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Biggest Loser
7 Reasons to Lose 5% of Your Body Weight

It may be a small step toward your larger goal, but losing just 5 percent of your body weight can provide a major health boost. Losing 5% 7-Reasons-to-Lose-5-Percent-of-Your-Body-Weight-Due-722x406t or more of your body weight can lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Your mood and energy may get a bump, too, thanks in part to improved length and quality of sleep.

Want to lose 30 pounds? 50? Perhaps you have a larger number in mind. Regardless of your ultimate weight-loss goal, starting off with a small, manageable number is a smart strategy for staying motivated. And not only will it make sticking to your weight-loss plan easier, but you’ll also see some major health benefits from losing just 5 percent of your body weight — or 10 pounds for a 200-pound person.

“The research shows that even if you don’t reach a weight or BMI that the charts consider to be optimal, you can be successful at improving your health, reducing your risk of chronic diseases, and improving your quality of life with a weight loss of just 5 percent,” says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, a dietitian in New York and Los Angeles and author of Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Shedding this amount of weight can lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels — plus put you in the proper mindset to stay committed to your healthy eating and exercise routine. And that’s not all. By losing 5 percent of your body weight, you can also…

  1. Boost your heart health. Lose a small amount of weight and you can boost your heart health in more ways than one. A 2011 study published in Diabetes Care found that people who lost between 5 and 10 percent of their body weight experienced both a boost in beneficial HDL cholesterol and a decrease in triglycerides. “Both of these changes are enough to lower the risk of heart disease,” says Sass. Subjects also experienced a drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure — which may decrease stroke risk.
  2. Lower your cancer risk. Inflammation in the body can increase cancer risk, and research shows that weight loss can decrease inflammation levels in the body. Scientists at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found that post-menopausal women who lost 5 to 10 percent of their body weight and took 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily noticed a significant reduction in levels of a pro-inflammatory cytokine called interleukin-6, a marker that’s linked with a higher risk of endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, and death in patients with cardiovascular disease.
  3. Reduce symptoms of sleep apnea. Obesity is associated with a four times higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea, a serious condition that involves pauses in breathing while sleeping. So it makes sense that losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can improve the condition. In fact, according to the Obesity Action Coalition, dropping this amount of weight can improve sleep apnea and may even allow someone with the condition to work with their sleep physician to wean themselves from a CPAP breathing machine, a device used to help keep the airways open during sleep.
  4. Catch more ZZZ’s. Even if you don’t have sleep apnea, losing weight can lead to longer and more restful sleep, according to a 2014 study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. People who lost 5 percent or more of their body weight reported snoozing about 22 minutes longer per night — and having better-quality sleep. “Clients have told me that small amounts of weight loss have improved sleep, and that alone translates to more energy,” says Sass.
  5. Lower your diabetes risk. Losing just a small amount of weight can significantly reduce your risk of diabetes. The 2011 Study published in the journal Diabetes Care also revealed that people who lost at least 5 percent of their body weight were more likely to drop their hemoglobin A1C level, an estimate of blood-sugar levels over a 3-month time period, by half a percentage point. “This is close to the effect that some anti-diabetes pills have on blood sugar,” says Tara Gidus Collingwood, MS, RDN, a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics based in Orlando, Florida. This drop may be enough to move someone at risk of developing the condition out of the pre-diabetes zone, which is defined as an A1C within between 5.7 and 6.4 percent. In fact, if you have prediabetes, dropping 5 percent of your body weight can lower your diabetes risk by 58 percent.
  6. Boost your mood. If your weight-loss plan includes a fitness routine, shedding pounds will also have you feeling happier. Exercise boosts the release of endorphins in the body and helps combat stress, giving your mood a lift. “Positivity breeds positivity,” says Sass. “If you begin to focus on positive changes like improvements in energy or measurable things like blood pressure, you begin to feel more positive overall.” And research supports this: The study out of the University of Pennsylvania also found that those who lost at least 5 percent of their starting weight noticed an increase in mood that remained significant when researchers revisited participants 24 months later.
  7. Increase physical activity. “I’ve had clients tell me that the increase in energy, improvement in mood, and boost in self confidence from weight loss have translated into wanting to be more physically active, including walking,” says Sass.
#1 How Does the BCBS High Deductible Healthplan Work?
September 8, 2014

The Blue Cross Blue Shield High Deductible Health Plan (BCBS-HD) involves pairing a high deductible PPO plan with a tax-advantaged account, called a Health Savings Account (HSA). An HSA is a savings account that you can use to cover a wide range of qualified medical costs. HSAs have special tax advantages and are regulated by the Treasury Department.

