Everyone wants to lead a healthier life that incorporates eating better and getting more exercise, especially once the holidays have passed and we’ve begun a new, promising year. I constantly watch my clients sift through all the tips and sound bites of information that are projected by both the media and even our doctors (who are pressed for time and often can only give quick tidbits of information) about what’s healthy and what’s not.
However, becoming healthier requires more than following tidbits of information. “Eat more blueberries to stop getting colds,” isn’t going to cut it if 80 percent of the rest of your food is less than ideal. Signing up for high intensity exercise programs like boot camps and crossfit-type workouts isn’t going to lead to super-charged quick fitness because it takes progression to increase your fitness level so that your joints are able to handle the loads without injury. And, only concentrating on what you are doing physically without paying attention to how you mentally view yourself will result in not recognizing small steps as progress, which might cause you to throw in the towel because you didn’t lose 25 pounds in one week, like on the “Biggest Loser”.
To help you, I have designed a list of eight patterns to take on in 2012 (as opposed to new short-term behavior changes which generally don’t last). These patterns involve more than just surface level change; they involve going below to the foundation because when you can solidify and strengthen the foundation then you can rise and shine and be radiant!
- Focus on eating fresh, real, whole and natural foods instead of focusing on single food items. I can’t tell you how many times a day I have clients ask me, “I snack on nuts….that’s good right?” They don’t talk about how many nuts, how many calories or what they are having with the nuts to create a balanced snack. Snacking on nuts may not be good if the rest of your daily intake is high in fat and protein. This indicates what I call a “zoom lens” approach to eating when what is needed is a “wide angle lens”. Try this approach instead of worrying about single foods — pan out and make it your goal to focus most, if not all, of your consumption on foods that are as close to their natural state as possible and only eat foods that have five or less ingredients on the label (as a way to monitor combination-processed foods). You can go online and look up ingredients in your favorite convenience food restaurants like Chipotle or Moe’s. It’s not only eye-opening, but will help you to make healthful choices. And yes, there are foods that are close to natural state, but they may not be the ones you think until you look them up!
- Eat a variety of colors (natural ones, not food dyes!). Different colors in natural foods represent different vitamins and minerals, so if you mix up colors you are getting the best nutrition. For instance, butternut squash, which can be boiled and put in the food processor and flavored with cumin or curry or just salt and pepper, is a great, easy snack food and the orange color represents beta-carotene. You can boil or heat cut up beets and mix with chunked red potatoes and plantains and season with sea salt, pepper, tarragon, mist sesame oil over the top and bake in the oven for a mixed-color side dish. Think colors…..reds, oranges, purples, greens, and even whites (steamed cauliflower which is then pureed makes an awesome low calorie creamy soup!)
- Focus on physical and experiential social activities as the primary event, with eating as a second focus instead of the other way around. We have a cultural pattern of getting dressed up and going out to dinner where we sit for several hours surrounded by really tasty foods and then we wonder why we have no will power to control ourselves. What animal would? So think about changing your focus for 2012. Plan a snowshoe hike or winter stroll in one of our many nature settings and then follow up with a soup and flavored coffee meal/treat. The focus is on the activity, where several hours are spent and the meal comes second, with less total time devoted. Who needs to sit around food for hours and be tempted when there are so many fun things to do and experience in this life?! Another idea – take the family to a yoga class on a late Saturday afternoon and then browse through a local bookstore before going home for a light meal followed by hot cocoa for dessert while you play a board game. You are spending quality time doing things AND eating, but not EATING as the main focus!
- Do 30-60 minutes of activity everyday. And I don’t mean at a kill-yourself-intensity level. The American College of Sports Medicine says moderate to light intensity is the goal for this frequency (higher if you do less times per week). The good thing is that it doesn’t have to be all at the same time. You can do a 30-minute walk at lunch with a co-worker and then 15 minutes on your home elliptical before dinner and a 15-minute walk with your dog before bed. We don’t burn enough calories from physical activity in our daily lives anymore (at the turn of the 20th century the average person burned 500 calories more each day from daily life activities then we do now), so for health and weight control we HAVE to add more activity to our daily lives. It doesn’t have to be in the gym (although that is good!) it just has to be 30-60 minutes more then we currently do each day.
- Ritualize the times you plan to do your increased activity. In my observation, the people who are successful at instituting regular exercise into their lives (and achieving a healthier, more comfortable body weight) do their activity the same times on the same days every week. For instance, every Monday and Wednesday may be your exercise class at 6pm. And every Tuesday and Thursday may be your home treadmill walk at 9pm after the kids are put to bed. It doesn’t have to be the same time every day, but those who are successful tend to have a pattern or ritual of the times.
