Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Improving My Diet - Part 5 (Increasing Activity)



This article is the fifth and final installment of my series on various steps I am taking to improve my diet.  If you missed the earlier topics (Meal Planning, Eating a Rainbow, Water Intake, and Food Logging), you may read them here on my blog. This week I will address increasing your daily activity level.  My generation (and the ones on either side of me) are no longer working outside in manual labor jobs the way they did in earlier generations.  We sit at desk jobs, work on computers, own vacuums that go on their own, and heck, some of us even have cars that drive without us.  We are no longer the active society of our great grandparents. 

Growing up I was active, I was involved in sports and spent a lot of time outdoors, but after college my life changed.  I sit at a desk for eight hours, go home, and eventually find myself doing more sitting.  I realized how truly inactive I had become when I purchased my first fitness tracker.  I was shocked at how few steps was actually taking during the day.  I assumed I was getting somewhat close to the recommended 10,000 steps each day.  I was wrong. I will not recommend a particular brand or type of fitness tracker, because I have actually tried several and found that they all work very well.  Finding the one with the community that can hold me accountable is what I have found to be the key component.  For people looking to improve their overall well being and increasing their activity level, I do recommend getting some sort of device that monitors your movement.  If you have questions about which to get, I will be happy to give my opinion (if you really want it) just give me a call or shoot me a quick email. 


The first thing I tell people after they get an activity tracker is to wear it for a week or so without doing more than normal and find out your current activity level.  After you have a good idea of your normal daily average you can start to increase your daily goal.  If you currently take 4,000 steps in your normal daily activities, set a goal to take 5,000 steps.  Keep in mind that one mile is roughly 2,000 steps.  So that recommendation of 10,000 per day is equivalent to approximately five miles.  Take small increases over a decent period of time.  If you jump in with too much of an increase you will burn yourself out and then you are back to where you started.  Go slow, do not try be an Olympic athlete overnight, you will end up hurt or burnt out.  Set a reminder on your phone to go off every hour that tells you to stand up and go walk around the block.  Do little things that will eventually add up to big things. 

It is always a good idea to check with your physician to make sure you are able to increase your activity level.  Annual wellness exams really are a good thing.  Please do not wake up one morning and go jog a 10k after sitting at the computer for 10 years. I promise, it will not turn out well!  Listen to your body.  Push yourself in small increments, but listen to what your body tells you.  If something hurts, stop doing it.  Get familiar with the language your body speaks and create an open line of communication.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County AgriLife Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401, call (903) 455-9885, or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu.  


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Improving My Diet - Part 4 (Food Logging)



This article is the fourth installment of my series on various steps I am taking to improve my diet.  If you missed the earlier topics (Meal Planning, Eating a Rainbow, and Water Intake), you may read them on my blog, just visit http://agentsarah.blogspot.com/. This week I will address food logging.  It’s truly amazing how much more we eat than we realize.  If you really slow down and look at your portion size and log the food you eat correctly, often you will see why you are struggling with weight. 

If you have a smart phone, food logging is incredibly easy.  There are several great apps (MyFitnessPal, MyPlate Calorie Tracker, Lose It, etc.) that you may download to help you keep track of what you consume.  If you need help getting started, I will be happy to meet with you and walk you through any of these apps. 

So why is food logging an important factor in improving your diet?  We live in a society of large, grande, and supersized.  All of these are fine once in a while, but if you eat these large portions at every meal, you are consuming way more calories than you need.  Each person needs to intake a different amount of calories each day, depending on your goals, size, activity level, etc.  So I won’t give you a target calorie goal in this article, but I’ll be happy to help you work through your specific needs if you want to come by the office.  Once you figure out how many calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight, you can then determine how many more or less you need to eat to meet your goal weight.  Food logging helps you see what you actually consume.  So often we eat without thinking and by mid-day, you have consumed the amount of calories you need for the entire day.  People tend to forget about the calories in their coffee creamer or the chocolate treats on their desk.  But all of these forgotten calories add up and put you way over the amount of calories you actually need each day. 

I have said this before in other articles, but I am visual person.  Seeing things helps me understand them on a different level.  Food logging helps me see what food I am eating and helps me know where I need to adjust to meet my goals.  Hopefully, you will try this with me and I am happy to help you get started!

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County AgriLife Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401, call (903) 455-9885, or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu.  


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Improving My Diet - Part 3 (Drink Up!)



This article is the third installment of my series on improving my diet (and maybe yours too).  This week I will address water intake.  We all know that drinking water is good for us, but do we know why?  Even if you do know why, it is never bad to re-read it and to re-evaluate your current intake.

Because each person is different, we need different amounts of water.  But regardless of our shapes and sizes, we are all roughly two-thirds water and it makes since that our bodies would function best when properly hydrated.  A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day.  So if you weigh 150lbs you should try to drink 75oz of water each day.  Start out with a glass of water when you first wake up; you’ll be surprised at how awake you feel.  Once you get into a habit of drinking water, it will come naturally.  You will start to crave water over sugary drinks.  

So why is water so important?  Let’s review a few of my favorite benefits to drinking water.  We all know that water has zero calories, but did you know that if you drink cold water, your body has to use energy (burn calories) to warm it up. Who doesn’t want to burn a few extra calories here and there?  Water is also a terrific appetite suppressant and it is an inexpensive alternative to sugary drinks when eating out. Drinking a glass of water before a meal helps you feel full faster and eat less.  When we get to the installment on portion size, you’ll be thankful that you are already in a habit of drinking water before eating!  There is no doubt, being well hydrated keeps our body functioning properly but have you heard that water is also helps keep skin looking young.  Think about a dried up grape, it turns into a wrinkly raisin.  Dehydration has a similar effect on our skin.  So drink up!  

I am not going to go into all of the beneficial effects water has on our internal organs because this article would become a book.  Just trust me, we need water because it’s really good for us!  A few tips I have found that help me drink more include starting out my day with a glass of water, drinking ice or cold water, and adding fresh lemon to my water.  Try some of these to help get started if you feel like water isn’t the drink for you.  Like I said earlier, the more water you drink, the more water you want!

Here is a great infographic that details the benefits of staying properly hydrated.  

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County AgriLife Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401, call (903) 455-9885, or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu.