Aging Options

The no-cost prescription to a healthy life can save you money

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A 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that the Medical cost of obesity might be as high as $147 billion annually in the United States.  Why does this matter?  People who are obese spent 42 percent more for medical care in 2006 compared to people at normal weight.  They are far more likely to have risks for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, and gynecological problems.

If you’re struggling with your weight and looking for a weight loss program that costs little and requires little effort, try the Step Diet.  Unlike what its name suggests, It’s not so-much a diet as a lifestyle change.  Rather than a complicated accounting of carbohydrates, fats or calories, the diet looks at two simple ways to help you lose weight.  The first is to cut your portions by a quarter and the second is to increase your walking until you’ve worked your way up to 10,000 steps per day.  The Step Diet, by James O. Hill, John C. Peters, Bonnie T. Jortberg, and Pamela Peeke comes with a pedometer and help to figure out how to rid yourself of the share of the portion you’re supposed to cut but you don’t necessarily need the book as there are plenty of resources online to at least get you started.

A simple way to shrink your portion sizes.

My parents and I were talking about tomato soup the other day.  Although I am sure Campbell’s soup cans have shrunk since I was a kid I clearly remember making a can of tomato soup and being able to split it between the five of us (two adults and three kids),.  Now it gets shared by two.  According to a U.S. News and World Health report, portion sizes for food have nearly doubled in the past 50 years, which may explain why many of us have doubled as well.

If you are like me, your mother trained you to clean your plate.  That’s a problem since dishware sizes both at restaurants and at home have also increased.  The easiest way to shrink your portion size is to use smaller bowls or plates such as dessert bowls and salad plates for your dinnerware.

10,000 steps seems like a lot but is it?

For many people, 10,000 steps seem like a lot but the point of the diet is to eventually get to 10,000 steps, not to begin there.  If after a week of wearing a pedometer you have an average of 2000 steps a day, the diet recommends you aim for 2500 a day for one week and then add 500 steps a day for each week afterwards until you reach 10,000.  The average person has a stride of 2.5 feet long so 10,000 steps is close to 5 miles.  The benefit to wearing a pedometer or other tracking device is that you don’t have to do the entire 10,000 steps before your morning coffee.  Instead you put a tracking device on when you get up and wear it until bedtime.  Pedometers run the gamut from very inexpensive at less than $10 to high tech gadgets at about $100.

Some people just like gadgets and liking them makes them more usable.  I have two nephews that strap their Fitbit’s on as if they were watches and heckle each other when one or the other’s score is low.  You don’t need a Fitbit to count out 10,000 steps but some people might think it makes it more fun and if something is more fun it’s far more likely to be done.  The benefit of the electronic gadgets and apps is that if you are the type of person who likes to share what you are doing, they make it easy to build a community of like-minded people to help support or, like my nephews, ridicule you into meeting your goals.

A recent study looked at wearable step counters and smartphone apps found that both were fairly accurate.  Of the 10 apps or devices studied, the Fitbit One rated the highest level of accuracy but none were considered far off.  Of course you can still use one of the inexpensive pedometers.  They may only count steps but if you’re not looking for anything other than the bare bones facts about how many steps you’ve taken, why pay more?

Will the Step Diet work for you?  It’s hard to say.  Americans spend over half a billion dollars each year on self-help books and the preponderance of those books contain dieting tips.  Most of those books are purchased and then remain unopened on the shelf where they gain dust until someone clears them out to the nearest Goodwill.  If you want to be successful at weight loss, find something that works for you because you love doing it and because it makes you feel good not because you’ll lose 100 pounds in 10 weeks. I love this quote from WebMD, “The genetic differences that determine a person’s tendency to gain weight are less noticeable in environments where exercise is a part of everyday life and where there is NOT an abundance of great-tasting, affordable food. Most Americans, of course, live in the opposite situation.”

There’s a tendency to believe that we should all be skinny but some of us simply aren’t built to be thin.  Stay healthy by getting exercise and eating right and forget living up to some ideal of beauty.  The point of being healthy isn’t to look like Twiggy, it’s to live a long life, free of disability and the need for outside care.  If you’re doing that, you’re doing alright.


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