Saturday, December 3, 2011

Flip Flop or Growth?

Most days, the news headlines display a quote from one of our current political candidates and espouse how the person is contradicting themselves, a previous vote or an earlier position. The headline and the story is designed to arouse our sense of injustice and prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Mr. or Ms. Candidate cannot be trusted and how they are very likely to *gasp* change their mind at some point.

Goodness, I hope so. I contend there are few of us, if any, who would maintain the same feelings about everything we've ever encountered for our entire lifetimes (think back to one or two boy- or girl- friends who seemed oh so perfect at the time). I, honestly, am embarrassed by some of the things I once thought to be steadfastly true. Fast food isn't so bad. Low-fat milk is the best choice. The FDA and USDA protect our food sources. And, trust me, there are more juicy ones on my list, as well...

I think the point of life is to learn and grow and adapt as we go along. Our information, maturity, environment and feelings change over time. There isn't anything wrong with this. From my humble perspective, this is called growth and is exactly what we are supposed to do in life.

I think we should celebrate our elected officials for changing their minds, for being open to new ideas and new thinking. I think instead of hiding from it, they should tell us why, what else they learned and what changed in them that made them change their minds. When did we become so sad that we consider growth and new ideas a flip flop?


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Trove of Treasure

A few years ago, we packed up my Grandparents home as they became unable to live independently. We moved them into my Dad's house so they took some of their belongings and each of us grandchildren chose to keep some of the things with special meaning and memories of our time with Gram and Pap. Last week, Gram's rolling pin provided me a way to crush coffee beans in the power outage. This week, while packing for a move of my own, I went through the box of the other treasures I had saved from their house and found another gem - her recipes.

I remember standing in the kitchen on a stool, not yet tall enough to reach the counter. She and I would spend the days together cooking up a treat or dinner for the family. She always made sure to combine cooking with learning about measuring, and doing things in order, and dry vs. wet ingredients. She also passed along safety rules in the kitchen and I still make certain the handles of pots and pans on the stove are turned in to avoid an inadvertant bump and spill of the hot contents.

We would laugh and taste and try something new from the latest magazine or newspaper column. Some of the things turned out plain awful and we didn't care. Most of our creations were soon enjoyed by the family and she and I would glow from the compliments. Cooking was something we did together. To this day, she will happily tell the story of the time she asked me to wash the potatoes for dinner and later found me standing (on my stool) by the sink scubbing the potatoes clean with dishsoap.

As I leaf through these pages, I can't help but wonder if we've lost the treasure of cooking with our children. In our fast-paced, get-things-done-kind-of-world, families don't cook much at all anymore. And, what many people now consider "cooking" is to open a box to throw it into the oven.

I fear we are raising a generation of kids who won't have the chance to benefit from one of the sweetest memories of my childhood. Cooking isn't something to get done. Cooking is something to savor and enjoy with the people we love. A world, and dare I say hearts, open when you stand in the kitchen with someone and prepare food out of raw materials.

I think our world, our hearts and our kids could benefit from a great big dose of cooking together. A humble thought, perhaps, and one worth considering.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor With Love

For most of us, Labor Day is a holiday and considered the last hurrah of summer. There is a certain quiet about Labor Day morning... people are enjoying a lazy morning at home, perhaps preparing for a cookout later and you can taste the beginnings of Autumn in the air.

As you enjoy the relaxation today here is a question for you to ponder... Are you doing what you love? We spend a great deal of our life toiling for something else. It matters not if you work outside the home, are self-employed, are a stay-at-home parent, are in school, retired or a community volunteer. It is all called work as far as I'm concerned. Somewhere along the way "work" became a dirty word. How did we let that happen?

Part of the joy in life comes from the accomplishment of making the circumstance a bit better for someone or something else. And far too many people, in my humble opinion, are miserable because of it. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I had some personal experience in this realm recently. I was doing work I didn't love and even though doing so was for the sake of being able to do what I loved, it was a great reminder of the importance of spending each day in harmony with your heart.

If you're not, make a plan to get aligned. If you're not really sure what you would really love to do, get a piece of paper and answer these questions:
  • What age do you want to live to?
  • When you die, what do you most want people to remember about you?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do you most look forward to each day?
  • Who, or what, makes you smile?
  • Where in nature do you most like to be (ocean, mountains, desert)?
This is really the first step to help you get back in touch with that little voice inside. The little voice is pretty darn powerful if you give it some room to speak. It is unstoppable if you start listening to it. Give it a try... what do you have to lose?

Everyone should be doing what they love. It makes everyday better. It makes sleep better. It makes love better. It makes life better. You can get there. I'm here to help you. I'm cheering for the collective 'wow' when follow our hearts and labor with love.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thank you, Irene.

The power in my home went out in the middle of the night on Saturday. I'm not exactly sure what time but would guess somewhere around 1 AM. I managed a reasonably good night of sleep despite the howling winds and rain blowing on the side of the house it never really blows on.

There still wasn't power when I woke Sunday morning. And we remained without power until 1 PM this afternoon - this is now Thursday. This is, by far, the longest I've ever gone without electricity in my world and I must say I learned a few valuable lessons.

Lesson 1: Wishing for Something Different is Futile
For the first 36 hours or so, I would wander around telling the power to come back on. As if it could hear me and as if my pleas would make any difference. It made me feel powerful, for a time, and then it made me feel desperate. I stopped asking it to return.

Lesson 2: Ingenuity (or desperation) is the Mother of Invention
I was able to boil water for coffee as I have a gas stove and simply lit the stove with a lighter. I did not, however, grind any coffee beans in preparation. Sunday morning. No power. Rainy and damp. Whole coffee beans mocking me. I wanted my coffee. After a few moments of pondering, I got a Ziploc bag and my Grandma's old rolling pin which I'd kept for the memories. A towel on the counter and a bit of good whacking and I had myself some crushed coffee beans. It was, perhaps, the best cup of coffee ever.

Lesson 3: Habits are Hard to Break, Unless they're Pointless
I knew the lights wouldn't work and I knew turning the faucets wouldn't produce any water. And yet, time and time again, I would flip a switch or turn a knob and nothing. It took until sometime on Wednesday for me to not do so 100% of the time. I was improving and wonder how much longer it would have taken for me to give up the habit completely.

Lesson 4: Silence is Golden
A few short hours into Sunday morning and slowly the din of generators began to fill the neighborhood. I had one, but since I was spending my time willing the power to come back on (and was convinced it would work), I didn't bother dragging my generator out until late Sunday (or more accurately asked my son to do so for me). By then, I figured the refrigerator could use some juice before everything spoiled and, quite honestly, I wanted to charge my mobile phone, laptop and air card (yes, this wasn't the slumming version of blackouts, I'll fully admit). I went to bed with my generator humming on the rear deck and the slightly less loud humming of the generators from my neighbors. And it quickly and firmly drove me crazy. I turned mine off and went back to bed, resigned to tossing some food and convinced that sleep was more important than a few bottles of condiments, some cheese and some kale. I did throw away the food, gave the fridge and freezer the best cleaning ever, used the generator sparingly throughout the day to charge my electronics (and grind my coffee beans) and had a much more peaceful existence.

