Monthly Archives: February 2010

Make choices, not sacrifices

A friend lamented, “You guys are skinny. You have no idea what it’s like.”  From his perspective, because we are healthy and fit, we must not understand what it’s like to be in love with food, to eat too much, or to be unhappy with our weight. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.  I mean, seriously, have you ever shared a meal with my wife?  Andrea loves food.  Whatever you put in front of her, she’s gonna eat.  And, when she’s finished with her food, she’ll likely lean over to you to ask if you’re done with what’s on your plate, hoping she can eat that, too. 

The fact is, Andrea and I are “skinny” because we have figured out how to make good food choices.  Over the last five years, we have made slow, steady changes to WHAT we eat, HOW MUCH we eat, WHERE we eat, and WHEN we eat.  Because the adjustments we made were small and incremental, they became habits.  Now they are so ingrained in our daily lives, we feel bad if circumstances prevent us from eating healthy.

We compiled a list of many of the things we do regarding healthy eating because we think you, too,* can change your approach to eating.  It’s a long–potentially overwhelming–list, but we have added them to our daily routine over a long period of time until they have become habits (not just till the class reunion, or some weight loss goal).   In future blogs, we’ll explore each one of these individually.  Meantime, pick one or two from the list and commit to incorporating them into your daily routine (and that of your family) for the next 30, 60 days…or however long it takes to make them second nature.  When you’re ready, come back to the list and pick a couple more.  And so on. 

  • Eat smaller portions (main course, like chicken, beef, fish, etc., should be no bigger than the size of your fist or a deck of cards; share meals in restaurants or have the server bring you a to-go container to put half your entre in before you begin eating)
  • Drink (and finish) a glass of water with lunch and dinner (this doesn’t mean trying to choke down six 12-oz glasses of water every day, just make it a habit to drink a glass of water with every meal)
  • Eliminate pop/diet pop altogether (diet pop is a chemical-laden menace to be avoided at all costs)
  • Choose low-fat/non-fat dairy (we prefer cheese, ice cream and mayo with full fat content, but that’s just us and we’re careful with other foods)
  • Avoid high-fructose corn syrup (Surprise! HFCS is found in ketchup, some yogurt, baked goodies, and lots of other foods you’d least expect)
  • Read labels; chose products with shortest list of ingredients, and ingredients you recognize and can pronounce
  • Eat breakfast, such as an all-natural, high-fiber cereal with fat-free (organic) milk and a handful of fresh blueberries and/or raspberries
  • Eat protein (like eggs) for breakfast
  • Drink protein smoothies for post workout recovery meals, or any other replacement meal
  • Incorporate whey into your diet (no way, yes whey!)
  • Add flax seed for omega-3s (to smoothies, meatloaf instead of bread crumbs, over ice cream, mixed in oatmeal)
  • Get insoluble fiber
  • Eat yogurt (because Yoplait has HFCS, we prefer Breyer’s non-fat yogurt, but it has asparteme…choices, I guess)
  • No prepared meals (boxed or frozen)–ever!
  • Eat as many vegetables and  2 to 3 servings of fruit each day (after all, no one ever got fat from eating too many of these foods)
  • Eat multiple small meals throughout the day (breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner) and do NOT skip meals
  • Pack your lunch rather than eating in restaurants
  • Bring fruit and veggies with you to snack on during the work day–and commit to finishing what you brought (Andrea sometimes finds herself finishing off her food in the car on the way home)
  • Stay out of restaurants (because you can’t control the ingredients and the portion-size is way too much)
  • Stay out of fast food restaurants (because the ingredients are likely highly processed)
  • Cook with olive oil (not butter, not vegetable oil)
  • Avoid breads and pasta products that begin “bleached, enriched” on list of ingredients
  • Choose whole wheat bread, pastas and crackers (look for whole wheat or whole grain, don’t be confused by “multi-grain”)
  • Remember: “bran muffins, the silent killer” (No, not really, that’s just one of Andrea’s favorite jokes, but bran muffins are not as healthy as you think); and save donuts, bagels, croissants, pastries, etc. for extra special occasions
  • Eat your spinach, Popeye. Put in salads, on sandwiches; or toss in boiling water with pasta during the last 60 seconds
  • Choose turkey, tuna or chicken for your protein as often as possible
  • Indulge, if you must, in dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate
  • Cook meals from scratch (learn a few healthy recipes; plan a week of meals on Sunday, buy necessary ingredients)
  • Enjoy Breyer’s ice cream (1 scoop = ~140 calories) as a delicious snack before bedtime
  • Buy unseasoned frozen or canned veggies
  • Eat fresh fish at least once a week, and it should be wild-caught, not farm-raised
  • Avoid rice and noodles as a side dish (substitute with veggies!) unless, of course, you’re carbo-loading
  • Chew sugar-free gum first, when you’re craving a mid-afternoon snack; if you still need something sweet, turn to grapes (that you packed in your lunch) or a couple squares of dark chocolate
  • Eat oatmeal.  Steel-cut is great on the weekends when you have more time.  Instant oatmeal is a terrific, easy-to-make mid-morning snack at work.  Top oatmeal with sliced almonds, dried or fresh fruit.
  • Grab a handful of nuts as a snack
  • Look for ways to incorporate Omega 3s / good oils into your diet (wild-caught salmon, fish oil supplements, flaxseed, some eggs, olive oil)
  • Add beans and legumes to every meal
  • Get protein through peanut butter (especially “natural”)
  • Choose low-sodium soups and broths

