Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Portion Distortion: Healthy Eating Means Eating Less

ThinkstockPhotos-164458496.jpgWe see it, we eat it. Usually that’s how it goes, right? Of course we eat too much, but is it really our faults? Well, unfortunately for Americans, the portion distortion mania has gotten out of hand—and so has obesity. Over time, we’ve gotten so used to the larger portions being served at restaurants, we’ve come to think this is normal. Then of course that thinking spills over into a food addiction at home, too. More food, more food, more food. The craziness needs to stop now! (Here are some tips for portion control at home.)

Today’s Meal Portions Are Too Big

Just because it is served to you, does not mean you need to eat it all. And once and for all, there is no “clean plate club” (anymore)! We certainly should be able to enjoy our meals without guilt, but my motto is “everything in moderation.” So while I indulge in the never-ending bowl of pasta and bottomless nachos from time to time, I focus on the food and enjoy it, that’s for sure (and here are some other tips for mindful eating). But one thing I’ve mastered over time, and invite you to practice as well, is listening to my body’s cues.

Stop Eating Before You’re Stuffed

When I first do that “sigh,” that’s my sign that it is time to stop. It usually comes when the food is about halfway gone, about 15 minutes into the meal. It’s that “ahh” moment. I sit back, put the fork down, stop, and think to myself, “I’m satisfied; I will stop now.” No, I will not continue until I’m stuffed; I’ll stop when satisfied—move away from the table and move on.

Over time, I’ve learned that our bodies are pretty amazing things. They give you these signs all the time if you take the time to listen and respect it. I love healthy foods, and I love unhealthy foods, too. I eat it all, but with balance. My portions end up smaller than those of the people sitting across from me, but that’s okay. It’s not a race, after all. And I certainly don’t feel like I’m missing out.

Listen to your body! The key to weight control and healthy eating is to eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full, and enjoy all things with balance—which will mean smaller portions every time!  Healthy eating means eating less!

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Topics: weight control obesity portion control healthy eating mindful eating

Senior Wellness: Elder Falls Linked to Obesity

fall_riskObesity is an epidemic in our society today. Those who are obese have greater risk of diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, and arthritis.

This article discusses obesity in the elderly and how it increases their risk of falling. As might be guessed, the greater an individual's degree of obesity, the greater the risk of falling. A fall may also bring about greater disability for an elder’s ADLs (Activities of Daily Living).

The Risks of Falls for Elders

For more mild cases of obesity (BMI 35.0–39.9 kg/m (2)), an elderly person is at greater risk for long-term disabilities after falling. If an elder is more of a “weekend warrior” type, this claim makes sense. They are obese and need to make lifestyle changes, but they aren’t in such bad shape as to be completely sedentary (inactive). If they attempt a very strenuous activity, they could very well cause themselves a long-term disability.

One claim the article makes is that obesity may reduce an elder’s risk of injury from a fall. This claim doesn’t make sense from an orthopedic perspective. What do most of us do when we fall? We put out our hands to try to catch ourselves, right? Imagine the shoulder and wrist injuries that even a healthy, active athlete could sustain in such a fall. An obese elder is most likely going to have been sedentary (inactive) for at least several months. Being sedentary will have caused atrophy (wasting of muscle tissue) throughout the person’s body. Wrist and shoulder injuries, and perhaps even head and neck injuries, could be expected in an obese elder suffering a fall.

Prevent Injuries Through Exercise and Diet

Practicing prevention is much easier than being laid up with an injury. Strength training, yoga, Pilates, and other forms of exercise, combined with a healthy diet, can help keep us all more fit and active in our later years.

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Topics: weight control senior fitness obesity yoga injury

NIFS: Food and Bribery in Education

childhood_obesityIn 2012, more than a third of children and adolecents were obese meaning they have excess body fat... MORE THAN ONE THIRD!  It's crazy to think that the days of kids running around burning all their energy has turned into kids on tablets, playing video games, and just sitting too much.

Parents, those with younger siblings, and teachers, have you ever had to experience those annoying, never ending tantrums or the unwillingness of others to do a task without a reward? How are you able to persuade one to do what you want or need them to do? Some may say prizes, small gifts, money, candy, or food work the best. A big concern in the news lately is rewarding food to kids for a job well done.

