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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sometimes I feel like I'm some how a fraud, that I'm not living up to the promise of the healthy lifestyle--especially the last few weeks. This week I've sort of gotten back on track with the fitness. I went to the fitness center on Monday and did 30 minutes on the treadmill (apparently WAY overdoing things, oops) and then 40 minutes of strength training. Tuesday I went back and did another 30 minutes on the treadmill (which went a lot better, by the way. I still need to play around with the settings to find the optimal one for my pace, as I'm not sure the work out was quite intense enough, but I didn't feel like a wet noodle when I was done, either). Today I was supposed to do 30 minutes of treadmill and 40 of strength training, and I just couldn't make myself do that. I ended up doing about 25 minutes of my Bollywood dance cardio instead and am wrestling with the feeling that I somehow cheated.

On the upside, the Bollywood dance cardio is a serious workout for my thighs especially--it's a fun work out but leaves my thighs burning, and that's with me skipping the hopping maneuvers which I'm still not allowed to do. So it feels a lot more intense than the treadmill, though I don't know how it compares in terms of calories burned. Still, I didn't strength train.

Even that wouldn't be so bad except that I've also been way off on the food this week, too. Ironically, when I wasn't working out, I did really well on food--I ate within my calorie limits, I had fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains, etc. I start hauling myself back onto the exercise wagon, intending to work out at least 5 days a week instead of 2, and suddenly I'm hungry All. Day. And making unhealthy food choices--I got into cookies, and chips, and candy. Today I caved in and got Taco Bell, which I've been craving for awhile now--and ended up eating 2,500 calories today as a result (that's really easy to do whenever I eat fast food, unfortunately).

. emoticon :2, Zanna: 0

It was my decision. I knew it was going to be unhealthy and I did it anyway because I wanted tacos and I didn't want the healthier option. And I think, in the long run, I can live with that decision, just as I can live, even if I'm not entirely happy with it, that the fact that I was hungry Monday and Tuesday meant I ended up eating more than my calorie budget. I am working with accepting the fact that I'm not perfect and I still am balancing my craving for sweet, salty, and fatty foods (though usually not all at once like this week) against being healthy. Once I get more used to working out regularly again, I'm hoping that my appetite etc. will get more manageable again. Getting my routine solid will help, too. Working on that.

I have this negative, nagging voice in my head that keeps telling me "you're just fooling yourself. You aren't making a difference. You aren't good enough. Who are you to give advice or support or even claim to be making a difference in your life? You had Archway cookies this week. Today you had Taco Bell and skipped your strength training." I feel like a fraud because I read about people who ban trans fats (guilty, this week--I had 2 archway cookies, at 1 gram of trans fat each) and I don't eat a lot of trans fats but they aren't banned, either. I read about people who have cut soda from their diet and I still drink about one can of sugared soft drink a day--lately I'm trying to cut back again from 2. I read about people who don't eat processed foods, which I'm definitely guilty of. I read about people who eat only whole grains, while I still eat a lot of refined grains. I only do about 30 minutes of cardio a day on average, with 40 minutes of strength training 3 times a week (at most, seeing as I skipped today), and I know lots of people who routinely do an hour or more. And so forth.

But you know what, I'm not a fraud. I'm not fooling myself. So I skipped strength training--I still did what was, for me, a demanding cardio workout. I may have had Taco Bell, but I still had whole grains and fresh fruit and drank my water and so forth. It wasn't perfect, but it was still better than it might have been. I'm making a difference.

Nextyear posted a quote in her blog from a man who first ran a marathon in his 60's--when asked how he did it, he said "Start slow, and gradually slow down." His argument is that most would-be marathon runners start out really enthusiastic and then quit because it's too much. The trick is to pace yourself so that you don't burn out.

Well, I think that's what I'm doing. Pacing myself. So white flour isn't banned from my house--I'm still eating more whole wheat than I used to. I've even found some whole wheat foods I like, though I still find plenty I don't (the whole wheat crackers I had for my snack today, for example, I won't be buying again. Bleah). I'm drinking more water, drinking less soda, and eating more fruits and vegetables--even on the days when I made other, less healthy choices. I never stopped working out, just slowed down, and now I'm working at being more consistent again. It's been slow, with a lot of trial and error, but baby steps do make a difference.

