Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from LoneStart

It’s Christmas Eve, and here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for a prosperous, happy and HEALTHY New Year!

A final tip before Christmas dinner: Enjoy your dinner, but eat mindfully. Chew slowly and stop eating before you feel as stuffed as your turkey. While you don’t have to resist a wonderful meal, pace yourself. The British Medical Journal points out that the faster you eat, the more you eat before you feel full, and therefore more calories are consumed.

So enjoy friends and family, conversation and celebration, but enjoy your meal in moderation.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Holiday—and Everyday Tips: Rev-up Your Metabolism

It won’t be long and we’ll be through the holidays and into the New Year. What do you do to make up for the parties and over-indulgences and start the New Year with a renewed sense of commitment to health and wellness?

The LoneStart Wellness Initiative is an obvious choice (and since this is our LoneStart Blog, we get to talk about what we offer). So, along with making better nutritional choices and finding ways to become more physically active, do you need to speed up your metabolism, and how?

After age 40 we generally burn 2 to 5 percent fewer calories with each decade, which can equal about one pound of weight gain every year even if everything else you do or eat stays the same. Google “metabolism” and you’ll get about 45 million Web pages with advice on “kick-start, ignite or boost” your body’s fat burning capacity. But, here are a few strategies that actually work:

  • 5 or 6 glasses of ice water a day help you burn about 10 extra calories a day—or about 1 pound a year.
  • For every pound you lose, your resting metabolism drops by about 2 to 10 calories a day. So lose 10 pounds and you have to eat 20 to 100 fewer calories a day to maintain your new weight.
  • Eating more protein revs up your metabolism. At the same time, cut the empty carbs such as sugar. When you eat sugar you throw your metabolic switch into fat storage mode.
  • Lifting weights will boost your metabolism more than a cardio workout will.
  • Try to avoid stress—hard to do during the holidays. But, stress can actually cause weight gain, particularly around the tummy. Physical and emotional stress activates the release of cortisol, a steroid that slows metabolism.
  • And, walk, swim, jog, run, play with the kids or dog. The calorie-burning, metabolism-boosting effects last long after the physical activity ends.

Still, for sustainable health and long-term wellness, it all comes back to being physically active and making better dietary choices.

Any ideas to share?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

To Your Health Tips

A couple of "tips" ago we talked about how right Mom was when she said, “Stand up straight.” Turns out she was also right when she said, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Now, a new study backs her up. A natural antioxidant called quercetin, found in red apples as well as broccoli and green tea, may actually boost the immune system of individuals under stress.

In a study conducted by David Nieman, PhD, professor at Appalachian State University, results showed that only 5 percent of cyclists who took 1,000 milligrams of quercetin every day for five weeks reported upper respiratory illness during a two-week period following extreme exercise, whereas 45 percent of the cyclists who took a placebo reported illness following extreme exercise. So, during the holiday season (and year-round), along with finding time for some physical activity, snack on a big, red apple.

Keep in mind too, that whenever circulation is increased, you increase your white blood cells, so there are more cells to check for foreign germs and more to knock them out—a good thing to keep in mind during cold and flu season.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

More Tips: Fit in Fitness

Well, Halloween and Thanksgiving are behind us—leaving the celebrations of Christmas and the New Year to look forward to. So in keeping with starting the New Year off on the right foot (so to speak) now’s a good time to remember to “fit in fitness” at each opportunity. If you’re having guests for the holidays, make your household chores count. Mop, scrub, clean the bathtub—and do it all at a brisk pace. You’ll get finished faster, and you’ll get a workout. The same goes for outdoor work—mow the lawn with a push mower, rake, sweep, and even plant a tree (maybe a living Christmas tree). Digging works your arms and legs while raking and sweeping motions strengthen your arms and back.

Just so you know it counts, in just one hour you can:

  • Mow the yard and burn 324 calories
  • Garden: 300 calories
  • Vacuum: 169 calories
  • Dust: 160 calories

Even the busiest of us can find time for fitness—the key is to make it convenient. Do what works for you, and make daily physical activity a habit (and resolution) you can keep.

Do you have tips to share? We’d love to hear what works for others.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Hints

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone. With parties, gifts of food, and holiday dinners, it’s especially hard to lose weight. Remember, the holidays are for enjoying good times with friends and loved ones. During the holidays, the key is avoiding weight gain!

Recognize your triggers. Holiday food IS tempting. Enjoy friendly conversation away from the dessert table. Engaged in good conversation, you will be less likely to excuse yourself and go across the room for dessert. And you don’t need to deny your sweet tooth entirely. Look for a lighter desert, or take just a small portion. A few bites taste just as good as half a pie.

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, we thought we’d offer (again) a few menu tips from our first Holiday Tips post several weeks ago.

  1. Portion size: ½ cup of mashed potatoes, about 111 calories—the size of a computer mouse; ½ cup cornbread stuffing about 175 calories; 3.5 oz. serving of roasted turkey breast (white meat without skin), about 115 calories—the size of a deck of cards; 3.5 oz. dark meat with skin, about 221 calories. Now think about the sides: gravy, rolls, butter, green bean casserole, pecan pie with whipped cream—and appetizers. The average Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner adds up to about 3,000 calories—without seconds.
  2. Quality vs. quantity: So let’s go back to the dinner described above. Pay attention to portion size, but also to healthy choices. White meat is leaner with less fat and fewer calories. Leave the skin on your plate. Substitute a homemade cranberry relish for canned cranberry sauce with high fructose corn syrup. Go lighter on the gravy. Try non-candied sweet potatoes and leave out the melted marshmallows. And keep in mind that pumpkin pie has just 1/3 the calories of pecan pie (and leave off the mountain of whipped cream—instead try a teaspoon spread across the top—same taste, fewer calories and fat).
  3. In addition to the dinner portion of the day, try to organize a big before or after dinner walk. It’s an opportunity to socialize away from the food, rev-up your metabolism and work some physical activity into your day.

