Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dear America, Are We Really Fat?

Grant Cochrane/freedigitalphotos
The average American keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And, I hate to tell you, but it's not muscle. One gal in class last week said she notices a difference immediately when she flies from back home after visiting another country: American bodies look fat. Really? Ouch.

Who's to blame? Fast food, busy lives, lack of family dinners, multi-tasking, the demise of cooking from scratch,  unavailable produce and other healthy foods, the expense of healthy food, the unending consumption of sugary beverages, or the automation of everything from toys to the work force creating an inactive society. Even if we decide where the blame goes, what's that going to do for us, other than perhaps make us feel less at fault. But that won't help you with your own body size problems.

OK. You're tired of your excess body fat. You hate looking in mirrors and avoid anything to do with swim suits. Finding clothes that fit can be so depressing, with real emotional pain. And, as body fat increases, so does the risk for developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Not what any of us want. The good news is that as each little bit of fat melts away, our risk factor declines right along with it. Every little bit makes us healthier, happier, and we look more svelte, too.

We can't change our entire country's eating and lifestyle habits in one big bang. But you can start with yourself. And living a healthy lifestyle models those behaviors for people around you. Who knows, someone may eventually look up to you and try to live a healthy life just like you...

This week, work one or more of these 3 behaviors. Each will have a big impact on both your health and your weight:

  1. Whittle away the white stuff. But don't totally eliminate it if there is something you really love. Make it a an occasional treat. Minimize:
    1. Sugar: sucrose, fructose, dextrose, syrups, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, jam, jelly, honey, candies.
    2. White flour: bread, rolls, pastries, bagels, donuts, cookies, cakes, flour tortillas
    3. White rice, white pasta
  2. Fill half your plate with fruits & veggies before you take anything else:
    1. Colorful produce provides a wide array of vitamins, minerals & antioxidants
    2. Portion control for other things!
  3. Step it up:
    1. Move more: Park farther away, use the upstairs bathroom if you are downstairs, walk over to talk to someone at work instead of emailing them.
    2. Make a game of it: wear your pedometer and measure how many steps you take in a day. Tomorrow, try to beat that (thanks, Cindy!)
    3. Join a gym, exercise class, pick up basketball, or play active sports or dance videos with the kids, or alone!
    4. Just walk...
Fire Up!  You Can Do It!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Willing Your Willpower

Do you ever wonder where your willpower is when you need it most? Many people have shared their stories about losing their willpower and overeating.  And yet, what exactly is this thing we keep losing?

Willpower is inner strength, self-control, determination, resolve. Sometimes it's "don't-do-it" power or "don't-eat-it" power. When you set on a path toward changing behaviors such as to stop smoking or to lose body fat, it's really hard to stay motivated enough to achieve your goal. You have to be willing to walk away from your old, comfortable habit and be willing to choose a new behavior such as chewing on a carrots, or saying, "black with skim" at the coffee shop instead of "Grande triple caramel latte, extra whip." Making new choices requires thought, effort, follow-through and practice. The question is, do you have enough willpower to reach your health goals?  

Many people I work with say they may have willpower for a short time, but it goes away quickly. They aren't strong enough to refuse a chocolate frosted brownie at the restaurant or their favorite jelly donut that an evil coworker brought to work.  "If only I had more willpower..." So far, no one has been able to manufacture willpower in a bottle. 
Recently, research has put a new spin on willpower. In a study reported this month in the New York Times, psychologists Wilhelm Hofman and Roy F. Baumeister showed that people trying to lose weight reported more self control when using willpower less often. Huh?  
It's all about defense (thanks, Marcia!) Think about the game of basketball.  The experts say, in order to win, you have to play the better game of defense. Coaches and players watch game film of the opposing team to know what they'll be up against.  They plan ahead and prepare for it, creating strategies to win despite the opposing teams best defensive and offensive plays. The people who were most successful trying to lose weight, instead of fending off one urge after another, set up their lives to minimize temptations. They used their willpower in advance to protect themselves in a way, so that they avoid temptation, conserve the need to use willpower,  and "out-source" or ask others to help as much as they could. 
Willpower as stated by these researchers, is an actual form of mental energy. Your body actually uses up energy in the form of glucose as you exert self-control. Keep in mind, willpower doesn't burn enough calories to equate to earning a candy bar no matter how much self control you've used staying away from those brownies! On the other hand, if you allow yourself to get very hungry, your blood sugar levels also drop very low. At this point, you won't have have the enough blood glucose to exert the willpower you need to stick to your plan and control yourself at that buffet table Saturday night. This science supports the recommendation to have a small, healthy snack before you eat out!

When it comes to willpower, it's all about setting yourself up for success. Plan, prepare to play defend before you have to play an offensive game with your willpower.