- Intensity levels are important and can make a difference in successful body changes, BUT these are layered onto a solid foundation of exercise consistency. If you have not yet achieved at least one year of consistent exercise, don’t worry about all the information out there regarding intensity, type, duration, etc. Make your goal for 2012 to set the foundation of 30-60 minutes of a comfortable level of exertion that you can maintain and that you do consistently! Next year you can layer on the intensity levels, etc.
- Stop feeding yourself “junk food thoughts” and replace with “health food thoughts”. We all try to focus on putting healthy foods into our body and then wonder why our cholesterol is still high. Yet, we haven’t paid attention to how many negative, doom and gloom, “I am not good enough” junk food thoughts we allow to fill up our nervous system every day. This year, adopt a “health food thoughts” foundation for yourself and your children. Every time you are aware of a negative self or world thought – “I stunk in how I handled myself in (fill in the blank)” or “Bad things always happen…..the world is not safe” — make a commitment to balance your perspective with a health food thought like, “I am not happy with how I handled myself in (blank), but I still believe I am a great person and will work on self-monitoring myself for next time” or “Sometimes bad things happen in the world, but there are so many beautiful aspects to being alive…..like when I share a joke with my child and we laugh till we cry!I personally believe if we work on our junk food thoughts and change the foundation of our nervous systems, our health and weight will exponentially improve for ourselves and our children.
- Get sleep. I left this for last because although we all know this, it is hard to regulate, especially when you CAN’T sleep (have trouble falling asleep, keep waking, etc.). The best advice I can provide, from observation and my own experience, is to ritualize and minimize sensory input for an hour or more before going to sleep. Turn off the TV, computer, etc. an hour before sleep time. Instead, write in your journal, do some relaxation breathing or simply reflect on your day and bring to mind three things that you are grateful for having experienced. Then, use ear plugs or white noise (some people need a sound to help quiet their mind), or even eye masks to minimize visual sensations. Keep the temperature in your bedroom cool, but not cold, and try to be in bed at the time every night to create a ritual. Going to bed later on weekends will make it harder to fall asleep earlier on weekdays, so beware! Seven to eight hours of sleep seems to be the most prominent advice for the average person, although there is great individual variation. Self-observe and decide how many hours seem best for you, then work on setting a foundation of ritualized relaxation and same time bed time for 2012.
Here’s to a healthy new year 2012 and beyonc!
Judy Torel is a USAT coach, personal trainer, nutrition consultant and psychotherapist. Her office is Judy Torel’s Coaching and Training Studio at 116 Everett Road, Albany. She can be reached at 469.0815 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Money $aving tips for 2012
By Ciara Hassenpflug
With the New Year upon us, it’s time to get savvy when it comes to our spending habits. The uncertain economy and job market has forced many of us to take a hard look at our piggy banks, and though things may be tight right now, these simple tips can help you get financially fit in no time.
In the home
- Check out products like Magic Jack, which can save you $30-$40 per month on your phone bill. You can also call your cable and Internet provider and discuss saving options on your services. They don’t want to lose you as a customer and can offer specials to keep your business.
- You can also bundle your home phone, cable and Internet service with the same company to save money, rather than paying separate bills for each.
- Refinance your mortgage. If you can reduce your interest by one percent or more, it is often beneficial.
- Timers, timers, timers! If you have outside lighting or heat–generating items, consider putting them on timers to conserve energy.
- In the winter, program the thermostat so that the heat is at a lower temperature while no one is home and use fans instead of air conditioning in the summer. Speaking of fans, during the summer months, the rotation of ceiling fans should be set counter-clockwise to blow air downward on the room and clockwise during the winter months to push the warm air that hovers near the ceiling down.
- Good insulation goes a long way as well, so make sure your attic is insulated, as heat rises and will go up and out of your house.
- Consider buying a water filter to attach to your faucet or get a water jug with a built-in filter, instead of buying bottled water. It’s an up-front expense that will save you tons of money in the future.
- Remember, the little things can really add up! Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs, which use 75 percent less electricity than your old incandescents. Use a vacuum to clean the coils inside the front grill of your refrigerator, so it works more efficiently. Clean the hot air duct leading out of the house so your dryer works better, or just skip the dryer altogether in the warmer months.
- Invest in a top-of-the line travel insulated mug and quality coffee (or tea) for your home coffee maker. Filling your mug with something you love each morning will help you avoid stopping at the coffee shop each day.
