Do Your Heart Good

Celebrate Heart Health Month!

A heart healthy diet can be delicious and simple to follow. The American Heart Association offers a number of free resources on their website (http://www.heart.org) to help you get started.

Eating healthy doesn’t mean dieting. Instead, it’s best to aim for making your diet part of an overall healthier lifestyle. A great way to begin is to become more aware of what you’re eating.

Read Nutrition Labels
Many of us think we know what we’re eating until we actually look at the nutritional information. Pay particular attention to portion size per serving, saturated fat, and sodium. Tread lightly when it comes to foods higher in saturated fat (above 7% of calories) and sodium. Most of us should consume less than 1500 mg of sodium eat day but sadly the typical American diet contains about 3 times that amount and not from excessive salt shaker use but rather from the ready prepared and restaurant foods that many of us rely so heavily upon.

Here’s a few more ideas to get you started:

Get Moving
If you’re currently sedentary and your doctor feels it’s safe for you to do so, slowly begin to incorporate more movement into your daily life. This doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym everyday but with a little regular physical activity, you’ll find it easier to control weight and reduce hunger while decreasing your risk of chronic disease.

Examine Your Plate
Aim to fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables. This will help fill you up on less calories and provide vital nutrients that play a role in blood pressure regulation.

Your Friend Fiber
Choose fiber rich foods including plenty of whole grains, fruits and veggies. Aim for breads and cereals that have a minimum of 3 or more grams of fiber per serving. Oat bran found in certain cereals and abundantly in old-fashioned oatmeal, is a wonderful addition to any breakfast lineup- as this particular fiber is has been found especially helpful to lower LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels.

Get An Oil Change
The type of oil we consume can have a big impact on our health. Focus on the mono-unsaturated, heart-healthy oils such as olive and canola while aiming to incorporate those wonderful omega-3’s a couple times a week found in fatty fish such as salmon or tuna. You also find omega 3’s in non-animal sources as well such as walnuts and flaxseeds.

A heart healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be complicated. With a bit of planning, you’ll not only reduce your risk of heart disease, but feel so much better knowing you’ve taken a few steps to improve the quality of your life.

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Does Your Fitness Routine Vacation For The Summer?

Summer often presents a difficult time of year to maintain a fitness regimen.  Much of the difficulty appears to be in maintaining a routine.  Between vacations, keeping the kids entertained on break, and other summertime events, fitness often gets pushed to the proverbial back burner.  Inevitably, September arrives and we find ourselves a few pounds heavier looking to shed the weight before the holidays.  Sound familiar??  Then please read on… 

The good news is that physical activity doesn’t necessarily have to be elaborate during busy times nor does it have to be restricted to the home or gym.   In 3 simple steps we can avoid the inevitable summer weight gain and seamlessly blend it into our summer activities.

1.)  It’s All In The Planning

Often times we plan our activities based on where we are going to eat or what we are going to see.  Although there is nothing inherently wrong with this logic, we must also consider one more factor which is how much are we going to move.  Staying fit while traveling requires regular activity combined with a bit of creativity.  Consider activity as part of your recreational planning.  Look for ways that the entire family can get involved such as family day at a local park or an early evening after-dinner hike.  If heat is a factor, consider utilizing the services offered in your city through your local parks and recreation departments such as public pools and organized group trips to various places of interest.  Vacations at larger hotels and resorts will sometimes offer sightseeing activity packages.  They usually refer to these as “adventure” tours.  These excursions can present unique opportunities for activities that can compliment a current fitness routine as well as provide enjoyment for everyone in your party.

2.)  Send Your Fitness Packing

Packing for your fitness-minded vacation can be a snap.  A workout outfit and a sturdy pair of sneakers can provide the basics of your travel gear but don’t stop there.  Other must have items to pack would include: a refillable water bottle, sunscreen, healthy snacks such as protein bars, fruit, beef jerky, and 100-calorie snack packs (for times when only gas station stops or vending machine food is available).  Most hotels have a fitness center; some are more elaborate than others.  It pays to call ahead to find out what they offer and if there are additional fees to utilize the facility.  If your hotel doesn’t offer a fitness facility or you choose not to use it, you can get a great workout just by packing a few extra items such as a jump rope, exercise bands/tubing or simple suspension resistance equipment like the I.M. Rings from BodyByJake.

