Monthly Archives: March 2013

Small change #15: Exercise for 5 minutes

Yesterday I had lunch with some family from out of town.  Uncle Rube is in his late 80s, and in swell shape, but he broke his femur a few months back and needs to do exercises every day.  He knows he should do the exercises, but he hasn’t felt very motivated (just like the rest of us).

I told him he should commit to doing some of the exercises every day, but just for five minutes.  If he didn’t want to do more, he could move on with his day.  He told me he has plenty of time. Time isn’t the problem, I told him.  Mental resistance to doing a long bout of exercise caused him to abandon the effort altogether.  Most of us can commit to five minutes.  Just the thought of only having to do a little seemed less onerous to Rube.

I started my exercise routine with a five minute commitment.  Every night since I was about 17, I have done stomach crunches for 5 minutes.  Stomach crunches were the only habit that stuck after a stint at a fat farm with my 103-lb. grandmother in a less-than-subtle nudge about my weight.  Before bed, I do 60 repetitions of 3 different stomach exercises.  It takes 5 minutes.  Sometimes I do a little stretching and lift some light weights, but I have committed to that one thing.  And it’s been…a LOT of years since.

Set a kitchen timer for five minutes and lift a little weight, do a few push ups, jumping jacks, jump rope…whatever moves you.  Every day.

Rube told me he’s going to give that a try.

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Small change #14: Buy and/or make a new food

Do your best old lady voice: What’s all this I’m hearing about kale?  What is this here Quinoa (KEEN-wah)?  How do you make an eggplant anyway?  

Buy a little kale, quinoa, or some other food you haven’t yet experienced.  Look online for a recipe or instructions on how to make it and give it a try as a side dish with dinner.  You might discover something you couldn’t believe!  You’ll also round out your diet with balanced, healthy foods.

I was asked recently by a lady in her 60s how to cook fresh broccoli as I was adding some to a bag.  I was so happy she asked! (You can boil broccoli for 2-3 minutes, but I prefer to make a shallow pool of water in a wide skillet, put the lid half on and let it steam for a few minutes.  Add a little grated parmesan over the top, and/or add a tiny bit of butter to the pool of water for serious yum.)

A couple of years ago a kid from my daughter’s school was visiting and wondered if she could taste vanilla soy milk.  She loved it, and I was moved by her enthusiastic response: “I could have gone MY WHOLE LIFE and not had this!”  Tasting one new food made her realize the importance of new experiences.  And she was all of 9 years old at the time.

 

Small Change #13: Walk the walk (and the dog and the kid and the coworker)

Walk around the block at work or at home.    It takes about 15 minutes if you really move it like you’ve got somewhere to be.  

Are you really busy, and when you get home you know life will be too chaotic? Walk around the block after work or take a quick break.  Make it part of your lunch hour.  Grab a co worker and make him or her do it too.  Or strap an iSomething to your head and pop some tags or admit you knew he was trouble when he walked in or whatever.  Walking will burn off steam and get your body ready for dinner.

 Or go home and grab that dog and those kids and make them go around the block and find out about their day.  (The dog will always say: “It was good!  It was good!  Wee!  You’re home and we’re walking!  Awesome!”)

Think of it as 15 minutes that will improve your mental state and leave your cells hungry.  Which means you will respond to insulin better.  Which means you will have lower cholesterol and lower risk of diabetes (or better glucose control if you already have diabetes).  Walking daily: It’s a pretty good bargain for the time investment, I’d say.

Small change #12: Give away some small change

How about some small change for someone else?

A couple of weeks ago a Boy Scout troop came by with some grocery bags with a little note asking if we could fill the bag with a few groceries to help people seeking help through MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity).

I filled the bag with chili, beans, Trader Joe’s version of Cheerios, and a couple of kinds of pasta.  I spent about $10.

Why not buy 1-2 staples for food pantry near you or send a check for the equivalent, remembering that even $5 every so often helps a lot.  Continue reading

Small change #11 Split dessert the selfish way

When we dine out and the server delivers dessert in the form of 1/4 of a pie, we have a tendency to abdicate responsibility for our ability to finish whatever is put in front of us (“I didn’t put that on the plate, I’m just the lucky recipient!”).   In fact, this is part of the reason many people enjoy dining in restaurants.

