Perhaps the most critical issue in making better choices relating to our fitness, nutrition and overall health is motivation. The information on exactly what you have to do to live a longer, healthier and happier life is readily available and, I would venture to say, is generally understood and accepted as true by the general population. Why then are we facing such a health crisis in this country? If we recognize the problem and have the solution at hand, what is it that prevents us from taking the necessary action?
It’s really quite simple and goes to the core of what motivates us as human beings; either the avoidance of pain or the desire for pleasure. Clearly, these two factors are interwoven in a very complicated pattern for most people, but the bottom line is that a healthier lifestyle for those needing it most is perceived as having too much pain and not enough pleasure. I have a Baby Boomer friend who has had a stroke, a heart attack, is on medications for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure, and has recently been diagnosed with cancer. He is self-admittedly overweight, doesn’t get enough exercise, smoked and has not been diligent about nutrition. I feel I sometimes push the bounds of our friendship trying to help him find the motivation to make the necessary changes in his life to check or, in most cases, reverse these medical conditions. He is a very bright guy with a wife, kids and friends who love him and don’t want to lose him prematurely. Although he knows what to do and can intellectually accept why he should do it, he struggles with making the commitment to change. All you have to do is look at the alarming statistics about obesity in this country to see that he’s not alone.
The TED talk below may be helpful in encouraging yet another perspective on the motivation for change. What would go through your mind if you were minutes from certain death in a plane crash? What changes would you make? What sacrifices would you be willing to endure to have more time with your loved ones? Making poor decisions relating to your health may not have the same immediacy as a plane crash, but certainly can produce the same result.
“Who, me? Obese? No way……” The sad news is that if you’re a Baby Boomer and you think you’ve just put on a few pounds over the years, there’s a good chance that you meet the definition for obesity. I’ve spent a great deal of time and energy in this blog talking about what contributes to obesity, what you can do about it, both mentally and physically, and the terrible health consequences of being overweight. The problem is that most people are either clueless as to the official definition of obesity or actually in abject denial that they are, in fact, obese. Constantly looking for ways to motivate people to do something about their weight, it occurred to me that another motivator may be having them understand and accept the fact that they are obese…………not chubby, plump, big-boned or full-sized, but, as the definition of obesity clearly states, they are “very fat”. Maybe this realization will be that additional push someone needs to finally step up and do something about the reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems that come with being extremely over-weight.
Time to make the determination. Don’t bail out on this posting now, you need to know this information and hopefully do something about it. You are considered obese when your body mass index (BMI), a measurement obtained by dividing a person’s weight (in pounds) by the square of the person’s height (in inches) and multiplying by 703, exceeds 30 kg/m2. An example would be a six foot tall man, weighing two hundred and thirty pounds, would have a BMI as follows:
With a BMI of 31.2, this man would fit the definition of being obese. Do the calculation for yourself. A person with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered to be at a healthy weight. A person with a BMI of 25-29.9 is considered to be overweight. As I said, a BMI over 30 is considered obese. A BMI of 40 or above indicates that a person is morbidly obese. This can increase a person’s risk of death from any cause by 50% to 150%. Alternatively, you can find where you fall within the chart below.
If you end up in the overweight or, even worse, in the obese range, do something about it!
You bet! Furthermore, some basic knowledge about the Glycemic Index (GI) will help you Baby Boomers feel better, maintain consistent energy levels and lose weight. Your body performs best when your blood sugar is kept relatively constant. If your blood sugar drops too low, you become lethargic and/or experience increased hunger . If it goes too high, your brain signals your pancreas to secrete more insulin. Insulin brings your blood sugar back down, but primarily by converting the excess sugar to stored fat, which you certainly don’t want. Also, the greater the rate of increase in your blood sugar, the more chance that your body will release an excess amount of insulin, drive your blood sugar back down too low, and result in an energy crash. When you eat foods that cause a large and rapid glycemic response (high GI), you may feel an initial elevation in energy and mood as your blood sugar rises, but this is quickly followed by a cycle of increased fat storage, lethargy, and more hunger!
