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Issue: June, 2005
Author: Sylvia Moore

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A Trial of Taste and Fitness

Alarming statistics scream daily from the newspapers and from the lips of news commentators. Americans, along with most of the rest of the world, are getting fat. As busy professionals, you don't want to take time to worry about physical activity and choosing foods carefully, but can you afford to ignore the foundations for good health?

Just like billable hours will generate income, small daily investments in healthy lifestyle will support your long-term productivity - at work and at play. Mature professionals who adopt a "fad free" approach to eating and activity will find themselves energized, focused, and skilled at balancing the many demands on their time.

Activity to Support Your Busy Lifestyle

Begin by adding some routine health behaviors. Physical activity is an easy area to target. Your goal will be at least 30 minutes of regular physical activity every day - more when it is possible. Before you stop reading because you can't imagine finding another 30 minutes in your day, realize that physical activity doesn’t have to happen in one big chunk. Look for ways to incorporate small amounts of extra activity - stand while talking on the phone; plan stretch breaks when spending long hours at the computer; take the stairs instead of the elevator (down at first and both directions as fitness improves); park your car in the furthest corner of the lot, or walk or bicycle to work if weather and distance permit; schedule meetings with colleagues as "walk and talk" sessions; etc. - you get the idea. If you are one of those people who require proof of performance (or simply like gadgets), get a pedometer to record your daily steps. Find your baseline and increase by 10% each week as you work towards a consistent 10,000 steps each day.

Act and think like a kid again - play and experience the joy of movement. If you can't remember those playful feelings, go visit a playground and watch how children dance, run, jump and laugh just because it makes them feel good.

Food - More Than a Four-Letter Word

It's time to put some color in those cheeks! If you have been in the rut of trying to satisfy your hunger with whatever you can find in the vending machine or at the closest fast food spot, use color as a guide to upgrade to better fuel choices. More than M & Ms come in red, yellow, green, and brown - think berries, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and whole grains. Savor food - enjoy the many flavors and textures it can offer and take pleasure in eating. Even when time is a challenge, remember that fruits and vegetables are the original fast foods. If you didn’t have time to pack a lunch, think about taking your lunch break at a grocery store instead of a fast food outlet - you can feel smug about your good choices and get some extra steps for fitness at the same time.

For all of you who think it’s okay to eat at your computer (and nearly all of us have done it), please take the pledge to stop the abuse. As adept as you may be at multi-tasking, none of us is able to focus on pleasurable eating while working at a keyboard.

For more guidance on food choices, visit: www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines/.

Think Before You Drink

Lectures about alcohol can be left to another article. The real concern with beverages is that there is a lot of sneaky marketing at work here. Think, for example, about the size of soft drink you might have drunk as a child (6 ounces if you are my age, 12 ounces if you are a young professional) versus the size that you get from the vending machine now (20 to 24 ounces). A regular soft drink contains about 12 calories in each ounce - courtesy of the amazing way that sugar can be forced into solution. Put in perspective, one 20-ounce soft drink will use up about a sixth of a woman's daily caloric allowance but will give no nutrition in return.

Those of you who drink diet soft drinks might think you can ignore this section, but the news is not good. In research done in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho as part of the Wellness in the Rockies obesity prevention project, both regular and diet soft drinks were linked with a higher body mass index. This finding was consistent with data reported from elsewhere in the United States and in other countries. Researchers speculate that regular intake of non-nutritious sweet liquids might interfere with normal satiety mechanisms.

Incidentally, juices are no panacea either. While a modest intake of four to eight ounces of orange, grapefruit, tomato, or cranberry juice each day can be part of a healthy diet, larger amounts are not recommended. Other fruit juices can be lumped into the Asweet liquids@ category with soft drinks - even when fortified.

Beverages of choice beyond the small amounts of acceptable juices include water and non-fat or low-fat (1%) milk. The new yogurt beverages can be a good choice, but the wise consumer will pick varieties that minimize additional sugars. Modest amounts of unsweetened coffee and green tea also can fit into a healthy diet. And yes, modest amounts of wine also can be part of healthy and pleasurable eating.

Should You Invest in Snake Oil?

Registered Dietitians (RDs - the Nutrition Professionals) teach that a healthy diet requires no supplementation. Then they make exceptions for toddlers, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, and those who might be considered older adults. Busy RDs who travel a lot recognize that eating well can be a relative thing at times. They become realists and suggest a multi-vitamin, multi-mineral supplement at no more than 100% of the RDA for all working folks who might want an "insurance policy" for their diets.

Other supplements, including herbs and phytochemicals, likely are not needed, and some might be harmful. When weighing safety versus efficacy, err on the side of safety, and do lots of homework at reliable web sites such as nccam.nih.gov/health/supplements.htm before deciding to add supplements to your diet.

Health, Not Weight, is the Focus

Despite the billions of dollars spent on dieting in this country, obesity is emerging as a health challenge nearly as deadly as smoking. Focusing on unrealistic body size probably has worked against us. Rather, attention should be on feeling good and using physically active living and healthful and pleasurable eating as tools to support our busy lifestyles. A health focus may prove to be the only way to "lighten up."

Dr. Sylvia Moore is Professor/Director, Division of Medical Education and Public Health, College of Health Sciences, University of Wyoming. She also is an Assistant Dean and an Affiliate Professor of Medicine, Family Medicine and Medical Education at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She earned her B.S. in Dietetics at the University of Wyoming, completed an internship in Medical Dietetics at Indiana University School of Medicine, and earned her Ph.D. in Education at the University of Wyoming. She is a Wyoming native who grew up in Sheridan.

Copyright © 2005 – Wyoming State Bar