Sunday, June 22, 2008

Congratulations, Hubby!

Today I must honor my ever-dedicated, ever-motivated husband. My husband has a double history (mom's and dad's side of the family) of high cholesterol. Mom's had open heart surgery and dad's on statins. Family history is beating him up with metal baseball bat! (he loves baseball!)

We've known each other for a long time, and have been married for four years. Since just before we were married, specifically in 2002, we've known about his "familial cholesterolemia", or hereditary/genetic high cholesterol. From 2002 to 2005 his total cholesterol bounced between 220 and 260 (goal: under 200), with his HDL's between 45 and 70 (goal: 40-72, higher is better), his LDL's between 160 and 200 (goal: 0-99, lower is better, so ouch!), and his triglycerides between 70 and 120 (goal: 20-149, lower is better). It wasn't until late 2005 that he really got serious about exercise, and that I started to dive into understanding food and nutrition to the level we practice now. Without going through all the stages of his evolution in detail, the summary would be when the doc finally recommended a statin in 2005, he asked for an additional 3 months. He decided to train for a marathon. He changed his diet to reduce empty calories, eat only as much high carb/starchy calories as he'd use, and ensure he got enough protein. His next bloodwork showed normal total cholesterol, seriously improved LDL's and triglycerides! That was in 2006 - he skipped having bloodwork and a physical in 2007, as he was in the middle of a total body and nutritional overhaul - adding more weight training, reducing the duration but increasing the intensity of his cardiovascular training, and immaculately cleaning up his diet. With the June 2008 bloodwork, we're proud to announce even better scores! (Like the Cheerios guy: I lowered my cholesterol...!!) Total Cholesterol is 195. HDL's are 63. LDL's are the lowest they've been at 119 - still a touch above normal, but so much improved from a high of 198! Triglycerides are down by almost half to 67. And his total cholesterol to HDL ratio and his LDL to HDL ratios are WELL UNDER their limits!!

Congratulations, babe! You are a walking specimen - a billboard - for great nutrition, great planning and execution of a fitness program - all within a powerful, intelligent and charismatic "renaissance man" package that I'm so proud to call my husband. (Oh, and did I mention soooooooooo handsome? That stylish, Italian/Cuban look - with brains and body to go along with it! Sorry, I got carried away.) Back to the numbers. In addition to the basic metabolic panel of successes that his bloodwork showed, I have to mention that this 46 year also has the bodyfat of a teenager - again, kudos to his dedication, commitment and drive (or should I say over-drive!). I think if we could study what it is in his brain that drives him to succeed once he sets his mind to it, we'd solve the world's obesity problem! He carries about 10% body fat right now, down from 16% in 2007 - that improvement is in a matter of one year!! Incredible! Ah, if only we could package his commitment.

Congratulations, Hubby. I love you. And I admire all the characteristics in you that make you who you are!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why does alcohol make you hungry?

I must digress from the Food Pyramid for bit, as a dear friend brought a nagging issue into the front of my mind, and once again I had to know "why" (or at least remind myself of why).

One thing I know about myself is that I don't think well "on my feet". On the spot, I don't always have the answer or the right response. After a few minutes or days of mulling over an issue, I have that "ah ha" or "wish I'd said that" moment where the answer or solution becomes so clear. What the heck is that delay, anyway? It's like you are presented with the question or information, and it registers, but, like in the waiting room versus in an office or exam room - it never reaches the place where the answer lies. It IS like the waiting room (nothing but waiting happens there!); or starting a plant from a seed versus a seedling! Again, nothing apparent happens for quite a while after you plant a seed to grow something, but if you plant a seedling to grow the same thing - aha! - it's a plant, right there in front of you, and so obvious!!

