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Friday, October 28, 2011

Practicing v. Preaching

I like saving money. Therefore, I take a health assessment annually. This earns me $10 off my premium every month! It also earns me a report-card that never quite satisfies me.

This time, I was annoyed at the time. However, I'm looking at it now as an opportunity to improve. No matter how great we are, we all have room for improvement. If not on matters of health, then perhaps elsewhere? 

Well, despite the fact that I provide healthcare, I am not perfect in health. The survey generated four "opportunities for improvement" --
  1. Eat more fruits & vegetables.
  2. Get more exercise.
  3. Better manage stress.
  4. Maintain a healthy weight.
Honestly, I kind of thought half of it was BS. #1 - I reported 6 servings per day of fruits & vegetables, which I think is good. Sure, it could be better, but you're going to call me out on 6!! #4 - I was a healthy weight last year & have lost weight since; I think I have it under control - thanks. (#2 & #3 - I concede. And I'm working on them.)

Anyway, it got me thinking about whether I practice what I preach. Actually, it got me thinking more, as I've been thinking about it for some time. I  decided  to give myself my own report card.

First, I had to determine what core principles I preach. Then, how well do I practice each. Finally, if I fell short in certain areas, am I improving or actively making plans to improve. See? A report card. It's actually a rather enlightening exercise. I highly recommend it. Here, for your amusement (and perhaps useful information) is my report card:

Consume a Plant-Based Diet
Grade: B
  • Recommendations:
    • Eat "more" fruits & vegetables. Most people fall short of recommended daily servings of fruit & vegetables, so it's pretty safe to just say "more." The exact recommendations obviously vary by person.
    • 2 techniques I suggest are - 1. Filling half your plate with fruits & vegetables. (USDA recently adopted the popular "plate method.") 2. Going "meatless" several times per week.
  • Where I am:
    • In my own judgment, I do eat "enough" fruits & vegetables. However, I could always eat more. I used to eat more in fact.
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • I have started to take a vegetarian lunch to work nearly every day. I spoke with my husband, and he's on board to eat less meat for dinners.
    • Obstacles: Meat-based dinners are easy. A little marinade or rub. Pre-heat the oven, or fire-up the grill. Steam some veggies. Done. I have some great go-to veggie sides, but actual vegetarian entrees do not come as easily for me.
Choose Lean Meats & Low-Fat Dairy
Grade: A
  • Recommendations: 
    • Overall, most Americans consume more animal products than they should for optimal health. (Hence my first recommendation.) Most of us, don't want to become vegetarians. When we do choose animal products, we should opt for choices with less saturated fat - lean cuts of meat & low fat dairy.
    • Another important concept is not adding fat during preparation. Ex: breading & frying fish takes away from the health benefits!
  • Where I am:
    • Pretty much awesome in this category. Yes, I occasionally get something fatty when we go out. At home, though, nearly all meals are lean meats. Chicken breast & seafood each make it on the table weekly. Often turkey (breast is best!) and lean cut of pork. I stick with very simple preparations as well.
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • Continuing to be awesome.
Make at Least Half your Grains Whole
Grade: A-
  • Recommendations:
    • This is a slogan I stole from USDA. Refined grains lose fiber, vitamins & minerals, and protein. And who knows what else, right?
    • Although it would be great to make all your grains whole, it's not a realistic goal for everyone.
  • Where I am:
    • At least half my grains are whole. For the most part, this comes in the form of whole wheat versions of typical foods.
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • I'd like to see greater variety in my grain choices. I used to do more bulgar wheat, the occasional quinoa or barley. I need to get back to it.
Limit Discretionary Calories
Grade: D
  • Recommendations: 
    • Exact amounts vary dependent on who's doing the talking and to whom they're talking. I use some education material that recommends 75 calories per day of "discretionary" calories (so called "empty calories," i.e. sweets or alcohol). But it really depends on calorie needs, activity level, and other personal variables.
    • Basically, you need to be able to get all the nutrients you need in a certain number of calories. If you take up those calories on food that doesn't give you anything else, you won't have room for the foods you need.
  • Where I am:
    • Ahem. I'd love to blame my husband & his sweet tooth, but the truth is ... I've always overdone it in this area. I like beer & wine (in moderation, of course!). I love dessert (not always in moderation!). 
    • I do score well on (non-beer & wine) beverage choices, opting for water or sugar-free drinks. We also down-sized our serving cups for frozen yogurt a couple years back. (We nearly always stop at one serving too!)
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • Right now, nothing. Honesty is the best policy, right?
    • My health stats are good; I'm happy with my weight; there are other areas for improvement. I'm leaving this one alone for the time being. 
    • If my metabolism ever changes, as I'm sure it will, I'll know right where I can go to cut out 400 or so calories a day.
Move More
Grade: B-
  • Recommendations:
    • Again, it's a pretty safe bet to just tell anyone to exercise "more," as most of us get far less than we should.
    • At a minimum, people should get 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.
    • I further recommend increasing "passive exercise" - taking the stairs, standing instead of sitting, parking farther away than necessary.
  • Where I am:
    • I am the queen of passive exercise. I'm fairly phobic of elevators, so the stairs are my BFF. I get to work so late that I have to park far away!
    • I fall pretty short in the actual exercise department. I take a walk every weekend morning with my daughter and some evenings after dinner. Now that she walks instead of riding in the stroller, the pace is nowhere near moderate! I make it to about 1 yoga class every month.
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • Getting to yoga classes more often is just not going to happen. (Unless someone wants to give me a space & start-up money, so I can open a studio closer to home!) I used to run, but I realized I didn't like it & was tired of pretending I did. 
    • I'm trying to do better. We got a rowing machine. I've only just discovered podcasts in the past month. A good one makes the time on the rower glide by. I also know about 10,000 stretch & tone moves from years of magazine perusal.
Writing Down SMART Goals
Grade: C
  • Recommendations:
    • In short, SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic & timely. I discussed this at length a few months back.
    • I always add that goals should be action-oriented, rather than results-focused. For example, not "I will lose 15 pounds in 3 months." Rather, "over the next 3 months, I'll eat 5 servings of fruits & vegetables every day, exercise 30 minutes 3 days per week, and change from whole milk to fat-free."
    • Writing down goals is a proven strategy to improve your chances of accomplishing them.
  • Where I am:
    • I love to-do lists. I do an annual performance evaluation at work, which helps me keep written tabs on my professional goals. I journal about personal/spiritual "stuff." But, the annual health assessment results are the closest I've come to my own written health goals.
  • What I'm doing about it:
    • Well, I wrote this, right?
    • Yes, I did. But let's get down to brass tacks.
Timeframe: achievement within 2 months
  1. Increase meatless dinners to 3 weekly. Limit meaty lunches to 3 weekly.
  2. Use a non-rice, non-wheat whole grain once weekly.
  3. Increase rower/stretch/tone work-outs to 3 weekly.
  4. Assess progress in 2 months ... just in time for New Years Resolutions.
Now, it is either crazy or very smart to set new health goals right as the holiday season gets started. I guess we'll see. What do you think?

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