December 2010


Unfortunately, a lot of kids today spend the vast majority of their time at home in front of the tv or computer. And, their parents do too. According to most studies, adults are also spending more time in front of the tv.

The link between too much “screen time” and obesity is well documented. Study after study has shown that our kids are spending more time watching tv, playing video games, and sitting at the computer. And, they are heavier than ever.

Kids who regularly watch four or more hours of tv per day are more likely to be overweight. (At first blush, four hours seems like a lot, but when you think about a child watching an hour or so in the morning, an hour after school and two hours later in the evening, it doesn’t seem so crazy outrageous.) It’s widely accepted that more time in front of the tv or computer increases one’s odds of being overweight.

Most of the research that’s been done in this area suggests that screen time causes obesity (at least what I’ve read). Makes sense. You’re sitting there like a big lump and then you become a big lump.

Still, I wonder if there’s another possibility. Could we have this whole thing backwards? Perhaps the increase in tv time is a symptom rather than a cause.

Obviously, screen time isn’t active. Participating in sports, playing outside or even playing board games does more to build healthy bodies than watching tv. While plopped in front of the tv, kids burn fewer calories and are also more likely to snack (fast- and junk-food commercials don’t help). The result is weight gain.

But what if kids watch so much tv because they have low energy to begin with? What if the food they eat leaves them without the energy they need for other activities?

Is screen time the chicken or the egg?

Why do kids watch so much tv nowadays? It’s often suggested that parents use the tv as a babysitter. Parents are either busy with other things or off at work, and the kids are left in front of the tv. While this may be the case in some families, most of the parents I know are far more involved in their children’s lives (and concerned about their children’s health) than parents of my generation. Not that my parents weren’t concerned, they just weren’t as consumed with childrearing as we seem to be today. Someone coined the phrase helicopter parents to describe the way we hover around our children. Whether or not the term describes you, chances are you are more involved in your child’s schedule, school work, and other activities than your parents were involved in yours.

So, what’s going on? Could it be that we are all watching more tv because we’re eating a bunch of crap that leaves us with little energy?

Consider this: Americans eat more processed food than anyone in the world at any time in the world. The average American eats 31% more processed food than fresh food. A 2005 study found that 90% of the money Americans spend on food is spent on processed foods.

While most of us ate processed foods growing up, there wasn’t the plethora of processed food options there is today (and there was no such thing as high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified crops, etc). (The processed food industry really took off after World War II as our culture became more consumer-based and has been growing ever since.) Eating this much processed food is a relatively new phenomenon.

Processed foods provide less nutrition than whole foods, tend to be high in salt and sugar, and also contain preservatives and other chemical additives. Because they contain a lot of simple sugars, processed foods cause a quick increase in blood sugar followed by a crash. The crash leaves us feeling depleted and tired. Combined with the lack of nutrition, it’s no wonder we’re all feeling rather sluggish.

And there’s not a lot I want to do when I’m feeling depleted, tired and sluggish. Except, of course, watch tv.

What do you think? Is screen time the chicken or the egg?

 

Advertisements

It’s Sunday. Which means it’s time to plan my week.

Yep, I’ll admit it. I’m a planner. Always have been. I remember creating a chart of my outfits in 9th grade so that I wouldn’t wear the same clothes within the same week. Total dork! Who did I think cared? If my 15 year-old self could see me now she would freak. Since I work from home and seldom see the same people on consecutive days, I often wear the same outfit two days in a row. Shhhh, don’t tell the dork.

Today, I try to leave the planning to more important things. But I’m still a planner. For me, the less I have to think about on a daily basis, the better.

In many ways my planner is my life. Or at least a pretty darned good representation of what’s going on in my life. In addition to client and personal appointments, it includes daily to-do lists, birthdays, logs of phone calls, shopping lists, all kinds of notes, exercise “appointments”with myself and others, and what we’re having for dinner.

Yep, you read that right. Come Sunday, I can tell you what we’ll be having for dinner every night of the week. Meal planning: a small task that makes a giant difference.

In addition to alleviating the stress of scrambling to get something on the table, it saves me money (since I know just what to buy and am less likely to buy on impulse, less food goes to waste), and we eat healthier.

Like most families, our evenings are busy. Between Grace’s skating, Girl Scouts, and school events and my client appointments, yoga classes, and volunteer gigs, we have activities almost every evening. Often we’re home for less than an hour before having to head out again. (And, sometimes we don’t even get to stop home for dinner—in which case I pack our dinners.)