Anyway, the question posed was this: "why am I always hungry after I have a drink [of alcohol]?". Or why is it that when I drink, I tend to want to eat more. While I pondered this, and while my friend and I discussed wine and vodka versus aperitifs like Campari or bitters, we wondered: "Is it the alcohol in general that makes you hungry, or is it something else?" Perhaps it's something common in all the aforementioned drinks, but that may be concentrated in aperitifs, since their purpose is to stimulate or open up the appetite prior to a meal. Regardless of the reason, I feel it would be beneficial to know so that I could use that knowledge against that dreaded hunger in some way. Ironically, it is this particular friend, with whom, about a year ago, I had one of most confounding conversations related to personal choice and good health - a conversation that gnaws at my inner core daily whether I'm reading the newspaper, a magazine or watching the news. (I digress again, although truly related to this topic.) My friend was entertaining my ever present ramblings about RebelHealth, my impending company, and my vision of educating Joe public that there truly is no secret to good, robust health; that it's all about making the right choices, backed by science or evidence-based information - information that's "out there" and readily available. I wanted to teach (or re-teach) people what a calorie is, how to eat whole versus refined foods, how to balance energy IN and energy OUT to maintain a healthy weight, how and why to incorporate physical activity into their lives, etc. Her response was this: "Knowledge does not always equate to behavior change. How many nurses do you know that smoke, or physicians who are overweight?" She busted my theory so far out of the water - like a tarpon in season - holy cow! Wouldn't it obvious that once people KNOW the truth they would immediately make the lifestyle change to improve their health? But my friend was/is so right! So why wouldn't they want to improve their health? Why would someone intentionally continue a habit or lifestyle that is detrimental to living the fullest life they could - for their kids, their spouse, their purpose in life, and/or for themselves? Who in the world would value LIFE so little that they wouldn't change? Well, the answer is obvious (based on what I see in all those newspapers, magazines and news shows): a lot of people. A lot of people don't make that connection. Whether it be:

  • killer habits and addictions like smoking,
  • obsessions (and addictions) like overeating,
  • simple or unlearned habits like poor food selection,
  • chronic, lazy habits like television and video games (couch love!) that contribute to a lack of physical activity, and/or
  • the ever-present and ever-accepted habit of ignoring stress loads in our lives,

knowledge that a choice, decision or lifestyle habit is wrong, or that there's a better option out there, does not lead to behavior change. That simply confounds me!

OK, so to get back to that cocktail and the imminent post-cocktail hunger, what's up with this? Well, the "aha" or "duh" moment came when I remembered that alcohol is a carbohydrate, and what we know about consuming carbohydrate alone or outside the presence of protein and/or fat is that carbohydrate (some types more than others) causes a rise in blood sugar, which causes the pancreas to secrete a hormone called insulin. Insulin "opens up" cells in the body which absorb or take up this blood sugar, lowering it to a more normal level, but sometimes lowering it too much. If we take in too much carbohydrate, a lot of insulin is produced which causes too much of that blood sugar to be absorbed, leaving us with too little blood sugar, versus too high. And low blood sugar causes hunger. There is a huge and very complicated metabolic process within those simple statements, but for those of us who are not physicians and chemists, but rather self-proclaimed experts (ha!), let's leave it at that.

On the topic of simply cocktails and drinks versus the aforementioned aperitifs, here is some interesting information that hopefully can be used to make informed cocktail selections based on our setting:

  • 12 oz beer averages 5% alcohol and 5-14 grams of carbs
  • 4 oz wine averages 10-15% alcohol and 2-5 grams of carbs*
  • 1 oz distilled spirits (gin, vodka, brandy) averages 40% alcohol and 0 grams of carbs**
  • 2 oz sherry or port averages 17% alcohol and 6-14 grams of carbs
  • 2.5 oz aperitif averages 24% alcohol and 20-30 grams of carbs
  • 2.5 oz Campari averages 24% alcohol and 20 grams of carbs
  • 2.5 oz Ouzo averages 24% alcohol and 27 grams of carbs
  • 2.5 oz Coffee Liquor averages 24% alcohol and 40 grams of carbs***

*The drier the wine, the lower the carbohydrate content

**All distilled spirits contain 0 carbohydrates, just watch out for what it may be mixed with!

***The more refined with flavor/sweetener an aperitif is, the higher the carbohydrate. Bitters will contain less sugar or carbohydrate than a sweeter tasting aperitif such as Coffee Liquor, though perhaps not considered a "traditional" aperitif.

We can see that an aperitif's higher carbohydrate content might be the reason for it's selection or creation as an appetite stimulant or a drink to "prepare" us for a meal. The higher carbohydrate content should stimulate our appetite and make us yearn for dinner - which would be the purpose of the aperitif! I love it when stuff makes sense!!

