Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

What Matters More in Weight Loss: Food Types or Calories?

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

CNN recently reported on an experiment by Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition, who attempted to prove that weight loss is dependent only on calorie restriction. To test his theory, for 10 weeks he followed a diet of two-thirds “convenience store” foods (mostly Twinkies, but also Doritos, Oreos, etc.) and one-third vegetables and protein. He restricted himself to 1,800 calories per day and dropped 27 pounds, lost a significant body fat percentage, and improved his cholesterol levels.

Will the Twinkie Diet Work for You?

Many people fall into the trap of thinking that because they eat healthy foods—including fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains—they are healthy. In reality, these people may still be overeating and thus gaining weight because they never find the balance between calories in versus calories out.

Haub lost hiWoman Reading Food Labels weight because although his past diet consisted of healthier foods, it was simply too much food for his body. However, he admits that he would not recommend this diet to anyone and is “not geared to say this is a good thing to do.”

Calories Matter—But So Do Nutrients

This article presents a great reinforcement that calories do matter. But before you load up your grocery cart with Hostess and Little Debbie goodies, consider your overall quality of life beyond the pounds. Many of these foods contain trans fats, which are notorious for clogging arteries and increasing bad cholesterol (LDL). These snacks are also low in fiber and protein, two nutrients that keep the stomach fuller longer, discouraging overeating.

So the fact remains: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Topics: overweight employees nutrition

Burning Calories in Wellness Center Cardio Workouts

This blog was written by Lisa Larkin. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

It’s nice to see the number of calories burned increasing along with the time on your cardio machine. But when your machine reaches a certain number, don’t always believe what you read.

Getting the Most Accurate Calorie Count

Most machines give you a general number of calories burned that you can use as a guide. But do not think that is your exact number. It is important to always enter your age and weight to have a more accurate calorie count. Everybody burns calories differently, so I recommend that you use a heart-rate monitor to get the most accurate count.

Mix Up Your Workout and Burn More Calories

It may not seem fair, but the more you weigh, the more calories you burn in a cardio session. Also, the more fit you are, the fewer calories you will burn because your body gets used to that activity level. In other words, mix up your workouts to keep your body guessing and burning the most calories. Teaching group fitness classes at an onsite corporate fitness center gives me the opportunity to mix up the workouts for our wellness program members.

To burn the most calories, I recommend using machines that move your arms and upper body. You can also try not to hold on when walking on the treadmill or using the stair climber. This will increase the intensity, which will increase the amount of calories burned.

Topics: overweight employees corporate fitness

Employee Health and Weight Loss Tips for the New Year

This blog was written by Samantha Whiteside. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Supersize portions. Hydrogenated and over-processed foods. Lack of activity and responsibility. Decreased nutrient-rich foods in school systems. All of these reasons and more have led America to be the most obese country in the world.

The Risks and Consequences of ObesityObese man resized 600

Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more. Obesity a risk factor for not just heart disease and high blood pressure, but also for osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, high cholesterol and triglycerides, respiratory problems, cancer, sleep apnea, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and a decrease in life expectancy.

How much of a drain is this epidemic on our society? Obesity kills approximately 300,000 people in the United States every year and we spend $117 billion annually on obesity-related healthcare.

Do I have your attention yet?

Tips for Living a Healthier Life

Wonder what you can do to lead a healthier life? Here are a few tips to take you into 2011 and beyond:

  • Get more active—every day.
  • Focus your diet on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.
  • Participate in corporate wellness programs.
  • Sign up for a gym; or if your company has a worksite fitness center, begin using it.
  • Take part in employee health fairs, classes, and health promotion trainings.
  • Stay educated. If your employer has onsite wellness staff, use them as your go-to resource.
  • Reduce your daily stress. Take advantage of worksite stress-management classes.

Obesity is no longer a silent epidemic. Obesity is screaming, shaking both fists, and asking everyone to step up to the plate and make a change.

After all, how much value is really in a value meal?

Topics: corporate wellness healthy workforce overweight employees

My NIFS Nutrition Coaching Session

This blog was written by Lori H. as a guest blogger with NIFS.

Just a few days after Christmas, I met with NIFS Wellness Coordinator Angie Scheetz, a Registered Dietitian, to go over the food diary I kept earlier in the month and get an assessment of my dietary habits.

Getting a personal nutrition coaching session is something I have been wanting to do for myself for several years. But that didn't keep me from being nervous about it. I enjoy fatty foods and lead a fairly sedentary life. I wasn't looking forward to being told to lay off the potato chips!

