It's that time of year again. You've made your New Year's resolution: to be healthy. For the past two weeks, you're been trying to eat better and hit the gym hard to carry out your goal.
Maybe you made this resolution because you want to manage your weight or tone up certain areas of your body. Or perhaps you simply want to be able to go about your life with less pain and discomfort. Since you have made this resolution, I'm assuming you 1) care about your health and 2) must be doing a few things already to live a healthier lifestyle than most.
To accomplish anything we set out to do in life, whether it's to learn to play the violin or lose a few pounds, we need to have motivation, knowledge and skills to be successful. Let's consider ways you can use these three ingredients to achieve your 2014 resolution.
Why are you really trying to be healthier? Do you need to lose weight or are you trying to look a certain way? Do you want to move with less pain, or be able to play with your kids or grandkids without feeling lousy afterward? Whatever your motivation for making this resolution may be, keep it in mind as you continue working toward your goal.
Yup, diet and exercise. The solution is so easy that we think that we've got it, but statistics indicate that we don't. Yes, you probably are well aware of how to live a healthier lifestyle. What you need is more personalized information--knowledge for you to live a healthier lifestyle. Do you know how many calories you should be getting? Do you know how many calories you just ate in your $5 footlong? How many calories do you burn on your 20 minute walk or run?
That's why your first task should be: The Food Diary. According to the National Weight Control Registry (a study of people who maintained at least a 30 pound weight loss for one year or longer), 98% of people who lost weight report that they modified their food intake in some way to see a change in their numbers on the scale. By modifying yours, you can hope to have the same result.
So how can you modify your food intake? First, I am against "diets." I believe in making good choices. At the beginning of 2012, I weighed about 25 pounds more than I do now. I was a fitness instructor, so I worked out regularly and chose (mostly) healthy foods. Although my weight was still in the "average weight" category, I wanted to lose some a few pounds. So, like you, I made it my resolution to be "healthier." I decided I'd start a running program. On the first day, I tripped down the steps as I was heading to the treadmill. This left me resorting to Plan B: using the old Bowflex (strength training) and taking a closer look at my diet.
I kept a food diary for one week. What an eye opener! Wow, 500 calories in one white Russian? When you only need 2000 calories, that's a quarter of your daily calories in ONE cocktail!
According to the USDA MYPLATE guidelines, "active" women in my age group should be getting about 2000 a day. Although my choices were healthy, I was around 2,200.
I chose to jot my "food diary" down on scrap paper, then look up calorie content online. Those of you who are more tech-savvy may chose to keep track of your intake online. Some great options are myfitnesspal and ChooseMyPlate.gov's Supertracker. Both are free and give you great insight into where your diet could use some alterations.
Once you obtain the knowledge you need to make changes, you have to actually make the changes. You can't keep doing the same behavior and expect different results. The tricky part is that although this needed change will be different for everyone, whatever it may be has more than likely become a habit--part of your daily routine. This is where you have to go back to that motivating factor discussed earlier.
Do you really need that extra snack before bed time? If it's two cookies, maybe one cookie instead? Rather than a bowl of high-calorie granola every day, maybe switch it up to a few times a week? Whatever it is, make the change.
What's great about the food diary approach is that it is free and you can start now. Don't buy into all of the gimmicks. You already know the right way to live a healthier lifestyle. Stop trying the trendiest diets and fitness routines. Instead, find what works for you.
Want to try something new? Piloxing has now made its way into mid-Michigan! This new form of exercise combines boxing with Pilates and a little bit of dance to make it even more fun. Hour-long class includes about 45 minutes of cardio with a 10 minute butt/abs toning segment and relaxing cooldown. For more info, visit http://www.davisonschools.org/dcer.cfm. For Piloxing info, visit http://www.piloxing.com/.
Looking for a class that combines the pizzazz of Latin-style dancing with the edginess of kickboxing? Try Piloxing! Relatively new to the fitness industry, this form of exercise has already been featured on several talk shows and been incorporated into the plot lines of hit tv shows.
I am planning on offering this class through Davison's community education program next fall. Will announce new info over the summer.
