Two Tips To Help With Motivation And An Exercise For A Deserted Island

Everyone is always searching for the secret sauce for exercise motivation. Even if you’ve found a workout that you love, there are days when you don’t want to do it.  Days can turn into weeks, which turn into months and before long you can’t remember the last time you went to the gym or did your before-work Tabata training.

You probably think that staying motivated has something to do with a magical internal force that you blame yourself for not being able to control. But new studies show that there are some specific practices that will help you reach your goals.

Below are a couple of tips to help you get moving when you know you should but can’t.  They might not be the quick fix strategies like drink this potion twice a day and don’t eat these three foods that you’re looking for. However, they do provide insight into some long term changes that you can make that will work if you give them a try.

As an added bonus, I threw in some exercise advice from Bob Harper should you ever find yourself on a deserted island.

Lazy Cat

I know I should try and catch that mouse, but laying here feels so good.

Mindfulness Meditation

Learning to live in the moment can have a huge impact on your productivity, weight and health. Now it seems that mindfulness meditation is a topic that is being studied in sports medicine. According to Gregory Cherok, a sports psychology consultant with the American College of Sports Medicine, research shows that mindfulness meditation improves attention and sharpens impulse control.

But, the simple skill of living in the present isn’t as easy to acquire as it sounds. Our human brains have a tendency to skip around from past, to present to future throughout the day. This is a distraction that takes us away from what is happening in the here and now.

Chertok says that mindfulness training is a critical skill in sports. Performance occurs in present time and focusing on past failures leads to anxiety and muscle tension. He believes that mediation can alleviate exercise boredom, one of the main reasons people have trouble sticking with an exercise program.  Chertok also suggests that people use one of the many meditation apps that are available

Tip – Shut out the noise and distractions for a few minutes each day and focus solely on your goals. Mindfulness meditation will keep you centered and provide relief for the stress that goes with trying to find the time to do the things that are most important to you.

If you want to find an app to help you get started with the practice of mindfulness meditation, check out Simply Being Guided Meditation or Meditation Helper at iTunes or the Google play store.

Early To Bed, Early To Rise

It seems that night owls struggle with exercise motivation more than their early-to-bed peers do.

A new study recently published in the journal Sleep, suggests that people that come alive when the sun goes down have difficulty finding the time or the motivation to exercise.

The study measured the habits of 123 healthy adults that slept for an average of six and a half hours a night. Over the course of a week each participant’s sleep was monitored with a wrist actigraphy and a sleep diary.

One of the lead researchers of the project, Dr. Kelly Glazer Baron, an associate professor of neurology and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Northwestern University in Chicago, said that the average exercise was 83 minutes of vigorous activity per week.

“This was a highly active sample averaging 83 minutes of vigorous activity per week,” Baron said. “Even among those who were able to exercise, waking up late and being an evening person made it more difficult.”

Baron says that the study shows that circadian rhythms need to be considered when recommending exercise programs and interventions. “Sleep timing should be taken into account when discussing exercise participation,” she added. “We could expect that sleep timing would play even a larger role in a population that had more difficulty exercising.”

Tip – If you’re a night owl and have a hard time adhering to an exercise routine, this news should be key in helping you identify and overcome motivational barriers that you may not have been aware of.  Adjusting your sleep patterns so that you get to bed earlier and up earlier may be the first step towards better exercise adherence.

The Deserted Island Exercise

Since we’re on the topic of exercise motivation I saw this today and had to share. Bob Harper, trainer on NBC’s Biggest Loser, says that the Burpee – hated by many and loved by a rare few – is the best exercise for, well, for anything!

The burpee that you learned to despise many years ago in grade school has not only made a comeback, it has now been endorsed by Bob Harper as being the one fitness move to take with you to a deserted island.  That’s kind of a funny analogy but I get what he’s saying. You can do a burpee anywhere without any equipment.

Burpees strengthen both the upper and lower body, enhance mobility and balance, and kick up your metabolism. “It does it all,” Harper says. “You will get the workout of your life.”

