Think Healthy, Think Money

13 02 2013

We all want to be rich. Then there are some of us who would prefer to be wealthy. If you don’t know the difference, I suggest reading “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. But regardless if you want to be rich or wealthy, you must do one of two things; either learn how to earn it if you aren’t there, or learn how to keep it if you are there. Ask both sides and they will tell you that it’s difficult to uphold both ends of the statement if you are not willing to motivate yourself and work hard.

Even though it is hard to save money, many of us are so driven that we do everything we can to grow our bank accounts. We stop purchasing expensive products, we go to fewer movies, we find cheaper alternatives, and we slowly put money into our savings account until we are happy with how much we have in it. We don’t end up with $20,000 in a week, but over a period of time with little investments (depending on how much you invest into the account), we notice the large sum of money that has accumulated and we are thrilled with success.

I use this example because the same can be said with our health and the steps needed to accomplish our wellness goals. However, the majority of us don’t treat our bodies like a savings account. We expect our bodies to work miracles and in the end of the week have a body like the models and stars we see in magazines and in the media. Side note: Most actors and actresses will work with a trainer between three to six months, six to seven days a week, to get their bodies in the shape needed to perform their roles; not to mention hiring a personal chef, and dietitian. The way we stay or become healthy should follow the same plan as how we grow our bank accounts. Place importance on our wealth (health); find out ways to save our wealth (health); and slowly invest our money (time) to see our wealth (health) grow.

Wealth for HealthFollowing these simple steps will improve your overall health (and wealth) if you take the time to commit to it. Saving your health can be as easy as saving your money, but know that to do so, you must find the importance of why you’re doing it and become motivated in its returns to be successful.

Grounded and Not a Gym In Sight

6 08 2012

For the past few weeks, my wife and I took a little vacation up north to the Adirondacks in NY. We try to get up there ever year to return to the place where we met. The special place with a 32 mile lake, 800 acres of hiking trials, and a rolling golf course. I was pumped for this trip. Being that I grew up in the North, all my exercise was done using Mother Nature’s gym. Mountains became my stair climber, lakes became my pool, and hauling around a 30 pound backpack became my free weights. I was ready to get out of the flat lands of Florida and become immersed with my natural habitat. Then the worst happened.

We arrived in Tampa for a 2:15 PM departure flight two hours early. This was how excited I was about making it out of Florida. The security check went smoothly without a hitch and I was looking at the plane outside that we would board. As my wife and I chose our seats, I looked at my watch to make sure we would arrive Albany at the stated time of 5:35 PM. “Enough time to make the drive and get in my day’s workout,” I thought to myself. We sat in our seats as we waited for our plane to be taxied out of our terminal but nothing happened. My wife noticed that it had began to rain (bright blue skies followed us to Tampa). I didn’t think much about it, I just wanted the plane to move so we could get above those sad clouds and off towards my destination. That’s when the overhead announce from one of the flight attendants came on and stated, “Sorry folks, but it seems that Traffic Control has noticed a severe thunderstorm has hit areas of Baltimore and the Northeast. We’re going to hold tight on the ground for a little bit while Traffic Control can determine if there’s another route.” Then two minutes later, “Looks like Traffic Control has grounded all flights heading north toward Baltimore and this flight has a new departure time of 6:50 PM or might be cancelled,” informs the attendant. “We’re going to cross our fingers for the delay. However we can’t keep you on board, so we’re going to ask everyone to return to the terminal and wait for further information about your flight.”

So, now I’m in the terminal again and grounded for another five hours. I’m a personal trainer because I love to be active and educate others on the importance of staying active. Knowing that I will be missing my workout up north has made me upset (and the fact that I’m starting off my vacation with this long delay also ticks me off). The other reason why I am in my profession has something to do with the fact that I hate sitting in one place for a long period of time, and this delay has us stuck in this terminal for another 5 hour! With this experience and extra spare time, I designed a workout for anyone else who might need a quick stress reducer due to a flight delayed.

The Traveler’s Workout

Items needed: chair, carry-on luggage/bag, music (optional)
Perform each exercise to fatigue. Then rest for 60 seconds and do a second set before going to the next exercise.

Targets: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quadriceps
Start in a standing position with feet slightly wider than shoulder width.  Hold carry-on by the handle with two hands. Extend your arms straight down so they are dangling between your legs. Perform a squat, placing the weight into your heels. As you squat back up, push with your heels.

Military Pushup on Chair
Targets: Chest, Triceps
Place your hands on the edge of a chair with your hands aligned with your shoulders. Keep your toes on the ground, back and abs tight. Lower yourself to the chair without bending at the hips, so your whole body descends as one. Let your chest come to the chair and push yourself back up to starting position.