Yesterday, one of my readers sent me the link to an article from everyday HEALTH that got me giggling. It appears that doctors have reported a significant rise in visits to the emergency room as the result of a vending machine snack, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, but not for reasons you may assume. No, the frantic bee-line to the ER is not the result of the snack’s spiciness. Instead, “due to excessive amounts of red and orange food dye in the treat, parents and children are mistaking red coloring in their stool for blood and rushing to hospitals in panic.”
You can add this to your list of reasons not to eat junk food, but there is an even more sinister lesson to be learned here. Typically, you can eat foods regularly with red food dye and your poop doesn’t become discolored…….unless you eat huge amounts of it. Ashley Gearhardt, MS, MPhil, a clinical psychology professor at University of Michigan, in an interview with the Chicago Times on processed food, said “It’s something that has been engineered so that it is fattier and saltier and more novel to the point where our body, brain and pleasure centers react to it more strongly than if we were eating, say, a handful of nuts. Going along with that, we are seeing those classic signs of addiction, the cravings and loss of control and preoccupation with it.” So those people who are rushing to the emergency rooms around the country are eating a lot of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. An ounce of this snack (about 21 pieces) contains 160 calories, 250 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of fat, and 1.5 grams of saturated fat, according to Frito-Lay, the manufacturer. So not only are they offering a snack with little or no nutritional value, containing several ingredients known to be detrimental to your health, but they’re also cleverly finding ways to get you addicted to it.
If, for some reason crazy reason, you’re into colored poop, do it with a healthy alternative like beets, red peppers, melons, figs, horseradish, cauliflower, turnips, or radishes.
Last week, I offered a post titled “Rewire Your Brain For Happiness” that received a lot of attention. It appears that, with everything going on in the world and in our individual lives, there is a common longing for more happiness, especially among Baby Boomers. Shawn Achor, in a fascinating TED video, suggests that our quest for happiness is largely misguided, that we’ll never find long-term happiness in external success. Rather, he demonstrates, success comes from the way our brains process the world and the happier you are, the harder, faster and more intelligently your brain works. He goes on to point out that your external circumstances are only a 10% predictor of your long-term happiness. The key to your happiness, or the 90% predictor, is the way your brain processes the world.
Fortunately, Shawn then offers a blueprint which, if you follow it every day for 21 days, will rewire your brain for happiness. Because he provided this road map in a video, I thought it might be helpful to put it in print for easier reference.
Doing these consistently for 21 days will train your brain, much like training your body, and effectively rewire it for happiness.
If you got past the title of this post, you are most likely a Baby Boomer who is suffering from debilitating pain in one or both knees. An unfortunate reality of aging is the onset of some degree of osteoarthritis, defined as a “gradual loss of cartilage resulting in the development of bony spurs and cysts at the margins of the joints”. In my case, it was the result of old football injuries where I had hyper-extended my knees and severed the cruciate ligament in both of them. Initially I had a great deal of instability in the knees, but over time, I was able to strengthen the remaining soft tissue around the knee and regain enough stability to surf, ski and play competitive tennis. Unfortunately, injuries to the knees earlier in life can aggravate the effects of osteoarthritis. I was eventually left with little or no cartilage in both knee joints and began to suffer the painful consequences of “bone on bone”. Losing the ability to enjoy any sports, being limited in even simple daily tasks like going up and down stairs, and being in constant pain was a very depressing existence that impacted every area of my life.
After extensive research into the state-of-the-art procedures, I decided the technology around knee replacements had evolved to the point where it was time for a pair of new knees. I found a surgeon, Dr. Craig Foster, who was so proficient with the new, minimally invasive, computer assisted procedures, that he was actually teaching other surgeons around the country. I am very pleased to say that the surgery was truly a life-changing event. I am back enjoying my favorite sports, I have no pain whatsoever and feel as though my body’s clock has been turned back 40 years.
Bottom line, if you are suffering from such bad osteoarthritis that you are “bone on bone”, start looking into total knee replacement and pay close attention to these tips:
I am now three years out from my surgery and blessed with what I would call a perfect outcome. I can surf, play tennis and ski with absolutely no restrictions, no swelling, no stiffness and no pain. With today’s technology, there is no reason to be tolerating the depressing existence of severe osteoarthritis in the knees.
As a further encouragement, this video was shot 5 months after my surgery to demonstrate the capabilities of this new technology.