Healthy is Strong

Bosc Heart
February is American Heart Month, and taking care of yourself and the ones you love is the perfect way to say I love you this Valentine’s Day. According to the Million Hearts® Healthy is Strong campaign, heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women. Instead of giving your sweetie chocolates this Valentine’s Day, why not give your heart? For men and women, one small change can add up to one healthy heart!

One simple way to boost heart health is with physical activity. No, you don’t have to run five miles every day, but increasing activity slowly, such as a romantic walk with your sweetie, improves cardiovascular health. As a rule of thumb, aim for 150 minutes of activity each week – and if you #PearUp with a partner, you’re more likely to stick to your plan!

Another quick fix is to add in heart-y foods to your diet, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, no salt added nuts and seeds, fish, and healthy oils, such as olive or canola. To keep it simple, try a piece of fruit for a snack, such as the delicious Anjou, Bosc or Bartlett pear – all American Heart Association Heart-Check certified for health. For a delectable option that still feels sinful, try sliced pears drizzled with dark chocolate. Yum!

So this February when love is in the air, remember that a healthy heart is a strong heart! Visit Healthy is Strong or Go Red for Women for more tips to take charge of your heart health.

#PearUp with a Pal for Lasting Results!

Red Pear SuccessNow that 2017 is fully underway, you may be feeling less motivated to maintain your New Year’s resolution. You’re not alone: By two weeks into January, approximately 1/3 of us have failed to maintain our resolutions. So maybe it’s time to #pearup with a friend or group!

Studies suggest that people who participate alongside a partner or group, whether for weight loss or physical activity, tend to stick with the program longer (1, 2). Weight management programs that incorporate meetings or phone calls tend to have greater success partly due to encouragement and accountability (3). Newer research even suggests that online weight loss communities via various social media platforms are associated with greater weight loss (4, 5). From my personal experience, friends make the journey fun and we feel less alone. Friends and I sometimes get together to prep recipes for the week, incorporating lots of fruit, veggies, and fun into what can be an otherwise dull task!

Likewise, partner or group exercise tends to be more effective than going solo. This is partly due to the Köhler effect, which is when weaker members are motivated to keep up with more capable members of a group (6, 7). Additionally, if the group relies on everybody completing the task at hand, the weakest members tend to step up their performances, such as finishing a group jog (8). This seems to happen because we try to match our partner’s performance (9, 10), and virtual workout partners may have similar effects – noteworthy for those just starting out or who have anxiety around group fitness or gyms (11). Personally, I’m a fan of group exercise because meeting a friend makes me show up, we cheer each other on, and it feels less like work and more like fun. I’ve made some of my closest friends this way!

Whether you’re off and running with your resolution or still trying to get off the couch, think about enlisting a friend. Chances are, your friends need motivation and want to #pearup, too!

  1. Wing RR, Tate DF, Gorin AA, Raynor HA, Fava JL. Self-regulation program for maintenance of weight loss. N Engl J Med. 2006;355:1563-71.
  2. Dishman RK, Buckworth J. Increasing physical activity: A quantitative synthesis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Jun 1996;28:706–19.
  3. Kulik NL, Fisher EB, Ward DS, Ennett ST, Bowling JM, Tate DF. Peer support enhanced social support in adolescent females during weight loss. Am J Health Behav. 2014;38:789-800.
  4. Pappas GL, Cunha TO, Bicalho PV, Ribeiro A, Couto Silva AP, Meira W Jr, Beleigoli AM. Factors associated with weight change in online weight management communities: A case study in the LoseIt Reddit community. J Med Internet Res. 2017;19:e17.
  5. Turner-McGrievy GM, Tate DF. Weight loss social support in 140 characters or less: Use of an online social network in a remotely delivered weight loss intervention. Transl Behav Med. 2013;3:287-94.
  6. Kerr NL, Hertel G. The Köhler group motivation gain: How to motivate the “weak links” in a group. Soc Pers Psychol Comp. January 2010;5:43–55.
  7. Weber B, Hertel G. Motivation gains of inferior group members: A meta-analytical review. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2007;93:973–93.
  8. Steiner ID. Group process and productivity. New York: Academic Press; 1972.
  9. Stroebe W, Diehl M, Abakoumkin G. Social compensation and the Köhler effect: Toward a theoretical explanation of motivation gains in group productivity. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; 1996. Witte E, Davis J, eds. Understanding group behavior: Consensual action by small groups; No. 2.
  10. Kerr NL, Messé LA, Seok DH, Sambolec EJ, Lount Jr. RB, Park ES. Psychological mechanisms underlying the Köhler motivation gain. Pers Soc Psychol B. 2007;33(6):828–41.
  11. Feltz DL, Forlenz ST, Winn B, Kerr NL. Cyber buddy is better than no buddy: A test of the Köhler motivation effect in exergames. Games Health J. 2014;3:98-105.