Lesson 5: Change is Freedom
Relatively quickly, I established a new order. Have old water cooler bottles filled at the fire station for flushing toilets and washing dishes. Take the dog for a long walk in the morning. Go to bed with the darkness. Read by candelight. Keep up with only the critical work tasks and do the many things normally left undone in our busy lives. I cleaned out closets. I sorted books. I went to have a massage (mostly for the shower afterwards). Made some phone calls. Created piles and piles of things to donate to charity.

I think, perhaps, we get so caught up by what usually see that we forget about our ability to see things differently. I had a "plan" for my week which was carried away with the winds and rain of Irene. I had my routines which were replaced with only the truly necessary things. And, gratefully, I had room to live a different life for a few days.

Thank you, Irene. You opened my eyes in all the darkness you brought.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Food Certitude

A commentary titled "Dietary Guidelines in the 21st Century - a Time for Food" written by Drs. Mozaffarian and Ludwig was published this month by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). In this thoughtful piece, the authors talk about the genesis of our current nutrient-based dietary guidelines which focus on consuming foods to provide an adequate amount of the nutrients (vitamins and minerals) our bodies need. They also point out how this system is flawed.

As with my blog post from Saturday and the article by Carlos Monterio and the downside of highly processed foods, there is a small but growing movement afoot that stresses eating real food and not counting calories. According to Drs. Mozaffarian and Ludwig this is precisely what we need to do.

I couldn't agree more. As a Health Coach, I am frequently asked by friends and family members how and what to eat and my advice is always the same. Eat real food. My definition of real food is "food as it arrives from nature" which excludes everything in a box or bag that can sit for weeks, months or years on the grocery store shelves. Unforunately, the vast majority of Americans mostly only eat things from bags or boxes or served in fast food restaurants. There is a direct link between processed foods and obesity (no matter how fantastic the health claim on the outside of the package).

If you want to get more healthy or lose weight, stop eating things in packages and start eating real food. Eat out less, cook at home more. As far as I'm concerned you're better off eating all of the real food you want instead of counting calories and worrying about serving sizes.

If you want to make the change, we have several ways to help. Real food is the basis of Move.Eat.Be. (our six-month wellness program), it is the focus of the food portion of our Wellness Wheel, it is the genesis behind The Real Food Label, The Real Food Hierarchy and The Real Food Plate.

Making this simple, yet profound change, could be the best thing you'll ever do for your health. And, if you're not now, do so starting tomorrow. And while you're at it, get some exercise each and every day. Lifelong, sustainable wellness isn't hard, doesn't require pills, mixes, supplements or magic. It only requires you. 

Happy real fooding!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Evidence Eventually

This morning, Mark Bittman retweeted Michael Pollan's link to an article in the newsletter published by the World Public Health Nutrition Association and written Carlos Monterio. Carlos is from the Centre for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition at the University of Sao Paulo and has written several articles about the faults with overly processed foods.

In this article, Carlos talks more about the problems with what he calls "ultra-processed" products and moreso these food-like susbstances that now include wild health claims. We've all seen them on the fronts of packages. Things like "added minerals" or "with antioxidants" and other such nefarious claims luring the unaware and trusting consumer to buy bad stuff out of boxes. Yes, according to US regulations these claims are legal though, as Carlos points out, the added good stuff is most likely also sythentic, overly processed chemicals stuff whose real health benefits are suspect, at best.

If you're interested in the details, read Carlos' article. While somewhat technical, he does a great job of explaining why this is a very real problem in our current battle against obesity.

If you don't have the time to read through what he has to say, the best thing you can do is only eat real food. You don't need a diet book or a degree in nutrition to do this. You don't even need to worry, too much, about how many calories you are consuming each day, IF and ONLY IF, you stop eating food-like substances which arrive overly processed in boxes and bags.

If you'd like some help understanding what we mean by real food, see The Real Food Hierarchy below which encourages you to eat at least 80% of your food from the Real and Almost Real food categories. Thank you to Carlos Monterio. Thank you to Michael Pollan. Thank you to Mark Bittman.

There is hope afterall. And remember, if you are patient enough, eventually the evidence will catch up to what makes sense.

The Real Food HierarchyTM

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Fast Food vs. The Grocery Store

Today's Time shared a story by The Week and reported a fast food to grocery store ratio of 5:1. My first thought was, "Naturally, it is much easier, faster and less expensive to build a fast food restaurant versus a grocery store." Fast food stores are much smaller and sell far fewer products than the tens of thousands sold in most grocery stores today.

My second thought was, "Hey, there is an idea. Create a fast service, whole food, small footprint grocery store concept that could be built in a few months and placed all around the country in the food deserts" (defined as 20% of the people living below the poverty line and at least 33% of the people living more than a mile from a supermarket).

For purposes of writing this blog about it, I went to google maps and searched for grocery in Baltimore, Maryland. The map below shows the results.

View Larger Map

I must admit, I was surprised. There are many dots on the map when I really expected only a few. I started clicking on these dots and the vast majority of them are small, single site, and (presumably) locally-owned corner stores. The small business entreprenuers still exist!

I think did a search for fast food in Baltimore and got many fewer results (see below). Personally, I find this encouraging. I admit the results are not perfect as Google is not perfect and there may be some errors in the data. And, still. At least in Baltimore City residents have many more corner grocer options which, in many cases, would be more convenient than fast food. So....

View Larger Map

... what is going on? The full article in The Week went on to examine the issues more in-depth: price, taste preferences, ease, etc.

Maybe access to a grocery store/supermarket isn't much of a factor in obesity. Maybe it is the qualtiy, health and prices of food available in the corner store. I've been in a few and many of them sell the highly processed, overly preservatived, packaged food which make up the diet for far too many Americans.

Instead of a press release moment where The White House talks about how Wal-Mart has graciously agreed to put more fresh food in food deserts, why don't we create a new program through the Small Business Administration to help these mom n' pop, corner markets be a better resource for healthy food options in their communities? A combination of training for the store owners, subsidies to buy fresh foods (and bonuses for the fresh food they sell), plus education for the store owners and their customers on ways to eat healthy on a budget. We could have little cooking classes all across the nation.

This ground-up, community-based strategy could have a huge impact. It would bring people in a community together in support of better health. It would be a boon to the small stores, many of whom who struggle to remain profitable and open. It would encourage and support small, locally-owned entreprenuers.

