Tag Archives: Weight and Diet

What the world thinks Healthy means

Does being healthy mean the same thing in Africa as in China? From the charting wunderkind at GOOD Magazine now you can compare.  For an upclose look at this chart and what the world thinks of the term “healthy”, just click on the image, or go to GOOD.is

Five easy rules to maintaining a healthy weight

Just for reference - the new usda food guide

Here are a few simple guidelines to maintaining a healthy weight. Body weight fluctuates depending on stress, life patterns, medications, illness, exercise routine, and other changes. It’s the ups and downs of being human. Following these general rules won’t turn you into Kate Moss, but you won’t be Fatty Arbuckle either. Remember, this blog is about balance. While it’s natural to get fits of “weight drama” given our society, try not to stress it too much. Life is too short! These are guidelines to help you discover your own unique plan.

Step 1. Cut down on sugars and chemicals you can’t pronounce. Especially refined sugars. This step also includes cutting out over-processed, ready-made foods and meals. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, it’s usually a bad sign. These often contain high levels of refined sugars and other ingredients making them palatable, but not very satiating.  Sorry, alcohol is a sugar too.  Choose your sugars wisely, and keep them to a minimum.

Try not to eat these guys often.


Step 2. Add more fiber. Lots more fiber. Beans, seasonal veggies and fruits – the less cooked the better, whole grain breads and cereals, sweet potatoes, nuts, and seeds….foods that have some substance to them. Sprinkling ground flax seed in soups is an easy way to get more fiber. Fibrous foods keep your system healthy,  your stomach full, and provides important nutrients. Fiber generally keeps things moving. Grab that apple a day.

Step 3. Eat leaner meats more frequently. Turkey, chicken, white fish, salmon, etc.  Fattier meats are ok, in moderation. Use fattier meats in smaller quantities and to enhance the flavor of dishes, such as in a stir fry interspersed with lots of veggies and plated with brown rice.

4. Drink less calories. Plain, or sparkling water, hot tea, ice tea, coffee, etc. Stay away from drinking calories. They quickly stack up. Soft drinks are the biggest culprit. It’s also a good idea to avoid drinks that purport doing your body good, like fancy flavored waters. The best place to get nutrients is directly from the source, rather than infused into your beverage.  Again, alcohol gets another nod. While one small glass of wine (3.5 fl oz) can have around 100 calories, 2 or 3  glasses several nights a week will add up quickly.

Step 5. Feel free to break the rules. This is the Mind Body Moderate, after all. If you find your healthy eating plan faltered after a day instead of the six months you initially envisioned, know that it’s ok. Rather than get discouraged, negotiate with yourself, regulating alcohol, sweets and heavier meals mainly to weekends or special occasions. Be adventurous and explore a few new foods you normally pass by. Everybody’s body is different and processes the world around them differently.  Understand how your body works best. If it’s not your own recipe, it most likely won’t last. Make it your own!

Breaking the Rules with Steak Frites at home…yes, those are Mc Donald’s fries.

Fast food is cheap. Fat is expensive.

The Brookings Institute released a study this week on the direct and indirect costs of American obesity. The number being thrown around is somewhere around 215 billion dollars…an incomprehensible number that doesn’t mean much at a glance.

Let’s break it down in a few ways that make more, if not odd, sense.

The biggest portion of this directly relates to health care costs. An extra 147 billion is spent on obese adults every year compared to those who are of healthier weight. Another incomprehensible number, it basically means overweight people are more likely to have everything from diabetes to bad knees, and even depression.

The less direct costs are more fascinating. Disability and premature death costs seem more obvious compared to the bizarre 66 billion dollar cost in lost worker productivity associated with obesity.  Overweight people struggle with absenteeism due to health related issues, and  “presenteism” – decreased productivity while at work. Other work related expenses includes higher health insurance and benefit costs.

Fuel and transportation costs are other indirect, yet expensive, costs of obesity. Heavier loads require more fuel, and bigger vehicles. More fuel also means more greenhouse gas emissions, equaling big bad things for the environment.

The most removed and greyest area of the study looks at socio-economic status or “human capital”, with obese people being less likely to attain higher levels of education, marriage, and higher income potential. Again, this research is more difficult to verify and track.

So what do we do? Suggestions run the gamut and include moving to a walking neighborhood, where people tend to be, on average, 7 pounds less.

It is important to remember at the end of the day this study impacts all of us directly, with research indicating two-thirds of adults in the US now overweight
including one-third who are obese. At this time, there is no end in sight to the economic expenses which are anticipated to expand with our waists in upcoming years. Little changes will help, but a major paradigm shift in the way we think of food, health, work and life is needed to make a true difference.

Food for thought

We could talk specific foods ingested, numbers of times a day, eat this-not that, caloric intake, etc.  Sure. Dissecting nutrition makes a difference. Knowledge is power, but over-think it, and you might end up neurotic about food. The Puritanical roots of our all or nothing culture places food into good and bad categories, fostering patterns of emotional eating, binging, guilt complexes, eating disorders, etc.  It’s no way to live and eventually we all crash and burn.

