Friday, May 21, 2010

Beach food...yum!

I don't have a digital camera -- really! -- so I rarely post photos on my blog. (My dad worked for Kodak and I was raised in Kodak-land. I'll buy film as long as they make it!) But a friend of mine took this photo of a meal we made while vacationing at the shore. It was our take on a salade nicoise, using what we had on hand.

Before beach season opens, your food choices are pretty limited. The closest grocery store was miles away, and we didn't want to waste beach time on a drive. If the seafood market down the street had been open, I could have gotten tuna, as the recipe calls for. But it wasn't, so we made do with a rotisserie chicken. We also didn't have potatoes, but we piled marinated mozzarella balls in the middle instead. We did have a container of tzatziki, the greek cucumber and dill yogurt dip, which stood in for the usual dressing. We sliced a garlic and rosemary artisan bread on the side.

It was just such a beautiful presentation I couldn't resist posting the photo. Wish I could show you the sunset we were enjoying at the time!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Boys and their appetites

In my last post, I profiled Daniel Greenlees, a teenager who lost 70 pounds at a gym with the help of a personal trainer. The topic brought up some questions for me: How much do teen boys eat anyway? Should you limit calories or carbs or anything? Or should you just encourage more activity?

I had two sisters, who each had two girls. I had no close male cousins or even an uncle. By having a boy, I broke up the family sorority. So I know nothing about boys and their eating habits. But I hear they're prodigious. Already, I feel like a short-order cook. The eating orgy seems to last from the minute he's home from school to the minute he goes to bed.

As my son approaches puberty, I can see his body changing. He's not a stick on chicken legs any more. But I don't know what's normal. Will he pack on pounds and then stretch out? Should I be concerned about his dimply middle? Or should I just trust that he'll get enough exercise to even it all out in the end? His diet is not the worst it could be, but it's not the best. Should I keep a closer eye on sugars and fats?

Any advice from you who have experience feeding boys would be great. I'm totally in the dark here. My mother says she had -- and lost -- a monumental battle with me and my sisters over breakfast. We refused to eat it apparently. She finally gave in. Should I be worried about my son's habits yet? Or should I just give in and hope for the best?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Daniel Greenlees: His ship came in

From the time he was 12, Daniel Greenlees’s family lived on a 65-foot sailboat. In November 2006, the boat was damaged in a storm and the family was forced to dock in Norfolk, Va.

The family rented an apartment in nearby Virginia Beach while they waited out the repairs. One day, Daniel took off his shirt, and his stepfather looked at him in alarm—ugly stretch marks sprawled across the boy’s chest. “We’ve got to do something about that,” he told Daniel. At 5-foot, 7 inches, Daniel weighed 236 pounds.

Daniel had always struggled with his weight. As a home-schooled teen, he would sit at the computer 14 or 15 hours a day, studying, eating, surfing and playing games. Not attending a traditional school and moving every few years, he had little contact with others. He didn’t mind that so much, though. When he was younger and attended public schools, he often found his interactions with other children painful.

“I had no trouble at a small school I attended, where no one picked on me,” Daniel says. “But at one large school, kids were not nice to me at all. They acted like a mob.”

A few times, Daniel and his mom tried to do something about the extra pounds. But good intentions can backfire.

“One time, my mom decided we were going to eat healthier food,” he says. “But instead of just buying some good things, that night for dinner she made her own pasta from scratch… from eggplant! It was awful.”

In Norfolk, the family’s apartment was just steps away from Jim White Fitness Studios. Daniel and his mother went over to check it out. He liked what he saw, and he knew it was time to act. “I knew this was the best opportunity I’d ever have to lose weight, and so I took it,” Daniel says.

Jim paired Daniel with personal trainer Eric McGlaughlin. The first thing he had the family do was clean out their pantry and refrigerator. “We threw out pancakes, waffles, toaster strudels, Hot Pockets, Poptarts, a lot of different things,” Daniel says. He and his mom went shopping for fruits, vegetables, lean meats and other healthy foods and began cooking low-fat, low-calorie meals.

Daniel worked two days a week with Eric and three days by himself, each time for 45 minutes to an hour and a half, splitting his time between cardio workouts and weight training. Although he was self-motivated, he credits Eric with much of his success. “I worked out as hard as I could, and Eric wouldn’t let me slack off,” Daniel says. “He could tell when I was getting bored, and he’d change things around to keep me motivated.”

Now 70 pounds lighter, Daniel loves being outdoors and he participates in sports. He says with wonder, but a little shyly, that girls are interested in him. He’s still amazed at how much he’s changed, when not so long ago his future looked hopeless.

“I used to see people jogging or playing games outdoors and I’d think, ‘Why do people want to do that?’” he remembers. “I was always tired before and I’d think to myself, ‘Why bother?’”

Today, Daniel has joined the Army, where fitness is a must, and he is stationed overseas.

“It’s nice fitting into decent clothes now. I’m able to get places—I can run up stairs—instead of moving at a waddling pace,” he says. “I can’t sit still all the time, like I used to. There are people out there I want to meet.”

And, judging from his newly found optimism for life, I bet those people want to meet Daniel, too.