3.)  Work With What You Have

You’re in your hotel room and you forgot to bring anything even remotely related to fitness and there’s no hotel gym in sight.  What do you do?  The answer is- work with what you have.  Any fitness professional will tell you that the best fitness routine will contain 3 elements:  1.) Cardiovascular Activity, 2.) Strength Training and 3.) Flexibility.  It’s possible to get all three of these critical components on vacation even without a gym or equipment. 

Cardiovascular Activity

Perhaps the easiest way to get in cardiovascular activity is through walking.  This can be done in tandem with sightseeing through walking tours or as dedicated exercise.  Walking the surrounding area of a hotel can offer the weary traveler a chance to stretch their legs, get some fresh air, and take in different scenery.  If you don’t want to leave the comforts of your hotel but are looking for a great cardio workout, try the stairs.  Moving as quickly as you can through flights of stairs can be intense, so it’s important to pace yourself.  If you can’t step away from the free HBO in your room, try jogging in place or simple callisthenic-type exercises like jumping jacks.  Both will elevate your heart rate and help you burn off those poolside mai tai’s. 

Strength Training

The notion of strength training conjures up images of pumping iron in a gym.  The truth is that strength training doesn’t necessarily have to involve dumbbells, barbells, or any sort of gym equipment.  Simple things found in your hotel room can easily double as dumbbells such as filled water bottles or other equally weighted small items.  Using your own body weight as resistance is often times the easiest way to achieve results in the absence of any equipment.  Standard lower body exercises such as lunges and squats can prove very effective for this purpose.  Basic upper body exercises such as push-ups either against a wall or the floor as well as dips using a chair or bed are also great ways to work the upper back as well as arms.  Abdominal exercises are also super easy to accomplish with the help of a few curl ups as well as alternating leg scissors.

Flexibility

Flexibility is the third critical component in a good fitness program.  It’s often overlooked many times because people don’t realize the benefit of flexibility.  However, flexibility is important as it decreases the likelihood of injury and enhances the work that we do on the other two components.  The easiest way to get this in is through stretching post work out when your muscles are completely warmed up.  Stretches for all major muscle groups should be held for 10-15 seconds without any bouncing motions.

By incorporating these 3 exercise elements into your travel plans, a vacation can be a great place to either jumpstart a fitness routine or provide you with a unique opportunity to continue with the good habits you’ve already established.  With a bit of creativity and pre-planning, you’ll be successful at avoiding summer weight gain and realize that a fitness routine doesn’t really need a vacation after all.

Your Fast Track To Weight Loss Success

Looking to drop some holiday weight?   You’re not alone.  This time of year marks the largest amount of people trying to shed those extra pounds that have crept on over the holiday season.    One of the easiest and most effective ways to begin is to simply track what you eat.  A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicated that those who maintained a daily food log lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records at all.  Keeping a food journal seems to have a big impact on the amount of food consumed as people are much less likely to overeat when they commit to recording their intake.

To assist Americans in their effort to lose weight and make healthier choices, the USDA has developed a completely free online tool that provides a quick way to track your foods and physical activities.  The program is called SuperTracker and it complements the already released MyPlate nutritional education program.

Whereas MyPlate was developed to help Americans put together appropriately balanced meals based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the new SuperTracker takes the concept one step further by offering users an opportunity to track their dietary intake and physical activity while providing feedback and analysis via reports to bring you closer to your goals. 

Once you begin tracking food intake, you’ll not only see what you’re eating but gain insight as well into the relationship between what you eat, when you eat, and how it relates to your weight loss.  Sometimes when we make New Year’s resolutions, we build a process that is so demanding we are doomed to fail.  Keeping your weight loss efforts simple by monitoring what you eat and gaining an understanding of the role of food in your life, you will lose the weight not with a short term diet but with an effective lifestyle change.

Can Roses Really Help You Lose Weight?