There isn't really a need to re-invent the wheel, America (or rely on the big corporations to "save" us). We can simply recognize the resources we have and support them to do good for everyone.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Steps in the Right Direction

I’m a firm believer in getting out of bed each morning to do exactly what you’re meant to do in this world. No, this doesn’t mean sit around all day eating bon-bons and watching reality tv (which used to, by the way, be soap operas). It means hopping out of bed each day in the pursuit of your life’s mission. What you love. Your raison d’etre.

Some people are meant to lead. Some people are meant to follow. Some people are meant to cure. Some people are meant to create. There is honor is all of it, no matter how esteemed. The only thing that matters, in my humble opinion, is if you’re getting out of bed each morning and doing precisely what you love to do.

How do I know it matters? Because, well I do, and because I’ve spent a fair amount of the last few months doing something I don’t love and it is sucking the life out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I was paid well and the work was far less hazardous and unpleasant than what many people have to endure. But, my heart wasn’t in it and I didn’t believe what I was doing would make any difference in the world.

The impact? A slow, certain and consistent drain on everything else in my life. The first thought in the morning is dread. The last thought before the eyes go to sleep is relief. This is no way to live, trust me. I’ve seen the other side, too.

What I know for certain? If you’re not doing what you love to do, it is time to do something about it. You don’t have to quit your job today but I would suggest you take a step in the right direction. If you don’t know what the right direction is, take the first step to figure that part out. When you know what you’d love to spend your life doing, make a list of the 10 things you need to do to get you closer. It is possible that one or more of the things on the list are things that won’t really thrill you (go back to school, start saving more money, change who you spend your time with). I think you’ll find once you’re doing something you don't really love in pursuit of something you really love, the doing the icky part gets easier.

I am not suggesting you resign yourself to toiling away at a job you hate until you make it to retirement. There are plenty of things that can go wrong between here and there and there is really no point to waiting. Simplify your life. Get back to basics. Pursue your dreams.

What else is there?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Farmer's Market Bounty

Just home from the farmer's market in Baltimore with a pile of amazing food and the goodwill that come from community shopping. As I wrote on Friday, one of the benefits we've found from farmer's market shopping is that we are more careful to eat everything we buy and therefore waste less food. Still, I'd suspected we were spending more money farmer's market shopping versus the grocery store so today I kept careful track. Which is really to say, I started with $200 and counted how much I had left when I was done. I am home from the market with $80.25 so spent $120 on today's bounty.

As you can see, we have a selection of meats including bison NY strip steaks (from Gunpowder Bison & Trading), pork chops and a chicken (from KCC Natural Farms). Rounding out the animal protein is a dozen eggs and a bison marrow bone our dog is now happily enjoying.

A loaf of fresh bread from The Breadery and some mozzarella from South Mountain Creamery (I've written about them before and their "as close to real tasting" milk I've had since being on my grandparents farm).

Fruits included blueberries (my very favorite food), peaches, yellow plums and a cantaloupe. Garlic, kale, arugula (my next favorite food), corn, tomatoes (grape and heirloom - or are these my next favorite???), eggplants and a gigantic bouquet of basil.

All of this for $120 seems pretty reasonable and it will, in large measure and combined with some pantry ingredients, feed us for the week. I think we'll have to find some really great prosciutto to enjoy with the cantaloupe. And, I got the last 1/4 pound of arugula and, since I graze on that near continuously, I may have to find more before next Sunday.

Tonight's meal will be a starter of grilled peach and brie quesadillas, followed by pork chops with pesto and corn with basil butter.  I can't wait! I've also noticed I look forward to cooking and creating and sitting down to a healthy dinner that comes from the local area. Shopping in this way is the next best thing to growing your own food. Talking with the farmers, expressing the enthusiastic hellos and goodbye greetings of "Have a great week," and building a relationship with people and your food is so much more rewarding than an anonymous, florescent lit grocery store where you might as well be bar-coded just like the "food."

If you haven't been to a farmer's market, please try it. You'll too see how much better your food can be. For now... it is time for me to wander off to the kitchen and nibble something for lunch. I think this may be a tomato sandwich on the fresh bread kind of lunch day. Yummy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Taste of Food

We've become regular farmer's market shoppers this summer. Most Sunday mornings we head to the fantastic farmer's market under the JFX in Baltimore City. If you haven't been, go... details here. If you don't live near Maryland, find a farmer's market near you. Local Harvest has a great search tool.

Our Sunday morning trips have had a pretty profound impact on how we eat which even I'm surprised by. The most notable benefit is that we buy less and eat what we buy. Going to the grocery store invokes more of an "I want that" mentality as you stuff the basket with things you think you might like. Buying from the farmers is the first step in a relationship. I value the time and effort they invested in the foods they are selling. I'm reminded, often, of my grandparents who were also farmer's and the commitment and love required to farm for a living. I'm impressed by these farmers' knowledge and willingness to be at their farm stand, with their wares ready at 7 AM on a Sunday morning. Buying this way somehow makes the food we buy more precious. And, we eat it. I'm less apt to disregard what is in the fridge for the week's meals. I'm more creative tossing things together and trying new inventions without even consulting a recipe. And, the food is amazing.

Case in point: Strawberries. June is strawberry season in Maryland and we had some utterly amazing strawberries last month. Seriously, utterly amazing. Sweet. Juicy. A deep, passionate reddish-purple color. Small. And the taste? Wow. Your mouth is having a party and your brain is saying, "Ah, yes. This is what food is supposed to taste like." We spent those weeks with those strawberries just having one on occasion. One was all you needed. One was perfect. You would savor the one. Enjoy it. And, for a brief moment experience food induced bliss.

Organic Strawberry from
Grocery Store
Sadly, last week we didn't make the farmer's market. In retrospect, no excuse. We could have gotten up at 6 AM Sunday morning to make it before our other commitment. We didn't and I've regretted it all week. Monday I went to our locally-owned, mostly organic and fantastic grocery store, Roots, to buy some food for the week. I bought a pint of organic strawberries. I had one today. Ick. It tasted like some combination of fake sugar and prickly cardboard. Take a look ---> it seems like a perfectly reasonable strawberry. It is red, firm, ripe. And, it was horrid. Almost "spit it out horrid," but I managed to choke it down for the sake of the writing about the experience.

I'm sitting here now thinking about all of the people that don't ever get to taste real food. There are millions of children in this country who've never had a strawberry. Not a conventional, non-organic one poisoned with pesticides. Not an organic one. And certainly not a real, fresh from the farmer's market one. One personally picked from the strawberry plant? Not a chance.

These children and millions of their parents live on food from boxes and fast food places and don't actually know what food tastes like. For as disappointing my organic strawberry was this morning I can still say it was a zillion times better than a Pop-tart. What have we done to this county and our children? We've, though Government policy and big business, managed to make food-like products coming from a box seem normal. Next year during strawberry season I may just buy them all and walk the streets of Baltimore sharing them with anyone I meet.

