A professional eater and amateur dieter takes on the Master Cleanse
As both a recreational and occupational eater, food is often a pleasure, occasionally a chore and always a focal point in my life. So when I was feeling a bit sluggish this January after chowing my way through holiday buffet lines and several pounds of gifted sweets, I wanted to try a detoxifying diet. Prompted by a friend’s success, I chose the Master Cleanse, which involves subsisting for 10 days on a mixture of filtered water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper plus twice-daily doses of laxative tea. This is my daily diary:
I have gone 29 hours without a single bite of food. To an otherwise tame and palatable mixture of water (10 ounces), lemon juice (2 tablespoons), and maple syrup (2 tablespoons), you add a pinch of cayenne pepper per serving and drink 6-10 servings a day. First taste: not bad, like lemonade with a little kick. Would be good with vodka. Thanks to the bagful of organic Meyer lemons snagged from my mom’s tree, this is also a very economical diet. The drink is not nearly as acidic as one would think. Good thing it’s pretty sweet because I’d gladly give up water for a few days before I’d surrender my right to sugar.
The only rough spot was going to the-store-formerly-known-as-Daiei to pick up cayenne pepper, passing through first the Valentine candy aisle at the entrance and then traipsing through the arare isle. Arare and popcorn is my favorite snack.
I love spicy things, but I think I put in a bit too much cayenne; it burns my esophagus going down. Feeling really exhausted because it was a busy day, I didn’t make time to drink the daily recommended amount (60-100 ounces).
I had to tape my freezer door shut. My cabinets are normally empty (albacore tuna, green tea, macadamia nut oil and Chinese mustard powder were its lone inhabitants), and in the fridge were blueberries, creme fraiche, olives, lettuce and an armada of condiments. But in the freezer, there was edamame plus four different kinds of ice cream, including Bubbie’s passion fruit mochi ice cream. The stuff is killer, and it isn’t cheap, so I couldn’t throw it away. Another use for trusty duct tape.
Luckily, I live alone; I don’t know how anyone would do this while sharing a household with anyone who was eating anything, even if it was just a dog munching on kibbles. The smell of food is heightened. I can smell McDonald’s french fries and the nearest restaurant is eight blocks away. My neighbor downstairs is cooking Spam, which I don’t even eat, and someone in my apartment building is perpetually frying fish, which I love.
There’s a conga-line of cravings shimmying its way across my mindscape: french fries with bÃƒË†arnaise sauce, dark chocolate fondue, pasta with tapenade, steak, a melty wedge of quesadilla, a perfectly toasted BLT, miso ramen, Korean stir-fried squid, ice cream cones, pancakes, waffles, a burger with bleu cheese, poke, Greek salad, sushi, oh sushi!
I have tons of energy. Now the mental strength is kicking in, the triumph of sustained willpower begins to outweigh the empty stomach. I stare my foodlessness in the face. I read Calvin Trillin’s Tummy Trilogy, detailing his search for perfect fried chicken and eating his way through takoyaki and tonkatsu in Tokyo. I am trying to desensitize myself to the cravings that pop up occasionally, though with far less frequency than before. Most of my free time is spent in the library where the sterile smell of books and the no-food policy helps.
People pity me. ‘I’m sorry,’ they keep saying, as they pull out sandwiches or apples or gummy bears (my favorite) to munch on. ‘It’s OK,’ I assure them, ‘I’m beyond it.’ At the beach, a friend declares a craving for shave ice, which I think is the best use of sugar and water ever invented. She suggests pouring my drink over plain shaved ice, which is an awesome idea, but I could not do without ice cream and mochi balls. She then invites me to the movies. I decline, saying I can’t handle the permeating smell of buttered popcorn and the constant audible munching of moviegoers. Another friend, forgetting my situation, calls me to suggest a spontaneous dinner. This is a veryantisocial diet.
Feeling rejuvenated. I am inspired to eat better when I’m off the cleanse; When you aren’t eating at all, it’s only a short step to a healthier diet. I’m also feeling guilty about the millions of people who go without food not because they’re trying to reverse the effects of autogluttony but because they have no option.
I wake up craving lemonade, a craving that remains constant throughout the day. Is this how cults work? Deny people choice and you’ll be met with fanatical devotion? Thinking about what my first breakfast will be when I’m off the diet. I’m thinking rainbow rolls or a nice bacon cheeseburger.
While walking down McCully Street, I notice a little rusted sign outside an obscure cafe advertising meals, shave ice and saimin, meaning everything currently missing from my life. An elderly man who sees me checking out the place tells me he comes here every day and that the saimin is numero uno. I’ll have to come back in a few days. What happens to a food critic deferred?
By now I’m accustomed to the lemonade, so I can’t believe I’m almost done. I have lost weight and feel lighter in spirit (if not a little light in the head), but strangely removed from humanity. My stomach and I miss food and sharing food with friends. Tomorrow I will delight in a bacon cheeseburger.
This cleanse is mentally arduous. Not for the weak of mind, the willpower-challenged, the very social, or anyone who has to be around food or people eating on a daily basis. If such ideal candidates for the Cleanse exist, I’m not sure I’d like to make their acquaintance.
A lust for life
Raw food fanatics chow down on ‘living’ food
Ryan Gehring doesn’t eat anything canned or cooked. ‘Eating raw connects me withÃƒâ€“life. I become more sensitized to the energies within and without me,’ says Gehring, a raw food practitioner, chef, consultant and incidentally, my housemate. The term ‘raw food’ is something of a misnomer. ‘Anything can be raw. All of nature is raw. It doesn’t mean that you should eat it.’
Dr. Diana Joy Ostroff, an O’ahu-based naturopathic physician/acupuncturist, says her dictionary of raw foods includes fruits, vegetables, nuts, uncooked seeds, sprouts and sprouted legumes. Ostroff adds that some raw foods, such as quinoa, can actually be ‘cooked’ as long as they’re heated at temperatures below about 118, the holy maximum temperature in the raw food world.
Some people, Gehring says, try to get their proteins through raw meats, milk, fish and eggs. (I sense the hint of a shudder). But in his eyes, those foods aren’t really in keeping with the principles of a raw food diet. ‘It’s raw, [but] it’s not a life food,’ he says.
The term ‘living food’ is actually quite popular with raw foodies. Gehring describes it this way: ‘It’s not necessarily even about vitamins and mineralsÃƒâ€“It’s a life force within the food that you’re eating.’
Gehring and I are chatting in our common room munching on one of his latest creations: a salad tossed with olives (raw, spiced, gourmet ones), olive oil, avocadoes, cilantro, garlic and cayenne among other things. He’s told me to sample a little, but I can’t seem to stop.
This, I suspect, is how Gehring convinced me to even contemplate foregoing the joys of piping hot soup and canned beans (who knew everything canned had to be heated). But what drew me, I have to admit, was not just the taste of the food, but the way my roommate talks about going raw. ‘I am not dogmatic in that everybody finds God in the same way,’ he says, but adds that an all-raw diet can induce ‘beautiful consciousness.’
For those of us–like me–who have an almost irreligious reverence for food, finding God through salad greens seemed so improbable that it merited some attention. Thus began my two-week raw experiment.
