Health Topics


I might be a bit late to the pedometer trend, but now that I’m on board, I love it. The company I am currently consulting for just gave all of their employee’s pedometers as part of a healthy promotion work program and fortunately for me, someone wasn’t interested and gave there pedometer to me. I had heard of the 10,000 goal mark and after a little research I found the following breakdown:

1) Under 5000 steps/day may be used as a “sedentary lifestyle index”
2) 5,000-7,499 steps/day is typical of daily activity excluding sports/exercise and might be considered “low active.”
3) 7,500-9,999 likely includes some exercise or walking (and/or a job that requires more walking) and might be considered “somewhat active.”
4) 10,000 steps/day indicates the point that should be used to classify individuals as “active”.
5) Individuals who take more than 12,500 steps/day are likely to be classified as “highly active”.

I decided to make 10,000 steps per day my goal. It’s been 3 days and I’ve turned into an active player of the Pedometer Game. Like many people, I would describe my job as sedentary and that’s one of the reasons I get frustrated when I can’t make it to the gym. Now that I am wearing the pedometer, I am able to make small and big decisions that help me reach the 10,000 step per day goal as well as to ease my guilt of not having enough time to make it to the gym.

We often hear the advice of parking the car far from the entrance, but here are a few other behavior modifications I’ve adopted to reach the daily 10,000 step goal:

  • Before: tried to be efficient with errands, like filled up tea mug and washed bowl at the same time, printed things all at once
  • After: forget efficiency, bring on the movement! I’ve started to separate all of my tasks. I print each page individually, fill up the tea cup then go and wash it, come back get the bowl and wash it, instead of sending quick emails to people on my floor I walk to the person’s desk (even if they can’t take my question then, I still walked over there)
  • Improvement: the first 2 days I left the office with about 3000 steps, by the 3rd day, I reached 3000 steps by lunch time
  • Before: Automatically head for subway to save time
  • After: When really deficient in office steps, walk to complete the errand. Not everyone can do this, but its great if you live in a metropolitan area. I walked about 40 blocks to drop off some documents and saw a few new sights.
  • Improvement – My 40 block walk took about 5000 steps and made up for the inactive day at the office.
  • Before: While waiting to board airplane would read gossip magazine to decompress
  • After:  With 45 minutes to spare before boarding, explore terminal shops and restaurants.
  • Improvement – Rather than reading about celebrity mishaps, I took about 3500 steps.

Does anyone have any more ideas on how to incorporate more walking at an office job?

So above I mentioned that I was at the airport – while this happens pretty frequently, I was actually there for a personal trip. I am spending the next 4 days in the San Francisco Bay Area!! My goals are to eat, drink, and be merry. First stop – Sonoma…

 

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I just competed the second part of the AFPA Nutrition and Wellness Counselor certificate program. I discussed the first part of the program: my likes, dislikes, and learnings in an earlier post, so please read that first. Ok, great, now we are all on the same page.

The first part of the program used the Personal Nutrition textbook which was scientific in nature; a focus on anatomy plus food. The material is similar in what you would probably study in an Intro course for an R.D.  Even as someone who is knowledgeable about leading a healthy lifestyle,  I learned a lot of new information. The second part of the course focuses on developing counseling skills.

The major sections in the Basic Nutrition Counseling Skills Development textbook are:

  • Preparing to meet your client
  • Building a relationship with your client
  • Developing a nutrition care plan
  • How to promote change to facilitate self-management and making the behavior change last
  • Role of counselor in physical activity
  • Professionalism and closing out a relationship and evaluation for client and counselor

In total, there are 9 chapters (I combined topics above). Each chapter took  about 2 to 3 hours to read through and about 30 minutes to answer the short answer questions that followed the chapter.

I can’t say that I enjoyed this learning…which probably lets me know that I am not particularly interested or adept at being a counselor. I am currently a communications consultant for a living so reading about communication effectiveness and how to talk to people is a bit of a bore.  Additionally, many of my communication projects integrate change management methodology so about 65% of the information in this textbook was at a lower level than my current knowledge.

There were a few components that I did enjoy, specifically the plan/menu design, how to avoid cognitive pitfalls and physical activity benefits. Many publications talk about the things that make “diets” fail so its interesting to read about how as a counselor you would be able to help clients manipulate environments to avoid those pitfalls. I don’t think the AFPA would appreciate me giving away all their secrets so I’ll leave it at that.

Overall, I think someone who was interested in working with clients, would enjoy reading this material more than I did. But, its good to realize that while I am passionate about helping people to eat better, it will ultimately not be in the role of a counselor/client one-on-one relationship.

The next step of the program will be to complete the case study which takes me through the actual process of working with a client. I will need to complete this by December 1 so I’ll share my experience then. Now, I just need to find someone to participate as my case study client…

 

Yesterday I posted a bit about what I do to eat healthy at the office and I think the desk drawer full of food may have suggested that I eat. ALL. DAY. LONG. I don’t! Although, I typically stick to posting about health topics, recipes, restaurants, etc. I thought I’d do a food diary entry for a day.