But I'm not a fraud, so long as I'm upfront about it, right? I'm not perfect, folks. I sometimes make unhealthy food choices. I sometimes skip work outs. I'm losing weight, but very slowly, and I'm struggling to find my balance between healthy and not feeling punished, deprived, or just having it just take up so much time it's not sustainable, and sometimes I slip and even backslide. But I'm still plowing ahead, working on those two steps forward for every step back. And from what I've read, that counts a lot. I have made real progress and maybe I slip up sometimes, but I'm still doing better and living healthier than I was before I started on this journey.

I just need to remind myself that this isn't a competition--it doesn't matter that one person I know eats no refined flour or another person eats twice as many vegetables or that another person runs/walks 40 miles every week. I'm doing this for me; what matters is that I'm doing the best I can within my limits for a healthier, fitter me. And that includes accepting that I won't always make unhealthy choices--what matters is that I make healthy choices more often than not.

But I do hope that I manage both food and exercise better tomorrow!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

4-1HEALTHYCYNDI 3/25/2010 4:15PM

    Right there with ya and you are soooo not a fraud. You are my friend and you shouldn't talk about her that way!

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HEATHER_TEACHAH 3/25/2010 6:54AM

    I've been feeling the SAME way lately!
I've realllly slacked off the past 5 days (which I blame on 1) the gray weather and 2) this "I'm plateaued so what does it hurt to eat more/not workout anyway) and I feel like such. a. fraud.
Hate it! But you know what? Being healthy is about making really good/healthy choices 80% of the time. This is what I've realized. Because I"ve been 'perfect' 100% of the time in the past and I was a miserable, miserable girl.

I am so proud of you and always inspired by you. So don't feel like a fraud because I seriously don't know where I'd be w/out you!!


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KOMAL53 3/25/2010 5:35AM

    Know something????Loosen up---you're still young---these are goals you've set for yourself not deadlines that you've to meet----don't become so deadly serious about this!!!What's with you young folks today----just learn to have a little fun---eating a few things here and there is OKAY----nothing works---specially a Diet----which is not elastic.Learn to relax and sit back a little----you'll find you're enjoying yourself again and Life is less of a pain again!!!
Guess that's the Mom in me to the fore again---you remind me a lot of my Sayali!!!
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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CHASINGTHENOW 3/25/2010 1:34AM

    Doing your best doesn't make you a fraud. The key is stop comparing yourself to others. If you want to start cutting out trans fats and sodas then by all means please do so, but if that's not where it's at for you then shake it off! :)

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NIMI4444IN 3/25/2010 1:13AM

    U r not at all a fraud n dnt forget no 1's perfect we all go through these phases. important thing is u kno it n change accordingly. smtimes its ok to give in to ur carvings but ensure u take it in small quantities. we cant stop eating comfort foods completely, so try to take them in moderation when u want.

I'm sure u'l do fine with ur target n achieve them. think positive n follow your plans. we all r here for u too.

Luv & emoticon


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SAASHA17 3/25/2010 12:42AM

    hey r not a fraud buddy!!in the few months i have known u..u have come a long way....u had soda every single day...

well its not easy trying to ban foods out of ur life...and its ok....ur not living in a gets in the way..u dnt have to be perfect....but slow prgress is good enough..

so NO u r not a fraud.....ur doing so good...taco bell is fine once in a while....

take care

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SPARKGIRL32 3/25/2010 12:27AM

    It doesn't matter what you are doing--as long as you are doing something! Chances are if you don't like what you are aren't going to do it for a long period of time! If you are doing something you like (like an exercise video) most likely will continue to do it!! Good luck :)

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Tired but Succesful

Monday, March 22, 2010

Well, I went to the gym. I came very close to not going, I confess. I really didn't want to go. I could go tomorrow, my inner brat said (to borrow the term from 41HealthyCindy); I'm tired. But really I just really, really, really didn't want to go. But I made myself go anyway.