At Gehring’s advice, I opted not to go cold turkey. My first week, he advised, should be about 70 to 80 percent raw, followed by the absolute regimen. Not that two weeks is nearly enough time to truly experience the mental clarity and absolute vision that come along with going raw, he warned.
He was right. Turns out there’s this little thing in the natural medical world known as the healing crisis. Sickness, says Maui-based naturopathic doctor Julie Holmes is ‘nature’s way of trying to get rid of junk.’
The crisis can take the form of fevers, sweats, mucous and anything else that makes one feel entirely gross, it appears. Ostroff says that people, especially those with health problems, have to recognize that they will not feel better immediately. ‘If a person’s suffering it’s very difficult,’ she says. ‘It has to be endured for a substantial period of time before the disease is going to go away.’
But she stresses that going raw can have profound health benefits–something she knows from personal experience. ‘I had a serious health challenge, and I went 100 percent on a raw food diet. I did it intensely for three weeks, and my problem went away.’
Translated for me, going raw meant two days of a runny nose and wadded up tissues, followed by a blissful week of ‘this is easy,’ followed by a 101 degree fever. (I confess. I caved. I ate soup–really hot, delicious soup).
There are real benefits to a raw food diet, though, says Holmes, who herself ate only raw foods for about four years. ‘Each food in its raw state contains enzymes to digest it. When you cook it, you destroy those enzymes, so then the body has to supply those enzymes to digest it,’ she says.
Granted, humans have been eating cooked food since, well, the creation of fire, so it is certainly something we can do well. But, says Holmes, the enzymes in our body have other functions and are therefore less efficient.
The real challenge with a raw food diet is getting enough protein. She doubts most raw foodies can get enough protein without sprouting beans, seeds and nuts. ‘When you soak them, you begin to liberate enzymes which then to begin to activate. That little seed can turn into a whole plant,’ Holmes explains. ‘It begins a biochemical transformation inside that begins to change it where it’s not as much carbohydrate. It starts to become amino acids.’
As with most movements, the raw food world is fraught with controversy–in this case, over what constitutes a balanced raw food regimen. Gehring says he gets most of his proteins not through sprouted stuff, but through green leafy vegetables. ‘It doesn’t have a lot of protein compared to meat but the bioavailability of that in its raw form is so much greater than what you’re actually receiving in cooked proteins.’
Through my own ordeal, I mean experience, I learned a number of things: One, going raw is expensive, especially in a state where a pound of spinach costs $7. Two, going raw doesn’t mean eating bowlfuls of nuts. They will give you a stomachache. Three, even if it says it’s raw, it doesn’t mean it’s raw. Who knew that cashews labeled as raw have actually been boiled out of their shells?
For myself, I have to admit that there are parts of me that like this living foods thing. I can now justify buying fresh dill, cilantro, basil and mint. I can eat as much tahini as I want. And finally it’s OK to eat the cookie dough. Admittedly, I’m not sure I’m all that much closer to God, but I suppose I am closer to food–something few foodies of any sort grumble about.
In search of the ultimate waist-shrinking meal plan
I’ve started my diet on so many tomorrows. Does it ever stop? Granted, one of the problems is that no one seems to agree. A doc tells you carbs are bad. Another guy targets trans fat. On the radio this morning an ad told me drinking nonfat milk actually aids in weight loss. It’s possible the experts concur on some cellular science level, but really, diets are as plentiful as plate lunch wagons. As confusing (yet as simple) as pi.
What’s worse, dieting fits into one’s lifestyle as easily as you slip into your skin-tight capris after devouring a Sizzler breakfast buffet. Aside from the ordinary-folk superheroes who actually begin an exercise regime, who actually cut out hot fudge sundaes, pizza and (insert your worst vice here) for good, the only answer for real people is to make it up as we go along.
My problem, in a nice big crunchy nutshell, is that I’m in the habit of not listening to my health-conscious rationality. I pretty much hate exercising, and I want the thinking element of eating taken away. I want my allotted diet food handed to me, ready-made and tasty, but I don’t have the budget or commitment to follow ‘easy’ plans like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers.
I decided to try a one-week weight loss experiment. I opted not to worry (yet) about exercise. I went on a search for the ultimate, simple, waist-shrinking meal plan. Here, from [FadDiet.com]–with the disclaimer that quick diets don’t work–was the answer to my quest: The Lazy Zone Diet.
The Zone diet, around since 1995 when research scientist Barry Sears wrote his bestseller The Zone, operates on a simple principle: keeping your hormone levels balanced (thus putting you in ‘the zone’) throughout the day by making sure each meal is composed of 40 percent good carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables–no bad white bread and fried buttery potatoes), 30 percent lean protein and 30 percent good fats. Yes there are good fats. Like olive oil. Like those omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseed oil and fish and written about on every other health journal page these days.
On the Zone diet, you eat five times a day, the first meal within half an hour of waking, and drink lots of water. No foods are completely off limits as long as you balance them right, which makes a Zippy’s mushroom and cheese burger an actual possibility. But be sensible. Really.
My results? Bear in mind that the sample menu I tried was from a joke website. Also, for the sake of convenience (as well as some miscommunication with a cashier who gave me cheese on my Quarter Pounder–imagine that) I cheated a bit, generally substituting meals from other days when I didn’t feel like eating what they suggested (an egg white omelet just didn’t sound appealing on day four). Nonetheless, I’m proud to say I lost three and a half pounds in seven days.
But diet boredom set in. No matter how many foods are allowed, it’s still a diet. And if I ignore my cravings I sometimes feel resentment, with my favorite remedy being an ice cold beer and a nap. Yet the Zone makes sense, and it did sort of work in an everything-in-moderation sort of way.
My conclusion? It boils down to semantics. Do not go on a diet. A diet is only a diet if you call it a diet. I’m starting my ‘diet’ again ‘tomorrow,’ and it shall be called ‘Bruce.’
Breakfast Meal replacement bar, coffee, diet soda or any other beverage that contains no sugar or creamer
Lunch Lean Cuisine meal 1 slice of cheese
Dinner McDonald’s Quarter Pounder or Grilled Chicken Sandwich, neither with mayo, side salad, fat-free dressing
Breakfast Fruit salad, 1 cup unsweetened yogurt (not non-fat), 1 oz. nuts
Lunch Deli turkey or roast beef sandwich with lettuce, tomato, cheese and barbecue sauce on whole grain bread, diet soda or bottled water
Dinner Large bowl of chicken noodle soup (any brand)
Breakfast McDonalds Fruit and Yogurt Parfait w/ granola
Lunch Fast food salad (no fried chicken pieces allowed, only grilled chicken), low-fat dressing, small hamburger (no mayo)
Dinner Lean Cuisine dinner, 1 oz. nuts or one tablespoon of peanut butter
Breakfast Small omelet made with egg whites, 1 slice of wheat toast (unbuttered)
Lunch The biggest peanut butter and banana sandwich you can possibly make on whole grain healthy bread, tall glass of milk
Dinner Stir-fried chicken and vegetables, one quarter of a container of white rice (The rest is tomorrow’s lunch.)
