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In a world of triple-stacked hamburgers, double-stuffed cookies, and super-sized cups of soda, many of us tend to overestimate appropriate portion sizes while underestimating the amount of food we eat. It’s no surprise: over the last twenty years, we’ve seen continued growth in portion sizes to a point where we’ve entered an era of “portion distortion”. At restaurants and fast- food establishments, super-sized portions are served in order to provide “super” value to the customer. At the grocery store, companies have super-sized packaging of their products, and even at home, we’ve managed to steadily increase the size of our dinnerware. Unfortunately, all this growth has had an impact on our waistlines: we think big, we eat big, and it shows.

At the start of a New Year and the common resolution to eat healthier, I thought it a good time to address portion control. Here are my portion control guidelines to help you practice portion control and reach all of your wellness goals.

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Caroline’s Smart Size Portion Guide.

The simple skill of knowing how much to eat is an important key to weight loss and weight maintenance. Eating appropriate portions enables us to eat to a point where we are comfortably full, yet not so stuffed that we regret it later.

Research has shown Americans often underestimate how many calories they are consuming each day by as much as 25 percent. The hard truth is: you can’t escape a bad diet. The effects of poor nutrition and over generous portions will catch up with you at some point!

In order to understand appropriate portion sizes of foods, there are three things you’ll need to learn: 1) You’ll need to understand how much of a typical food constitutes a portion size, 2) you’ll need to know what that portion size looks like visually, and 3) you’ll need to learn how to apply this knowledge in your life.

The following lists include a select number of various types of food, their typical portion sizes, and everyday objects that equate to portion size. Although there are a few exceptions, most of the foods listed are whole, as there are an infinite number of processed or packaged foods. Further, since eating whole foods is always recommended over processed foods, it seems more appropriate to focus on them.

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Portion Size Guide Of Whole Foods

Fresh Fruit* = 1 cup = woman’s fist

    • apple
    • apricots
    • blackberries
    • blueberries
    • kiwi (2 pieces)
    • orange
    • pear
    • plums (2 pieces)
    • raspberries
    • strawberries
    • tangerines (2 pieces)

*exceptions: banana, grapefruit, portion size = 1/2 fruit

Leafy Vegetables = 1 cup = Baseball

    • arugula
    • baby romaine
    • boston lettuce
    • mixed greens
    • red lettuce
    • romaine
    • spinach

Fibrous Vegetables = 1/2 cup = 1/2 Baseball

    • artichoke hearts
    • asparagus
    • broccoli
    • carrots
    • cauliflower
    • celery
    • cucumber
    • eggplant
    • green beans
    • onions
    • red cabbage
    • red peppers
    • snap peas
    • squash
    • zucchini

Breads = CD case

    • Bagel (1/4)
    • English Muffin (1/2)
    • Whole-grain bread (1 slice)

Meat = 3 ounces = deck of cards

    • beef
    • chicken breast
    • pork tenderloin
    • tofu
    • turkey breast

Fish = 3 ounces = computer mouse

    • cod
    • halibut
    • mahimahi
    • red snapper
    • salmon
    • swordfish
    • tuna

Grains, Legumes, and Starches = 1/2 cup = 1/2 baseball

    • barley (cooked)
    • beans
    • brown rice (cooked)
    • cereal
    • corn (cooked)
    • edamame
    • oats (cooked)
    • potatoes (all varieties)
    • quinoa (cooked)
    • whole grain pasta (cooked)

Dairy

    • Hard Cheese = 1.5 ounces = 4 dice or lipstick case
    • yogurt = 1/2 cup = 1/2 baseball

Fats

    • Avocado = 1/2 medium = deck of cards
    • oils = 1 teaspoon = 1 die
    • nuts – 1/4 a cup = golf ball

If you don’t already have measuring cups or spoons, it might be helpful to purchase them. You may even want to consider investing in a nutrition scale, which will allow you to weigh various foods. Spend a week measuring what you eat and comparing it to the visual cues so you can accurately understand typical portion sizes and what they look like. Display some of the everyday items in your kitchen so they are conveniently located. You may even want to take a couple of them with you when you go out to eat. Eventually, you’ll be comfortable assessing portion sizes without measuring cups, spoons, or props and will be able to do so no matter where you are.