Have a wonderful (and healthy) Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Happy Holiday Tips

Remember how Mom always said, “Stand up straight.” She was right! More right than she might have known. It has to do with more than good posture, and now it’s not just the call to “stand up straight”—but to just “stand up.”

Are you familiar with an enzyme called "lipase?" This enzyme is critical to the body's ability to break down fat. This fat-splitting enzyme is suppressed when we remain seated for a period of time. It virtually "shuts-off." This results in retention of fat, lower HDL (good cholesterol) and an overall reduction in metabolic rate. So, don't just sit there—take a break, stand up to talk on the phone, walk around the office, or take a few laps up and down the stairs. And, for each hour of physical activity you'll gain two hours of life expectancy. (American Heart Association)

Thanks, Mom.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Still More Hints

For many of us it starts with knowing what to eat, what not to eat and how much to eat. But, there’s so much more. There are also the behavioral components, how we respond to stress, and recognizing the individual patterns we all develop. And, there’s physical activity.

While shopping can be considered physical activity—it’s not exactly what we have in mind when we say, “look for ways to get your body in motion and become more physically active.” (But, if you’re at the mall, you can park way down at the end of the parking area and walk briskly to the entrance, rather than driving in circles for five minutes looking for a more convenient spot close to the door.)

So, find ways to keep moving. Take the stairs at the mall rather than the escalator or elevator. (Did you know that taking the stairs for a total of 2 minutes, five days a week gives you the same calorie-burning results as a 20 minute walk? It burns 100 to 140 calories.)

While you’re shopping and taking the stairs and walking from the end of the parking lot, keep in mind that physically active people save on average about $500 per year in health care costs. That could come in handy this time of year.

Do you have tips to share? Please do.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More Holiday Hints

Sometimes it’s just small changes that can add up to a big difference. So—more holiday tips:

  1. Add protein—the more protein you eat earlier in the day, the less food you tend to eat during the day. Try a hard-boiled egg, canadian bacon, or part-skim mozzarella cheese stick.
  2. Don’t go hungry—Temptation on an empty stomach is a recipe for over-indulgence. Keep healthy snacks on hand and then enjoy a few special treats as you party and celebrate the season. Keywords here are “a few special treats.”
  3. Recognize your choices—And, you do have choices. Not all holiday foods are full of extra sugar and fat. Look for vegetable options, lighter dips, seafood or lean meat and cheese wraps. And then remember that other choice—moderation.

Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Holiday Headstart

From now until January 1, 2009, when we all make our annual resolution to lose weight, be more physically active and really pay attention to our health and wellness, every few days we’re going to post “Holiday Tips” to make the transition a little easier. Just because it’s the season of parties, celebrations and family get-togethers, doesn’t necessarily mean it must be the season of “too much.” So, try to keep in mind that while the holidays are for enjoying good times with friends and loved ones, they can also be a great time to practice portion control, and pay attention to healthy choices—in other words, look for quality over quantity. And this brings us to our first two tips of the season:

  1. Portion size: ½ cup of mashed potatoes, about 111 calories—the size of a computer mouse; ½ cup cornbread stuffing about 175 calories; 3.5 oz. serving of roasted turkey breast (white meat without skin), about 115 calories—the size of a deck of cards; 3.5 oz. dark meat with skin, about 221 calories. Now think about the sides: gravy, rolls, butter, green bean casserole, pecan pie with whipped cream—and appetizers. The average Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner adds up to about 3,000 calories—without seconds.
  2. Quality vs. quantity: So let’s go back to the dinner described above. Pay attention to portion size, but also to healthy choices. White meat is leaner with less fat and fewer calories. Leave the skin on your plate. Substitute a homemade cranberry relish for canned cranberry sauce with high fructose corn syrup. Go lighter on the gravy. Try non-candied sweet potatoes and leave out the melted marshmallows. And keep in mind that pumpkin pie has just 1/3 the calories of pecan pie (and leave off the mountain of whipped cream—instead try a teaspoon spread across the top—same taste, fewer calories and fat).

Also keep in mind that just because you put it on your plate—you don’t have to join the clean plate club. A lot of tastes add up to a big meal, even if you don’t finish everything.

And for a “bonus tip,” especially during the holiday season, eating just 100 calories more than you need every day equals a 10 pound weight gain in a year.

Now’s the time to start planning. Let us know if you have any favorite tips or healthy recipes—we’ll be happy to post those as well.

Monday, November 3, 2008

We’re LoneStart Wellness—And We Approve This Message

Your VOTE Counts!

For a change, we’re not going to talk about the weighty issues of our collective and individual health and wellness today. But we are still going to stress that each of us must take personal responsibility for our actions and judgment—and how it’s up to each of us to exercise our right to vote by making an informed, thoughtful and conscientious choice. Think of it as standing in a long cafeteria line of many choices—but it’s not all you can eat (and by now, we all know there is no free lunch). You only get one choice—so make it count and make your voice heard.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Boo! . . . or Boo Hoo?

Here’s what’s really scary about Halloween. We’ve chosen a sample of favorite Halloween candy, and it’s not unreasonable to expect that one person could (would?) eat this much in one day (or one night) if it’s sitting there in the “treat bowl” or if you happen to be raiding your child’s treat bag.

