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Bean There, Done That

So, how’s that New Year’s resolution going? Losing weight? Less stress in your life? Are you dieting? If so, what kind of diet are you on?

My personal concern had always been with weight. But that was certainly a short-sighted way of viewing my eating habits. While I was keeping my weight in control, I had forgotten my family history. My grandmother had a series of heart attacks when I was quite young, so it didn’t seem like a huge concern to me. A distant memory. That is, until I was diagnosed with hypertension. (I am very happy to report that is no longer an issue.) My own doctor, whom I have turned to for years, told me the damage the hypertension was causing would be permanent if I didn’t get it under control—and quickly.

So I did. I studied heart-healthy diets. I read all about the risk factors for hypertension, stroke and heart disease. There are a lot of heart-healthy diet plans out there. There’s DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), the Mediterranean, Volumetrics, Weight Watchers, Atkins and more.

U.S. News & World Report has rated Dr. Dean Ornish’s diet plan the best. Ornish, a professor of medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, stresses not only nutrition but exercise and stress management as a way to achieve a heart-healthy lifestyle.

I began exercising, which I’ve loathed most of my life. Since Dr. Camberari (my GP) had laid it out so starkly, I felt as though my life was on the line. And guess what I found out? If you find a kind of exercise you like, it’s really not bad!

I had always “gone to the gym” before. Ugghhh! To me, that wasn’t just boring, it was torture. However, I found Jazzercise, Zumba, cardio-kickboxing and more—all classes I enjoyed with music. I turned to water aerobics (I was the youngest person in the pool!) and I put on water-resistant headphones. I listened to music that made me want to move and voila! I lost 30 pounds in a little more than a month and was able to taper off the beta blockers my doctors had put me on to save my life.

There’s a lesson here for getting our kids moving: They’re exactly the same. As I kid, I hated kickball and gym class because I was the clumsy one. So find out what your kids love and help them do more of it. If it’s the Wii, so be it. If it has them moving, it’s working. Hiking or walking the dog works, too. It’s all about movement.

And it’s about diet. What are we allowing our kids to eat? What are we putting in their mouths? Our mouths? What’s going in our grocery cart? What are we ordering out?

I can tell you this: Both my mother and my stepmother owned restaurants. And they wanted you to love your meals. So they did what any good restaurateur would do: They loaded their dishes with butter, oil, salt and sugar—all the ingredients that make our mouths water and bring us back for more. But those ingredients also make our blood pressure rise and our waistlines expand. My way of cooking marries taste and healthfulness.
So try my Black Bean Soup with the kids. Tell them it’s Mud Soup. They should get a kick out of that.

Click to view recipe.

Chris Xaver, Ph.D., is a local TV and radio personality with three children and five grandchildren. Her healthy lifestyle show, The Sweet Life, is airing on public television stations nationwide.

Photo above:  Chris Xaver Photo

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