Truth is lots of things lend to well-being. It’s not just calorie counting on a plate and minutes counted at the gym. We need activity (unplug more often), natural nutrition (processed foods sparingly), stress regulation, and an understanding of societal ideals on daily life.

BUT…

If you are looking for one big universal answer on how to best handle food and nutrition, I have it. Going back thousands of years, when it comes to food, it’s the real secret to a healthy, fitter you, in mind and body:

Relax. Take pleasure in your food.

Love food and all the ceremony and community that goes with it. Adore wine, meat, bread, chocolate, avocados, whatever. It’s fine. Heck, it’s healthy!  Relax already about calories. And please! Stop forcing down quick bars with everything you need…you don’t really need it. Invest time into real food as much as possible. Use mealtime to celebrate seasonal delights. The appreciation comes from the same place, whether it be the perfect granny smith in October or the perfect bite of a dark chocolate. Taking pleasure in food creates a magical experience where flavor rules over quantity. The need for more diminishes.

This is not to say it is necessarily an easy switch. It’s a lifestyle change. Mealtime, food, and even community must be given more space in our daily routines. To encourage such dietary shifts, there’s a growing movement building awareness around food called mindful eating. I reserve a certain amount of reticence with regards to the introduction of new diets and food rules.  With the best of intent, such guidelines can paradoxically create more anxiousness over food and, ultimately, failure. It’s a strange conundrum, but just letting go and trusting our own instincts often makes the biggest difference. If you do require more reading on this topic,  here is an essay on tuning into your own eating instincts. Humans are social creatures, where community and food have played a role throughout time. The learning curve should be small.


The most used cultural food case study, looks at the French.  A Guardian article from 1994 quotes stats from the French government’s Committee for Health Education (CFES) which found that eating is still very closely linked to a national heritage of consuming good food for pleasure. In France, (in 1994) 76 per cent ate meals prepared at home, with 75 per cent eating at the family table.  The French typically spend two hours over lunch and they don’t eat in front of the television. The French eat slowly, enjoying both the food and the company.

In fact, most Countries have some cultural heritage in and social connection to their diet. Notable places include Japan, China, Greece, and Italy.

Food is not ingested for energy alone, but a source of personal and national pride, with time and care taken to prepare meals.  Rich or poor, this pride is for everyone. Due to seasonal ingredients limited quantities and time available the focus of meals is on little plates with big flavor, encouraging one to savor every bite.

Now here’s your food for thought:

Why not create your own personal culture and traditions around food. Be creative and enjoy all the pleasures it offers year round. Food should be fun. Your waist might respond in kind, so go ahead and feel free to play with your food.

Cheers


Marketing With Food Dares


Some people consider eating chicken feet and head cheese a dare, but in the US it’s not so much about oddities as it is about going big. With popular shows like Man vs. Food and the recent onslaught of fast food dares, it becomes obvious the recipe for success comes down to extreme comfort food, extreme Americana, and extreme calories…all in the name of entertainment, of course.

Perfect example: The Double Down

KFC Double Down

KFC’s  testoterone alluring monstrosity got the attention they had intended, making headlines all over by taking two pieces of fried chicken and using them to sandwich two slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese, two slices of bacon and a special sauce. An LA times blog says it has 800 calories 46 grams of fat, while the Washington Post says only 540 calories with 32 grams of fat. -90 calories lighter than McDonald’s Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich. It contains 1,380 milligrams of sodium while 1500 a day or less is recommended.

Carl's Jr Footlong Burger

Most recent to the extreme caloric scene is the Carl’s Jr. hamburger footlong. That’s right. 8 patties of meat and probably 1500 calories. Nutritional information is not yet available.

Friendly's Grilled Cheese Burger Melt

Stephen Colbert recently touted the news of Friendly’s new grilled cheese burger melt. At 1500 calories (seems to be the standard) and 2090mg of sodium, I think no one can express their excitement over this sandwich like Colbert can. I urge you to check out his food thoughts on the grilled cheese burger melt here.

When did this madness begin?

In recent memory, the team making calories work for them in the biggest way was the Gateway Grizzlies, a minor league baseball team in Southern Illinois, just outside of St. Louis, MO.  The Grizzlies, known more for their death-defying ballpark food than their hitting, touched off the craze in 2006 by adding a $4.50 donut burger to the concession lineup. Going the extra mile, the Grizzlies deep-fried their glazed donut before slapping it on the bacon cheeseburger. Attendance soared.

But wait! It’s just keeps getting better! Moving the trend ever forward, the marketing gurus for the Grizzlies now sell a new gutbuster made of 1.6 pounds of meat topped with salsa, sour cream, chili and Fritos. Cost: $20 and 4,889 calories.