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Knowing proper portion sizes is only half the battle in learning the art of eating the right amount. It’s what you DO with that knowledge that really counts. Eating out and busy schedules can make portion control more challenging. Here are my suggestions on how to use your portion control smarts in the moment:

 Caroline’s Portion Control In ACTION guidelines:

  • Before Eating, Divide The Plate. Here’s a simple rule to portion a plate properly: Divide it in half. Automatically fill one side with fruits or vegetables, leaving the rest for equal parts protein and starch. This way, you begin to see what a properly balanced meal looks like. Spaghetti and meatballs? Steak and potatoes? They’re only half a meal, incomplete without fruits and vegetables.
  • Pre-Portion Tempting Treats. People tend to consume more when they have easy access to food and the bigger the package, the more food you’ll pour out of it. Measure out your food choices into a ziplock bag, bowl, or plate before you eat. Put the package or dish away and then sit down to enjoy your pre-portioned snack or meal.
  • Avoid Mindless Munching. It’s all to easy to keep eating food when it’s readily available. I call it the “see food diet”. If you can’t resist food when it’s around you, have it put away or leave the room. Turn off the television, computer, or any other distractions so that you can pay attention to what you are eating. When you are dining out, ask the server to have the bread removed from the table. In the office steer clear of your co-workers candy jar or the community food table. When you are mindful while eating its easy to avoid damaging your nutrition goals with munching.
  • Downsize The Dishes. If you’re part of the “clean plate club” and one of the 54 percent of Americans who eat until their plates polished, you’ll want to make sure your dishware is modestly sized. On a standard 8- to 10-inch dinner plate, a portion of spaghetti looks like a meal. On a 12- to 14-inch dinner plate, it looks meager, so you’re likely to dish out a bigger portion to fill the plate. Look for dishware that helps you in sticking with your healthy portion control goal. That way even if you eat until your plate is clean it wont do too much damage!
  • Limit Your Choices. The more options you have, the more options you’ll want to eat.  Look to limit your food choices to avoid the temptation to sample everything in sight.  When at a buffet or party with a large assortment of food, view all the dining options first and then fill your plate with portions of the foods that you want most. Avoid the temptation to go back for seconds once you are comfortably full.
  • If you have good food in your fridge, you’ll eat good food. You control 100 % of the food that is brought into your home. Use this power to your advantage. Stock up on foods that nourish you and if you know you can’t stop at just one potato chip, then don’t buy them at ALL.
  • Enjoy Dining Out with moderation and mindfulness. Eating appropriate portion sizes when dining out is especially challenging. Restaurant servings sizes are often enough for 4 people! To keep portions in perspective, consider ordering two appetizers instead of an entrée. If you are dining with others, you may want to split an appetizer and entrée with another person. If you order an entrée for yourself, evaluate how much of the food on the plate equates to a portion size and ask for the rest to be set aside. You can ask for a doggie bag or save the portion for another meal during the week. And always share dessert!

What is one way you practice portion control when dining out or cooking at home? It’s important to be mindful of the quantity of food you’re eating and hopefully the guidelines above will help you enjoy eating healthy, balanced portions. Eat slowly, savor your food, and enjoy your company. Heres to a year of eating well, feeling well, and being unstoppable!

Yours in Health,

Caroline

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If the phrase “Oh, my aching back” is part of your vernacular, you’re not alone. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in adults (headaches come as a close first). Lucky for you there is a simple (and free!) aid to help relieve and prevent back pain: exercise. Not only does movement help decrease lower back pain, but it may also speed recovery, prevent re-injury, and enable you to enjoy a long life full of activity. Taking proactive steps to prevent or treat lower back pain is easy and can be done at home without any special equipment.

Exercises that may help reduce or prevent back pain include:

    • Aerobic exercise: to condition your heart and muscles, maintain health, and speed recovery. Walking, cycling, and swimming are great back happy cardio options.
    • Strength: with a focus on the back, stomach, and leg muscles.
    • Stretching: to keep your muscles and other supporting tissues flexible and less prone to injury.

Things to avoid to keep your back happy:

    • Straight leg sit-ups.
    • Bent leg sit-ups or partial sit-ups (curl-ups) when you have acute back pain.
    • Lifting both legs while lying on your back (leg lifts).
    • Lifting heavy weights above the waist (standing military press or biceps curls).
    • Toe touches while standing.

Its important not to let the fear of more back pain keep you from trying gentle activity. Exercise is the remedy to healing your body. Too little activity can lead to loss of flexibility, strength, endurance, and actually cause more pain. With permission from your doctor, a gentle program of cardiovascular and strength exercise can help ease your aching back and help you on towards health.

