Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Exercise Variety

Sometimes I find myself getting into an exercise rut. I frequently do the same routine of lifting weights, playing basketball, and running. These activities are effective and I enjoy them, but I know it would be beneficial to occasionally incorporate other activities and have more variety when I exercise.

Last year I finally talked my wife into running her first 5K race. She did great and took second place  in her age division. A couple weeks later she filled in for an injured friend and ran the Ragnar Relay. She had previously told me how much she hated running, but after participating in these activities she has experienced the "Green Eggs and Ham" syndrome. I think she's hooked now.

Seeing her excitement for running has made me wonder how many of us would really enjoy or even excel at other activities we have never tried. Variety in our physical activities can be just as important as it is for our nutrition. You don't have to do activities you don't enjoy, but don't knock them until you at least try them once. I used to make fun of yoga until I tried it and realized how challenging it can be.

I recently did a quick poll of Facebook and asked my friends what their favorite activities were for exercise.  Here is what they came up with. I've listed them in order of how popular each response was.

Running (16)
Weight lifting (12)
Hiking (12)
Biking (9)
Walking (9)
Dancing (8)
Basketball (6)
Martial Arts (6)
Swimming (5)
Yoga (4)
Volleyball (4)
Racquetball (2)
Ultimate Frisbee (2)
Tennis (2)
Pickle Ball (2)
Elliptical Machine (2)
Zumba (2)
Workout Videos
Aerobics Class
Horseback Riding
Jump Rope
Wall or rock climbing

I was surprised to see how many different activities they listed and there are still so many other activities that didn't even make the list.

Exploring new sports and physical activities can spice up your exercise efforts and keep you from getting bored doing the same old thing all the time. I challenge you to try a new activity the next time you exercise. You might even find  that you are really good at it and end up loving it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Deceptive Food Labels

Food labels can be a helpful tool to help you determine the value of your food. For people trying to watch their weight and for those with food allergies, they are critical. The problem is that they are often deceiving. I can't really blame advertisers for trying to make their products appear better than they really are, but some food labels are blatantly deceptive. Here are some ways that expert marketers manipulate us on a daily basis.

The word light and lite could mean weight, color, texture, calorie content, or a host of other things. Many people see this on a label and assume it is low calorie or healthier.

If a manufacturer ever wants to turn their high calorie food into a low calorie version all they have to do is to decrease the serving size on the package by half and now you have 50% fewer calories per serving! Speaking of servings sizes. I saw a Granny B's Cookie at the store the other day and checked to see how many calories it had. I was shocked to see it was only 125 calories. After closer examination,  I realized they considered a serving to be 1/4 a cookie. It was really a 500 calorie cookie.

I always get a kick out of some food products that are riding the current dieting or health trends so they label their products with phrases like no "trans fats, low carb, no caffeine, no cholesterol", etc. even though many of these products never contained some of these items in the first place. That's like bottled water bragging that it has no cholesterol or fat. 

Sugars are frequently disguised by calling them a variety of other names like high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, granulated sugar, dextrose, fructose, etc. The more of these you see listed in the ingredients the more sugar your product has. It's common for most products to have more than one sugar source but you may not know it if you are just looking for the word sugar.

Many breads sold as "wheat bread" use the same highly refined flour used in the white bread, but they have added dyes to make it look darker even though it is essentially the same product. You have to watch for "whole wheat bread" on the label if you want a less refined product.

It's always fun to look at labels and see what kind of tactics advertisers use to make you think a food is healthier than it really is. In closing I'd like to refer you to an old blog post by Tornado Paste when he wrote about the family recipe and fresh ingredients that go into a Totinos Pizza.