One of my clients was recently quite shocked to hear that I don't take a multivitamin. I do take probiotics and vitamin D on a daily basis, but have never gotten into the habit of taking a multivitamin. I'm not a nutritionist and thus am not going to make any recommendations. But as luck would have it, the Wall Street Journal published a debate in it's April 12th Big Issues edition between Dr. Meir Stampfer, a professor at Harvard Medical School and Dr. Eliseo Guallar, a professor at Johns Hopkins University. We'll skip the long and short of their debate and get right to the short version.
Dr. Stampfer sees multivitamins as low-cost nutritional insurance. He believes that multivitamins are no substitute for a healthy diet and rank much lower in importance than not smoking, getting adequate exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. But he also believes they can be a small part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Dr. Stampfer does site the Physicians Health Study II which found an 8% reduction in cancer risk for multivitamin takers.
Dr. Guallar on the other hand worries that individuals may see taking a multivitamin as an easy fix for a poor diet that could encourage a false confidence. He also sites the lower cancer risk of the Physicians Health Study II, but sites a second study showing that unhealthy dietary habits caused 300,000 deaths from heart disease, stroke and diabetes in 2012. Therefore, he would prefer to keep people focused on diets rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and fish, and all of the behaviors which help them avoid a wide range of preventable diseases.
As a cancer survivor, I like the idea of reducing my risk even if only slightly. So on my next trip to the grocery store, I think I'll tuck a bottle of multivitamins in among the fruits, veggies and legumes. I can stop at the store on my way home from the gym.
I spent a good portion of the day yesterday reading “Mindless Eating” by Brian Wansink. It’s a good read and a wonderful alternative to the many diet plans that exist today. I thought I’d share a few of the high points of the book.
- Over 95% of people who lose weight on a diet gain it back.
- When on a diet, our bodies and minds fight us. Deprivation diets that cut daily intake from 2000 calories to 1200 calories a day are stressful and can slow down our metabolism. But the body doesn’t really notice a smaller reduction of 100 or 200 calories per day.
- In order to reduce our calories by 100 to 200 per day, we need to re-engineer our personal environment and set up either “tradeoffs” or “policies” that work for us.
An example of a “tradeoff” would be the following: “no potato chips unless I exercise today.”
An example of a “policy” would be the following: “I don’t eat second helpings of any starch. If I want a second helping it has got to be fruits or vegetables.”
- The author suggests that you pick 3 policies or tradeoffs that you are sure you can follow each day and try to lose weight slowly as in .5 lbs. per week. This can lay the foundation for long term habits that can help someone lose 24 lbs. over a year and keep the weight off.
Here’s some more food for thought.
- We consume more from large packages.
- Increasing the variety of foods increases how much everyone eats.
- Simply thinking of food can make us hungry. When we think of food, the pancreas starts to secrete insulin which lowers our blood sugar level and makes us hungry.
- The more hassle it is to eat (like pomegranate seeds or a whole artichoke), the less we eat.
- The longer we sit at a table, the more food we are likely to eat.
- If we eat with one other person, we are likely to eat 35% more food. If we eat with a group of 7 or more, we will generally eat 96% more than when we are alone.
- The best part of a dessert is the first two bites.
There is lots of blame to go around for our “obesigenic” environment. But on the other hand, with more than 200 daily decisions that most of us make about food, constantly tracking every bite might work for the short term but can grind most of us down for the longer term. The gist of this book is an effort to get readers to go from mindless overeating to mindless better eating. Wansink states that “the best diet is the one you don’t know you are on.” I highly recommend this book to anyone trying to lose weight. If you don’t buy the book, at least go to his website which is www.mindlesseating.org.
A few weeks ago I wrote about purchasing Tony Horton’s 10 Minute Trainer and was waiting for delivery. Well, I do have it and while it looks great, I can’t provide a review yet as it has been sitting on my dining room table. Now this doesn’t mean that I haven’t been exercising. I’ve been working out quite a bit at the studio where I work and going to my favorite yoga classes. I know that this defeats the “10 minute” purpose, but I guess this all comes down to developing a new habit. Even a 10 minute workout DVD can sit on a dining room table until the habit is there.
