A New Decade’s Resolution: Quit Dieting

by | Dec 30, 2009
Photo by melloveschallah

Photo by melloveschallah

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

-Rita Mae Brown

­

2010 marks the beginning of not just a new year, but a new decade. Rather than using this as an excuse to set and/or stick to diet resolutions of years past, consider setting an anti-resolution to stop the cycle:

Decide today to quit diets and never pick up another one.

For some people (my former self included) chronic dieting is a way of life. Structured diets help us feel secure and in control of our fate, while giving us something to strive for and accomplish.

In a twisted way, diets can be comforting and giving them up can be as difficult for some as quitting smoking.

But most people are not trying to stop dieting, they are trying to do it better. Dieting is usually seen as a positive ambition, a form of self-improvement.

But what if diets do more harm than good? What if they lower instead of raise your quality of life?

Weight loss and better health through food and exercise are wonderful aspirations, but contrary to popular wisdom they are not synonymous with dieting. If your goals are long-term and not for specific or imminent events, then dieting will never help you achieve them.

Healthy eating and regular exercise need to be your default, automatic behaviors and not a special case scenario; weight loss diets by definition are temporary–an exception, not the rule. This is another way of saying our daily, habitual behaviors are unhealthy and promote weight gain.

Typical diets address the symptom, but ignore the problem.

Most of us will sidestep this logic by convincing ourselves that once our desired weight loss is achieved through dieting (and that’s a big IF it is achieved) we will enter into a “maintenance stage.” But maintenance is only a theoretical purgatory that looks just like the original diet dressed up to be a little sexier.

The real test of a diet’s success is not weeks or months, but years and decades later. And since we never think of diets on these long time scales, most will fail eventually. This is an uphill battle of regular slip-ups and constant restriction.

How about a different strategy?

This decade instead of picking a diet with the goal of losing X number of pounds, decide on a list of healthy habits you want to adopt over the next several months and years that will help you reach your long-term health goals. Building habits may not result in the same quick results you’d experience on a traditional diet (though they can), but you will continue to see results for many months and the changes will be permanent.

Habits take approximately 4-6 weeks to form, and most people can only adopt 2-3 new habits simultaneously. Use your list to set up short-term behavioral goals throughout the year to gauge your progress.

To start, choose the habits that are easiest and most fun for you personally. Set an end date to examine your progress in 1-2 months. Write it in your calendar and set aside 15-30 minutes that day for the analysis. (e.g. By February 15, I will bring my own lunch to work at least 4 days a week).

Remember that habits can be either positive or negative, such as the proactive taking the stairs at least twice per day versus the reductive limiting dessert to once per week. A good strategy is to pair a negative habit with a positive one that can replace it. For instance, limit red meat to once per week pairs nicely with eat fish 3 times per week, particularly if you are accustomed to eating lots of protein.

Once you have successfully integrated a few new habits into your healthstyle, pick 1 or 2 more for the following months. Continue to add new habits, minimize bad ones and assess your progress at regular intervals. Start now, and don’t wait until next January to evaluate your results.

By the end of 2010 you should be able to adopt 5-10 new habits that will significantly improve your health both immediately and in decades to come. As your health improves, your goals may evolve to reflect new and possibly more advanced ambitions. This is good, it means you’re making progress.

Not everyone will have the same aspirations or be able to tolerate the same daily routines, so you should think carefully and set goals you think you can achieve. Whenever possible, try to write your goals in specific rather than general terms. For example, instead of writing eat more vegetables, write eat something green at both lunch and dinner.

Don’t get hung up on setting guidelines you can follow 100% of the time, the goal is to set routines you can achieve most of the time. Remember, exceptions are okay and an inevitable part of life. For this exercise we are focusing on what you do as habit. That is, your average meals where you have control over what you eat.

Here are just a few examples of healthy habits to get you started, but these are only meant as inspiration. Spend some time making your own list and assigning priority to each habit. If you have any questions or suggestions, please write them below in the comments.

Healthy habits for a new decade

  1. Make vegetables the centerpiece of dinner at least 5 days per week.
  2. Limit dessert to once per week or less.
  3. Replace soda with sparkling water during lunch.
  4. Do not eat from the bread basket at restaurants.
  5. Include legumes in at least 4 meals per week.
  6. Take the stairs to the office at least 4 times per week.
  7. Eat breakfast everyday.
  8. Do not eat foods with added sugar.
  9. Shop at the farmers market every weekend.
  10. Put down your fork between each bite of food.

