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Archive for the ‘diet’ Category

It’s an upward spiral that seemingly will not end any time soon.

I’m talking about the cost of health insurance and specifically the cost that you and I – Joe and Jane consumer – get to bear to have adequate health plans that take care of our families.

In this Wall Street Journal story, reporter Avery Johnson notes that the costs employees are expected to kick in to get health insurance through their employers continues to increase – at an alarming rate.

Knock on wood, I’ve generally been a healthy individual throughout my entire life. No broken bones. No chronic conditions. No major hospitalizations, save for a three-day stint of pneumonia that put me in a hospital bed in 2005. I didn’t like it. I’ve not gone back.

My two teenage kids and beautiful wife are also healthy people. So when we open-enroll for health insurance each October/November, it’s usually a fairly quick discussion and selection of the health care plan that includes a higher than average deductible and lower monthly premiums.

Pretty easy until now, that is.

Seems crossing the 45-year-old threshold has me thinking more about health costs as well as retirement planning (which needs to include saving for health care expenses needed after I end my career as a wage earner).

For the past several years I’ve worked in the health care industry. First for the world’s largest medical device manufacturer and now for the world’s largest health plan insurer. My eyes are open to the ways of health plan coverage and the costs associated with them. I’ve developed strong opinions on the use of medical technology to prolong life.

And as health care reform goes into the implementation stage during the next several years, I hope the very industry I work in gets smart at finding ways to help individuals manage their own care intelligently.

  • A focus on health and wellness early in life.
  • Assistance with the obesity epidemic in a way that makes sense (personal health coaches are already being offered through many work plans, but at a cost to everyone not just those who are affected).
  • Common sense approaches (and cost savings) for families and individuals who are above average on the health front and take the necessary measures to stay healthy.

By putting the onus on individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles, stay healthy and make smart health care decisions, Americans should be able to get the care they need when they need it at a cost that is affordable. Sounds so simple, but my gut tells me we remain a long, long, long way away from making that a reality in our country.

As with any major change, it happens in small steps. We first must get everyone pointed in the same direction before the big flywheel will start to turn (aka Jim Collins, “Good to Great).  This happens through various agents including our own federal government launching new laws and programs. But people, we can’t rely on the government to make the change for us.

In the end, our health and well being is up to each of us. Truly. We own it. And if we expect to have access to the best health care in the world, then we better start taking care of ourselves.

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The Minnesota State Fair is its own best PR machine.  Apparently the newest and most highly anticipated treat on a stick at the upcoming fair is called the Piglick. Details of the treat on a stick have graced the monologues of both Leno and O’Brien on recent evenings.

What is it?

A Piglick is deep fried bacon on a stick, coated in chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. Of course fair-goers of all shapes and sizes will be standing in line to try the Piglick – and no doubt be writing home about it. Or perhaps going home in a coffin.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the fair. I love watching the people at the fair. I love the carnival/midway and the well-coiffed carnies who get my attention with their whistles and call-outs designed to coerce me into shooting a stream of water into a tiny target 10 feet away in order to win an even tinier stuffed Stewie doll.  Stewie is the star of the upstanding family-oriented show on television called, “Family Guy.”  All kids need a Stewie.

Forgive me if I come across as arrogant, but the only thing I want to eat on a stick is a corn dog. Hot enough to burn my tongue and coated with a nice layer of ketchup and mustard. That’s all. I don’t need the Piglick to make my fair-going experience memorable. And I definitely don’t need the extra plaque in my arteries when I wake up the day after my fair excursion.

But that’s just me.

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True or false: A recent National Institutes of Health study estimated the annual medical spending due to obesity (BMI >25) in the United States to be as much as $92.6 billion in 2002 dollars – or roughly 9.1 percent of total U.S. health care expenditures.

Scary isn’t it?

So what are we doing about obesity? Not everyone can afford to hire a full-time diet coach like the Los Angeles Police Department is providing to its officers who are on the rotund side of the obesity equation. You can read that story, as reported by the Associated Press, by clicking this link.

The solution is really quite simple. Increased activity and eating smaller amounts of processed foods will result in a fitter America. The problem facing kids and adults alike is finding time to eat in a healthy way and the ability to turn off the computer and the TV long enough for 30 minutes of some form of physical activity each day. That’s the start of it…the foundation.

We all make excuses. When our kids are chubby, we tell them they’ll grow out of it. When a diet fails we tell ourselves stress at work or at home is too much to handle right now. Blah blah blah.

The thing is, no one can make us be healthy or active. That’s up to each of us as individuals. I have first-hand experience in this department. Twenty years ago I was nearing 225 pounds and my waist was 38 inches around. Now, at 43 I’m 35 pounds lighter and enjoy regular physical activity. I’m not a freak with it, but I’ve made it part of my life.

If I can do it, any one can do it. Are you an American or an American’t? C’mon! Find a way to stuff your face with the RIGHT kind of foods and use the body to get from point A to point B a few times a week.

By the way, the answer to the true/false question above is TRUE! Wouldn’t it be nice to pocket a little of that $92 billion every year instead of giving it to doctors and nutritionists who are going to tell you to eat less and exercise more?

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I’m 195 pounds of flesh, bone, muscle and…sadly…a tad bit too much body fat hanging off my 6’2″ frame.  I’m also 42, which is not an excuse, but an explanation.