22imagesKey Things to Remember about CDHPs

  • To get an HSA, you must be enrolled in a high deductible health plan.
  • In the BCBS-HD plan, premiums are lower than the other types of health plans we offer. This is because you pay a greater share of your health care costs.
  • You don’t have to choose a primary care physician (PCP).
  • You can get care from doctors, hospitals and specialists in the network or outside the network, but know that you’ll pay higher out-of network costs.
  • You don’t usually need a referral to see a specialist.

PDI will make a $250 deposit into your HSA on the first payday of the Plan Year. You can use that money, plus any funds you deposit into your own HSA towards healthcare costs, including your deductibles and any copays.

Explore Your Open Enrollment Options
September 8, 2014

0924bus_perfi_iPadIt’s difficult to believe that the carefree days of summer are already past! Kids are in school, the nights are cooling, and PDI’s annual Open Enrollment is just around the corner (more updates on the exact dates to follow). But it’s certainly not too early about researching which options might be best for you and your family this year. The biggest mistake you can make is just “letting it ride” and staying with all of your old elections without giving it any consideration. Why?

Healthcare needs of you or your family may have changed over the past year.

  • Was someone diagnosed with a chronic disease or disorder?
  • Has someone started regular treatment of a brand-name prescription drug?
  • Did a child leave home or turn 26?
  • Did you expand your family?
  • Did you or your spouse get a pay raise last year that moved you into another tax bracket?
  • Did your spouse’s employer make changes to their health insurance?
  • Did a family member obtain/lose a job with health care coverage?

Any one of these issues (or countless more) means that a thorough review of your 2016 benefit options would be a great idea. So to start this conversation along, I thought I’d post a couple of blog entries covering the most frequently asked questions I get during Open Enrollment.

Globesity: Fat’s New Frontier
August 3, 2014

Obesity is no longer just a rich country’s problem. It’s now taken hold in poor and emerging countries and is rapidly developing into an insurmountable health crisis. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers are on the march in nation’s ill equipped to treat sufferers or educate others about the dangers of getting too fat. It’s predicted that by 2030 one billion people will be obese, so how will the world cope with its ever expanding waistline?

So You Want to Stop… Blowing Off the Gym
August 3, 2014

by Coach Stevo

stop-blowing-off-gymEvery month, I go to gyms and offices and give workshops on habit-formation and goal setting. At one of these sessions, a woman raised her hand and said, “I should work out, but I just can’t seem to do it. What should I do?” The tips I offered in my response helped her make a habit out of going to the gym—and I know they can help you, too.

1. Find a closer gym Jennifer Gay, Ph.D., and her colleagues conducted an experiment and found no matter how motivated people were, the biggest factor in determining whether or not people who just started exercising would still be exercising in 6 months was how convenient it was to get to their gym. Why fight an uphill battle? Pick the one that’s closest to your home or office.

2. Go in the morning People who start an exercise habit in the morning are far more likely to stick to it. There are lots of reasons for this, but the most compelling is known as “decision fatigue.” Researchers have found that decisions “cost something” to make and we are more likely to depend on impulse and habit by the end of the day. So after commuting, working, and commuting again, you’re less likely to go the gym later in the day than in the morning.

3. Get beyond “should” There are lots of things we “should” do. We should floss twice a day. And call our mothers. But feeling like we should do something—what psychologists call “introjected motivation”—is a very poor quality motivator when compared to feeling like we “must” to do something, or “need” to do something. So tell your friends that if you don’t workout twelve times this month, they can shave your head. Too extreme? Consider using an app that ups the ante, like Gym-Pact, which charges you money if you don’t go to the gym!

4. Find a reason (for today) Write down every reason you can think of for going to the gym. Every answer to the question, “Why?” Keep that list by your bed. When your alarm goes off at 6AM, grab the list and pick the reason that sounds most motivating to you for that day.

5. Simply set the alarm After getting to the root of her issue, setting an alarm clock seemed to be the best solution for the woman at my workshop. She wasn’t confident that she could go to the gym (even once), but she was 100% confident that she could set an alarm for 6:00am. So I asked her to set it right there, on her phone, in front of me. She could do anything she wanted after the alarm went off—I just wanted her to set the alarm. The next day she walked into my gym at 6:30am. “I was up,” she said. “Thought I’d come here.” 80% of life is showing up—and most of us can’t do that without an alarm.

