Weight Loss with HEALTHeME

Weight loss and good health made simple

Monday, January 30, 2012

HEALTHeME Now Targeting Stress

Lowering Stress With Text Messaging
Today we're proud to roll out a new cognitive-behavioral based approach to reduce stress; stress management delivered via text messaging.  As many readers know, HEALTHeME recently ran a 12 week pilot that followed 300 adults.  We found that personalized text messages delivered at just the right time lowered stress for 60% of our users, and improved mood for 65% of users.

This is good news for all Americans currently stressed about money, work and the economy. Research shows that stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression, and obesity. HEALTHeME will deliver personalized text messages that help curb bad decisions, and motivate people to stay on course with diet and exercise goals. 

As an addition to the current HEALTHeME platform, this stress reduction program first analyzes a person’s unique ability to cope with anxiety, stress, boredom, or sadness. The analysis is used to customize a text message approach that matches the person's coping style. The predictive text messages are deployed at critical moments in order to help curb bad health decisions that are triggered by stress.

According to the  American Psychological Association  22% of Americans are extremely stressed! As daily stress is directly linked to over eating, weight gain and obesity, HEALTHeME offers a proven, practical, and simple way to cope with stress and achieve weight loss. Ultimately, psychology-based text messaging gets the job done.

Weight Loss Made Simple

Ever feel like trying to make healthy food choices is sort of like a trip through Wonderland?  In the classic story, Alice falls down the rabbit hole to find cakes that read, “eat me”, receives clues in the form of riddles from a disappearing cat, and nonsensical advice from a Mad Hatter.  We are literally bombarded with nutritional information from almost everyone we meet, making it nearly impossible to work our way through nutritional “wonderland” and reach our weight loss goals. 

The confusion has sparked a movement to help people better understand nutrition and what constitutes a healthy meal for weight loss.  Last year, the USDA launched MyPlate in an effort turn the food guide pyramid into a user-friendly version to help us make better choices as mealtime.  It also fueled a recent study  that found people made better food choices when nutrition labels were turned into a visual stoplight image, rather than deciphering nutritional facts, figures, and percentages.

While these user-friendly initiatives are certainly helpful and make understanding nutrition a little less time-consuming, many are still scratching their heads wondering things like:
·      What kinds of foods will help me lose weight?
·      How do I understand all this information on food labels?
·      How much constitutes a serving size for weight loss?”  

We know you’ve got questions about weight loss that are just burning a hole in your pocket and we’ve got ‘em too!  So, Sloan, HEALTHeME’s Chief Visionary Officer and Program Director, will be joining MSNBC and  TODAY Show's nutrition & health expert Joy Bauer  for a Google+ Hangout  live chat.  Sloan will be asking Joy questions about weight loss & stress.   

Consider yourself cordially invited to join in the discussion on Tuesday, January 31st at 4:00pm   You will hear Joy’s answers to common questions and can even ask questions for yourself!  It’s time to get real answers to your questions about weight loss.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Top 5 Breakfast Blunders

