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Posts Tagged ‘tips’

5 “Health Foods” that Aren’t Healthy

I know there’s a ton of information out there about what is a “healthy” diet, and advertising doesn’t help to clarify the situation at all. We get bombarded with images of “all natural”, sugar-free, and pictures of skinny people eating and drinking things we think will make us fitter, thinner and healthier. Unfortunately, many of these products don’t deliver what they promise, and instead may wreak havoc on your waistline. Here are the top 5 offenders (in my opinion):

1. Gatorade. This is my favorite product to poke fun at, not because their advertising is deceiving, but because of the way most of us react to it. Every Gatorade ad features professional athletes, extreme endurance runners, and fitness gurus pushing themselves to the max, and using Gatorade to achieve their incredible goals. And yet, who consumes a huge portion of their product? We do. Us 30 min run 3-5 times per week, average joes. Why? We know we aren’t Lance Armstrong or LeBron James, and yet some of us drink these products after every workout. Time for a little reality check; Gatorade (or other sports drinks) are a great way to replenish electrolytes and carbohydrates if you’ve depleted them.  Working out for 2-3 hours at a time in the sun means you’re very dehydrated, have low muscle glucose, and in need of sodium and potassium. If you just ran 2 miles on a treadmill, water will do just fine. For those of you who are interested in exercising to lose weight, Gatorade is a great way to negate all the hard work you’ve just accomplished. Put the bottle down and just have some water. It’s free!

2. Balance Bars. These are one of those energy bars that fall in between a few categories, and may be successful at tricking you into thinking they are incredibly healthy. (I used to eat one everyday!) The packaging has a runner on the front with a 40-30-30 graphic that suggests scientific research has gone into the bar (which it probably has). However, each bar has 200 calories, 17 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of fat. Just for a point of reference, a Twix Bar has 286 calories, 28 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of fat. So, the balance bar is better, but not by much.

3. Vitamin Water. How could something called vitamin water be bad for you? Well, it isn’t necessarily bad, just not as good as they claim. Each bottle of vitamin water contains 120 calories, and 32 grams of sugar (more than the Twix Bar). That’s a ton of sugar for something you’re just sipping on to get some vitamins. You’re much better of drinking water with lemon and taking a multi-vitamin every morning.

4. Diet Soda. You may have heard about this one. There are several reports and publications liking regular diet soda consumption to an increase in metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, and weight gain. Here’s a nice article reviewing some of those studies. The evidence is controversial; some claim extraneous factors led to weight gain, and that not enough factors were controlled to draw accurate conclusions. What I do think is interesting is that while the relationship between diet soda use and weight gain is weak, there is convincing evidence that diet soda doesn’t lead to weight loss. (at least not in the long-term). Additionally, the artificial sugars and dyes used in soda have been linked to cancer and other digestive issues. If you can, try switching to water with lemon, or put some natural fruit juice in sparkling mineral water.

5. 100 calorie packs of anything. Honestly, I think these are just dumb. I bought them quite a bit in college thinking I would be able to regulate portions better and feel satisfied from a little treat, but it never worked. I would take one pack of 100 calorie cookies to school with me, eat another at dinner, and a third before bed; each time feeling completely unsatisfied with my meager portion of fake food. If you want to eat, then you should eat something whole, natural and real. Yes, it will contain more calories, but it will leave you actually feeling satisfied and you won’t need to eat so much.

What foods do you consider “diet” or “healthy” foods? Has your opinion of what’s healthy changed over time?

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How to Make a Change

Kevin and I saw an interesting documentary this weekend called Hunger for Change. (I’ll write a review in a few days!) It was pretty good, and got me thinking about the process of changing our habits. The more and more I read about weight loss and dieting, I’m realizing that for most of us, the struggle is not getting enough information about how to live, but instead finding the motivation to change our behaviors. There really are quite a few diet books out there that suggest healthy, well balanced diets and recommend regular exercise, and yet so many Americans are still overweight. Why? Because drastically changing your life is so hard! It’s one thing to read about it, and quite another to put it into practice.

When I look and Kevin and my journey to becoming healthier over the last few years, I have noticed a few things. I hope that these suggestions can help you a bit on the road to becoming a healthier, happier version of you!

One thing at a time. I am terrible at this! Whenever I watch a health food documentary, read about vegan diets or see photos of someone who is super-ripped, I think about how I want to completely over-haul my life. I make plans to eat only fruits and vegetables, wake up and the crack of dawn for a 2 hour workout and plan a 30 minute yoga session every night. And, of course, none of that happens. I hit the snooze button, put off the workout, and definitely eat more than just fruits and vegetables (namely Oreos, which are my nemesis).  Trying to make so many drastic changes makes me feel overwhelmed. The challenge seems impossible and so instead of being successful, I flop down in failure. The times I’ve actually managed to maintain better habits are the things that naturally developed over time. I started bringing one piece of fruit to lunch with me, and then two. I began by having a fruit smoothie for breakfast, which has now evolved into mainly just spinach and kefir, and I’ve found that fried foods aren’t really something I crave at all anymore. All of these changes were done on thing at a time, and over the course of several months or years. When we decide that we want to be a better person, we usually try to tackle all our problems at once, but I think that’s just a recipe for disaster. Instead, focus on just one good change you’ll make; something that doesn’t seem to bad or too hard. Once you’ve successfully mastered that, move on to the next thing. By next year, you’ll be shocked at how far you’ve come.

Visualization. I first started using visualization when I was coaching cross country during my PhD. I had my runners visualize their race, watching themselves do everything right and picturing how strong they would feel at the end. When they pictured themselves succeeding, they were much more likely to have a successful race. Visualization has been used in athletics for decades, but I think it absolutely applies in our everyday lives as well. If we want to make a change, the first step is believing that it’s actually possible. I use this in order to motivate myself to get up early and exercise. I hate waking up early and I usually use any excuse I can to sleep in, but lately I haven’t been able to get my workouts in at night. I know the only way to make myself exercise is to get it done in the morning, but I haaaaate waking up so early. This past week, every night before I go to bed, I visualize myself waking up at 5:45 (ughh) and running. Much to my husband’s surprise, I’ve actually done it!

Add, don’t subtract. This is one idea I stole from the Hungry for Change documentary; instead of trying to deny yourself, think about adding healthy habits to your life. Don’t focus on eating fewer fatty foods, but instead think about adding healthier ones. The entire process of dieting and restricting ourselves leaves us feeling deprived. A diet feels like something we have to survive and I know as soon as I start restricting foods (telling myself no sugar this week, or no junk food), that’s the only thing I can think about! Instead, I’ve been focusing on my goal to eat more fruits and vegetables. I pack at least one fruit, if not two in my lunch, and Kevin and I bought a juicer (which will be another blog!) to try to increase our consumption of vegetables.  The healthier my diet gets, the less I am interested in eating cookies and brownies (although, if you offered me one right now, I can’t say I’d turn it down!).  I don’t think about restricting anything; instead just focusing on the positive things I can add to my life helps me focus on the good stuff, and the bad stuff tends to just fall away on its own.

Have you tried any of these strategies? What are some successful changes you’ve made in your life?

-Sara

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