Monday, January 26, 2009

It’s the Metabolic Syndrome Blue – Plate Special

As February approaches, many of us tend to start thinking (tenderly we hope) about hearts. LoneStart Wellness thinks about hearts as well—but maybe from a different view.

  • Do you eat two or more servings of meat a day?
  • Do you eat fried foods?
  • How about many of the commonly eaten fast foods (which tend to be fried)?
  • And here’s a surprise – do you drink diet soda?

If you’re nodding yes to these questions, you’re at increased risk for metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is defined as a cluster of cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors, and includes high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, otherwise known as “good” cholesterol), high fasting glucose levels, and greater waist circumference. There’s also a strong connection between metabolic syndrome and being overweight or obese. The presence of three or more of these factors increases the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association recommends a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grain foods; fish at least twice a week; limiting trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium; and limiting diet soda as well as foods and beverages with added sugar. They also recommend maintaining a healthy weight, blood pressure and blood glucose level, and at least a moderate level of physical activity.

Makes sense to us. In fact, we promote much the same. The question is—does it make sense to you?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Are You Trying to Lose Weight?

So you want to lose weight—and you want to be well. These should be compatible goals, but consider the method—and beware.

On December 22, 2008, the FDA warned consumers not to purchase or consume 28 different over-the-counter supplements and products being sold for weight loss. Since that time, FDA analysis has identified 41 more tainted weight loss products that may put consumers’ health at significant risk, bringing the total to 69 products.

According to the FDA press release, prescription drugs were found in these dietary supplements, some at levels that far exceeded their maximum recommended dosages. The health risks posed by these products can be serious; for example, sibutramine, which was found in many of the products, can cause high blood pressure, seizures, tachycardia, palpitations, heart attack or stroke. This drug can also interact with other medications that patients may be taking and increase their risks for adverse drug events.

The FDA’s information site for consumers has more detailed information on the amounts of these prescription drugs that the FDA found, the serious side effects that have been reported and provides a list of people who are at special risk.

According to the FDA report, consumers should be familiar with the following signs of health fraud:

  • Promises of an "easy" fix.
  • Claims such as "scientific breakthrough," "miraculous cure," "secret ingredient," and "ancient remedy."
  • Impressive-sounding terms, such as "hunger stimulation point" and "thermogenesis" for a weight loss product.
  • Claims that the product is safe because it is "natural."
  • Undocumented case histories or personal testimonials by consumers or doctors claiming amazing results.
  • Promises of no-risk, money-back guarantees.

As we point out through LoneStart's individual and workplace programs--there are no easy "fixes" and there are no magic pills. It comes down to knowing how to making healthier choices, both in terms of nutrition and activity. It comes down to each of us taking responsibility for our health and long-term wellness. And it comes down to each of us making it happen.

Do you disagree?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Super-sized Portion Size

Is this a chicken and egg thing? As Americans continue to grow larger, so does the size of our meals and snacks. And now, the number of obese adults officially outweighs the number of those who are merely overweight. But back to portion sizes . . .

The foods we buy today are often between two and five times the size they were when first introduced (such as a serving of french fries, or a 64-oz Double Gulp). Or, look at the amount of food that fills that really big plate when you go out to eat.

This is where portion size and portion control comes into play. To help visualize serving size:

  • A serving of pasta should be no larger than a tennis ball
  • A serving of vegetables or fruit is about the size of your fist, or a baseball
  • A normal serving of meat, fish or poultry—about the palm of your hand (don't count your fingers!)—for example, one chicken breast, ¼ pound hamburger patty or a medium pork chop
  • A 3-oz serving of fish—the size of your checkbook
  • A 3-oz serving of meat or poultry—a deck of cards
  • A small baked potato—think computer mouse
  • A teaspoon of peanut butter—the size of your thumb tip
  • A serving of cheese—4 stacked dice
  • A cup of cereal—size of a fist
  • ½ cup cooked rice or mashed potatoes—1/2 of a baseball

And here’s the part that goes with the visualization—be sure to read labels on packaged foods and beverages so you’ll know how many servings are included.

Remember too, that your stomach is only about the size of two fists put together, so more food than this is too much.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

How Sweet It Is—Or Not

The holidays are over, but wait, Valentine’s Day is just a little more than a month away. Is your sweet tooth already talking to you? It might be saying something along the lines of . . .

So, you think you want something sweet, something like chocolate or candy? Here’s what you’ll be getting. All sugars aren’t the same, but you can count on a teaspoon of sugar having 14 calories ( as does honey, molasses, powdered sugar, and other “natural” sweeteners). Picture a soft drink with about 13 teaspoons of sugar, per serving size. Then there’s the ever-present high fructose corn syrup, or HFCS, derived from cornstarch and genetically modified corn. Not only is HFCS a little higher in calories than table or refined sugar, it actually increases the levels of fat in the bloodstream in the form of triglycerides. It changes the levels of the hormone leptin, which lets you know when you’re full, and at the same time, triggers high levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates eating.

And it’s not just the calories. While sucrose and fructose, found in table sugar and corn syrup, are considered, and labeled “fat free,” our bodies turn excess quantities which aren’t immediately burned, into fat, which is in turned, stored.

If you substitute artificial sweeteners—you now have Splenda, Stevia (Truvia), saccharin, aspartame and sucralose. But before you go “sweet on them,” consider that studies using animals have raised questions about these sweeteners and links to diminished fertility and cancer.

If you still have questions about just how sweet your sweet tooth might be, consider this—in 2007 Americans consumed 44 pounds of refined cane and beet sugar and 40 pounds of high fructose corn syrup—per capita!

Not to be sour on sugar, but a basket of fruit is looking better and better. Maybe this should be the year to give a gift of health. Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

LoneStart Wellness wishes you a happy, prosperous and healthy 2009.

Losing weight is consistently the Number One New Year’s resolution—but if you follow this blog and are at all familiar with the LoneStart Wellness Initiative, you know long-term health and wellness, not thinness, is the real goal. Change your mindset. Rather than focusing on having to go on a “diet” and the negative connotations that go with it, try instead to make better nutritional choices, practice portion control, and find ways to work physical activity into your life on a regular basis—you’ll soon find weight loss is a by-product of your wellness efforts.

So, here’s to starting the New Year off on “the right foot.” And, just keep going. Let us know how we can help, what we can post here that you would like to see—and what you think!