If you’re motivated to exercise, and specifically, motivated to do burpees, here’s a quick how-to video for you.

Don’t be discouraged if you start out only being able to do one or two.  Keep adding a couple of burpees to your workout and eventually you’ll be able to do a full Tabata workout using just the burpee.

A Tabata workout is 20 seconds of movement followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight cycles. In other words, do as many burpees as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10, then start again.

Interested in a 30 Day Burpee Challenge? Click here.

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Mediterranean Diet Prevents Overweight and Obesity In Children

Most parents are emphatic about their role as the guardian and care giver of their children.

A parent puts their child in car seat to drive three blocks for a play date. They do exhaustive research and check the references of the local day care centers before making a choice to leave their child there. At home the cabinets are secured with safety latches, the fire detectors have working batteries, and a camera keeps an eye on babies and toddlers while they sleep.

The parent needs and wants to make sure that their children stay out of harms way.  But that’s not all. As a parent, your goal is to raise children to be healthy, active, productive adults.

If you’ve watched the Fed Up movie trailer and follow the trends on childhood obesity and diabetes you know that raising a healthy child is getting harder. Currently 17% of our children are overweight or obese. By 2020 that number is expected to rise to 25%. Each year nearly 4,000 children are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Fed Up isn’t the first movie to make these claims.  The HBO documentary, The Weight Of The Nation tackles the same issues and presents a startling and scary look at what is happening to the health of our children. The Weight of The Nation says that unless you do something different than the average American your children will grow up to be overweight or obese.

The good news is that your child is probably not predestined for overweight, obesity or diabetes.  There is not an unstoppable force that you, as the parent and guardian of your children, can’t do something about. You can make sure that your child doesn’t becomes a statistic and it might be easier to do than you think.

Child eating fruit

Flickr photo by Bruce Tuten

Mediterranean-Style Diet Prevents Overweight and Obesity In Children

A recent study suggests that adopting a Mediterranean eating style will help prevent overweight and obesity in children.  The study looked at the weight and eating habits of more than 9,000 children in eight countries for a two year period.  The children’s weight and body fat was measured at both the beginning and end of the study.

The study found that kids that followed a Mediterranean style diet were 15 percent less likely to be overweight or obese than those who did not follow that type of diet.

“The promotion of a Mediterranean dietary pattern is no longer a feature of Mediterranean countries,” the researchers said. “Considering its potential beneficial effects on obesity prevention, this dietary pattern should be part of obesity prevention strategies and its promotion should be particularly intense in those countries where low levels of adherence are detected.”

The study was scheduled for presentation Tuesday at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria. Until then they’ve published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, findings presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary.

Adopting a Mediterranean Lifestyle Can Help You Too

The Mediterranean diet was first publicized by Dr. Ancel Keys and became popular in the 1990s. The ‘diet’ is based on mimicking the eating patterns of the people that live in countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea; Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, to name a few.

Along with a longer life expectancy, people that live in these areas are found to have lower rates of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer and diabetes. Ironically these are the same health conditions that are on the rise in the United States and Europe.

The Mediterranean Diet is similar to the Paleo plan in that it calls for eating whole or ‘real’ foods but does not go to the extreme of eliminating entire food groups.

The diet calls for eating an abundance of plant foods, fresh fruits, beans, nuts and whole grain cereals such as oats, barley, corn and brown rice. Olive oil is the main source of dietary fat. Cheese and yogurt (with no sugar added) are the main sources of dairy. Moderate amounts of fish and poultry are consumed. Eggs are limited, and so is read meat.

Below is a picture of the Mediterranean food pyramid that shows the foods that are to be eaten in quantity and those that are to be limited.

Mediterranean pyramid

Flickr photo by alenjandromercer

There’s nothing particularly epic about the eating plan. It is based on applying common sense to the way we eat so that most of the foods we consume are dense in nutrients and low in calories, sugar and fat. The diet also calls for healthy amounts of physical activity throughout the week.