The biggest reason people don’t reach their goals is not a lack of desire, discipline, or even falling off the horse. Not getting back on the horse is the biggest reason people fail.

I can promise each and every one of you, on your journey to your health and fitness goals, you will slip. You will miss a few days at the gym. You might even miss a month, or a year. But even a year won’t matter if you’re able to start again tomorrow.

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of blowing off the gym. Think one of these tips will get you there tomorrow? Let us know in the comments!

Coach Stevo is the nutrition and sport psychology consultant at San Francisco CrossFit. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, and is finishing his MA in Applied Sport Psychology at John F. Kennedy University. His specialty is habit-based training and he contributed to Intervention by Dan John in 2012.

Everything You Need to Know about Nutrition and Health
August 3, 2014

Eating S.A.N.E and Sugar Addiction
August 3, 2014

How to be Insanely Productive Without Destroying Your Health
August 3, 2014


A Healthy Misperception
July 30, 2014

WholeFoods vs SevenElevenMost consumers are confused or misled — or outright wrong — about the healthfulness of food and where healthy food can be found.

~By David H. Freedman, reprinted from NACS Online

Every other week I spend three days in Baltimore for work. There’s no kitchenette in the hotel I stay at, so almost every day I’m there I get prepared take-out meals from two places: a Whole Foods and a 7-Eleven.

I like the Whole Foods because the salad bar and prepared food section provide a wide selection of tasty foods, but I actually feel better about the meals I buy at the 7-Eleven. Never mind that the meals at the 7-Eleven are a lot cheaper than at Whole Foods — about half the price for roughly equally filling meals. I prefer the 7-Eleven meals because they’re much healthier.

In fact, I have a lot of trouble picking out the healthy fare at Whole Foods. Whole Foods doesn’t post calories, fat content and other basic nutritional information above their prepared foods bar, which would be extremely helpful to those of us who would prefer to eat healthfully. But they do post ingredients lists, which reveal that some type of fat is usually in the top two or three ingredients, helping to send the calorie count shooting up. And there are lots of simple or starchy carbs in virtually all their prepared foods, including sugar. Yes, it’s all pretty tasty — but food that’s tasty by virtue of being fatty, floury or sweet isn’t a very good deal if you’d like to live beyond 70, and be walking when you get there.

Healthy SaladThat’s why I appreciate my usual 7-Eleven meal: A chef’s salad and a ham and cheese sandwich on a whole wheat bun. Both are reasonably delicious and fresh-tasting. More important to me is that both items provide lots of good protein, whole grain and fiber, modest amounts of fat and calories, and almost no sugar or refined flour. I skip the salad dressing and throw out half the bun (healthy eater that I am). I only wish it were that easy to trim the fat and carbs in the Whole Foods meals — even most of their vegetable dishes glisten with oily, sugary coatings. And one more bonus to getting food at the 7-Eleven: I can be  in and out of there in two minutes, compared to the 20 minutes it can take to make it out of the Whole Foods.

No one would be surprised to hear that a convenience store’s packaged meal is faster and less expensive than a prepared meal from a high-end supermarket catering to foodies obsessed with eating natural foods. But the claim that the convenience store meal is a lot healthier would strike most people as unlikely. There’s a simple reason why: Most people are confused, misled or outright wrong when it comes to judging the healthfulness of food and to figuring out where healthy food is or isn’t easily found.

But that’s likely to change, and therein lies a great opportunity for the convenience store industry.

Processed FoodsWe hear over and over again in all media that processed food is making us sick and convenience stores, along with fast-food restaurants, are among the biggest culprits in slinging these toxic fake foods at the public. The New York Times alone has provided a string of prominent articles hitting on this theme, from popular journalists such as Michael Moss, Mark Bittman and — most famously — Michael Pollan. Their messages are similar: Processed food is making us sick. We have to switch away from these “food-like substances,” as Pollan calls them, to natural, fresh, “real” foods.

But what really makes a food healthy? Before we can answer that question, let’s first decide what health problems we want to address through food choices. After all, the answer can be very different depending on whether we’re worried about malnutrition, heart disease, cancer or infection.