Breakfast Meal replacement bar
Lunch Leftover stir-fried Chinese food from last night, a quarter of the container of white rice–throw the remaining half container away before you start eating
Dinner Healthy Choice dinner
Breakfast McDonalds Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
Lunch Two BLT sandwiches, no mayo
Dinner Baked chicken breast, two cups frozen broccoli, two pieces of toast
Breakfast One cup whole wheat cereal, One spoonful of peanut butter, Milk
Lunch Sandwich made with leftover baked chicken, healthy bread, cheese, lettuce, tomato, BBQ sauce, small bag of pretzels or baked chips.
Dinner (going out) Grilled shrimp salad from a restaurant, low-fat dressing, unbuttered dinner roll, baked potato or rice pilaf
Folk remedies, warts and all
Pieces of bacon, swallowing pages from the Bible, people swear by the strangest things
When it comes to folk remedies, I have a splintered memory. Actually, I remember a splinter and a piece of bacon. I must have been about 5 years old. My Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother had examined my finger and saw the dark needle of wood wedged deep in my flesh. She then went to the smokehouse and trimmed off a gobbet of ‘speck’–the home-cured bacon that we had on the farm–and placed it over the wound, wrapping all with gauze and adhesive tape. The next day, miraculously, the splinter had been transported into the bacon.
While that anecdote once made Mrs. Carter, my seventh grade science teacher, lecture me on the unscientific, not to mention unhygienic, horrors of pork belly, now that I’m older it seems to me that the natural emollient of fat and the drawing power of salt had much to do with the miracle. Which is to say, some folk remedies actually work.
These kinds of cures exist everywhere. They can be as simple as a prescription for hiccups (breathing into a paper bag, drinking glasses of water from the opposite edge, or my own contribution to the genre: hold your breath until either the hiccups go away or you pass out) or as complicated as Huck Finn’s cure for warts. That technique involved heaving a dead cat into a graveyard and intoning: ‘Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow cat, I’m done with ye!’
For warts in Weekly Editor Chris Haire’s family, they would cut a potato, rub it on the wart, then bury the potato. When the potato turned to compost, the wart would be gone. In my family, my grandmother would cure warts by smacking them hard with a Bible. My brother swears it worked; however, my mother also smacked me with the Bible, and I’m still here.
Among Hawaiians, remedies abounded. For boils, the laukahi plant could be pounded, mixed with ‘alae dirt and salt and used as a poultice. The tea from the plant was also used for ‘cleaning the blood,’ which is a common theme in folk remedies. Young wahine ate mamaki seeds to build up strength for pregnancy and to ensure an easy delivery. Mamaki leaves are still used for tea and are available at Longs Drug Stores.
‘Olena, related to the ginger plant, was used for sinus problems as well as asthma.
The kukui nut is a well-known remedy for constipation. (You use the nutmeat, not the nut, in case you were wondering.)
The ti plant (Hawaiian ki) had many uses, not the least of which was fermenting the root to distill ‘okolehao, the kick-ass, bootleg liquor of the islands. Ti leaves could be used to cure fever, skin rash or applied as an antiseptic against a cut and to stop bleeding.
Papaya isn’t just for breakfast. A poultice from the root reportedly can diminish arthritis and the leaves and green fruit are well-known tenderizers of meat. The enzyme papain is the active ingredient for the latter and was once used in contact lens cleaning solutions.
In Jamaica, as in Hawai’i, folks used guava bark and leaf to cure diarrhea. While I lived there, a friend tried to cure my dengue fever with a concoction of lemon juice, white rum and an infusion of ganja. The dengue hung on, but I didn’t much notice.
My grandmother believed she could cure fevers by writing Bible verses on a piece of Kleenex, which we would then have to swallow. Her cure for coughs–a spoonful of Vicks Vapo< \h>Rub dipped in brown sugar (also swallowed)–was less appreciated and probably more effective, not to mention breathtaking, as a laxative.
Folk remedies often depend upon belief. One of my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors was a faith healer, or what they called a ‘pow-wow man.’ I still have a tract of his, first published in English in 1938, called ‘Secrets of Sympathy.’ Here is one of the more Huckleberry Finn-like cures he espoused:
‘If one has received a New Rupture, thou shalt charm in the following manner: Take a clean bed sheet and lay him upon it, and take two pigeons and lay them beside him, and call his Christian name five times and say the following words each time, and then kill the pigeons: Jesus healed the sick of the palsy, and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt be healed; as it reads: What ye do in My name, shall be! The deaths of these pigeons be thy salvation. Thy pains have come upon the pigeons; they are taken away from thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost!’
I’m just glad that all I had were fevers and splinters.
Hawaiian style folk remedies
The ancient Hawaiians had herbal cures for just about everything, and many of those cures are still being used today. Here’s a quick list of some local remedies using more common ingredients, but please don’t leap headlong after any of these suggestions without first consulting your physician:
‘Aloe: Easy to grow, simple to use, the ‘aloe is also known world-wide as the ‘burn plant.’ Just peel off the green skin and rub the gelatinous pulp over a burn or sunburn. Some folks drink the juice as a laxative or to counteract ulcers.
Red dirt: Known locally as ‘alae or ‘alaea, this iron-rich clay is most commonly used in the making of the red salt added to poke or served with green onions. Thought to help with blood-related problems such as anemia or internal bleeding.
Sea urchin: The meat of the small urchin, or ‘ina, was used against general weakness of the body. The slime from the urchin’s teeth was rubbed on the tongues and mouths of children.
Coconut: Hawaiians call the tree niu. Anyone who has ever tasted the fresh, sweet water from a cold, green coconut at a roadside stand knows how refreshing it can be. It’s a natural diuretic, so it works against kidney stones and high blood pressure. The soft jelly in the green coconut is reportedly good for colon cleansing.
Lemon grass:Also called wapine, this fragrant herb is often used as a tea to reduce blood pressure and stomach ailments. Frequently used in Thai cooking, it can also be found as a great sorbet flavor at Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream and Desserts.
Ginger: The family of ginger plants has many uses. The one called ‘awapuhi kuahiwi could be used to deaden a toothache, for an itch or a bruise or as an extract for a massage. This is also the ginger used in making shampoo.
Kalo: Or taro. Because it is hypoallergenic and very nutritional, pounded into poi, kalo makes a great baby food. Mashed together with noni, it can be applied to boils or put directly over sores.
Breadfruit:The ‘ulu, as everyone knows who has picked one, secretes a milky fluid when cut. This sap can be useful against cuts, scratches and scaly skin.
Pakalolo:Not a traditional Hawaiian herbal cure, its effects are well known, whether in prescription or non-prescription form. Take as needed.
Sources: Hawaiian Herbs of Medicinal Value, M. Kaaiakamanu and J. K. Akina, 2003; Hawaiian Healing Herbs: A Book of Recipes, Kalua Kaiahua with Martha H. Noyes, 1997, Moses Ahuna and the Internet.
The science of life
Ancient Indian healing finds a home in new age-happy Hawai’i
Margo Gal’s office in Maui smells like sandalwood and Indian spices. There are rocks in the pressure cooker and oils steaming on the stove. A dancing statue of Shiva–the Hindu god of destruction–rests on the mantle, watching as Gal pulls a metal pot over Ken Diehl’s head. A slow, steady stream of oil begins to drop onto his forehead.
‘At any point if it’s too warm, let me know,’ Gal says. Diehl, half asleep, acquiesces.