Bent Over Row
Targets: Latissimus Dorsi, Biceps
Place one hand on the chair as your bend forward at the hips. Keep your knees bent and your back straight. Grasp the carry-on with your other hand. Pull the carry-on to the side of your chest as you keep your arm close to your side. Lower the carry-on back down smoothly back to starting position.

Targets: Abdominals, Lower Back
Place your forearms and toes on the ground. Keep your back straight and even with the rest of your body. Elbows should be under your shoulders. Lift your hips off the ground and bring them aligned with your shoulders and ankles. Hold the position till fatigue.

Standing Side Crunch
Targets: Obliques
Stand with your feet narrower than shoulder width. Hold the carry-on with one hand by your side and hold your other hand by the side of your head. Crunch your body down to the side, opposite of the carry-on. Slowly return back up to start.

Reducing Waist Lines By Limiting Sugary Drinks

25 06 2012

Last week, CNN wrote a post indicating that the mayor of Cambridge, MA, Henrietta Davis, took steps to adopt the sugary drink ban that was proposed by New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomburg. Not only did Mayor Davis want to prevent oversized drinks sales (greater than 16 oz.), but she took it one step further by proposing to ban free refills on soft drinks at restaurants. “Our environment is full of way too many temptations,” Davis said. “This is one temptation that isn’t really necessary.”

This is a very bold move and some Americans will complain (mainly restaurant owners and those losing their free refills).  However, with obesity rates and diabetes  still on the rise, bold actions must be taken. Amid the studies and warning signs of inactivity and overeating in America, the majority of Americans are unwilling to make the healthy change. An action to restrict people from inflicting harm on themselves should not be looked upon as a governmental takeover, but rather a change to allow us to live longer. When the government decided to ban smoking in restaurants, there was an outcry from smokers complaining that their freedom was being taken away. However, after a few months, those who smoked went outside as usual, very little complaining occurred, and everyone was able to breathe easily again.

America Weighs In

Limiting the amount of soft drinks someone consumes in one sitting may be a good start in fighting obesity and diabetes. However, the other part of the equation is not just quantity, but also quality. How much sugar is in that 12 oz cup? Sugar is the key ingredient in all soft drinks, and is a factor in the epidemic of obesity. The sugar content in drinks can be difficult to estimate, so we need to turn to the nutrition label on a product.

This is where a startling realization hits those who know how to read the label. The amount of calories within many products are not accurately represented! That’s right, those calories are not what they may appear. A search for an answer was prompted when I was explaining to my wife how one calculates the amount of calories in a product. To figure out the total calories in a product, the three macronutrients are summed up by their respective caloric value. In all foods and beverages, calories are calculated by adding the total amount of fats (1 g = 9 kcal), carbohydrates (1 g = 4 kcal), and proteins (1 g = 4 kcal) in the product. Sometimes alcohol is also added (1 g = 7 kcal). An example was presented using a can of Coke (see picture). When we take a look at the three Macronutrients, we see that the only one that has a value is carbohydrates. This made it easy…so I thought.  When we multiply the amount of carbs in the beverage (39 g.) with its corresponding caloric value (4 kcal), we get 39 * 4 = 156 calories. But wait, why does the calories of the can state 140 cal? This is not a rounding issue as you will read below. The  extensive search led me through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (who regulates the food label) to get to the bottom of the fiasco. Scrounging through the FDA guidelines for proper labeling of nutrition facts was daunting. I came across a plethora of jargon and redirections that made it hard even for the product manufacturer to adhere to the guidelines.

The following were some questions relating to the problem, but there was nothing in my search that could explain why Coke was able to misrepresent their caloric value by 16 calories!

N8. Should a value of 47 calories be rounded up to 50 calories or rounded down to 45 calories?
Answer: Calories must be shown as follows:
50 calories or less–Round to nearest 5-calorie increment: Example: Round 47 calories to “45 calories”
Above 50 calories–Round to nearest 10-calorie increment: Example: Round 96 calories to “100 calories”
21 CFR 101.9(c)(1) Also see Appendix H for rounding guidelines.