What’s on your list?

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Eating Like An Avatar

by | Dec 28, 2009

Avatar

Sometimes it takes a new set of eyes to see things clearly. Sometimes a new perspective can be enough to change your world.

In the blockbuster film Avatar, advanced neuro-technology is used to plug human consciousness into alien bodies (avatars) and operate them remotely. Scientists use these avatars to explore the planet Pandora and learn the ways of its native people, the Na’vi.

The Na’vi share an intimate bond with their natural habitat, making their behavior seem primitive and incomprehensible to the humans studying them. But when Jake Sully immerses himself in Na’vi culture as an assignment, his experience changes him in ways no one could have imagined.

Behaviors we don’t understand are often the easiest to ridicule and reject. But putting aside your preconceptions and coming to a new world with open eyes can be the best way to improve your circumstances and enrich your life.

Do you have prejudices that are keeping you from eating healthy?

I have certainly had many.

Believe it or not, there was a time I thought all organic food was an elaborate, expensive hoax designed to trick rich people into paying more for food the rest of us could get for a fraction of the price. I just didn’t get it. I hadn’t yet tasted the difference, so I didn’t believe it existed.

There was also a time when home cooking seemed to me like a laughable, time-consuming and pointless affair, better suited to married life or, well, anyone who wasn’t me. Why would I cook when someone else could do it for me?

Weekly shopping at the farmers market was another tough idea to swallow (who wants to get up that early on a Saturday?), as was ignoring free food at social events–one of the most fundamental and revered components of graduate school (it’s free!!).

My problem was that I didn’t yet see the value in these activities, so they didn’t seem important.

But of course, I was wrong.

It is absolutely worth the extra effort and money for higher quality organic vegetables that I am actually excited to eat.

Cooking for myself is by far the most efficient, tasty and healthy way to feed myself.

And shopping at the farmers market and maintaining a high-quality diet is the single most important thing I do to stay healthy; it is also really fun.

But I don’t expect you to believe me. This is not the kind of information you can read on a blog and automatically integrate into your life.

To understand my enthusiasm for farm fresh food and home-cooked meals, you really have to dive in head first and try it yourself.

There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So what’s stopping you?

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Summer Tomato Holiday

by | Dec 23, 2009

Photo by fabbio

Photo by fabbio

This post is just to let you all know that I will be taking a break from blogging for the rest of the week to visit my family and embrace the true spirit of Christmas: The clash of the NBA titans

Have a healthy, happy holiday and I’ll see you back here next week.

Cheers,

Darya

xoxox

Farmers Market Update: Santa’s Secret

by | Dec 20, 2009
Santa Claus

Santa Claus

Looks like I’m not the only one doing some last minute Christmas shopping this year.

I spied Santa Claus himself having lunch at the farmers market in San Francisco. You can’t really blame him either, because I doubt they are getting much good winter produce at the North Pole. He looks like he may have even lost some weight!

Hopefully he found some of the awesome citrus fruit available this time of year as well as these red Livermore walnuts from Hamada Farms, since they match his outfit.

Livermore Red Walnuts

Livermore Red Walnuts

Clementines

Clementines

And I wonder if Santa is the one responsible for hanging mistletoe all over the city? San Francisco residents BEWARE!

Mistletoe

Mistletoe

As for my own shopping, I actually didn’t buy much since I’m leaving town in a couple of days. I’m loving the Tuscan kale and other thick winter greens right now. And, as always, the Meyer lemons.

Greens & Fennel

Greens & Fennel

Kale, Radishes & Lemons

Kale, Radishes & Lemons

I also grabbed what will likely be my last bag of Padrones until next summer.

Carrots

Carrots

Pimientos de Padron

Pimientos de Padron

Unfortunately I had to skip this challenge guaranteeing the best cabbage ever, because I already had too much food. If it’s still available in two weeks though, I’m totally on it.

Persimmons

Persimmons

Best Cabbage Ever

Best Cabbage Ever

The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market will be closed next week, December 26, so I’ll be taking the day off.

Spanish Onions

Spanish Onions

I hope you all have a delicious holiday!