So, now that we know our cocktail may make us hungry or cause excessive munchies, how do we deal with it. Well, we certainly could go into the situation with open eyes now and commit that in the event of unexpected or unplanned munchies, we will either:

A) refuse said munchies and resist the urge to nosh, or

B) give in to said munchies with controlled and limited quantities in mind, while opting for munchies lower in carbohydrate so that we don't fuel the fire (translation: avoid the bread basked and choose nuts, crudites, cheese, carpaccio or tartare of some type).

The only other option, which we must not chose, and which is why I didn't make it option C, is to give into said munchies without any conscious thought as to the type of munchie and therefore no interest in preserving the pleasure of drink.

Whether you are drinking wine, spirits, beer or aperitifs (and hopefully not some simple syrup-laden, mass-produced-concoction that serves the sole purpose of conceiving a drunk), enjoy that cocktail and with purpose! Create an environment within your body that allows you to savor and appreciate the flavor and aroma of your drink - perhaps it's terroir & grape if it's wine, it's delicacy & balance if it's a mixed drink or even the depth of it's grain if its beer. Drinking should be savored or social and savored. And now that we know of the impending hunger that may accompany our savored cocktail, we can do what's right and approach our cocktail with a plan for combating that hunger - even if it means stashing a few almonds in your bag! Be prepared!

Fruits & Vegetables are Carbohydrates!!!

That title will get you, won't it? In this carb-o-phobic society, we don't stop to think that when we say "I'm cutting carbs", I really mean that I'm cutting back on the nutrient-deficient, white, starchy, refined stuff that once resembled a vegetable or grain (a.k.a. potatoes and white flour)."

Vegetables are the second "stripe" in the Pyramid - and that stripe is green, for anyone who cares. And fruits are their own category within the Pyramid - with their stripe being red. Though collectively referred to by most as "fruits and vegetables", they are separate in the Pyramid. And interestingly enough, collectively, their recommended consumption per day is the largest "group" in the pyramid, followed by grains.

The recommended number of servings of vegetables for the "average American" on a whopping 2000 calorie diet (with which I totally cannot concur!) is 2-3 cups per day, and 1-1/2 to 2 cups of fruit per day.

A serving of vegetables is estimated to be 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables, or 2 cups of leafy greens - pretty easy to figure out, huh? Dried beans and peas fall into the vegetable category, as well as the Meat & Beans category, and they follow the same rule for quantity- about one cup equals a serving. Starchy vegetables like corn and diced or mashed potatoes also follow the "one cup" rule, although a serving of baked-like potato is estimated at 2-1/4 inch in diameter - that's tiny compared to what most probably constitute as a serving of potato. So get that ruler out!

Fruit on the other hand is another story. We need to differentiate between fresh fruit and dried fruit. One serving of fresh fruit tends to be estimated based on that of the following: a medium pear, a large peach or small apple equals about 1 cup or one serving. But have you noticed the average size of apples these days? Lou Ferrigno - they're huge! (And he's still huge! Just saw The Incredible Hulk yesterday and he has a cameo - kudos to looking so buff at 53 years young - and still, obviously - living a very healthy lifestyle (natural or not, he looks great!)) Anyway, a small apple is estimated to be 2-1/2 inches in diameter. I swear, I bought 4 to 5 inch apples the other day, and the whole bin was that size! And, I can usually find smaller apples in the Fuji bin, which are my favorites, but not this time! What a gross misconception for those who may be counting calories and think by grabbing an apple they're being healthy! Well, it is healthy, in the right proportion! Rather, grab an apple, a knife, a ruler and zip lock bag, because 1/2 to 1/4 of that monster may be one serving! Dried fruit, being dehydrated (shrunk) and having a higher concentration of natural sugars due to the dehydration, can be estimated by using a 1/2 cup as a 1 cup serving. Fruit juice can be estimated at a 1:1 ratio: 1 cup of juice (100% fruit juice) equals 1 cup of fruit.