What member of the rose family is a great tool in the battle of the bulge?  If you guessed apples, you’d be right!  Believe it or not, apples truly are a member of Rosaceae or the rose family and with the Fall season in “full bloom” it’s no wonder we turn our attention to this versatile fruit Malus domestica, otherwise known as the common apple.

Quick Facts

Besides being in the rose family, here are a few other apple tid bits:

  • They are grown in all 50 states, most notably in Washington.  However 36 U.S. states actually produce apples commercially-including California
  • They are virtually fat, cholesterol, and sodium free. 
  • The most popular variety is the Red Delicious, followed by the Golden Delicious in second place.  Both of which are available year round.

Your Weight Control Partner

Apples are a sweet way to add fiber to your diet and help you feel full.  This is important if you are trying to shed a few pounds before the holidays get into full swing.  Also, pectin, a form of fiber found in apples has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol levels in many scientific studies.

There are a number of foods that pair well with apples including sharp cheeses, nuts and nut butters, or even a little dark chocolate.  Here’s a simple fall recipe to get you started.

Speedy Baked Apple

This is a super easy recipe using your microwave that quickly delivers a delicious fall treat with 5 grams of fabulous fiber for only 140 calories.  Makes the house smell nice too!

Serves:  1

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium apple (any variety)
  • 1 Tbsp Splenda© Brown Sugar Blend
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp dried sweetened cranberries
  • 1 tsp light butter
  • ½ tsp almond extract

Directions:

Core the apple and place it in a small covered microwave safe dish.  Mix the Splenda© Brown Sugar Blend, nutmeg, cinnamon and cranberries in another bowl.  Spoon the mixture into the center of the apple, top with the butter and almond extract; microwave on high for about 3-4 minutes.

So enjoy the bounty that apples have to offer this fall knowing that you are eating both nutritiously as well as deliciously.  Isn’t that the way it should be?

Back to School and Back to You: Recommit to Taking Care of Yourself

It’s that time of year again.  The kids are back in school, the holidays are right around the corner and it’s time to recommit to taking care of yourself.  The difficult part always begs the question, where do I begin? 

One of the first things that I ask my clients seeking weight management is why it’s important for them to manage their weight and what does it mean to them personally.  At first glance, this seems like a simple question but actually the answers are very unique for everyone.  We each have personal reasons for wanting to make lifestyle changes.  Some may be based on health issues, others on physical appearance and confidence.  Whatever the reason, it’s important to have a clear picture as to what motivates you and if possible to get those thoughts down on paper.  

One place to start would be with creating a simple “Top 10 List” that highlights a few of the most important reasons why you would like to lose weight.  This is your personal list and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone so it’s best to be specific and candid.  It’s amazing how different we view our thoughts and feelings when they come out of our head and put onto paper.  This simple process not only legitimizes our efforts, but also helps us sort through our priorities. You’ll know that you’ve created a meaningful list if upon re-glancing at it in the future, it takes you back to the feelings you had the day you created it.

Another strategy I use to help clients begin their journey is through a simple tool that I created called the Commitment Worksheet.  This worksheet acts as a self-contract by outlining your short term goals, exploring potential roadblocks and setting a plan for rewarding your accomplishments.  

These items are not just an exercise in listing your thoughts and goals, but tools used to help keep you on track when your motivation begins to wane.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, goes through cycles of highs and lows in their motivation.  Much of the variance is related to your individual stress level and pressures of daily living.  Simple everyday distractions always seem to threaten our best efforts to stay on track.  Take control of your life by ensuring your goals are personally meaningful and visibly available; especially when you need a little extra help committing to taking better care of yourself.

Food Safety: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

A foodborne illness (more commonly called food poisoning) can occur when we eat contaminated food that contains pathogenic bacteria, viruses or actual parasites.  The statistics of occurrence are overwhelming.  According to the FDA, foodborne pathogens are responsible for 76 million gastrointestinal illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5000 deaths each year in the United States.  Summertime picnics and family gatherings are common this time of year so it’s important that we understand the basics of food safety and how we can protect ourselves.