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For The Love of Food

by | Dec 18, 2009
For The Love of Food

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

I’m back! Sorry for being MIA the past few weeks. But you’ll be happy to hear my thesis committee meeting is over and I aced it. That means I will, finally, get my PhD in 2010. Woohoo!

Also thanks to all of you voted for me in the Wellsphere HealthBlogger Awards! I came in 8th! Not bad for just starting campaigning for votes last Friday. Thanks everyone!!!

Not all the links below are from this week since I had to include a few of the gems I’ve collected since Thanksgiving. I’ve also shared the latest info on BPA, which is getting worse.

I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

10 Best Links of the Week

Did you miss me?

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Are Canned Tomatoes Dangerous? The Latest BPA Scare

by | Dec 16, 2009
Photo by TheBittenWord.com

Photo by TheBittenWord.com

Chances are that if you do much cooking, especially during the winter, you rely on canned tomatoes as the base for many dishes. Canned tomatoes are one of the staples of my kitchen and I’ve recommended them many times as a good alternative to fresh winter tomatoes (yuck).

But recent reports indicate that the lining of most cans (including tomatoes, beans and soda) contain a resin that leaches a toxic chemical, bisphenol-A (BPA), into food.

BPA has been shown to be a neuroendocrine disruptor and causes several biological problems, especially during development. Outrage over BPA back in April 2008 led to massive changes in consumer demands about the safety of food containers, especially baby bottles and the then-popular Nalgene bottles.

Since publication of the The 7 Foods Experts Won’t Eat article in Shine, I’ve been bombarded with questions asking if it is still okay to eat canned tomatoes.

Here are my thoughts on canned tomatoes & BPA:

1. Canned tomatoes aren’t great, but soda is worse. In the article, Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, says that tomatoes are a particular problem in cans lined with resin because they are acidic, which increases the rate at which BPA enters food. He goes on to argue that this amount exceeds recommended doses and can “impact people.”

Since Dr. vom Saal studies BPA and I do not, I concede his point. But I think it is also important to consider the context of this argument. It is true that tomatoes are acidic, but tomatoes also have many health benefits and can be a valuable part of your diet.

I don’t drink soda (which is substantially more acidic than tomatoes) or eat canned beans, so tomatoes are the only canned food I eat. I also don’t eat canned tomatoes every day. I therefore question if the tiny, sporadic amount of BPA that I am exposed to through canned tomatoes has a real effect on my disease risk, given my healthstyle.

My guess is the risk is very small. If you do drink a lot of soda, however, you may have more to worry about.

2. Glass jars are a fantastic alternative. Home canning was all the rage this summer, and I’m sure those of you who produced gallons of home stewed tomatoes are feeling pretty awesome right now with your BPA-free stockpiles.

There is no way on earth I would have time for a massive canning project of my own, but fortunately there are some wonderful independent companies willing to do it for me and sell them to me as I need.

I have yet to try tomatoes from a glass jar, but my guess is they lack the metallic aftertaste of those in cans. As an experiment, I’ll make my next preserved tomato purchase from one of my favorite companies, Happy Girl Kitchen, to see if I can tell the difference. They are more expensive than the cans I normally get, but it might be worth it for the better flavor. You can also find their products at Foodzie.

Keep up with my foodie experiments on Twitter @summertomato.

3. I’m not a kid, but if you are you should be more careful. One of the biggest problems with BPA is its effect on children. Kids are small, so the amount of BPA they are exposed to pound-for-pound is relatively higher than it is for the rest of us. Children also metabolize (eliminate) BPA more slowly, so the toxins stay in their bodies longer. Lastly, during development certain organs are more susceptible to the effects of BPA, which may result in serious problems later in life.

In other words, BPA is substantially more dangerous for children than it is for adults.

So while BPA may be a mild concern for grownups with a basically healthy lifestyle, it may be worth keeping it out of your diet for the sake of the younger members of your family.

Conclusion

BPA in canned tomatoes is a legitimate concern. However unless you are a regular consumer or are under the age of 6, the long-term impact of BPA on your life is probably mild.

If you would rather be safe than sorry, glass jars are a fantastic BPA-free alternative that will probably improve the taste of your winter tomato dishes.