Waiting for the Weight?

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_rosipro'>rosipro / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Ah, the holidays. That magical time of year when friends and family come together, airports are overrun, siblings fight, and we all pack on a few pounds that we resolve to lose in January. (Actually, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2000 suggests we only gain about one pound over the holidays!) My first holiday gathering is this week, and since I have a terrible sweet tooth I’ve already pictured the dessert table. It looks delicious and is full of my favorites, so what do I do? I say it every year – plan, plan, plan! So where to start?

First, never arrive hungry. If I’m hungry when I walk in the door, within minutes I might have a bottle of wine and an entire cake in my hands. That’s not good, so carry filling snacks with you or stop on the way to the party for a filling bite.

Second, eat well throughout the day to avoid peaks and valleys in blood sugar that may cause overindulgence. A good tip I tell my clients is to always eat two macronutrients together, such as a high-fiber carbohydrate with a protein or fat – for example, a fresh, fiber-rich pear with a few cubes of cheese or a smear of nut butter. Fiber, fat, and protein help us stay satisfied in different ways, so we can stay on track when temptation dances in front of us.

Third, step away from the table! We tend to linger in the kitchen or over the treats; this makes sense because we’re social eaters and eating together connects us, especially at the holidays. But if you move the party away a few feet, you’re less likely to mindlessly nibble. Likewise, use a beautiful fruit bowl as your centerpiece – happy and healthy!

Fourth, watch the libations! If your indulgence is more of the liquid kind, try a low-calorie mixer or follow what I call the sandwich method: Have your cocktail, but follow it with a glass of water before the next cocktail. This will help you avoid overindulgence and help you stay hydrated – another cause of overindulgence.

Finally, if you do overindulge, cut yourself some slack, stick to your exercise routine, and get back on track with the next bite . Eating healthfully, enjoying plenty of fruits and veggies, and drinking more water will help you fight the holiday overindulgence and stay on track through the New Year!

Staying Fit and Healthy Through the Holidays

peartapemeasureToo many indulgences and fewer workouts can wreak havoc with your energy level and your waistline this time of year. However, there are simple ways to create balance that don’t require sacrificing your favorite goodies, or even stepping into a gym. Check out my realistic three-step strategy for staying fit through the holidays.

Step One: Whip up some healthy holiday dishes
Go ahead and enjoy your very favorite holiday foods prepared traditionally. But commit to lightening up others. For example, replace one pie with baked pears, or a mock pear cobbler. Simply sauté chopped ripe pears over low heat in a little water seasoned with a bit of fresh squeeze lemon juice and fresh grated ginger. Top with a healthy “crumble” made from mixing rolled oats and ground cinnamon into almond butter. Or instead of creamed spinach, serve a fresh spinach salad, dressed in balsamic vinaigrette, topped with sliced pears and chopped walnuts.

Step Two: Move in ways you look forward to
You don’t have to spend hours on the elliptical to burn off holiday calories. In fact, this is a great time of year to be active with family and friends in fun ways that can still keep you fit. Head to an ice skating rink, have a dance off, or organize a group hike, walk, or game.

Step Three: Make room for special indulgences.
Many of my clients find themselves eating things they don’t even really like during the holidays, simply because they’re there. When faced with a treat, take a moment to rate it, using a 5-star scale, 5 being “can’t-live-without” and 0 being “meh, if I pass it up, I won’t feel deprived.” If a food rates a 3 or less, skip it. And if it’s a worthwhile splurge create balance in simple ways. For example, if it’s carb-heavy, like a brownie, opt for a protein topped salad rather than a sandwich or wrap for lunch. This strategy literally allows you to have your cake (or pie) and eat it too!

