Saturday, May 19, 2012

Have Feet Will Travel

It's amazing at the number of times we hop in the car to zip from this place to the next. Two days without a car this week provided me with a wonderful time to observe and think. So many cars whizzed by me at crosswalks. People drove around in circles trying to find the closest parking spot at the mall. Driving means you sit. And driving lots creates a more sedentary way of life. What part do we play in this auto driven lifestyle we lead?

Many years ago,  communities were purposely created so that people lived near one another. Old New England towns were built around the town green where kids played and people gathered to socialize. Basic needs were provided within walking distance: groceries, dentists, schools and shops. This same concept was used to build the first cities, though parks replaced town greens. Communities, towns, and cities were set up to encourage activity.

As technology developed and the use and availability of cars went up, things changed. More and more people could and would use their cars to get everywhere.  People moved out to the suburbs, which were designed with space in mind: houses farther apart and stores were farther away. Sitting in cars replaced walking as a new lifestyle...

In many areas of the world, walking to the market every day is still a way of life. Though some communities in our country still offer basic needs within walking distance, many do not. And walking to the store is not an option for many. They may live far away from shopping. Or perhaps the local market left the city to find a bigger, more open area to build their business which forces the use of motorized travel.

As I walked on my errands yesterday and today, I thought about how my community was certainly not making foot traffic easy. Some sidewalks were uneven and ended abruptly. Not every intersection offers a pedestrian light button to push. Drivers forget to give walkers the right of way.

I know every town and city can't rebuild the entire town to prioritize its walk-ability, but something needs to change. Perhaps a city planner could come up with ideas to make things easier for us on our feet.

And we need to take action ourselves. Decide what is possible for you. I only need to walk about a mile to get a mall, 2 grocery stores, Target, restaurants, and banks. If you live in a town such as mine, where lots of stores are build near each other, consider parking at one and walking to all the others. Better yet, walk there like I did. Even simply deciding to park in the farthest away spot and walk to the store, you've racked up steps and burned a few calories.

Remember, every step matters. The vast majority of people who have lost weight and kept it off for a year or more exercise for an hour or more every day. And most of these people walk for fitness. If you're able, slip into a good pair of sneaks and Walk for Your Life!!  

Friday, May 11, 2012

See Food? Eat Food!

How many times a day do you receive messages about food? See food, food, food? Eat food, food, food?

Think about what you look at when you're driving along the roads and highways near you. How far can you drive without seeing something about food?  One mile? One block? Huge billboards and signs not only tell us where the next McDonald's is, but they also display huge pictures of burgers, fries and frosty drinks. Along with golden arches popping up everywhere. And that's just one of all those businesses with their sights set to pull you in to feed you.

At the gas station, pictures of sale priced giant Slurpee's and candy bars are posted above the pump.   When you go inside, hot dogs, pizza, donuts, candy and chips are everywhere you look. Even if you decide to pay at the pump, you can't get away from food cues.

Watching TV is constant challenge. The number of commercial advertisements per hour has certainly increased since I was a kid. (Of course, we only got 3 channels back then, too!) Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems like I spend more time waiting out commercial breaks to see The Good Wife than actually watching it. And how many of the ads are about food or someone eating? I've also noticed that only happy, slim and very fit models eat all that ooey, gooey cheesy pizza. I'm sure the message being delivered is that if I eat Pizza Hut's latest greasy creation, I'll become happy, slim and fit. Right?

Shopping for clothes at Macy's? Godiva chocolate bars at the checkout. Walking in the mall? Aromas of Mrs. Field's cookies and Cinnabons.  Scanning magazines, surfing the web... see food, food, food. How many of these make you want to eat, eat, eat?

I just wonder if this constant bombardment of food cues plays any role in the fact that 2/3 of American adults and 1/3 of our children are overweight or obese...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Just One Counter

It's hard for me. I can get things organized when I try.  But keeping them that way is a different story. I'm really convinced that some areas get cluttered all by themselves...

One of the interesting things I've discovered over the years, is that sometimes clutter can actually interfere with achieving health goals. If the kitchen counters are covered with the mail, keys and a collection of other odd things, how easy is it to cut the vegetables and prepare a meal? If you have some time to walk at lunch, but have no idea where you put your sneakers, you've lost a good opportunity to burn some calories and clear your head. 

Even just looking at clutter can cause anxious feelings for some people. And, if you are a stress-eater, living with a mess can actually trigger overwhelming feelings and overeating, which is not exactly helpful if you are trying to lose or control your weight.

You are on your way to wellness.  Take a good look around you. Does this environment support you as you strive to make healthy choices when it comes to food, exercise, and relaxation? If not, it's time to dig in and find some space in your place. But, don't take everything on all at once!

When you begin, be sure to focus on just one area at a time. Only one. A great place to start is with a kitchen counter, especially if you can't remember what color it is! Food needs to be out of sight when you walk through the kitchen, unless it's a pretty fruit bowl or a plant decorating a nice, clean area.

And when that's done, pause to enjoy that great feeling of accomplishment. Think of how much easier and pleasant it will be to prepare your next meal! You may feel healthier already. After that, who knows what you'll de-clutter next!

And now, to take my own advice...