Gal is practicing perhaps one of the oldest healing methods: ayurveda. Originating in India between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago, the word ‘ayurveda’ translates literally to life (ayur) and knowledge (veda).
‘Basically it’s the science of life,’ says Dr. Ye Nguyen, a Honolulu-based naturopath who incorporates ayurvedic techniques in her practice. ‘It defines disease by an imbalance of doshas. A dosha is basicallyÃƒâ€“a vital energy.’
The dosha makes up ayurveda’s core. It is not something people choose, but their innate constitution, the thing that determines their physiological, intellectual and emotional strengths and weaknesses. It explains how people should eat to stay in balance and outlines what diseases they may encounter should their body go out of balance.
There are three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha, explains Nguyen, who parallels each type to a different animal. Vata people are like deer, creative and spiritual, while pitta people are closer to dragons, ambitious and intelligent. Kapha people are mellower and panda-like, grounded and compassionate. Imbalances in the different types can lead to indecision for vata types, arrogance for pitta types and laziness for kapha types.
But what sounds simplistic becomes complicated by the fact that most people are a combination of different primary and secondary doshas. And, says Nguyen, there’s tension in ayurveda between the dosha one is born with and the stage of one’s life, which also has an inherent dosha. ‘During your childhood years, you’re kapha. That’s during your nurturing phases. You’re most grounded as children,’ she says. ‘Then, when you go into your middle years, you’re go, go, goÃƒâ€“That’s when you go into your pitta years. Then when you go into your older years, you’re vata.’
Ayurveda, adds Gal, includes a supernatural element, as well. For example, during a recent clinical study trip to India, Gal says practitioners would always put one’s astrological chart on the wall to determine the best treatment route. People would then be advised to wear different gems, such as rubies or emeralds to bring them closer in line with a given planet. For example, says Gal, Mars has an affinity to the ruby while mercury is drawn to emeralds.
Ayurveda has been increasing in popularity as more and more people get involved with yoga and all things Indian. But Nguyen believes that people are becoming frustrated with Western medicine. ‘In society, people are just sick of being medicated or taking medicines withÃƒâ€“side effects,’ she says.
Rebalancing, however, can be a significantly more complicated than popping pills, say both Gal and Nguyen. The goal of ayurveda, and indeed most traditional medicines, is to avoid disease by taking proactive health precautions. Gal says her goal is to help people ‘take more responsibility for their life’ through long-term changes in lifestyle and diet.
But it’s also good, says Gal, to just enjoy a good ayurvedic session every now and then. ‘Everybody wants to come in and have a lot of oil poured over them,’ she says. And that, too, can be extremely invigorating.
Diehl, a physical therapist on the Big Island, says he’s been going to see Gal for general health reasons. For example, Diehl was having problems with his sinuses, which Gal took into consideration when determining his treatment method. ‘I’m drawn to it I think because it’s basically a little bit more customized treatment,’ Diehl says, adding that ailments that typically would have taken months to clear up are now resolving themselves more quickly.
Back in the treatment room, Gal has already spent an hour rubbing Diehl down with warm scented oils. Lying on his back, he’s glistening from head to toe. A warm stone that Gal has rubbed across his neck and shoulders rests just below his breastbone atop a towel. ‘What the oil does is it helps to just slow things down, so there’s not so much movement going on internally in the body and the mind,’ Gal says. ‘The oil penetrates deep into the system, and it helps to calm things down.’
Now, Gal is ready for the final stage of her treatment: the shirodhara. It is, says Gal, ‘the flow of constant oil on your third eye and across your forehead for 25 minutes.’ The most focused part of the treatment, shirodhara has both medical and spiritual applications.
For Diehl, it has become a way of centering himself. ‘It took me to the really deep place of relaxation,’ he says. ‘I was able to really tune into my own body pattern and my own body rhythms.’
A sanctuary of stress relief
Psychologist Sunny Massad offers UnTherapy to her clients
Located at the back of Kalihi Valley, surrounded by a stream, birds and trees, the two-acre Hawai’i Wellness Institute is a sanctuary of stress relief for ‘ordinary people with ordinary problems.’ Motivated in part by the ineffectiveness of mental illness treatment that her own family received, psychologist Sunny Massad created the HWI in 1999, offering classes and workshops, which employ her own trademark model UnTherapy. In the comfortable, quiet living room of the Hawai’i Wellness Retreat House, she talked to the Weekly about her approach.
Why would someone with a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology not become a clinical psychologist?
While I was studying psychology, I realized I wasn’t interested in working with people who had emotional or mental diseases. That’s really what they’re teaching: How to handle people after they’ve already been diagnosed with something. I thought, what about the rest of us that just have ordinary problems and need a boost in the right direction? What kind of counseling is there for that?
So you developed your own UnTherapy model?
I had gone to hypnosis school before I went to a school of psychology, and in hypnosis school the first question of counseling is ‘what do you want?’ We don’t need to know why we have these problems. We know why. If you start with ‘what do you want’ and what needs to change in your attitudes and your beliefs and your behavior in order to get what you want, all of a sudden there’s hope. And your life changes right away. It’s a style of counseling specifically designed for healthy, well functioning people.
Tell us a little about the institute.
I always say you drive through the Philippines, Fiji and Samoa to get here. And then you come to the very end of the road, and there’s a Shangri La. You can’t even remember what you drove through. Because Kalihi is known for trash on the side of the road. It’s not a place you would think of for wellness. There’s wife battering in this neighborhood and renegade roosters. People will actually say to me ‘It’s too far to drive all the way to Kalihi Valley.’ You know, it’s like 12 minutes. But values change when they’re surrounded by nature. We can have a class out on the lanai in the summer when it’s a beautiful day, and if you’re learning how to meditate and you’re not listening to traffic but you’re listening to birds, you’re much more peaceful.
Is there any other place on the island like it?
You can go to a hotel or a day spa, but what I find in those environments is that, particularly with women, they go to these places to come out looking changed. Now they have very pretty fingernails and toenails and better skin and nicer hair, but they haven’t dealt with their issues. People go running out, and they know they need something. What they need is sleep. What they need is quality relationships and friends that last. They need art day and time to get their to-do list done. Women often go to self-help books. They underline it, put stars in the margin. They highlight. They understand the book exactly, but reading a self-help book won’t change your behavior because the very act of reading is a left-brain activity. It’s the logical, analytical part of your brain, so you can understand it. But the part of your mind that’s in charge of your behavior is your right hemisphere, the creative, artistic, imaginative side. Unless it’s an experience, you won’t change, you’ll only understand, which is why traditional therapy for self-actualized people is ineffective.
What are some of the problems of ordinary people?
I feel people are suffering from what I call techno stress. It’s a specific stress related to technology. Since we got computers and call waiting and voice mail, everything has sped up. What we believe that we can get done in the course of one day is unrealistic. What happens is we carry our old story with us, and we expect that that’s the way it should be. But everything is changed. The conclusion is we’re feeling inadequate. Our self-esteem goes down. So I am attempting to show people that they’re not inadequate and the very thing they’re attempting to do to keep up with their lives is sabotaging the quality of their life.
And to know that there are other people going through the same thing?