When we hear the word “bacteria” it often conjures up negative images.  But not all bacteria are pathogenic or have the ability to cause illness.  For instance, yogurt is little more than flavored milk with bacteria added.  This kind of bacteria is known as probiotic meaning that it’s introduced intentionally to the body as a means of bringing good bacteria into the gut.  This so called “good bacteria” helps keep the bad (or pathogenic) bacteria in check by using up some of the bad bacteria’s resources they need to stay alive.

In general, ideal growing conditions for bacteria are moist environments with temperatures between 41-135 degrees Fahrenheit.   Food safety experts call this the “Danger Zone” meaning that if you hold foods for periods of time between those temperatures, you are more likely to propagate the growth of bacterial colonies.  Think about your recent 4th of July barbeque feast.  Moist foods such as potato and pasta salads are particularly susceptible to bacterial growth because they are either left out on the table for long periods of time at room temperature as people serve themselves, subjected to insects, or become contaminated through serving utensils and handling.  Here’s another example- have you ever thawed a piece of frozen chicken in warm water?  As that chicken sits there in a comfy warm water bath (well within danger zone temperatures), millions of bacteria have the opportunity to begin emerging which could potentially make us sick.  And if you think cooking it immediately will kill off all the germs, you’d be wrong.    

Because bacteria can be introduced into food from hands, soiled utensils, or via insects such as flies, the best defense is to wash your hands frequently-especially before handling food.  It’s a simple concept that we’ve all heard time and time again that can’t be stressed enough.  We also want to ensure that food is protected from insects by covering the dish when not in use.  Likewise, serving utensils should not be handled in the area that comes in contact with the food.  At the end of a meal, it’s best to cool your foods quickly in shallow pans in order to decrease the amount of time in those danger zone temperatures.

The symptoms of food poisoning vary greatly depending on the pathogen.  Some have a quick onset meaning you’ll begin to notice symptoms such as nausea and/or vomiting within 30 minutes after eating, while others may take as long as 2 days to emerge.  Some will produce fever and chills while others only cause gastric distress.  Foodborne illness is not only very serious but can leave a person vulnerable to dehydration which can have deadly consequences.  So if you suspect food poisoning, seek medical attention immediately. However, an easier answer is to decrease your chances of contracting it in the first place by taking the right steps to protect your food this summer and throughout the year.

Weight Loss is a Journey, Not a Destination

Over 70 million people in the United States attempt to lose weight each year and spend more than $30 billion in the process.  Many will be successful at losing the initial weight; however sadly most will be unable to keep it off for very long.   Why is this the case?

I believe part of the problem lies within the fact that most people who set out to lose weight do so without anticipating (or perhaps wanting to anticipate) that their weight issues will continue beyond the point of their initial weight loss phase.  We have a sort of euphoric belief that somehow anything and everything will be better once we lose weight- and the issues and/or behaviors throughout our life that brought us to our heaviest weight will kindly go away.  Sounds great doesn’t it? Then sooner or later, the nasty truth begins to emerge, “You mean I have to watch what I eat for the rest of my life if I want to keep it off?”

If you are beginning to grapple with this harsh reality, congratulations!  You are among the minority of people who have discovered that weight management is a journey, not a destination.  People who are successful at losing and keeping off the weight forgo the so-called crash diets mostly because they realize that the faster they lose it, the faster they gain it back.  A healthy rate of weight loss is about 1-2 pounds per week.  If you are losing more than that, chances are you are losing more than fat-you’re probably losing muscle as well.  This drop in muscle mass is what contributes in part to the rapid regaining of weight during the maintenance phase, and it’s your muscle mass that is largely responsible for increasing your metabolic rate. 

But the real benefit to losing weight at a slower, healthier rate is something entirely different which has more to do with taking in the sights along the way.  You’ll discover your likes, dislikes, behaviors and habits, that may have contributed in some way to your weight gain in the first place and have an opportunity to address each in a way you wouldn’t normally had you plowed through the weight loss phase of your journey at 100 miles per hour. 

We all want to lose weight quickly.  But if you want this time to be the last time, you have to take the time.  Remember, it’s not about the speed of losing the weight, but about the journey.