From what I read, the average American is well under these recommendations for fruits and vegetables, and is most likely getting most of their vegetables from the high starch group such as potatoes and corn. I had a friend who once told me, fairly arrogantly and without the a hint of humility, that she puts veggies on the table in the evening the same way her mom did: a "vegetable" and a starch. The problem is that her version a a "vegetable", was often another starchy vegetable like corn or peas, and even worse, at times I think she would put rice and a potato on the table as sides (considering the rice a vegetable?) with a fatty meat. This is what she considered a healthy dinner...because that's how she was raised. And the arrogant ignorance in the way it was articulated, especially to someone like me who is constantly asking why and sourcing out scientific, evidence-based information, Ugh! She just went down two (more) points on my respect scale. Within this scenario, I must mention that often people use the model of one meat, one grain and one starchy vegetable for dinner, which ends up looking like the typical obese Americans diet: Non-lean red meat (and I have nothing against quality red meat as I'm a carnivore, myself), white rice and white potato with butter and cream, mashed. That's it. And to seriously digress, let's take that scenario a little further. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m. The estimated caloric and macronutrient content of that dinner for an adult is approximately:
  • 6-8 OUNCE STEAK: Calories: 420, Protein: 54gr, Carbs: 0gr, Fat: 28gr
  • LARGE BAKED POTATO: Calories: 278, Protein: 7gr, Carbs: 63gr, Fat: 0gr
  • 2 TBSP BUTTER Calories: 101, Protein: 0gr, Carbs: 0gr, Fat: 11gr
  • 1.5 CUPS WHITE RICE Calories: 276, Protein: 7.5gr,Carbs: 62gr, Fat: 1.5gr
  • TOTAL Calories: 1075, Protein: 69gr Carbs: 125gr, Fat: 40gr
Two (OK, more than two, but let's talk about two) problems with this:
  1. The number of calories here is over half of what many Americans truly need to maintain their current weight or lose weight, with the weight I quote for a woman to be under 130 pounds. The amount of protein is double, triple, and maybe even quadruple what should be taken in in one sitting. The amount of carbohydrates is almost a total days worth, if that goal was around 150 grams. And all in one sitting? It's pre-diabetes on a plate at 6:30 - you just sent your pancreas into overdrive!! And 40 grams of fat (quite of bit if not all of this is satured fat, the bad kind) is over 3/4 of what should be consumed in a day. Can you feel the arteries hardening?
  2. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m. I wonder what the average person does after finishing this dinner? It's now about 7:15 p.m. and they are stuffed, so they sit down on the couch to catch the last 15 minutes of World News, and now it's 7:30 p.m. Only a half hour until the prime time brain drain hits the tube, so what the heck, let's watch some repeats of Friends or King of Queens, or better yet, let's catch up on Britney Spears and Brangelina. Then it's 8:00 p.m. - time for reality TV until bed. 1000 calories is sitting on the couch for a few hours and then going to bed.

To my arrogant friend: that may be the way "Mom" used to do it, but "Mom" and "Dad" may have been slopping the pigs or mowing the yard after dinner "back in the day". Our lives are much different - sedentary and over-portioned. Think about it.

Back to veggies and fruits. Children tend to be less likely to get the RDA of vegetables. There is such a huge world of fruits and vegetables out there - probably the area within the pyramid with the greatest opportunity for variety. Fruits and vegetables can be incorporated into every meal. There are some really interesting strategies within the book world out there right now to help incorporate healthy veggies into family favorites - take a trip to Borders or Barnes & Noble tomorrow night after dinner (hint hint!) and check it out. One of my faves is to puree broccoli, peas, fresh spinach or a combination and mix them into marinara sauce. While I don't advocate "sneaking" food in on your kids and then bragging about it - just don't tell them (translation: memories of a mushroom hating kid & a mom who liked to brag about hiding them in our meatloaf- not good motivation to want to like them!!!). Your intent is to add nutrients to their meals. If they do ask what the green stuff is in the sauce, tell them you pureed a few veggies into the mix to make the family healthier - worth a try!