At the grocery store
- The name of the game these days is coupons! There are countless coupon sites online, like PrintableGroceryCoupons.net, couponmom.com and SmartSource.com, which will help you find coupons for most national chains and help you save on your family’s grocery bill.
- Watch EBay for coupons to purchase on your everyday products. You can get great deals like buying 25 coupons at a time on one or more products.
- Plan your meals for the week before heading to the store. This will help you buy only the ingredients you need and cut down on impulse purchases. Also, try to shop after you’ve already eaten so you aren’t tempted by snack foods.
- Buy generic. Many generic products are identical to the more expensive brand names so your family can’t tell the difference, but your wallet can!
- In that same vein, buy in bulk and buy what’s on sale. Things like toilet paper and laundry detergent are great for buying in bigger quantities because they never go bad, and if you can stock up when they are on sale, even better!
- Research what type of health insurance is best for you, and what your budget will allow, if your employer does not provide a plan. At the very least, get a high deductible plan that will cover emergencies.
- You can lower your insurance premiums by raising your deductibles or by changing your co-pay ratios. Be wary that this will mean you will pay more out-of-pocket should you need the insurance.
- You can also save money by changing your lifestyle. By losing weight, stopping smoking, driving safe, improving your cholesterol numbers and eliminating dangerous hobbies you can shop around for a new policy at a new price.
- Save on prescription drugs by using the generic brand, if available. They are just as safe and effective as name-brand medicines, but can be a fraction of the cost.
- This might go without saying, but wash your hands! You’ll not only avoid acquiring all kinds of viruses and bacteria, you’ll save money on medical bills and medicine.
- Avoid the malls and shop at local thrift stores and consignment shops. You can find outstanding bargains on designer clothes and household items.
- Need to buy a Halloween costume? A thrift store is the perfect place to find a costume that your child will only wear once.
- Try hosting a party with a direct selling company like Pampered Chef, Silpada or Madison Handbags. They have excellent incentives where you can earn free products for hosting and it’s a great way to get all of your friends together!
- Master the 10-second rule. Whenever you put an item in your cart or take it to the checkout, stop for 10 seconds and ask yourself why you’re buying it and whether you actually need it. Can’t come up with a good answer? Put it back!
- When going to a restaurant for dinner, take advantage of specials and ask the manger when they usually run so you can mark your calendar. Also, try trading eating out at a restaurant for eating at a local diner once a week; you help the local business owners and often get a great meal including wine and dessert for a bargain price.
- Websites like Restaurant.com offer great deals for local restaurants and chains, just be careful to read the fine print and rules associated with each certificate you purchase.
- Look for free or low-cost entertainment around the region, such as free live music or festivals. Don’t forget, you can spend the whole day at the New York State Museum for no charge!
- Keep your options open and be ready to take advantage of last-minute bargains. Hotels and airlines cut prices and bundle discounts to fill rooms and seats that would otherwise go unsold.
- If you can get away spur of the moment, check out Sniqueaway.com, where you could save up to 50% off amazing four and five-star hotels.
- Shop around! This goes for hotels, rental cars and flights. Websites like Kayak and Expedia show you all of your options so you can compare prices, rates and reviews.
- Are you a senior? What about an AAA member? A veteran? Ask if you qualify for any discounts – it never hurts to ask.
- You can also save money by avoiding the peak seasons. Summers and holidays are notorious for being more expensive times to travel, sometimes two or three times as much.
- Join loyalty and rewards programs. They are usually free to join and points add up quickly. You can earn free flights, upgrades and more.
- Pack light and if you can get by with just a carry-on bag, do so. Baggage fees can add up quickly and you have to be mindful of size and weight limits.
- Cash in all your credit card member points for restaurant certificates, hotels certificates, and car rentals.
- If planning a driving trip, check out renting a car verses taking your own car. There are times where the prices are so inexpensive it would make sense not to rack up mileage on a leased car, not to mention general wear and tear.
Not all of these tips and strategies will apply to your situation, but if you implement a handful of them you will start to see the savings. This year, take control of your finances, one step at a time.
If money is tight, you can still find ways to help out your favorite charities. Your time and expertise are just as valuable.
- Most charities can use great party planners, sales people for collecting auction items, cooks, etc.
- You can collect bottles from your office lunch rooms and donate to charity.
- Create an “out of the box” idea for your family throughout the year.
- Set up a spare change donation box in the house that you empty and donate each year.
- Garage sale for charity, etc.
- Family volunteer campaign.
- Donate frequent flyer miles.
