Picture this. It's 9:30 p.m. and you're laying on the couch with a dish of ice cream. You mentally scan over the day's food intake. Morning: bagel & cream cheese. Lunch: fast food chicken burger (that's healthier, right?) and fries. Dinner: frozen pizza picked up on sale on the way home.
Grade: C-. And I'm being generous. OK, its more of a D. I'm sorry! It's true. You almost failed. You did eat 3 meals, but really...D is the best I can give you here.
Why? You're a healthy, smart and savvy woman. Why do you find yourself at the end of the day regretting that day's choices? Or—worse—find yourself a few pounds heavier and regretting a month's choices?
A national poll (ShopSmart magazine, published by Consumer Reports) surveyed more than 1,000 women about their eating habits and feelings vis-à-vis healthy eating. The top excuse: healthy food is too expensive.
Here are the top reasons women gave for not eating healthfully, and my strategies for dealing with them:
57%: Eating healthful foods is too expensive.
47%: Social settings are too tempting.
39%: Life is too short; I want to enjoy what I eat.
33%: It’s hard to find healthy options when eating out.
29%: I don’t have time to prepare healthy meals.
25%: My family prefers less healthy meals.
20%: Unhealthy habits are too hard to change.
18%: Healthy foods don’t satisfy my appetite.
13%: I’m not sure which foods are healthy.
Let's just focus first on the #1 reason for eating unhealthfully: "Eating Healthy Is Too Expensive".. Is healthy food really expensive? Sure, if you do all your shopping at Whole Foods or order from chi chi online suppliers. If money is really at issue, though, you are likely shopping in the local grocery or even nearest bargain department store, as Walmart and its competitors expand into the grocery market. *sigh*
So...For real? Are we really still talking about how "expensive" healthy foods are? Talk about kicking a dead horse.
It has been proven—repeatedly, people—that healthy, whole foods are less expensive than unhealthy foods. Even the economists at the USDA have studied this and they found that, when considering portion size, the ranking from least to most expensive is: grains, dairy, vegetables, fruit, and, tied for most expensive: protein sources and less healthy foods. Note, of course, that there are lower cost protein sources such as eggs, dairy, soy and grains - the ranking refers to meat sources.
Let's also draw a line between healthy whole foods and "healthy" prepared food products, which are ridiculously expensive given their nutritional value.
And if you like fancy pictures, here's a cost-comparison for a McDonalds meal for 4 versus a homemade meal for 4.
I am just going to say it: If you feel healthy foods are too expensive, might I suggest you learn how to cook?
Now, here are a few of my suggestions to make more healthful eating choices, no matter your excuse:
When eating out...
When eating at home...
What is the #1 reason you make poor food choices, when you do?
Or, what is your #1 tip to make GREAT food choices?
If you sit at your desk or breakfast table-cum-desk-cum-scrapbooking surface-cum-secondary ironing board for most of your day, then hope a half hour jog around the block is enough to "loosen" you up, you're in for a nasty surprise.
Time to rethink your strategy, weekend warriors and morning jogger-office types.
This summer, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine analyzed data on over 200,000 adults. That's a pretty good sample size, folks. The adults were 45 years and older and Australian, so we can assume a relatively similar lifestyle and standard of living to our North American adult norms. They cross-referenced the data with records of mortality in the local registry from 2006 through 2010.
Individuals who sat 11 hours or more per day, regardless of various other factors, had the greatest risk of early death. "The correlation between sitting and all-cause mortality appeared consistent across the sexes, age groups, body mass index categories, and physical activity levels and across healthy participants compared with participants with preexisting cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus," according to study authors. No one is safe from the evil
zombie sitting scourge.
"11 hours? But I only work seven hours at my desk each day." Right? Right?
Let's think about this:
0.5 hours - coffee, breakfast, paper
0.5 hours - morning commute (and I think that's pretty conservative, judging by the expressways and highways around here, anyway)
7.0 hours - desk time
0.5 hours - evening commute
0.5 hours - dinner
4.0 hours - TV, internet
* before you balk at that 4.0 hour TV/Internet allotment, note that just this week was published the official average TV/radio weekly hours for adult Canadians: over 28 hours per week. Then check thyself.
13 hours - total seated time
AAAAAAA! You're going to die!!!!!
Relax. Yes, you are going to die.
Here are a few suggestions as to how you might go about postponing that inevitability:
Don't eat standing up. That's not good for your digestion. Continue to eat meals seated.
Consider investing in a standing desk if you work from home, or ask your employer if they will subsidize or even allow you to purchase your own standing desk. This desk will still keep you in one position but allows the spine to be extended in a much healthier way, and you will use more muscles standing—i.e., you'll burn more calories—as well as generally enjoy fewer postural problems.
Take your phone calls on your feet. Sweaty Hubby does this like a champ. Every time he takes a work call at home, he paces like a maniac. It drives me crazy and means no matter where you are in the house, you are never free to be loud and obnoxious because he is "working" but it seems to clear his brain and it's definitely great relief for his body from that laptop-slouch we're all normally in.
Use your smartphone if you can. When you don't need to be hunkered down at your desk, shoot off a couple of quick emails or schedule a few tweets from your iPhone and do it standing. There is also less to distract you on your smartphone than at your desk so you're less likely to spin a 10-minute email session into an hour of surfing and—eeek!—sitting.
Take public transit. Not because it's quicker, but because the chances of you getting a seat are slim. Added bonus: trying to balance and hold your purse/lunch bag/coffee/sanity while the subway lurches not only keeps you from sitting but works your core and improves balance as well!
Do a chore in front of the TV or while listening to a podcast or radio. Dust some bookshelves, iron or fold some laundry or stand and sort some files and open some mail. Come on, there has got to be something you need to do... When at a loss, sometimes I'll even just cook in the evening to entertain myself—something prepped for breakfast or something normally too labour-intensive for last minute lunchboxes.
Use your commercials, reality TV addicts, to get off your arse. If TV really is just your happy place at the end of the day, force yourself to get up and do a few jumping jacks, squats, push ups and planks during the commercial breaks. Or move your treadmill or elliptical trainer into your TV room and promise yourself to hop on during every commercial break, or for half of every show you watch, even if it's not at breakneck speed. Any movement is better than no movement.
I bet you'll not only live longer, you'll feel better and be more productive, too!