20 pieces of candy corn

2 Hershey’s Kisses

2 Brach’s caramels

1 mini Tootsie Roll

1 Fun-size candy bar (Milky Way, Butterfinger, Snickers)

1 mini bite-size candy bar (Milky Way, Butterfinger, Snickers)

1 mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

1 Fun Size M&M packet

Total calories: 515

Think of the above as little fat bombs, with almost no nutritional value and a ton of calories. To burn off those 515 calories you will need to walk 5.15 miles or 10,260 steps, assuming you cover one mile in 2,000 steps. And, Halloween candy isn’t just a “one-night stand.” The tempting bowls are probably already out, tempting you to have “just one more” as you pass by. Then, after Halloween, your evil co-workers will bring in their leftover candy—all those small, colorful, innocent-looking treats.

It’s true that just a few pieces of Halloween candy won’t derail your long-term weight loss efforts, but it’s the “just one more” temptation that over time will pack on the pounds.

Scared yet? It only takes nine small fun-size candy bars to put on a quarter-pound of fat.

For a few “helpful hints,” be sure to check out our new “Get Me Through the Holidays” pdf, and the annual “Here Come the Holidays” poster on our website. They contain some “food for thought” that won’t pile on the pounds.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Walking Pill?

If you could just put it in a pill, walking would be the most popular prescription in the world. Why? The benefits—it’s free, you can do it any time, any place, and it’s really good for you. And with the holidays (and their common 2 to 5 pounds of weight gain) looming, now’s a great time to start. Walking will help:

· Control your blood pressure

· Boost LDL (good cholesterol) and lower HDL (bad cholesterol)

· Reduce stroke and heart attack risk

· Reduce risk of breast cancer

· Reduce risk of type 2 diabetes (cut the risk in half!) and if you have type 2 diabetes, walking helps keep it under control

· Control weight

· Lower risk for gallstone surgery

· Protect against hip fracture

· And—there’s more. A brisk walk can elevate your mood, improve sleep, lower stress level, relieve arthritis and back pain, and strengthen muscles, bones and joints

Walking briskly for one mile in 15 minutes burns about the same number of calories as jogging an equal distance in 8.5 minutes. And walking an extra 20 minutes each day will burn off 7 pounds of body fat per year. With each step you take, you will be helping to prevent chronic health conditions. So—isn’t it time to walk toward long-term health and wellness?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bang! Our Portion Explosion

We all know portion-sizes have increased—as have our waistlines—and we know that the growth of both are related. We know too that the reverse is true. By reducing portion size we reduce the amount we eat and therefore the amount of weight we gain.

So, we know all of this, but here are some interesting examples that sort of “bring it home.”

If we have one single cookbook, for many of us it might be a copy of “The Joy of Cooking,” first published in 1931 and still one of this country's most published cookbooks. Now, researchers from Cornell University have actually studied the recipes in “The Joy of Cooking.” The research looked at 18 recipes that have been published in each edition dating back to 1936. They found that over the years, 14 of the 18 recipes had an increase in calories—and the difference wasn’t small. The overall calories in the recipes increased by 35 percent.

Lisa Young, an adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University has studied the relationship between bigger portion sizes and bigger waistlines.

Young points out that the identical brownie recipe in the 1997 edition of the “Joy of Cooking” yields 16 brownies, while the 1975 edition yielded 30 brownies. This means the 1997 brownie is almost twice as big, thus—more calories.

And, there’s more. Young says between 1984 and 1987, just three years, the chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the NestlĂ©’s Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels package scaled down the number of cookies it makes from 100 to 60.

So, where do we put these bigger brownies and cookies? Well, on our bigger plates. The average dinner plate has increased in diameter roughly 40 percent since World War II. It stands to reason that if plates are bigger, portions grow bigger to fill them.

Are your portion sizes out of control? Do you pay attention to portion sizes for family meals? And, here’s an interesting question—what would your family say if you filled their plates with the recommended portion size (such as 2/3 cup of pasta or spaghetti—the size of a tennis ball; a 3-oz. serving of chicken, beef or fish—the size of a deck of cards; or ½ cup of mashed potatoes—the size of a computer mouse)?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Snack Attack!

Yes, it’s true, even we LoneStart guys have snack attacks. And, we’re not alone. Snacking can officially be considered our fourth meal (more for some of us) of the day. In fact, 21 percent of American meals are “snacks.” Research shows that virtually every household in the U.S. purchases some form of snack food during a visit to the grocery store. We thought you might like to know a little more about how and on what we tend to snack. And then, maybe we can all be a little more thoughtful about those snack choices when the snack attack hits us.

  • The NPD Group’s “Snacking in America” report says number one on the snack lists are “Salty Snacks,” with a 98 percent household penetration. These include chips, pretzels and cheese snacks.
  • Next come “Cookies and Chocolate Candy,” with a 95 percent household penetration.
  • Evening snacking is still most common, but morning snacking is making strong gains. In fact, snack foods replace more breakfast meals than any other meal.
  • While most snack-oriented convenience foods are eaten between meals, they are increasingly finding their way into meals as accompaniments—or replacements.
  • NPD Group also reports that most snacks are purchased more than a day ahead—just one in ten are bought within 30 minutes of consumption.

So, while we snack our way through the day, we might want to keep in mind what “Mom” used to say about “not spoiling our appetites.” We might also keep in mind that a day of snacking adds up to a lot of empty calories.

It pains us to end on this note, but it takes the length of a football field to walk off the calories in one single M&M.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fusion Wellness

Fusion—you read it right—not confusion, although there’s a lot of that where wellness is concerned. You’ve probably (maybe) heard of fusion cooking. Fusion cooking is about mixing and matching and substituting non-traditional methods and ingredients and creating something different. It’s about starting with old familiar recipes and changing the spices, even some of the main ingredients and cooking methods to come up with a similar but new and different taste. Fusion of ideas and pre-conceived opinions.