Today I’d like to write about Drs. Oz & Roizen’s “You Losing Weight.” I'll critique the book as soon as I get a copy. But I recently received a beautiful flyer from Prevention Books and was enticed to return the postcard and get a copy directly from Prevention. The flyer offered a 21-day preview with some bonus books (Secret Age Erasers, Supermarket Survival Guide, and Doctor’s Home Remedies) for 4 easy installments of only $7.99 or a total cost of $31.96. A nice offer overall, but when you’ve got 2 sons in college like I do, every penny counts. So I went to Amazon.com to add it to my wish list. I use Amazon’s wish list to remember books that I might want to purchase later or borrow from the library before I make a purchase. To my great surprise, I found “You on A Diet” on Amazon in paperback for $7.77 and on Kindle for about the same price.
When anyone sells us anything, the best way to get us to act is to appeal to some "pain" or problem that we can't seem to resolve. So if you’ve been trying to lose weight unsuccessfully for a while, a nice flyer that states that you can “eat your fill and fit into slimmer jeans” has as much appeal as a pint of Ben and Jerry's to a starving dieter. But before you put your wallet on a diet as well, check Amazon and your local library first. Slimmer jeans plus a fatter wallet sound like the best of all worlds to me.
Early this morning, I turned on the TV and became fascinated by an infomercial promoting Tony Horton’s 10 Minute Workout. I really like the idea of exercising in 10 minute sessions because a short workout can be both effective and doable. After doing a bit of exploring, I discovered that the basic 10 minute workout can be purchased from both Horton’s Beach Body website and Amazon. If you are pressed for time and could benefit from short workouts, should you consider this purchase? Well, I did buy the basic plan thinking that it might help me squeeze some extra activity into my day. I’ll write another post after I’ve had the opportunity to try the workout, but here is my initial view of whether it’s appropriate for most exercisers.
I love the idea of squeezing 2 or 3 short workouts into those inevitable 10 minute periods between major projects, visits, cooking, etc. And the cost of the basic program at $79-$89 is around the cost of just one personal training session in the Chicago area. However, I have two concerns with the program. First, the exercises in the infomercial were mostly multi-joint exercises. Working out two groups of muscles simultaneously can be very efficient, but if you don’t have good body awareness it can be challenging to do safely and with good form. Second, all of the individuals demonstrating the exercises were able to do so with perfect body mechanics. What happens if your knees cave in because your glutes are weak, or your knee and lower leg roll in because you are flat footed? What happens if your shoulders are rounded from hours spent working on a computer? What happens to many is that instead of looking like the cover model on Men’s or Women’s Health in 8 weeks, they find themselves injured and visiting the physical therapist.
In years past, we were most likely to see physical compensations only in people over the age of 40. Nowadays, we see them in individuals of all ages (even teens) due to hours sitting at computers and overtraining in youth sports. All in all, if you don’t have really good body awareness or are completely free from mechanical compensations, you may want to get some personal training before starting a challenging exercise video program.
If you know that your body awareness is keen and your body mechanics are healthy, then the 10 Minute Workout might work for you. If you aren’t sure but want an effective and safe home workout, please look at my events tab under this website for my “Workout at Home” package. If you are interested and live within 10 miles of my home suburb of Wilmette, IL, I’ll be happy to work with you.
When I go to our local running store to buy shoes, it isn’t unusual for the staff to ask me if I pronate. I do, and for years I’ve sort of worn that label like some type of merit badge. I wear orthotics and buy running shoes with good arch support, but why should this matter anyway?