Breakfast has long been hailed as the most important meal of the day. Yet, it’s estimated that 31 million Americans skip breakfast each day. And, according to some statistics, many people consume 100% of their daily sugar allowance at breakfast. How’s that for a breakfast of champions? Let’s address some common breakfast blunders to help you start your day the healthy way.
  1. Skipping breakfast. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to rush out the door and skip the first meal of your day. However, there are many reasons to break your overnight fast. According to one classic study, 78% of people who lost weight and maintained their weight loss between 1-6 years ate breakfast every day of the week. An article about the importance of eating breakfast cites research that found people who eat breakfast regularly are more likely to exercise and eat fewer calories, including less fat, throughout the day.
  2. Eating on the run. OK, so you’re convinced that eating breakfast is important. But you’re busy, so you think it’s better to eat something than nothing. Or is it? If the to-go container looks like a banana peel, you’re on the right track. But, more often than not, the typical American on-the-go breakfast is a granola bar, cereal bar, or Pop-tart. After eating these highly processed, high calorie, and sugar-laden foods, you will find your energy is zapped by mid-morning. These foods can’t give your body the fuel it needs to run for the rest of the day so you are more tempted to snack and over-indulge. Maybe you have to get up a few minutes earlier to fix a healthy breakfast, but with all the calories you’ll save and energy you’ll gain, it’s time well spent!
  3. Drinking juice. One research group reports that the average American guzzles 11 gallons of juice each year. Most juices are high in sugar and missing a key element of a healthy diet, fiber. So, it’s no wonder we’re gaining weight at record-setting rates. One study found that people who drink juice gain more weight than people who bypass juice and eat whole fruits and vegetables instead. If your morning just simply isn’t complete without a little OJ, make sure it’s 100% juice and limit your intake: children 1-6 years of age should only consume 4-6 oz. per day; kids 7-18 years and adults should consume no more than 12 oz. per day.
  4. Eating cereal. When I was a kid, my mom would let me satisfy my sweet tooth with leftover birthday cake for breakfast. I mean, aside from Marie Antoinette, whose mom says, “Let them eat cake”? Well, as I’ve learned in a hundred different ways, it turns out my mom was smarter than I thought. According to a recent report, one cup of many common breakfast cereals packs more sugar than a small slice of cake. I'm not endorsing cake for breakfast, but let's be real: eating a big bowl of sugary cereal isn't exactly a great way to start the day! Sugar-laden cereals cause your blood sugar to soar, only to “crash” as your body quickly burns off the simple carbs and leaves your energy at rock-bottom levels. Whole grain cereals are a healthy alternative to sugary cereals (and leftover birthday cake). A recent study found that a diet high in complex carbs, like whole grain cereal, reduced levels of inflammation and helped control blood sugar levels. Increased inflammation is a risk factor for diseases like cancer and heart disease.
  5. Passing on the protein. This is one of the biggest breakfast blunders, especially for those who fill up on sugary cereals. One study found that eating a breakfast high in lean protein kept people feeling full and satisfied throughout the day, so they were less likely to overeat later. The researchers also found that those who ate a high-protein breakfast were less likely to have food cravings during the day. Protein-packed foods like egg whites, Canadian bacon, or Greek yogurt are good breakfast choices.
Get your day started on the right foot and you will set yourself up for a day of healthy food choices, exercise, and weight loss. Get off on the “wrong” foot and you can look forward to a day of over-indulging, low energy, and weight gain. What do you want your day to look like?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Shocking facts about your stress!

I recently read an article detailing a recent study about stress and it’s effects, noting that even mild levels of stress may lead to disability. Researchers also found that a quarter of the medical reasons for receiving disability benefits, from blood pressure to stroke, could be linked to stress. But, perhaps most significantly, the authors question whether the demands of modern society are just simply too much for our bodies to handle?

I will go out on a limb and answer their question with a “yes” and a “no”. There is no doubt that chronic stress carries with it some serious health implications, and many of us are definitely stressed out. A new “Stress in America” survey reports 1 in 5 Americans is under “extreme” stress. Add to this the estimates that 75% to 90% of doctor’s visits are related to stress, and I think it’s pretty clear that we aren’t managing our stressed-out lives so well. But, the “no” part of my answer has to do with the fact that I think we can do better! I don’t believe that today’s world is too much for us to handle – that simply doesn’t give us enough credit. I think we need to make our well-being more of a priority and get our stress in check.