Here’s some food for thought—what if we take the same concept and come up with, let’s call it, “Fusion Wellness.” We take the basics that work, we mix and match, we make positive substitutions, we create a new “recipe,” and we find a way to make wellness “tasty” for each of us. We find ways to fuse our lives with positive and realistic wellness patterns. It’s kind of catchy (and it’s catching, sort of like our concept of viral wellness).

We all know that healthy living doesn't happen at the doctor's office. The road to better health is paved with the small decisions we make every day. It's about the choices we make when we buy groceries, walk the dog or play with the kids, instead of watching TV. It’s about how all of these things fuse together to create our lives.

How about if we really make it a main ingredient and blend wellness into the mix?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Diet Wars

Most of us have been in the trenches. As a generation we are trying to recover from the diet wars, looking for sustainable solutions. And, after years of obsessing about fat, calories and carbs, we’ve been left mostly … fatter. So much so that 65 percent of us are overweight, and 31 percent are officially obese. Maybe we’ve finally convinced ourselves that diets don’t work. But, lifestyle changes do.

The good news today is that nutritionists and health researchers are seeing signs of change. The percentage of people on traditional diets (about 50 to 60 percent for the last 5 years) appears to be falling, and we are seeing growing signs of a “positive eating” trend. Positive eaters avoid traditional diets and instead focus on eating well, adding foods like vegetables, nuts, fruits and berries, grains and healthful fats onto the plate. Positive eaters cook with olive oil and season with herbs rather than salt. The key word is health. And notice, positive eaters eat real foods, not pre-packaged, not drive-thru, not instant just add water foods.

If you aren’t familiar with Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food,” which highlights our unhealthy dependence on processed foods instead of “real” food, we recommend it. And, along the same train of thought, consider this—with all the diet foods available, sugar-free soft drinks and low-fat snacks, the majority of Americans still can’t seem to manage their weight.

We like the concept of “positive eating” and of eating real food. It’s what we’ve been promoting for three years, and let’s face it—change takes time. Let’s focus on the big picture—and that means thinking about what to eat as much as what not to eat. And then, let’s enjoy our good choices.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How We Label Ourselves

Labels are interesting things. We look at them as a sort of compass, pointing the way to “true north.” They also mean different things to different people. And that’s what makes them interesting.

Being in the wellness business, it seems to us that for many people defining wellness is not an easy thing to do. We can define illness, or sickness, but is wellness just the opposite—or is it something more? What is this wellness “label?” We’d like to hear what you think.

Labels can be powerful. Most of us tend to accept labels as they’re applied. We—inadvertently or not—give the power to others to label us as normal weight, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese; as active, or sedentary. Don’t we already know? But then, here’s another question. Do we all have the same goals here? Do those doing the labeling have the same values as the labeled? And if we already know where we stand, why don’t we do something about it?

In reality, as adults, it seems we should be able to recognize when we (or our children) are carrying extra pounds, or spend our days sitting in front of a computer screen or television, never venturing out into the land of the physically active. After all, most of us know this is not a good thing. As adults, it is our job to decide how best to handle such situations. If someone points out that you “look great, that you appear to have lost weight” when you have not, you still have the extra pounds. But isn’t it up to you to decide what to do about those pounds? Or, do all of us who pay extra health care / insurance premiums for those costs associated with the chronic health conditions—and yes, the labels—of overweight, obesity and physical inactivity, have a say in what should be done with those extra pounds?

It seems to us the labels we apply to our situations—and what we decide to do about them—really should be our choice. But then we find ourselves addressing a new set of questions. Who pays for those choices? We all have options as to how we choose to respond to, or change, the situation. Yet, too often many of us passively accept both a label and a prescribed response rather than taking charge of both.

Don’t you have to wonder—if it’s in our power to make a change in our own self-interest and long-term health and wellness, if it’s in our power to find our way to the “true north” of wellness, why we don’t?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bias, Stigma or Reality?

In addition to our own thoughts and ideas regarding wellness, we know there are many others out there with very similar—and very different opinions.

The Mayo Clinic has just released an article quoting a study that finds evidence of what they call an “obesity stigma.” The Mayo Clinic states up front that this is a sensitive topic (and it is), and that it is not their intent in reviewing this study to offend anyone. Nor is it our’s.

The study, reported in the July 2008 “International Journal of Obesity,” was conducted with the objective of creating a tool that would measure and compare bias: Bias regarding obesity, homosexuality and Muslims. Why these targets? We don’t know. Maybe because they are all documented targets of discrimination. But, look at them, they did. It’s also worth noting that the study acknowledges the words “bias” and “prejudice” for purposes of its findings are interchangeable.

The findings: The strongest prejudice was against obesity, followed by bias against homosexuals, and then against Muslims. It’s worth noting that while there are laws in place to protect against and discourage discrimination against race, gender, sexual orientation and religion, there are no laws in place (yet) to discourage or punish bias against obesity.

Here’s a fact. We are all, as individuals, paying higher health insurance premiums, and we are all paying for Medicare and Medicaid benefits that treat a huge percentage of preventable chronic illness. And, we know that:

  • Approximately 40 percent of deaths in the U.S. are caused by behavior patterns that could be modified.
  • Almost one-half of all Americans report having a chronic illness—and those illnesses account for 75 percent of our national spending on health care—and that about 80 percent of all chronic disease is caused by three preventable health behaviors—physical inactivity, poor nutrition and overeating, and smoking.

