Category Archives: Fitness

The Joys(?) of Comfort Food

So, when my awesome MagicKitchen.com boss gave me this topic, I must admit that I thought there wasn’t much to it.  Boy was I wrong.  It turns out that the phenomenon known as “comfort food” has been the subject of numerous psychological, sociological and physiological studies and I learned more about it than I actually cared to.  But not to worry, devoted reader, I won’t bore you with the specifics of the studies or get all “psychological” on you.  I’ll just explain the origins of the term, what constitutes comfort food, and does it, in fact, provide comfort to those that indulge.

It seems the term dates back to a 1966 newspaper article from the Palm Beach Post entitled, “Sad Child May Overeat” (a bit prophetic, that).  In that article, the author stated, “Adults, when under severe stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’ – food associated with the security of childhood, like ‘mother’s poached egg’ or famous chicken soup.”  I have two issues with that 50+ year-old definition of comfort food.  1.  I think I would remove the term “severe.”  And 2.  Since when was a poached egg considered comfort food?  Although, what is considered comfort food can vary greatly from person to person.  The term was finally added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 1997.

Next, I tried to create a generally acceptable definition of comfort food from the myriad definitions out there and here’s the simplified definition I came up with: any food consumed in an attempt to feel better or to enhance already positive feelings.  The reason for the bifurcated definition is due to the fact that men and women (studies reveal) view comfort food quite differently.  Not only are the foods consumed in a desire to attain comfort different between men and women, but the reasons for consuming that food vary as well.

Studies indicate that the trigger, for men, to search out their version of comfort food comes from positive emotions, while women’s need to binge are triggered by negative emotions.  The study emphasizes that this is a trend, rather than a hard and fast truth.  Men can certainly gorge due to negative emotions, as this male can attest to.  When women do seek out comfort food, they tend to eat snack based foods such as chocolate, ice cream, cookies (in baked or dough form), and potato chips.  Men, on the other hand, look for what most people consider traditional comfort food, like meatloaf, pot roast, biscuits and gravy, lasagna, and mashed potatoes.

Other studies tend to link comfort food to feelings of nostalgia or sentimentality.  Remember when you were sick or hurt or found out your crush considered you hideous and your mommy took care of you by making home-made mac and cheese or apple pie?  Or the warm, fuzzy feelings of belonging that were created during the holidays of your childhood when the family sat down together to eat ham, turkey, green bean casserole and strawberry-rhubarb pie?  Well, when we are feeling lonely, stressed, rejected or dejected as an adult, some of us tend to go in search of those warm, fuzzy, “comfortable” feelings of our childhood in the form of food.  In other words, some of us tend to seek solace in the foods that are tied to happier, more care-free times.  Or foods linked with a specific person or place that have positive associations attached to them.

Or do we just use comfort food as an excuse to eat unhealthy junk, as one study alludes to?  This study claims that we can swap comfort food for other things that elicit the same feelings of well-being and warmth, such as a favorite childhood television show, music or book.  I know that watching old episodes of M*A*S*H while listening to Pink Floyd and reading Where the Red Fern Grows certainly makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

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Essential, Yet Old School Home Exercise Equipment

Our lives continually seem to be dominated by technology that changes on an almost daily basis, and home exercise equipment is not immune to this phenomenon.  The current trend is to connect the equipment to that internet machine in order to run, or bike, or row, or swim (well, maybe not swim) in various locales across the globe with other people from various locales across the globe with a remote trainer providing the motivation.  However, many believe, myself included, that when it comes to exercising, there’s no school like the old school.

I tend to view this debate in a similar manner to that classic pugilistic and cinematic masterpiece, Rocky IV.  As I’m sure you recall, Rocky decides to travel to Russia to train and then fight Ivan Drago, who had just killed the object of Rocky’s bromance, Apollo Creed.  The training regimes of the two rivals were diametrically opposed.

Rocky trained in Siberia with horse collars, rocks, a horse-drawn wagon, ropes, snow, and mountains, in other words, like a 19th century hermit.  Drago, on the other hand, had the most technologically advanced equipment known to man, all connected to computer diagnostics to measure his every step and punch (Oh yeah, and steroids too).  The moral of the story?  (SPOILER ALERT) Old school exercise equipment is superior to new school as Rocky prevailed, obviously, due to his Neanderthal-like training methods.

So, with the example of Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago fresh in our minds, here are three perfect examples of antiquated pieces of equipment that should be in every home gym.

  1. A heavy bag – Yes, I realize in Rocky I, that Rocky eschewed the heavy bag in favor of a side of beef. However, few of us have a future brother-in-law (Paulie) to provide us access to a meat packing company.  That being the case, a heavy bag will have to suffice.  This simple piece of equipment, if used properly, provides both cardiovascular and weight-training benefits, especially if you bring mixed martial arts into your workout.  And while most equate a heavy bag with just an upper-body workout, it can also provide a great core workout, which is all the rage in the training world.  For beginning heavy bag workouts, check this out: http://livehealthy.chron.com/heavy-bag-workout-routines-beginners-6313.html 
  2. Medicine balls – To my knowledge, there is no video evidence that Rocky ever trained with medicine balls, but perhaps that footage was simply omitted from his various training montages. Please notice that it’s balls, rather than “ball.”  Medicine balls come in a variety of weights in order to provide a range of workouts, from intense cardiovascular to weight training.  Here’s a list of 25 medicine ball workouts that will get your heart pumping and your core…well, doing what a core should do: http://greatist.com/fitness/25-must-try-medicine-ball-exercises
  1. An air bike – No, they haven’t invented a bike that can fly…yet. Air bikes have been around for decades, long before spinning classes became more popular than actually riding a real bike.  The concept is quite simple, the harder you pedal, the more resistance created by that huge fan that serves as the air bike’s front wheel.Combine the cycling motion with handle bars that oscillate in conjunction with the pedals and you’ve just incorporated your upper-body into your workout.  And they are generally much less expensive than a technologically advanced stationary bike.  If you must train with a screen, simply place the air bike in front of your console television set.  Again, there is no known footage of Rocky training on an air bike.  However, Rocky does pull his trainer, Mick, while Mick sits upon an adult tricycle in Rocky II.  Here’s some more info on air bikes: http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/air-bike-hiit-workout/

So if you’re looking for some cost effective (cheap) exercise equipment that has seen a recent resurgence in popularity, due to their muscular and cardiovascular benefits, then look at any or all of the three above examples.  Yo, Adrian!

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