It’s probably a good idea to split dessert.  The caveat: Never share a plate. That thing where they deliver the enormous slab of cake and 4 forks inevitably leads to an eating contest to get the delicate sliver at the tip, then the icing off the back…you get the picture.

Ask for your own plate, or to have the thing pre-split.  Tell the server you aren’t good at sharing.  They always seem to believe me when I say it..

If your partner eats like a raptor and goes after yours, you can always stab at him/her a little with your fork, though I don’t recommend this on a first date (unless there won’t be a second date or they seem litigious about being assaulted with a fork).

What?  You are eating with someone on some diet who doesn’t want dessert or is just not really human and doesn’t have a sweet tooth?  Don’t forgo dessert because of them.  Order dessert and ask to have it split, with the other half placed in a to-go container.  Tomorrow there will be more dessert for you! If, while you enjoy your guilt-free serving, you notice sad-doggy looks, they won’t belong to your happy face.

Always leave a good tip for a server who goes the extra mile.  They’ll be thrilled to help you get that torte into a to go container next time.

Small change #10: Find out how many calories you need in a day

Once in a while I’m asked how many calories a person needs in a day.

It depends on the person’s height, weight, gender, age and activity level.

All of which you can enter right here to find out the answer quickly, along with how much you should eat in a day if you were being a perfect angel.  Click Create profile, and you will be prompted with boxes for the above information before the site will calculate your caloric needs.  If you want a quick estimate without considering exercise or the factors above, look here.

Even if you’re feeling a little less heaven-sent, this will give you guidance.  Moderation in all things, even perfection!

Small change #9: One less sugary drink

If you don’t drink sugary drinks, don’t walk away just yet.  What about the sugar in your coffee or tea or iced tea?  Not you?  Okay, now you can walk away.

If you drink sugary drinks — Gatorade, Frappuccinos, etc.  this would be one of the easiest things you could do to lose weight and become healthier.

I’ve had students who drink 5 sugary drinks a day.  To them I say: Make it 4.  Maybe work down to 1 a day over time.

If you drink coffee and you add cream and sugar each time, it adds up.  And don’t EVER use that powdery creamer crap — it’s got trans fat that will raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol.  It’s rubbish.  It will hurt your heart.  You’re better off with cream.

Have one coffee a day with all that crap loaded in, and after that, pace yourself.  A little artificial sweetener and a bare minimum of cream for the rest, and cut down wherever possible.

Drink water.  By the time you register thirst, you’re already a little dehydrated.  Try out herbal teas and let them cool a little so you have a little flavor in your water.  Give a few berries a light squeeze, then throw them into your water and it helps also.

Gatorade is for athletes working out over an hour doing vigorous exercise.  It isn’t for watching the game.  Also, it tastes like blue sweat, so what is all that?!

Be mindful of the sugary stuff.  Split a frappuccino with a friend (bring a cup with you do this — save money too!).  If you do more than one a day (forehead slap), drink half and put the other half in the fridge for later.  Do what you can to cut back and you will see that you are less hungry because your insulin levels won’t spike through the ceiling, then crash down leaving you starving.

DO eat something to make up for the sugar when you cut back.  I don’t mean just lettuce either.  A few nuts, a yogurt if you haven’t head one already (provided that it’s Greek and less sugary over all — less than 16 g) — these will keep you fuller longer than a Coke or a Slurpee.

Small change #8: Eat a little breakfast

Don’t skip breakfast.

I hate eating breakfast.  I have a 0% fat greek yogurt (high in protein low in sugar)  just about every day with a nice cup of tea.  It makes me human.  I highly recommend it.

200 calories will do ya, with another 150 or so at 10 am so your blood sugar doesn’t fall through the floor waiting on lunch.  And obviously more if you’re not a short little middle aged woman such as myself!