It is well documented that employers pay a premium in health insurance and disability benefits for obese and overweight employees. Annual medical expenses for employees range from $114 for normal-weight individuals to $573 for overweight individuals to $620 for the obese. A Cornell University study (Dec. 2007) reported that obesity-related sick days cost employers $4.3 billion a year in 2004 dollars.

Here’s the question. We know behaviors can be modified and changed. We know healthy choices can replace unhealthy choices, and we know almost all of us can find ways to become more physically active and improve our dietary behavior.

So, is this issue really about bias—or lifestyle choice—and the answer to that question leads to another—who pays (and who should pay), and more to the point, how will this play out for all of us in the months and years ahead?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Don’t Eat This Food!

Is there anyone out there still unaware of the dangers of artificial trans fat? If so, this post is for you.

Trans fat—found in cookies, muffins, breads, mayo, baby food, yogurt, packaged meals, french fries, doughnuts, fried chicken and many other foods—is touted as the most harmful fat (on a gram-for-gram basis) in the food supply. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, trans fat is responsible for about 50,000 fatal heart attacks annually.

Getting rid of artificial trans fat means getting rid of partially hydrogenated oil, which is the only source of artificial trans fat. Unfortunately, as consumers we continue to be flooded with these unhealthy, chemically-modified ingredients every day. Unless we educate ourselves and are constantly vigilant, most of us don’t even know what we’re actually ingesting.

Artificial trans fat is more dangerous on a gram-for-gram basis than any other fat in food because, like saturated fat, it raises LDL, the "bad" cholesterol that promotes heart disease. But unlike saturated fat, it also lowers HDL, the "good" cholesterol that guards against heart disease.

In July, the California State Senate passed a measure to phase out the use of artificial trans fat in restaurants putting the state on track to being the first in the nation to adopt this life-saving measure. Other states, including New York, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Washington are looking at menu labeling and mandates to phase out the use of artificial trans fats.

And while some processors of packaged foods have replaced partially hydrogenated oils with healthier fats, making the reformulated products not only free of trans fat, but also lower in saturated fat, there are many who have not.

We don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that, “artificial trans fat belongs in the history books, not our recipe books.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

Let’s Spread a Little Wellness

If you receive our employer newsletter, Wellness in the Workplace, you know we’re promoting what we call “viral wellness.” All side effects are positive, and you don’t need (or want) a “cure.” We know illness is contagious, and studies have shown that obesity / overweight could be considered contagious since among families and groups of overweight or obese friends it becomes “normalized.” Therefore—contagious. The benefits of wellness too are contagious, reflected in healthier lifestyles, and for employers, healthier profits.

It takes time to build a culture of wellness. It happens over time, person by person, family by family, employee by employee. That's what viral wellness is about. But, first you have to catch it—really get it.

An estimated 30 to 45 percent of medical claims today are directly attributable to lifestyle choices such as obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, and physical inactivity. It is also the largest contributing factor to a number of chronic diseases, which contribute to 57 percent of all deaths annually in the U.S. In fact, obesity is now more costly to U.S. companies than smoking or alcoholism.

We know most of us want to be well, and if we have a reasonable expectation of success, we will make positive changes in our daily choices. Once we prove to ourselves we can be successful, we become enthusiastic advocates for the strategy that helped us meet our goals. And this is how 'viral wellness' spreads, not only within an organization but to family, friends and the community.

So, here’s wishing we all catch an incurable case of wellness and that it becomes an international pandemic.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve read posts on overweight, obesity, fast food, junk food, kids and television, and even the impact obesity has on global warming—and you’ve read some pretty scary statistics dealing with what all of this is costing us.

You’ve also probably picked up on the fact that LoneStart is a Wellness program, and as such works with organizations and individuals to create both a habit and culture of wellness—it’s about making better nutritional choices and finding ways to become more physically active. And, while LoneStart was not developed as a smoking cessation program per se, we’ve received feedback from participants who have applied the LoneStart principles to “unhealthy” choices such as smoking, and have been successful in their efforts. So this post will provide a few scary statistics in this area as well.

  • American employers spend an additional $753 per year in medical costs on smokers.
  • An additional $68 billion in medical care is spent each year in the U.S. on tobacco deaths.
  • Smokers miss an average of two or more workdays per year than nonsmokers and cost employers $47 billion per year in lost productivity.

As we know, wellness is about improving health—and smoking is just one risk factor. It is also a major contributor to chronic illness, as are obesity, overweight and physical inactivity. While 23 percent of the population in the U.S. smokes, 65 percent is obese or overweight. In fact, by 2012, just four years from now, three of four adults are expected to be overweight or obese.

What happens when health care costs reach the point where employers say we’re not going to hire someone who is overweight or obese or who smokes? What happens when smokers, overweight and obese employees are fired for their unhealthy lifestyle choices?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Loaded Meals

These meals are loaded –but not with nutrition. And our kids are filling up on them at many of the top restaurant chains. If you’re not familiar with the statistics already—you should be.

A report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest looked at the nutritional quality of kids’ meals at 13 major restaurant chains—and found 93 percent of the 1,474 possible choices exceed 430 calories. That amount is one-third of what the National Institute of Medicine recommends children ages 4 through 8 should consume in a day. An example cited in the report: A Chili’s Bar and Grill meal of country-fried chicken crispers, cinnamon apples and chocolate milk contained 1,020 calories. Another meal of cheese pizza, homestyle fries and lemonade contained 1,000 calories. Then there’s the Burger King “Big Kids” meal with a double cheeseburger, fries and chocolate milk at 910 calories.

In addition to excessive calories, the report found that 45 percent of children’s meals exceeded recommendations for saturated and trans fat (which can raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease), and that 86 percent of the children’s meals are too high in sodium. The report also notes that eating out now accounts for a third of children’s daily caloric intake, twice the amount consumed away from home 30 years ago.