N18. What is meant by sugars on the Nutrition Facts label?
Answer: To calculate sugars for the Nutrition Facts label, determine the weight in grams of all free monosaccharides and disaccharides in the sample of food. The other nutrients declared on the nutrition label are defined in 21 CFR 101.9(c). 21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)(ii)

N16. How is total carbohydrate calculated?
Answer: Total carbohydrate is calculated by subtracting the weight of crude protein, total fat, moisture, and ash from the total weight (“wet weight”) of the sample of food. 21 CFR 101.9(c)(6)

When I was able to find the section on carbohydrates and caloric measurement requirements (see references), there was nothing that mentioned how accurate the manufacturer had to be when producing a number. They did state that a certified chemical testing company had to weigh all amounts of nutrients before producing the label. So my question is, what scientist doesn’t know how to do basic arithmetic? Before banning the extra-large cups and refills, we might want to figure out how much sugar we really are consuming.


Code of Federal regulations. Title 21 – Food and Drugs: Section 101.9 Nutrition Labeling of food

CNN: Mass. Mayor Suggests Ban on Large Drinks, Free Refills

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Appendix H: Rounding the Values According to FDA Round Rules

U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Nutrition Labeling; Questions G1 through P8

The Bare Necessities: From Shoes to Barefoot

11 06 2012

Try this: go outside and run around the block (ok, just jog). Most of you probably would have donned a pair of cushioned, foot correcting sneakers before walking out of your house. This is typical for many 21st century humans who want to make sure they don’t get injured while braving the pavement. Shoe stores are filled with hundreds of brands and models specifically designed to combat some kind of foot problem when you’re running. However, current studies have indicated that the ideal thing to wear for running might not be a pair of arch supported or ankle stabilizing sneaker anymore. Why it took researchers so long to run down the stats on how our bones, muscles, and ligaments adapt to the different surfaces when we walk or run and how that changes our whole body’s physiology is probably because they were wearing the wrong shoes too. Barefoot running, and even walking, can be traced back to our great Paleolithic ancestors and now companies like Vibram, Newton, Saucony, and Nike have flooded the markets with their shoes that claim to resemble running barefoot, without the scrapes and bruises.

Through advanced technology, shoe manufacturers have been able to design sophisticated footwear to prevent our feet from over pronating (stability control), pounding the ground with too much force (shock absorbers like air sacs, springs, and more cushion), and dropping our arches (arch support). These new methods for controlling our feet’s movement are more of a “crutch” than a treatment. In the last decade, studies on barefoot running have sent many health and sports magazines to track down experiences of this phenomenon. The leading magazines for running enthusiasts, Runners World and Running Times, have both printed a number of articles on the benefits of minimalist shod and barefoot running. A study conducted by Dr. Daniel E. Liberman, professor on Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, pointed out the natural adaptations of the body as a person runs barefoot compared to a shod runner. When a runner has the ability to allow his or her foot to move freely when making contact with a surface, the proprioceptors within the foot muscles respond and adapt to the surface, thereby recruiting the correct set of muscles to prevent injury from occurring. With foot correcting sneakers, the foot has little awareness of the surface with which it is making contact, causing a incorrect running style, and therefore, the recruitment of different muscles are needed, resulting in common running injuries.

Here’s an experiment for you to try. Go to your local high school track, or if you have a clean section of road nearby, run ten yards down the track or road. Then take off your shoes and repeat. If you compare the two running styles next to each other (shoes and barefoot), one would see that our running style quickly changes when our foot hits the ground. When we run with shoes, because of the cushion in the heel, we’re more prone to have our heel strike first. Yet once our shoes come off, our body shifts to the mid or front part of our foot where our legs can suddenly work together like a spring and propel our bodies forward. This also prevents our heel from stabbing the ground and hurting the bony surface. “The amount of reaction force generated in the foot and leg also decreases, explains Dr. Liberman. A look at his figure (Fig. 1) shows that there is much less reaction force when someone uses a front foot strike with a short stride, which is common when running barefoot compared to a rear foot strike (heel to toe style).

This is not to say that everyone should go out today, ditching those old cross-trainers and run freely. Running barefoot takes time, as is common in any form of muscle training. Muscles, when stressed, need time to recover and adapt. Also, unlike the humans of 100,000 years ago who didn’t grow up with something on their feet from birth, have paved roads, and broken glass shards, the 21st century human must train our feet longer for the conditions of today’s environmental surfaces. Vibram’s FiveFingers, Nike’s Free Run, Saucony’s Kinvara 2 are minimalist shoes that allow your feet the freedom to move like being barefoot but with a little added protection between your feet and the pavement. If you want to be true to your natural instincts, train your body to run sans shoes. Start on grass or sand before transitioning over to tougher surfaces. Don’t run too long if you’re inexperienced because the muscles in your foot will quickly fatigue. Running a couple times a week barefoot will make your feet adapt to the surface and overtime, you’ll have the ability to run away without any injuries.