One of my New Years resolutions this year was to lose 5 pounds. By BMI standards, I wasn't overweight. But I wanted to tone up a little more and shed a little extra weight I've slowly accumulated over the years. How was I going to do it? Increase my cardio and start a food diary.
Two days into my plan, I twisted my ankle. That meant no running or plyometrics, and since it was January in Michigan, I couldn't get out to ride my bike. So, I turned to weight training (specifically my old Bowflex). Much to my surprise, I started losing weight much quicker than I ever did on the running plan I was on last year. And people noticed the difference.
The food diary ended up being an eye opener too! As a fitness professional, I am well aware of which foods to eat and which ones to avoid. But you just don't realize the number of calories you consume until you are forced to be mindful of it.
So, now I have exceeded my original goal of losing five pounds and have now lost 10. No special plans, magic foods or secret weapons. Just a little more strength training and lots more mindfulness in the foods I choose. I did it, and you can too!
If you're looking for a different kind of competition this summer in mid-Michigan, check out the Metro Dash! http://www.metrodash.com/ This is a playground of grueling obstacles with short sprints in between. Perfect for Warrior Dashers who loved the climbing, jumping and strength aspects but who weren't so fond of the mud or running. Of course, I'd encourage you to try both! ;)
Want to work out, but don't have time to hit the gym during the week?
This winter, I will be working with the Davison Community Enrichment and Recreation (DCER) to offer a Weekend Warrior class on Saturday mornings. The class will include a complete mix of cardio, strength training/toning, core work and stretching. More info coming soon! http://www.davisonschools.org/dcer.cfm
Were you one of those kids who used to hide your vegetables under your plate? Maybe you still avoid them even as an adult. Research indicates you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Data and Statistics, over 75% of Americans fail to eat the recommended five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
Since most veggies are naturally low in calories, they are an ideal option if you are trying to lose weight. Vegetables contribute to your overall health by providing essential nutrients and dietary fiber, helping you to feel full. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that eating a diet that contains the right mix of plant-based foods can protect against cancers of the colorectum, esophagus, endometrium, pancreas, kidney and breast in postmenopausal women.
Although research continues to support the vegetable’s status as the healthiest food on the planet, the majority of Americans still are not eating them. Reasons vary from taste to texture to cost to simply not knowing what to do with them, especially when it comes to less popular vegetables like kale and kohlrabi.
Here are some suggestions to help bump up your daily veggie intake. You might even discover that you actually like them.
Make Them “Eggs”tra-Special
Eat your veggies early! Scrambled eggs, omelettes, frittatas—breakfast offers several opportunities to sneak in veggies along with your eggs and cheese. Make yours Southwest-themed by adding tomatoes, green peppers and scallions or Greek by mixing in spinach and onion. Mimic your favorite restaurant’s “Farmer’s Omelette” recipe by throwing in some potatoes, mushrooms, green pepper and onion.
If time is a challenge for you in the morning, try making muffin frittatas over the weekend. You can freeze them and reheat for breakfast or a tasty morning snack. To prepare, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix together 6 eggs, ½ cup of milk, 1/4 teaspoon (tsp) salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 3/4 cup chopped zucchini, 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper and 2 tablespoons chopped red onion. Pour into 12 muffin cups (lightly sprayed to avoid sticking) and cook for 20-22 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.
Toss ‘Em In
Look beyond a few leaves of lettuce and some random chunks of carrot. Salads are an excellent way to work in other veggies that you might not otherwise eat. Try tossing in a few leaves of spinach, peapods, radish slices or a little fresh dill. Experiment with different types of greens in place of iceberg lettuce—arugula, radicchio, cress, romaine, escarole. They can make your salad more flavorful and provide more nutritional value.
By now you’ve probably heard the hype about eating a Mediterranean diet. A Greek salad offers a nutritious sample of this healthy cuisine. To make a quick and easy one, toss together romaine lettuce, sliced cucumber, a few slices of beets (from a can is quickest), diced tomato, olives, slices of red onion, olives (black, green or kalamata) and feta cheese. Top with your favorite Greek dressing.