Yeah. The entire island (laughs). We’re all in it. The whole country. Starbucks has made millions of dollars because the idea is ‘I need to speed up, I can’t keep up, I have to read all this stuff on my desk, I have to produce more, and I have to do my laundry and pay the bills and put the kids through school and it better be private schoolÃƒâ€“’ It goes on and on. Knowing how you would prefer to be and how you’re going to handle your feelings in order to be able to get to where you want to be is going to be your emancipation.
For a list of upcoming courses available at the Hawai’i Wellness Institute, visit [www.hawaiiwellnessinstitute.org], 848-5544
The drink of peace
Forget the bad rap. Kava can calm the soul and ease your mind.
Participants sit in a circle on a large woven mat. At the head, a wooden bowl of water takes on a muddy appearance as the mixer massages in a strainer cloth filled with Piper methysticum, or kava (‘awa in Hawaiian). When the concoction is estimated to be of the proper strength, the first guest receives a coconut half-shell filled with the tan liquid. He claps once to mark acceptance of the cup. He drinks. The circle claps three times, and the bowl is passed to the next participant.
Much like a Waikiki lu’au, some variation of a ceremonial kava gathering is a popular tourist attraction in Fiji, Samoa and other Pacific Island destinations, but kava’s vital cultural significance is but a small part of its ripening biography.
A healthy alternative
The ongoing popularity of such relaxants as St. John’s Wort and melatonin is a good indication that the marketplace is wide open for kava’s position on the herbal anxiolytic–antianxiety–shelf. According to Michael Kelley, psychology professor at Hawai’i Pacific University and Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i board member, ‘There are a number of placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blinded trials, which show that kava reduces anxiety equivalent to low doses of benzodiazepines,’ such as Valium and Xanax.
He adds, ‘But when you use the benzodiazepines you have a cognitive decline. Kava produces no hangovers. Kava produces no dependency. Kava is cognitive enhancing.’ Unless you consume large amounts of the stuff, which is generally considered to be about 10 bowls before you’ve surpassed the legal limit.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that approximately 40 million American adults suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder. With a persistent quest for remedies, why has kava not reached wonder drug status? In large part, the answer can be traced to an unfortunate–and fairly recent–bad rap.
In 2002, several European countries and Canada began banning the sale of products containing kava due to links to liver toxicity, including hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver failure. The Federal Drug Administration took heed and although a ban was not placed in the United States, warnings were issued. The kava industry suffered a huge loss (curiously at a time when its profits had started to compete with major pharmaceutical companies selling benzodiazepines.) By the 1990s, the demand for kava had outstripped its supply and the detrimental health reports baffled researchers who began to take action. It turns out that, because of the high demand for kava in pill form, Germans had begun harvesting the above-ground components of the plant: The leaves and bark allowed for an increased number of kava lactones–the primary psychoactive component of the kava root. A team of scientists headed by C.S. Tang, (now retired) professor of molecular biosciences and biosystems engineering at the University of Hawai’i- Manoa, discovered an unexpected liver cell toxic alkaloid in the leaves and bark of the plant that does not appear in its underground roots where kava extraction had traditionally been focused.
The research was telling. Tang and H.C. ‘Skip’ Bittenbender, extension specialist for coffee, kava and cacao at the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR), obtained a grant to follow up on the findings. ‘There has not been acceptance or change of policy in the regulatory agencies in Europe with regard to these finds yet,’ Bittenbender says. ‘They generally have to prove things to themselves.’
‘We’ve solved the riddle we think,’ Kelley says. ‘What we do know is the cultural history. Indigenous people all over the Pacific Basin have been drinking kava for thousands of years without any liver problems.’
With the adverse health scares on the way out, the path is paved toward a far-reaching awareness. Proponents would love to see kava become a way of life.
‘When people are in a nice state of mind, it’s a healthy state of mind,’ says Jonathan Yee, local grower and president of the ‘Awa Development Council–a nonprofit charitable organization ‘devoted exclusively to educational, science and religious activities.’ The ADC’s motto sums up what is perhaps kava’s most beneficial quality: I Maluhia ka Honua (So that the world may be at peace).
‘Good things happen when people meet,’ Yee says, citing Honolulu’s two kava bars Kapahulu Kafe and Diamond Head Cove as fine gathering places. ‘The social aspect is an obvious benefit.’
Kelley agrees. ‘Island groups use kava to mediate,’ he says. ‘How many times do we get into conflict in life? Kava becomes a way of sitting around the table and trying to sort out differences.’
‘[Kava] has a place in our modern society to prevent road rage,’ adds Bittenbender, ‘to relax at the end of the day, to calm the nerves before anxious events.
‘It is the drink of peace.’
For further celebration of everything kava, attend the Hawai’i Pacific Islands Kava Festival on Oct. 6 at UH-Manoa, 9am-5pm. Admission is free.
Some local kava websites
The noni may be ugly and foul-smelling, but some swear by its healing properties
The fruit of the noni won’t win a blue-ribbon prize for beauty at any state fair. When ripe, it’s oleaginous, pus-yellow to rancid white, translucent, covered with pustule-like drupes that make it look like a corpulent caterpillar or the birth-sac of an alien lifeform, and it carries with it a smell ranging from fresh vomit to Parmesan cheese. It doesn’t taste much better.
All that hasn’t stopped the noni from becoming a very hot product. Perhaps because the fruit is so exotic and not very palatable, it has become something of a miracle cure to many. On the Internet alone, there are hundreds of sites selling noni extract, noni juice (both pure and mixed with other fruit juices), noni powder, noni tea and even noni spray.
So, obviously, stuff that tastes bad must be good for you, right? Not always. Not all miracles are true, at least according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and you should always proceed with caution with any reputed ‘miracle cure.’ One noni miracle, however, might soon have proof behind it, and the Cancer Research Center of Hawai’i (CRCH) has embarked on an extensive study to find out. Read on.
If one goes by how the noni has been used around the world, it certainly holds promise. In Southeast Asia, heated noni leaves were used to cure coughs and nausea. In China and Japan, noni extracts are taken as a tonic or to reduce fever. Even though the fruit is not the tastiest around, the noni has often been used as a ‘famine food’ nearly everywhere it grows. Reportedly, Southeast Asians enjoy it in a curry, which probably hides the taste.
Ancient Hawaiians used the roots to make tapa dyes, the fruit as an occasional food, and even the pulp on sprains and bruises. One Hawaiian chant, recorded in 1861, has Kamapua’a saying:
‘I have come now from Puna.
I have seen the women gathering noni,
Marking with noni.’
The pig god notwithstanding, noni thrives other places than Puna. It is a hardy shrub or tree, enjoying anything from sun to shade, brackish tide pools to dry land and can even endure months of drought. If destroyed by fire, it grows back. It is one of the first seedlings to spring up out of a new lava flow, and the mature noni bears fruit almost constantly. Miracle cure or not, the noni deserves admiration.
But miracles there may be. In a multi-part, multi-year study, the CRCH at the University of Hawai’i is investigating the efficacy of noni on cancer patients. Dr. Brian F. Issell of Scripps Health in San Diego and former lead investigator of the study reports that their first task was to determine appropriate dosage levels. Once the researchers can establish an optimal dose with no side effects, they can then compare the cancer-fighting effects of noni treatment against those of a placebo. Dehydrated noni from Maui, delivered in capsule form, is the test product, and, according to Issell, no toxicity has been found in doses up to 14 grams.