First of all, pronation means that you don’t have much of an arch in the inner foot. Sometimes this is referred to as having “flat” feet. It isn’t unusual to see someone who pronates only on one foot, or even pronates (rolls in or flattens) on one foot and supinates (rolls to the outside) on the other. Pronation can impact all of the joints above the foot and generally makes the lower leg and knee roll inward, can make the same side hip droop and sometimes causes elevation of the same side shoulder. When the joints are misaligned due to pronation, walkers and runners can experience shin splints, low back pain, knee pain, plantar fasciitis, pain in the joint of the large toe and tendonitis in the lower extremities. Furthermore, it takes a lot more energy to run or walk when the body is misaligned. If you know or think that you pronate, there are a few simple things besides orthotics that can help correct it. First, you can sit with bare feet on a small towel and scrunch up the towel by curling your toes under until the towel is bunched up under your foot. You can also try picking up marbles with your toes or doing standing heel raises with your toes rotated in (pigeon toed). Pronators can have tight calf muscles so a standing wall stretch might help. Sometimes knees roll in because of weak glutes as opposed to or in addition to pronation and strengthening the glutes might be helpful. You can do so by lying on the floor with your soles down and knees up and heels fairly close to the butt. Your ankles, knees and hips should be in a straight line. Contract your butt muscles and lift your hips off of the ground (bridging) and lower them back to the floor. You can repeat this for 12 to 20 times as long as you can do it pain-free. If you are doing this correctly, you should feel a decent contraction in the glutes (butt). If this is too easy, lift one leg off the floor with the knee flexed and do the bridging exercise with one leg at a time. Whatever you do, please don’t ignore pronation because it can cause pain and dysfunction from the ankles on up.
Takeaway: Got the winter treadmill blues? Try http://jog.fm/ for a playlist that matches your run/walk/jog speed. And if you’re stuck inside because of foul weather, try ramping up the incline to increase resistance on the treadmill so it feels a bit more like running or walking on the ground.
As I walked to work at 6am today in a wind chill nearing zero, I started thinking of how futile it would be if one of my New Year’s resolutions was to diet. After a 20 minute walk into a freezing Lake Michigan headwind, I treated myself to a small mocha coffee and enjoyed every sip. If your resolution is more exercise and the cold is preventing you from getting out, I’m sure it’s not preventing you from taking a shower, brushing your teeth and talking on the phone. The following exercises won’t replace cardio, but they will address three areas of weakness that I frequently see with my clients.
- If you wash and rinse your hair twice when you shower, do the second wash with your non-dominant arm and hand. If you’ve got weak rotator cuff or shoulder muscles on your non-dominant side, you’ll be surprised at how fatigued they can get with a vigorous wash and scalp massage.
- Stand whenever you talk on the phone. Even better, pace and talk. And even better yet, put your back against a wall, slide down the wall into a squat position and maintain an “air bench” while you talk on the phone.
- Improve your balance by standing on one foot while you brush your teeth. You can alternate feet if you like. Though if you can’t stand on one foot for at least 15 seconds, it might be time to see a trainer about working on the core and glute strength necessary for good balance.
Takeaway: Since I also work as a wilderness guide, I love being outdoors in all temps and actually have friends who guide trips to both the North and South Poles. However, we can all be at risk for frost bite and hypothermia when exercising in cold weather. Here’s a link to a handy chart from the National Weather Service that can help you decide if it’s safe to venture out. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/windchill/index.shtml
One of my favorite tricks when I’m running or cross country skiing is to wear a light jacket so that I don’t get overheated and to keep a warmer “puffy” jacket in a small backpack. When I start to cool down at the end of my session, I put the heavier jacket right over my lighter wear.
Last week I wrote about why you might not want to join a gym as part of your New Year’s resolution. Now I want to be clear about the fact that I’m not discouraging gym membership for those who will truly use it. However, I’ve seen so many people sign up for year long memberships and quit after four to six weeks that I’d just like everyone to slow down a bit before they get stuck with an automatic debit to their credit card every month for a year.
So let’s say that you don’t belong to a gym, aren’t ready to commit to personal training or joining a gym but could use some help getting started with your New Year’s Resolution to get healthier. Or maybe you’ve been going to group exercise classes and want to exercise at home because you are worried about the current flu epidemic. Here are a few resources you might want to take a look at.
- The CDC has some very basic videos that are appropriate for people who currently are not exercising or haven’t exercised in some time. They include cardio suggestions and basic weight lifting exercises that can be done at home. You can find them at www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/videos/index.html
- Maybe you have been working out, need something a bit more intense and are confident you can do so in good form. Check out http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/01/25-of-best-you-tube-workout-videos.html for 25 Utube workouts with everything from Jillian Michaels to Zumba.