Here’s a question to ponder: What are we doing to our children in the name of convenience?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Looking for a magic pill?

Physical activity is it. All the side effects are positive—and it treats the following (and more):

  • Moderate daily physical activity can reduce substantially the risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, gallbladder disease and certain cancers, such as colon cancer. Daily physical activity helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, helps prevent or retard osteoporosis, and helps reduce obesity, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and symptoms of arthritis.

  • 37% of adults report they are not physically active. Only 3 in 10 adults get the recommended amount of physical activity.

  • Significant health benefits can be obtained by including a moderate amount of physical activity (e.g., 30 minutes of brisk walking or raking leaves, 15 minutes of running, 45 minutes of playing volleyball). Additional health benefits can be gained through greater amounts of physical activity.

  • Thirty to sixty minutes of activity can be broken into smaller segments of 10 or 15 minutes throughout the day and still deliver significant health benefits.
  • Adults 18 and older need 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days a week to be healthy; children and teens need 60 minutes of activity a day for their health.

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. Physically inactive people are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease as regularly active people.

  • 41 million Americans are estimated to have pre-diabetes. Most people with pre-diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years, unless they make changes to their diet and physical activity that results in a loss of about 5-7 percent of their body weight.

And, it’s free! It costs each of us nothing but a little time and a little effort. It doesn’t involve health insurance reimbursement, Medicare or Medicaid payments and requires no government involvement or funding.

It’s not magic—just common sense.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Even Harder to Swallow

Fast food is an American original—quick, easy, relatively inexpensive and it’s become a cultural icon. According to a recent Research International USA study, more than half of our country (57 percent) has been to McDonald’s in the past month, followed by Subway (37 percent), Burger King (36 percent), Taco Bell (33 percent), Wendy’s (32 percent) and KFC (27 percent). Because most fast food is purchased hot, it isn’t required to have a nutrition label (even though this is beginning to change in some places), so you won’t know the trans fat, saturated fat or overall fat content.

If you don’t know already, trans fats increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke, make cholesterol worse, and are thought to be 10 times worse overall than saturated fats. The minimum amount of trans fat a person can consume, and not increase this risk—is zero. And, if Americans would reduce the amount of trans fats they are currently consuming—much of it from fast food, the Center for Science in the Public Interest estimates 30,000 to 100,000 deaths from heart disease could be prevented each year.

But in addition to the trans fat, consumers of fast food also eat more dietary and saturated fat, and fewer fruits and vegetables. The 15-year CARDIA study linked fast food to type 2 diabetes and weight gain. In fact, a 2004 study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that states with the most fast food restaurants per square mile also have the highest obesity rates.

So, we know it’s tasty (usually), convenient, abundant, inexpensive and fast. But let us ask—does fast food really reflect American attitudes and culture? Does it really reflect our values? What about our health and wellness? What about the quality of our lives long-term? What does it say about what we pass on to our children? America has led the fast food revolution. Maybe we can also show the world that we’ve learned from our mistakes and start a new, sustainable movement toward real food and healthier lives.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hard to Swallow?

How about a Big Mac, medium fries and a medium soda? How about 1,130 calories? Let’s pretend that’s lunch. Maybe for breakfast you had just a single jelly doughnut—at 270 calories. Then there was a mid-morning grande mint mocha chip frappuccino, another 460 calories. So far, that’s 1,860 calories, not counting any mid-afternoon or pre-dinner snack, and not counting dinner or after-dinner. And this is just the calorie count. Consider the fat, saturated and trans fat, cholesterol and sodium.

Dietary guidelines for adults recommend about 2,000 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight, depending on age, gender and activity level—fewer if you are one of the two-thirds of our population who is overweight or obese.

The average American spends about $500 a year on fast food, and more than half of our population eats fast food once a week. But a whopping 20 percent eat fast food at least every other day.

Sure, it’s fast, some of it’s tasty, it’s easy, it’s not super-expensive (the average spend per occasion is approximately $10.16). But if it’s not hard to swallow, it should be. We’re not doing ourselves any favors here, and if we think we’re saving time for the more important things in life, we should think again. The time we spend in a drive-thru rather than in the kitchen will come back to haunt us.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Parents! Are Your Kids in Front of the TV?

Do you realize what kids are watching on TV? First they're sitting there rather than being active. And they're watching advertising pushing food, beverages and candy—aimed straight at them. And, that’s just for starters.

  • Children ages 8 to 12 see an average of 21 television ads each day for candy, snacks, cereal and fast food, more than 7,600 a year.
  • More than 50 percent of television advertisements directed at children promote food and beverages such as candy, fast food, snack foods, soft drinks and sweetened cereals. In fact, in 2005, The Center for Science in the Public Interest reported that nine in 10 food ads on Saturday morning promoted high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar, or low-nutrient foods.
  • On Saturday mornings, children see one food commercial about every 5 minutes.
  • Food and beverage advertisers collectively spend $10 to $12 billion a year to reach children and youth.
  • And this is really scary—36 percent of all children 6 years old and under have a TV in their bedroom. A preschooler's risk for obesity increases by 6 percent for every hour of TV watched per day—and if there's a TV in the child's bedroom, the odds jump an additional 31 percent for each hour watched.

Now we’re informed that for the first time an influential doctors group, The American Academy of Pediatrics, is recommending that some children as young as 8 be given cholesterol-fighting drugs to ward off future heart problems. Add to this the fact that during the last 30 years, the number of obese children in the United States has more than tripled. According to the American Obesity Association, about 15 percent are now obese and 30 percent are overweight. A report in The New England Journal of Medicine says that, "Obesity is such that this generation of children could be the first basically in the history of the United States to live less healthful and shorter lives than their parents."