I did 30 minutes walking on the treadmill, including about 5 minutes of warm up and 5 minutes of cool down. I have never used the treadmill before, but I'd read that you should raise the incline and even though I was aiming for a more relaxed workout (so that I wasn't over doing it) I still wanted it to be a decent work out, so I set the incline at 9 and the speed alternating between 2.5 and 3.0, trying to find a comfortable but brisk walking pace. But 2.5 didn't seem quite enough and 3.0 seemed to be too much, because my heart rate hit 180 and I was exhausted before I was half through, even though I wasn't actually breathing all that hard. So I'm a bit confused. I guess I need to experiment with it some more. I also wasn't sure how to enter it into sparks--there all sorts of things like percent incline and how many minutes a mile you go and stuff--but I'm not sure how level 9 translates into % incline. I did 1.3 miles, which wasn't great, but is better than having spent the afternoon on my couch.

I feel ridiculously out of shape for someone who's been working out regularly for over a year. emoticon

Then I did strength training, a mix of some new exercises (because I thought it a good time to mix things up) and some old ones. That part went okay.

And, hey, I went to the gym. I really didn't want to but I did anyway and that has to count for something.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KOMAL53 3/23/2010 4:43AM

    Are you mad??????Treat your body with respect as well as love----don't take unnecessary risks---please!!!!Take it from one who has truly suffered---better to be safe than sorry!!! emoticon emoticon

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4-1HEALTHYCYNDI 3/22/2010 6:21PM

Are you nuts? Putting the incline on level 9 which is like the high end? The first time on a treadmill? No wonder you were exhausted. I can't even do a level 9 incline. Level 1 is a low incline, I think level 9 is about a 45% angle (off the top of my head). OK, now then here is what I do on the treadmill. First I warm up on an level incline. Then I start doing intervals. Playing with speed and incline levels, some of them level for a break. I have never reached an incline higher than level 3 and thought I was doing great.

I wouldn't worry about the incline and getting a good workout until you can easily do the walking at a 0 level incline. I never worried about it until I felt I wasn't being challenged by my walks on the treadmill. I wouldn't want you to re-injure your hip by trying to do more of an incline than you can comfortably do.

Try the treadmill at 0 - 2 to start. No wonder you are so wiped out after a workout. You are probably in better shape than you know. Most people I know don't use the treadmill at level 9 except as an interval.

Feel more energized soon!

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SAASHA17 3/22/2010 5:16PM

    U worked out..yay U/...

So listen this is wat i do on the treadmill..I go on incline 6-7 and maintain 2.7...or go on 3 and go really mom taught me that...incline like 11-12 and speed huigher, so its easier...

but dnt do too much of it, as it may hurt ur knees...

I am thinking of getting those shape ups from skechers but they r expensive ..they r supposed to help u tone..lets see..

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Exercise Adjustment?

Friday, March 19, 2010

I confess, I'm getting really discouraged when it comes to cardio. With strength training, I see progress--fairly quick progress at that, as I have been slowly increasing the amount of weight I can lift etc. With flexibility training, I can see progress--again, gradual, but not so gradual I can't tell. I can stretch farther than I had when I started. But cardio? That's a lot harder. Last summer, I saw progress, but since last fall when I got so sick, I got set way back and I'm still not even back to where I was last spring. In fact, I've been doing the exact same routine now since before Christmas.

Today I hit a new (since last fall anyway) record--2.1 miles, 271 calories. But my heart rate was way too high (190's--I know the machine isn't terribly accurate, but I was also struggling) and I felt terrible and couldn't breathe and in general was miserable. I should never have pushed it that hard. I was trying something new and on the one hand I hit a new record but I don't think the pay off was worth feeling so lousy. And while I was thinking of my time on my elliptical as "running" (though I knew it wasn't as serious a work out as running for real) I was disappointed to realize that I've been averaging only 4.6-5.1 mph. That's more like a fast walk or slow jog than really running.