- Finally, for 71 ways to lose fat and be healthier in general, check out http://blogs.menshealth.com/bellyoff-nutritionist/71-ways-to-lose-fat/2012/06/05/?cid=sf_twitter#ixzz2HfsZQVk9
Takeaway: You can get a free 15 day trial to Yoga Vibes (www.yogavibes.com). If your streets and paths aren’t a sheet of ice, you’d like to start running and have a smart phone, try C25K (short for couch to 5K). I think I paid a few bucks to get the version that excludes ads, but it’s a good way to get ready for spring races.
I’m not sure what percentage of the population includes losing weight and getting fit as a New Year Resolution, but I’d venture a bet that it’s well over 50%. One of the first steps that many people take is joining a gym. When I worked for a large YMCA, there were so many people on the cardio machines at 6am for the first 6 weeks of the year that my ears actually hurt from the noise and I started wearing ear plugs. But by mid to late February, most of the “newbies” had dropped out and we were back to the three dozen or so regulars who had been working out for years. If you are thinking of joining a gym as part of your New Year’s Resolution, here are a few things to consider.
- See if you can “pay as you go” for a few times before you sign a month to month contract. Many gym’s will let you work out for $15 or so a time. If you commit to paying as you go for 4 to 5 sessions before signing a costly contract you can experience the parking, commute, staff and classes and see if you like it enough to make the big money commitment. If you spend $60 for four visits, maybe you can negotiate that $60 off the yearly cost if you decide to join. It can't hurt to ask.
- Remember that the job of a membership advisor is sales. If they offer you a great deal that is only valid for one day, walk away. I get at least four emails a month from local gyms so there will be plenty more deals to come during upcoming months.
- An annual membership can cost anywhere from $600 to several thousand dollars per year. You can hire a personal trainer for four to six sessions to give you an individualized workout that you can do at home. You can probably complete your home workout in the time that you might spend driving back and forth from the gym, parking and getting in and out of the facility.
- If you still want to join a gym anyway, see if you can wait a few months. Organizations are more likely to waive membership fees and give you a better deal when they aren’t swamped with people wanting to join.
- If you have dual goals of working out and reducing debt, look on Amazon.com for the top selling workout videos. Before you buy, see if your local library has them on the shelves. And if you have cable, you are likely to find quite a few good exercise classes on TV.
- If you do eventually sign up for a gym, see if you can post somewhere for a workout buddy or get a friend to join with you. A close friend of mine has been working out at a gym 3 xs per week for years at 5am because she goes with her sister.
Takeaway:Check out “The Costco Connection” magazine January 2012 edition for Costco members for a great article about your rights as a consumer when joining a gym. And here are a few more cost cutting ideas for getting more activity into your life. 1) See if you can rent snowshoes somewhere and get out in the winter. Nearly anyone can snowshoe. 2) If you have a cleaning service, cancel them for 3 months, vigorously clean the house yourself and save the money for airfare to some place you've always wanted to go. 3) Go to an animal shelter and volunteer to walk the dogs.
A study in 2000 from the New England Journal of Medicine shows that most people gain about .8 lb. during the holiday season. This weight gain may not seem relevant but when the same subjects weighed in a year later, not only had they maintained the holiday gain but they also ended the year 1.4 lbs. heavier. Over a period of 10 years, this adds up to a cumulative weight gain of 14 lbs. Here are 12 ideas that might help you get through the season minus .8 lbs. This list is meant to get your creative juices flowing because the best ideas are the ones you come up with on your own. So write your own or check off the ones on my list that you like and rate your likelihood of success on a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being completely unlikely and 10 being absolutely certain of getting it done. If you score less than 7 on any idea, choose another idea that ranks at least a 7.
- Schedule your bed times like appointments so that you are sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
- Follow every alcoholic drink that you consume with an 8 oz. glass of water.
- If you lose your willpower for bad foods after drinking alcohol, drink sparkling water instead.