The thing is, we haven’t made sacrifices, we’ve made choices.  We still get to eat, and we get to eat food that we love.  It’s just that we eat more appropriate servings of foods that are better for us.

*I am not a doctor and this advice is not intended to replace consultation with your medical professionals. As always, you should discuss your diet, nutrition and exercise habits with your doctor (and, in some cases, your pharmacist) to ensure that there are no negative implications based on your personal health history (or the medications you take).  As examples, if you have IBS, you would need to take care on the consumption of insoluble fiber. If you’ve had breast cancer, like my wife, flax seed should be avoided. If you have gluten allergies, wheats and whole grains are going to be a problem for you. 


Filed under Healthy eating

Pound for Pound Challenge

Jason Yun demonstrates with a kettlebell

Today’s post is by guest blogger, Jason Yun, a personal trainer, bootcamp instructor, and owner of  Yun Strength and Fitness Systems LLC. You can follow Jason on twitter @Yuntraining, or see him in person at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank on February 23 when he discusses interval training.  He now tells us about an important project here in Central Ohio and across the nation.

I recently met with the director of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank and she introduced me to a great program that’s helping hundreds of thousands of people lose weight across America and also helping to feed Columbus. Naturally, I had to get involved.  Here’s how you can get involved too:

Mid-Ohio Foodbank, a member of the Feeding America network, is working harder every day to assist individuals and their families right here in central and eastern Ohio in these tough economic times. It’s a daily challenge, and the Foodbank is always looking for new ways to meet the need for food assistance head-on.

That’s why today I’m so excited to announce our involvement in the Feeding America Pound for Pound Challenge! Now in its second year, this proven fundraising program has partnered with NBC’s The Biggest Loser to encourage Americans to “Lose Nationally, Feed Locally.”  And we need your support to make our involvement a success.  Participating is easy and your impact can be huge.

About the Pound for Pound Challenge

For every pound you pledge, General Mills and other partners will donate 14 cents to Feeding America. In addition, you can quickly and easily gain encouragement for reaching your goal and pledges for Mid-Ohio Foodbank through the program’s Friends & Family Online Fundraising program.

At the end of the Challenge, Feeding America distributes funds to local food banks. The more sign-ups and pledges Mid-Ohio Foodbank has from our community, the more funds it will receive. So, please help us by signing up now and encouraging others to sign up and/or pledge!

It’s a great opportunity for our supporters to do something good for themselves and do something good for our community.

To learn more about the Pound For Pound Challenge, or sign up and pledge your weight loss goals, you can visit the national website at or e-mail

About Mid-Ohio Foodbank

Mid-Ohio Foodbank provides food to hundreds of thousands of hungry Ohioans each year by partnering with more than 530 emergency feeding sites across central and eastern Ohio, including food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, senior centers, and after-school programs. For nearly 30 years, the Foodbank has been dedicated to feeding hungry people by collecting and distributing food and grocery products, advocating for hunger-relief programs, and collaborating with others who address basic human needs.  Mid-Ohio Foodbank is a member of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity.

Hope you can make the pledge!   

Have a great and incredibly Strong Week!

Get Strong, Be Strong, Stay Strong!