Collectively, we need about 4 cups of fruits and vegetables per day. If, for breakfast we have a serving of fruit, as well as for one of our two snacks per day (as we all strive to eat 5-6 times per day, correct? - keep our blood sugar stable and our metabolism stoked, right?) - our fruit requirements are met. Then, if we have 1-1/2 cups of veggies for lunch and another 1-1/2 cups for dinner (preferably the non-starchy type for dinner, unless you're really active afterwards) - walla! You've achieved your goals. Breaking things down this way makes that big mess of details a lot simpler. The toughest thing to do is to decide what types of fruits and veggies you and your family want so that you keep some variety in your diet, with convenience also being a consideration. And once again, the variety is actually fun to play with - finding things you dislike but that you've never tried is also fun! I love to fail! Failure usually means pizza from across the street as the alternative! :)

I love the infinite variations for fruits and vegetables, and they're so pretty! So many just feel healthier when you eat such a rainbow of colors! And if you don't know what to a bargain cookbook on veggies or sides, Google the veggie you want to cook and a ton of recipe options will come up - just try. No excuses - bust the excuses! Take control and figure this out, it's not hard. And by figuring it out yourself versus waiting for someone to hand you the "secret" (here we go again!), you'll "get it", and be a smarter, healthier person for it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Back to Basics - Grains

In my last post, I rambled on about the fact that there's really no secret to health, just basic science - just science that we've either forgotten, don't know about or is no longer taught as a basic fact. Whether it be our parents, grandparents or those of the generation that truly ate from the land (can you say "whole foods"), worked the land (can you say "exercise"), and watched far less television, generations before us knew "the secret" and were generally healthier. They were more active and ate more nutritious foods. Their "secret" was merely a way of life. And had they had our society's current drug profile available for treating diseases that were previously untreatable, they would have most likely lived far longer than our generation is currently expected to (and I'm referring to those born between 1960 and 1980 when I say "our generation").

I continue to refer to the government's MyPyramid tool ( as a good starting point for anyone searching for "the secret" or information on eating right and being active. I thought I'd summarize each of the Pyramid's "color bands" in efforts to show just how easy it really is! Let's start with Grains, the orange band, and the largest of all the bands.

Grains are the seeds of food plants (by definition) - they are truly the seeds from which other plants grow. Just imagine the powerhouse of nutrients in grains! They must pack enough vitamins, minerals and nutrients to grow another whole plant from each seed! Wheat, rice, oats, corn, barley and millet are common grains. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits are also examples of grain "products", meaning that the whole grain is typically processed and / or refined to create the product. The less processed or refined a grain is, the better it is for you. Why? Because the whole grain, which includes the bran, the germ and the endosperm, contains more nutrients than a grain that has been processed or refined - which typically entails stripping some or most of the basic nutrients from the grain, specifically stripping the germ and bran.
  • The bran is the outer layers of the grain and contains fiber, B vitamins and trace minerals (which are minerals needed by the body in small amounts).
  • The germ is the part of the grain that provides nutrients to the grain itself. It provides us with antioxidants, B vitamins, trace minerals, essential fats and vitamin E. This is the part of the grain that really packs a whollop! The germ is the part of the grain that sprouts, germinating a new plant. Can you see why it's so rich in all the good stuff? It's like an egg - developing life from it's core!
  • The endosperm is the inner part, or "body", of the grain and provides us with carbohydrates (energy), protein, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. White flour is ground from the endosperm of grains after the bran and germ are stripped away.
Most of us need between five (5) and eight (8) ounces of grains per day, depending on our age, gender and how many calories we require (find this information on the MyPyramid site). How much is that? One ounce equivalent of a grain/grain product is:
  • one (1) ounce is about one regular slice of bread, OR
  • three-quarters to one cup of breakfast cereal, OR
  • one-half cup of cooked rice, grain or pasta

Adding whole grains to your diet might be something totally new if you're currently living on packaged and boxed foods, but it's really not that hard. Get used to looking at the ingredients list. When someone tells me about a favorite "health" food, I always ask: "What's in it?" And I don't mean "less fat", or "high protein". I mean what are the actual ingredients, beginning with the first ingredient, which is the one that the product contains the most of by weight. The second ingredient is the most plentiful, and so on. The first ingredient should be the name of the whole grain, such as: brown rice, bulgur wheat, whole oats or oatmeal, whole-grain corn or wild rice. Non-specific terms such as multi-grain, stone-ground, seven-grain and 100% wheat (missing the "whole") are usually not whole-grain products. Try to imagine a "multi-grain" or a "seven-grain" plant growing in a field...versus a corn field, a wheat field or a rice bog. Get it? And when in doubt: ask, Google, search!!! When you take the initiative to find the answer and understand it, you'll be that much smarter next time!