So, how are we to manage the seemingly inescapable stress in our lives? Here are 6 proven strategies to help you stress less!
  1. Sleep well. Here’s a “chicken-or-the-egg” question for you: Are you not sleeping well because you’re stressed or are you more stressed out because you’re not sleeping? No matter the reason, the fact is that sleep is one of our best friends when it comes to flying below the stress radar. Try setting a bedtime and sticking to it. Plus, turn off all technology (yup, you read that right, ALL technology) an hour before your bedtime. Decreasing the stimulation from the Internet, Facebook, and TV will help you bring it down a notch and settle into a more peaceful sleep. Try this for one week and you will be amazed at how rested you feel!
  2. Exercise. Whether it’s the endorphins that are released during a workout or simply giving you some time outdoors in nature, there is no doubt that exercise is an effective stress buster! When you’re feeling a little frazzled, take an exercise break: go for a 10-minute walk; do some squats, push-ups, and crunches; or schedule an exercise session with a friend.
  3. Get your omega-3’s. One study has found a diet rich in fish oils (omega-3 fatty acids) can decrease reported levels of anxiety as well as the reduce the chemicals that circulate through the body in response to stress. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish, walnuts, soybeans, and tofu.
  4. Calm your mind. A recent study found that a regular meditation practice could actually change the structure of your brain. Following an 8-week meditation practice, researchers saw improvement the areas of the brain that are associated with empathy, self-awareness, and compassion, while noting a decrease in the areas associated with stress and anxiety. If you’re a meditation-newbie, try setting aside just 2-5 minutes per day to begin your meditation practice.
  5. Practice yoga. A regular yoga practice is often associated with improved flexibility, healthier pregnancies, and improved quality of life for back pain sufferers. Yogis (also known as people who practice yoga regularly) report lower levels of anxiety, tension, hostility, and fatigue, according to a 2011 study. Another recent study found that yoga might be more effective than other forms of exercise when it comes to boosting your mood and decreasing your anxiety. It’s time to step out of your stressed-out life and step onto your yoga mat.
  6. Think positively. You’ve probably heard it said that you can’t control events but you can control your reaction to them. And, I know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, you try dealing with a tough boss, shuttling your family around, cooking dinner, and have a day that runs from 6am to 11pm and then tell me that it’s my perception that makes me feel stressed to the max.” I get it. Life can be challenging but altering your perception (even a little) can greatly change your well-being. Negative perceptions can keep your mood low and your stress high. Supporting this notion is a 2011 study in which training teenagers in positive thinking was found to improve their mood and reduce anxiety. Although you can’t control every little thing life throws your way, you can control how you view these challenges and how you react to them. Use positive affirmations and put a positive spin on yourself and situations you encounter.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

APA report confirms that we are getting more stressed.

Stress causes weight gain.  Look out!

Stressful news comes to us in a new report released by the American Psychological Association (APA). It confirms the near epidemic numbers of stressed-out Americans. According to the report, 1 in 5 Americans report chronic “extreme” stress and only 29% of people feel they are successfully managing or reducing their stress level. Plus, 44% of respondents say they are more stressed now than they were five years ago.

In the face of the current economic and jobs situation, it really is no surprise that people are feeling the pressure. The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, which assigns a score to stressful events, ranks dismissal from work just below marriage in terms of its stress score. Nine of the 43 events on the stress scale have to do with changes in employment, difficulty at work, and financial stress. The stress related to unemployment or a change in financial status is significant. A recent Gallup Poll found that the longer people are unemployed, the more jobs they applied for, and the more interviews they went on all contribute to a decreased sense of well-being. People who fall into this group report that they are not “thriving” and are more likely to experience worry, stress, sadness, anger, and are more likely to be diagnosed with depression.

We often talk about stress but brush over it, like it’s simply an emotional response. But, there are some serious physical consequences that people face when they experience chronic stress. One study found that chronic stress could be lethal. Researchers followed 1,000 men over 18 years and found people who experienced more than just one or two stressful events each year have a 50% higher mortality rate.

Here’s a dose of reality: no one can live a completely stress-free life and some of the stressors you will likely encounter are out of your control, like major company mergers leading to large lay-offs or bumper-to-bumper traffic that made you late to work this morning. But, you can control your reaction to stress and you can do certain things to minimize the toll chronic stress takes on your well-being.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Starting a weight loss program NOW better than starting TOMORROW

Start on your weight loss goals right away!

I’ve heard it so many times: “On Monday, I’m going to start watching what I eat and exercise regularly.” I’ve been guilty of health-related procrastination myself and I know how the story goes. We try to finish off the bag of chocolate chip cookies on Sunday because we need them out of the house come Monday morning. But then Monday turns into Tuesday; Tuesday turns into a month and so on. It’s time to stop putting off ‘til tomorrow what you could change today. And, recent research give us some pretty compelling reasons to get our act together and focus on improving our health NOW.
Getting your blood pressure in check will help you age more gracefully.

In one study, researchers followed nearly 5,000 people over the course of ten years. They found that study participants who had increased cardiovascular risk factors, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, also experienced a greater decline in cognitive function and memory. What’s even more interesting is that the study focused on people whose average age was 55 years. So, the health related declines in brainpower begin in middle age.