As for the other items on the list, I mostly agree with their conclusions. However the selection of these particular 7 things (as opposed to dozens of other problematic foods) seems rather random and arbitrary. In my opinion you will get much more out of shopping at the farmers market than you will from fretting over blacklisted foods.

What do you think about canned tomatoes and BPA? Did I answer your questions?

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Last Minute Foodie Gift Ideas

by | Dec 14, 2009
Photo by danesparza

Photo by danesparza

Sometimes the stars just do not align for getting your holiday shopping done early. I know I haven’t started mine yet. But there are still plenty of easy-to-find, yet super valuable gifts out there for your favorite foodies.

Personally I try to avoid giving gifts that require guessing someone else’s taste or style. Instead I rely on things that are either super useful, completely novel or just ridiculously cool.

At this stage of the game your best bets are things you can order online and have delivered in the next week, gift subscriptions, or books that you can find just about everywhere.

Here are some of the coolest tricks I have up my sleeve for 2009.

Last Minute Gift Ideas That Aren’t Lame

1. Artisan foods from FoodzieFoodzie_Facebook_Logo

Decadent food is one of the easiest ways to make someone happy. But Summer Tomato readers know that I do not take my indulgences lightly. If I’m going to eat something that isn’t healthy, I want it to be beyond awesome–the healthy food I eat is just too delicious to bother with anything less.

That’s why Foodzie is so cool. If you don’t live in San Francisco, New York or LA, finding high-end artisanal foods can be a challenge. But now thanks to Foodzie, anyone can have Bacon Jam or Single Malt Scotch Bars delivered to your doorstep. Just be sure to order in the next day or 2 or your orders won’t make it before Christmas without extra shipping costs.

2. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan[amazon-product align="right" bordercolor="#ffffff"]0143038583&fc1[/amazon-product]

As you might imagine, I’ve read A LOT about nutrition and have tried almost every diet myself. One of the most profound lessons I’ve learned in this research is that while the content of your diet is certainly important, how you think about and approach food is one of the most influential factors in your long-term health and happiness.

By far the best book I’ve read on food philosophy is Michael Pollan’s landmark work The Omnivore’s Dilemma. This book is remarkably well-written, meticulously researched and an overall pleasure to read. It is also the perfect gift for the curious yet unconvinced soon-to-be healthy eater.

If you are still looking for more, check out his practical guide for following these principles, In Defense of Food.

3. How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman[amazon-product align="right" bordercolor="#ffffff"]0764578650&fc1[/amazon-product]

For someone who has decided to start cooking but doesn’t know where to begin, this book has everything you need to know. Mark Bittman is the brilliant author of the New York Times food column, The Minimalist, that includes fantastic 2-3 minute cooking videos also available as a podcast.

Bittman demystifies the kitchen by explaining basic cooking concepts and fundamentals in this classic cookbook. There is even a vegetarian version for those who aren’t interested in the perfect roasted chicken.

4. Splendid Soups, by James Peterson[amazon-product align="right" bordercolor="#ffffff"]0471391360&fc1[/amazon-product]

The only other cookbook I consider indispensable is Splendid Soups, by James Peterson. Soup is pretty close to perfect food, especially during these cold, stormy winter months. Soup is also perfect for dinner parties and potlucks, since it stays warm all night and doesn’t require a set “dinner time.”

I recently re-ordered this cookbook for myself (my last copy actually belonged to a former housemate) even though I have most of my favorite recipes memorized. I’ve benefited so tremendously from this book, I just feel better if it is always in my kitchen.

5. Cuisinart Hand Blender[amazon-product align="right" bordercolor="#ffffff"]B0006G3JRO&fc[/amazon-product]

This makes a great bundle gift with Splendid Soups, since a purée is often the last step in soup-making magic. Though it is possible to make a wonderful soup in a regular blender or food processor, it is exponentially easier if you have an immersion hand blender. You can also use an immersion blender for smoothies and other blended foods, like hummus.

The Cuisinart hand blender is especially awesome because it comes with attachments that transform it into either an electric beater or a mini chopping food processor as well.

For $50 this is some of the best value you can get out of a kitchen gadget.