A local news station recently reported on the wellness guidelines in local area schools. Food will no longer be used as a reward for kids and will begin to create a healthier environment in which kids are in a majority of their childhood. For example, a local Indianapolis teacher will now be handing out crayons, jump ropes, offering lunch with the teacher, or the opportunity to be class leader for recognition of the students’ hard work. Instead of pizza parties, ice cream socials, suckers, and candy this school will be receiving sports equipment. This is such a great motivator for kids. I believe that if you get started on the right foot, they will continue to live a healthy and active lifestyle down the road.

If more schools follow the new wellness guidelines, it could turn into a widespread effort. I would prefer sports equipment and fun tools for activities over food or candy, but that’s coming from me, a young adult who has an athletic background and works in corporate fitness. Adults have a larger influence on kids’ choices than we seem to realize. Kids look up to adults and the choices they make. Setting a positive and healthy example could be steps towards a decrease in childhood obesity. If the nation works together as a team towards the same goal, America could be healthier, obesity rates could decrease, and the future could have the possibility of fewer health problems.

Does your child get rewarded with food at school? How would you like to see a reward system change?  Hopefully this is a step towards decreasing America’s childhood obesity epidemic.

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Topics: obesity

Corporate Wellness: Obesity, is there a cure? (Part 3 of 3)

fruit juiceWhether we like it or not, we have an epidemic on our hands.  Whether you are overweight, obese or not, classifying obesity as a disease will affect you, if it hasn’t already.  Changes are in order.  Simply classifying obesity as a disease does not make the necessary changes automatically occur and I’ve already expressed my concern with the direction I think this could go. 

Fructose is processed in our bodies similarly to ethanol (alcohol).  Actually, chronic consumption of fructose shares 8 of the 12 side effects of chronic ethanol consumption. Fructose is like alcohol without the buzz.  How do you make alcohol?  Ferment sugar!   Due to the fact that fructose consumption has no immediate side effects, the government will not regulate it.  When the government won’t step in to make necessary changes, it becomes our responsibility. 

In 2007, Yale University published a meta-analysis of 88 cross-sectional and longitudinal studies looking at the effects of soda consumption.  They reported that consistent soda consumption correlates to an overall increase in average energy consumption (we eat more), increased body weight, decreased milk and calcium consumption, and decreased consumption of adequate nutrition.  This even included studies sponsored by major soft drink companies, which had consistently smaller correlations vs. the independent studies.  When the companies won’t admit fault and make changes, it becomes our responsibility. 

We must make the changes.  The supply won’t budge until the demand changes.

What are some things we can do?

  1. Lead by example.  Our friends, family members, kids and our kids’ kids will learn and copy from what we eat and drink.  Adopt a lifestyle of healthy, whole foods and consistent exercise.
  2. Get rid of sugar-sweetened beverages.  Fruit juice, Soda, Gatorade.  Wait, fruit juice?!  Isn’t that good for you?  Fruit juice is basically sugar and contains no fiber, unlike fresh fruit.  In 2008, a nurse’s study linked fruit juice consumption to type 2 diabetes.
  3. Increase your fiber intake.  Eat FRESH fruits and veggies.  This helps lessen your insulin response, especially when eating carbohydrates.  A more controlled insulin response reduces your chances for fat storage and type 2 diabetes.
  4. Wait 20 minutes before getting second helpings.  Leptin, a hormone responsible for telling our brains we are full, takes time to respond.
  5. Buy your screen time with activity.  Minute for minute.  This is a hard one but will help to increase your activity levels.  Screen time includes: computer, TV, texting and video games.
  6. Drink more water.  General recommendation is at least half your body weight in ounces each day.
  7. Control your immediate food environment (food in home, at desk, etc.).  If the “bad” food isn’t in the house, we’re less likely to eat it.  When grocery shopping, keep two things in mind: stick to the grocery list and shop around the perimeter.  Only go to the middle aisles for specific items on your list.
  8. Be aware of serving sizes, especially when we splurge.  The average size of the classic Coke has increased from 6.5oz in 1915, 12oz in 1960 to 20oz in 1992.  It’s ok to occasionally enjoy the good things in life but be very cautious not to overindulge.
  9. Have blood work done on a regular basis.  Know your numbers!
  10. Exercise!  Why is exercise important, especially in obesity?  I’ll give you a hint; it’s actually not the number of calories you burn.
  • Improves skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity (decreases insulin)
  • Reduces stress and resultant cortisol release (decreases appetite)
  • Makes TCA cycle run faster and detoxifies fructose, improving hepatic insulin sensitivity (higher metabolism)

If you missed parts 1 and 2, go back and read Is Obesity Really a Disease and How did we get overweight?