Getting children started at a young age eating fruits and vegetables, lean sources of proteins, and whole grain cereals may be the best prevention there is to make sure they don’t become an overweight teen or young adult.

My call to action for you is to change the way you eat by starting a Mediterranean Project in your household. There’s no need to go it alone. Invite you friends and family join you!

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Once You Know The Truth About Your Food You’ll Be Fed Up.

There are 600,000 items in the grocery. At least 80% of those have added sugar.  The average American eats 22 teaspoons of sugar a day or 150 pounds a year. The by-product of our high sugar consumption is a health crisis unlike anything we’ve experienced before.

Yet, in spite of the obesity epidemic and the increase in chronic disease that are associated with it, the food industry shamelessly continues to market sugary foods to both children and adults.

The movie Fed Up, a Stephanie Soechtig film produced by Katie Couric and Laurie David, peels the layers off of our national health crisis.  Fed Up shows us how the food industry has been secretive about the amount of hidden sugar in foods, deliberately markets sugary foods to children, and continues to deny that the dramatic increase in sugar consumption over the last thirty years is to blame for many of our health problems.

Fed Up Movie Trailer

As our sugar consumption goes up so do our health problems. In line with the increase in sugar consumption are a rise in overweight, obesity and the chronic diseases that accompany these conditions.  And there seems to be no stopping the trend.

Today more than one-third (39%) of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. In two decades it will be 95%. Currently 17% of American children are obese. By 2050 that number is expected to rise to 25%.

It’s estimated that 25.8 million adults and children (8.3%) have a diagnosis of diabetes. By 2050, one-third of Americans will be diabetic.

All fingers point to sugar for the rise in these frightening trends.

Hidden Facts About Hidden Sugar

Excellent food label reading skills is something you need if you’re going to choose the healthiest foods. Food labels provide information about how much sodium, fat, sugar, protein, and other nutrients a product contains. But being fastidious about reading labels might not help you control your sugar intake. Here’s why.

The food label gives a PDV (% daily value) for each nutrient. PDV’s are based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet so the consumer has to learn to read the label and determine how much of each item they need in relationship to their total daily calorie intake.

Mysteriously, there are no PDVs listed on the label for sugar.  The amount of sugar is listed but not the percentage value to tell you what portion of your allowance you’re going to consume which makes it harder to track.

Milk Label

The truth is, if the food label were to display the PDV for sugar, many products would show that just one serving would be over 100% of the daily value and that’s not good for business.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons (24 grams) a day for women and nine teaspoons (36 grams) a day for men. A ‘healthy’ breakfast of a five ounce serving of fruit-on-the-bottom Greek yogurt and an eight ounce glass of orange juice will put you at your daily limit if you’re a man and three teaspoons over if you’re a woman.  The yogurt has three teaspoons of sugar and the juice has six. Give this breakfast to a toddler and they’ve had enough sugar for the week!

Join The Fed Up Challenge

Fed Up Challenge

Prove that you’re serious about getting the sugar out of your diet by joining the Fed Up Challenge where you pledge to eliminate added sugar for 10 days. You’ll get daily e-mails from Katie Couric and are encouraged to post pictures of your healthy meals on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #FedUpChallenge for a chance to win prizes.

I’ve signed up for the challenge and plan to invite my co-workers to join me.  (It takes a village.) You can sign up for the challenge here and ‘like’ the Fed Up Challenge Facebook Page here.

Each of us need to do our part to raise awareness about what the food that is on the grocery store shelves is doing to our health and push the food industry to take some responsibility for the national health crisis that they’ve helped to create.

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What You Can Learn From Jonathon Walters: Quit Quitting

“Quitting is unlike anything else in life. It is only hard the first time you do it. After that it is a habit and almost impossible to break.” — Denzil John Walters

Eight months ago Jonathon Walters weighed 477 pounds had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and severe fatty liver disease. Today he weighs 270 pounds, runs 10 miles a day, lifts weights and works out at the gym.