From Lao-tzu, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Perhaps, in this case, the step is a single strawberry.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

$1 + 90min = A Fit and Healthy You

Earlier this year, January in fact, we introduced our 10-to Workday Workout programs to help you take little workout breaks all throughout your workday. If you do 5 to 10 minutes of exercise each hour, you'll have from 45 to 90 minutes of exercise by the end of the day. Awesome!

The program has two versions, the details of which are here. If you're not a Cybercise member, you were left with the written instructions for each exercise which we made available on our website for free. For Cybercise members, you could simply click on the link and follow along to the exercise video on our website.

Until..... (drum roll, please).... today!

Today, we are lauching a new video storefront which gives you the ability to subscribe to a specific set of videos. We are debuting our storefront with The 10-to Workday Workout videos which you can subscribe to for $1 per day (made easy with PayPal). You get access to 9 videos most of which don't require any equipment (or we suggest handy substitutes if some gear is required). You're running out of excuses! Imagine... a full body workout by the end of the day, you'll be feeling great and can have some fun instead of hitting the gym after work.

If you're following along on Twitter, you'll know that today is a B program day and you get a handy tweet reminder at the :45 minute mark of each hour. What are you waiting for??? Head over to the Cybercise Video Storefront, invest a dollar in you today and exercise all day long.

Psssst... As a super debut day bonus, the B Day program is FREE today only. Click here!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Coke. Bread. Steak. Fries.

I drank a Coke. Some of you may be thinking I've gone crazy as in "Big deal, you drank a Coke." Those who know me well will think I've gone crazy because I'm apt to point out the downside of soda drinking to those around me.  In fact, a friend recently blogged about my cola-lecturing ways. I was flattered. And, I'm aware I could be considered "one of those people" who is always blathering on about health and what we do to our bodies. My health and your health matter to me. No apologies.

At any rate, I drank a Coke on Friday. And, it was incredibly tasty. What? Why? Soda that was good? Yes, indeed, because I was in London. Chilled Coke, straight from the can into my glass, into my mouth. Yummy! Many places outside of the United States have stricter regulations on what chemicals and other fake stuff can be added to food.

In the United Kingdom they don't have things like high fructose corn syrup or sucrose in their Coke. It is sugar. Plus, there are no added preservatives which we cannot count on in the US. Many of the preservatives added to drinks in the US (including sodium benzoate) do harmful things to your body (like damaging your mitochondria).

  For the benefit of those of us who've forgotten our high school biology lesson, mitochondria is the power producer for the cells in your body. They give energy to the cells so they can carry out their mission. Mitochondria also control cell growth - perhaps cancers are a result of damaging these little guys... And, per Wikipedia, "Mitochondria has been implicted in several human diseases, including... cardiac dysfunction and may play a role in the aging process." I don't much like the word "implicated" in the quote which makes it sound like rogue mitochondria are out there doing damage on their own. Doubtful they've gone rogue, more likely they've been harmed and have lost their way.

And, even more than the Coke I was reminded constantly during my week in Paris and London that I could feel reasonably good about eating every meal at a restaurant. Food is different in Europe. It tastes different and it makes you feel different. I had steak and frites in Paris. Pain au chocolat as often as possible (which was alot). I had fish and chips with my Coke. Probably more espresso than advisable. And, I ate a great deal of bread and butter and jam. The indian food (called curry) in London? Divine. I could look at a menu, select something that looked good and not have too much worry about what chemical or additive or process the food has been subjected to before it arrived at my table. For a person that eats few meals out in the US and chooses pretty carefully when doing so, I was able to eat whatever I wanted and I felt great. Granted, I was on vacation and walked at least five hours each day, but I could (and boy did I) eat anything that appealed to me and not have a moment of that "ugh" feeling after eating something you know isn't good for you.

I'm home now and I'm distraught. Yes, because vacation is over and mostly because we are not afforded the same "luxury" in the US. I don't want Coke with high fructose corn syrup. I don't want oatmeal from McDonalds with more than 20 ingredients. I want to be able to go to a fast food place and get a piece of real whole Cod, lightly battered in real flour and deep fried in real oil. No, I won't eat it every day (and nor should you), but wouldn't it be nice to know, when you did so, it was real?

I am not a chemist or a biologist. I don't (yet) have a PhD in nutritional science. I can't cite dozens of double-blind clinical studies which prove to you the chemicals and additives in the things you choose to eat are doing damage to your body. What I do know? I feel better when eating things which grow naturally. I like to be able to eat without wondering or worrying if I'm starting the clock on a nutritional timebomb which will show up in my body at some point. I like the taste of real food.

Come on US. We can do so here. Is this really asking too much?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Real Food Assessment

Thanks to an active discussion on LinkedIn about how to implement an employee wellness program on a budget, I'm working on some new self-assessment tools to add to Move.Eat.Be.. The first one is The Real Food Assessment as a way for people to assess their current eating habits and discover opportunities for improvement. This tool stems from our work on the Real Food Label and is built upon The Real Food Hierarchy and The Real Food Plate all designed to help people eat more real food and less processed foods. If we can get people to choose 80% of their food from the real and almost real categories, we would go a long way to improving health and stemming the tide on obesity.

The Real Food Assessment
The idea with the assessment tool is to take an honest and general look at each of your meals (either daily or weekly) and determine if you choose mostly real food or mostly fake food. If you make most of your meals at home, from scratch, you're most likely in the green category. If you eat out frequently, you're closer to red. Simply put an "X" for each meal under the category that you think most closely matches your food choices.

For the detailed definitions of what belongs in each category, click on this link to The Real Food Plate information on our website. Remember, to make improvements in your health you must start by being honest with yourself and understanding where you are today. Knowing where you are today will help you craft a good plan for tomorrow's improvements.

As always, I love feedback as everything's better when we're working together. Feel free to comment, write to me and share with your friends and colleagues.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Why It Matters

From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
  • Each year in the United States, chronic disease such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes cause 7 in 10 deaths and account for about 75% of the $2 trillion spent on medical care.
  • In 2010, the economic costs of cardiovascular diseases and stroke were estimated at $444.2 billion, including $272.5 billion in direct medical expenses and $171.7 billion in indirect costs.
  • In 2007, medical costs attributed to diabetes included $27 billion for care to directly treat diabetes, $58 billion to treat diabetes-related chronic complications attributable to diabetes, and $31 billion in excess general medical costs
  • In 2008, the estimated health care costs related to obesity were $147 billion 
  • Indirect costs for employers associated with poor employee health, including absenteeism, presenteeism, disability, or reduced work output, may be several times higher than direct medical costs. Productivity losses related to personal and family health problems cost US employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually.
The health of our healthcare system and the health of our economy is directly related to our lifestyle choices. This isn't about "them" anymore. It is about all of us.