Fuel Up

fuelupExercise is very important to me and to general wellbeing. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness, the average adult should engage in moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 or more times per week – or at least 150 minutes each week. We often hear about which nutrients to consume for recovery after a workout, and I often see people pounding protein shakes at the gym, but we don’t talk as often about what to eat before a workout.

In college, I boxed and tried martial arts; now, I run, yoga and CrossFit. This month, to mix up my routine, I joined a kickboxing training program. We meet at 6:00AM to work on techniques, box, and do a variety of functional activities for strengthening – and after one hour I am bushed! I have a very hard time eating early in the morning, but according to data from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, limited intake of carbohydrate impairs training intensity and duration. I see these effects sometimes: I don’t eat after dinner and if I don’t eat before a morning workout I feel sluggish. Since exercise requires energy and carbohydrate has roles in multiple energy pathways, providing substrate for muscular work from quick carbohydrate foods is a good choice. Every body is unique, and different activities, intensities, and durations require different amounts of energy and nutrients. I know that I perform better in an intense one-hour class or run if I eat between 100-200 calories beforehand. This morning I grabbed a medium pear, approximately 100 calories, on my way out the door and I felt great during class. Fruit is an easy choice for me since it is portable and I can grab it on the go, but some mornings I have a little protein, nuts or yogurt, with it. It took trial and error to figure out what works best for me, but you can figure it out, too. If you don’t generally eat before exercise, why not give it a shot and see if you get more from your workout? If you’re starting on a training program, consult with a sports dietitian for personalized eating plans.

 

Don’t Be a Yo-Yo!

RBP9037046 Woman with PearThat dreaded time of year is here again – swimsuit season. I have helped countless people lose weight, including myself, and despite many new and radical diets, the science still points to one principle: To lose weight, expend more calories than you eat. Sounds simple, right? Nope. What this doesn’t take into account are cravings, lack of motivation, hormones, metabolism, boredom, emotions, workplace and social saboteurs… Should I continue? Unfortunately, many experience the yo-yo effect, losing weight, gaining it back and having to start over again. For lasting weight loss, small changes must be made and maintained over time for true behavior change – and to end the weight loss/regain cycle.

Research from the National Weight Control Registry, a registry of more than 10,000 people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off, points to a variety of factors. The average weight loss for those on the registry is 66 pounds (range 30 to 300 pounds), maintained for an average 5.5 years (range 1 to 66 years). Most participants report maintaining a low calorie, low fat diet and four common trends, 1) eating breakfast, 2) getting on the scale at least once weekly, 3) watching fewer than 10 hours of television each week, and 4) exercising – participants exercised one hour/day on average. [1] Noted early in the research, once weight loss was maintained for 2-5 years the chance for longer-term maintenance improved dramatically. Not surprisingly, those who did regain weight reported significant decline in physical activity, increased consumption of calories from fat, and decreased restraint in food choice. [2, 3]

So, how can you put these principles into practice? Get moving, fill up on healthful foods that are generally lower calorie – particularly fruits and vegetables – and make small, sustainable changes!

1. http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm
2. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/1/222S.full.pdf+html
3. http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(13)00528-X/abstract

Love Your Heart!

HERO red pear with heart check logoThis Valentine’s Day, love your heart! Have you heard of phenols, flavonoids, and antioxidants? Phenols and flavonoids are families of phytonutrients, nonessential nutrients found in plant foods that provide color, flavor, and health benefits, particularly as antioxidants. In the body, antioxidants inhibit molecules that cause damage to body cells. Because of these antioxidants and other nutrients, increased fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to decreased risk for many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. Does this mean pears are good for your heart?

Well, a systematic review of pears and health published in the November/December 2015 issue of Nutrition Today supports what I’ve been saying all along. To be specific, pears contain many nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C (an antioxidant!), potassium, and phytonutrients that act as antioxidants – in particular, pears provide between 27 and 41mg of phenolic compounds per 100 grams (1 small pear). Many antioxidants are found in pears, and those with high phenolic and flavonoid contents – such as the anthocyanin in the skin of red pears – had significantly higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities. Does this mean that pears may fight heart disease? It’s possible. One study by Mink et al included in the review found that dietary intake of foods rich in flavonoids, particularly pears and apples, was associated with a reduced risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.

