Let's see, what do I like the most? History and Health. Sounds like a great college course.
And an honors collquium at The University of Akron was born: What is Health and How Has Our Concept of it Changed?
Basic question: What is health?
A simple definition to explain today's meaning of health is hard enough, let alone one that explains some of the oddities of the past.
I want the course to not only be informative, but also useful. The students should take something away that they can put to use, besides just fun facts.
So, I've essentially sliced the hour and a half class into smaller sections.
Section 1: History
I find the history of health fads amusing. And it's not like we have it figured out today—there's still questionable fads advertised to strengthen your muscles or help you lose weight or lower cholesterol or look prettier or play harder. It'll probably always be this way. However, picking on the older diets is more fun.
Consider the Kellogg brother's Battle Creek Sanitarium at the turn of the last century.
The facility grew from a larger health fad that took the world by storm. Basically, there existed a growing middle class by the late 1800s who had some money to spend on leisure activities (this is also why we get organized sports sprouting up at this time, as well as that whole national parks idea).
Anyway, the founders of that Kellogg's breakfast cereal believed in a healthy diet and excercise. They promoted a kind of vegetarian diet, which included the newly invented corn flakes.
As an inducted member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, John Harvey Kellogg subscribed to a diet of blandness, which he believed would decrease excitement—of both the stomach and loins.
As a doctor, John Harvey understood the ins and outs of the human body, and thus loved his enema machine that he used on all of his patients. Yikes! And after a few uncomfortable moments, the patients were healthy, or something.
Section 2: Modern Health
There are dozens of diets out there. How many can you name? Think for a moment . . .
Let's see, there's Atkins, Vegan, Raw, Mediterranean, the Zone, South Beach Diet, Blood Type, Caveman, Cleanses, Macrobiotic, Weight Watchers, blah blah blah blah . . . and they go on and on and on.
So, which is the best? A, B, or C?
D. None of them.
None of them can claim universal bestness. Each works for certain people, and each fails for certain people. Some of them are attracted to this population, and some of them are attracted to that population. Dieters can combine one diet with another, and dieters can take an idea of one and blend it with an idea of another.
There is one thing that all of the ideas have in common: they restrict. And people hate restrictions, especially Americans.
But, even though none is best, it'll still be a blast for students to analyze one and even experience one for a time, just to see what happens. Mwha ha ha ha ha!
Section 3: Guests
Nothing helps a class flow like a guest. Not only does it shake things up a bit, but it also brings another perspective.
I'll have health experts, health entrepreneurs, and health officials. Should be fun.
And, if you'd like to contribute your health experience or expertise, contact me. Anyone can be a guest speaker. Heck, I'm the teacher.
So . . .
Here's to a new year and a new colloquium that gets students to ask questions and build solutions, so that when they complete the course in May, they leave as more powerful citizens, thanks to what they experienced in the colloquium.
It’s the Monday following Thanksgiving, and I feel like someone connected a hose to my belly button and pumped my stomach full of gas.
Bloated. Ugh. Bloated, like I packed my stomach tight with squares of white bread. Lots of potatoes are sitting heavy with the bread. And then there’s all that beer.
A lot of beige is in my stomach. Bland looking beigeness. Funny, in a season where it’s all about stringing decorations of colors, we tend to consume lots of colorless foods. Turkey is beige. Gravy is brown. Potatoes beige. Beigey bread. Pumpkin pie, brown.
All in all, there ain’t nothin’ necessarily wrong with this. It’s just that the lack of color means lack of nutrients. The pumpkin pie might be the most nutritionally filled food in that list.
Bottom line, be sure to eat your veggies, and not just a plop of dressing-drenched salad. Let’s get some real vitamins in there.
Broccoli: This superfood is pretty dang super. We got fiber and antioxidants, not to mention vitamin C to help you through the flu season.
Brussels Sprouts: Like broccoli, the Brussels sprout is like vitamin concentrate. Oil these with some salt and whatever herbs you want and toss ’em in the oven for crisp deliciousness.
Citrus, like grapefruit: I’m personally not a big fan of the tang of citrus, but their health benefits are worth the struggle. Plus, they can color up a salad.
Dark leafy greens with purple cabbage: Mix all this crap together in a slaw and enjoy it with your beige main dish. We might think of cabbage as a useless food, but it’s actually packed with necessary vitamins. Turn it into sauerkraut, and you’ll get even more health benefits.
The main thing is to balance the colors on your plate as well as the types of food. Different colors mean different vitamins. Balance is especially important during the gluttony of the holiday season.
Thirty years ago, driven by the excitement of the playoff-bound 1986 Cleveland Browns, my family decided to organize a football game the morning of Thanksgiving. I was stoked and suited up in my best Browns attire.
Our inaugural game took place at Herbrich Elementary School on Smith Road. There were only a few of us, and half of us weren't even teenagers yet but that game marked the beginning of a Thanksgiving Day tradition.
Over the years, there were changes. In the ‘90s, we moved the annual game to a spacious field complete with a pond and geese turds. New players joined our game for a few seasons, then left. Many retired, replaced by a younger generation. In fact, only two original players still take to the field, and they’re the oldest now, each in his 40s--I'm one of them. It takes longer to recover from the tackling, sprinting and juking maneuvers now, but the post-play pains aren't enough to pull me to the sidelines with the other retirees.