Ask the pros
Covering a range of topics that will help you live a better life!
Chances are you’ve noticed many commercials and print ads touting
products that contain probiotics. What are they and do you need them?
Local wellness expert Ann Tobin offers her advice.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are beneficial microbes that are supplemented in the diet to augment and support our own established (native) friendly intestinal microbes (flora). There are over 400 strains of native bacteria, as well as a few friendly yeast that co-exist in a symbiotic relationship with their animal hosts. In fact, there is more bacterial DNA in a human than actual human DNA. Some of the more common probiotic strains provided through fermented foods or manufactured supplements include: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains, such as Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium infantis; Streptococcus thermophilus, and the friendly competitive yeast Saccharomyces boulardii.
What is the role for friendly intestinal flora?
A human infant is born with a sterile gastrointestinal (GI) tract that quickly colonizes with the flora of his mother and his environment. These beneficial microbes optimize the function of the gut by assisting in digestion of certain sugars, fiber, starches and proteins, aiding in the absorption of some minerals, and in the production of vitamin K and some B vitamins. They further promote health through competition with pathogenic (unfriendly) bacteria, by strengthening and nourishing the barrier of the GI tract, and as a support for the immune system. Friendly flora take part in our detoxification system, regulation of fat storage, and in the metabolism and recycling of hormones.
Probiotic supplements have an established track record for treating diarrheal illnesses and with helping to restore friendly bacteria after the administration of antibiotics. There is evidence for benefit in irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, lactose intolerance, yeast infections and eczema. Clinical research on the effects of supplemented probiotics suggests possible roles for friendly bacteria in decreasing inflammation, regulating blood sugar and cholesterol levels, helping with weight management, supporting cognition and mood, allergic conditions, and perhaps osteoporosis.
Who should use probiotics?
There is a place for the consumption of fermented foods in all of our diets. Everyone can benefit from exploring foods such as yogurt with active cultures, kefir, tempeh, miso, kimchee, sauerkraut, lacto-fermented vegetables, natural pickles, umeboshi, kevita and kombucha. The established flora thrive on a diet of fiber, so cultivate a healthy environment by consuming ample amounts of vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans), whole grains, nuts and seeds. The flora also like compounds called polyphenols, which are found in garlic and green tea, among other nutritious foods. Avoid excess sugar, fat and processed foods that tend to support unfriendly flora.
Individuals experiencing GI symptoms, such as excess gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, IBS, and food sensitivities; or yeast infections, excess stress, travel or antibiotic use may benefit from the higher probiotic doses found in supplements.
What do you look for in a probiotic supplement?
In general, a person will benefit more from a product that has multiple species of bacteria (see opening paragraph) and a higher colony count, that is CFUs, or colony forming units. It may also be helpful to include a friendly yeast species, such as Saccharomyces boulardii especially after antibiotics, recurrent yeast infections or persistent GI symptoms. Individuals who are highly symptomatic with GI issues or who are often sensitive to new products should begin with lower doses and increase as tolerated.
Some products may be augmented with prebiotics to support the well–being of the probiotic and help the probiotic establish a foot hold in the GI tract. Examples include fructooligosaccharides (FOS), inulin, guar gum and lactulose. These are natural sugars found in many healthy foods, such as bananas, artichoke, chicory root, burdock, onions, leeks, fruit, soybeans, sweet potatoes, asparagus, green tea.
In those individuals with significant GI symptoms, it is often wise to avoid prebiotics until more GI
healing has occurred, as these substances may initially add to gas production.
Read the label for proper care of these living organisms. Some products are shelf stable, but many require refrigeration and protection from humidity and temperature extremes. Be sure to check the expiration date, and favor a product that guarantees a specific CFU at expiration. Probiotics can be found as powders, capsules, liquids, and in sippy straws for children. As always, look for a product that is certified GMP (good manufacturing practices) compliant.
How long should someone take a probiotic supplement?
In antibiotic administration, the general recommendation is to begin a high dose probiotic product immediately and continue for several days to several weeks after completion of the antibiotic. With milder GI symptoms an individual may try to transition off of the supplement to food–based probiotics in 2-3 months. Individuals with more serious health conditions may require longer administration of a supplement, with rotation every three months or so to products with other probiotic species. As always, be sure to consult with a health care provider to determine if probiotics are appropriate for your health condition, and how to best proceed.