Topics: corporate wellness nifs fitness management obesity diet and nutrition

Corporate Wellness: How did we get overweight? (Part 2 of 3)

unhealthyHow did we get this overweight, this quickly?  In part one of this series, we talked about what obesity is and if it's really a disease, you can read that here.  Obesity has been around since recorded history, but never to the degree we have experienced the past 30 years.  In nature, people and animals who store energy are more likely to survive famine, yet there is more food available now than ever.  Several experts feel we’ve encountered the “perfect storm.”  We’ve experienced a significant change in our environment with increased stress levels, while sleep, free time, and activity levels have decreased.  In our food, nutrient levels have decreased while use of chemicals and preservatives has majorly increased.  (Side note: Did you hear Twinkies are coming back with an increased shelf life of an additional 3 weeks?  They aren’t just refrigerating those things.)  Let’s look at a few of the causes of this increase in weight gain over the past 30 years.

Let’s eliminate pre-existing diseases which lead to weight gain from the start.  Pre-existing diseases have not seen much of a change over time and our diagnosis and treatments have improved drastically.  For that reason, it’s easy to eliminate this from the causes of our recent epidemic.  As a quick example, let’s look at hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid gland, or type 1 diabetes, when your body does not produce insulin and breaks the ability to convert sugars, starches and other food into energy.  If  untreated, these two diseases can cause significant enough hormone imbalances to slow the metabolism and induce fat storage.

Next, when the first law of thermodynamics is applied to the world of health and fitness, “The change in internal energy of a body is equal to the heat supplied to the body minus work done by the body”, it can be roughly translated as “calories in vs. calories out.”  This is a point many argue on.  If this were the only factor to consider, weight loss would literally be as simple as a math problem.  If it was true, it would mean everyone who is overweight or obese is just lazy and eats too much.  Eat less, exercise more!  But then why, according to the Institute of Medicine, is there an increase in obese children under two years old?  They don’t diet and exercise.  Are you going to call them lazy?  Unfortunately, the issue is not as simple as “Eat less, exercise more!” and goes way beyond personal responsibility for any age.  Thinking the answer is simply “calories in vs. calories out” is wrong and ignorant.  Personal responsibility is only a part of the equation for many people; nonetheless, assessing dietary trends is critical to solving the issue.  As well, average caloric consumption is up and average activity levels have decreased with the advancement of technology.

In February of 1977, the U.S. government released a directive urging Americans to “Reduce overall fat consumption from approximately 40 to 30 percent of energy intake” in an attempt to lower the occurrence of heart disease, our #1 cause of death in the U.S.  According to the CDC, since roughly that same time mean caloric intake has increased, mean percentage of calories from carbohydrate has increased, and mean percentage of calories from total fat and saturated fat has decreased.  In addition, we’ve experienced not just an increase in carbohydrate over that time but more specifically an increase in sugar.  In 1975 our average sugar consumption per capita was roughly 25lbs/yr; we hit over 100lbs/yr per capita in 2000 and it is now estimated to be over 150lbs/yr per capita.  This coincides eerily with our obesity epidemic.  So we’ve succeeded in adopting our hallowed low fat diets but we’ve only gotten fatter and heart disease is still our #1 killer.

In my opinion, this change in our diets has caused a wide-spread toxicity and hormone imbalance in our bodies; our epidemic.  Americans (and now much of the world) are sick and it’s not because we’re lazy.  Of our total sugar consumption, much of it is estimated to come from High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  HFCS is a man-made sweetener introduced to the U.S. in … you guessed it… 1975.  Use of HFCS has increased at about double the speed of standard sucrose (table sugar) since its introduction.  You’ll find more foods at the grocery (roughly 60-80% of products) packed with sweeteners and chemicals than those without.  Now we can’t simply correlate the introduction and steady incline of HFCS or other chemicals to our obesity epidemic, but it’s certainly a culprit and part of the equation at least, causing a huge debate all by itself.

What are your thoughts?  Comment below and look for my 3rd post in the 3-part Obesity Blog Series on the cure for obesity.

