The other day, I was playing cards and mostly losing.  Usually, such a dry run leaves me a bit down. But on that particular day it didn’t bother me at all.  Why? Because I was looking forward to a fun event,   and the game seemed unimportant. We probably get upset about losing because it threatens our self concept of a competent,  intelligent human being. But on that day, I was feeling so good about life that it didn’t matter. So, does losing really suck?

Competition is ingrained in our DNA, and part of what makes us human.  We are always trying to improve ourselves and our life, and when we win, it’s natural to feel uplifted.   But if you must win at any cost, and it ruins your day to lose, then the stakes of the game are way too high. Most players are uncomfortable around hyper competitive people who are determined to win, no matter what.   Sore losers are often rigid and unforgiving of themselves and others.  An excessively competitive person may spend so much effort to succeed that they neglect other parts of their life, which can lead to burnout and isolation

Then there are the sore winners who –by definition–gloat and high five over a victory..    Although most of us are annoyed by sore winners, we should actually feel sorry for them , because they  are showing signs of fragile self esteem.

Does losing really suck

Physical or mental games aren’t  just about coming out on top.  They’re a pleasant way to pass the time and socialize with friends. If others win while you’re losing,  think of how good they feel.  Congratulate them on their skill or good luck. Whether you win or lose isn’t nearly  as important as being with friends and celebrating their successes.

Playing games also helps ward off depression.  When you’re concentrating on winning a trick or hitting the ball,  you’re forgetting about your job, family troubles, and financial problems.    Don’t let the  fear of losing keep you from entering the competition.


Having grown up in the post depression years, I was taught to eat what was set before me.  Money was scarce, and my parents struggled to put food on the table for their 4 children.  We learned to eat “variety meats” such as hearts, liver, and kidneys.  I still have a fondness for those meats, even though I wouldn’t dare serve them to anyone in my family. But, the times, they are a changing.  Vegans are  sprouting up everywhere, from ages 9 to 90. What should you do when they come to dinner? How to please a vegan?

First, you will have to find out what type of vegetarian you’re talking about.  Strict vegans eat nothing that comes from a mother—including butter, honey and cheese.  Those are the toughest to cook for if you don’t understand that basic rule.  Easier to please vegans are those who will eat eggs, cheese and fish. It’s important to know what their diet allows.

Balck bean, corn & avocado salad is a dish vegetarians enjoy
Black Bean, Corn & Avocado Salad will please vegans.

If you’re cooking for a strict vegan who lives with you, it means you’re going for the long term.  You will have to find ways of providing  plenty of good protein for growth and maintenance of body tissues.  These will come from grains, nuts and legumes. 

Now, what should we old folks do about all of this?  Our own parents would have been horrified at the idea of indulging a vegan child , grandchild., or even a friend coming to dinner.   But as a dietitian, I can’t adopt that attitude.  I know that a vegan diet is a healthy choice, which will lead to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It won’t necessarily keep your weight down since  vegan diets include lots of carbohydrates in the form of fruits, breads, etc.  But I respect a vegan’s choices. After all,  they are taking responsibility for their own health..

I went on a vegan diet a few years ago, after visiting a cattle feed lot in Nebraska.   When I saw a cow lying dead  from heat exhaustion, I was nauseated with the thought of eating an animal. It was months before I could stand the sight of beef on my plate. But then, my old meat  addiction kicked in, and I started ordering steak at restaurants once again. However,  that experience gave me a new understanding of the vegetarian mindset.

I served this easy recipe at a family gathering that included just one strict vegan. But guess what?  Everyone at the table had seconds!


Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad



1 (15 1/2 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (8.75 oz) can whole kernel sweet corn

1 medium avocado, chopped

6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/4 cup chopped onion

juice of 1 lime

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/8 tsp. each salt and pepper


Mix all ingredients together in a medium size bowl.  (The lime juice helps keep the avocado from turning brown) Refrigerate for 2 hours and serve.



Elbows are a body part I’ve never given much thought. But then, Google decided to send me a pop up  photo of Jennifer Aniston’ s rear view  as she walked down the street.  OMG!  A shocking photo of this eternally beautiful woman reveals her wrinkly elbows. It seems she’s pretty concerned about it-even going so far as to massage them with special creams.    

Most of us see wrinkles on our faces and eyelids.  We see what childbirth has done to our tummies.    And if you are rich  or vain enough, you may consider  a face  lift, eye  lift, or tummy  tuck.–especially if your significant other has a wandering eye.

Even if your have a facelift and tummy tuck, wrinkled elbows show your age
Jennifer Aniston is seriously concerned about her wrinkled elbows

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons,  the average costs for these procedures are:  Face lift,  $7,448, Tummy Tuck,  $6,253, Eye Lift, $3,163. Those are physician’s fees and don’t include anesthesia or operating room factors. .  Assuming you’re in the business of looking young and beautiful, you might think those surgeries  would do the job.  But not if  you’ve overlooked  your hinge joints.  

