Category Archives: Activity

Just in time for Thanksgiving

Well here’s some good news for those of us who love feasting at Thanksgiving—my favorite holiday! Family, friends, and feasting—this truly is a special occasion. And I really like the idea of a holiday that asks us to think about gratitude—I need that reminder.

Before the feast day, I usually start making lists weeks ahead; I try a few new recipes, auditioning them for the T-day menu, and I consider new flavors for ice cream to accompany the pies. But I always end up making cinnamon ice cream; it goes so well with the favorites: apple, blackberry and pumpkin.

It’s always pies for dessert at my house on Thanksgiving—otherwise, how would we be able to celebrate the next day’s holiday, Pie for Breakfast Day? A fitting way to celebrate the day after Thanksgiving. My daughter agrees.

But holidays—well, any reason to celebrate with food—can be difficult for people who are in the transition phase from the Standard American Diet to a more healthy alternative, especially since we know the damage that overeating can do to our metabolism.

So here’s the good news, which I read about in a Science Daily post: “a new study finds that exercise can protect fat tissue from changes in inflammation levels and fat metabolism caused by a brief period of eating too many calories.”


This is a preliminary study, with only 4 adults—people who are active on a daily basis, for the most part. They ate approximately 30% more calories than normal for them during the week, and continued their normal level of physical activity. They were tested for glucose tolerance and inflammation before and after the week, with this conclusion: the findings “support a protective role of exercise in the metabolic response . . . to brief periods of overeating.”

So a healthy level of activity protects us from the effects of occasional overeating.

I think this year my gratitude list will include my good fortune in being able to maintain a level of activity that gives me energy—a benevolent addictions.

Beware the halo effect, or, don’t trust the promises on packages

November’s group session will be 6:30 pm, Thursday the 17th. Contact me for details.

The halo effect refers to our tendency to ascribe value to something because we consciously or unconsciously associate it with something else that we value.  It’s also another way we can unintentionally make it hard to build the habit of eating healthier.

I just saw this headline “‘Fitness foods actually lead people to eat more and exercise less, a new study finds.” The study it refers to used identical trail mix snacks with two different labels: one label said “fitness,” with a picture of running shoes, and the other label just said simply “trail mix.”

Some of the people in the study were concerned about their weight. People in this group were more likely to eat lots of the “fitness” trail mix, and exercise less afterwards.

It’s not surprising; we’ve seen this research before. The word fitness on the package leads us to assume that by eating this, we are doing something that supports our health, and we can then check that off the list for the rest of the day.

People who are not concerned about their weight, or people who get lots of physical activity already, are not likely to be taken in by that kind of advertising, since they have their own reasons—their own internal motivation—for keeping active.

The way to fight this kind of unintentional self-sabotage is to make a habit of reading the ingredients and looking at labels for the portion size, not the advertising. If you’re not in the habit already, give it a try. If you want to make it interesting, see how many packaged foods have 5 or fewer ingredients. Let me know how it goes.

Which would you choose: walking, dancing, running or working out?

A study of most-tweeted words about food and activity, referenced on the UK blog, lists the top ten most popular items. On the food list, the top four are coffee, beer, pizza, and Starbucks. In fact, the only healthy thing on the whole list is chicken.

Oh dear.

No wonder it’s sometimes very hard to keep our focus on doing what will keep us healthy. It does get easier as we figure out that better choices do add up to genuinely feeling stronger, happier, and just generally better . . . but we can add exposure to tweets like this to the long list of things that just don’t help—like advertising, for example.

What we can do to counteract the stuff that doesn’t help is choose to remember that although that stuff may sound good, what we really want is something genuinely good—something that tastes good and makes us feel good and helps keep us healthy—long-term.

On the positive side, the same study looked at the most common physical activities people tweeted about:

  • Walk/walking/walked
  • Dance/dancing
  • Running
  • Workout
  • Golf
  • Pool (swimming)
  • Hike/hiking
  • Yoga
  • Swim/swimming
  • Bowling

If you are looking for a way to get moving—that is, to find an activity you might enjoy adding to your list of healthy habits, this list could be a great way to start. If so many people love walking, you might be one, too. You won’t know for sure until you try it. For that matter, you could just work your way down the list and see which ones are the most fun.

It helps me to have more than one activity I enjoy, since life has a way of interfering with our plans and preferences. If I can’t do one thing, there’s another on the list. And speaking of favorite activities, can I put in a plug for biking? It would be on my personal top ten list, and it has the added benefit of reducing the time (and money) I spend when I’m using the car. Off the top of my head, other benefits include that I love the way it feels to fly along on 2 wheels, I love discovering transportation as a feel-good, meditative way of enjoying my surroundings, and it’s good for my knees. If road or trail biking isn’t possible for you, you can still get the other health benefits on a stationary bike.

The important thing is to start moving, and keep going. It sure feels good.