If you are healthy, your job is to help others get to better health. If you're not healthy, your assignment is to find someone to help you get healthy. Don't wait for the promise of a new diet pill or the hope for gastric bypass surgery. Do something right now. Every little choice matters. Every moment counts. Every day is a new day to take a step closer to a healthy lifestyle.

Good for you. Good for us. Good for our healthcare system. Good for our economy. We're in this together. Let's help each other.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cogs of Wellness

Since HealthCamp DC a few weeks back, I've been doing more work on the idea of behavior change and how to help people make the best choices for their health. More and more, the signs seem to point to the importance of "that other stuff" being in good shape so one's eating and exercise habits are also in good shape. Not a new concept but perhaps it would help to look at it in a different way.

I'll pile all of the "other stuff" into a category called quest as in the cause, goal, idea, motive and purpose for what we do. Over our lifetimes, our quest will change and often we're working on more than one quest at a time. Sometimes we work on one quest for the sake of another quest. Ideally, all of our individuals quests compliment each other and work together.

I contend if our quests are in order we are feeling our best -- energetic, happy, excited. And, if we are feeling our best we feel even more motivated to take good care of ourselves, get regular exercise and eat healthy foods. The question is this... if we want to help people get more healthy should we start with diet and exercise or should we start with the quests?

Perhaps the quest is the biggest cog in the sustainable wellness machine.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Weight of the World

The Worldwatch Institute released new data today on the global trend of overweight adults. No surprise, but the news isn't good.

The smaller the world becomes through technology the larger the people of the world become. Maybe we need a state, province or small country to stand up and buck the trend. After all, good news and reversing the trend has to start somewhere. Re-teaching people to grow and cook their own food. Incorporating regular exercise into each day. Helping each person pursue their true calling. It wouldn't be so hard.

Anyone interested? We'll join you to help.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Carrot. Stick. Fish.

When workplace wellness programs began to get popular the common theme was to give employees incentives for participation. The wellness programs focused on biometric screenings and health risk assessments. Starting with knowing your numbers is an important piece of the wellness puzzle. The theory being when people knew their numbers they'd do something to improve them. The carrot arrived in the form of incentives which ranged from gift cards, a special luncheon with the boss, an extra day of vacation, etc. Did they work? For some people, yes. For some, they were suspicous of "big brother" intervening and didn't participate. Still others made some short-term changes but quickly fell back into their old habits.

Workplace wellness, take two. The stick! Some room in regulations gave employers the ability to punish those employees who didn't participate. Higher health insurance premium co-pays being the most popular stick. Do an HRA or you'll pay. Did the stick work? Again, for some. People respond to pain and spending more money is pain, particularly in this economy. Does the stick improve long-term wellness? The jury is still out on that one, but historically humans don't respond well to the stick over and over again. More people may be doing their HRA but are they investing the effort to make real improvements? Again, for some.

Most people, inherently, know what they need to do to get healthy.They may be deep in denial, but they know. You know. We all do. So, what are we misssing? Why haven't we yet been able to make positive lifestyle choices and wellness sustainable? I think it is the "how" we keep ignoring.

Everyone will recognize the popular quote from Lao Tzu, "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you'll feed him for a lifetime." What some wellness programs have missed, to date, is the fishing lesson. To make things more challenging, we have to acknowledge that each person might require a different fishing lesson. People are different. Their bodies are different, their lives are different, their budgets are different. Wellness needs to match the individual to be sustainable.

Teaching each person to fish for their own wellness requires time, enrollment, investment and a pathway. It is needs to be based on a series of small changes, over time, so new, healthy behaviors become habits. It needs to be accessible so each individual can get the lesson in the way they learn best. It needs to be experiential. I eat a donut; I feel awful in 30 minutes. I eat a piece of fresh fruit; I have more energy.

We can create all of the plans, programs and schemes in the world. But, until we empower people to learn how to fish by learning about themselves, we could be in the constant search for a bigger stick.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mission to Change

At yesterday, we created a session to talk about behavior change particularly as it relates to health and wellness. Behavior change, and figuring out how to get people to make positive choices for their health, is critical for our future. Diseases and conditions caused by lifestyle choices are eating our healthcare system alive and will take our economy down as well.

Yesterday, we made a quick list of the most obvious reasons people begin to change their behavior:
  • Medical diagnosis (diabetes, heart disease being the most popular)
  • Death of a friend or family member
  • Pressure from our kids (worked great for smoking and seat belt use)
There are more but those, generally, are the biggies. What seldom makes the list are things like: "I know better." Why is that? We know we shouldn't smoke and yet some of us do. We know we should get, at least, some exercise each day and most of us don't. We know soda lacks any useful health properties, yet we drink it by the gallon. Some call this the "intent-behavior" gap. I mean to do the right thing, I just don't.

The holy grail? Figuring out why and doing something about it. I have a theory: People aren't making the best choices for their health because they haven't figured out their own purpose or mission.

To explore this theory, I asked a fellow HealthCamper (Doug from Infield Health) this question, "What got you out of bed this morning?" Doug's answer can best be summed up as wanting to make a difference, in healthcare and for his family. I asked the other group members to think about it, too. And, wondered with Greg from BreadForTheCity if such a question would be an important part of the work he does with their clients.

I contend if you are passionate about life, if you're working on something bigger than yourself and are driving toward your own important mission, you're more likely to make good choices for your own health. Why? Because you have work to do and you want to be sure you'll have the energy and health to see your "project" through to the end.

I'm beginning to think the "mission" part of life is the most important and perhaps more powerful than all of the exercise you can get and all of the vegetables you can eat. Perhaps we're going at this "wellness" thing from the wrong angle all together.

Maybe we need to help each person figure out their own personal mission and then support them to get there. After all, when you're working on something really important to you, there isn't anything that will get in your way.

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Make Food Personal

The numbers of people sickened or killed by the E. coli breakout in Germany continue to increase. There are many theories ranging from mundane to conspiracy to biological warfare. The reason for the outbreak? It will take some time before the real source can be traced. The costs of the outbreak continue to grow as well. There is now talk of giving the farmers $220 million in compensation. The costs of treating the 2,400 sick are significant in addition to the costs of lost productivity.

The best solution I can think of and one each and every one of us can implement right now, is to eat more and more foods from your local area. Will eating local guarantee 100% protection from E. coli? No. However, it will significantly reduce the numbers of people affected. And, if you are buying produce directly from the local farmer you have the ability (and some say the obligation) to get to know the farmer and his practices. You can then make a more informed buying decision instead of the blind leap most of us take now when going to the grocery store.

Plus, if you know the farmer and an unfortunate E. coli outbreak were to occur, odds are you'd be less likely to file a lawsuit. Most local, family owned farms do everything they can to protect their animals and crops and the last thing they'd want would be to sicken the customers they also know by name and/or face. Plus, you'll be eating more nutrition, whole, real food.

