Oink-Oink diet: minus 21#, minus 5 inches around waist

I have lost 21# since my annual physical last March when I nudged the official fat rating. I now weigh what I did in high school. Yesterday I got my cholesterol results from this year’s physical. 176!  I have never been below 196, ever.  (Note: this number wasn’t dangerous because my good cholesterol has been remarkably high. It is still is. My good registers at double of “normal” good.

To my surprise, I have kept off the extra pounds for six months without feeling deprived, even though I have traveled often (including a lavish wedding), sipped wine most nights and often stuffed myself like a silly goose.

You might call this the oink-oink diet. ​

In fact, it’s Oprah’s new Weight Watchers system, which I’m told is easier to use. I have found that it is critical to use the system long enough to get your head around points not calories, to shift your habits and to trust the results.

Here’s why: Lots of foods that are healthy, torpedo you on the WW system. Example: I was allowed eat 30 points a day while I was losing weight. For years, I’ve kept bowls of raw, unsalted pecans, walnuts and almonds  on my coffee table — healthy snacking, right? However, until I started recording the points for everything I ate, I didn’t know that I was nibbling on 24-30 points of nuts a day. Or, wolfing down 24 points of avocado nearly every day, standing by the sink sprinkling Mrs. Dash (no salt) on one avocado half and then the other. I believed I was eating healthy.

Take heart — remember: this is the oink-oink diet. Remember too, I’ve lost 5 inches around my waist.

Tricks that work for me

Sugar cravings. I get them about 4 in the afternoon and sometimes an hour or so after dinner.

  • ​ In the afternoon, I eat a syrupy, baked honey-crisp apple, or syrupy stewed apples with non-fat, plain Greek yogurt. (1/2 point.) Recipe: Core apples. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 40 minutes @ 350 F. Or, core apples, slice into pot, sprinkle with cinnamon, cover and cook on low for about 40 minutes.

  • In the evening, I eat frozen, syrupy dark cherries like popcorn. A couple of weeks ago I gorged on three cups of cherries. (0 points)

Limit choice. Research shows that people lose weight best if at least one meal is always the same. (Says Dr. Oz)

  • Breakfast: Either oatmeal + microwaved frozen blueberries (4 points) or a two-egg arugula omelet (4 points) with a sprouted wheat Ezekiel muffin (4 points). The muffin is tasty enough to skip butter. If you absolutely need to oil the muffin, use a quick squirt of Pam Olive Oil. Use Pam to spray your omelet pan. I often have half of the omelet breakfast left over to snack on later.
  •  Lunch: I find it easy to not think too much about what to have for lunch, so I often stick to a salad with fish or meat. Vegetables for the salad = 0 points. For protein,  4 oz. of drained tuna packed in water = 1.3 points) or 4 oz. lean steak (2.3 points). I use the Dr. Oz salad dressing recipe: Double the amount of Balsamic vinegar to olive oil. (1 T. Balsamic = 2 points; 1 T olive oil = 4 points)

No need to get in a rut. Weight Watchers keeps you steady with a frequent supply of super-tasty recipes, which are heavy on flavor, so you feel satisfied. Also, I switched to the densest red wines so that I would drink more slowly. (5 oz. =  4 points)

Defend yourself from gas stops on long drives. Stop right away at a real grocery store and buy boxes of raspberries (0 points), bananas (0 points), cut carrots (0 points), sliced peppers (0 points). You get the point. (Advice from my WW coach that I’d talk with by phone once a week. Note: I didn’t go to weekly weigh-in meetings.)

Celebrate too. Simply watch portions. (Advice from my WW coach.)