The Focus: Obesity I’d argue there’s really only one food-related health problem worth focusing on: obesity. About one-third of all Americans are obese, including children. A study published in the journal Obesity found that obese young adults and middle-agers in the United States are likely to lose an entire decade of life on average, which means those who are alive today in the United States can collectively expect to lose a billion years of life to obesity. For the first time in modern history, the human race is getting less healthy, mostly because of excess weight. Obesity degrades people’s quality of life, and according to a George Washington University study an obese person costs society more than $7,000 per year in lost productivity and added medical treatment.

We don’t know how to hugely lower the rates of most types of disease, but we know exactly how to do it with obesity: Getting exercise is important, but mostly we need to get people to eat differently.

So let’s say that by “healthy food” we mean food that will help people manage excess weight. What sort of food is that? Science is absolutely clear on that question: It’s food that’s lower in calories and that tends to go easy on fat, sugar, simple carbohydrates (like white flour), and starches (like potato), while pumping up the lean protein and whole grains and other complex carbs. Fat carries twice as many calories as carbohydrates and protein do per gram, which means it drives up the calorie count. Sugar and many other carbs provide a fast energy rush, commonly followed by an energy crash that can lead to a surge in appetite. Fat and simple carbs also push the many pleasure meters that evolution placed in our brains and digestive systems over the millions of years during which starvation was an ever-present threat.

That’s why experts recommend that anyone who wants to lose weight transition to a diet high in lean protein, complex carbs such as whole grains and legumes, and the sort of fiber with which vegetables are loaded. That’s what healthy food is. Does it matter if that food is processed or completely natural? Absolutely not. There is no hard evidence to back any health-risk claims about processed food. Nor is there any clear evidence that any food that has been recently plucked from a nearby farm has any special health properties. In fact, that wonderful natural food is often brimming with fat, sugar and calories, which can make it a health nightmare.

Want to see some great health food? Forget Whole Foods. Go to the nearest Burger King and check out the “Satisfries” — the lower-fat, lower-calorie version of their French fries — or the turkey burger. At McDonald’s, try the Egg White McMuffin or  the  Premium  Chicken Wrap. These sorts of products typically reduce calorie counts in a dish by about 50 calories. That places an eater exactly on track for a full-day reduction of a few hundred calories, exactly the amount needed for long-term weight loss. Any  bigger  reduction would risk leaving someone too hungry to stick to their program. It’s just the sort of small step in the right direction we should be aiming for, because the obese are much  more  likely  to  take the small step than they are to make a big leap to very low-calorie foods.

It’s true, much of the food in convenience stores and fast-food restaurants is pretty unhealthy from the point of view of someone trying to lose weight, because of the large amounts of fat, sugar, simple carbs  and  high  calorie  counts in most dishes. But the fact is, fancy restaurants and upscale markets that feature natural foods are often no better — and sometimes worse — when it comes to these critical health measures. A 2012 British Medical Journal study by the U.K.’s National Health Service and Newcastle University found that the recipes in the books of top TV chefs called for “significantly more” fat per portion than what’s contained in ready-to-eat supermarket meals.

My point isn’t to say that processed foods are healthier than natural foods. It’s that either one can be healthy or unhealthy and we tend to see a full spectrum of each at most food outlets. Unfortunately, the public by and large doesn’t understand this crucial point.

The Miseducation of Healthy Much of the public currently doesn’t give much thought to the healthfulness of food at all; Processed Foods 2they simply eat what they want — one good reason why a third of us are obese. Of those who do care about food health, many have been brainwashed to believe, in defiance of science, that whatever natural, unprocessed food they eat is healthy, and that everything processed is unhealthy.

But that picture is an evolving one. Over time, more and more people are coming to understand that they need to lower calories, fat, sugar, simple carbs and starches, and they’re starting to look for foods that are healthier in this way. As clear nutritional labeling becomes more common and prominent, consumers   will   gradually switch to healthier foods and many of them will be processed. That evolution seems to be gaining speed and it may only be five or so years before a large percentage of the population is focusing on healthier food options. If people know they can quickly grab reasonably priced versions of those healthier foods at convenience stores, they’ll do it.

Or at least that’s what they’ll do if they like the taste of the food they find there. Because while people care about healthfulness, cost and convenience, what they really care about is the sensual experience of eating. Most consumers just don’t want a lunch that consists of a big bowl of plain vegetables or a pile of beans, as healthy as they may be.

Here’s where processing offers a huge advantage: It makes healthier food taste much better. Food companies know how to deliver the eating experience that fat and simple carbs provide in foods and with less of those ingredients. There is no way to do that with farm-fresh produce and meat. Today, researchers are figuring out not only how to make healthy foods taste better, but how to make them feel more fi and generally satisfying too.