Meeting the Registered Dietitian

But Angie put me at ease from the very first minute of our meeting. I never felt like I was being judged. She had analyzed my food diary and found that I was actually not far off the mark in terms of calories consumed. But to reach my goal of losing 25 to 30 pounds, she said, I needed to be getting more calories from protein and less from fat. She also said I wasn't getting enough fiber.Pasta Salad resized 600

We talked about what foods I like (cheese) and which ones I really don't like (fish). She told me how to select cheeses that are lower in fat and higher in protein. We talked about ways to get more fiber into my diet, such as brown rice and high-fiber cereals. (My usual favorite cereal bars are out the window and Fiber Plus cereal is in.) She also told me to have skim-milk hot chocolate for breakfast instead of sugared-up hot tea. (That's a switch I can make easily.)


Angie worked up a good plan for optimal meals and snacks, giving me ideas of some healthy alternatives, and ways to still eat my favorites in moderation and paired with more fruits and veggies.

We talked about how, when I was keeping my food diary and noting everything I ate, I was reluctant to eat unhealthy things because I would have to write it down. As it turns out, that trick serves dieters well. She directed me to My Daily Plate, where I can continue to track what I eat and get nutritional reports on it.

One casualty of the meeting was my daily indulgence of one soft drink per day. It's much better to have water instead, and Angie told me to try adding thin slices of lemon or cucumber to flavor it. She also suggested high-protein Greek yogurt instead of the sweeter varieties I have recently learned to like.

Three Power Rules for Healthy Eating and Weight Loss

She ended the meeting with some high-impact rules to keep in mind:

  • Eat three food groups at every meal.
  • Eat every four to five hours (this means two healthy snacks a day in addition to meals).
  • Drink 64 ounces of caffeine-free fluid per day.

It was a cruel irony to go into my final family Christmas celebration armed with all of this information. Check back in a few weeks to see how I'm doing!

Disclosure: NIFS discloses that it does remit monies to Lori H. for other nonrelated services. However, this venture with the nutritionist is being conducted at the will and request of Lori H., and Lori H. is not being compensated for the authorship of this blog.

Topics: overweight employees nutrition

Busy Mom Gives NIFS's Personal Nutrition Coaching a Try

This blog was written by Lori H. as a guest blogger with NIFS.

As a busy mother with a full-time job and a freelance business onBusy Woman resized 600 the side, I know that I don't always make the healthiest food choices―for myself or my family. It's too tempting to grab fast food on the dash between work and the Girl Scout meeting. Too often I find myself completely stumped about what to fix for supper that will be easy, healthy, and satisfying.

Then there are my family's specific health concerns. I suffer from increasingly troublesome acid reflux and low blood sugar. And ever since I got a desk job and gave up caffeine (which is appetite suppressing) nearly 20 years ago, I've been carrying around an extra 25 pounds. My husband has high blood pressure, so we also need to watch our sodium intake. And our daughter is a frustratingly picky eater.

When I saw that NIFS provides personal nutrition coaching with a registered dietitian, I knew that it was something I needed to do. Like everything else, though, I procrastinated about investigating the possibility. I knew that I would probably hear some things I didn't want to hear. But the need to make a change finally overwhelmed me and I connected with the professionals at NIFS.

The first step was to fill out a three-day food diary covering two weekdays and one weekend day. When I announced to my coworkers and Facebook friends that I was undertaking this endeavor in the two weeks between my birthday and Christmas, they said I was brave (and crazy). There are so many temptations this time of year!

As I kept the diary, I found myself trying to avoid eating junky snacks because I didn't want to have to write them down. (Maybe this would be a good continuing exercise to keep me mindful of what I eat in the future.) But in the end, when someone waves a hot-out-of-the-oven chocolate-chip cookie in my face, there's not much I can do to stop myself.

One day at lunch I ordered a beef dish at the Thai place, so that I could accurately represent what I tend to eat. But they got the order wrong and brought chicken! The next day was our company Christmas lunch, for which I had already pre-ordered the chicken dish. So I think most of my meals during the diary period ended up being chicken! I wasn't trying to game the system, I promise!

After dinner tonight I will be done with my food diary and can send it back to NIFS. The next step will be to set up a meeting to hear where I can make some improvements. I have a funny feeling that I'm going to hear that I need to exercise more. Finding time for that will be another challenge, especially now that it's too cold and snowy outside to go on my usual lunchtime walks. Stay tuned and see what I find out!

Disclosure: NIFS discloses that it does remit monies to Lori H. for other nonrelated services. However, this venture with the nutritionist is being conducted at the will and request of Lori H., and Lori H. is not being compensated for the authorship of this blog.

Topics: overweight employees nutrition

Can Smartphone Apps Help Employee Health?

SmartphoneSmartphones and related devices are pretty versatile. They can remind you where you parked your car, help you locate the nearest drugstore, and provide you with the latest gardening tips. But did you also know that they could help your employees stay committed to their health and fitness goals?

Some of the most popular smartphone applications that are available (for purchase or for free) can help you design a fitness routine or report the calorie content of the jumbo java you’re eyeing. Here are a few apps your employees might find useful for staying on track and improving their health and fitness.