This is an epidemic of our making. It’s also one we can turn around.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What’s In Our Food?

Did you know that more than 80 percent of today’s soybean crop is genetically modified? This means its DNA was altered to increase production—and better withstand being sprayed with chemical weed killers such as Roundup. That’s not all. Almost 40 percent of all corn planted in the U.S. is genetically modified.

In part this gets back to the argument that “fresh is best,” and pre-packaged, convenience meals are a poor substitute for what we should consider “good nutrition.”

According to “experts,” if it comes in a can or a box and the label includes soybean oil or corn syrup as ingredients, the odds are that it contains Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs. On average, it’s not a stretch to point out that about 65 percent of all products in your local grocery store have DNA-altered ingredients. But you wouldn’t know it because food labels don’t list it. The FDA does not require disclosure of genetic engineering techniques on the food label.

“Labeling is the only way health professionals are going to be able to trace if there is a problem,” says Andy Kimbrell from the Center for Food Safety. “There is nothing, nothing substantially equivalent from a conventional crop to a GMO crop,” he says. “In every cell of these new GMO foods are bacterias we’ve never seen in food before; viruses, genetic constructs, and antibiotic bugs.” On the other hand, the FDA and bio-tech giants such as Monsanto, say there is no evidence that GMO’s are “anything but safe.”

And herein lies the debate.

But, don’t you have to wonder—are we part of a human trial we haven’t even signed up for?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Moms, Junk Food, Rats and Fat Kids

This post might be more interesting if you’re a rat, but . . .

There seems to be a correlation. A new study by London’s Royal Veterinary College, published in the Journal of Physiology found that the offspring of rats fed junk food while pregnant had increased blood sugar, blood fat, and decreased insulin sensitivity by the end of adolescence. And, once weaned, the offspring of the junk-food-fed rat mothers preferred junk foods more than the offspring of rats fed healthy food. And more—the obesity-linked genes were more active in the offspring of junk-food-fed mothers.

The rats whose mothers were fed junk food during pregnancy grew fatter over time than normal rats. “Their fat cells were larger, which might make them more prone to obesity and might make it harder for them to lose weight,” says Stephanie Bayol, PhD, London Royal Veterinary College.

But—where we human beings are concerned, before you completely blame Mom, consider that junk food has tastes and textures that appeal to children, and it’s heavily advertised during children’s programming. In fact:

  • Children ages 8 to 12 see an average of 21 television ads each day for candy, snacks, cereal and fast food, more than 7,600 a year. (Kaiser Family Foundation)
  • Nine in 10 food ads on Saturday morning are aimed at kids and promote high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar, or low-nutrient foods. (May 2005 data, Ameena Batada, Center for Science in the Public Interest)

Whether or not the “Rat Study” crosses over to us humans, it’s important to know that we can all take control, and all play a part in our own long-term health and wellness decisions—and in those of our children. Here’s an idea: Instead of offering the fast-food “chicken-nugget” dinner to your children, “because you know they will eat it,” offer a healthy alternative such as baked chicken and vegetables. Healthy for you, healthy for them.

It all gets back to personal responsibility, yours’ and what you do for your children.

Friday, July 4, 2008

It’s Independence Day

It’s Independence Day, and your country is counting on you. We've got a big problem and it's only getting bigger. America's fighting a new "Battle of the Bulge" and right now, we're losing the fight. And this is one battle we simply can't afford to lose. We can't afford it individually, our employers can't afford it, and our country can't afford it. And, we’re running out of time.

Each one of us pays an additional $175 annually through Medicare and Medicaid to cover obesity-related illnesses. The epidemic of obesity is costing us all in less obvious ways as well. When you buy a new GM automobile, you pay more for employee health care than you do for steel. And, according to analysis by researchers at Cornell University, the extra poundage packed on by the average American in the last decade required airplanes to use an extra 350 million gallons of fuel at a cost of more than $275 million a year (and that figure is based on prices in 2000 when jet fuel was 79 cents a gallon). On a more personal level, an overweight family may lose 10 percent of every gallon of gas they buy, and at today’s prices, that adds up fast. If we want to be "green" we've got to get lean.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says obesity has roughly the same association with chronic health conditions as 20 years of aging. It contributes to 53 diseases including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and some types of cancer.

How about this? What if this Independence Day we declare our independence from junk or fast food? What if we look for healthy substitutions? What if we work in a little more physical activity? If we as a nation of individuals can each make the effort to independently create a positive change for ourselves, we will collectively do great things for our country—and our own long-term health and wellness. We are all stakeholders in this effort, and together we can turn the epidemic of overweight, obesity, and inactivity around and reduce our risk factors for preventable chronic illnesses. It's a mouthful, but something well-worth chewing on. (And it’s calorie-free!)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wellness is Free Stuff

How so? Here are just a few figures on what it costs to be “unwell.”

  • Overweight and obesity costs total $117 billion in the United States each year.
  • Annual medical expenses for employees ranges from $114 for normal-weight individuals to $573 for overweight individuals to $620 for the obese.
  • A Cornell University study (Dec. 2007) recently reported that obesity-related sick days cost employers $4.3 billion a year in 2004 dollars.
  • Type 2 diabetes costs related to overweight and obesity: $98 billion per year.
  • Osteoarthritis costs related to overweight and obesity: $21.2 billion per year.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure) costs related to overweight and obesity: $4.1 billion per year.
  • Lost productivity costs related to obesity (BMI > 30) among Americans ages 17-64: $3.9 billion per year.