The surprising news is that there is evidence of cancer shrinkage in some patients. Issell warns, however, that these kinds of results can’t be quantified at this phase of the study. In addition, Issell says, ‘We have found that some quality of life measures, such as pain relief, are better at certain doses when compared with the other doses,’ but he hesitates to say whether noni relieves pain or otherwise benefits patients. It’s just too early in the study to tell.
For Issell, it’s clear why such scientific rigor is necessary. ‘There are many personal testimonies for the benefits of many of the different marketed products, but as yet, no scientific evidence to back them upÃƒâ€“I feel we need to find out through proper scientific testing whether noni may help, more than harm, the many people who take it,’ Issell says.
In fact, the FDA has warned a number of purveyors of noni products not to propound claims that are unsubstantiated. And, because noni fruit can be very high in potassium, it poses danger to those with kidney problems.
For those brave enough to try a little noni homebrew anyway, the local method is simple. Put several washed, ripe noni fruits into a large, clean, glass jar, cover them with fresh water, screw the lid back on, and let the jar sit in the sun for several days, even weeks, until the extracted juice turns brown.
Then, decant and enjoyÃƒâ€“if you can.
Stewards of wellness
Chatting with the kind folks who help us stay healthy
Remember your last massageÃƒâ€“so relaxing. Strong fingers kneading deep into your tense muscles and stressed out psyche. Maybe you really did need those words of encouragement from your personal trainer to crank out those last few sit-ups–or even to get to the gym at all.
In our everyday quests for wellness and health–mental relaxation, a good game of tennis, pumping iron, whatever you do to get mentally and physically fit–there is usually someone on the other side of that curtain, helping you to achieve your goals. Give these custodians of your well-being some well-deserved credit. They work hard to make you happy, to help you relax, to help you feel good about yourself, so you can lead a more productive and happy life.
But in all reality, your weekly or monthly massage is just another hour at the office for your massage therapist. These stewards of wellness, who keep our spirits lifted, have chosen to ignore back hair and pimples to make you feel special.
Bruce Nagel Director of operations in tennis and head tennis pro, Kailua Racquet Club
Years Tennis pro for over 30 years, the last 15 years at the Kailua Racquet Club
Best part of the job The opportunity to interact with different and interesting people. It’s tennis lessons, so everyone comes out with a good attitude.
Worst part of the job The sun. It’s tiring working under that tropical sun for hours on end, and you get parched quite frequently.
Strangest story A couple years ago I had leg surgery, and I had to teach tennis out of a wheelchair for an entire year. People would show up and look at me like, ‘No way, you’re the tennis pro.’ I just started telling people over the phone that I was giving lessons from the wheelchair.
Hit on by clients? [Laughs] When I was younger.
Inappropriate behavior by clients People get mad and swear, a lot of throwing rackets.
Embarrassing moments One time a woman student’s skirt fell off. About a month ago a ball bounced right up my pants and stuck. Nobody saw or noticed, so I’m running around with a tennis ball in my pants. I had to wait till no one was looking to shake it out.
Health advice Regular exercise and plenty of fluids. Tennis is a great activity for adults because it’s a social sport, great exercise and fun at the same time. We have a unique workout group here at the club called exertennis. It is a very popular adult program, highly recommended.
Assistant fitness manager, personal trainer, 24 hr. Fitness
Years 4 years
Best part of the job The ability to give someone the chance to enjoy life, make a difference in that person’s life.
Worst part of the job I can only help one person at a time. At this level you’re working one-on-one, and I would like to be able to help more people.
Strangest story Because of the controlled environment, being in a public place where everyone can see you, nothing really strange happens. Although one time a guy decided to work out completely naked. After they got him to put his clothes back on, he left peacefully.
Hit on by clients? It does happen for many trainers, but not often. I always try to keep it professional.
Inappropriate behavior by clients Probably just horrible attitudes, that’s it. I almost become friends with my clients, so nothing inappropriate really happens.
Embarrassing moments If a client passes gas. It happens.
Health advice Always understand that something beneficial to one may not be beneficial to others. Seek the resources to find out what is best for you. Health is individualized. There is no general application. Make sure you understand who’s helping you and know the skill level you deserve and the trainers give.
Antone ToutaiolepoMassage therapist, Serenity Spa
Years 1 1/2 years
Best part of the job When people come in stressed out and leave relaxed and in a good mood, knowing I made a difference.
Worst part of the job When it’s slow, and there’s no business.
Strangest story I have Portuguese ancestry, and this lady I massaged looked exactly like my aunt. I asked her name and found out she was from the same part of Portugal as my family. It tripped me out. I got chicken skin.
Hit on by clients? Yes, but not too often. Maybe they ask if you want to go out for drinks, but I don’t mix business with pleasure.
Inappropriate behavior by clients Only when someone didn’t go under the drape and they are lying there naked and I have to tell them to go under the drape.
Embarrassing moments One time I kept calling a client by the wrong name through the entire massage. It was a couple’s massage, and after it was over, the other massage therapist asked me why I kept calling the person by a wrong name. I felt bad.
Health advice As well as massage, stretching is really important, big time.
Just do it
What do feral pigs, a Frisbee and a hockey puck have in common? They can all help you get well sooner.
Day: Any day. Time: Pau hana. Place: The (now smoke-free) bar. Halfway through the Heineken, mid-way through the martini, you find yourself nodding. Why? Because you’re looking around at what has become routine, and you’re channeling Huey Lewis: ‘I Want a New Drug.’
Fear not, Honolulu. There are alternative ways to blow off steam. If you’re not into the mainstream varieties of island recreation–hiking, biking, jogging, surfing, swimming, paddling, fishing, bird-hunting (OK, only haughty people hunt birds)–maybe it’s time to engage in something completely different. Go ahead, get crazy, add more wasabi to your shoyu. Here are 19 ways to leave your bartender.
1 There’s chasing plastic on the sand, and then there’s ultimate Frisbee. Get started with Hawai’i Ultimate League Association’s recreational nights: [www.hawaiiultimate.com].
2 Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested, ‘Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee.’ Heed his advice by becoming a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu mentor: [www.bigshonolulu.org].
3 From day paddles to overnight excursions, you and your kayak can really go places, and Hui Wa’a Kaukahi, Hawai’i’s oldest and largest recreational kayak club, helps you get there: [www.huiwaa.org].
4What’s the last thing you imagine you’d find yourself doing on a Sunday morning at 7 in Hawai’i? Staring through a face shield watching the puck you just shot soar past a goalie on ice skates at the Ice Palace? If you can dream it, you can do it: [www.icepalacehawaii.com].
5 Happiness is a shiny, new lure. Enter a fishing tournament: Go to [www.sportfishhawaii.com] for 2007 tournament dates.
6 Most of us are simply not Ironman material. Fortunately, there’s the Tinman, which is full of heart and then some. Honolulu’s longest-running triathlon entails an 800-meter swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run. Start training now: [www.tinmanhawaii.com].
7 If you’re not marching to the beat of your own drum, well, maybe you need to learn to beat one first. Taiko Center of the Pacific and master Kenny Endo teach traditional and contemporary Japanese drumming at Kapi’olani Community College. No experience necessary: [www.taikoarts.com/classes/classes.html].