Here it goes! Complete with pictures and all.

I start my day with a yogurt parfait. When I start my day with oats, bread, or anything that’s primarily carbs, my blood sugar just goes crazy and I am STARVING about 1.5 hours later no matter how filling the breakfast felt. Yogurt works better for my body.

Feeding #1

  • 1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp agave – sweetener, like honey but lower on the glycemic index
  • 1 tsp cinnamon – also has regulatory effect on blood sugar along with many other benefits
  • 1 tsp cocoa – mostly for the chocolate flavor, but tons of nutritional benefits too
  • 1 tbsp slivered almonds – a little fat keeps you full longer
  • 1 handful of cereal or crushed cracker (mostly for texture, and a small amount of carbs)

yogurt

Not the most beautiful image, but if I don’t get to start my morning with yogurt, I GET CRANKY.

Next up is lunch. If its a late lunch there’s an apple consumed around noon. If lunch is before 1pm then I eat the apple post-lunch.

Feeding #2

  • 3 tbsp hummus
  • 3 tbsp salsa
  • 1/2 cup of small canned tuna
  • 3 crackers
  • 1 1/2 cups veggies (peppers, cucumbers, carrots)

veggies

And the fruit – whatever is seasonal and organic (if I can afford it). During summer its berries, now its apples…

apple

Feeding #3

This is where the desk drawer/fridge comes into play. Yesterday, I had:

  • handful of grape tomatoes
  • 1 wasa cracker with almond butter
  • 1 wasa cracker with laughing cow light slice
  • 4 espresso chocolate beans

Feeding #4

To-go salad from Saladworks – I was circling around lost in a random NJ suburb trying to find a Kinkos and this was the best option by far. Other choices were White Castle, Wendy’s, McDonald’s…

At Saladworks you make your own salad with 5 ingredients. I guess its more of a lunch place because everything looked really sad, in a wilted sort of way. I am a veggie lover and nothing looked appetizing (so much that I got buffalo chicken for flavor, and I’m not a chicken person). I ended up with:

  • Spinach Leaves
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Corn and Black beans
  • Buffalo Chicken
  • No Dressing
  • Whole Wheat Roll (not pictured)

salad

So that’s a typical day! I may do one of these posts every once in a while to show what powers me through my days 🙂

 

People find it hard to eat healthy at the office. Here’s are some recent survey results released by Women’s Health Magazine:

  • 63% think eating healthily at work is a challenge
  • 35% say their company provides access to candy
  • 28% are satisfied with the healthy snack options at work

I don’t know the specifics of the survey, i.e. sample size, geography, age, etc. Even without seeing the details though, I do know that staying healthy at the office is a challenge because I see it everyday. There’s always baked goods and chocolate, its always someone’s birthday, meetings are catered with unhealthy options, and the cafeteria makes it unclear how much oil or heavy cream are at play. And, of course there is the 3pm slump that makes you head in the direction of the soda and vending machines that are readily available.

So, I am not here to preach, but rather to make recommendations of what I have found to be helpful for staying healthy at the office and avoiding all the tempting unhealthy stuff.

Desk Drawer

What you see here is my desk drawer! Needless to say I have no idea where the vending machine at my work is located. Why would I need it, when I have everything I could possibly want?

Healthy Office Snacks in my Desk Drawer

  • Agave Syrup (sweeter than honey and lower glycemic index)– add to my oatmeal or yogurt
  • Truvia – add to my coffee, I don’t know if this is the best alternative, but Splenda scares me
  • Wasa Rye Crackers (2 crackers 60 calories) – missed lunch? No problem: spread tuna and have hummus in fridge
  • Cocoa Powder – love to mix this in my oatmeal or granola for a dessert feel
  • Chopped Dates – running to meeting, grab a quick handful, 1/3 cup 120 calories, 0g fat
  • Canned Tuna – missed lunch? No problem: spread tuna and have hummus in fridge
  • Veggie Booty – afternoon salty craving, portioned perfectly to 130 calories
  • Chocolate covered espresso beans – sometimes you need chocolate and energy in one
  • Apple – perfect snack, I buy 4 on Monday and eat one a day
  • Pumpkin Butter – spread on Wasa
  • Low Fat Rocky Road Cookies – special treat with a cup of tea on a non-hectic afternoon
  • Mixed Nuts – handful if I’m working out right after work OR sprinkle in yogurt

It must look like a lot of food. I also keep a few things in the fridge – yogurt, hummus, salsa, cut up veggies. But, honest, I don’t sit around and eat all day. I have yogurt in the morning and I add whatever I have on hand. There’s always an apple, and usually one other snack. The key to eating healthy at the office though is being prepared. Sunday I cut up the veggies and on the way to work Monday I get apples, yogurt, and whatever gaps need to be filled.

What are your tips for staying healthy at the office?

About 3.5 years ago I graduated with a degree in Marketing from NYU’s Stern School of Business. It was a very expensive degree and something that I will be paying back for a very, very long time. If I could do it all over again, I would have used that money to become a Registered Dietitian. Since I can’t rewind time, and certainly can’t afford more school, I decided to go through the certification process with the AFPA (American Fitness Professional Association) to become a certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. I don’t see myself becoming a consultant. My goal is to learn more so I can be more knowledgeable when I talk about living a healthy lifestyle.