I don't know what's wrong with me. I don't know why I can't seem to break past this, why I'm still struggling with exercise induced asthma (which wasn't so much a problem last spring, summer--I didn't start having real problems with that until last fall when I got sick.) I talked to my doctor about it and he wasn't concerned--he says just use the rescue inhaler. Which I will, if that's what it takes, but I don't like taking it. Maybe come summer, when the air isn't so dry, I won't have as many problems. But in the meantime, I'm driving my heart rate up much too high, having trouble breathing, and often feeling wobbly and ill by the time I'm finished. I'm really struggling at finding that sweet spot that gets the heart rate up (to healthy levels) and burns fat and yet isn't too much. I read about how working out is supposed to make you feel good--energized, etc. I don't feel good when I work out; I felt terrible. And it's making it harder and harder to get back.

So. I think I need to try something different. I wish I had thought of it earlier this week, because the weather has been so lovely but a cold front is supposed to be on route, but I'm going to stop using the elliptical for a bit---or at the very least cut back on it--and try just walking for awhile. It doesn't burn as many calories and I'm not allowed to run or even jog still, but maybe that will help break through this stamina/heart rate issue. Maybe it's time to lay off on the intensity and worrying about how many calories I burn in a week for awhile. If the weather is nice out, I'll try walking outside. If it's not, I'll try the treadmill, or run dance cardio DVDs at home. Because when what I'm doing feels like I'm just constantly slamming myself at a wall, it's time to try something different.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KOMAL53 3/20/2010 1:02AM

    Your health HAS to come first---don't push your body too hard---the goals you set yourself should be flexible and elastic.Keep a positive outlook---by overstressing yourself you may fall back instead of going forward!!!Take care---you WILL get there----take things as they come and just don't push too hard!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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VEACHXCL 3/19/2010 6:14PM

    Good luck in finding a way to get those lungs stronger. Its hard, but stick with it.

Comment edited on: 3/19/2010 6:16:26 PM

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4-1HEALTHYCYNDI 3/19/2010 5:38PM

    Mixing up the cardio is a great idea. Also doing something you enjoy rather than something "you have to do" will make the time not only go faster, but give you a better workout. I know a lot of people like the elliptical machines. I have used them with limited success before.

Don't worry about calories burned as much as consistency. I know you have a goal of a certain number of fitness minutes a week. It says nothing about the "intensity" the exercise has to be at. You can lower the number of calories burned to recalculate your nutritional guide. It may or may not change depending on the calculations.

Exercise should be a challenge not torture. Give yourself a break. With medical conditions it is always harder to bounce back. I am not where I was last spring either. Last year at this time I was consistently able to walk/Tae Bo for 40 - 50 minutes 6 days a week. Now I am (even before injuring my ankle) am only able to do 30 - 40 minutes 5 days a week. Mostly at a lower intensity. The reality is that I may never get back to that level. I will strive for it, but may never make it consistently. I will do what I can do today. I will build on it tomorrow.

If you can, forget last year. It is over and done. Concentrate on building from where you are now. I like the idea of walking outside.

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SAASHA17 3/19/2010 5:15PM

    Hey Zanna,

Each person is different...I hae it easier with Cardio but trying to grow in ST...but ur the its good..Dont give up but dont be so hard on urself too...dont exert urself at such heart rates and stuff...Its ok to walk some days and do the elliptical some days....just be careful and u will reach that stage...the weather is getting hotter and I am finding it hard to workout ...see i am the opposite..Just listen to ur body and be careful..why dnt u try this..3min elliptical, 2 min weights and 1 min abs... Do 4 circuits like this..and see how u feel..It burns more calories but u get ur rest intervals during ST and abs....

take care

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OMRIS99 3/19/2010 4:21PM

    I usually love the elliptical. My perceived exertion feels low even when it gets my heart rate up, and the lack of impact on my legs means I never get sore. But I try never to do ANY routine to the exclusion of all others. Even if you feel like you're not working as hard, mixing in some walking can help make your progress on the elliptical come faster. Cross training really does improve your overall fitness more than doing only one activity I think.

And don't discount the effect that a significant illness will have. I also have asthma, although It doesn't get triggered by exercise, thankfully. A physician once told me that the lingering mild inflammation that makes you so prone to having an attack can take 6 months to heal completely, so it's not shocking that you're still feeling it.