Ann Carey Tobin, M.D., FAAFP, is a board certified family physician. Her integrative medicine consultation practice, Partners in Healing, is located in Delmar. She can be reached at 506.6303, by email at email@example.com or visit www.partnersinhealing.byregion.net
Ask the pros
Legal: Graig F. Zappia, Esq., Tully Rinckey
What is the No. 1 legal document that everyone should have prepared for 2012?
Everyone needs a will in 2012. A new state law in 2011 made it easier for individuals to challenge the validity of a will. Drafting a proper “self-proving” will – with witnesses signing notarized affidavits confirming your identity and soundness of mind and the will’s authenticity – will be beneficial.
Does that document change depending on marital status?
Whether you’re single, married or divorced, having a will (and updating it following any life–changing event) ensures you determine how your assets and your family are protected. If you have minor children, appoint a legal guardian in your will to take care of them in the event you pass away.
With so many adults acting as caregivers to their parents, what types of legal precautions and documentation should be arranged and kept?
Elderly parents commonly execute powers of attorney and can do so with the latest New York State form, revised in 2010. For medical decisions in the event of incapacity, parents should also execute health care proxies. Once these documents are executed, notify your agent and store them in a safe place.
Education: Michael Mastrella, Academic Advisor
Schenectady County Community College
What advice would you give incoming students to college in 2012?
I would advise them to have a well thought–out plan, including their educational/career goals. Whether a student wants to transfer to another school or seek employment after earning a degree, planning is key. I would also suggest that students stay focused on what it will take to get into a specific school if they plan on transferring out or what would need to be done to successfully gain employment.
Internships and being involved with different clubs or activities are a great way to gain experience, network and be involved with a particular profession.
What advice would you give high school students about entering college when they do not know what course of study to take?
This is a common road for many students and the sooner students can define a path the better off they will be in the long run. There are many career exploration tools that help students to identify their abilities, values and interests to really begin thinking about what types of careers are suitable for them. I also talk to students frequently about informational interviewing, which provides an opportunity for students to spend time with someone in their particular field of interest. A little bit of time early on in the process can make a significant difference in helping students identify the program that best fits their needs.
Travel: Linda McClain CTA
Linda McClain Travel Services
“From The Islands To The Highlands, No Dream Is Too Far From Here!”
Like many, my family is on a budget, but we would still like to take a great vacation. Where do you suggest we travel to?
First, what is your perception of a great vacation? Is it a destination with a warm, gulf beach? Would it be via a non-stop flight from the Capital Region? Are you willing to drive to save on the cost of airfare? How many days can you be away from home? To calculate a vacation on a budget, you need to honestly ask yourself how much you are prepared to spend to fulfill a great vacation.
For the best value avoid travel during school breaks and holidays.
If you don’t have passports, select a vacation destination that won’t require international documentation. Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Hawaii make exceptional vacation destinations, and no US passport is required. Don’t assume they are out of your budget.
Want to visit a few destinations while on vacation? Why not consider a cruise? Some cruise line itineraries don’t require a passport, provided the ship sails in and out of a US port of call. However, if cruising the Caribbean and air travel becomes an unexpected necessity, you must hold a valid US passport to do so.
Ways to make your family vacation fit your budget:
Begin your search for accommodations with a hotel like the Sheraton, Hyatt, Hilton, or Marriott.
Enroll in a loyalty reward program with the hotel that suits your lifestyle. You can earn a discounted stay, free night or extra amenities.
Do you want to avoid dining out? Select a hotel with a microwave and wet bar/fridge, if possible. This will allow you to prepare meals and save money.
Is a beachfront hotel location a must? Hotels in the domestic US that are convenient to the beach, but not directly on the beach, are priced more affordably.
Creating great memories begins with advance planning. Simply be aware of what makes your family happy and fulfill the dream of travel.
Real Estate: Deanna Rubinger
The Rubinger Team, RealtyUSA
What is the fastest growing area of the Capital Region?
From a residential real estate standpoint, builders and developers have been breaking ground on new developments throughout the Capital Region, mainly outside the urban centers where there is more land availability, but we have also seen condominium developments in Albany, Saratoga Springs and other denser centers. The new Global Foundries plant in Malta has helped bring further attention to Saratoga County with several new developments and apartment complexes coming online. The constant growth of the Nanotech campus has also helped with new developments throughout Albany County. It is hard to pinpoint the fastest growing area with all that is happening in the Capital Region. The positive take away is that we are seeing growth in many areas and in real estate we are seeing a good combination of traditional single family home developments, maintenance-free communities, condominiums and apartment communities.
When do you think the housing crisis will end?
The term crisis does not really apply to the Capital Region. We have experienced a three-year perio