Liberman, D.E. (2012). What we can learn about running from barefoot running: an evolutionary medical perspective. Exerc. Sport Sci. Rev., Vol. 40, No. 2, pp. 63Y72

The Seven Deadly Sins – Part 4

24 05 2012

In my last installment of the series, I provide some important and interesting statistics about tobacco use and overeating. Don’t try any of this at home.

Tobacco – According to the CDC, the last statistics published in 2010 in regards to smoking in teens and adults showed a steady decline beginning in 1965. The study showed that in 2010 adult smokers had dropped 29.3% (19.3% current) compared to the 1965 percentage. However, tobacco has no health benefits. Smoke it or chew it and you’re still putting your health at risk. Any questions?

Overeating – Sometimes we get so hungry that we begin to gorge. When we finally put our forks down, we hear our stomach yell back at us and it feels like that last slice of cake is trying to bust through our belly button. However, for some, this agonizing feeling never occurs. Place food in front of them and they will be happy to make it disappear. We give these people nicknames: “Black Bole,” “The Disposal,” “Trash Compactor,” “The Abyss,” and even “The Terminator.” Yet despite their names, these individuals all have a health condition called “overeating” or “binge-eating.” Overeating is a very common occurrence. We all have had a second or third helping at one time or another. If you didn’t, you might have piled your plate larger than the recommended portion size and thus still managed to overeat. Overeating becomes a serious problem when someone begins to frequently binge and then finds trouble stoping. The MayoClinc writes, “when you have binge-eating disorder, you may be deeply embarrassed about gorging and vow to stop. But you feel such a compulsion that you can’t resist the urges and continue binge eating.” The causes of this disorder include, family history, biological factors, long-term dieting, and psychological issues. A study by Dr. Diann Ackard and her colleagues, looked at the relationship of overeating among 4746 adolescents. The study reported that girls (17.3%) were more likely to engage in overeating than boys (7.8%). The study also showed a significant relationship between binge-eating and low self-esteem and body satisfaction. The study also associated overeating with a higher risk of suicide.

Overeating is a serious disorder and preventative measures and remedies can be taken to help reduce the chance of binge-eating. If you or someone you know is binge-eating, speak with a doctor hear about treatment plans. Seeking additional guidance from a counselor or psychologist may be needed. If you or someone you know is overeating, try the following to help slow down your rate of consumption:

  • Eat slower
  • Put the fork down between bites
  • Consume more fiber
  • Eat breakfast
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day
  • Consume the right nutritients
  • Don’t stock up your fridge or pantry

Eating can be fun, but when we begin to indulge in the greater commodities of life, we begin to lust over that of which we consume to much. These seven addictions can be fatal when consumed beyond their limits, but within limits, they can be a “non-sinful” bliss. Be mindful of what you consume (not just foods either) and know when a piece of Mrs. Jones’ homemade double chocolate, rum cake becomes a guilty pleasure. 


CDC – Smoking & Tobacco Use 

MayoClinic – Binge-Eating Disorder

Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics – Overeating Among Adolescents: Prevalence and Associations With Weight-Related Characteristics and Psychological Health

The Seven Deadly Sins – Part 3

17 05 2012

If we could only drink water for the rest of our lives, we might actually live a little longer. But where’s the taste in that? So man created two special substances to add to water (besides loads of sugar and artificial flavoring) to make our beverages more enjoyable and practically irresistible. Take a sip of the next two addictions.

Caffeine – Need energy? In the past, our only options were Gatorade, coffee, tea, and Coke. Now-a-days, you find people downing a Red Bull, Rock Star, Amp, Monster, or even a little potion commonly known as 5 Hour Energy Drink. And this is after a Venti dark roast coffee from StarBucks in the morning. Turn to the fitness scene and you have caffeine in many of the common sport-enhancement supplements.  Caffeine is most consumed psychostimulant substance in the world. The benefits of caffeine are heightened mental awareness and increased energy. I must note that according to reports, caffeine is not addictive, however, there is evidence that people react similarly to caffeine as they would to other psychostimulant drugs such as, cocaine. And even though caffeine is not a leading contributor to US mortality, many drinks containing caffeine also include large quantities of sugar. Other health risks associated with caffeine  include, increased heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, osteoporosis, and tremors. News reports back in 2010 (CNN) investigated the connection of energy drinks consumed with alcohol, and the related hospitalization and deaths among college students. The American Medical Association Council on Scientific Affairs states that moderate consumption of caffeine (three 8 oz. cups of coffee (about 250 milligrams of caffeine) per day and 5 servings of caffeinated soft drinks or tea per day) pose no negative effects on a person’s health. Also, those who consume caffeinated drinks probably aren’t drinking enough water.