Sneak Them Into Soups and Sauces
Cooking vegetables tends to soften them up, which could help make them more palatable to you if you dislike their unusual texture. So, next time you’re warming up one of your favorite pasta sauces, try adding some diced onion and minced garlic that you’ve heated in olive oil. Or add diced green and red peppers to your meat/bean chili pot. You won’t even know they’re there!
Try this recipe for Soupe Au Navet, a type of turnip soup. Place 2 cups of diced turnips and 1 cup of diced carrots to a pot and cover with water. Boil for 15 minutes. Then add, 3 cups of diced potato and 2 chopped (medium) onions along with salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes, then mash/mix to help vegetables blend together. Cook a few slices of bacon, break into smaller pieces and add to soup mixture. Can be served with sour cream and hot rolls.
Spruce Up Your Stir Fry
Over the past decade, “create your own stir fry” restaurants have become some of the hottest chains in the country. Why not enjoy the same type of food at home?
Start by heating a wok or skillet over high heat. Add a small amount of oil. (You can use olive oil, peanut oil or sesame oil depending on the flavor you prefer.) To infuse a little bit of spice into your oil, add minced garlic, ginger or both. Next, add your meat or meat substitute, as these tend to take the longest to heat. Once they are cooked properly, you can move them to the outside of the pan or onto a plate to make more space if you need it. Now, add as many veggies as you’d like and cook until their texture is a crisp tender. If you removed the meat, throw it back in and season with a sauce (soy is popular; look for MSG-free and low sodium options). Stir to coat, and then serve with rice or Asian noodles.
Top Them Off or Take Them Skinny Dipping
If a particular veggie’s taste is an issue for you, try masking it. Top it off with a creamy, cheese sauce or submerge it into your favorite dip (ranch dressing, dill or spinach dip, hummus or salsa). You can buy these already prepared at your favorite grocery store to save time, or make them at home with fresher ingredients. You may be adding a few extra calories, but the benefits gained from adding more vegetables to your diet could mean more to your health.
Making the decision to live a healthier life requires you to change. You can’t commit to eating a better diet without altering the way you shop for groceries, plan your meals or read a menu. Sometimes these choices affect the people who are closest to you. That’s why it’s important to let friends and family know you are making a change and hopefully win their support. And who knows? Maybe you’ll even help them during the process.
Significant Others and Self Concept
In Human Nature and the Social Order (1902), sociologist Charles H. Cooley introduced the term “the looking glass self.” According to his theory, your self concept (the image you have of yourself) is influenced by the “reflection” of yourself revealed to you by significant others (parents, siblings, spouses, friends, teachers, coworkers and so forth) through their behavior—the way they treat and react to you. Surrounding yourself with people who treat you positively can help improve your self concept, while those who treat you negatively can damage it.
Self concept plays a significant role in achieving dieting success. If you and the people closest to you see yourself as a success, your chances of actually succeeding will be much higher than if you view yourself as a failure.
Types of Support Friends and Family Offer
In addition to influencing your self concept, friends and family can help you achieve success by offering various types of support. By accepting and encouraging your decision to live a healthier lifestyle, they provide emotional support when you are challenged or tempted to give up. They can offer information support by sharing news they’ve read or heard about diet and nutrition as well as appraisal support by taking an objective look at your progress and making sure you stay on track.
A study on self control conducted by the University of Georgia revealed that self-control, or lack thereof, is “contagious.” Researchers found that when subjects watched or even thought about someone they believed exercised good self-control, they were more likely to exert self-control, while those they perceived to have poor self-control influenced them negatively. The effect was so powerful that simply seeing the name of someone with good or bad self-control flash on a screen for 10 milliseconds changed the actions of research volunteers.
While other studies have found that people tend to mimic the behavior of those around them when it comes to smoking, drug use and obesity, this study at the University of Georgia is one of the first to show that self-control is contagious across behaviors. The findings indicate that thinking about someone who practices self-control by regularly exercising or eating a healthy diet can make you more likely to improve self-control on your part.