Soup keeps you sane. If you’re home, eat a cup of low-point soup about a half an hour before dinner. A Dr. Oz suggestion. My favorite is his spicy lentil soup. (Recipe) I keep one-cup portions in my freezer. They can be thawed and boiling in about eight minutes. (3 points)

Writer’s nervous nibblings. I keep roasted Brussels sprouts and/or roasted cauliflower in my refrigerator. (0 points) Recide: Aluminum foil on a baking sheet for no clean-up, spray lightly with Pam Olive Oil, season heavily with Mrs. Dash, pepper, Sumac (or curry or whatever).  Recently I’ve started roasting with the convection setting on my oven, which results in crispier, “air-fried” vegetables. Naturally, now I’m paranoid whether charred vegetables are carcinogenic. ;-(

Reason to gorge on 0 point foods. Then you can eat a baked potato (5 points) with 2 tablespoons of lite butter (6 points). Or key lime pie (22 points). (The WW system allows an extra 30 points in a week.)

Always, always, always have 0 point stuff ready to eat in your refrigerator. Last week I was low on food, going out a lot with friends and—among other traps— ate the frozen cookies in the freezer. Result:  I had gained three pounds by my weigh-in day. And what the hell were cookies doing there?!

Always, always, always have 0 point stuff ready to eat in your refrigerator. Last week I was low on food, going out a lot with friends and—among other traps— ate the frozen cookies in the freezer. Result:  I had gained three pounds by my weigh-in day. And what the hell were cookies doing there?!

Fearful Living

RIO DE JANEIRO — Our lunch plans for Saturday just hit the skids. There’s a rumor that the police will strike this weekend. They haven’t been paid, so of course they’re angry.

Wrote Lorena, the friend of a friend, this morning: “I don´t know if you are following the police strike situation in Espirito Santo [state], but all my family and friends are from Vitoria and they don´t go out of their houses since Saturday because of the chaos the city turned into! “

“Chaos.” Understated? Yesterday, nephew Luke told me that one of the gangs shot down a police helicopter a couple of months ago.

A few stories about violence on my journey…

Buenos Aires, Argentina. Maia, 33, IT management, has observed people going through garbage looking for food. “I haven’t seen that in a long time.” The economic recovery under the new president hasn’t trickled down yet.

Montevideo, Uruguay. Gilda, mid-40s, won’t teach at night anymore and her husband changed jobs so he wouldn’t be out late at work. He was held up in his car at gunpoint last year. So was her father, in his car. And Gilda’s car was stolen.

Rivera, Uruguay/Santana do Livramento, Brazil, a border city of 100,000. Gabriela, late 30s, left Montevideo after her husband was held up in his car. She is a lawyer specializing in criminal justice with a good government job. She transferred to a lesser job in Rivera, near her parents. Her husband, a dentist, travels to see her and their two daughters a couple of days a week between his clinics in his home town and Montevideo, which is six-and-a-half hours South from Rivera.

Travel to Porto Alegre, Brazil. I was going to take the overnight bus from Rivera to Porto Alegre, seven-and-a-half hours away, but that plan died quickly. “You can’t arrive at 5 a.m. at the bus station—it’s too dangerous!!!!” insisted Fernando, mid-20s, a specialist in city planning and my friend since he was 10. Two men had been gunned down in one incident and another’s arm cut (off?) by a knife at the bus station last week. When I arrived on a summer evening, we hurried to his car.

Gated tower developments offer the safe life inside, but it becomes like “Bowling Alone,” ie destructive to the whole city as a community.

Porto Alegre, Brazil. This is a gorgeous, hilly city bounded by a river as wide and clear as a lake with sandy beaches, marinas and jogging trails in the city’s South. Lovely, oldish riverfront homes with bars on the windows are secured behind traditional, high enclosures. To the North, a riverfront park is being designed. This is the direction where those with money are escaping into 20-story condo gated communities in which two or three towers are surrounded by attractive fences. Inside the bars are armed guards, playgrounds, soccer field, tennis courts, pools and dog parks. Mostly the residents drive out from their underground garages to go where they’re going. They don’t walk on the streets, said Fernando, whose speciality is city re-invention. Gated developments are sealing off those with money from those without all over Brazil, he said. He and other city experts, worry this worldwide trend will destroy what makes cities thrive.