Take it as slow as you need to. Even a slow stroll is still good for you.

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SRITHI97 3/19/2010 3:50PM

    hi Zanna, i guess its better to workout consistently and build your workouts,instead of pushing yourself and not able to perform better later,i am telling you from my personal experience. build up your endurance level and then push your self, i guess that will yield better and consistent results. try interval training, where you push yourself for couple of mins, then recover for a couple of min, spaced thr' your workout. you will feel challenged and at the same time not totally exhausted. you can do this even on a regular walk. give it a try. take care,

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On a Lighter Note....

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Borrowed from Saasha17 because it sounded like fun...

1. What did you eat for breakfast?
** Today, nothing, because I had my yearly doctor's check up today, which meant fasting for blood work. Most days when I eat breakfast I've been having yogurt though I just got peanut butter to eat with toast for breakfast as an alternative.

2. How much water do you drink a day?
** 8-12 cups, depending on how much I exercise and the weather.

3. What is your favorite workout?
**I love tennis, though I don't really consider it a work out per se. I also enjoy water aerobics and yoga.

4. What is your favorite fruit?
**Hard call. Tied between pomegranates and raspberries, I guess.

5. What is your favorite vegetable?
** Tied again between jicama and green peppers

6. How many calories do you burn a week?
** between 1145 and about 1500 a week (I'm such a slacker compared to my friends!)

7. How many calories do you eat a day?
** 1 aim for between 1360 and 1710, which is what sparks recommends for my activity level. And I hit it probably 70% of the time (would like to hit it closer to at least 80%--that's a work in progress). I rarely go above 2000, though I did today (2500 or so, despite the fact that I didn't eat breakfast. Or maybe because of?)

8. What are your favorite healthy snacks?
**Seasonal fruit (clementines at the moment), trail mix with a mix of dried fruit and nuts, and cheese and crackers.

9. What do you usually eat for lunch?
**Depends. Left overs are common, or canned soups, or eggs cooked various ways, with fruit or fresh vegetables. I'm need to get back to finding some really easy, quick but healthy lunches.

10. What is usually for dinner?
**Whatever my husband feels he can eat and feels like cooking--often beef or pork with rice or pasta.

11. What is your favorite body part to strength train?
** Upper body because it doesn't hurt and I feel strong

12. What is your least favorite body part to strength train?
**the side muscles in the legs (abduction muscles? the ones that lift the legs out sideways from the body). Those are the muscles that deteriorated the worse and even after years of physical therapy, the physical therapy for those muscles hurts. It sucks. But it works, so I keep doing them.

13. What is your least favorite exercise?
** Running. I hate running, always have.

14. What is your favorite exercise?
** Leg presses on the weight machine. I'm not sure why--maybe because it's often the first exercise that I do--but it's kind of fun.

15. What are your "bad" food cravings?
** The worst? Mt. Dew--loaded in sugar, caffeine, and yellow #5, it's my biggest addiction. After that, sweets in general, chocolate in particular, and salty foods like chips or crackers.

16. What is your go to workout song?
** I have a lot of them--something like 250 (I can't access the playlist, because it got lost when my computer died, whah! At least all the music itself was backed up). A good candidate would be Perhaps, Perhaps by Dorris Day and Sing Sing Sing, a classic swing song. Anything cha cha, salsa, or meringue is good also. And I have a special fondness for 80's music, like Girls Just Want To Have Fun by Cindy Lauper, because it brings back healthy, active memories (things like going rollerskating when I was young).

17. Do you take vitamins or supplements?
** Yes, flax seed oil and a multivitamin.

18. How often do you eat out?
**It really depends on the week. If we are away from home, which happens a lot, a lot. If we're home, very little. We don't tend to eat out when we're home because it's hard for my husband to eat out.

19. Do you eat fast food?
**sometimes--it's cheap and it's fast, and when we're away from home we don't necessarily have the time or money for a sit down place.