Breakfast meeting?  Egg white omelette, a bready item that is NOT a muffin, or half a muffin if it cannot be helped (and sometimes, let’s face it, it cannot be helped!), and fruit, though it always pains me just a little when I order not to say Potatoes!  When possible, I poach a couple of breakfast potatoes off someone else’s plate (um, don’t do this at a meeting — but with the spouse, it’s on!).  Keep it light.  I don’t recommend a Grand Slam or anything that slams in the morning, particularly if you are already worried about over doing it.

In a couple of hours, there must be a snack!  See below for some good options: 25_Healthy_Snacks_Kids_2012_Tearpad

Small change #7: Pack a meal or snack — or both, then achieve balance

Of course you’re busy, I know that.  Do this at night: Pack like your very best self.  You know, what you would pack a kid you wanted to keep healthy.  A sandwich and fruit and a few chips (a few chips means what the recommended serving says).  A salad with beans or a little chicken or something over the top, with carrot and cucumber and a little — 1 Tbsp — container of REAL dressing (not the fat free crap).

Snacks: Carrots with a bit of hummus, or even pretzels with a bit of hummus. A small handful of peanuts and raisins.  A small bag of chips.  And apple or banana.  Or a few.  Don’t be afraid to pack a lot of fruits and vegetables — that’s not what’s bringing this country down, you know?  A little dried fruit sometimes helps a sweet tooth.  A lot will give you diarrhea and well, a lot of gas, so be careful out there.

Do as little or as much of the above as you can.  If you only have time to lay out a little trail mix in a bag and grab that, it’s fine.  But if you can grab a few Cuties (little oranges or clementines or whatever those amazing little things are) or something that will quench your hunger, that will go a long way later when  want something to eat while you’re in front of the computer.  You won’t think it will work, but when you’re hungry you’ll eat it anyway and then be surprised when it does work.

If you need something to eat while you’re busy, make it fruit or a vegetable with a little protein (a cube of cheese — not a BLOCK of cheese, but one the size of a couple of dice), or a few nuts (5 almonds, for example), which will keep you from gnawing your hand off or raiding the doughnut box before lunch.

Make sure lunch, if you pack it, is satisfying.  it’s better to have a little of something you love than a lot of something you don’t.  One slice of that leftover pizza with a bit of salad if you can’t take the idea of just salad for lunch for example.  Or bring a little salad, eat it FIRST, then go get the kid’s size burger from fast food if that’s what you live for (skip the fries, or get a size smaller than what you normally buy.  You usually get small?  Share or throw half away.  Or ignore me and just bring the salad!).  You see?

If you work a little bit of fruit and perhaps a vegetable in there, you will eat less of the stuff you love and still get to have it — just not all at once.  The best way to do that is to pack something and be ready so you don’t raid vending machines or head for sugary drinks at the coffee place nearby.

If you like all of that, pace yourself.  Pack a lunch and allow yourself the sugary drink once a week, the vending machine once a week, and the burger once a week.  Just not all at once.  It will feel painless but it makes a LARGE difference over time.

Small change #6 – learn how to read a food label

Sure you look at these once in a while, but do you understand what you’re looking for?

Take a minute and have a look at this, from the FDA, which is a launch page.  Here is the actual food label guide.

For every 4 g of “sugars” there is the equivalent of 1 tsp of sugar in the product.  If the product contains fruit or dried fruit, some of this total will come from the fruit, but if there is not fruit, it’s likely just from added sugar.

The DV — the % on the label, does NOT tell you the percentage of fat, sodium, etc. in the product.  It tells the percentage of fat it contributes to the overall diet of a person eating 2,000 calories.  I know.  So just learn the 5 and 20 rule: If the % is 5 or less, it’s low in the nutrient — this can be good if it’s fat or sodium or cholesterol — and if it’s over 20% it’s an excellent source.  Most canned soups come in at about 18% DV for sodium — a bit high, right?  The 5/20 rule will help you decide quickly what’s up.

Look at the ingredients.  They are sorted by weight.  If sugar or fat are at the top, don’t eat too much of this product.