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Topics: corporate wellness obesity health overweight disease

Corporate Wellness: Is Obesity Really a Disease?

obese manOfficially, one-third of the U.S. is now ill. The American Medical Association has voted and officially upgraded obesity from a “condition” to a “disease.”

While I have no doubt this decision will affect everyone due to the change in how insurance companies view and care for obesity, I find myself wondering whether obesity truly should be considered a disease. Some will argue it fits the definition of a disease. People die of obesity as they would cancer, while others feel people actually die of the diseases from the metabolic dysfunction, which in turn causes obesity. It’s a very complex issue that has already created quite the debate, and surely there is more to come.

The Implications of Classifying Obesity as a Disease

One thing is for sure: By classifying obesity as a disease that is costing insurance companies and Americans more money, there will be increased pressure on associated industries to work together to find a “cure.” As an example, obesity needs to be measured differently on a universal scale. The current standard is Body Mass Index (BMI) and because of this simplistic means of measuring one’s height versus weight, the Council on Science and Public Health actually recommended against classifying obesity as a disease. It is not uncommon for someone with a BMI above the recommended level to be healthy and free from metabolic dysfunction. On the other hand, it is equally normal to have someone who is within the recommended BMI range with an unhealthy amount of body fat and suffering from the same metabolic dysfunction. The first person would be overtreated, while the latter would go untreated.

My Opinion on Obesity Diagnosis and Treatment

Do I feel obesity is a disease? No, it is my professional opinion that obesity is a symptom or marker of metabolic dysfunction; however, I am optimistic now that it has gained the title of disease because it does shed new light on the issue. My fear is that classifying obesity as a disease will bring obesity too far into the medical world. Insurance is likely to cover expensive drugs and surgeries rather than support lifestyle changes. Knowing there is no single way to “cure” everyone of obesity, I feel strongly this would not be the right direction to go. As we seek an effective means of treatment for obesity, I support its classification as a disease under a few conditions:

  • If a more inclusive method for identification and diagnosis is implemented. BMI alone is not sufficient or even accurate in some cases.
  • If each case is handled separately. With different causes of obesity and metabolic dysfunction, there will be multiple successful methods.
  • Lifestyle changes should play a role in all cases to some degree, and including these changes should be a priority.
  • More resources need to be applied to further research and education of causes, treatments, and prevention of obesity and metabolic dysfunction.

What do you think? Comment below and watch for part two in this three-part obesity series, on the causes of obesity.

Topics: overweight employees Body Mass Index obesity control healthcare costs

Putting Ourselves in Our Corporate Wellness Clients’ Shoes

personal trainerHave you heard this interesting story  regarding personal trainer Drew Manning?  Manning was what his wife called a “judgmental trainer,” and he admits that he would look at his overweight, struggling clients and think that they must choose to be lazy. Surely if they cared about their health enough, they would just make changes instead of blaming their genetics or other factors, Manning thought.

Trainer Finds Drastic Way to Learn Empathy

So, to put himself in his clients’ shoes, he took it upon himself to gain 70 pounds by foregoing his workouts and eating a new diet of junk food. What he found out is that beyond the physical effects of weight gain, he was a different person mentally and emotionally as well. He became self-conscious, insecure, and lethargic. Next, he quickly returned to his former fit self, dropping the 70 pounds and regaining the muscular build. But he now has a heightened sense of empathy for his clients.

As corporate wellness professionals, are we finding empathy with our clients? It’s true that making healthy choices is exactly that—a choice that only an individual can make. But, are we understanding of the many factors at play in our clients’ lives and aware of possible feelings of guilt or embarrassment when they carry extra weight or lack the strength to perform certain exercises?

Be Mindful of Clients’ Emotional Factors

I would never suggest that we pull a risky stunt of gaining and losing large amounts of weight like Manning did. However, we can make it our job to use patience, reflective listening, and a nonjudgmental attitude to be more understanding of how our clients are feeling mentally, not just physically.

Topics: corporate wellness motivation corporate fitness centers obesity personal trainers guilt

Corporate Fitness: The Battle of BMI vs. Body Composition

scaleBody Mass Index (BMI) vs. Body Composition: These measurements are used in the healthcare and corporate fitness worlds to help identify risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. But which is best? Many experts reason that both tools can be useful in different circumstances.

