Monthly Archives: September 2010

Presidential Fitness – Claim your Award

TO BE FIT

Ah, the joys of doing the presidential fitness test in junior high. As if we all weren’t awkward enough, mix in memories of bad P.E. classes and…well, not a lot springs to mind because I blocked them out. I do remember the mottled red t-shirt and ill-fitting, infinitely uncomfortable polyester shorts.

Looking back, it’s such a wonder why the education system can’t make physical education more adventurous and pertinent. Light anatomy, injury prevention and creative exploration of personal activity goals, could help stave off the obesity epidemic and stress levels, in part.  But this is a topic for another day. I digress.

While you don’t have to don the old itchy shorts, you can redeem your junior high years by taking the presidential ADULT fitness test. Yes, this test does keep following you. At least you don’t have to perform it in front of the school jocks. Trying this with a friend could make for a fun-filled hour of laughter… at each other. The test is filled with oldies but goodies observing general flexibility, endurance, strength, and aerobic fitness. Here it is, in brief:

  • Timed 1 mile walk
  • How many push ups can you do in 1 minute?
  • How many half sit ups (or chest curls) can you do in 1 minute?
  • Sit and Reach: Sitting on the floor, legs stretched out, belly scooped in, how far can you slide your hands along the floor?

Big fun, right? Sometimes, we have to start somewhere, and this isn’t a bad place to begin. Again, a partner in crime makes this more palatable and fun-ny.

I know. What you really want is an award – specifically from the President that says, “You made it. Go you!” Your prayers have been answered. The President is offering a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, or PALA, for those of us who can’t live without acronyms.

The program has promise. It’s a simple, realistic, attainable goal – 30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week, for 6 out of 8 weeks. Done. Award please. It doesn’t have to be 30 consecutive minutes. Spread it out throughout the day. Taking the stairs at work, counts. Walking the distance of the parking lot, counts. Every little bit adds up.

Did I mention the award looks pretty official? You could place it on the mantel next to your child’s, or your own childhood, trophies.

You can even up the ante with the Presidential Champions Challenge, building on more activity to earn points towards supremely awesome medals: 40,000 points for bronze, 90,000 for silver, 160,000 for gold, and a whopping 1 million for platinum. I’d be sure to wear it around my neck at all times, if I were you.

Once moderate movement sets in, don’t be surprised at how steadily you feel better. It doesn’t take much and it works! I move to become adults in revolt, in the name of reclaiming our presidential fitness award. If you complete it, send me your photo with your award and we will post them. Just remember, 30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week, 6 out of 8 weeks. Good luck. See you on the other side.

Advertisements

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.

127 years of electrocuting your waist won’t help.

Every few years, a journalist delves into the validity of electric belts for toning abdominals.

Since the invention of electricity, there have been those seeking out its health related powers, usually in the name of making a buck.  Decades of time, money, and hope all wrapped in a belt that shoots painful shocks into your body. Somehow electric weight loss still sparks with promise.

The collective desire to believe in the power of weight loss while doing as little as possible is so strong, it’s borderline religious in fervor.

So if you wish to worship at the alter of Saint Electric Belt, here’s my advice::

If the electric belt prayers weren’t answered in the 1800s or the 1900s, why would they be now? Could 127 years of stringing people along be wrong? Yeah, probably.

Electricity has not evolved into anything new in the past 100 years. In fact, neither have these belts. Worst-case scneario you happen to be the unlucky soul who purchased the first generation electric corset in 1883, prior to alternating currents AC/DC…you might have had a few more problems, or at least a few more burnt ends…

To sum up:

Yes. Along with a good amount of exercise, electric stimulation, used in physical therapy, potentially helps build intrinsic small muscles to aid in overall recovery.

No. Using an electric belt with no other health and/or fitness regime will not help in weight loss.

Any questions?

Next time we will explore the lives of Saint Shake Weight and Saint Diet of Milk…

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