Jason Yun

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Filed under Fitness, Nutrition

Just Checking In

For those of you with healthy New Year’s Resolutions, your first month is over.  So, how you all doing?  Are you noticing that the gym is a little less crowded by now?  I hope you are there to notice!  I hope, too, that you are sticking with your plans for developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  I am up to three friends now who have entered “The Bet” with me (see earlier blog), and another one who is just following along.  All of them have goals to get fit and lose weight, up to 25 pounds.  They have lost between 3 and 5 pounds this month, which is a very good rate for weight loss; slow and steady.  They all have started to incorporate SMALL changes in their fitness and nutrition regiment, trying to develop 1 or 2 new small healthy habits each month.  Here is a summary of how their month has gone:

Michael says:  I lost 3 pounds.  I have been exercising four times a week. Need to focus again this month on portion control and walking away when I am not stuffed.  I am taking my lunch two to three times a week and I am trying to do the 10am and 3pm snack.  The 3 pm healthy snack is incredibly important because that is when my sugar levels and attention span has dropped.  Hey at three pounds per month I will be one slim dude at the Christmas Eve steakathon cookout.

Al says: I lost 4 pounds.  I stuck with my plan throughout the month of exercising 30 minutes, 5 days per week.  My routine is to get up early and be exercising by 5:30 am.  On the nutrition side, I have been fairly good about the mid-morning and mid-afternoon healthy snacks.  The overall impact is that I am eating less at the three main meals and I am not starved before lunch or dinner.  Also,  I have had no interest in sweets, but I still have to pay attention to binging on chips.  (That has only happened when I missed the afternoon snack).  For February, on the nutrition side, I want to decrease the amount of coffee that I consume and drink more water.  On the exercise side, I need to find some stretching exercises to add to my morning routine.   

Jeff says:  I lost roughly 5 pounds.  [Blogger note:  roughly?  Don’t you own a scale, Jeff?]  I primarily lost the weight by utilizing better portion control and cutting back on seconds.  When I wanted something sweet in the evening, I switched from pastry (most of the time) to Edy’s frozen fruit bars.  I also increased my intake of fruit [Jeff be careful of too much fruit – sugars and calories].  The goal for February is to incorporate some exercise into my routine.  I am going to start slow as exercise has never been my thing.  I hope by slowly adding routines to my daily schedule, I can make it stick this time.

Darla says:  I lost 3 pounds this month.  In January, I tried to do cardio 3 to 4 days per week, and 2 days of pilates.  I also started to plan my meals better.  For February, I have added two nutrition changes: drinking  more water, taking vitamins.  For fitness, I have added one day of weight training per week.  If I keep to my three pounds per month weight, someday I will wake up happy…maybe, say May 1st.

Those guys did a great job in January, and had some very good ideas that everyone can incorporate into their daily health and fitness habits.  I know they will keep working to make small changes to create good healthy habits.  We will keep tracking them.  If you have some success stories or want to join in this healthy lifestyle challenge, drop me a line.  Now get back in the gym; the crowds are down (as usual).


Filed under Fitness, Nutrition

Successful Aging

On Monday, Andrea and I heard a terrific fitness story on NPR ‘s Morning Edition about the big gains you can achieve in your personal fitness just by walking.  At one point in the story, the reporter used the term “successful aging.”  We both turned to each other and said, “Yes, that is it!  Successful aging.”  Isn’t that what we all strive for, living as healthy as we can for as long as we can?  Successful aging! 

OK, if you’re in your 30s, you probably don’t give a second thought to successful aging.  That’s something old people are concerned with.  Even in your 40s, maybe it’s a fleeting, theoretical thought.  But as you creep into your 50s and 60s, as you feel the inevitable aches and pains that come with strenuous activity (like getting out of bed in the morning), when you notice you’re a step or two slower than you used to be on the basketball court, or maybe you’re dealing with the onset of something more serious, like Type II diabetes or high blood pressure, that’s when you’re likely to start wondering what you need to do to get–and remain–healthy later in life.

The reporter in the NPR story says not to underestimate the power of walking.  (Hey, no kidding!)  Although we generally lose about 1% to 2% of “fitness” each year, it really doesn’t take that much effort to combat that loss–just walking regularly for exercise.  According to a new study of 13,535 women participants, those who started walking in their 50s were 90% more likely to enter their 70s disease free and mentally fit compared to the control group that did not walk regularly.  How compelling are those results?  Now THAT is some successful aging!

It just goes to show you that making small positive changes in your daily fitness routine can have a compounding effect on your health and well-being down the road.  So, what are you waiting for?


Filed under Fitness, Motivation