When I moved back to Akron and onto Delia Avenue in 2004, I changed the game’s location to Schneider Park. It's open and flat, perfect for sports, as is evident by the many little league soccer matches that take place here.
Schneider has a welcoming neighborhood feel, surrounded by lovely homes and towering church steeples. The park is named for Philip Schneider who developed what was, in the early part of the 20th century, the subdivision of Sunset View.
Schneider’s houses appeared only after the old Summit County Infirmary moved to Munroe Falls. The infirmary’s main building sat at the corner of Exchange St. and Rose Blvd.
On the property of the infirmary was a potter’s field, where an unknown number of bodies from the infirmary were buried. Ominously, I only learned recently that Schneider Park stands over this field today, and that what was once a graveyard is now one of the end zones for our Thanksgiving Football game.
Were all the bodies removed when the city relocated the infirmary? Perhaps not.
There are currently efforts to recognize these lost souls, to identify them by name, to give them the respect they and their relatives deserve.
Should what was once a final resting place for many be marked at Schneider Park? A plaque? A fence? Something to complement the beautiful neighborhood.
And as for our 30th anniversary Thanksgiving game, there’s a dozen or so boys getting excited to start their Thanksgiving Day with a rumble on the football field. I, specifically, am looking forward to a fourth down stop, a hard-nose run up the middle, and that one jarring collision that saves a touchdown.
The chill weighed heavy across the open field. It was a relentless chill that crept beneath the coats and layers that attempted to keep the market-goers warm. But, alas, the heavy clothing failed, succumbing to the cold themselves. The chili, however, the vegan chili warmed the innards, the heart, the soul, and tasted good in the process.
Many of us will stay up to watch the polling stations report in, and we’ll snack.
So, what healthy patriotic foods can we eat for good luck?
The Granddaddy of America, George Washington loved cherries. He really did. Cherries and nuts. The dude ate a pretty healthy diet, including fresh fish. Heck, he ran his own farm, whereupon everything was organic (before organic was organic cuz just everything was organic).
Mount Vernon grew a bountiful supply of hemp (sorry America) and orchards of lovely fruit. The joint was completely self sufficient. No cellophane.
I suggest we embrace this nonpartisan president’s eating habits. The man despised political parties and hoped they’d never exist—just look at his Cabinet.
In the spirit of the 2016 election, here is a link to one of my favorite vegan cherry desserts. It’s a combo of Washington’s sweet tooth and Akron’s own oatmeal.
Dang! All that crap from the organic and health food section is sooo expensive.
Well, yes. Businesses know that there’s an increased interest in health foods, so they make something like Organic Crispy Chicken Crunch Bars with Goji Berries and price it at $14 a bar. And then we’re all like, “I can’t eat healthy cuz it’s so ‘spensive! Screw that!” And then we go grab our McBrisket Buns for breakfast (Eight for $8 on Election Day), and we scarf ‘em down on the drive to work, being sure to keep one back for Jerri, the office manager.
Don’t be a dummy head.
The truth is that eating healthy doesn’t have to be any more expensive than eating crap.
There’s just a couple things to keep in mind so that you don’t spend unnecessarily.
First, don’t go for the pre-packaged, pre-prepared, previously seen on tv funk. That stuff might be healthier in the sense that it excludes an ingredient used in the other leading brand or includes anti-oxidant powder extracted from unicorns, but the “healthy” packaged stuff on the grocery store shelves will have preservatives injected into them, and they’ll be more expensive.
Just make the stuff at home.
For instance, granola in a bar at the health store will include a lot of stuff, probably sugar, that you could control if you made the bars at home. And you could make a lot more of it. And you’d know what went into making it—no unicorn extract.
The key is to prepare healthy foods at home. That way, you’ll ensure that they’re actually healthy, and you’ll be able to cook in bulk, bringing down the cost.
As I’ve said before, cook once and eat twice.
Cook a bunch of rice and beans—something that’ll last ya a few days. Cooking a lot means you don’t have to cook often, and we all know we don’t always feel like cooking. The next night, toss some salsa and guac in with your rice and beans mixture. Allocate a little so that you can later mix it with a fajita mixture of super-spiced peppers and onions.
The point is, you can make a ton of base mixture, and you can slightly alter it from day to day. This costs essentially nothing.
Buy in bulk. If you know you’re going to make granola, buy the oatmeal and nuts and seeds in bulk. This will cut costs and allow you to make the granola over and over again.
Eat in more than you eat out. You can’t eat healthy at restaurants. And even if you eat healthy out, you can’t eat economically. If you really want to be out when you eat, find a brewery or winery or something that allows you to bring your own food. Make a kick-ass picnic out of it.
I haven’t convinced you yet?
Let’s think long term. The health care costs of eating crap far outweigh the time and effort you put in now to eat healthy. And I don’t mean you have to eat a militarized strict diet of only rice cakes—that’s disgusting.
Start simple. If you don’t cook at all, cook once, making sure to leave some leftover options so you have enough for other meals.
Bottom line, just try to cook at home a little more than you already do. Your future self will appreciate it.