Eating local is something you can do today. In many cities across the United States, there are farmer's markets held several times per week. If you live in a more rural area, go look for local farm stands or CSA. Odds are there are some nearby.

If we make food more personal again, for ourselves and our farmers, maybe we can protect each other from food borne illnesses. Seems like a solution worth trying.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Across the Stage

In a few hours, I will walk across the stage and gather my Master of Arts degree from Tai Sophia Institute. I started the program, now titled Transformative Leadership and Social Change, in January of 2008. Many things have changed, all for the better, since those first days. Could I catalogue them? Probably. Should I? Perhaps.

At a small gathering yesterday afternoon to celebrate and acknowledge my fellow classmates, I was asked if I was glad I attended. The answer is an unequivocable yes. Then I was asked why and what I had learned. While I have lots of answers, I didn't have "an answer" which surprised me. Maybe in the abundance of answers, I couldn't find only one. Or, I hadn't prepared my elevator speech just yet.

I've spent some time today reflecting on the last three years. I want to remember to appreciate and be grateful for what I've learned. And, I want to get clear on what educational pursuit is next. I am a life-long learner so it is only a matter of time before I enjoy the smell of another new text book.

For today, here is what I'm grateful for having learned:
  • Sometimes, your biggest complaint is your best teacher. Whether that "complaint" comes in the form of a body ache, a person who is "difficult" to deal with or news you didn't want to hear, no matter.
  • The hardest learning we will ever do is to learn about ourselves. It is also the most rewarding.
  • It is not so much the what you are in this life; it is the how.
  • Doing something, at least one thing, you are completely terrified of is a very important lesson in how to grow (mine was singing in public).
  • Often, the best way to be a leader is to ask another question.
  • The pathway to a fulfilling and happy life simply comes from the courage to stand up and own it.
Sure, there were many "academic" pursuits in the program as well... history, philsophy, science to name a few. Many of those were the gateway to expanded thinking, seeing things in a way previously considered impossible and learning to greet something new with wonder instead of suspicion.

You may have noticed the above list isn't "one" answer and maybe there shouldn't be an elevator speech for something such as this. And, maybe there can be so it is something we can all remember. I'll boil it down to this...

Inside each of us is a passion. Pursue it relentlessly and, when you find yours, help others to do the same.

Congratulations to the 2011 class of Tai Sophia Institute.

Friday, June 3, 2011

USDA Plate Postscript

Yesterday, the USDA unveiled a new food planning tool in the shape of a plate. This plate is a vast improvement over the food pyramids from years past and I applaud the USDA for not putting graphics of food on the plate. If you go to the USDA's website for the food plate, there is additional useful information on the kinds of food in each category. The vegetable and fruit category is good and you can click to a "food gallery" with photos and serving sizes in cups and by inches.

I also think the protein category is reasonable. It includes animal protein as well as beans, peas, nuts and seeds. Much better than the older version. The dairy category got a bit lost and not surprisingly so given the milk lobby. This category tells people to choose fat-free or low-fat milk (which are highly processed) and if you choose whole milk, the fat content makes that milk count as empty calories. There is still a great deal we need to learn about fats and how they impact the body. Are they "empty" calories? I don't think so. And, I also firmly believe less processing is better so I'm suspicious of the no-fat and low-fat dairy products.

Onto the grain category... even more disappointing. The USDA gets credit for defining whole grains and refined grains and including examples of both. They caved to the grain lobby by including whole wheat products (whole wheat bread, whole wheat crackers, whole wheat sandwich buns and rolls) in the list of whole grain examples and by including photographs of whole wheat cereal flakes, processed-looking oatmeal and what I'm pretty sure are WheatThins.

On one hand, they are correct in that the products on the "whole grains" list are certainly a more healthful choice than the items on the "refined grains" list. However, many highly processed and overly refined products are still allowed to get away with a whole grain or whole wheat label. If the USDA is including these types of "whole grains" in this category it also needs to update the rules and regulations on what "whole wheat" means while they reform food labeling. I'm hopeful those updates are on the way.

What I wonder, however, is how many people actually eat on a plate anymore. Some data suggests at least 21% of Americans eat a fast food dinner two or three times per week. I suspect the fast food for lunch numbers are even higher. Last I checked you don't get plates at such places. It will be interesting to see the reaction from the fast food contingent. The USDA has wisely released rules and guidelines for the use of the new plate icon and I suspect there are groups of people in conference rooms right now attempting to figure out how to put the plate on their packages. I don't really think the plate will soon appear on fast foods or the bags it comes in. Perhaps we also need a MyBag label...

The point? USDA did create a much improved food planning tool. It still has areas for improvement and there are still signs of special interest influence. This is the way our Government works. It can be different; for now, it is not. This tool is a great step in what I hope will be a concerted strategy to improve the way we eat. I can only hope the future will stress in the importance of eating whole, real food and avoiding the highly processed foods all too frequent in the American diet. If you need some help making better whole food choices while we wait for the USDA to catch up, see The Real Food Plate. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

USDA Food Icon

Here is it!

This is the USDA's new food icon which replaces the food pyramid. I love the simplicity of this tool. And, there is more information on the USDA website including the following summary:

Balancing Calories
  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
Foods to Increase
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
Foods to Reduce
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals ― and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Simple, clear messages such as these will help consumers a great deal. While this tool doesn't go as far as "The Real Food Plate" we introduced yesterday, it is a huge leap better. Well done, USDA, well done.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Real Food Plate

While the USDA hasn't yet released the new "food icon" which will replace the food pyramid, we (along with some food experts) are hopeful it will help people make better food choices.

I fear, however, the new food icon will miss an opportunity to help people learn how to eat more real food and eat less processed food. So, to get a jump on the USDA and further the conversation about Real Food, click on the image below for more information on The Real Food PlateTM designed to help people recognize and enjoy more real food.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wellness Champions

As part of my mission to help 1 million people take good care of their own health, I've been working on an idea I'll call "wellness champion." I want to enable and encourage each individual to become their own wellness champion and learn how to make decisions and choices to improve and maintain their individual health. This is not to say each person is out there on their own without support. This is to stress the importance for every person to take charge of their health. Said another way, each person claims the job of their own primary care provider.

Too often, perhaps, we look for something "external" as an excuse for our weight gain, lack of exercise and inattention to our health. Genetics, time, access, resources are popular reasons. For some people, some of these are valid. For most people, they are excuses. I believe everyone can do something to better their health. The something can, and maybe should be small, to start. The small, positive changes can build over time and crowd out the negative choices.