Walters says that his weight loss was 100% natural with diet and exercise.  He didn’t have surgery, use pills or weight loss supplements.  How did he do it on his own?

He quit quitting.

Flickr photo by Christine

Flickr photo by Christine

Jonathon Walters was the ‘big kid’ in grade school.  At five years old he weighed 95 pounds. By the time he was a junior in high school he was over 300 pounds and was bullied every day. He says that high school was such a nightmare that he quit.

And that began a cycle of quitting. He quit school, quit jobs, and quit caring about his health. Then when his father, Denzil Walters, died at the age of 53 of a heart attack, his world collapsed and he hit bottom. He ate to numb the pain of losing his father and put on even more weight.

But Walters didn’t stay at rock bottom for long.  His father’s death was a wake-up call and the words that Denzil said to his son when he quit school stuck with him.  Denzil told Jonathon that “quitting is unlike anything else in life. It is only hard the first time you do it. After that it is a habit and almost impossible to break.”

Jonathon realized that if he didn’t make some changes he wouldn’t be around for long either.  He made up his mind to quit quitting and his 200 pound weight loss journey began.

Quit Quitting

Over the last six months he has gone from not being able to walk without getting winded to running a mile in under nine minutes. He typically runs about 10 miles a day and works out on machines at the gym.  He’s replaced his fast food favorites with fruits and vegetables. He’s lowered his carbohydrate intake, and increased protein. Fried foods and soda pop are no longer on the menu.

As a result, Walter’s has gone from a 58/60 pant size to 42. His blood pressure has dropped and his cholesterol has gone from 230 to 100.  Before his weight loss his resting heart rate was 116.  It is now around 65.

Most of all, he no longer calls himself a quitter.  He says he’s as determined as he’s ever been and uses his story to inspire and motivate others. He’s even created a Facebook Fan Page, JWALT Fitness.

This video that Walters created to provide motivation to his followers says it all:

What You Can Learn

I love writing articles for the What You Can Learn From tab. Because there are so many inspiring people in the world sometimes it’s hard to know who to write about, but Jonathon Walters stood out. We all have something that we can take from his experience.

If you have a story to share about yourself or someone else that we can learn from, please send me a link or an e-mail.

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The Weight Loss Tip No One Is Talking About

Every day my inbox fills up with Google Alerts that I’ve subscribed to so I can stay up-to-date on weight loss products [gimmicks], fitness tips and health and wellness news.

There’s not much new news in the weight loss alerts.  There are a lot of articles promoting garcinia cambogia. Recently John Janetzko’s personal testimony about how he lost 125 pounds but still feels fat has been popular.

And blogs giving tips to people that want to lose weight without dieting never lose their appeal. The tips are typically things that you’ve heard before like drink water before meals and use a smaller plate. All good stuff, but it would take a lot of these relatively mundane tips to add up to weight loss of any significance.

The one tip that would help people not only lose the weight, but keep it off, is missing. It doesn’t make the tip lists and isn’t trending in the alerts.

What’s the one weight loss tip that no one is talking about?

Home. Cooked. Meals.

Casserole

The biggest lifestyle change that you can make to lose weight and improve your overall health is to prepare your own meals 95 percent of the time.

Eating Out Leads To Weight Gain

The Keystone Forum, a panel funded by the FDA, studied the relationship between eating meals away from home and the increasing number of overweight Americans. The number of times the average American eats away from home has doubled over the past 25 years.  Americans now eat food not prepared at home more than four times a week. The biggest problem with eating out often is the food portions are bigger and are higher in fats and calories than home-cooked meals.

The Keystone Forum released a report from the study that made these observations:

  • Frequently eating foods prepared away from home is associated with obesity, higher body fat and a higher BMI.
  • Women who eat foods prepared outside the home more than five times per week consume about 290 more calories on average each day than women who eat these foods less often.
  • Eating more fast-food meals is linked to eating more calories, more saturated fat, fewer fruits and vegetables, and less milk.