6. Fagor Pressure cooker[amazon-product align="right" bordercolor="#ffffff"]B00023D9RG&fc1[/amazon-product]

My pressure cooker is the one special piece of cooking equipment that I cannot live without. The reason is that the first time I tasted beans made from scratch I knew I could never go back to canned. But beans are such an essential part of my healthstyle that the 1-4 hr cook time is a bit too inconvenient to be practical for real life.

Enter the pressure cooker. A pressure cooker cuts bean cooking time down to under half hour. It’s also great for grains and a ton of other foods. Fagor is the only brand I recommend bothering with. You don’t want to mess around with high-pressure cooking unless you are sure about your gear.

7. Audible membership

I rave about Audible every chance I get. If you’ve never heard of it, think Netflix but for audiobooks. While a monthly audiobook subscription isn’t for everyone, for those of us with commutes or jobs with extensive manual/technical (aka mindless) work, Audible is a godsend.

Though audio is still not my favorite way to “read,” it is perfect for those books in which I only have a passing curiosity. If I find a book I love (which happens often), I will buy a hard copy as well. Sometimes I listen to a book more than once. Rarely am I disinclined to finish one.

Audible is a great way to finally read all those food and health books you’ve been meaning to get to.

Have I mentioned I love Audible?

8. Zagat subscriptionzagat_twitter_bigger

Yelp is great if you want to find the best tailor near your house or need a place to get your pets groomed, but I never use Yelp for restaurant recommendations. There are very few people I trust in food taste, and in my experience Yelp reviews reflect the typical American appetite for cheap, big and cheesy. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

When I’m curious about the best Korean food in SF or if I’m traveling to a city I’m not familiar with Zagat is where I turn. I never hesitate to renew my subscription and recommend it to anyone looking for reviews by people who actually know what they’re talking about.

9. Bialetti stovetop espresso maker[amazon-product align="right" bordercolor="#ffffff"]B0001WYDP0&fc1[/amazon-product]

I’m something of a coffee purist, and of all the home brew methods I’ve tried (most of them) the Bialetti stovetop espresso maker is my favorite. It’s relatively inexpensive and has the added charm of being a little old-school.

This is how everyone makes coffee at home in Italy.

10. CSA membership

Busy people have trouble finding the time to buy fresh fruits and vegetables every week. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture brings fresh, seasonal produce to you. The idea behind a CSA is that you subscribe to a farm or collection of farms and pay a certain set price (varies by farm) for a box of their goods. For your fee you are provided with a week or two worth of fruits and vegetables of the season.

Buying someone a subscription to a CSA is a great way to encourage healthy eating and support local farmers. All CSAs are a little different, so you need to find ones in your area and contact them to work out the details. Most deliver to your house or a nearby pick up point and allow some filtering for your particular food preferences.

There are also meat and dairy CSAs, which you will become more interested in after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Visit Local Harvest to find CSAs in your area.

Good luck with your shopping and happy holidays!

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Farmers Market Update: Washington DC

by | Dec 13, 2009
Dupont Circle Farmers Market

Dupont Circle Farmers Market

This week our featured Farmers Market Update is from Washington DC!

Olga Berman spends her free time cooking, salsa dancing and traveling. She believes cooking for one can be as rewarding as cooking for company, and doesn’t need to involve a lot of time or ingredients.

Olga’s recipes are inspired by her memories of growing up in Russia, her travels and what’s available in her fridge at any given time. Check out more recipes from Olga’s collection at Mango & Tomato, follow her on Twitter (@mangotomato).

Farmers Market Update: Dupont Circle in DC

by Olga Berman

If you think cold weather means no more farmers markets, don’t give up quite yet.

The Dupont Circle Farmers Market in Washington DC is open year round, rain or shine, on Sundays from 9 am to 1 pm. I visited the market on December 6th and found an abundant amount of produce, flowers, holiday gifts and even a sample of potato soup from Jaleo, Jose Andres’ restaurant.

I first stopped at the Sunnyside Farm & Orchard to check out the fresh onions, radishes, beets, and greens. All these winter vegetables are not only full of nutrients, but are also beautiful (see above photo-).

My next stop was Black Rock Orchard. Here you could pick up several varieties of apples and pears, green onions, and three varieties of turnips.

Apples

Apples

Turnips

Turnips

At the New Morning Farm, I found two types of vegetables that I’ve never seen before: watermelon radishes and tat soi. Watermelon radishes are larger in size than a typical radish and have a pretty pink color inside. They can be used in salads, roasted, or sautéed in butter. Tat soi, I was told, should be cooked similar to bok choy.