Did you know that the Anjou and Red Anjou pear was recently certified as a Heart-Healthy Food by the American Heart Association? So this Valentine’s Day when you and your loved ones are surrounded by love and candy hearts, do something good for your actual heart and eat a pear!

Six Simple Habits for the New Year

Woman Texting In Kitchen

A new year brings many things, a fresh start, a year of possibilities, and broken resolutions… We often set lofty goals and envision working out every day looking cute in our gym outfits, not the sweaty messes we really are. Visions are easy, reality is usually harder. Picking a healthy habit to work toward, rather than a resolution, might be simpler and more realistic. Give it a shot!

1. Make a plan. Whether you want to exercise more or lose fifty pounds, have a plan in place. Make it simple, such as walking 20 minutes twice a week or prepping meals on Sundays. Simple is easier to stick to and gives your schedule more flexibility.

2. Add a fruit or veggie. It’s not news that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and veggies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 13% of Americans eat the recommended 1.5-2 cups of fruit and 9% eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables. Keep it simple: pick up a pear or some baby carrots to munch between meals.

3. Move more. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested inactivity may impact health more than obesity! But you don’t have to run a marathon, or run at all, to be active. If you don’t currently exercise, work steps into your day or walk 30 minutes each week. If you’re already active, add one more workout each week. Small steps lead to big changes.

4. Don’t like exercise? Grab a buddy! Working out with someone may increase motivation; it may even improve intensity or performance. I have a gym buddy: We motivate each other to exercise and have much more fun doing it. For someone who used to be obese and hated exercise, I actually look forward to our work outs now!

5. Dust off your knives and cook a little. You don’t have to win Chopped to get a little creative in the kitchen. Plus, cooking with friends or family may improve dietary quality and enjoyment of meals. And if you’re preparing food at home you’re less likely to grab take out, right?

6. Finally, get back up again. Everyone has fallen short of goals or fallen off the wagon – sometimes many times. Life isn’t suddenly better when you reach the top, so stop beating yourself up. Get back up, brush yourself off, and jump back on that wagon. Happy New Year!

Make Time for You

Lonely SeckelI have an influx of stressed calls and emails this time of year, mostly from clients and students trying to manage health and holiday stress at the same time. I know how frustrating this time of year is, I struggle with the same problem! Don’t fret, there are simple solutions to help you have a healthy holiday season.

First, make a schedule and stick to it. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, if you schedule time for exercise, food preparation, and sleep and you follow the schedule, you’re better equipped to take care of yourself and manage stress. Second, eat before events and move away from the treat table! At my friends’ parties, we always stand around the food, chatting and snacking. This is such a hard habit to break, but if you eat ahead of time and pull your friends away from the table you’re less likely to overeat. Third, make time to decompress. Whether you enjoy stretching, reading, games or simply sitting quietly, allow yourself at least 10 minutes every day for quiet time and positive thoughts. Finally, and most importantly, be kind to yourself! Nobody is perfect and there is always tomorrow. Remember that the holidays are about celebrating family and friends, so allow yourself to splurge a little, then get back on track the next day. Happy Holidays!

Keep Moving!

RBP9037046 Woman with Pear

With chilly weather sweeping the nation, it’s easy to stay inside and put exercise on the back burner. Although that’s certainly a good idea if it’s icy or the weather is too cold to exercise safely, after a few days it’s important to get moving again! To put this in perspective, consider these benefits of moving during cold weather.

  1. Prevent weight gain. Especially with the holidays approaching and the abundance of winter comfort foods, moving more can counteract excess calories consumed.
  2. Prevent seasonal depression. When I’m stuck inside for too long, I notice I get the blues (and cabin fever!). Getting out for a brisk walk, hike, or snowshoe helps clear the mind and increase endorphins that improve mood.
  3. Reduce stress and sleep better! This time of year is rife with stress, but moving more can balance stress and reduce negative effects of stress on the body, such as increased risk for illness. And here’s another benefit to decreasing stress – more energy AND better sleep!
  4. Improve immunity. The flu and cold season is upon us, and exercise boosts the body’s ability to fight illness by naturally cleansing itself and improving circulation of antibodies and nutrients.
  5. Prevent health conditions and diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. ‘Nuff said!

So get moving! Bundle up in layers that wick sweat away from your skin, drink a glass of water, power up with a piece of fruit such as a pear, wear appropriate footwear, and have fun!