What are your ideas to create an environment where you don't have to use as much willpower to lose weight?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dinner: Quick, Easy and Good

Sometimes I just want a meal, without much work.  Nothing fancy. Just really good, tasty food.  I don't want it to take too long to make. And, the easier the better. Tonight's dinner just happened to be one of those meals.

After kicking a nasty headache earlier today, I went for a power walk with my 6'2" husband. I've got him totally hooked on the Endomondo app for his smart phone. I've been using Endo for months after MM Groupie Patty finally got me to try it. Love it. It's great fun following my pace and time;  making a game of trying to go faster each time. It keeps you motivated. However, my husband's taken this up a level. Keep in mind, he has much longer legs. So, today we clocked our fastest time: 46:36 for 3 miles. Remind me to take my inhaler next time. All this to say, I was really hungry for a good dinner...

And it was easy!  Grilled spicy salmon, maple squash puree and mixed greens and pear salad. I used 2 favorite go-to recipes from Ellie Krieger's cookbook collection (all three are bookmarked in my Favorites collection to the left.) Individually frozen salmon fillets had been thawing all day in the refrigerator, so all we had to do was turn on the grill when we got home. John put the Sweet & Spicy Rub (The Food You Crave.) We make the rub ahead and keep it on hand on the spice shelf, which really helps for a meal like this. He popped that on the grill.

I had the hard work of opening two boxes of frozen squash, and putting them in a large white Corelle bowl,  covered it with waxed paper, and microwaved it for about 8 minutes, or until almost cooked through. Then I added the half the maple syrup and butter that Ellie's Maple Squash Puree (So Easy) calls for, and then finished heating that up in the microwave. While that was in the microwave, I started the salad.

The Spinach-Green Apple Salad (So Easy) turned into a Mixed Greens and Pear Salad, since I'm always goofing around with recipes a bit. This one was wonderful, too. I buy the clam shell pre-washed spinach, herb, arugula or mixed greens so they are always ready for a quick salad. That took less than 5 minutes.

What does it take to make a quick, easy, healthy dinner?

  • Willingness to try some new healthy recipes
  • Bookmarks and notes in your new cookbooks so you'll know where to find your favorites
    • Our family has ranked recipes on the 5 star system for years
  • Shopping and stocking your refrigerator and freezer with go-to ingredients
  • Perseverance!
Bon appetite!

Monday, January 2, 2012

How About A Non-New Year's Resolution?

I'm not the best New Year's Resolution fan in the in the world. I mean, I really love the idea of taking the opportunity of a wonderfully clean slate and declaring that THIS YEAR I resolve to be "perfect." It's a really great in theory. I've tried it many times. Back in my heavier days, I'd always declare that I'd lose weight. That would last as long as it took for me to scoop a chip into the chip dip at 12:30 a.m. at the New Year's Eve party. Then my resolution for the year was ruined.  I'd have to wait another 365 days for a change at another start to a perfect year...

I've been thinking about resolutions for a few days.  Marcia, one of our MM Groupies shared with our group last week that she uses the new year as a time of gentle cleansing, so to speak. One year she worked on gradually reducing the amount of diet soda she drank, gradually working her way down to none. She simply chooses something her body would probably do better without. I really am drawn to this idea. It would be a great approach for smoking, sugar, refined carbohydrates, coffee creamers, and perhaps even too many trips to the vending machine at work.

Another perspective came from one of the pharmacy techs that I really enjoy chatting with (I've got to have the best pharmacy team in the area---my Target team!) Ron was telling me that people seem to make resolutions that are impossible to achieve; they need to set their goal bar lower.  He humorously suggested that I should make a resolution to donate to some type of porpoise fund (great idea---I do love those animals!) But, his point was right on. We should be setting our goal bar lower, to a more achievable level, since no one seems to be able to achieve the ones they set each year...

My husband and I celebrated New Year's Day by taking an afternoon walk in one of our favorite local county parks. We even bought our yearly pass that afternoon. I guess we really have the potential to get our money's worth if we buy it on the first day of the year! It wasn't an easy walk. That 1 1/2 mile path brought hard blowing snow angling at us as we turned into the wind. As we walked, we reflected on the past year's health accomplishments and possible resolutions for the coming year.  We decided that the exercise is going well on most days: swimming, walking, and weights. And we do quite well with nutritional basics on most days: water, whole grains, fruits, veggies, healthy fat, etc.  In the end, my husband suggested that adding another fish meal each week would be good. That, I like. Simple. Easy. Achievable. And tasty, too!

Resolutions don't have to be BIG, MAJOR, things. In fact, they are probably better simply being one little step along the path of "bettering" who you are. And, working on a little step to help you on your personal wellness quest to become healthier is a great idea for the New Year!

And, now, about that idea I had to get organized in 2012...