I’m gonna stick with chicken feet. A 60 calorie dare that’s still hard to swallow…mainly you just chew.

Magic Weight Loss and Brain Power Tips

Yeah, No.

Not really. No magic here. Mentos and diet cola looks pretty magical too, but it’s not. If anyone offers you magic solutions to health, you might as well be buying the Brooklyn Bridge. Has the price gone down on it yet?

There are only habits. Stopping old rituals and starting new routines. Doesn’t that sound daunting? It really doesn’t have to be. Start small. Go slow. Keep steady. Yeah, not glamorous, but it works.

Think Slow and Steady


Invest 10 minutes everyday in a new habit. No more.

Below are a few opportunities to start making changes. Pick only one. Who we kidding, we all want to do more. Go ahead and try a few, but stick to one. If you force too much too soon seeking immediate results, you will crash and burn. If you can keep that one new habit for a 2 months, then perhaps add another. This slow steady method goes a long way in helping maintain better mental and physical health.

  • Just 10 minutes of exercise first thing in the morning can increase your metabolic rate for the rest of the day.
  • Up your consumption of water throughout the day. Drink sugary beverages sparingly.  Be fully hydrated. This can increase your metabolic rate.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Big ugh, I know. Make it more interesting. Go seasonal. Get to know your local farmers. Frequent the farmers market or local grocer. Ask how they like to prepare the harvests of the season. My personal favorite way to eat most veggies is a quick sautee in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Bam.

  • Eat more fats. The good kind. As in HDL, not LDL.  Latest research suggest that cholesterol lowering foods such as avocados, almonds, olive oil, soy beans, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, chili peppers, oat bran, beans (kidney, pintos, black, navy, etc.), onions, fatty fish, and flax seed play a crucial role in lowering LDL and sometimes raising HDL levels. These foods fill you up and help your cholesterol stay healthy.
  • Drink Green Tea. This one is personal.  Although skeptical of touting weight loss benefits, green tea has been helpful in curbing sugar and nicotine cravings.  A little green tea after dinner helps in digestion and is a wonderful winter ritual rounding off dinner with a mandarin orange or two as dessert.
  • Journal 10 minutes a day. Huh? Yup. Get a notebook. Vent your anxieties, frustrations, write down your hopes, dreams. List three thing you are grateful for everyday. These little moments help clear the brain and make the rest of your day smoother, creating peace of mind and less stress.

Take your time and enjoy the process. As enticing as quick fix solutions can be, slow and steady habit shifts will keep the body and mind healthier throughout a lifetime.

TIME Magazine, what have you done? Exercise Won’t Make You Thin?…ugh

a_wexercise_0817

Maybe while standing in line at the store you glanced through the recent TIME Magazine cover story:

Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin

This bummed me out in the same way Tracy Anderson does. The title is misleading, and the article could be construed as confusing to people who are looking for a simple answer. (Despite this, it does contain interesting information and research.)

The title alone, Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin infers we should all stop moving, because it’s not helping, and instead focus on what we eat. The title supports the all or nothing mentality so often held in America, seeking the path of least resistance.

Call it exercise or a walk to the store, either way, Please keep moving!

This article is really about the psychology of diet and exercise in the US, and the definition of the word “exercise”.

The truth is, exercise, or activity or movement will help you lose weight. It is a basic formula: less caloric intake plus more energy expended equals weight loss.

As stated in the article: The problem ultimately is about not exercise itself but the way we’ve come to define it.

AMEN! If nothing else, this is the statement you should take away from the Time Magazine article.

You may work out two or three times a week at the gym, an hour each time, but does your workout become an excuse to eat more? And how do you spend the other 166 hours that week?

Think moderation. You would be better off, moving all day long, albeit low intensity. It’s healthier, less impact on your body and better for the mind.

Have you ever been on a trip to a big city where you are constantly on the go while at the same time enjoying the city’s culinary delights, and upon returning home, are surprised to find you’ve lost weight? It is possible to enjoy life and stay healthy. Healthy living is not based on sacrifice and rewards. (Does this stem from our puritanical roots?) No matter how you slice it, the American perspective on health is a bit off.

Granted, it’s a big country. Few places in the US are navigable by foot like New York or San Francisco, making it harder to stay active throughout the day.  Use some creative elbow grease. Walk in the evenings after dinner with friends, take the steps, not the elevator, create a living environment and lifestyle that allows you more room to move and not just remain in the car or at the desk 10 hours a day. It’s a tall order, but the doing falls on you, and it can be done.

And yes! If you enjoy walking on the treadmill, then do it. If you enjoy going for a lap swim or taking a pilates class, then please go for it. Don’t stop. The key is to enjoy. Enjoyment keeps your brain happy, heart healthy, and stress levels down.

However you add a bit more movement throughout the day, always keep in mind moderation and enjoyment. Life is too short.

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