Tatsoi

Tatsoi

Watermelon Radish

Watermelon Radish

Next was Twin Spring Fruit Farm. I was happy to see that they still had tomatoes available. Surprisingly, tomatoes smelled and tasted as if they were picked in August. The farm also had what you would typically consider a late fall/early winter produce: sweet potatoes and carrots.

Sweet Potatoes & Carrots

Sweet Potatoes & Carrots

Winter Tomatoes

Winter Tomatoes

For those of you who are not tired of pumpkin, you can find it and other winter squash at Gardeners’ Gourmet. I especially liked the multi-colored and odd-shaped pumpkins. And speaking of multi-colored, Gardener’s Gourmet had white, yellow and purple cauliflower. Unfortunately, the color of the cauliflower doesn’t add anything special to the taste.

Colorful Cauliflower

Colorful Cauliflower

Winter Squash

Winter Squash

All in all, it is definitely worth it to bundle up in your warm clothes, get a cup of coffee and stroll through a winter farmers’ market. You are bound to find delicious apples and discover a few new produce items. Not only will you be supporting your local farming community, but you might learn a new recipe or two.

What did you find at your market this week?

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Vote For Summer Tomato!

by | Dec 11, 2009

The Wellsphere HealthBlogger award voting is coming to a close on December 15 and I need your support!

If you enjoy the work I do here at Summer Tomato please take a few seconds to vote for me.

UPDATE: I’ve moved into the top 12! Thanks for your votes, please keep them coming. Also, if you are concerned about creating an account with Wellsphere, they haven’t sent me a single spam email since I signed up a few months ago. Plus you can always unsubscribe.


Thanks for your help!!

Next week we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled publishing :)

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Simple Plan To Increase Your Physical Activity

by | Dec 9, 2009
Photo by laurenatclemson

Photo by laurenatclemson

I’m thrilled to have JC, author of JCDFitness for today’s guest post. I don’t read many exercise blogs, but JC has such a refreshing approach to fitness and exercise I can’t help but love it. I asked him if he would share some of his wisdom with us here at Summer Tomato.

JC writes about fat loss, building muscle and everything else fitness related at JCDFitness.  He takes a No-BS approach to the health and fitness lifestyle and prides himself on his relaxed, comfortable approach. Check out his free ebook, A No-BS Approach to Looking Great Naked and follow him on Twitter (@JCDFitness), if you’re into that sort of thing.

Increase Your Activity, Improve Your Life

by JC

If there is anything I am truly, madly in love with, it’s food. So you might guess that I was once a chubby kid; okay, a really chubby kid.

But I am not here to tell you how or what to eat. If you’ve been hanging out on Summer Tomato for more than a few minutes, you already know how.

So, while I trust you are eating all the unprocessed foods and in-season produce available, how are you doing with the other part of the healthstyle equation? What does your daily physical activity look like?

If you live in America, chances are your life is busier than ever, even more so now that the holidays are upon us.

Here is a simple plan to increase your physical activity, which will greatly improve your quality of life.

Exercising is Fun, Taking the Stairs is NEAT

First off, we have two ways to get active and expend more energy throughout the day. The first one is deliberate exercise, which I will cover in a bit.

The second way to increase activity is through something called NEAT. This little acronym stands for Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Basically, NEAT is everything you do outside of deliberate exercise; it’s the energy you expend at your occupation, while doing household chores, picking up the kids, bathing your boa constrictor or painting your grass during the winter season.

Unfortunately, sometimes things are not so neat for a person who works at a desk and gets a slap on the wrist every time they move an inch away from their computer screen. So, if your current occupation or daily duties do not include much movement and you want to incorporate some extra activity into your daily routine, it’s time to get creative.

If you work on the 85th floor in the office building downtown, I don’t expect you to take the stairs all the way to the top. However, you can take a few flights before getting in the elevator and, when you come down for the day, you can do the same. Over time, you should aim to increase a flight or two every so often. Ideally you will be able to do all 85 flights within a month.

I kid.

But taking the stairs is a great way to get extra exercise if you can’t do a formal workout.