Everyone is going to jump on the healthy food bandwagon in the coming years, but those outlets that do it sooner rather than later will have a huge leg up in winning over that health-conscious market. Subway has done a good job in carving out a name for itself in this regard and other outlets are already moving in that direction.

Yes, pushing healthy options is a tricky business right now, because most of America is actually turned off by foods billed as lower-calorie, lower-fat and lower-sugar, under the assumption that they’re also lower-taste, less filling and altogether less satisfying. Most people don’t yet realize how delicious and rewarding this food can be. That’s why McDonald’s — whose healthy McLean Deluxe was scorned by the public in the 1990s — doesn’t brag much about the reduced calories and fat in some of its newer products, and has practically kept secret the fact that it has begun substituting whole grains for some of the less-healthy refined flour in some of its buns. Making things worse, the health-conscious crowd right now is largely dominated by the confused anti-processed-food movement, which will hate the food industry no matter how healthy it makes its products.

That confused movement will fade out over time. For now the trick may be simply to increase healthy food options and market them in relatively low-key ways. Some of these options can be versions of currently popular food products — be it candy, snacks or prepared meals — that take advantage of food processing technology to reduce calories, fat and sugar without much changing the taste profile. These substitutions can be carried out quietly for the time being. Eventually, as the public comes to embrace these options, stores can gradually get louder and more explicit about them in their marketing.

It’s not just that there are likely to be significant business rewards for becoming associated with healthier food. It’s that there may well be significant negative consequences for food outlets that aren’t responding to health trends. Food and health activists blindly point the finger at all of the food industry, but over time they are going to start singling out those companies that are behind in improving the health profiles of their offerings. In addition, the government is considering various forms of regulation that would penalize companies that aren’t moving toward healthier products. Companies that are slower than competitors to make the transition may never fully recover from the blows to their reputation.

Those companies that take the lead in offering convenient, affordable, tasty food products that are also healthy, on the other hand, are certain to get a boost from it. Why wait to be dragged into this profitable new trend?

David H. Freedman is a contributing editor for The Atlantic, a consulting editor at Johns Hopkins Medicine International, and the author of Wrong: Why Experts Mislead Us. He has not been paid to write this article, and does not accept any fees or expense reimbursement from the food industry.

Power-Tweaks for a Healthier, Happier Life
July 16, 2014

The difference between a healthy life and an unhealthy one is largely based on patterns of choices. Missing one workout or having one indulgent meal does not make you a fitness failure any more than having one “perfect” calorie-intake day means you’ll stay at a healthy weight for the rest of your life.

Some people stay motivated by making big, sweeping changes to their lives, but most people find they can stay on track for a longer period of time by incorporating small, but powerful changes—tweaks that snowball into serious health-achieving momentum. Here are four power teaks that can do just that for you.

1. Don’t keep kryptonite foods at home. This doesn’t mean you can never indulge, but if you make it super convenient to get to your favorite splurges (things like cookie dough, snack cakes, or potato chips) you’ll end up reaching for those items every time the craving strikes. It becomes an even better treat when you have to work for it. For example, if you’re really craving ice cream, take a walk to your local scoop shop and buy a single serving.

2. Make water your default beverage. Put boundaries around soda and other sweetened drinks if you struggle with sipping too many calories. Don’t keep them at home, and make them a treat for special occasions only. Keep water super handy all day, every day. There are so many ways to doctor up h2o you should never get bored—room temperature, super icy, flavored with sliced berries, cucumber, or citrus, the options are endless.

3. Move more. Take the stairs. Get off the bus one stop early. Go for a walk after dinner every night (bring your partner ormyfitnesspal-healthy-life-power-tweaks the dog for companionship!). It sounds simple, but if you track your steps you’ll see these simple extra activities can add a thousand steps to your day—that’s 365,000 extra steps every year! Plus, walking for just 15 minutes has been shown to improve digestion and encourage fat burn.

4. Take a stand at work. If you’re a desk jockey, chances are you spend most of your day slumped over a computer. Shifting from sitting to standing for 3 to 4 hours a day can have a massive impact on your health. Recent reports show standing burns 50 more calories per hour than sitting, which translates to 30,000 calories (or 8 pounds!) in a year. Those standing desks don’t look so ridiculous anymore, do they?

Remember, on the journey to health everything counts! -every step, every snack, every time you choose water over soda, every time you participate in a ShapeUp challenge (and complete it!).