The study also found that eating out has had an impact on the rising incidence of overweight and obesity in children and teens.

Prep, Planning and Basic Skills Are All You Need

There are plenty of reasons why people don’t cook their own meals.  Lack of time, interest or know-how are all factors. If your life is hectic with a job and family responsibilities, relying on take-out or eat-and-eat meals from the grocery might seem like the best option. But with some basic recipes and a little planning you can prepare healthy meals that your family will love.

If you’re not sure where to begin, Kalyn’s Kitchen.com is a home-cooking blog that has an index of healthy recipes with step-by-step instructions and pictorials. A few months ago I published The Top Ten Healthy Recipe Web Sites. This post that provides links to the best healthy recipe web sites for you to bookmark.

If culinary skills is what you’re lacking there are also plenty of resources on-line that can help you need prepare healthy, tasty dishes.  Check out the list of free online cooking classes at About.com. This page is full of links where you can go to learn the skills you need to be a cooking wizard in your own kitchen.

You may be able to find live cooking classses locally. Junior colleges, park districts, and food co-ops often offer healthy cooking classes to the community for a nominal fee.

The Weight Loss Tip That’s Not In Google

Weight loss is a popular topic and everyone that wants to lose weight is looking for pointers. A Google search for ‘weight loss tips’ provides 280,000,000 results.

Undeniably the fast food tidal wave that began in the 1970s giving us quick access to high calorie, low quality meals is largely to blame for our 21st century obesity problem.  The only way to fix the problem is to avoid what caused it to begin with.

When you do the cooking you control the ingredients, fat, sodium, calories and quality. It’s one of the best things you can do for your health.

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Controlling Hunger: One Milkshake, Two Results

A recent study has people wondering if we have more power over our hunger than we realize.

As a student, Alia Crum, a clinical psychologist who does research at the Columbia Business School in New York City, spent years studying the placebo effect.  She was fascinated with the way a placebo could physically alter the body if the person taking the placebo believed they were taking the real thing.

As a clinical psychologist she wanted to know if food labels could have a similar effect on our appetites and specifically on the hormone ghrelin.

Ghrelin is a hunger-stimulating hormone that is produced in the lining of the stomach. Ghrelin levels increase and metabolism decreases before meals putting us in search of food.  Once we’ve eaten a meal our ghrelin levels go back down and our metabolism goes up to burn the calories.

The Milkshake Study

Shake Pics

Milkshake pic by Sorveteria Ki Sabor @ Flickr.com

As Crum began to wonder whether or not reading food labels could influence ghrelin levels she came up with an experiment called The Milkshake Study.

For The Milkshake Study Crum made a large batch of milkshakes that were 300 calories each. Crum divided the milkshake concoction into two batches.

Half of the batch was put in bottles labeled as a low-calorie drink called Sensishake.  The Sensishake ‘label’ said that milkshake had zero percent fat, no added sugar as was only 140 calories. The remaining batch was put into bottles that were labeled as a rich treat called Indulgence with fat, sugar and 620 calories per serving.

Crum then recruited participants that she divided into to two groups. One group drank the Sensishake and the other drank Indulgence. All of the participants had their levels of ghrelin measured by nurses both before and after they drank the beverage.

The Indulgence drinkers had significantly steeper decline – up to three times more – in ghrelin after consuming their shake. Participants that drank the Sensishake produced a relatively flat ghrelin response. The study results reported that “participants’ satiety was consistent with what they believed they were consuming rather than the actual nutritional value of what they consumed”.

What This Means For You

Crum’s study shows that if you think you are eating or drinking a high calorie, and therefore highly satisfying, food or drink your body reacts as though it has consumed more. The reverse is also true.  If you search out foods that are low in sugar, fat, sodium, and calories you may not feel as satisfied after you eat them. Your brain might be telling your stomach you’re being deprived and your stomach believes it.