20. How do you stay motivated?
**Varies... I read success blogs and informationa articles and about what my friends are doing. I'm putting together a motivational collage and gathering quotes and reminding myself that I have to go stand up in front of all my friends this fall as a brides maid AND am going on a cruise (whoo hoo!) and I want to look awesome in my swim suit. Also, I try to remember how far I've come in terms of my hip and over all fitness and rediscovering things I enjoyed doing.

21. Who is your biggest supporter?
** My husband; after him my many friends. My friends have been great supporters. My dad has also been really helpful, giving me advice, equipment, etc.

22. How much weight have you lost?
**I need to weigh myself again--from my doctor's visit it looks like I've finally lost the weight I had put on over the holidays (grrr. And I was really disciplined during the holidays, too) so I'm back to 10-11 lbs lost at a guess. But I'm a lot healthier and fitter and my clothes are loose so I'm definitely seeing progress that isn't necessarily reflected in the scale.

23. How did you determine your goal weight?
**I split the difference between the upper healthy BMI for my height and the weight I was when I was an undergrad (which is at the bottom of my healthy BMI range) and split the difference. I figure when I hit my healthy BMI, I can rethink my goals.

24. Do you have a gym membership?
** No, though we have access to a community fitness center that's small but free.

25. How often do you work out?
**5-6 days a week, ideally, though the last few weeks have not been consistent. But I'm getting back into it.

26. How did you find Spark?
** A friend recommended it to me.

27. How much sleep do you get a night?
**8-9. Maybe I'm getting old but after seriously short changing myself on sleep for almost a decade, I jealously guard my sleep now. I really don't function well without at least 8 hours any more.

28. Are you a morning or night workout person?
** Strangely enough, a morning workout person. I'm a night owl, but our evenings tend to be really busy and chaotic and if I'm going to get it done, it tends to be in the morning. Though my husband is trying to go with me now 2 days a week, and those have to be in the evening because the fitness center is closed until after he's left for work (strange, but true. This may help explain why it's rarely busy when I'm there!)

29. Do you have a "cheat" day?
**Not on a regular basis, though I may have specific days (like my birthday) where I let myself have a little extra treat or something. But I don't have days where I eat whatever I want with no regard to calories.

30. Do you drink soda?
**My big sin :( Some day I hope to shake the soda addiction, especially since I can't stand diet soft drinks and each can is 170 empty calories. I was doing pretty well at paring back, and then the computer disaster hit and even though I restrained my caffeine/soft drink consumption, it did bounce up again. Sigh. But I'm getting that, too, back under control.

31. Do you drink alcohol? How much?
** Sometimes. I like a glass of wine now and then, or a shot of something like brandy or scotch. I don't drink regularly and rarely more than a glass or two when I do drink. Maybe I have a drink once or twice a month?

32. What is your favorite thing about Spark?
**I love sparks, but my favorite thing here is the friends I have made. You guys are awesome!

33. What do you not like about your body? What do you love about your body?
**At the momment, I hate my pudgy stomach and thighs. Seriously, my belly makes me look almost pregnant--a fine look if I actually *were* pregnant, but it's very unhealthy and I would love it to go away. What do I love? I like the fact that I have defined muscles in my calves again and I'm rather fond of my hair and eyes. Though I also get frustrated with my hair--especially right now, where it's in desperate need of a hair cut and not very cooperative.

34. Do you have a workout buddy?
**Not consistently, though my husband has been joining me more often and I have friends I walk with when we visit. Usually I work out alone, though.

35. What is the best thing that has changed about your life since committing to this Healthy Lifestyle?
**My hip doesn't hurt all the time. Seriously, I can't stress how liberating that is--and how encouraging. I was beginning to think that it would always hurt and I would never be able to do the things I used to love doing.

Second best thing? My husband has started taking better care of himself, too. He's exercising and eating better.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SAASHA17 3/19/2010 5:15PM

    hey so i know a little more about..:)its fun haan...

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4-1HEALTHYCYNDI 3/18/2010 1:51PM

    I always like learning more about my friends. Thanks for sharing!