Do your employees need help designing a beneficial fitness routine?  

App: iFitness
Available for: iPhone, BlackBerry, iPod Touch
Price: $1.99

Ranked the number-one paid fitness application for iPhone, this application is like a personal trainer in your pocket. iFitness enables you to view up to 100 exercises (pictures and instructions included) by muscle group or select one of the 12 predesigned workouts to follow. Once you’ve mastered the preset routines, you can create your own. You also have the ability to track your progress by making notes; recording sets, reps, and weight lifted; and other achievements like weight and inches lost.

Help overweight employees take off those unwanted pounds.

App: Lose It!
Available for: iPhone and iPod Touch
Price: Free

This app is a calorie-tracking tool that uses a predetermined equation to establish what your daily calorie intake should be based on your target weight goal. The large database allows you to enter the foods you’ve eaten, including the portion size, and track your intake each day. Lose It! hasn’t forgotten about exercise, either. Enter an activity like playing Frisbee or mowing the lawn, and it is factored into your daily caloric allowance.

Chill Out: Help employees relax and de-stress.

App: iRelax Melodies Lite and iRelax Premium
Available for: iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad
Price: Lite—free; Premium—$3.99

iRelax Melodies is the self-titled “Sleep & Meditation & Yoga & Relaxation Helper.” Listen to one of four looping sounds on the Lite version designed to help you relax or sleep. Other features allow you to mix any of the sounds yourself for a personalized melody as well as a timer that ends the melody at the time you decide. Save and replay your favorite melodies anytime you need to escape. The premium edition includes 36 melodies as well as binaural beats known to help the brain reach a particular relaxation state.

Improve employee health one morsel at time.

App: Morsel
Available for: Apple devices, Android, and BlackBerry
Price: Free

Move toward a healthier lifestyle one daily, healthy suggestion at a time. This application from GE offers up simple daily tasks, or “morsels,” that everyone can do. “Morsel empowers you to take control of your well-being, one step at a time,” says the app description. Examples of the daily tasks include

  • "Drink and refill a water bottle."
  • "Don’t put extra salt on anything you eat today."
  • "Walk backwards for 10 steps."

Help your employees stop smoking.

App: No Smoking
Available for: BlackBerry
Price: $9.99

Thinking about quitting smoking? This app may be for you. No Smoking is designed to slowly wean you off cigarettes by first learning your smoking pattern. The app records your smoking frequency and severity. Then, when you’re ready to quit, it really goes to work. The app uses the information it learns and tailors a smoking schedule that slowly decreases your smoking frequency, lowering your nicotine level over time until you’ve completely quit.

App: iQuit
Available for: Apple devices
Price: $1.99

Not only does this app keep track of the number of days it’s been since you quit smoking, it displays the extra life you’ve gained and the amount of money you’ve saved by not buying cigarettes. When you download this app to your iPhone, you’ll be able to see how your health has improved with stats like, “After 2-12 weeks, your circulation improves, making walking and running a lot easier.”

Does your company offer Weight Watchers for Employees?

App: Weight Watchers Mobile
Available for: Apple devices and BlackBerry
Price: Included with Weight Watchers fee

Weight Watchers Mobile makes searching and tracking point values (the units associated with the Weight Watchers weight-loss program) simple and convenient. This app can help you make selections that fit within your point budget when you’re eating out at a restaurant or picking up some groceries on your way home from work. Don’t forget about those activity points, either. When you’ve completed your two-mile walk, enter it in your activity log for easing tracking.

Other health-related apps your employees could use:

Topics: employee health healthy workforce overweight employees technology

Counteract the Impact of Long Commutes on Employee Health

Recently I was going through membership forms at our corporate wellness center when I noticed that a high percentage of our clients live out of town. In fact, it’s not surprising to see that many of our members drive an hour or more to get to work each day.

Long Commutes Are Bad for Employee Health

If the thought of a two-hour round-trip commute doesn’t make Traffic Jamyou gag, you are one of the few. Besides the cost of gas and increased wear and tear on your vehicle, long commutes can actually lead to health problems. Extra time on the road can cause higher rates of obesity, increased stress, and decreased productivity.

How Can You Help Employees with Long Commutes?

So other than selling your home and moving closer to work, what’s a good way to combat the negative effects of a long commute? Corporate wellness programs that tackle all aspects of wellness! Corporate employee wellness is a priority for our staff; we regularly monitor our clients' blood pressure, cholesterol, and body composition.

Other ideas for making a commute more bearable and less stressful include

How long is your commute? Share your story in the comments section.