Crum says we may have to rethink the calories-in-calories-out philosophy because there may be more to it than that.  We need to take into consideration that how we feel about the foods we eat affect not only our hunger, but our metabolism too.

The Milkshake Study shows that you may have more control over your own hunger and satiety than you realize.  A healthy dose of positive self-talk when you’re eating a salad or a low calorie meal could help you ‘trick’ your stomach into responding to it in the same way it would if you were indulging in a four-meat pizza or creamy chicken Alfredo.

Why not try it for a week and let me know if it works?

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Let Me Take A [Skinnier] #Selfie

Let’s be honest. Selfies aren’t always the most flattering pictures but they can be improved with a little touch-up editing or a trip through Photoshop.  Now there’s a skinnified selfie app that, for only a dollar, will make you look thinner in your selfies.

The SkinneePix iPhone app created by PrettySmartWomen promises that it will slim you down to the tune of 15 pounds in your selfies.  And the skinnified selfie app is creating an uproar.

Skinnee Pix Screenshot

Are Selfies Bad For You?

None of us are above being criticized for taking an occasional – or frequent – selfie.  Remember the controversy surrounding President Obama’s selfie at Nelson Mandela’s funeral?

Obama selfie

Flickr photo by John Robert Mallernee

There are more than 31 million pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #selfie.  Most of these pics aren’t celebrities.  The #selfies are just ordinary people that want to control how they look on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.  Through social media and selfies we all have the ability to present a persona that may not be accurate or even real.

We snap a picture when we look our best, do a little editing and throw it up on social media as though it is completely spontaneous.  The result is a ton of ‘likes’ that makes us feel good about the way we look.

The downside is the likes don’t always come. For some people, not getting a positive response, or even worse, if the selfie prompts negative comments, can be detrimental to their well-being. Anti-selfie advocates believe that an unhealthy obsession with selfies can result in low self-esteem and a poor body image.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Selfies

Some experts believe there is a link between selfies and Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  Psychiatrist Dr. David Veal says that two out of three of the patients who come to see him with Body Dysmorphic Disorder have a compulsion to take selfies.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a chronic mental health condition where the afflicted obsesses over perceived flaws with their body.

In an article for PolicyMic, Dr. Veal describes an extreme case where a patient, Danny Bowman, “spent up to 10 hours a day taking hundreds of selfies in a futile attempt to capture the perfect photo”. Bowman quit going to school, started fighting with his parents and eventually tried to commit suicide.

Dr. Veal recognizes that this is an extreme example, but there are no doubt thousands of more less-severe cases of selfie obsession that no one is aware of.  You have to wonder if the SkinneePix app could exacerbate the problem.

Selfies Are Mostly For Fun

If you take a look at the popularity of Instagram, SnapChat and Pinterest you know that the picture craze isn’t going anywhere for a while.  For the most part selfies are entertaining and fun. Even babies and animals are getting in on the selfie action.

Baby Selfie

Flickr photo by Alexis Rose

The folks that think that the Skinnee Pix iPhone app is going to have dire effects on young women’s self-esteem may be getting a bit carried away.  So far, the reviews posted at the app store aren’t all that stellar.  Reviewers go from saying the app is “brilliant” to “don’t waste your dollar”.  Others post that the app makes your face looks ‘unrealistic’ and ‘jagged around the edges’ and not necessarily skinnier.

Like everything, the SkinneePix app will come and go and something else will be there to takes its place.  We’ll have to wait to see what that something is.

But first, let me take a #SELFIE.

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Good Bye To Collage Video. You Will Be Missed.

Collage Video is out of business.  The exercise DVD company that has been reviewing and selling at-home workouts for more than 20 years has suspended operations.

I have shared links to workout DVDs at Collage Video many times on this site.  In fact, the first indication I had that Collage Video was no longer in operation was a notification I received alerting me to several  broken links on my site.  All of the broken links led to Collage Video.com.