So, what are the characteristics of being your own wellness champion? My top five:
  1. Empowerment. Each person should take a long, hard look in the mirror and say, "I am responsible for my own health and well-being." For extra reinforcement, write it down and read it everyday. It may sound like a silly, small thing but I think it is important to remember your mission - to take the best care of you.
  2. Individuality. What works for me and my body will likely not work for you. Understand everyone one of us is different; we have different nutritional needs, we have different exercise needs, we have different lifestyles, time, demands, responsibilities, etc. Stop trying to follow somebody else's plan. Learn what works best for you, in your life, at this point and time. Understand it will change over time. Yes, it is an investment but I can't think of a better one you'll make in your lifetime.
  3. Information. Weigh yourself regularly, track your own blood test results, create and maintain a personal health record, keep track of your eating and exercise (getting started requires effort; it gets easier over time). Gather your own data and understand your own information.
  4. Awareness. Learn the signs and signals you get from your body. Try different foods. Exercise at different times of the day. Get more sleep. Know your cravings. Drink more water. Shift your chair or stand up and work. Stretch more often. Turn off the TV/computer. Experiment and keep good notes. Your goal is to discover what you can do to feel your best.
  5. Community. Surround yourself with other people committed to their own health and wellness. If you have people around you who aren't ready to be their own wellness champion, be a leader and model good behavior. Even the smallest thing like drinking water instead of soda, can have an impact on the people around you.
A small idea with a big impact. No matter the level of your health at the moment, there is something you can do, right now, to make it better. The idea is to grab more of those "right now" moments, learn how to make the best choice for you, and be ready to choose well again when the next moment arrives.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

To Weigh or Not to Weigh

Is that the question? Should you hop on the scale everyday? Should you only get your numbers once per week? The answer is simple.... it depends!

First we'll start with a fact: Your body weight fluctuates each day due to a number of factors:
    • Water intake
    • Dehydration
    • Types and amount of food you eat
    • Temperature
    • Exercise
    • Travel
For me, I know if I eat sushi (the soy sauce makes me retain water) or if I've been on a plane, my body will be 1 to 2 pounds heavier the next day. It is a truth for my body. I'm a daily scale person and there are other options.

Generally speaking, there are four schools of thought on weighing your body:
  • Do so each day
  • Do so once per week
  • Do so once per month
  • Avoid it at all costs
What is best for you depends on your personality and your relationship with your scale. To find your own best plan, you have to ask yourself some tough questions. And, you have to answer honestly.

Count your As and Bs. If you have four or more As, you need to redefine your relationship with your scale. Consider the following:

The scale is a useful tool in your overall approach to your health. To be your own wellness champion, it is important to have a general idea of your weight and to understand how it relates to your energy levels, quality of your sleep, muscle aches (or lack thereof), eating habits and exercise. The decision about how many times to weigh yourself is up to you, but doing so is a tool not torture.

I like to weigh myself each day and I use the number to consider what I did the day before. I also do so first thing in the morning. Consistency of timing is critical. As I shared above, certain foods and certain activities impact my weight. If I hop on the scale and I'm two pounds heavier and I haven't eaten sushi or been on a plane, I look for other hints. If there aren't any, I am likely a bit more careful about my food intake and exercise for that day. A daily weigh in also helps me to identify any trends which is how I discovered the sushi and airplane data.

Based on the quiz answers, here are some ideas.

At a minimum, I recommend a monthly weigh in. Know your weight and get to know your body. No matter how many times you choose (monthly, weekly or daily), remember consistency is key. I think first thing in the morning makes the most sense as it becomes part of your morning routine. You can do so before bed, but understand you're body weight is likely higher in the evening than in the morning.

And, whatever your number, your goal is to identify and understand trends. If your numbers are consisently rising or dropping each day, do you know why? If not, figure it out by making some lifestyle changes and see how it impacts the scale.

Our most important job is to be our own wellness champion. The first place to start is to get back in touch with your body, know how it operates and understand how the choices you make have an impact.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Organizational Wellness

Wordle: Mission ClarityWorking with a team of colleagues yesterday to design a new curriculum, the conversation got around to the idea of "organizational wellness." It is all the rage of late to talk about employee wellness and I do agree having healthy, happy employees is important to the long-term success of a company. Perhaps though, employee wellness isn't enough. Let's take it a step further and talk about organizational wellness.

Having worked in consulting for 20+ years, I've had experiences with organizations that I would consider "well" and some I would consider extraordinarily "unwell." I've also worked with organizations over a long span of time that started out well and slid to unwell. Fewer have gone in the other direction. I think it is possible to avoid the slide to unwell and regain organizational wellness if you're in a bad place. To do so, however, requires awareness and effort. Below are my characteristics of a well organization:

1 - Passion
Passion, in the positive sense, is "for the love of" something greater than ourselves. A company with a clearly defined mission the employees truly believe in is a good ingredient of organizational wellness. The missions that focus on altruism and the welfare of the customers typically garner the most passion. Profit is important, but I think passion comes in those organizations that focus on something greater than EBITA.

2 - Leadership
Yes, I had to include leadership. And, I'm raising the bar. In my opinion, we need to start with individual leadership. Individual leadership means each person's ability to make the right choices for themselves so they are then able to make the right choices for the company. A healthy company is one where each person can live both the organizational mission and their personal mission at the same time. This requires a few things: 1 - A clear organizational mission, 2 - A clear personal mission, and 3 - Working for a company where both missions can align. 

Lastly, organizational wellness comes when company leadership encourages people to thrive while pursuing both missions. If neither mission is clear, doing so is the place to start.

3 - Creativity
Everything changes. At some point, even a company which has operated for dozens of years faces a change. Customers change, technology changes, competitors change. A well organization is one that fosters, encourages and expects creativity from its employees. Every single one of them. There are some amazingly talented and creative people hiding in your organization who can see something others can't. Give them a platform, ask for their voice and give them an outlet for their ideas (for example, instead of the annual holiday party convene an annual "New Idea Conference").

4 - Openness
I've been in far too many meetings where there is a "meeting after the meeting" so a smaller group of people can say what they really think. If the people in your company huddle after a meeting, there is something going on you want to know about. Or, you have the wrong people in a meeting. Or, you didn't need a meeting in the first place. Organizational wellness comes from the confidence that the most important thing is honesty, no matter what.

5 - Social Networking
Capitalize on the power of the social networks that exist in your organization. If your company has more than five people, odds are, you have a social network. Use the social network for the good of your team and your organization. Have them start a book club, or an afternoon walking break, or send them to a class together. By building the strength of the social networks you're building the strength of your organization.

Is your organization well? Probably the easiest test is to take a walk around. Are people smiling, energetic and excited? If not, there is work to do be done. In three months, with a concerted effort, you can take your organization from unwell to well. If you're an employee and are living in an unwell organization, your first step is to get really clear on your personal mission. Once there, your next step will be clear.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wellness in the ACO Ecosystem

An ACO, or Accountable Care Organization, is a new model of coordinated healthcare allowed by the Affordable Care Act (aka health reform). In short, ACOs are one way doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers can work together to better coordinate care for their patients. From the patient perspective, the goal of an ACO is to eliminate the frustration and hassle that comes with disconnected care. Each of us has some experience with this frustration and having a more user-friendly healthcare experience is welcome.