Despite how simple and helpful meal planning is, I’m always surprised at how few people do it. And, sometimes when I suggest it to wellness clients, they aren’t quite sure where to begin. So, here’s what I do. Certainly not the only way to do it, but this works for me. Very simple, very easy, and usually takes me less than 15 minutes:

Inventory—I start by taking a mental inventory of my kitchen (sometimes I actually have to check the fridge). Do I have produce or fresh meat that needs to get used? I roast a whole chicken about every other week and then use the leftover meat in other dishes. Do I have some in the fridge or freezer?

Season & Recipes—My next step is to think about what is in season (thus better prices and better quality) and think about recipes that incorporate seasonal items. I have my favorites, but I also like to try new recipes. I love the fact that I can Google a couple of ingredients followed by the word “recipe” and come up with a bunch of new dinner ideas.

Schedule—Next step is look at our schedule for the coming week. I usually start by identifying the evenings I will have time to cook and plug something in there. Those are evenings when I don’t have to be too concerned about how long a dish takes. (Being the planner that I am, I also make a note in my calendar to remove things from the freezer or soak beans overnight for upcoming meals.) If I can get some leftovers out of the meal, all the better. I then look at the evenings with little or no cooking time which brings me to…

Cooking Methods–During the school year, I use the slow cooker for at least one weekly meal and schedule that for an evening when there’s no time to cook (but time to prep in the morning). (Tip: Every couple of weeks during the winter I make what my Grandpa Jack refers to as refrigerator soup. Whatever veggies are in my refrigerator go into the slow cooker with a soup bone, beans, and either rice or barley. This makes more soup than we can eat in a meal, so in addition to lunches, some of it gets frozen for future quick dinners. Soup and some good whole grain bread is an easy, healthy and satisfying dinner.)

Boiling whole wheat pasta and adding leftover chicken, leftover roasted vegetables and pesto (which I make in the summer and freeze in small jars) makes a quick, healthy dinner. We call this Make-Your-Own-Pasta. When we’re really pressed for time we do Make-Your-Own-Pizzas using whole wheat pitas, pesto or tomato sauce, and leftover veggies and protein.

Grocery List—While I’m planning meals, I’m also making my grocery list for the week. In addition to what I’ll need for dinners, the inventory I’ve just done means I know what we’re running low on. For me, shopping with a list significantly cuts down on impulse buying and, eventually, wasted food.

And that’s it! When I described the process to a client recently, he said it sounds hard. It really isn’t. It does require a small amount of time and thinking ahead, but I think it’s a lot easier than coming up with a fresh plan every night. And, it certainly takes less time than stopping for takeout several times a week (and is a lot healthier and a lot less expensive).

Be well!

It’s Sunday. Which means it’s time to plan my week.

Yep, I’ll admit it. I’m a planner. Always have been. I remember creating a chart of my outfits in 9th grade so that I wouldn’t wear the same clothes within the same week. Total dork! Who did I think cared? If my 15 year-old self could see me now she would freak. Since I work from home and seldom see the same people on consecutive days, I often wear the same outfit two days in a row. Shhhh, don’t tell the dork.

Today, I try to leave the planning to more important things. But I’m still a planner. For me, the less I have to think about on a daily basis, the better.

In many ways my planner is my life. Or at least a pretty darned good representation of what’s going on in my life. In addition to client and personal appointments, it includes daily to-do lists, birthdays, logs of phone calls, shopping lists, all kinds of notes, exercise “appointments”with myself and others, and what we’re having for dinner.

Yep, you read that right. Come Sunday, I can tell you what we’ll be having for dinner every night of the week. Meal planning: a small task that makes a giant difference.

In addition to alleviating the stress of scrambling to get something on the table, it saves me money (since I know just what to buy and am less likely to buy on impulse, less food goes to waste), and we eat healthier.

Like most families, our evenings are busy. Between Grace’s skating, Girl Scouts, and school events and my client appointments, yoga classes, and volunteer gigs, we have activities almost every evening. Often we’re home for less than an hour before having to head out again. (And, sometimes we don’t even get to stop home for dinner—in which case I pack our dinners.)

Despite how simple and helpful meal planning is, I’m always surprised at how few people do it. And, sometimes when I suggest it to wellness clients, they aren’t quite sure where to begin. So, here’s what I do. Certainly not the only way to do it, but this works for me. Very simple, very easy, and usually takes me less than 15 minutes:

Inventory—I start by taking a mental inventory of my kitchen (sometimes I actually have to check the fridge). Do I have produce or fresh meat that needs to get used? I roast a whole chicken about every other week and then use the leftover meat in other dishes. Do I have some in the fridge or freezer?

