breathing becomes the dance of life." Is it any wonder that I embrace yoga?

Water aerobics is at the aquatics center in Pleasanton near our production office. The negatives are coping with temperatures that are less than perfect- both in the water and outside. The positives are that I am covered in water up to my neck and the camaraderie is great, as is the music.

But back to the saying, "You are what you eat." The phrase can be traced to 1826 when a Frenchman named Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are." Actually he wrote, "Dis-moi ce que tu manger, je te dirai ce que tu es."

Almost 40 years later in "Concerning Spiritualism and Materialism," Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach wrote something in German that translates as "Man is what he eats."

Both of these gentlemen were apparently trying to convey that the food one eats has a bearing on one's state of mind and health. In the 1920s and 30s, nutritionist Victor Lindlahr was a strong believer in the idea that food controls health and he developed something called the Catabolic Diet, which gained some followers. The earliest known printed example of the phrase was in a 1923 edition of the Bridgeport Telegraph, for United Meet (sic) Markets: "Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat."

I don't know about catching diseases by eating cheap food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are less expensive than fast food. But I do know I'd rather be a strawberry than a french fry. Bon appétit.

-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.

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