The goal of the ACO is to improve patient health (called "outcomes" in the healthcare system), improve the quality of care and lower costs. Impressive goals. And, in my opinion, possible if the ACO includes a comprehensive wellness solution within their program.

A comprehensive wellness solution is not to be confused with the old tems of "case management" or "care coordination" or "disease management." Each of those programs did deliver some savings and did improve some patient outcomes. They did not, however, put enough focus on the "whole person." An ACO modeled on the old ideas of disease management is less likely to succeed. Wellness is whole-person centric and is not about whichever diagnosis label appears on the medical record.

None of us are simple, one dimensional beings and our healthcare treatments cannot be one dimensional. We know lifestyle choices cause most diseases (heart disease, stroke, diabetes). When a doctor sees a diabetic patient, the doctor isn't treating "the diabetes" he is treating a person whose lab reports show a high level of sugar in the blood. The reasons for the numbers on the lab report are likely complex and a good outcome requires a whole-person strategy that combines medical, social, cultural and educational components.

Therein lies the challenge for the ACO. An ACO comprised of even the best team of clinicians will miss the opportunity for true improvement in "person health" if they treat based on historical practice and a disease-focused, patient-centric approach. "Person health" improvements demand a comprehensive wellness program focused on the whole person including exercise, nutrition and wellbeing.

A few ideas to consider:

I want to see ACOs succeed because I want people to be more healthy and happy.  Lifestyle choices are eating the healthcare system alive. An ACO lacking a lifestyle program is destined for mediocrity, at best. If you are working on an ACO design, consider comprehensive whole-life, person-centric programs in your design. It matters.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


- n
1. The unique activity requirements each of our bodies need for optimal health.

Physio-individuality acknowledges, while all of our bodies are made of muscle, bone, skin and tissue, the optimal exercise for each of us is different. Physio-individuality gives each person permission to exercise for their own bodies, needs and lifestyle. The types, amounts and duration of exercise our bodies will thrive on is unique and is related to a host of variables not often considered including the seasons, our daily mood, the weather, other demands on our time and our sleep patterns. Simply put the kinds of exercise each person needs is different.
Part of the challenge (and opportunity) to help Americans get more exercise is helping them understand what is best for their own body and life. A balanced exercise regime includes a combination of cardio, strength training, flexibility and core over a week's time.  How much of each, how intense or strenous, and the durations will change. There is no one-size fits all exercise program that will work for everyone.
An exercise program that embraces the concept of physio-individuality must include four things:
  • Education
  • Access
  • Goal Setting
  • Evaluation
In short, we need to teach each person about their bodies and how to exercise. We need to give them affordable and easy access to experiment with different types, intensity and durations of exercise. We need to help them set proactive and realistic goals (that go beyond their physical shape). And we need to help them learn from their experience, gather feedback, adapt their approach and evaluate their success.
Helping people get more exercise is a critical component of their improved health and longevity. And, it has the added benefit of improving our economy and saving our healthcare system.
Many thanks to Joshua Rosenthal of the Institute for Integration Nutrition who coined the term "bio-indiviudality" and was my inspiration to expand the concept to exercise and create the term "physio-individuality." Joshua - I am ever grateful for being your student.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Calories in Neon Lights

Yes, it is good news for the nation's waist line to have calorie counts listed on menus. Granted the rules will apply to less than 50% of the eating establishments across the U.S. and exempt movie theaters, hotels, airplanes and amusements parks. None the less, progress is progress. Right? Maybe....

For the record, I support the idea of listing calories on menus. Last August, I opined Every Little Bit Helps and those calorie counts have impacted my choices when in New York City. If they don't impact your choices you are either in full denial or are making a choice to indulge (the latter is good for you, in moderation... the former, please seek some help).

Here is the problem: Food manufacturers can reduce the number of calories in nearly all processed foods by manipuating the ingredients. Trust me, the manipulating is far worse for your body than the calories. The manipulating takes the form of fake, chemical additives created in a lab or taking what was a natural food and destroying its natural properties until the calories are reduced (along with all manner of nutrients and benefits).

So this new regulation while great in theory (as are many things), in practice we'll see two things:
  1. More highly processed, fake foods lower in calories and devoid of any nutritional benefit (which will make our body crave more food because we aren't being fed, only stuffed, and people will actually gain more weight)
  2. Smaller portion sizes
Do not think, when the burger you habitually order is suddenly 300 less calories, that the food Gods are shining down on you to make your life easier. Either the burger is even less real than it used to be, or it is several ounces smaller than it used to be. Option  #2 and some normalization of serving sizes is a good thing. Option #1 not so good.

The only way to combat such shenanigans is to stop eating processed foods. We support Real Food. Is it really too much to ask?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Holistic Wellness

What is "holistic wellness?" Let's start by looking at some definitions. From

Holistic <ho•lis•tic (hō-ˈlis-tik)>
1 : of or relating to holism
2 : relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts < holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body>

Wellness <well•ness (wěl'nĭs)>
The condition of good physical and mental health, esp. when maintained by proper diet, exercise, and habits.
Therefore, we'll create a working definition of "Holistic Wellness" as: your whole system being in good physical and mental condition.

To keep your whole system in good physical and mental condition, a few things are important:

 1. Exercise
Getting, at least, 30 minutes of exercise is the minimum. Optimally, you will get 60 minutes of exercise each and every day. Your best approach is a combination of cardio, flexibility, strength training and core work.
2. Heathly Eating
As Michael Pollan says, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Following this advice is the best thing you could do for your diet. Beyond that, learning what kinds and how much food works best for your body is important. We are all different and our food choices should compliment our differences. Aim to have, at least, 80% of your meals prepared at home using whole natural ingredients (which excludes 99% of things that come in boxes). And, drink water. On average you should be drinking 1/2 of your body weight in ounces of water each and every day.
3. Rest
You've heard it before. Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. It helps regulate your metabolism, allows your body to recharge and regenerate and you'll just feel better. Sleep is cheap. Lack of sleep is very expensive.
4. Purpose
Are you living your life's purpose? Are you pursing your dreams? Working on something you love and toward something you believe in is part of wellness. When we are spending our time doing something we love, we benefit greatly. Most of us spend the vast majority of our time working. If you're not working on something you really love, you're missing an opportunity. Sure, you might not be able to quit your job today, but you can make a step, no matter how small, toward your dream and purpose each and every day.
5. Community
Build a community around you. Friends, family and colleagues. Studies show having a community is very important for our wellness and longevity. It (almost) goes without saying your community should be a positive force in your life. If you're currently in a community with too much negativity, build another one.

Holistic Wellness. Whole You.