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KOMAL53 3/18/2010 1:01AM

    Good for you-----at your age it has become mandatory to think healthy------for doing that---FULL MARKS!!!!! emoticon

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Food, marketing, and laws--how to encourage healthy food consumption?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

As I'm getting ready to cook lunch, I noticed that our canola oil is labeled "0 Trans fats." This confused me. Trans fats are partially hydrogenated unsaturated fats--basically taking an unsaturated, relatively healthy fat (like canola oil or olive oil) and adding hydrogen molecules to the chain--making it more saturated and less fluid--more like butter and less like oil. The reason processed foods are made with partially hydrogenated oils is because hydrogenated oils have a longer shelf life. But vegetable oils are, by nature, unsaturated--why would they ever have had trans fats in them? Wouldn't that defeat the point of buying oil (as opposed to, say butter) to begin with?

It's probably some marketing scheme to make my oil seem healthier, because trans fats are the latest health boogy man. Which is not to say that trans fats are healthy, because they are very unhealthy for you--worse than regular saturated fats, even--but just because something has "0 grams of trans fats" doesn't make it healthy.

I've read a lot recently about lobbyists trying to get governments to pass laws to either restrict unhealthy foods (such as a British doctor trying to get the UK to ban butter) or to pass taxes or other incentives to reduce consumption (such as in soft drinks, salt, and "junk" food). I am not sure what I think of these law changes.

On the one hand, I understand the logic. With the rapid rise in obesity in the last few decades, and the accompanying health problems (heart attacks, diabetes, etc.), obesity is costing the public a lot of money--both directly (such as increases in Medicare and Medicaid costs) and indirectly (such as treatments for the uninsured, which drives up everyone's health costs). It's essentially the same logic used to justify the luxury taxes on tobacco and alcohol. Taxes on these products is intended to off set the costs.

However, the goal of these new health-taxes is not to recoup costs but rather reduce the levels of salt consumption and obesity and so forth. Did the tax on tobacco reduce tobacco consumption? I don't know; I would have thought that it was public health campaigns emphasizing the health risks of tobacco that made the difference, not the tax. In fact, among the lower income smokers I know, the cost of cigarettes causes them to buy cheaper brands (often with worse filters and so actually less healthy) but does not cause them to buy fewer cigarettes. Will a tax on pizza and potato chips actually cause people to spend less money in the long run on junk food? Wouldn't it make at least as much sense to make healthy food--such as fresh vegetables and meat without additives--less expensive?

I think it makes sense for governments to want to lower the consumption of unhealthy foods; I'm just not convinced that taxes or legal restrictions is the answer. Obesity and heart disease are clearly society wide concerns, and something needs to be done to turn the ride on both, but these are complicated illnesses without clear cut roots. Soft drinks alone don't cause obesity. I actually drank significantly more soft drinks back in my "skinny" days than I did after I got married--which is when I put on all this weight. In fact, I put on a lot of this weight while eating a lot more healthy foods, like salads and fresh fruit and vegetables. Obesity is the result of eating more calories (wherever those calories come from) than burned. It results from a combination of diet, activity level, and metabolism. Our sedentary lifestyles is at least as much to blame for our society wide obesity as the food we eat. Yet are we talking about also taxing our cable? Our couches? Our cars? Any real, effective solution has to take the whole picture into consideration, not just a fragment.

That said, I would love to see tasty, healthy foods on the market that are lower in salt. It's very hard to eat a low salt diet these days if you 1) eat out at all and 2) don't cook from scratch. Time is a big factor for me; I don't like to cook and I hate spending time cooking when I'm always pressed for time. I confess if it takes me more than a few minutes to put lunch together, most days it's not going to happen. But processed foods are loaded in salt as a rule (even my daily soft drink has 65 mg of salt in it!) and canned foods are among the worst. Yes, there are already low salt alternatives out there of at least some things, and some of those low-salt or salt free versions I buy, and we rarely add salt when we cook. But a lot of the low-salt canned goods on the market, while healthier, also taste terrible. I don't know why. When we make homemade soup, it's loaded in flavor, not salt--why is it so hard to do that with canned goods?