You’re not really through with your back-to-youth makeover until you’ve tightened up your  wrinkled elbows and maybe your knees.   Physician’s fee  for an elbow  lift is  about $3800.

Apparently, models and celebrities have tricks for hiding  their elbow wrinkles.  They’ve learned to bend their arms just slightly so the camera doesn’t pick up on that age defining part of their anatomy.

The thought of wrinkled hinges has begun to  fascinate me. All of a sudden, I’m looking at women’s elbows instead of their faces. For the first time, I held up a mirror to observe my elbows,  and it was obvious they had some mileage on them. However, I’m not about to spend thousands of dollars  on an unpleasant and risky surgical procedure.  It seems simpler to wear long sleeves for special occasions.

I’m sure that some of my  contemporaries have visited the local beauty bar for botox injections and face peels.  And many have come back from mysterious trips to California with puffier lips and skin pulled taut over their  cheekbones.  But if  they haven’t done anything about their wrinkled elbows,  their age is still showing. Just ask Jennifer Aniston.


My first day on the job as a hospital dietitian many decades ago was memorable. One of the patients I saw while making rounds was a young man paralyzed from the neck down.  The nurses said he had been in a motorcycle accident.  He was handsome, well built, with curly blonde hair.  And he would never walk again. This was not only a tragedy for him, but for his family, and the health care providers who would have to take care of him for the rest of his life.  So now, when I see a motorcyclist without a helmet, I can’t help but wonder: Are cyclists who refuse to wear helmets selfish and/or irresponsible?


In most states, the law requires cyclists to wear helmets.  But not in my state.     In Indiana, it’s unusual to see motorcyclists wearing helmets.  Often, a male passenger will have a female on the seat behind him, hair blowing in the wind.  They look free and happy.  While I’ve never ridden on a motorcycle, I envy the joy they must feel as they embrace the outdoors with abandon.  And, I can understand why they prefer not to wear helmets.

Their counterparts in Amsterdam would agree.  Accidents involving cyclists are rare, because it’s a smaller country where people don’t drive crazily.

But, in fact, traveling without a helmet on a motorcycle in the US and  other countries has been proven unsafe.   An international study concluded that the “protective effect of helmets was about a 42 percent reduction in risk of death in a crash and 69 percent for risk of a head injury in a crash.”

Back to the hospital where I worked.   Once, a nearby nursing home was flooded, and had to be evacuated. Our hospital took  about twenty of the most critical patents.  Of those patients, three were  permanently disabled victims of motorcycle accidents,  who would live out their lives while Medicaid paid for their care.   I’m not sure whether wearing a helmet would have saved these men from this fate, but since head injuries are the most frequent cause of death and disability while driving a motorcycle, it would seem that a couple of these tragic situations could have been avoided.

I’ve never tried on a motorcycle helmet, and I’m sure they can be somewhat annoying.  But it seems to me a small price to pay to save one’s family from the heartbreak of caring for a brain damaged loved one.


When I was a child, walking to your destination was often  not optional.   It was a necessity.  Many people didn’t own a car. The bus ran every 10 minutes, and there was always a corner grocery store.  No one ran unless they were in a hurry.  But when the jogging craze started in the late sixties., running was  suddenly fashionable. And if you couldn’t run, you were supposed to walk.  Now, the sidewalks and parks are full of walkers with colorful outfits and snazzy shoes.  But  things get more complicated after a certain age.    So, here are 7 tips for walking  through the park after 80.

  1.  Wear a safari hat with netting.  This might strike you as overkill for a walk in the city park.  But mosquitoes find me attractive, and I’ve had a couple of scary reactions to bee stings.  I’ll admit to looking a bit strange with netting over my face, but most of my fellow walkers are so engrossed in their own exercise  statistics that they barely give me a glance.

    While walking thru the park, a safari hat will keep off the bugs.
  2. Spray exposed arms and legs with bug repellent.
  3. Pull on some compression knee sleeves. Yes, I have arthritis.  No, I don’t care to have my knees replaced.  The compression elastic enables me to walk without much pain even if they don’t make a fashion statement.   
  4. Carry  a   cane. You may not need  it for normal walking, but a physical therapist recommended I use one while  walking through the park, or anywhere on uneven terrain.  Why? Because an  elderly person loses their balance more easily.    Mostly, I just carry my cane, or tap it lightly on the ground.  But it  may prevent a dangerous fall.
  5. Download your favorite music into an MP3 player, and plug it into your ears. The rhythm of the music helps to  pace your steps and keeps you company..
  6. Charge your cellphone  and stick it in your back pocket.  You need it in case of emergency, and a health  app can tell how far you’ve walked,
  7. Fold a red bandana and put it in your pocket. If it’s a warm day, you’re probably going to sweat those toxins out of your body.  You’ll need something to wipe your face and eyes.


Sun Screen.   Health experts recommend at least 15 minutes of  unfiltered sunshine a day in order to get enough vitamin D.  If it’s only a short walk through a shady park, you may not want to use sun screen.