Fernando lives in a tower. When I got lost returning from the swimming pool to his apartment two nights ago, everyone I encountered was open, friendly and helpful. They also spoke English, which is uncommon in Brazil.

I get it about the beauty of non-violent life inside the gates. I really get it about the destruction of the mix of people’s that makes cities vibrant. The question is, how do you make these cities safe enough to thrive? Zero tolerance, like NYC did? These Brazilian cities and states are so broke they can’t pay the police.

Which loops us back to Rio and our desired Saturday lunch in a beachfront restaurant at the base of Sugarloaf. Will it be canceled? Will the violent take over the streets without the police? Will we hunker inside, waiting out the danger?

Facebook PS: PLEASE!!! Don’t let this article scare you away from traveling to Latin America. I have had an amazing time, been with friends in many circumstances. As my Grandmother Healy wrote to her best friend about their winter trip to Costa Rica when they caught the last Pan Am flight out when the revolution (of 1948) started: “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” That was after she described the pickups with armed men chasing the plane down the runway as it took off.

Nothing that exciting has happened to me.

​ !!!!!

BTW, my father, always cautious, esp. after WWII PTSD, denied that his mother wrote that. It is in one of the letters in my book, “Improbable Pioneer.”

2017-02-09 – There’s not going to be a police strike, so lunch is on for Sunday at my favorite restaurant, the Girl from Urca, which is near the Rio Yacht Club at the foot of Sugarloaf.

Views of Trump con’t

A few of the comments I’ve heard:

— If the US doesn’t allow products in from other countries, you’ll get contraband. (Male Uruguayan sociology professor in a Uruguayan-Brazilian city, which features duty-free shopping on the Uruguayan side to discourage a black market.)

— I would have voted for Trump. I think the Clintons are corrupt and their foundation a scam. I thought Trump’s campaign was a new style of political marketing like he’d described in “The Art of the Deal.” I didn’t think he would actually do those things!” (Young, Brazilian male city planner.)

— — One of my friends (not from the US) is an illegal immigrant in Brazil. He likes Trump. The other day he was talking about how there are millions of illegals getting welfare in the United States. I asked him: “What would happen if you went to the government and applied for a bolsa familia (social welfare program)?” “C’mon, they’d throw me out.” “So what makes you think that it would be easier for an illegal in the United States to get welfare?!” “You’re making me feel stupid.” (Young, US male who lives legally in Brazil.)

Request: What are the Argentines saying about Trump?

BUENOS AIRES — Every Argentine asks me, why didn’t Hillary win?! I give the usual answers (facts, not truthiness), and ask what they think about what’s happening in the United States.

Argentines are experts on elected autocrats who have bankrupted and re-bankrupted this weathy nation whose borders reach from the equivalent of Yucatan to Alaska. Argentines understand corrupted institutions and destroyed opportunities. Has the United States become the Argentina of the North? A few responses:

— Those who win elections in fact do represent the people who select them — Peron, Menem, Cristina. We can’t deny it. The same with you and Trump in the United States. (Male lawyer in his late 50s.)

— Re: Mexico: I’ve heard there is going to be a one-day strike by all Latins in the United States and the world. That will be a protest that is noticed—there are a lot of us. (Female education specialist, GenX, married, mother of two.)

— The US has very strong institutions. I have confidence that you are going to survive. I’m not as worried as you are. (Male, multilateral IT sales consultant, divorced, 70s.)

​– Is Trump worse than Cristina? Me: Yes, he’s smarter and more devious. Think Peron.  (Male video editor, single, late 20s.)

— Our president is opening up trade just as you are closing it. I don’t know what is going to happen because of change. We aren’t competitive after years of protected trade, so now factories are closing and people are out of work. (Female organizational change consultant, single, early 30s.)​

— Eyerolls. Horrible. OMG. How can you stop him? (Everyone—friends and colleagues of decades and their grown children.) ​

Spanglish: Playing speedy scrabble

BUENOS AIRES — I’m accused of speaking Spanish like Tarzan with a humongous vocabulary. My accusers are correcto — thanks to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and globalization in the 21st century.