Topics: employee health overweight employees corporate fitness productivity

Employee Health: Positive Self-Talk Can Support Your Fitness Efforts

Are there times where you find yourself saying "I can't" or putting yourself down? This negative self-talk is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you consistently tell yourself things like, "I can't do it," "I'll always be fat," and "I'm such a lazy slug," you are talking yourself out of improving and livinThumbsDowng a healthier life. You're setting yourself up to fail. It's true that everyone has failed at a new exercise program or eating plan. But that doesn't mean that you'll fail every time, or that you need to carry that guilt with you. You need to believe that you will succeed.

Turn Your Negative Self-Talk to Positive

It might sound corny, but pay attention to what you say to yourself. As a corporate fitness manager, I consistently hear people say they are fat, ugly, or horrible at an activity. What they really should be saying is how great it is that they are working out, moving their body, or trying a new activity. Focus on the positive.

Did you mess up and eat a greasy hamburger and fries for lunch? Don't beat yourself up about it. Rather, think of all the good things you've eaten in the past week. Assess why you felt you needed that hamburger and fries and devise a plan to be better prepared next time this craving arises. If you practice positive self-talk, over time it will become more the norm, and you'll be surprised at how good and successful you'll feel.

It's Okay to Stretch the Self-Talk Truth a Little

Beyond rethinking negative self-talk, I give myself positive talk even if it's not completely true. For example, when I'm really struggling or feeling the burn of a worksite fitness class, I just tell myself, "Isn't this fun? I love this workout! It's so much fun!" Even though I may not feel that 100 percent, it gives me the motivation and positive feelings I need to make it through the workout.

So nip that negative self-talk in the bud and start feeling good about you! As Stuart Smalley from SNL's "Daily Affirmations" would say, "I'm good enough; I'm smart enough; and doggonit, people like me!"

Topics: employee health overweight employees corporate fitness nutrition motivation exercise at home

What a Healthy Workforce Can Do About Childhood Obesity

Child BurgerChildhood obesity is on the rise. According to the CDC, in 1980 the prevalence of obesity in children aged 6 to 10 was 6.5% compared to 19.6% in 2008. Among adolescents aged 12 to 19, obesity has grown from 5.0% to 18.1%. That is a whopping 13% increase in childhood obesity in 28 years.

At this rate, some believe this will be the first generation of parents to outlive their children. Childhood obesity is an expensive employee health issue now and will continue to be so into the next generation if parents don't intervene. Let's look at the factors parents can control.

What Can I Do as a Parent?

The main responsibility of a parent is ensuring the safety, health, and well being of their child. Children come into this world knowing only what they learn from their parents and immediate surroundings. If your child is carrying around excess weight, as a responsible parent it is your job to explore any avenue you can to keep your child healthy. Here are some ideas to get your child on the road to living a long, healthy life:

  • Teach your child that exercise and play can be fun. The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Treat this as an opportunity to spend quality time together and learn more about what your child enjoys. Explore new activities together like bike riding, going to the park, walking the family pet, jumping in a local bounce house, or joining them in another favorite activity.   
  • Set an example. Children learn from their parents. Your child will generally pick up any habits that you have or practice. Use this to your advantage and keep it in mind in everything you do. If you currently have the luxury of using a corporate fitness facility, take what you have learned and incorporate it into your home life. 
  • Make fresh, healthy foods available. Ultimately, you or your spouse is responsible for the grocery shopping. Bring home a variety of fresh fruits, veggies, and healthy snacks for the family to enjoy together. If you don't buy the bad stuff, it won't be around for them to eat. Your kids don't like produce? Start with the sweeter fruits like strawberries or apples that they are more likely to enjoy. If you need to, keep around a low-sugar or low-fat dip like fat-free CoolWhip for them eat along with fruit.

Take Responsibility for Your Child's Health

Keep these tips in mind as you point your child toward living a healthy lifestyle. Don't hesitate to start taking some personal responsibility for your child's future. We don't want to outlive our children!

Topics: employee health overweight employees nutrition exercise at home control healthcare costs

Workplace Wellness Programs Can Recoup Billions Lost to Obesity

It is not news that obesity is a major health concern in our nation. Not only is obesity responsible for billions in healthcare cost each year; it can also mean billions lost in terms of work productivity.

UnhealthyManA recent study estimates that $73.1 billion dollars in workplace productivity are lost each year due to obesity. These numbers highlight the value of employee health. The study cites an increased number of sick days taken and presenteeism (lost performance while at work) as the main reasons for lost productivity from obese employees. Examples of presenteeism can be additional time needed to complete job responsibilities or more problems meeting physical demands at work.

How can employers save money that might be lost due to obesity? They can invest in workplace wellness programs and health improvement plans. Promoting healthier lifestyles and providing wellness education can be just the support your overweight employees need to lose weight and get healthier. Even small weight losses by individuals classified as obese by BMI (body mass index) can mean millions of dollars saved for your company.

Topics: overweight employees productivity