Sunglasses:  You may not need them. A safari hat shades your eyes, and sunglasses may cloud your vision.

Doctors recommend that we  walk at least 150 minutes a week as long as we are able.  Don’t worry about how you look. Just keep walking!


Last night, as I was dishing up strawberries while watching the fireworks, I hit the panic button.  We’re almost out of whipped topping.  If I don’t get to the store today,  we will be watching “Washington Week In Review” tonight with unadorned ice cream or fruit.  Help! I’m addicted to whipped topping.


It all started many years ago, when  milk was delivered to our door with a layer of cream at the top. My parents used it for their coffee, but there was plenty left over for whipped cream.  We had it on pudding, mostly, because that was cheap and easy . And we always had whipped  cream on pie.  I was skinny then, and so was my hard working mother.  But later, it caught up with her, and my older sister, too. The introduction of Dream Whip in 1957 gave them hope.  Dream Whip had only 10 calories in a serving  as compared to 50 calories in whipped cream.

By then, we were buying our milk at the store, and didn’t have the  extra cream, anyway.  My mother was thrilled to have this low calorie substitute.  In addition to using it as a topping,  she had recipes for cheese cake and cream pies and many other desserts. Still, it required some effort to get out the massive mix master and dirty up the bowl and beaters just so we could enjoy ersatz whipped cream.

The best thing that happened for dessert lovers  was the introduction of Cool Whip in 1966. .  No mix master required.  In fact, no mixing at all.  Just scoop it out of the container and enjoy.  A bowl of fresh berries  tasted so much better covered with a cloud of whipped topping. It wasn’t quite as calorie saving as dream whip, but it was low fat, with half the calories of whipped cream.  Now, we have lite whipped topping, which tastes just as good. It dresses up a plain old bowl of sugar free ice cream, even if you’re out of fresh berries.

Whipped topping It’s great for icing cakes, too.   My daughter loves this recipe for pistachio cake, using whipped topping for the frosting.

Pistachio Frosting made with whipped topping is easy and delicious
Pistachio Cake frosted with pistachio whipped topping is easy and delicious

Pistachio cake

1 package yellow cake mix

1 small  (3/4 oz) package instant pistachio pudding mix

4 eggs

1 ¼ cup water

¼ cup oil

½ teaspoon almond extract

7 drops green food coloring.

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a greased Bundt pan.  Bake at 350 degrees, 45-50 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Let cool 15 minutes before turning onto wire rack.  Frost  with pistachio whipped topping right before serving.

Pistachio Frosting:

1 small package (3/4 oz)instant pistachio pudding mix

½ cup cold milk

1 8 oz. container whipped topping

Mix the pudding mix and cold milk together in a mixing bowl.  Be sure the mix is dissolved in the milk before adding the whipped topping; ; otherwise the frosting will be gritty.

This frosting is great for holidays.   Sprinkle it with red sugar at Christmas.  Make it pink at Easter with some red food coloring.  Or serve it just plain green on St. Patrick’s day.

Hooray for whipped topping!


If you read the local obituaries, you know that more people are living longer than ever before. Modern health care and improved nutrition has extended the age that we die , far beyond  the normal age of death a century ago.  The question is, how much time, money,  and effort do you want to spend in order to extend your life.?   Do you  want to deprive yourself  of food and drink for decades,  with the hope of living longer than your ancestors.  How long do you want to live?


A strict vegetarian diet is supposed to add 6 years to your life.  It’s not clear how long you have to give up ice cream, meat , butter, fish,  honey and eggs in order  to reap the benefits.  If , at age 40, your meals consist of broccoli, carrots, beans, . and you continue to deprive yourself of yummy food for the next fifty years, will you look back and regret it? How many picnics and family dinners will have left you dreaming of a piece of fried chicken and a slice of chocolate cake?

Let’s say you decide to take the exercise and fitness route to longevity. How many hours will you sweat it out on a treadmill or weight lifting machine in a musty gym? How many months and years of time must you spend jogging through the park in summer heat and winter rain?  And then, around the age of 60, will you  need knee or hip replacement for those joints you wore out in decades of pounding the pavement and pumping  iron?

Some health researchers advise us to skip alcohol altogether.  Or, if you must imbibe, limit yourself to one glass of wine a week.  Doesn’t that make you wonder how Italians, and Germans with their beer, ever make it to 90?


No , I’m not recommending that we all become obese couch potatoes.  I simply think that moderation in all things leads to a happier life.   As a dietitian, I still believe the USDA food pyramid is the best guide to a healthy diet.  A 4 oz  strip steak  is a better choice than a 16 oz rib eye.    But you can limit your calories to around 2, 000 a day while still enjoying an occasional piece of cheesecake .

I believe that all of us should exercise at least 15 to 30 minutes a day as long as it’s possible.  Maybe a little bit more if you’ve not yet retired.

Moderation in all things might not get me past the century mark, but I’ll take eighty good years of enjoying life as I like it.