BA—which is what Argentines were calling their capital nearly 30 years ago when I first visited from my home in LA—was Spanish-Spanish with a strong overlay of Italian and looked quite like Grenoble, France. The Anglo-Argentines would slip Spanish into their conversation, such as saying they’d been out to the camp (campo = country) for the weekend.Now skyscrapers outshine the River Plate, the capital has “Malls,” as well as traditional “Galerías,” and many shop windows proclaim “Sales” instead of  “Liquidación.” Of course there are Starbucks (many) and a Hard Rock Cafe, et al., but you still need Spanish.

Which brings me to 1066 and my lazy (efficient?) method of communicating. Rather, let’s jump ahead to 1266. By then, the French language of the Normans who conquered the Anglo-Saxons and the English language of the vanquished flowed alongside one another, which is why there often are two words for the same thing, one “elegant” (French) and the other, “basic” (English).

Here’s the trick: When you want the Spanish word, grab the longest or most complicated English word and pronounce it in Spanish. Since French and Spanish come from Latin and Spanish, your guess might come close.

Although, guessing can be tricky with cognate/cognado Spanish.

On my first visit to BA, I thought most of the stores downtown were going out of business because of the liquidación signs and misinterpreted that the economy had collapsed. That would come later. Embarrassingly, I also discovered that embarazada is pregnant. Also embarrassingly, people who understand my Spanish best, speak some English.

Oldish: Sí o No?

Buenos Aires—More thoughts about oldish.

Is it oldish when you ask during a facial to have your fuzzy mustache waxed and the aesthetician also waxes your cheeks and chin?

Is is oldish or confident to go to dinner when you are hungry? Twenty-eight years ago, as travel editor of the LA Herald Examiner, I was determined NOT to be a tourist in BA. If I drank double expressos and ate cake about 5 pm, I could last until 9 before going out to eat, where there would be only a few of us, all English speakers. By 11 pm, the restaurant would be jammed with families. On a school night.

Porteños have been gringoized. Even though I was the first patron at the Roti at 7:45 pm last night, the restaurant was filled with Argentines by 9 pm.

Roti Bar in Recoleta at 7:45 pm (left) and at 9 pm.

It is definitely oldish to be profoundly grateful when children of your heart grow up and cheerfully linger over a four-hour dinner talking with you.

Daniel Mazar Barnett with his family: from left: Alex’s friend Coni, Alex, Daniel, Maia and me. Missing: Daniel’s terrific friend, Monica, who is in Switzerland at the moment.

Oldish: Just a state of mind?

“He is oldish,” said my Argentine pal of more than three decades last night at a family dinner in Buenos Aires, referring to his cousin’s husband.

Oldish. A great word! Are you oldish?

It’s oldish, said Daniel Mazar Barnett, to think you’re a boomer when you were born before 1945, as he and I were. He added: “It’s oldish for Maia to think she’s a Millennial.” (His daughter is one.)

It’s not oldish for son, Alex, to take off some video-editing time to go to New Zealand on a work/tourist visa and pick kiwis or wash dishes.

It is oldish to think you’re flying to Switzerland to meet your fianceé on Friday and she reminds you that you arrive there on Friday and are leaving on Thursday. It’s more oldishly disconcerting to actually arrive for takeoff at the arrival time because you didn’t have a fiancé to remind you to get to the airport on time. But that’s another story.

Update on Reza

DC—TEA AT THE BEACON. Reza’s next book, Kurdistan Renaissance, releases in France in March, he said, but mostly we talked about how he is expanding his photo camps from Syrian refugee children in Northern Iraq to other countries along with starting workshops for youth in violent urban neighborhoods.

The famed photographer and humanitarian was in town for the annual National Geographic Photographers’ Seminar and has remained to shoot the marches and inauguration.