Maybe if the government encouraged restaurants to reduce the salt--or maybe even required restaurants to post their salt levels, just as packaged foods do--it would encourage companies to find tasty alternatives? Certainly the campaign to reduce trans fats in our foods has been effective in at least reducing, if not eliminated, trans fat consumption--without taxes or making trans fats illegal, and without sacrificing flavor. Would something similar work with salt? It would be wonderful if it did.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MELSMITH612 3/17/2010 10:40AM

    What an amazing blog entry, thank you for bringing this up.

I am not someone who pays much attention to sodium intake, I've never had trouble with my blood pressure and rarely feel bloated due to water retention; however, my fiance needs a low sodium diet due to high blood pressure in his past so I do try to be conscious of that when I cook or make lunches.

I've found that I rarely buy packaged foods unless it's something like Kashi cereals or canned soups for myself.

My belief is that the government already interferes too much with taxes on certain items. Like the tax on cigarettes... it's not to make people healthier by making cigarettes more expensive and less affordable promoting a smoke-free lifestyle for those who can't afford them, no... that tax is because the government KNOWS that cigarettes are highly addictive and the tax will be a predictable and reliable source of income for them. The exact reason why they have no reason to legalize & tax the recreational use of marijuana, it has no addictive properties that would make the tax income reliably predictable. It's the reason why there are extra taxes on alcohol... because people with addictive personalities will continue to purchase and consume alcohol in excess. It's also the reason why they would tax junk food. The government, again, KNOWS that processed foods that are high in sugar/salt are the ones that taste best to consumers, regardless of the health consequences, and studies have shown the addictive nature of sugar/glucose levels in the body... thus making junk food another reliable source of government income from taxes.

No one is going to be concerned about our health unless WE are concerned about it. That means dietitians and nutritionists VOLUNTEERING or being REQUIRED to donate X number of hours per month to public service in order to keep their licensing and giving their services to diabetics, obese people, those at risk for heart disease, etc. so that everyone can have the care needed to create a healthier nation and a healthier future generation.

I'm of the opinion that all schools should be required to have healthy levels of physical activity for children EVERY DAY as part of their curriculum along with dietitian created food choices in their lunch rooms and a BAN on any kind of soda being sold in vending machines. Children should be drinking milk, juice & water for optimum health... Not Mountain Dew or Snapple.

If we can change the eating habits of future generations, we can create a healthier place to live for everyone. It is up to us to be a healthy influence on children AND consumer products. If we stop buying salty/sugary snacks, they will be forced to create healthier products that appeal to the people and we will never have that influence over the snack food industry without first changing the eating habits of our children.

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KOMAL53 3/17/2010 1:41AM

    Rather than restricting certain usage of Items,I feel that educating Folks about these is a better option.Banning is not the answer---our bodies are also geared to genetic requirement in Diets----I feel that promoting a greater consumption of the Native Food of each Community could solve a lot of problems. Today we enjoy a lot of Global Cuisine and are more open to experimenting with Food.While this is healthy we must also remember that a certain Food diet is programmed into our genes and we cannot abandon that totally.Use of Fats should be minimum agreed but a certain amount is necessary to be consumed daily to avoid Arthritic and joint problems---we need lubrication too!!!

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SAASHA17 3/16/2010 8:57PM

    Restricting someone not to have something never worked...I like cyndi's analogy about gas prices...and its true..

I agree with u on the sodium levels in the processed foods...its crazy where even stuffthat doesnt need so much of it, is overdozed with all that salt..yeesh...

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4-1HEALTHYCYNDI 3/16/2010 4:35PM

    I haven't formed an opinion yet one way or the other on the taxes for soda and junk foods. I'm still working my way through the pros and cons. On the one hand studies show that people at less pizza and soda when the prices went up significantly. However, I don't think the study was long term enough. Was there creep back where the people once they got used to the prices. I've found that happens a lot with gas. People will stop driving as much when prices go high initially, but if they stay there or bounce back and forth and creep back up, people don't holler, complain or change their long-term driving habits.

I'm with you though. I wish the prepared foods didn't have so much salt. Like you I am a shortcut cook. I don't have a lot of time or energy to spend prepping foods.

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