The best thing about Collage Video was the video clips and reviews.

The best thing about Collage Video was the video clips and reviews.

Over A Thousand DVDs Reviewed

Collage Video offered something unique to consumers with the thirteen hundred plus workout DVDs it had for sale.  You could browse through the site, watch snippets of the workouts and read detailed reviews before you made a selection.  I used this site a lot to find the perfect workout for friends and co-workers.

What I liked most about Collage Video was being able to see the workout trailers for so many DVDs.  I discovered instructors that I might not have known about – Patrick Goudeau for example – if it hadn’t been for Collage Video.  I’m guessing the instructors that were highlighted on the site will miss that exposure.

Collage Video indicates that their reason for closing is because they are not able to compete with larger companies. Do they mean Amazon?

That might be one reason, but no doubt the free workouts channels like Be Fit, that can be found at YouTube have affected their sales as well. Why purchase a DVD when you have access for free?

Add to that the fact that most of the instructors that had DVDs for sale at Collage Video have their own web sites where customers can download the video, receive it instantaneously, and not spend money on shipping costs.  Collage Video also did not support affiliate marketing which may have resulted in a loss of consumer awareness and missed sales for their products.

As much as I liked visiting Collage Video.com, I have to admit that I sensed they were struggling to keep up with the current trends in today’s market.

What Now?

Collage Video is still alive and well in the YouTube archives so you can view short clips of all the videos that they had for sale on the site. You’ll just have to purchase them somewhere else

If you do a Google search for Collage Video.com you’ll land on a splash page that indicates the company still has plans in the works for a different operation but there’s no hint as to what that might be. I’ll be anxious to see if they will be able to re-invent themselves so that they can become relevant again in today’s market.

The official announcement from Collage Video.

The official announcement from Collage Video.

Were you a customer and fan of Collage Video?

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Are Processed Foods Bad For You (or is this just another diet fad)?

We’ve been through the low-fat-high-carb and the low-carb-high-protein phase.  We’ve read about Paleo, intermittent fasting and green coffee beans. Now ‘experts’ are telling us to forget everything we’ve learned so far.  What we need to do is remove the processed foods from our diet and eat ‘real’ food.

That sounds pretty simple but what exactly does that mean? And, more importantly, is this just one more fad that we’ll find doesn’t work either?

This is where it all began.

This is where it all began.    Flickr photo by (Bayswater 97)

Is Swanson To Thank (or blame)?

When the Swanson TV dinner made its debut in 1954 the convenience food blitz began.  The Swanson TV dinner was a novelty and  moms that needed a break from the kitchen were crazy about them. Mom would heat up the frozen meals (on occasion) as a treat to dad and the kids for dinner.  More than 10 million TV dinners were sold during their first year in production.

The spin-offs that came from the original Swanson turkey and dressing dinner with corn that was packaged in a tin foil tray are beyond imagination. Today supermarkets are lined with heat-and-eat dinners and other easy-to-prepare packaged foods that provide meals for millions of Americans three times a day (plus snacks) every day.

Each time you buy one of these easy to prepare food you’re getting more than you realize.  Along with your Swanson turkey and dressing and Kraft mac and cheese you’re getting preservatives to keep the food from rotting, colorants that increase eye appeal, flavor enhancers for taste, and texturants that make the foods more palatable.

Processed foods also contain varying amounts of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, and vegetable oils. Processed foods are typically low in fiber and nutrients and are easy to digest so we want to eat again sooner than we would if we ate a whole food.

To top that off, researchers are now convinced that these foods that we’ve all become so accustomed to are addictive.  People that eat them develop cravings that keep them coming back for more. The more you eat the more you want and the harder it is to stop.

Processed Foods and Chronic Disease

There’s some pretty compelling evidence that shows the impact that the deluge of processed foods has had on our health since families sat down to the Swanson TV dinner 40 years ago. Over the last four decades there has been a sharp increase in the consumption of processed foods.  Processed foods now make up 70% of the Americans diet.

