Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cheaper to Gain than to Lose!

This is true. It’s cheaper to gain weight than it is to lose it. And, the economic downturn is partly to blame. People are stressed, and turn to cheap comfort foods like pizza, chips, ramen noodles, microwave burritos, processed foods, and pre-packaged foods such as macaroni and cheese and frozen meals. All are less expensive than say, chicken, fish and other lean sources of protein, or fresh greens—and all are loaded with fat and sodium. In fact, McDonald’s reported sales increases of 5.4 percent in January, which it attributed to the success of its “core” menu (burgers, fries and soda).

Yet, consider this: If you focus on the healthy choices, and skip the fast food and processed, pre-packaged foods, you’ll come out ahead—and with leftovers.

And, it’s not just about the food. Gym and fitness club memberships are down. The International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association reported that gym memberships fell by nearly two million between 2006 and year-end 2008.

But, all is not lost. Even if you are stressed, worried and feeling pinched, you don’t have to trade healthy habits for unhealthy ones, and in fact, now is exactly the time to start enforcing healthier choices—to maintain your health. Like we said, it’s cheaper to gain weight than to lose it, and it’s also cheaper to stay healthy than to try to regain health. Go back and read some of our earlier posts for tips on making healthy choices and finding ways to become more physically active. Get a group together at work to “take the LoneStart Challenge.” (And yes, this is our Blog, so we get to promote our program!)

Our responsibility for health begins at home. There are some challenges we all face we can’t do much about individually—but health and wellness is one that’s up to us.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Are the Wellness Police Knocking at Your Door?

A little over a year ago, we did an article on “The Wellness Police” in our complimentary monthly e-newsletter, “Wellness in the Workplace.” (You can sign up for it on The Workplace page of our website, In that article we talked about measures employers can legally take to promote wellness in their workplace without “crossing the line.” And with the health care monster looming, many are beginning to take those steps, addressing issues of obesity and smoking—preventable conditions, both of which lead to chronic and expensive-to-treat illnesses.

As an example, Whirlpool suspended 39 workers for lying about their smoking habits, by claiming to be non-smokers to avoid paying an annual $500 surcharge Whirlpool assessed on smokers enrolled in their company’s health benefits plan.

This isn’t an incident isolated to Whirlpool Corp., and it isn’t limited to smoking. There’s a “perfect storm” brewing in the employer-paid health care arena—accelerating medical costs, rising health care needs (in large part due to our sedentary lifestyles and overweight / obesity) and the approaching “talent war” that will make it more difficult to reduce health care benefits.

So, will employers have any choice but to move closer to workplace wellness as a requirement for employment? Interesting question. Complicated implications. Now, here’s a pretty uncomplicated solution if you think about it—what if we all took charge of our personal health and wellness, and what if we did it by doing those very things we know we should do? Why don’t we?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You Have a Choice

In our last post we pointed out that each of us makes about 200 food and beverage choices a day. That’s a great opportunity! Just think of all the chances that gives us to make healthy choices.

And, while we’re making those choices, we need to factor in number of servings and portion size. By consistently making just a few better choices (such as choosing water over soda), we can create behavior change—and when we change a few behaviors—open the floodgates.

Dr. Steven Lamm, Internist with NYU School of Medicine and Contributing Editor of the Best Life Magazine, points out that the foods we choose to eat on a daily basis contribute 80% to whether we will develop diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. This is something we can all do—and it’s in our own best interests.

So, why don’t we?

Monday, February 2, 2009

You Just Ate What!

As proponents of wellness we’re always amazed (OK, not amazed but continually surprised) by the nutritional, or lack thereof, choices such a large percentage of our population continues to make—on a daily basis. Each of us makes an average of about 200 food and beverage choices a day. Well, according to the Chicago-based NPD Group, here’s what some of these choices come down to, choices about what we decide to eat—not what we say we eat (and that’s key), but our actual culinary behavior.

For starters, there are some surprises here. On average, Americans frequent an upscale restaurant only about one out of every 100 visits. And, as for choice, we now have about 300 restaurant chains to choose from (with more than 2,000 locations). In fact, Applebee’s alone serves at least two million customers a day.

For the most part, our choices are sort of ordinary. Last year hamburgers topped the list of restaurant choices (we ate 13 billion of them). Next came french fries, pizza (about 23 pounds per person a year), Mexican food, and finally, chicken sandwiches.

Convenience and cost have a lot to do with these choices—and this brings us to “takeout.” Takeout makes life a little easier. It lets you take food home to eat with your family, but you don’t have to prepare it. Same with frozen and prepared meals-to-go. Just stop at the grocery deli.

We haven’t even begun to talk about serving size, portion size, calories, saturated and trans fats, sodium, high fructose corn syrup and other ingredients we would do well to watch when making our daily nutritional choices.

So, with all these choices, where do we go from here? That’s the question. Do we make sound nutritional choices? Do we try to improve our dietary behavior? Do we really just eat for convenience or do we stop to ask, “Is this even good for me?” And, if we’re going to ask the question, maybe we ought to be brutally honest about the answer. Seems like a good place to start. Anyone agree?