I’ve had a handful of people ask me about the program and I remember when I was trying to decide whether the $395 was worth it, I couldn’t find a lot of information outside of their own website. I’d like to fill that information gap. The AFPA describes their program as:

The AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Consultant Certification program will teach you to give educated guidance to persons seeking nutritional advice on weight management and enhancing health and fitness performance. You will learn the fundamental skills of counseling strategies and protocol, complimented by action-based worksheets and practical case studies.

The program can be looked at in 3 stages, so I am going to do a review of each as I complete it. I hope this will be a thorough, objective look at the program for anyone who is thinking of pursuing the AFPA Nutrition & Wellness Certification.

The 3 stages that are graded:

  1. 200 Multiple Choice and True/False Questions on the Personal Nutrition textbook
  2. 25 short answer questions on the Counseling Skills Development
  3. Case Study for a Nutritional Assessment

I just completed reading the Personal Nutrition Textbook and answered the 200 questions so here’s my feedback on step #1:

  • Fantastic textbook – I read about healthy lifestyles and nutrition as if its my job, and I learned a lot of new information.
  • Objective examination of protein, vitamins, carbohydrates, etc. has significantly widened my understanding of how to validate marketing claims on nutritional food and drink products
  • Questions are not necessarily challenging but do force you to read the material rather than scan through it

The textbook is 450 pages and split into 12 chapters. Each chapter took me about 1.5 – 2 hours to read thoroughly and to complete the questions. I should note though, I read really fast! I guess that means so far I’ve devoted about 25 hours to get the first section completed. That doesn’t seem like a lot of time compared to how much I learned.

Some of the material covered that I found of particular interest:

  • How digestion works
  • Why low carb diets are ridiculous
  • Why anything your body doesn’t use will turn to fat
  • Connection between diet and cancer
  • How our body handles vitamins from food vs. supplements
  • How to determine if perishable foods are still safe
  • Which food additives are harmless and which are not
  • Why enhanced water is a hoax

I find the above topics to be really interesting so I plan on doing short write-ups of what I learned in the near future. I’m on to the next step of the certification process which will take my new Personal Nutrition knowledge and apply it to working with others. Hopefully, I’ll be able to provide a review before my personal deadline of Nov 15th.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any additional questions you may have about the  AFPA program.

Have you been hearing the term “superfood” recently? It’s thrown around pretty frequently in the health and nutrition space, not to mention by marketers at every conceivable chance, and is often assigned to foods that people aren’t necessary familiar with like chia seeds or goji berries. Don’t feel intimidated by the price or exotic sound of super foods; there are plenty of superfoods that you probably already eat on a daily basis.

So what are superfoods? Superfoods  refer to foods with high plant nutrient content that may provide health benefits.  It is relatively new term, but it’s actually just a synonym for a functional food (a term that’s been around for a while). The term functional is easier for me to grasp…basically you not only eat food for pleasure and sustenance but it’s also providing the bonus of health benefits for your body. As long as you eat a healthy diet comprised of whole foods you’re eating superfoods/functional foods all the time. Just about every fruit and vegetable provides a healthy benefit. Take a look for yourself:

Antioxidant (delays the onset of many age-related diseases)

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Oranges
  • Grapes
  • Honey
  • Raspberries
  • Tomatoes

Reduces Cancer Risk

  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Green Tea
  • Milk
  • Salmon
  • Soy
  • Tomatoes

Improves Heart Health

  • Apples
  • Beans
  • Berries
  • Fish
  • Green Tea
  • Walnuts

Reduces Blood Pressure

  • Banana
  • Celery
  • Garlic

There’s many more foods in each category and many more categories, but the bottom line is if your daily diet has tons of veggies and fruits, you can’t go wrong. For me, knowing about functional foods helps me understand why dietitians recommend yogurt with berries, fruits as snacks, salads for lunch, and veggies with dinner. It’s not because its rabbit or bird food (i.e. low in calories), but rather its about putting things in your body that prevent disease rather than bring it on.

Recently, I was sitting with a friend at the park and telling him about an upcoming vacation that I was taking with a girl friend. He inquired about who she was. To which I said, “Are you kidding me? You’ve been out with her. I even have pictures of you together.” Nope, he had no idea who I was talking about. He admits to having memory problems and is willing to try eating as a solution. So for anyone else who is having trouble remembering: 

Ten Foods to Help Your Memorymemory foods

1. Blueberries

2. Spinach

3. Salmon

4. Red Apples

5. Walnuts

6. Sweet Potatoes

7. Tomatoes

8. Orange

9. Cherries

10. Eggplant

If you’d like the scientific explanation of why each of these foods helps the brain there’s a lot of detail on the subject. In short though, red and purple whole foods are especially helpful because of the antioxidants that help brain flow, healthy fats assist with cognitive function, and the other items listed are high in Vitamin B which helps break down toxins to nerve cells.

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