The rise in overweight, obesity and chronic disease runs parallel to that trend.  Diseases that were at one time associated with aging – diabetes, fatty liver, cardiovascular disease and cancer– are now being diagnosed in children as young as three and four years old.

Scientists have also linked processed foods to autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, alopecia, asthma and eczema.  And a 2012 study suggests that the epidemic of autism in U.S. children may be associated with the American diet.

Not All Processed Foods Are Bad

Most foods that you purchase have been through some processing. Whether it’s a bag of fresh-cut spinach or a container of frozen blueberries, something has had to take place to get the food from the farmer to the grocer.

Frozen and fresh packaged fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are minimally processed foods that have been prepped for packaging. There’s no reason to avoid buying and eating these foods unless you have access to fresh foods all of the time.

Foods with ingredients added for flavor, texture, and preservation are more heavily processed. These foods may not need to be completely avoided, but a quick look at the label will tell you if they contain ingredients that are risky to consume. A long label with a list of ingredients that you don’t recognize and can’t pronounce is a red flag. So are foods that have added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sodium, and trans fats.

The most heavily processed foods are the most convenient.  Ready-to-eat foods like frozen pizzas, microwave meals, and foods that can be prepared by adding boiling water all indicate that they have been through a radical procedure and are the farthest away from resembling a real food. A dependence on these foods increases your risk for obesity and chronic disease.

Take Care Of Yourself First

The idea that eating ‘real’ food is the solution for weight management and overall better health is here to stay.

The correlation between processed foods and poor health has been proven. What you can do is look at what foods you’re eating and feeding to your family and decide if that’s the healthiest choice you can make.  It’s up to each of us to stop buying the crap that the food industry is trying to sell us.  That alone will inspire them to change.

If you want to learn more about the food industry and the products that are on the shelves of groceries everywhere, check out the trailer of the documentary “Fed Up” that reveals how processed foods have led to one of the largest health epidemics in American history.

If we are going to change our health, we have to change the way we eat. Giving up convenience foods might not be easy but it will be worth it. To get started, head over to the 100 Days of Real Food web site and sign up for the 10 Day Challenge. If you take it 10 days at a time you’ll find it’s easier to get off the heat-and-eat-train and on the road to better health.

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Prunes: A Sweet Swap With No Added Sugar

When’s the last time you ate a prune?  If it’s been awhile it may be because you associate them with your grandma or another ‘person of age’ in your life.

Prunes aren’t just for mature audiences.  They are a sweet, nutritious treat that can tackle a sugar craving and keep you from giving into some of the less desirables (like candy and pastries) as you work to reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet.

Prunes

Why Prunes?

Dried plums, or prunes, are full of phenols that function as anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants are effective in neutralizing potentially dangerous free radicals that can cause cell damage and over time lead to chronic disease.

The abundance of soluble fiber in prunes helps normalize blood sugar levels by slowing the rate at which the food leaves the stomach.  Soluble fiber increases insulin sensitivity which plays a role in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Eating foods that are high in soluble fiber also decreases the risk for colon cancer and provides food for healthy gut bacteria

Plus, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirms that eating high fiber foods, such as prunes, helps prevent heart disease.

Prunes are also a very good source of vitamins A and B6, potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, and niacin.

A Sweet Swap

Try replacing the Fiber One bar that you eat for breakfast or the afternoon 100 calorie snack pack that holds you over until dinner (but offers nothing in the way of nutrition) with a serving of pitted prunes. The prunes are naturally sweeter and lower in calories yet higher in nutrients than granola and cereal bars.  A fourth of a cup of prunes is only 104 calories.

Prunes have made a comeback because of their health benefits and versatility. Prunes can be added to brown rice, steel cut oats, Greek yogurt and salads.  Use them as you would raisins or dried cranberries to add flavor, fiber and nutrients to your favorite dishes.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy one of the world’s healthiest foods?

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