Another option is to walk instead of drive to your next destination. I know this is not possible for everyone, but once in a while if I want to increase my NEAT I will simply walk to school. I, however, only live 1.5 miles away from the farthest part of campus, so this is very easy for me.

If you take a train or bus, walk to the station if it’s not too far from your home.

When you do your grocery shopping, park in the very back of the lot; this way you’re forced into some extra activity. If it’s the only exercise you get outside of pecking the keys 8 hours per day, it’s definitely better than nothing.

For more NEAT tips check out: 6 Ways To Get More NEAT

Benefits of Strength Training (Deliberate Exercise)

The benefits of strength training could be an entire article in itself, as there are many positives I could ramble on about. For the sake of not boring you to death, I will hit the highlights.

The person who incorporates some form of resistance training a few times per week is going to be far better off than those who do not.

Now don’t get this confused with going to the gym and working out with all of the meathead bodybuilders. You can practice resistance training in the comfort of your own casa if you wish. You really don’t need a whole lot of equipment, if any at all. Heck, if you’ve never trained before, all you need to be doing is body weight exercises anyway, at least to get you started.

So give me some benefits!

  • Increased bone density
  • Increase in lean body mass
  • Improved appearance
  • Boost in confidence
  • Injury prevention due to joint stabilization through increased strength/muscle mass

Think of strength training as an insurance policy. It’s usually not much fun paying your dues and putting in the extra hard work, but you will be thankful later on in life as the rewards are great in terms of health and longevity.

As we age, our bone density diminishes; our muscles lose their tone and become weak. As a result, our chances of injury later in life increase exponentially. On another note, setting strength goals and achieving them will do wonders for our confidence and self-image.

So how might we put it all together?

Keep It Simple, Please

A strength training routine should never take up all of your time. In fact, it can (and should) be rather quick, unlike training for a marathon.

All you need is a few non-consecutive days per week to train; any more is likely unnecessary.

Keep in mind, I am writing for the general population here, so the guidelines are amendable and should be altered to suit your needs. However, here is a sample, full-body routine to get you going in the right direction.

Sample weekly exercise program

Training frequency is 2 times per week: Monday and Thursday morning before work (pick the days best for you, it’s just an example).

You will do the same routine each training day and increase weight and reps whenever possible.

The guidelines are to pick 1 exercise for chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps and 1-2 exercises for legs.

If you have access to a gym, your routine would look like this:

  • Chest Movement (bench or machine press) 2 x 10-12
  • Back Movement (lat pulldown, chin up, rows) 2 x 10-12
  • Shoulder Movement (vertical barbell press, DB press, lateral raises) 2 x 10-12
  • Bicep Movement (curls with barbell, dumbbells or resistance bands) 2 x 10-12
  • Tricep Movement (extension with dumbbells, machine or bands) 2 x 10-12
  • Leg movement (squat or leg press) 2 x 10-12
  • 2nd Leg Movement (leg curl or straight leg deadlift) 2 x 10-12
  • Abdominal Movement (crunches, planks) 2 x 10-12

If you do not have access to a gym and want to work out at home doing body weight only exercises, do 4 sets of 12 of the following:

  • Push ups
  • Chin-ups
  • Chair dips
  • Squats
  • Lunges

As you progress, the exercises will become less challenging, so eventually, you may need to move onto free weight/machine exercises or make your body weight work more difficult. This can be done by adding bands for resistance or making each movement more challenging.

For instance, if you want to make body weight squats more difficult, do a 1 legged squat or use dumbbells for extra resistance. Instead of regular push ups, do handstand push ups. You must get creative if you plan on doing body weight exercises only.

Cardio, Anyone?

On top of the strength training, some low to moderate intensity cardio is perfectly fine to do as well. I encourage those with sedentary lifestyles to incorporate 2-3 days of cardio into their weekly routine. My reasoning is, the more exercise we get, the more likely we are to maintain a healthy weight.

Examples of simple cardio workouts are walking the dogs when you get home from work, riding your bike through the trails, jogging in the morning before class, etc. Of course, you can use a treadmill, but I despise them; they are boring and usually inside a smelly, uncomfortable building. I prefer to do my cardio in the fresh air whenever possible.

So there you have it: a perfectly sensible plan to get active, improve your fitness and increase your quality of life.

What does your current exercise routine consist of? Let us know in the comments!

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