Season & Recipes—My next step is to think about what is in season (thus better prices and better quality) and think about recipes that incorporate seasonal items. I have my favorites, but I also like to try new recipes. I love the fact that I can Google a couple of ingredients followed by the word “recipe” and come up with a bunch of new dinner ideas.

Schedule—Next step is look at our schedule for the coming week. I usually start by identifying the evenings I will have time to cook and plug something in there. Those are evenings when I don’t have to be too concerned about how long a dish takes. (Being the planner that I am, I also make a note in my calendar to remove things from the freezer or soak beans overnight for upcoming meals.) If I can get some leftovers out of the meal, all the better. I then look at the evenings with little or no cooking time which brings me to…

Cooking Methods–During the school year, I use the slow cooker for at least one weekly meal and schedule that for an evening when there’s no time to cook (but time to prep in the morning). (Tip: Every couple of weeks during the winter I make what my Grandpa Jack refers to as refrigerator soup. Whatever veggies are in my refrigerator go into the slow cooker with a soup bone, beans, and either rice or barley. This makes more soup than we can eat in a meal, so in addition to lunches, some of it gets frozen for future quick dinners. Soup and some good whole grain bread is an easy, healthy and satisfying dinner.)

Boiling whole wheat pasta and adding leftover chicken, leftover roasted vegetables and pesto (which I make in the summer and freeze in small jars) makes a quick, healthy dinner. We call this Make-Your-Own-Pasta. When we’re really pressed for time we do Make-Your-Own-Pizzas using whole wheat pitas, pesto or tomato sauce, and leftover veggies and protein.

Grocery List—While I’m planning meals, I’m also making my grocery list for the week. In addition to what I’ll need for dinners, the inventory I’ve just done means I know what we’re running low on. For me, shopping with a list significantly cuts down on impulse buying and, eventually, wasted food.

And that’s it! When I described the process to a client recently, he said it sounds hard. It really isn’t. It does require a small amount of time and thinking ahead, but I think it’s a lot easier than coming up with a fresh plan every night. And, it certainly takes less time than stopping for takeout several times a week (and is a lot healthier and a lot less expensive).

Be well!

Note: This post was written several months back, but never posted. At the last minute, I wrote Wellness Equals Happiness: It’s really that simple and posted that instead. So, here’s the original post on what wellness means to me:

A friend recently asked me to define wellness. Although I talk about it everyday, the conversations usually focus on helping my clients define wellness for themselves. The question prompted me to revisit my own thoughts on wellness.

Webster’s Dictionary defines wellness as “the quality or state of being in good health, especially as an actively sought goal.” A decent definition, but I like the University of Illinois’ McKinley Institute‘s better: “wellness is a state of optimal well-being that is oriented toward maximizing an individual’s potential.

Physical health is obviously central to wellness–without it, the quality of our experiences in all areas of life is diminished. But, physical health is only one aspect of wellness. Wellness encompasses body, mind and spirit–each of which requires nourishment, challenge, and time and space for recovery. Wellness applies to all areas of our lives:

  • Physical Body
  • Relationships
  • Finances
  • Environment
  • Emotions & Attitudes
  • Occupation or Purpose

For me, wellness requires applying several core principles and values to each area of my life:

Responsibility–Achieving wellness requires accepting responsibility for the areas I can influence and relinquishing responsibility for those I can’t. I believe that each of us is responsible for our own health and happiness. We cannot, however, take on responsibility for the health and happiness of our loved ones–as much as we may want to do so. Instead, we can support, encourage, and lead by example.

Commitment–Wellness requires ongoing learning, introspection, and growth. It’s not a goal that we can achieve and then set aside. It is a series of choices made every day.

Balance–Years ago I observed that sometimes when I achieved success in one area of my life, another suffered. Ping-ponging back and forth from one area to another is exhausting. The trick to wellness is balancing success in all areas. That may mean achieving less in one area to ensure that another doesn’t suffer.

Authenticity–I don’t believe wellness is possible unless one is living a life that expresses who s/he truly is. Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert described the events leading to her journey of self discovery as “the realization that the life I was living on the outside didn’t match who I was on the inside.” To me, part of wellness is matching my life on the outside to what’s inside.

Flexibility–I believe wellness is a journey. Our wellness goals grow and evolve as we grow and evolve. My definition of wellness changes as I learn more about health, wellness, and–most importantly–myself.

So, this is where I am with wellness today. It’s not exactly where I was yesterday and it likely won’t be where I am tomorrow. I begin every day from where I am. In the coming months, I will be talking with others about what wellness means to them and sharing their thoughts and ideas here. What does wellness mean to you?

Be well!