Weight loss procrastination increases your risk for diseases, like diabetes.
I’m going to be very blunt here: if you’re overweight, you are at risk for developing type II diabetes. One recent study found that the amount of excess body fat you’re carrying, along with the amount of time you carry it, significantly increases your risk for type II diabetes. Adipose tissue (aka fat) secretes a number of hormones, some of which affect your body’s ability to produce and respond to insulin. By limiting your body’s ability to regulate or respond to insulin, you are at risk for developing diabetes. What does this mean? Well, it means that as more Americans are classified as obese, more American’s will be diagnosed with this disease. According to recent statistics, if current trends continue, 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with diabetes by 2050. Which side of the equation do you want to fall on?

Carrying extra weight could shorten life’s journey.
In another recent study, researchers examined data from over 5,000 people who were followed for 48 years. The specific group they examined was free of preexisting conditions like heart disease and cancer. Researchers found that the length of time people live with obesity decreases the length of time they live. For people who spent 5-14.9 years living with obesity, they more than doubled their risk of dying over people who had never been obese. How’s that for motivation to fit into your favorite jeans?
Today is the day to make the changes that can improve your health. Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and managing your stress level are important factors that will positively affect both your waistline and your lifespan. 

Set a goal to make one healthy change today and then get moving - your healthier life awaits!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Does technology change behavior?

Daily reminders aid weight loss.

We live in an age of high-speed information. We have immediate access to information by way of high-speed internet connections, apps on our mobile phones, and little devices we strap to our bodies to give us information like our heart rate, calories we’ve burned, and how far we’ve walked. We even have information staring us in the face when we eat out. Many restaurants now list nutrition information on the menu.

Considering all of this healthy-living information we have at our fingertips, it makes me wonder: is all of this information translating into action?

It’s time for true confessions of your HEALTHeME nurse. Hi, I’m Lauren, and I’m a Starbucks addict. I’m not talking about just coffee. I’m addicted to the kinds of coffee concoctions that scream “high maintenance” and cost almost $5 a pop. But, when I found out that my favorite drink had over 400 calories, 15g of fat, and almost 60 g of sugar, I did an abrupt about face! I started ordering a tall, skinny version that topped out at 110 calories.
It seems I’m not the only one affected by this kind of nutrition information. A recent study found that signs displaying the calorie count of sodas or the amount of time you would have to jog to burn off that soda reduced the purchase of sugary beverages among a group of teenagers. The display of signs led to a doubling of the number of bottles of water sold at the store. Interestingly, while all signs led to a decrease of sugary beverage purchase, the signs that spelled out the amount of time you would have to exercise to burn off a soda were the most successful. This may be because it’s so much easier to understand consequences of 250 calories if it means you have to jog 40 minutes.

However, another recent study reported a very different outcome. In the study, researchers evaluated the impact on calories consumed by adults and children when they were faced with nutrition information at a fast-food restaurant. While the nutrition information led to increased awareness of the facts, it did not translate into fewer calories purchased for either the parents or their children. So, is this because nutrition labels are hard for people to understand or relate to? After all, most people over-estimate the number of calories they burn during a single exercise session and underestimate the number of calories they consume on a daily basis.

It may be this very reason that the USDA launched the new MyPlate to replace the older food guide pyramid. The plate method provides an easy-to-use visual representation of a balanced meal. This provides diners with a “call to action”, giving them a specific goal when sitting down to a meal. So, rather than trying to recall the number of servings and serving sizes of different food groups, you can aim for a plate that is balanced: ½ of the plate should be fruits and vegetables, ¼ of the plate is a whole grain (like whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or wheat bread), ¼ of the plate is a protein source, and the balanced meal should include a serving of dairy.

Whether it’s just calorie information or being aware of the number of minutes you would have to exercise to work off your latest indulgence, the information is intended to help you make better choices. But the information can’t act on it’s own! You have the power to make better, healthier choices. It’s time to take all that new knowledge and make the right choice!

Friday, January 6, 2012

3 Ways to Improve Your Health in 15 Minutes

Live better in just 15 minutes!

Do these simple things to lose weight, improve your mood, and live longer.