8 Blame it on Demi Moore if you think there’s something erotic about wheel throwing. Wait. Is there? The Hawai’i Potters’ Guild classes will let you find out: [www.hawaiipottersguild.org].
9 The more you know about macrobiotics, the less you’ll have to rely on antibiotics. Eating whole foods contributes to a healthier lifestyle. Learn how to prepare dishes that are delicious and nutritious: [www.macrobiotichawaii.bravehost.com].
10 There’s no such thing as instant enlightenment, but Qinway Qigong Institute ([www.qinway.org]) offers special ability rejuvenation retreats, and Wudang Qigong ([www.wudangqigong.com]) and East West Qigong International ([www.eastwestqigong.org]) offer group classes.
11There’s more to art than meets the eye, but for most people, all they get is what they see. Get more from the docents at the Honolulu Academy of Arts Afternoon Tour and Tea program: www.honolulu [academy.org].
12 Real surfers can fix their own dings. Learn how at The Ding King’s ([www.thedingkinghawaii.com]) basic surfboard repair class, held Sundays from 1-2pm. Call 596-2324 to register.
13 Take gardening to a new level: Try xeriscaping, a way to conserve water through smart landscaping. The Friends of Halawa Xeriscape Garden teach you how to plant and irrigate efficiently. Call 748-5041 or visit [www.hbws.org] for more information.
14 Want to get rid of the beer gut but keep drinking beer? Get on the H-5: [gotothehash.net/hawaii/h5home.html]. The Honolulu Hawaii Hash House Harriers perpetuate the bawdy chase tradition every Tuesday–hares away at 5:15pm.
15 Forget all the fad diets. Start with locally grown organic produce. Just Add Water ([www.just-add-water.biz]) distributes a variety of boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables every Thursday. Boxes are customizable and delivery is available.
16 Are you an O’ahu resident with an important non-commercial message? Be your own media. Get empowered (and get airtime) with training and video production classes from ‘Olelo Community Television: [www.olelo.org].
17 Bust a move. A free hip-hop class is being offered at UH-Manoa on Thursday nights from 9-10pm in Studio 4 on the second floor of the UH Athletic Center.
18 What activity can help you ‘pull in at the waist, create more muscle definition in your arms and tone the muscles in your hips, all the while strengthening the spine and pelvis?’ Give up? Pole dancing: [www.fit4agoddesshi.com]. Don’t discount the fringe benefits for your partner.
19 It’s the year of the feral pig: Beginning in February, the Department of Land and Natural Resources holds a pig control hunt (permits required) on Wednesdays and Sundays through Feb. 4, 2008. Hunting spans the entire Honolulu mauka trail system, including Makiki-Tantalus, Manoa Valley and Wa’ahila Ridge. But you can only hunt with a dog and a knife or bow and arrow. What, your dog doesn’t even know how to swim? Bow and arrow, it is. Archery Headquarters, Inc. offers lessons ($35/hour) to get you started. Call 396-6317 and ask for Jay.
Dude, where’s my paddle?
Let an outrigger canoe take you to the land of better health
If you live in Waikiki, you most likely notice the outrigger canoes gliding effortlessly down the Ala Wai Canal toward the harbor as you sit at the red light, rushing home yet going nowhere in the daily catalytic congestion. They’ll be out to sea before you make it another block.
Maybe they’ve got something here. They meet at 4pm and train until 6pm, completely missing traffic. They are out in the open, moving, instead of stuck in an air-conditioned box of metal. They are in the water where it’s calm, peaceful and quiet instead of on the road where everything is cramped and chaotic. Everyone looks fit and in shape andÃƒâ€“well, you get the picture.
The ancient Hawaiian tradition of paddling takes on many forms throughout the islands and around the world. There are different crafts, scores of races, each at varying distances. Paddling offers a great workout, mentally and physically, a connection with the ocean and its moods and inhabitants, and a social setting that promotes competition and fun.
Outrigger canoe paddling is thought to have its origins in the Hawaiian Islands, where the canoe was an extension of everyday life. In the spirit of fun and competition, they took to racing canoes, a pastime that honed the skills of the paddlers and steersman for survival in the open oceans.
Remarkably, the basic design of the outrigger canoe has remained unchanged for nearly a century, with only minor design adjustments to slim down and lighten the crafts. Fiberglass canoes have replaced traditional koa wood canoes thanks in part to their low cost and availability.
What’s left for you to buy? The paddle of course. These are usually made from timber; the design hasn’t changed much over the years. The steersman’s paddle is different from a standard paddle since it must also act as a rudder.
Joining a club
With 31 officially recognized clubs on O’ahu, finding one near your town should not be a problem. There are organizations spanning the South Shore, the North Shore, and the Leeward and Windward sides. Most clubs are geared toward racing and competition with six-man outrigger canoes, so training in and out of the water is a big part of canoeing.
Marion Lyman-Mersereau, Punahou’s Girls Varsity 1 Head Coach shares some advice for newcomers: ‘Join a club and get involved as much as possible with the water. Get on a one man, into a kayak, or even a surfboard or boogieboard. The more you know about the ocean and water and how to apply the force that will move a vessel forward, the more you’ll know about paddling.’
Whatever your athletic ability, don’t be shy. During the summer regattas, there are races for novices, experts and all skill levels in between. ‘It’s definitely a sport for everyone, every kind of body type,’ says Lyman-Mersereau, who has been coaching paddling for 27 years now. She is a firm believer that paddling helps not only the body, but the mind as well. ‘[With paddling] you can take somebody who’s not all that athletic and turn them into a champion.’
That sounds like a walk in the park, but in reality, a lot of hard work, determination and perseverance goes into paddling. She adds, ‘If you’re paddling right, your butt will get sore because you’re using your legs to drive off, and as you bend forward and twist and untwist and sit up, you’re using a lot of back and of course your arms.’
Nappy Napoleon, founder and head coach of the ‘Anuenue Canoe Club and a well-known Hawaiian-paddling legend shares the same sentiments. ‘Join a club and start with the sprint races,’ he says.
A testament to the health benefits and happiness that paddling can bring, 65-year-old Napoleon is still paddling everyday and has recently been paddling 90-mile marathon races, broken up into three 30-mile days.
The paddler adds, ‘I’ve been paddling all my life. I love to do it. If I’m not paddling, I’m at home doing nothing, fall asleep, get lazy, but when I paddle, it’s enjoyable. And now it’s getting more enjoyable because the last two years I’ve been going to the mainland to do marathon races.’
Do it yourself
Not into the competitive nature of outrigger canoe racing? There are many options to get out on the water and paddle. There are one- and two-man outrigger canoes that work on the same principles as the larger six-man vessels, as well as a slew of plastic ocean kayaks, available in different sizes and styles depending on the intended usage. They run the gamut from fishing kayaks to long distance kayaks to recreational kayaks for the whole family.
Whatever your modus operandi, paddling is a soulful sport, one that embodies the traditions of the ancient Hawaiians. It can also be a serious workout and can get your butt in shape. Either way, it will most likely take you places you’ve never been before.
O’ahu Hawaiian Canoe Racing Association
Kanaka Ikaika Racing Association
Wealth of wellness
Seniors in their Prime
Our basic health needs change as we mature, and in turn, the type and amount of food we eat and the way we exercise must evolve as well. As we grow older, a proactive approach to dealing with ailments and warding off health problems becomes paramount to good health. Enter the Primetime Wellness Fair.