Ive created a simple 10 minute physical therapy workout to keep your back happy. These are a few exercises will help strengthen and stretch the areas that need it most and help you on towards optimal spinal health. Aim to work through the routine twice focusing on quality and moving slowly with control.   As always, check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting a fitness routine. Honor your body and if anything doesnt feel right stop immediately.

Caroline’s Happy Back Workout Routine

Strength

  1. Birddog (Opposite Arm and Leg Extension): Strengthens muscles running down sides of spine, back of shoulders, hips and buttocks. Begin on all fours, hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Keep head aligned with spine (to help avoid tilting head, look at floor).  Keep buttocks and abdomen tight. Do not arch the back.  Lift one arm up and forward until it is level with torso; simultaneously lift the opposite leg in the same manner. Keep arm, spine, and opposite leg aligned as if they are forming a tabletop. Balance yourself for 5 seconds then slowly return to starting position. Switch sides and repeat. Do 10-12 repetitions 2-3 sets.
  2. Plank: Lie face-down on the floor with your legs together, forearms close to the torso, and toes perpendicular to the floor as if you’re going to do a push up. Lift your body using your abdominal muscles and your arms, until it’s in a straight line from head to toe, and the only things touching the floor are your toes and your forearms. Hold this position for as long as you can, working up to three minutes at a time. Click HERE for more of my perfect plank tips. 
  3. The Bridge: Strengthens several core muscle groups – buttocks, back, abs. Lie flat on your back with the knees bent at a 90-degree angle, feet flat on floor. Tighten abs. Lift your butt off the floor keeping your abs engaged. Your shoulders to knees should be in straight line. Hold for a count of five. Slowly lower buttocks to floor. Do 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps.
  4. Side Plank: Roll to the side and come up on one foot and elbow. Make sure the hips are lifted and the core is engaged, and hang tight for 30-60 seconds (or as long as you can stomach!).

Stretch

1. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch. Kneel on mat. Bend right leg and place right foot ahead of you on floor, knee lined up over ankle. Left leg (knee to toes) remains on floor behind you (place a cushion under the knee if mat does not provide enough cushioning). Keeping back upright, press pelvis forward slightly – until you feel a stretch in the front of the left hip. Do not extend knee beyond toes. Tighten left buttock and tuck the tailbone under to increase the stretch and or move your left knee further back. Remember to keep back upright. Hold stretch for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

 2. Lying Piriformis / Glute Stretch. Lie on back with legs in air, knees bent at 90 right angle. Place left ankle just above right knee. Grab the back of your right thigh and pull legs toward chest until you feel a stretch in the left glute. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

 3. Knee-to-chest stretch. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Using both hands, pull up one knee and press it to your chest. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg. Return to the starting position and then repeat with both legs at the same time. Repeat each stretch two to three times — preferably once in the morning and once at night.

When you are pain free and ready to continue your lower back strengthening program with a more challenging routine, feel free to try out my latest 10 minute hip and core circuit. These exercises will continue to build your core strength to help you stay active and pain free for life!

 

Do you have a favorite exercise that helps strengthen your body towards health? Leave me a comment below if you enjoy these videos or have a favorite exercise move to share! Hope you have fun with these workout videos and enjoy a healthy, happy back for life!

See you soon… till then, keep shining!

Caroline

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Can I work out in this outfit? When theres a will theres a way…

Stand Up For Office Health. Caroline’s tips on working world Wellness. 

Perfect posture or not, putting in too much time in the office chair is dangerous. But these days many of us are pulling crazy hours at work and our health is paying for it. Is it really possible to stay fit when your workday starts early, ends late, and you’re squeezing family time and other priorities in around the edges?

IT IS. Getting and staying fit requires a lot less time than most people think. Even a few 5- to 15-minute activity sessions into each work day can make a huge difference in your energy, mood and fitness. The secret lies in using every possible opportunity to move, stretch and strengthen. And the longer your workdays, the more crucial it becomes to squeeze in breaks for movement.  Even the little breaks you take will pay you back in terms of increased productivity, energy, and positivity even if that break only lasts a few minutes.

Here’s how your entire body takes a beating from the office chair and what you can do about it. Take a stand for your health and make your working world support your wellbeing success.

Desk Effects. How Sitting hurts you. 

Neck: As you sit (especially if you hunch forward to read, or turn your head at an angle as you look at a computer screen or reference materials), your neck, shoulder and upper-back muscles get tense and tight. This can cause everything from headaches to neck pain and shoulder discomfort. Over time, microscopic tears and scar tissue can form in these muscles, restricting blood flow to the back of your head and causing chronic tension headaches.