Alcohol – Have wine, don’t have wine, have only red wine; wait, liquor’s good too? In the early 2000’s research began to introduce alcohol as a health-promoting substance. Going back in history, we know that alcohol was used as medicine to treat different ailments. However, now we’re told that having a glass of red wine a day can promote heart health. So everyone goes out, orders a glass of wine, and smiles knowing that they just fought off heart disease. Not so much. Studies that produced findings associating red wine with the reduced risk for heart disease might be basing their conclusions on the wrong component, reports the American Heart Association. Many of the health benefits from red wine comes from the flavonoids and antioxidants that can be found from red grapes and grape juice. So, instead of ordering a glass  of wine (which is normally more than the daily recommended) the next time you dine out, shoot over to the kids menu and order a fresh glass of grape juice. In case you think that goblet you have in your cupboard is a healthy serving, the AHA states that one drink is the following;  one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits. Due to body weight, height, and frame size, the limitations for men are 2 drinks a day, while women are 1 drink a day.  Have a good time, but do it responsibly. Period.


MedlinePlus – Caffeine

Zancheta, R., Possi, A., Planeta, C., and Marin, M. (2012). Repeated administration of caffeine induces either sensitization or tolerance of locomotor stimulation depending on the environmental context. Pharmacological Reports 1734-1140(63), 70-77

American Heart Association – Alcohol and Heart Disease

The Seven Deadly Sins – Part 2

15 05 2012

In the last part of the series I explained the sweet effects of sugar. The second part of the series weighs two other highly consumed ingredients. Follow the guidelines and you’ll have your body working for you instead of against you. Reading the food labels will help with this part. If you never understood the label on the sides and backs of packages, the American Heart Association can help you out: Reading Food Nutrition Labels.

Fats – According to the American Heart Association, coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease.  Fats, along with cholesterol, are the key factors for clogging up the body’s arteries. Yet, we love them so much that we have to have them in every meal. Now don’t get me wrong, there are benefits from the healthy fats that raise your high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and we do want to continue consuming recommended doses of that fat. The problem American’s are facing currently is the amount of saturated and transfats in our diets. The American Heart Association recommends anyone over the age of two to limit their saturated fats to less than 7% of their total daily calories, and limit their trans-saturated fats to less than 1% of daily total caloric intake. The CDC reported in 2007-2008 that Americans (males and females) were consuming 11% of saturated fats. In recent years, the media and FDA have helped reduce the amount of trans-saturated fat found within products by exposing the health risks associated with this fat and requiring companies to show the amount on their nutrition labels. Kudos to them, but the FDA can still be better at regulating what companies print and “claim” on their packages. “Low fat” doesn’t always mean that the fat content is lower than everything else. For a good idea of how many calories are made up from fats, multiply 9 by the number of fat grams (1 gram of fat = 9 kcal). Then subtract that from the total calories in the food to see how much fat you’re actually consuming.

Salt- Sodium has a number of functions in our body. It is an electrolyte that exchanges with potassium within our cells to maintain fluid balance, blood pressure, and acid-based balance. Our muscles also need sodium to contract and move. Lastly, sodium assists in the absorption of certain nutrients such as glucose. While our bodies need salt to maintain homeostasis, we tend to consume larger quantities than we actually need. According to the Institute of Medicine, the Adequate Intake (AI) for the majority of Americans is 1,500 mg of sodium per day. One should not exceed 2,300 mg/day.  Yet, the CDC has reported that the average American consumes roughly 3,436 mg/day. That’s twice as much as the AI! I understand that we have evolved from our Neanderthal ancestors, but really, have we evolved so much that we can no longer tolerate bland foods? Let’s just toss out the main purpose for eating in the first place. Our primary focus now is to make sure that whatever we consume tastes delectable. To accomplish this, throw a dash (or a heaping) of salt on it. I know people who will reach for the salt shaker even before tasting the food and make it snow on their food like a blizzard came through. Too much sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure. This in turn leads to, you guessed it, heart disease! Help yourself out by drinking enough water throughout the day to keep your fluid balance in check. Then switch over to some lower sodium foods. Even though the front of the package says “low sodium,” read the nutrition label and make sure it’s not going to put your salt levels through the roof at the end of the day.


American Heart Association – Know Your Fats

CDC – Trends in Intake of Energy and Macronutrients in Adults From 1999-2000 Through 2007-2008

CDC – Americans Consume Too Much Sodium