Also, just to note, one of the best and most economical places to search for and learn about whole grains is your local health food store. They sell grains in bulk as well as pre-packaged, but when you buy in bulk, you save some serious money! If you've followed my blogs, you'll remember the day I realized I could get the same 12-16 ounces of steel cut oats from the health food store for under a dollar that I pay almost six dollars for at my regular grocery store! And it's fun! I love trying new things, and the folks at most of the health food stores are eager to recommend how to cook with their products.

So, let's talk real examples of how to incorporate whole grains into your everyday diet:

Breakfast. Breakfast is a great time to incorporate whole grains into your diet. Steel cut oats, oatmeal or whole wheat toast are great traditional breakfast grains, and an excellent part of a complete breakfast. Other, more non-traditional, options may be rice, quinoa, kasha and barley. Don't forget, however, that grains are only a PART of a good breakfast. Breakfast is a great opportunity to incorporate fruits, lean proteins and the dairy group as well.

Lunch. Lunch screams "GRAINS!" in traditional sandwiches (whole wheat bread/buns) and non-traditional wraps (whole grain tortillas and wraps). Grains such as rice, quinoa, bulgur and barley are great additions to salads to soups as well.

Dinner. I personally prefer to stack my grains in the early and middle part of the day, as those are my most active times (and hence I use more energy or carbohydrate earlier in the day), but all the grains listed above are excellent additions to dinner as well.

Snacks. Grains can also play a good role in snacking. Popcorn and some whole grain cereals are great finger foods. I can't recall the brand, but there is one shredded wheat (squares) breakfast cereal on the market that has one ingredient: whole wheat. Also, I believe that Back to Nature produces a Harvest Wheat Cracker that has two ingredients: whole wheat and salt. Excellent!!!

Talking about grains is sometimes hard for me, because I can be a closet carb-o-phobe. Though reducing carbohydrates in my diet, personally, reduces water retention and makes me "feel" a bit slimmer, I physically "feel" better and perform better mentally when I get good sources of natural whole grains in my diet. Go to MyPyramid and read the health benefits of whole grains. Eat to live better, don't live to eat just "whatever". Feed your body quality fuel and your body will return the favor via enhanced performance. It's science...not a secret.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Secrets versus Science

How many times have you heard "What's your secret?" as it applies to weight loss, toning up or becoming a healthier, more vibrant person? It has either been asked of you, you have asked it of someone, or you have seen this exchange between two people as an onlooker. What is interesting about this question as it relates to weight loss or improving fitness levels is that the "secret" is probably science! Typically, what we don't know, even if it's evidence-based and scientifically proven, strikes us as a secret...just because we don't know it!

I love it when I'm asked "What's your secret? You look so trim. You must be working out like a fiend!" It is almost hard for me to admit that I work out less (just smarter), but that I eat better - cleaner and leaner. Basic clean eating from whole foods is truly the ticket. I hate to admit that too many people don't know the government's Food Pyramid ( - they know "of" it, but don't know it. I'm one of those Americans who takes full liberty with our freedom of speech to bludgeon our government regarding it's over-regulation or lack of regulation with our health, health care, food and agriculture industries, etc., however, as it relates to the release of information for the benefit of our health, the slow speed of the government is directly related to the amount of evidence-based research required to publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (, which is consolidated into an easily understood plan within MyPyramid.

I predict that most people looking for that "secret" diet or exercise plan, are not currently incorporating what are the very basic recommendations for Americans that exist within MyPyramid. First, how many calories are you eating? Most people really don't know. To know that information, you first must know exactly what you eat each day and be able to log and detail that. Then, to find the information on the calories and nutritional content of the food becomes even more difficult for most (or, rather, time consuming versus difficult). Next, do you know how many calories you should be eating per day based on your age, current weight, current weight goal, and activity level? This information is also located within the MyPyramid website.
Now, how active are you? Do you know how active you should be? Once again, this basic information is all there within MyPyramid. And this is no rocket science. It is very basic information regarding energy in and energy out - how many calories (energy) you eat compared to how many calories (energy) you expend via normal daily activity plus planned exercise activity. It all sounds complicated - but maybe that's because it's not packaged as a "secret" - it's just science - it's fact - and it's all right there for us. Maybe it's not as fun if it's not some great secret that no one else knows or that's packaged in a flashy hard cover book on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Trust me, take it back to basics. Use the tried and true information and create a clean and healthy lifestyle using solid science to build your plan. You won't regret it! And then, when someone asks you "What's your secret" - you can decide if you want to tell them the boring truth that it's basic science...or make up your own version of science...maybe it'll be the next best seller!!!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Commitment & Motivation are linked to Investment