Designed to increase awareness about health issues for seniors, more than 100 organizations will be on hand at the Wellness Fair to pass along info on TheBus, HandiVan, breast cancer, prostate and testicular cancer, radiation therapy, hearing problems, laparoscopic surgery, health, geriatric and adult day-care services, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and more.
Interactive health checks also will be available, so if you need a free glucose or cholesterol screening, your blood pressure checked, your risk of breast cancer assessed, your hearing and vision tested, the Wellness Fair will be the place to get all of that taken care of. Take that, Kaiser Permenente.
Stroll around and pick up the cool giveaways or chill while listening to the live entertainment. There will be seminars, cooking demonstrations and, wait for it, bingo!
NBC Exhibition Hall, March 29, 8:30am, free, 692-5106
Try one on
So you’re a senior, and you’ve just tried your first Coca-Cola. Suddenly, you’re realizing all the things that you should’ve done over the course of your life but didn’t. Perhaps you’re a commitment-phobe and you dread having to sign up for weeks and weeks of classes for an activity you don’t know whether you’ll like or not. If this sounds like you, then perhaps you should give Tryfest a try.
It’s simple. On Tuesday, April 17, the folks sponsoring Tryfest will host a slew of one-hour classes on exercising, Karaoke singing, ropes courses for seniors, dahn hak, archery, taiko drums and more. Theatre workshops led by a real-life drama specialist will also be held, along with a walk through the park with Mufi himself. Whether this becomes a hand-holding stroll through the park with the mayor is up to you, but we wouldn’t try it.
‘It’s a great chance to try something new. That’s why we call it the ‘try’ fest,’ says recreation specialist Steven Santiago. ‘Try an event and if you like it, you can register for the ten-week session and actually do it.’
This is a one-day event, so don’t miss it. Get down to the park and try something new. You have nothing to lose. Concessions will be available on site.
Central Oahu Regional Park, April 17, 9am and 12pm, [www.honolulu.gov/parks/programs/senior/index.htm]
Leisure is for everyone
The Therapeutic Recreation Unit of the Department of Parks and Recreation is a behind-the-scenes organization that is instrumental in assisting persons with disabilities, making sure there is adequate access to parks and leisure activities. They have a catchy acronym that sums up their philosophy quiet nicely–LIFE: leisure is for everyone.
And Colleen Casey, recreation specialist for the Therapeutic Recreation Unit, knows this best with 18 years of experience and service in this department. ‘Our focus is on making services accessible to everyone,’ she says. ‘We do a lot of training, getting people involved in programs which do exist and also making special events accessible.’
One of therapeutic unit’s successes has been the placement of special mats on the sand at Ala Moana Beach Park, which allow wheelchair access up to the high water mark. Two tracks are laid out, one on the Diamond Head side of the park near the concession stand, the other on the ‘Ewa side near the concession stand and lifeguard tower. In addition to the tracks, all-terrain wheel chairs are available on loan at each of those locations. Hanauma Bay Beach Park also has at least four of these adaptive wheelchairs for public use.
If you are in need of special services, Casey has this advice: ‘Make a special request when you register for a program or class and tell us what you need–an interpreter, an activity modified or special assistance. We are always getting new requests, and we do our best to accommodate.’
A walk in the park?
Stroller Strides helps new mothers get back in shape. Best of all, babies are invited.
Honolulu moms are making strides in getting in shape thanks to a workout program that’s definitely not your everyday walk in the park. Stroller Strides shows new mothers how to get in and stay in shape without having to leave the baby with a doting auntie or baby-shaking prone au pair by inviting moms to bring their new-born babes with them for hour-long power walks and body-toning exercises at parks across O’ahu.
Instructor Barb Forsyth says the classes are a way for moms to exercise and a resource for moms to meet other moms, especially those who are new to Hawai’i. The classes also help mothers get acquainted with motherhood. ‘It’s a workout and a community for moms,’ Forsyth says. ‘If people really want to get fit, they can do it through Stroller Strides.’
In what Forsyth calls a ‘boot camp for moms,’ certified fitness instructors work with mothers on building strength and cardio through power walking and sculpting the body with toning exercises using tubing and strollers.
Mothers of all fitness levels–whether they were athletes before they became pregnant or are looking to start exercising for the first time in their lives–are invited. Everybody gets a serious workout if they want one. Some moms run, some moms walk. Exercise stations set up along the circuit let the moms choose from a variety of activities, from leg lifts to push ups.
Forsyth says it’s up to each mom to decide how hard she wants to push herself. However, instructors make it a priority to be aware of the health conditions and special needs of each mother and have an understanding of prenatal and infant care.
Mothers and instructors also engage their kids through song, which is worked into the actual exercises. Forsyth recalls singing ‘Ring around the rosy’ with mothers who dropped to the ground to do pushups whenever the line ‘they all fall down’ came around.
Classes are $15 per class or $60 per month.
Morning classes at Kapi’olani Park start at 8:45am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 9am on Saturdays. Morning classes at Hahai’one Park in Hawai’i Kai start at 8:45am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Evening classes at Queens Beach on Magic Island at Ala Moana Beach Park start at 5:30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Every road has its thorn
Website takes suggestions on eliminating roadway worries for bicyclists and pedestrians
It doesn’t matter if you drive a car or ride a bike to work–at some point everyone is a pedestrian. And at least 77 percent of voters understand this or else they wouldn’t have voted in favor of a city charter amendment making Honolulu a pedestrian-and bicycle-friendly city a priority for local government back in November.
But just how do you go about making the city streets friendly to cars, walkers and bikers alike? Good question. Hopefully, it’s one that we may soon have an answer to thanks to BikeWalkHonolulu, a website set up by Sierra Club, Hawai’i Chapter, director Jeff Mikulina, to solicit ideas from the public.
Is there a walk signal somewhere that’s too short? Feel like you’re risking your life every time you cross a particular intersection? Potholes putting you off? BikeWalkHonolulu wants you to tell them about it.
Mikulina says so far folks have been underscoring the need for safe, effective bike lanes connecting major routes through downtown and across the island. Suggestions also stress a need for more educational efforts in order to change drivers’ attitudes toward bikers and pedestrians. Those ideas will be posted sometime in February.
Bicyclist Kristi Schulenberg regularly commutes to downtown from Kaimuki. Two of her biggest concerns as a bicyclist are distracted drivers and red light runners. You may be shocked to read that she’s seen drivers reading newspapers or applying their makeup. Then again, maybe you won’t be.
Schulenberg’s solution to the problem of multi-tasking and otherwise oblivious drivers: ‘As a cyclist you have to just make the assumption that no one can see you.’
As executive director of the Hawai’i Bicycling League, Schulenberg thinks that there is a lot of potential for bicyclists if the city and state can find a common ground and focus on getting bike routes in Honolulu connected to the rest of the island.
‘The more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods are,’ Schulenberg says, ‘the more people will want to develop and live in them.’
She says that with a little awareness and a lot of education, more people will be able to see bicycling in Hawai’i as a real alternative to highway gridlock.
‘Pedestrian safety makes for good community,’ she says.
Hawai’i Bicycling League