Discussing Your New Diet With Friends and Family
Communicate your new plan with friends and family. Doing so allows them to understand why you’ve decided to change your eating habits and gives them the opportunity to support you. It could also save you from feeling awkward (or derailing your diet) later on if you frequently eat meals together or if they tend to make certain foods “especially for you.”
Choosing to eat a healthier diet doesn’t mean that you can’t go out to the same restaurants you used to enjoy. You just have to be smarter about what you eat. Try to find “lighter” menus or order entrees that offer more nutritious ingredients. Find an alternative for French fries, and drink water instead of soft drinks.
If you do the grocery shopping for the entire family, try to work out a strategy that coincides with your new plan yet continues to meet the needs of others living in your household, unless, of course, they decide to follow suit.
When Family and Friends Don’t Support Your Decision
In an ideal world, your family and friends would support any decision you make that improves your health or well being. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. If your loved one is less than supportive about changes you’re making in your diet, try to figure out why. Maybe they don’t like the new foods you’re buying for your home or preparing for dinner. Perhaps they don’t understand why you are making the change. Or maybe they fear that as you change you will find fault with their eating habits.
Whatever the underlying cause may be, talk to them about your decision without being condescending or judgmental about the diet they have chosen to eat. The support of family and friends can make changing your diet a success, or seriously get in the way of your new goals. In the end, the decision is yours. Your health is important, don’t give up on it.
Body Mass Index (BMI) calculations and body fat percentage measurements are two of the most commonly used tools by doctors and other health professionals to calculate your body fat. In addition to providing specific information about your weight and body composition, these numbers are linked to the risk you could face other diseases and health conditions later in life.
While these tools are helpful, they are not without their limitations. Several factors may even cause the results of your BMI and body fat percentage to contradict each other. So, which is the preferred measure?
BMI: A Quick and Easy Way to Calculate Risk
BMI is a measure of body fat based on the height and weight of adult men and women. The concept for the index was first described by Adolphe Quetelet in the 19th century and was reinvented by Ancel Keys 1950s, who first referred to it as the “body mass index.” The number is calculated by dividing your weight in pounds (lbs) by height in inches (in) squared and multiplying by a conversion factor of 703.
To easily determine your BMI, you can use an online BMI Calculator. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relies on BMI because it is inexpensive; it only requires an individual’s weight (in pounds) and height (in inches) and a BMI chart. Although the correlation between BMI and body fat is strong, the CDC admits that this varies depending on your age, sex and muscular build. At the same BMI, women tend to have more body fat than men, and older people have more body fat than younger adults. Also, your fitness routine could cause you to have a higher BMI because of muscle as opposed to fat.
Body Fat Percentage: A More Individualized Approach
Calculating body fat percentages is a more complex (and expensive) process, but the results can offer more insight into your body’s unique composition. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease’s Weight-Control Information Network, the most accurate methods are to weigh a person underwater or in a chamber that uses air displacement to measure body volume, or to use dual energy X-ray absorpitometry (DEXA) scanning. Less costly methods include home scales that use bioelectrical impedance analysis and skin fold measurements.
Waist Circumference: The Best Indicator of Your Health During Weight Loss
Whether you refer to it as your “muffin top” or “beer belly,” extra weight around the midsection (visceral adipose fat or abdominal fat) can be dangerous to your health. The National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (NHBLI) suggests that during weight loss treatment waist circumference is a better indicator of your health than your BMI or percentage of total body fat. Even if your BMI is healthy, you could still face greater health risk for developing diseases and other health conditions if you carry excess weight in your abdomen as opposed to your hips and thighs.
According to Harvard Health Publications, one reason excess belly fat is so harmful could be its location near the portal vein, which carries blood from the intestinal area to the liver. Fatty acids released by this fat enter the vein and travel to the liver, where they could influence the production of blood lipids. This directly links abdominal fat with higher total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower HDL (good) cholesterol and insulin resistance, heightening the risk for diabetes. Other possible implications include certain types of cancer and high blood pressure.
To measure your waist circumference, find the top of your hip bone. Pull the tape measure evenly around your stomach at the level of this bone. Measure the circumference in inches. Women with a reading of more than 35 inches and men with readings of more than 40 inches are at an increased risk of developing chronic diseases.