In our fast-paced world, most of us are searching for ways to do more in less time. We want to be healthy, fit, and reach our goals but we want to do it in record time. The current physical activity recommendations state that adults should do at least 30 minutes of activity 5 days per week, and this leaves many hustlers and bustlers cringing. But, new research suggests that you can enjoy big benefits with a small time investment.

1.  Stop Snacking, Cut Sweets
Do you think it’s impossible to pass by the candy dish at work? A recent study suggests that a 15-minute walk may be the cure to your sweet tooth. Researchers found that study participants who took a brief walk before completing a specific task ate 50% less chocolate than their sedentary counterparts. So, if you are trying to kick your snacking habit, stress less about your willpower and carve out some time in your busy day to get moving.

2.  Meditate
If you discovered a pill that would help you stress less, increase your confidence, and lower your blood pressure – all at the same time – how long would you stand in line for this drug? How about 15 minutes? Well, good news: you get to sit down for this “drug”! A recent study found that 15 minutes of meditation, practiced twice daily, helped a group of teens significantly lower their blood pressure. Not only did their blood pressure decrease, it actually remained at the healthier number several months after the intervention. Plus, meditation is well known for it’s stress busting, feel good benefits.

3.  Exercise
A 2011 study found that inactive people who added just 15 minutes of physical activity to their day could significantly reduce their risk of dying and add three years to their life expectancy. Fifteen minutes of daily physical activity also reduced their risk of cancer-related death. Researchers found that you could further reduce your risk of death by 4% with each additional 15 minutes you tack onto your workout.

No excuses! Even the busiest among us can find 15 minutes every day to live a healthier life. And, doesn’t it seem like almost a bargain that just a few minutes out of your day can add years to your life.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Skinny on Stress & Weight Loss

Manage your stress to lose weight.

What if stress is the one thing holding you back from reaching your goals?

As we usher in a new year, all the holiday hustle-and-bustle behind us, we assume stress is so last year. But is that reality? Stress is pretty unavoidable in today’s society but it rarely makes the list of New Year’s resolutions. What if decreasing your stress could help your other resolutions, like losing weight, just fall into place?

Sure, getting regular exercise and a following a balanced diet are keys to living a healthy life, but one study found that chronic stress could be lethal. In the study, researchers found that people who consistently experience more than just one or two stressful events per year have a 50% higher mortality rate. So, think of keeping the stressful experiences in your life to a minimum as a life-insurance policy!

Maybe it comes as no surprise that stress isn’t good for your health, but did you know stress might cause you to gain weight? A 2011 study explains why stress must be addressed before we will be successful in our fight against obesity. When we experience stress, our bodies release a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin, known as the “hunger hormone”, makes us feel hungry. This same hormone also makes us more likely to reach for high fat “comfort” foods when we’re exposed to stress. So, being under a nearly constant assault of stress, as so many of us are, makes us more likely to choose bad-for-us foods, leading to weight gain.

On the flip side, one recent study found that being mindful at meal-time and reducing stress may help people shed that oh-so-dangerous belly fat, even without dieting. Researchers followed chronically stressed obese or overweight women and found that those who participated in stress reduction activities and increased their mind-body awareness (especially as it relates to meal time awareness), lost more abdominal fat and reduced their levels of stress hormones more than their stressed out and less-mindful counterparts. Shedding abdominal fat is significant because abdominal adiposity (or abdominal fat) is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders.

Here are 3 ways to stress less, be more mindful, and achieve your goals:
  1. Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to catch up to your stomach when you are eating. If you’re plowing through a meal at warp-speed, you will charge full-steam-ahead into that miserably stuffed, gotta-open-the-button-on-your-pants feeling. Eat slowly so you can recognize when you’re full but not uncomfortable.
  2. Meditate. A daily meditation practice helps people feel more confident, less self-critical, and less stressed. One study found that a regular meditation practice causes physical changes in the areas of your brain that are associated with stress and anxiety, confirming the study participants reported decrease in these negative emotions.
  3. Exercise. Not only does exercise burn calories, but it is also a proven way to manage stress.
You know you’re going to experience stress. But, if you want to be successful in reaching your healthy living goals, you have to combat stress like it’s skinny jeans enemy numero uno. Make managing your stress a priority for 2012!