But the Label Said ‘Low Fat’!

What have you got planned for the weekend? I hope you’ll get out and do something really fun, or at least find some time to cuddle by the fire. Looks like that cuddling thing may be our best bet because, if the weatherman is right, we’re in for a brutal weekend. Snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures. Lovely.

For most of us, it also means a trip to the grocery store to re-stock all those healthy alternatives we’ve been consuming all year. Yeah, there may have been just a note of sarcasm in that. I think most of us go in with good intentions. Yet, when we get home, we can never seem to find all those good things we’d intended to pick up. The store must have been hiding them in the back.

I read an article yesterday that said eating healthier is the number one New Year’s resolution each year. And I read a couple of others that suggested exercising more and losing weight were at the top of the list. I guess it just depends who you ask. But it’s pretty evident that health and fitness weigh heavily (no pun intended) on our minds.

If that’s the case, why is obesity such a problem in this country? According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 39.8% of adults in the United States are obese. Not chubby, not overweight, but obese. And, the problem becomes more prevalent as we get older. So, not only are we big already, we’re getting bigger.

Ask your doctor about losing weight, and the first thing they’ll talk about is diet and exercise. If you’re looking for the silver bullet that’ll make the pounds magically disappear, that’s as good as it gets. Granted, some people opt for surgery, and in some cases that may be the appropriate treatment. But, regardless of how we lose weight, unless we change our habits, it’ll come right back.

And that all begins at the dinner table. Nutritionists suggest we spend most of our time in the grocery store on the outer perimeter of the store. That’s where you’ll find fresh produce, lean meats (and some not so lean meats), seafood, and dairy products. It’s also where you’ll find the bakery, so be careful. You might want to skip that section altogether.

But, aside from a few healthy products like beans and whole grains, the middle of the store is where you find all the junk that got us in this shape to begin with. Unless you get all your meals from a fast-food restaurant, in which case we need to have an entirely different conversation.

There are exceptions to every rule, and stores have learned to mix in some of the good stuff with all that other junk, because one of marketing’s best-known secrets is that if you can get a customer in front of a product, you have a better chance of selling it. If the sign over the aisle said “Junk food” we’d walk right on past. So, they mix in a couple of good things to get you on that aisle.

Be careful of deceptive packaging as well. Low-fat usually means extra sugar. Sugar-free means they’ve added a bunch of other stuff you don’t want. And don’t even get me started on terms such as “light”, “healthy”, or “reduced calorie.” Read the labels, and then compare them to the full-bodied stuff. You’ll probably find one is just about as bad as the other.

And here’s another suggestion – when you read the labels, look for words you can’t pronounce or that don’t look like anything that comes from a farm. If those words dominate the list of ingredients, you may want to pass. Also, ingredients are listed in order of magnitude – the first thing you see is the primary ingredient, usually flour or sugar. Something to keep in mind.

It’s no secret that obesity is a leading cause of health problems. If we want to improve our health, we need to maintain a healthy weight. But it doesn’t end there. To achieve optimal health, we have to give our body more of the nutrients it needs and a lot less of the rest. That all begins with the food we eat. Supplements help fill in the gaps, but a handful of vitamins and a Big Mac won’t cut it.

So, if you’ve resolved to lose some weight or improve your health, pay attention to what you’re bringing home from the store this weekend. Eating healthier isn’t hard and, contrary to what some will say, it’s no more expensive. It’s just a matter of making healthy choices. You already know what you need to do – just do it.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

Checked Your Belt Lately?

I had to buy a new belt yesterday. Normally, that wouldn’t be worthy of mention, but in this case, it wasn’t to make a fashion statement or even because the old one was just worn out. It broke. As I was putting it on, tugging against one side to embed the waistband of my pants deep into my belly, the largest metal piece of the buckle broke. Guess it had enough.

It was only a matter of time. When you take something that’s only meant to hold your pants up and put enough force on it to lift a railroad car, sooner or later it’ll snap. And that’s about what it takes to keep these pants up. I think maybe the gods are trying to tell me something.

You see, I carry all of my weight in my belly. According to health experts, that’s not a good thing. And because of that, I have two choices – I can wear my pants lower than a teenage boy on date night or wear my belt so tight it cuts off my spleen. Because, once my pants slip down past the middle of my belly, the laws of gravity take over. It’s really embarrassing in church.

So, I combined my trip to Belts R Us and stopped by the gym on the way home. Between lower back issues and that pesky brain surgery, it’s been a few months. And it shows. But I was a good boy and waited till the doc gave me the okay. He said to start easy, which isn’t a problem for me. Truly, I think he’s afraid of all that pressure from my midsection pushing against my brain.

Weight loss is never an easy thing, especially when you get to this age and you’ve been carrying it around for thirty years. I read an article a few years ago that said, once your body builds fat cells, they never go away. You can empty them out, but like politicians and the IRS, they’re always holding their hand out for more.

It doesn’t help that we’ve seen these reality shows where people lose up to 100 pounds in a few months. And it sets a very unrealistic expectation that, if you do things right, rapid weight loss is the natural result. Also, for the duration of the contest, these people spend their lives under the constant supervision of doctors and nutritionists, exercising several hours a day.

Even then, according to a study reported in the New York times, within a couple of years the overwhelming majority of contestants gained back most, if not all, the weight they had lost. In fact, some weighed even more. Care to guess why the show is off the air? Maybe it’s because they didn’t want to face a ten-year reunion show.

I feel for anybody who’s trying to lose weight. It’s hard, and we live in a world that is increasingly detrimental to those of us with the fat gene. First of all, finding a healthy meal, even at home, is getting harder by the day. Go out, and all bets are off. More often than not, one plate of restaurant food contains a whole day’s worth of fat and calories, with little or no nutritional value.

And, to reward us for our weakness, we have clothing stores and the airline industry. Even if you can find a pair of pants big enough, there’s no way you can squeeze them into the coach seat on an airliner. And they won’t upgrade you to first class just because you’re fat. The best they’ll do is hand you a seat belt extension in full view of all the other passengers to humiliate you even more.

Okay, we’ve had some fun here, but the reality is, obesity is a huge (no pun intended) problem in this country. Beyond broken belts and embarrassing moments, it’s slowly becoming a leading cause of premature death. And we can’t count on corporate America to make it any better. After all, the fatter we are, the more belts they can sell.

We’ve talked before about diets and weight loss, and there are no easy answers. But I believe if you talk to your doctor, get some exercise, and follow a sensible diet that consists of healthy alternatives, it’s not that hard. It’s all about taking in fewer calories, getting optimal value from those calories, and increasing our metabolism through both nutrition and activity.

Many of us will struggle with weight the rest of our lives. But, like any struggle, it’s possible to maintain the upper hand. We just have to be sensible, set realistic goals, and find something we can live with for the long haul. Slow and steady wins the race. Seems I’ve heard that somewhere before.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!