Lower back: Sitting puts up to twice the pressure on your spine and lower back than standing does. This tightens your lower-back muscles. And that happens even if you sit with good posture. Your spine should resemble an S shape, but slouching forward as you work at a computer usually brings it into more of a C shape. This puts even more pressure on your lower back and spine, raising your risk for disc herniation, degenerative bone spurs and more, all of which can cause shooting, tingling pain in your limbs and buttocks.

Legs: The pressure created by having your buttocks and thighs against the seat for hours on end disrupts the blood flow to and from your lower extremities. Not only does this create that “my legs and feet are asleep” sensation, but it also can trigger potentially deadly blood clots to form and slowly starve your leg muscles and joints. Your body is a lot like a sponge, when you squeeze a sponge, old water flows out. When you stop squeezing, new water flows in. If you stop squeezing, old water stays put. In the same way, muscles, ligaments, tendons and cartilage act like sponges, so sitting in one spot for too long may reduce blood flow and nutrition to them.

The antidote to the desk effects? Take a break every 20 to 30 minutes, even if all you do is stand up, stretch, march in place and then sit back down. Here are my quick fix movement breaks to beat office aches, boost energy, keep active at work, and fight back against the dangerous effects of the desk.

Caroline’s Quick Fix Stretch Break: Simple exercises to beat the Office Aches

Counteract poor posture and office-chair fatigue by performing these simple office stretches. Do them on an hourly basis, or whenever your body needs a break.

1. Sit tall, bringing your bellybutton toward your spine. This will strengthen your abdominal muscles, which will help you sit with proper posture. Try to sit this way all day long.

2. Pull your shoulders up, back and down. This will strengthen your upper back, counteracting that forward slump and prevent headache and neck tension that comes from working at the computer. When you do this, pretend you’re holding an orange between your shoulder blades and that you’re trying to squeeze juice out of the orange. Hold for a count of five, release and repeat 10 times.

3. Grab one knee, pull it to your chest, and hold 20 seconds. Repeat with the other knee. This will help to release tension in your lower back.

4. Stretch your neck, which can get tight, especially if you allow it to jut forward as you work at the computer. Bring your right ear toward your right shoulder. Hold 20 seconds, then repeat on the left. Rotate side to side, too. Finish by resting your head on the back of your office chair for 20 seconds to stretch the front of your neck.

5. Stand in your office doorway. Place your hands on the frame at shoulder height. Lean through the doorway to stretch the front of your shoulders. Hold 20 seconds. This stretches your chest and shoulders, both of which tend to tighten up from lots of sitting.

You might also want to consider adopting an intermittent strength-training routine that you can do over the course of your work day, turning out a series of different body-weight exercises whenever you have a one- or two-minute break. Or, you can schedule two 10-minute activity breaks into your day, taking advantage of those low-energy moments when you tend to get distracted and lose steam (or feel tempted to hit the vending machines).

Here are my suggestions for exercises you can do at the office. They build strength without getting you too sweaty, and can be done all at one time or divided into single-exercise intervals.

Caroline’s Quick Fix Strength Break: Simple Exercises to Boost Office Energy. 

Chair pose: This move helps to reverse the forward slump that’s so common with desk sitting. It also works your core, lower and upper back, hamstrings, and glutes. Stand with your feet 6 inches apart. Bend your knees slightly and push your rear backward, as if you were sitting back into a chair. Lift your arms overhead as high as possible. Keep your body weight over your heels. Hold for 30 seconds.

Seated Side Core with Back Stretch. Sitting tall on your desk chair, reach one arm above your head to the side. Pull arm back towards torso and crunch. Repeat 12 times on one side then switch to the other side. Once you have gone through a single set on both sides, lace fingers in front of you and round the spine to stretch through your back and shoulders. 2-3 sets of 12-16 reps.

Office Lunge. Standing tall step one leg behind you and bring front leg to 90 degree angle watching that knee stays behind the toe. Bring legs back together and repeat with the other leg. Challenge yourself by adding a torso rotation or raising arms above your head as you lunge. Or work your balance by doing the lunges on one leg and adding a knee raise. 12-20 reps per leg for 2-3 sets.

Abs on a Chair. Sit on the edge of the chair, holding on with hands, sitting up, knees bent at 90 degree angle. Controlling the movement with the abs, lean back, straighten legs, and return to start position. Intensity option: Try not to use hands to pull you up. Do 12-20 for 2-3 sets.