For now, experts recommend exercise as the best way to fight abdominal fat. Doing core work can help you tighten these muscles but it will not necessarily help you reduce fat in the area. Instead, aim for aerobic exercise at least 30 to 60 minutes a day. A study conducted by the Duke University Medical Center found that participants who did not exercise had an 8.6 percent increase in visceral fat after eight months, while those participants who exercised at the highest amount (walking or jogging 17 miles each week) saw an 8.1 percent decrease in visceral fat.
Hall, DMB and Cole, TJ. “What Use is the BMI?” Disease in Childhood April 2006 283-286.
Anyone following a traditional weight loss plan knows it takes time (and a lot of hard work!) to produce results. It’s no wonder that when we see ads featuring lean, attractive models guaranteeing us that their secret ingredients can help speed up the process, we’re a little tempted to give them a try.
Under law, weight loss supplements do not need to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Just because a product has made it onto the shelves at your favorite store or is labeled as “all-natural” or “herbal” does not mean it is safe. Some are actually powerful drugs that present significant risks, possibly even death.
As of 2011, the FDA has recalled more than 40 weight loss products and issued warnings about dozens more. Several were marketed as dietary supplements. The FDA believes this only represents a small fraction of the potentially dangerous weight loss products on the market. Many do not identify their manufacturer on the label, but most are believed to have been produced in China.
If you’re still thinking about taking a weight loss supplement, use common sense and ask yourself if it sounds too good to be true. Also, discuss this option with a physician or other health care professional to understand implications for your health.
Below is a list of some common weight loss supplement ingredients along with their claims and risks.
Claim: According to the makers of HoodiaMax, hoodia gordonii originated from the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa and has been used by bushmen to fight off hunger during long trips in the desert. They claim this supplement contains a powerful molecule (P57) that is “10,000 times as potent as glucose” and tricks the brain into thinking you’ve already eaten and feel full.
Risk: No FDA warnings at this time. However, the license for this supplement has changed hands several times in the past couple decades. After South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research patented hoodia’s special “P57” ingredient, it licensed the plant to a British company called Phytofarm to develop it. Phytofarm licensed it to Pfizer, who halted their research, and passed the rights on to Unilever who ended their research in 2008.
Ephedra (Ma Huang)
Claim: Ephedra is a thermogenic stimulant that reacts with your brain to increase heart rate, metabolism and energy levels. Along with being used to “burn fat,” it has also been used to enhance athletic performance.
Risk: The FDA has warned consumers against the use of dietary supplements containing ephedra since June, 1997. Even though these products were banned after research confirmed their ephedrine alkaloids raise blood pressure and stress the circulatory system, they are still being sold under the radar.
Claims: Helps balance the yin and yang and flow of qi in the body. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and by indigenous people in the Amazon rainforest for nausea, indigestion and constipation. Currently, bitter orange is being used for heartburn, loss of appetite, nasal congestion and weight loss and can be applied to the skin to treat fungal infections such as ringworm and athlete's foot.
Risk: According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), many herbal weight-loss products now use concentrated extracts of bitter orange peel to replace ephedra. However, bitter orange contains the chemical synephrine, which is similar to the main chemical in ephedra. It is unclear whether bitter orange has similar effects.
Claims: Products containing chromium claim to melt fat, reduce appetite, increase metabolism and increase strength and lean muscle mass. Chromium picolinate is sometimes marketed as a safe alternative to steroids.
Risks: The NCCAM states that at low doses, short-term use of chromium appears to be safe for most adults. People with diabetes should be aware that chromium could cause blood sugar levels to dip too low. At higher doses, serious side effects, including kidney problems, could affect people with diabetes.
Gruenwald, Joerg. “Hoodia: Business Opportunity or Dangerous Business?” Nutraceuticals World September 2005 28-29.
Questions and Answers About FDA’s Initiative Against Contaminated Weight Loss Products. US Food and Drug Administration. Accessed: July 22, 2011. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/QuestionsAnswers/ucm136187.htm