OK. But, what does it cost to walk around the block?

What does it cost to make better nutritional choices?

What does it cost to change behavior in modest but meaningful ways?

That’s why we say “wellness is free stuff.” And that’s not all.

  • Physically active people save an average of $500 a year in health care costs.
  • Adults gain two hours of life expectancy for each hour of regular physical activity.
  • Substitute water for one 20-oz bottle of regular soda each day and save enough calories to lose 26 pounds in a year.
  • Take the stairs. For a total of 2 minutes, five days a week, you’ll get the same calorie-burning results as a 20 minute walk. It burns 100 to 140 calories.
  • Sit up straight to eat—and you’ll eat about 10 percent less.
  • The average person makes about 200 food choices each day. When making those choices, pay attention to plate size, package size, and the people around you. By using smaller plates and bowls, you will eat up to 60 percent less (if you don’t go back for seconds).

It’s a start. Walk the dog, play with the kids, think before you eat. Free is good. Free wellness is really good.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dear CBS News,

We know breakfast is important.

But now you report that we have a “Big Breakfast” Diet, where we’re encouraged to eat a 600 calorie breakfast rich in carbohydrates. And, that this big breakfast will result in greater weight loss. Well, we can sort of see where all that food would keep you from getting hungry before lunch. That’s a good thing, but we know that people don’t always eat just because they’re hungry, and that many of us tend to snack our way through the day—and that in too many cases—the more you eat—the more you tend to want to eat.

In the big breakfast study, daily calories were limited to 1,240, with 610 of those calories consumed at breakfast. We know a controlled study is a whole lot different from real life, and we know too, that most of us won’t eat half of our daily calories at breakfast.

Rather than one more gimmick diet plan, LoneStart offers a real solution. For the past three years hospitals in Texas and the Midwest have participated in the LoneStart Wellness Challenge. We have partnered with the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals, Pioneer Health Network, and the National Cooperative of Health Networks to make our Caring for the Caregivers wellness strategy available to their members.

Examples: Permian Regional Medical Center in Andrews, Texas took the LoneStart Wellness Challenge in February 2008. The Midland Reporter-Telegram reported in a recent story that about 54 percent of the hospital’s employees lost a total of 500.5 pounds in three months.

Peterson Regional Medical Center in Kerrville, Texas has not only offered its employees several LoneStart Challenges in 2007 and 2008, but has taken it out into their community as well.

These are real results, in real communities, with real people dealing with real day-in-day-out choices. These are people taking personal responsibility for their own wellness decisions.

Maybe not as catchy as the Big Breakfast Diet—but effective, low cost, easy to implement and making a difference. If that’s not news, what is?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wellness—Of Course We’re Biased

So, after the three previous posts, we still know what we already knew—that bigger is not better when it comes to the human race. What can a workplace employee wellness program accomplish? What can an individual accomplish?

Success or failure. The road to wellness, becoming more physically active and yes, losing weight, begins with taking control—control of the decisions you make every day that determine your lifestyle and the quality of your life, both now and in the future. We know that just because information is available, those who need it most tend not to act on it. Motivation, support, incentive and the desire to meet a challenge are key to the success of the LoneStart Team Esteem Challenge. But that’s just one solution.

Healthy weight is a combination and balance of watching what you eat and becoming more physically active. The American Heart Association suggests:

  • Adjusting total calories to reach and maintain a healthy weight
  • Limiting saturated fat to 7 to 10% or less of your total calories
  • Limiting polyunsaturated fat to 10% of your total calories
  • Adjusting your monounsaturated fat to 15% of your total calories
  • Adjusting your total fat intake to no more than 30% of total calories if you are overweight
  • Limiting your cholesterol intake to less than 300 milligrams per day
  • Limiting your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day (the equivalent of about one teaspoon of salt)

We say, take it a step further and find ways to put your body in motion during the day. Take the stairs. Park further away and walk, walk around the block, or the parking lot, or the office, (just not to the vending machine).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Bigger, But Not Better—Part III, The Skinny on Obesity

Finally, let’s look at some of the really staggering figures associated with our growing society.

  • Since 1991, the number of Americans considered morbidly obese has increased more than 74 percent.
  • The Social Security Administration pays more than $77 million per month to those who meet obesity requirements for disability.
  • Obesity and inactivity are closing in on tobacco use as the leading preventable causes of death in the U.S.
  • Obesity is now more costly to U.S. companies than smoking or alcoholism.
  • Obesity is associated with 53 health conditions and has roughly the same association with chronic health conditions as 20 years of aging. It contributes to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and some types of cancer.
  • As many as 47 million Americans may exhibit a cluster of medical conditions (metabolic syndrome, or Syndrome X), characterized by insulin resistance and the presences of obesity, excessive abdominal fat, high blood sugar and triglycerides, high blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol.
  • It is likely that the increase in the prevalence of diabetes in the last 20 years in the United States is due to the marked increase in the prevalence of obesity. Body mass index, abdominal fat distribution, and weight gain are important risk factors for type 2 diabetes. (American Obesity Association)
  • From 1997 through 2004, the number of new cases of diagnosed diabetes increased by 54%.
  • Data from the 14-year Nurses’ Health Study demonstrated that normal weight women who gain only 11 to 17.6 pounds were nearly twice as likely to develop diabetes during the study. Women who gained 24 to 44 pounds were more than five times as likely to develop diabetes.
  • The medical consequences of obesity in the US—diabetes, high blood pressure, even orthopedic problems—costs an estimated $100 billion a year.

The costs are high, no doubt, but the ultimate cost to Americans is measured in chronic disease, disability and early death. If these are indeed costs we can begin to control, there’s never been a better time to start doing so.