You see, at 39 and 40 I worked hard and built myself into really good shape. A proper combination of height, weight and musculature. It took effort – especially after growing up as the “heavy kid” in school. I vividly remember when I was 12 or so and my Mom bought my first pair of jeans with the “husky” label in the waist band. Ugh.

Flash forward 30 years and at 40 I was a svelt 182 pounds. My size 34 Levis were loose around my waist at that time and I liked it. I liked me at 13 percent body fat.  But is that realistic? I’m finding that just two years later, my goals should probably be reconfigured.

Even with regular fitness training including weights, cycling and running, I’m 15 pounds heavier and it shows! Sure, my diet isn’t as “clean” as I’d like it to be. Yes, I have an 8-5 job that keeps me glued to my desk chair five days a week. So the middle-age spread is upon me.  Do I accept it? Or do I fight it?

I’m a fighter.

As I sign myself up for several triathlons this season and perform the training regimen that needs to be undertaken in order to complete said tris without totally embarrassing myself, I find I’m eagerly looking forward to the hour I spend each day in the gym or on the pavement.  I have this innate desire to be leaner even if I can’t be that svelt 182 pound-13-percent-bodyfat guy again. Just to get where I can get from my personal effort – and, if I’m lucky, watch the chub melt from above my waist line and feel the firmness of my bicep or pectoral.

We live in a country where focus on body type is SO out there…so important. Ironically, America has also become one of the most obese nations on the planet. Slothy, lazy habits have replaced activities among our children and the best thing I can do as a Dad is serve as an example to my own two teens that no matter how old you get, it’s better to stay active and have fun doing it – so you can feel good about yourself and your accomplishements – and STILL enjoy the occasional plate of nachos when you feel like it.

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Time to Fight Fat

Not long ago, a lawmaker in the great State of Mississippi, decided in all his wisdom that the best way to fight obesity in the state would be to give restaurants the ability to decline service to patrons who were, in fact, clearly obese. The story appeared in USA Today on Feb. 5.  Clearly, the Republican legislator who had this braniac idea knew it wouldn’t get far. But, my friends, it’s gotten far.

Far enough to prompt debate in newspapers all around the country, like the Council Bluffs, Iowa, Nonpareil. In the editorials and letters to the editor I’ve glanced at, a key point is raised again and again. Should we attack the nation’s fat problem head on or tip toe around obesity like a Minnesota driver who gets cut off on I-494 by someone with out-of-state plates (Minnesota “nice” tells us to just wave that driver on by…with a smile)?

Fat AssGiving restaurant owners/wait staff the ability to not serve a patron based on how far his or her ass hangs off the chair is clearly not the way to go. But c’mon people! What’s the answer here? And why are we dancing around one of the biggest (guffaw) epidemics of the century? The term “morbidly obese” means that someone with this condition could easily die from the problem. Their fat issue will lead to chronic conditions including heart disease, diabetes and more – all at a huge cost to our already taxed health care system.  Do we, as intelligent, educated citizens stand by and watch this happen?

I would argue that if it’s OK for us to agree to ban smoking in commercial buildings, restaurants and other public places, ban drugs, and require bar owners to cut off patrons who are obviously drunk and intending to get even more so, then it’s not out of the question to find a way to restrict those who don’t have a “stop” button from eating themselves into further oblivion and even to death. Why is it NOT ok to at least have frank conversations with our neighbors about finding alternatives to that pound of butter and several gallons of Crisco they use to fry a turkey in their garage at Thanksgiving?

The nicey nice attitude toward obesity has to go on the shelf. It’s time to get angry and break out the anti-fat messaging that will ring clear in peoples’ heads once and for all. If not for them, then for their children. Let’s do it before our DNA alters itself and predisposes all of humanity to be obese.

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Diet supplements remain a multi-billion dollar industry. And I admit, I’ve forked over a small savings account in order to supplement my dietary needs when I’m training and eating healthily.

The supplements in my home consist of:

FitnessA) Protein powders and pre-mixes. I’m a big fan of the AdvantEdge protein supplement that’s available at almost any Wal-Mart or Target. Made by EAS and recommended by the Body for Life plan, the chocolate and vanilla mixes are tasty and loaded with just 110 calories and 17 grams of protein.  The key in any protein supplement is finding one that tastes good. Most don’t.

B) Protein bars. I can’t recommend any of these nasty tasting things.  Protein bars make me gag, but I choke them down because it’s better for me than eating a kingsize Three Musketeers bar. One protein bar that I can handle is the Next Detour Bar with 290 calories and 30 grams of protein. I’ll cut one in half and over the course of a day have two decent snacks for around a buck. The downside with these bars is that they often contain as many or more carbs than protein. Gotta pay close attention to the nutrition labels when buying bars.

C) All natural cranberry juice. Not so much a supplement as it is an aid to regularity. I’m not talking about Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail, but rather organic, all natural, no sugar added cranberry juice. I water four ounces of the juice down with 28 ounces of water and drink two to three 8-ounce glasses a day.

D) Water. Even Willie Nelson knows the body needs water. When I’m at my best I’m drinking about 60 ounces a day. Just remember, the lighter the urine stream, the better hydrated you are (and no, beer doesn’t count).

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