As I've laid in bed awake this morning listening to some wicked thunderstorms, I've been thinking if I REALLY want to make it up and out to the gym (we're visiting family up north for the week). We've been up since 3:00 a.m. and there's no coffee to be seen. My husband is already shaving and preparing to go sweat, on the other hand (or side of the bed), I'm not so sure. What is it in him that drags him out of bed and invigorates him to do what's right (work out, in this case), versus just say "I think I'll take the day off - again" like I do so many times? He is very self-motivated, naturally. I am more...well, NOT! If, however, I had a personal trainer with whom I had an appointment and was paying, I, too, may be brushing my teeth and preparing to go be healthy with the same vigor.

I have found, from my personal experience and perspective, that for those of us who are not innately self-motivated (to be physically active, make healthy food choices, lose weight or train for an event) our investment in the cause is directly related to the level of investment. That investment is most powerful when it comes at a tangible cost: money, trade for services or a time cost for more than one party (specifically an appointment between the trainer or nutritionist/dietician and the client). I have seen people (friends, relatives) earnestly seek advice from others, and for others to offer that advice with the greatest intent - but without a tangible investment on the part of the seeker, there's no obligation for the seeker to act on any of that information. If, however, the seeker has to pay cash money for said advice, or has to follow up, report in or show improvement to an outside source, the motivation is greatly improved.

I remember a few years back when I finally got fed up with my own failed weight loss efforts and asked my husband if he would support my participation in a medical weight loss clinic, my motivation and adherence to a healthy plan was stimulated by having to pay out cash and appear in front of someone three times a week for a weigh in and check of my diet log. It was embarrassing to make no progress or have someone criticize my log. The same holds true with exercise. Paying for sessions of motivation and expertise increases compliance.

Sometimes an investment of some tangible type is worth your time - improve your health, longevity and quality of life with that type of investment and you'll never regret it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Dirty Dozen

Last year a friend asked me if I knew any good organic recipes because she wanted to start cooking organically. I said "sure, let me work on that for you". A year later, I've done nothing. I believe it was a bit of a trick question, and I was afraid I'd make said friend feel silly if I finally replied: "just use organic ingredients in your current recipes". I fear that it may just be that simple. The question is, what should you buy organic and what can you buy and just wash well, thereby saving money? My theory used to be if the skin's hard or thick (e.g. apples, celery) then I'm sure I could wash the pesticides off. If, however, the skin is think or delicate (e.g. blueberries, tomatoes) I would have thought the pesticides could penetrate the skin and therefore I couldn't wash it clean. Well, my theory was blown completely out of the water when I found the EWG's list.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a not-for-profit research organization devoted to: 1) protecting consumers from health problems attributed to a wide array of toxic contaminants and 2) lobbying for federal policies that invest in conservation and sustainable development. ( The EWG produced the famous "Dirty Dozen" list, which is an abbreviated version of the full list of 43 fruits and vegetables rated from high to low based on their pesticide load. Finding the list is one thing, but managing or using the list is another! From my point of view, the Dirty Dozen (12 fruits & veggies with the highest pesticide load), and then the 12 at the bottom of the list (representing those fruits & veggies with the lowest pesticide load) are easily printed (or copied and pasted into a word processing document or spreadsheet) and either shrunk and laminated or folded up in your wallet so that each time you're at the grocery, market or fruit stand, you have it readily accessible. There is so much information available to us today on nutrition and food safety that sometimes I can't remember from one day to the next what's what! I use a lot of cheat sheets - and the EWG's list is a good one to utilize!

So, in summary, one key to eating safe & healthy (organic when you need to, and non-organic when you don't) is organization. I say that's the key to all things worth anything! Take 5 minutes and figure out how to get the EWG's list in a format and place where you'll always have it available when grocery shopping. This 5 minute investment that helps you actually "use" the list (versus "have" the list) will protect you and your family by limiting your exposure to toxic chemicals in our food - and I didn't say "eliminate", I said "limit". Baby steps!