Chair Touch Squat. While sitting, lift up until your hips are just hovering over the chair, arms out for balance.  Hold for 2-3 seconds, stand all the way up and repeat. Add single/double arm shoulder roll. Add knee raise. Add twist. Or try the squat with one leg for more challenge. 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps.

Warrior pose: Stand and step forward into a lunge, sinking down until your forward thigh is parallel to the floor. Raise your arms overhead. Reach back through your rear heel and forward through your front knee. Hold 30 seconds. Follow up with some other favorite yoga poses.

Desk Pushup: Stand a yard or more away from your desk, with your feet together. Place your palms on the edge of the desk a shoulder’s width apart. Lower your chest to the edge of the desk, and push back up. Remember to exhale on the way up. Do 20 times.

Chair Bicycle Crunch. Sit on the edge of the chair and lean your torso backwards until you feel your abs engage. Extend your legs and slowly bicycle one leg at a time for 30 seconds. Rest and repeat – just as easy as riding a bike!

Can’t find even five minutes for fitness during your hectic day? Try a healthy version of multitasking:

Caroline’s Quick Fix Movement Breaks:Simple Exercises to Keep Active at Work. 

While on the phone:

  • Use a hands-free headset so you can stand and move around as you talk.
  • Step up and down on a stair or step stool.
  • Do a wall sit.
  • Stretch your calves, quads, wrists, neck, any body part that needs a little blood flow.

At the copier:

  • Do shoulder-blade pulls. These will strengthen your upper back and combat the forward slump that comes from working at a desk. Straighten your back with your head up, inhale and pull your shoulder blades together, holding to the count of five. Release and exhale, and repeat 12 times. Do three or four sets.
  • Practice optimal posture. Stand as straight as you can, lift your head, drop your shoulders downward and pull your bellybutton in toward your spine. Breathing deeply, maintain this at-attention posture until your copy job is complete.
  • Do calf raises. Place your hands on the copier for balance. Lift one foot off the floor. Rise onto the ball of your standing foot. Hold for a count of five. Lower and repeat 15 times. Then switch legs.
  • Do “ballerina butt lifts”. Standing with your heels together toes apart, lift one leg behind you 20 times with good posture. Switch legs and repeat engaging your glutes.

During a meeting:

  • While seated, focus on drawing in the deep abdominals as if you’re zipping into tight pants. This strengthens the transverse abdominus, an important muscle that helps support your back and reduces your vulnerability to backaches.
  • Stretch your forearms. This helps to counteract the tightness that comes from typing and mousing. Hold your right arm in front of you, your hand flexed as if you were telling someone to “talk to the hand.” Use your left hand to gently pull back on your fingertips. Hold for 30 seconds. Release and repeat, this time with your fingers facing down to stretch the top of your forearm. Then repeat with the other arm.

While working at your desk:

  • Place a small-to-medium ball (roughly the size of a kid’s soccer ball) between your knees and squeeze. Hold five to seven seconds, release slightly (without dropping the ball), and repeat until muscles are fatigued.
  • Once or twice a day, swap your desk chair for a fitness ball. Build your ball-perching time from 10 minutes to an hour. The ball will force you to sit with proper posture as well as give you a mild core workout as you shift around to stay balanced. You can also use the ball to stretch and strengthen your body. Periodically relax your back over the ball and rest your arms out to the sides to stretch your chest, which gets tight from typing and
    desk work.
  • Do chair curls. To strengthen your hamstrings, sit on the edge of a rolling chair. Extend your legs, but keep your feet flat on the floor. Then slowly bend your legs as you pull the chair in. Roll the chair backward again and repeat 10 to 15 times.

Finding ways to work fitness into your workday is as beneficial for your productivity as it is for you. On the days you can manage to hit the gym, you may not need all these bite-size exercise breaks as urgently. But on the days when making space for a full-size serving of fitness is all but impossible, these mini-workouts are both your body’s best defense and your schedule’s best friend.

Take a stand for your health and make movement your working world habit. Don’t worry about what other coworkers might think and don’t buy into the idea that you’re too busy.  You control your work-life health and can create an environment that is supportive of your wellness goals (not to mention inspire others to move more at work!).  Take charge and cultivate more energy by moving more during your work days – fuel your life with health both in the office and out!

Does your work support your health and wellness goals? How do you stay active at the office? Leave your thoughts and suggestions as a comment below, together we can work towards building awareness and creating a corporate culture of health!

Hope these tips help you feel your best in your working world. Thanks for being a part of my community of health! Looking forward to seeing you soon… till next time, keep shining!

 

Caroline

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