Monday, January 19, 2009

Seat Belts

I have struggled in the past with the debate between excessive government legislation and people just using common sense. I'm a proponent of seat belts but I am also in favor of individual choice. As dumb as I think it is to do things that are unhealthy for you, I am still not a huge fan of the government telling people what they have to do. I understand that those who don't protect themselves can pass on great costs and loss to others in society. I acknowledge that their choices can affect the public, but where do you draw the line when it comes to government prevention? I'll get off my soap box now.

Over the years I have taken health assessments and was always surprised when they asked if I always wore my seat belt when riding in cars or is I wore safety goggles when I use a weed trimmer or power equipment. At first I thought they should mind their own business and just measure my blood pressure and cholesterol to determine how healthy I was. After giving it some thought I had to admit that these simple preventative measures can have a big impact on your health.

I almost always wear my seat belt but there are times I forget to or try to justify that it isn't necessary. Sometimes I struggle if I'm only driving a short distance like on my way home from Church. One doesn't usually visualize getting into horrible accidents just blocks from their home on a quiet Sunday afternoon. I have to admit that in the past my biggest motivation for buckling up was because I feared getting a ticket. I guess that proves that the legislation does help. I've heard rare cases of someone who was saved because they were not wearing a seat belt, but studies show an overwhelming advantage to those who do use seat belts.

As much as I don't like being told what to do, it definitely makes sense to always wear a seat belt so I will. I am no longer doing it out of fear of the law, but because I know it's a healthy practice and I can help my kids develop this habit through my example. I'm adding this practice to my weekly commitments for the year.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Glycemic Index

The glycemic index is a system that was originally developed for diabetics in an effort to help manage glucose levels. It rates the speed at which carbohydrates are converted to glucose. As a general rule complex carbohydrates are converted slower and provide consistent absorption of glucose which corresponds to more stable energy levels. Refined or simple carbs are broken down and absorbed faster and can cause spikes in energy levels.

The index categorizes foods within in a range that goes up to 100 with pure glucose being rated at 100. Foods that have a lower number on this index provide more stable energy for longer periods of time. I have listed some foods below and it may surprise you to see where some of them fall within the index.

green beans-15
skim milk-32
frozen peas-39
baked beans-44
orange juice-46
chocolate bar-49
brown rice-59
ice cream-61
white sugar-68
white bread-70
rice cakes-78
jelly beans-80
corn flakes-84
baked potato-85
white rice-88

After seeing these numbers some people jump to conclusions and start labeling foods as "good and bad" according to their number. Some healthy foods have a high score and some foods not known for their health benefits might be lower. Ice cream and candy bars are lower than oatmeal and bananas but that doesn't they obviously aren't better for you.

There are many other factors to take into account when discussing the glycemic index such as calorie content, your current health condition, the combination of foods, the actual glycemic load, and much more. I'm not a registered dietitian and I don't play one on TV either, I'm just a guy who is excited about getting healthier and encouraging others to do so too. My point is if you are trying to eat less and are snacking on things like rice cakes, jelly beans, and watermelon you will get tired and hungrier faster than if you ate foods with lower scores.

By the way what does it take to get someone to comment on this blog? I know it's not as entertaining as Facebook or Youtube but there must be someone reading. Maybe I just need to be more controversial.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Weekly Commitment

Like most people, I am aware of many habits and lifestyle changes I should make in order to be healthier. It's hard to take them all on at the same time so I am designing a new program this year. Rather than try to change or commit to everything at once (which I know I couldn't do succesfully), I will start working on a new area to improve on each week. Once I make the new change I will commit to it throughout the year. My purpose is to create a better environment for success by slowly easing into the lifestyle changes I need to make and sticking with them until they becomes habits.

Each week I will address and add an additional component to a nutrition or fitness goal to the program. Some of these might be smaller or easier than others but they will all add up and make a difference over the course of the year. I have created a new sidebar list towards the bottom of the page called my weekly commitment which I will add to throughout the year. I invite you to join me making these changes if you could improve on any of the topics I list.

My first commitment for 2009 is to stop drinking sugar based, caffeinated, or carbonated drinks. Yes, I am going off of soda pop. I don't drink it much and I hardly ever buy it, but it seems to be offered to me a lot. Root beer is my weakness especially when it's served with pizza. At this point in my life my metabolism has slowed down and I just don't need the extra sugar and empty calories in my diet. Don't feel bad for me though because there is still a lot of unhealthy stuff I can eat. Once I commit to going off sweets and fried foods then you can feel sorry for me.