- Eat an apple with one tablespoon of almond butter 30 minutes before leaving for a party or dinner. Or just eat the apple.
- Choose one or two small desserts at a party, eat just 3 small bites of each and find a way to discretely dispose of the remainder. (Remember that chocolate and grapes are toxic for dogs so slipping either to a begging pet is an absolute “no-no”.)
- Get 30 minutes of cardio even if you have to break it up into 10 minute segments. Try marching, walking, climbing stairs or jumping rope. You might even offer to walk a neighbor’s dog if you know that they will be away for a day. Or get on a stationary bike and watch TV.
- Eat slowly by chewing every bite of food 30 to 40 times.
- If you want to eat candy, take half a serving and cut each piece in half. For example, there are 9 pieces of Hershey’s kisses for 200 calories a serving. Take 4 and cut each in half for 8 small pieces at 88 calories.
- Track your food intake. There are many smart phone aps for this or just buy a mini notebook and write your foods down with a pen.
- Plan to eat 5 to 9 fruits and vegetables a day. Start breakfast with frozen berries on your yogurt or cereal and add an orange. Have an apple mid-day and veggie soup or salad for lunch. Start dinner with a cup of veggie soup and you are well on your way.
- Do circuit weight training or cardio interval training and get a session in every other day.
- If it’s safe, get out and do an activity that you usually only do during warmer months. Bundle up and go out for an hour of tennis, biking or a walk on the beach. Invite friends and neighbors to a park for Frisbee, soccer or football. It can really be fun to dress in layers and get out in the chill. Of course, if you have snow, there are many options for fun.
Most are small ideas, but combining two a day for the next 10 days might stave off that .8 lb. And we can all stick with anything for just 10 days, right???
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Years!
In my last post, I wrote about my favorite aunt who was in the ICU with pneumonia and then septic shock. Sadly, we attended her funeral today. You may recall the movie “The Perfect Storm” about the sinking of the 72 foot fishing boat the Andrea Gail off the coast of Massachusetts. This massive storm was caused when two powerful weather fronts and a hurricane collided creating a nor’easter somewhat similar to the recent hurricane Sandy. The Andrea Gail was hit by a gigantic rogue wave while trying to return to safe harbor.
My aunt’s perfect storm was caused by the grief of losing her husband in July, a bad cold virus and a fatty liver weakened by obesity that just couldn’t filter her blood and get rid of harmful bacteria. In my mind, septic shock was my aunt’s rogue wave.
My aunt was the rock that held our large, extended family together and we will miss her terribly. I’m writing this particular post in the hope of providing some suggestions that might help readers keep their immune systems strong and have a fighting chance against serious infection.
First, do everything you can to maintain your gait speed as you age. A recent study showed that individuals who have a fast decline in gait speed as they age have a 90% greater risk of mortality. If we walk slower, our lung capacity decreases. If our lung capacity decreases, we may be at a higher risk for respiratory infections and other health issues. So it is critical to maintain or even increase gait speed. For people who just can’t walk, getting on a stationary bike or swimming could substitute.
Second, ask your doctor to test your C-Reactive Protein. C-reactive protein measures inflammation in the body and inflammation can cause a number of diseases. This simple blood test may be covered by your health insurance and generally isn’t expensive. If you have a high level of inflammation, try to lower it. There are many ways to naturally lower inflammation including flossing daily, avoiding refined carbs, taking curcumin supplements, Michelle's Miracle tart cherry juice (available through Amazon) and exercising regularly.
Third, if you are struggling emotionally for any reason, seek out help. My aunt was suffering terribly from the loss of her husband and skillfully hid the true depth of her grief from even her closest friends and family. We only realized how difficult life had become from clues she left behind. Wellcoaches is now offering a 12 month “Organize Your Mind to Thrive” self-coaching course that can help master personal health and well-being. You can investigate the course at www.wellcoaches.com. The fee is $30 per month with an initial 3 month commitment. This course is not meant to address mental health issues, but could be a proactive step toward weathering future storms.
Life and health storms will come for all of us. With some good self-care, our chances for survival should improve greatly.