BMI

BMI is calculated by dividing weight (kg) by height (m²). Although it takes into account only these two factors, it can generally identify levels of fatness in most people, and has more of a place when a simple, general assessment of a larger group is needed. Labels of “underweight,” “healthy,” “overweight,” and “obese” are used to describe BMI ranges.

The drawbacks of BMI are manifested in a couple of ways. Someone who possesses a great amount of muscle mass may be classified as overweight or obese, when in reality they are in superior shape. An unconditioned individual can be classified as being at a healthy weight when muscle mass is actually lacking. This is where measuring body composition is valuable.

Body Composition

Body composition separates fat mass from lean mass and provides a better assessment of an individual’s health status. The limitations of body composition are that it’s not quite as simple and may not be practical for use in assessments of large groups. The simplest means of measuring it are by scale, handheld device, or skinfold testing and include some margin of error. While most accurate, underwater weighing or air displacement can be complicated and time consuming.

When embarking on a fitness program, it’s a good idea to track your body composition to help you measure your progress. This will allow you to have a much better idea of how your body is changing for the better with the effects of resistance training and cardiovascular exercise.  

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Topics: overweight employees corporate fitness Body Mass Index BMI hydrostatic weighing body composition weight control obesity

Corporate Wellness: Bail Your Body Out of Sleep Debt

This blog was written by Mara Winters. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

tired, headache, sleep debtYou know the feeling. The alarm clock is ringing and you're thinking, “If only I had one more hour to sleep.” Americans tend to lose about an hour of sleep per night (about two full weeks of slumber per year), pushing our bodies into sleep debt.

The side-effects of sleep deprivation are not fun to experience: impaired memory, foggy brain, worsened vision, and impaired driving. Long-term effects of lack of sleep can include obesity, insulin resistance, and heart disease.

Work Out Wisely to Improve Sleep

If you’re like many people, you are looking to get out of sleep debt. Exercise can help you sleep more soundly. Consider the following when exercising:

  • Morning exercise can relieve stress and improve your mood. Coupling exercise with the natural morning light reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle, improving your night’s rest.
  • The most beneficial exercise time is mid-afternoon to early evening. Vigorous exercise during this time raises your body temperature a few hours before bed. Then as you get ready for bed, your body temperature is falling, allowing a natural wind-down for the night.
  • Vigorous exercise before bed is not good for sleep. It raises your temperature and stimulates your brain and muscles, making winding down more difficult.

Understand the Importance of Sleep to Your Health

With some practice you can repay your sleep debt. Just like with exercise, the amount of time and intensity you sleep is important. Add an extra hour or two of sleep a night to ensure that you spend more time in deep sleep. Go to bed when you are tired and allow yourself to wake up naturally.

Sleep is vital to restorative health, so bail your body out of sleep debt by being active and catching up on your Zs!

Topics: exercise heart disease sleep worksite wellness stress obesity memory

Obesity Is Still Prevalent, but Corporate Wellness Can Help

This blog was written by Mara M. Winters. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Hit TV shows about weight loss such as The Biggest Loser and My 600-lb Life continue to excel in ratings, and we are bombarded daily with new information about how excessive weight negatively affects health. However, U.S. obesity prevalence remains high.

Recent studies show that overall obesity prevalence in the U.S. is 35obese employee.7 percent in the adult population and 16.9 percent in children. Over the past two years (2009–2010), there were significant increases in obesity for men of all ethnic backgrounds compared to data from the previous studies (1999–2010). There were no significant increases among women overall, but researchers found statistically significant increases in African-American women and Mexican-American women. Another sobering finding of the studies is that children are going into adulthood weighing more than ever before.

While this report seems a bit grim, there is hope. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that over the past 12 years, the obesity rates among adults and children are not increasing.

While no one can say exactly why there has been a stall in the obesity rates, most experts are hopeful that national campaigns in promoting healthy eating and exercise are having some type of effect. We know that obesity costs the U.S. $147 billion every year and is a major health problem.

Many corporate wellness centers offer unique ways to curtail obesity, such as the following:

  • Body composition screenings and health assessments
  • Weight-loss contests and incentive programs
  • Group fitness classes
  • Educational telesminars about healthy living

While it seems U.S. weight gain has leveled out, we will still feel the effects for a while. Take advantage of wellness services available to you to reduce problems caused by obesity.

Topics: corporate wellness overweight employees obesity