He and I will just miss each other in Buenos Aires at the end of the month. Reza is flying there from his home in Paris to work out more details about a workshop in the barrio that Porteños call “Ft. Apache.” By then, regretfully!!!, I’ll be in Uruguay and will miss my ambition to observe him in action with children.

I first met Reza in 1991. My publication, “National Geographic Insider,” ran a story about what happened after the magazine ran Reza’s shot of a legless beggar boy in Cairo being whipped by his master.

Members sent thousands of dollars to help the 10-year-old. Reza and his brother, Mansour, also a photographer, tracked down the boy in a city teeming with beggars and organized his family to open a small business so they all could be employed.

Reza went on to shoot many wars and many articles in extremely dicey places. At the same time, he and his wife, Rachel, stepped up their defense of children, first in campaigns against land mines. During the Rwandan genocide, 10,000 “orphaned” youth were scattered in many refugee camps while thousands of parents grieved for their lost children. Reza organized a system of portraits and identification that reunited about 4,000 of the children with their families.

In November 2015, Reza was on the National Geographic tour that I took to Israel and the West Bank. When we talked about his Syrian photo camps, I started to solicit old cameras from the well-equipped on our tour. Reza stopped me and explained to us that these children felt discarded, so it was essential for them to have new, professional equipment, not castoff cameras that no one wanted. The first lesson is built around slicing open the plastic wrapper, lifting the lid and taking out their own, $1,000 camera. Since all cameras are alike, the instruction is simplified.

Reza had been supporting these camps from his own savings. I probably was not the only one on our tour who chipped in to help.

Plans in Buenos Aires call for the Ft. Apache photos to be exhibited next November, when the towering jacaranda turn the city into a spring extravaganza of lavender. I’m very curious where the photos will be exhibited. Reza accomplishes miracles — giant blow-ups of his Syrian’s students work have lined a promenade along the Seine for the past few summers.

BTW: Reza, an Iranian exile who was jailed by both the Shah’s police and the Ayatollah’s, heard the news about the bombings in Paris when our tour was by the Galilee. At breakfast that morning, he told us his wife and daughter had walked by the cafe in their neighborhood just two and a half minutes before gunmen opened fire. At least two of his friends died. “The front lines have come home,” he said, and left for Paris for the night with his family and then on to Iraq to join the Peshmerga who had started an offensive.

Un-Rapid Prototyping

Time to write again. I’m re-entering the blog world by going live later today with a web site that Abdullah Syed [formerly iEARN-Pakistan] and I started putting together more than a year ago. Maybe more than 18 months ago, before I stalled on what to say I was doing, given I was just entering a transition.

Now I have my goal: I want my curiosity back. Over time, I started seeing everything as a fairly predictable trajectory, including, if you’re wondering Trump.

The return of curiosity and subsequent R&D will/may be the theme of the blog.

Which blogs do you read?

I’ve been reviewing blogs I like for final design touches. See screen grabs. They are:

Marty Ittner
Austin Kleon
Meagan Healy
Guy Kawasaki

Problem-Solving Females = Engineers

This is why mentors need to be plural: My (former) student Keidy’s number 1 strength is problem solving, we learned when she took the Strengths Finder 2.0 test the other day.

The analysis warned against trying to solve other people’s problems—I get it! — I’m a problem solver too. I suggested that Keidy focus on solving the problem of where to go to college and how to afford it. Thus advised a liberal arts major.

At that point, my neighbor stopped by. “Problem solver?! exclaimed Dr. Ozden Ochoa. “That’s exactly what engineers do. You should be an engineer.” Ozden, a recently retired professor of aeronautical materials engineering at Texas A&M, still presents at international conferences.

I interjected: “I know about a scholarship for Hispanic women in engineering.”

Next step: Where to find $400+ for Keidy to take an aptitude test (not an interest test!) to see what her discrete skills are, ie whether she has the various spatial skills she’d need. Mine score between .001 to 30%. But I’m off the charts on ideas.