Life / Can Do

Helpful tips to living a better life

Posts Tagged ‘health

Don’t Trust Your Doctor

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With a title like that you may think I’m advocating alternative medicine, but that’s not the case. Despite issues with the medical establishment, your doctor and other certified health care professionals are still your best source of information and treatments. What I am suggesting is that you question the wisdom of your doctor regarding your health and the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses.

More often than not, a good doctor will be more of a partner than an authority regarding your health. They will let you know what they think and make educated suggestions about treatment options. On the other hand, there will be times when the diagnosis will be so obvious and the treatment so effective that you would be wise to just do what they tell you to do. It’s up to you to do your homework, consider their suggestions and ask about other treatment options or diagnostic tests.

For example, doctors are notorious for over-prescribing antibiotics. This has led to growth of  antibiotic resistant bacteria. Once I was dealing with sinus infection that I couldn’t kick. I was hesitant to take antibiotics because I knew it was just a matter of time before my body beat it, but I finally broke down and went my local walk-in clinic and ,after a brief examination, asked for antibiotics. The attending physician had no problem giving me the prescription and did not even suggest I could just give it time.

Another big problem is the over-prescription of antidepressant drugs. Don’t get me wrong – antidepressant drugs can be a life-saver (literally) for people who need them. The issue is when doctors prescribe them without make a strong case for therapy first. I would argue that a primary care physician has no business prescribing antidepressants and that this should be the business of a psychotherapist with the proper training and credentials.

I have a friend, let’s call him Alan, who was dealing with mild mood issues and thought it was time to seek professional help. He was given a number to specialist and gave them a call. Below is an approximation of how that call went:

Doctor’s Office: “Acme Psychological, how can I help you?”

Alan: “Hi, I’d like to talk to someone about mood issues I’ve been having.”

Doctor’s Office: “We can help you. Would you prefer medication or talk therapy?”

Alan (confused): “I don’t know. I’d prefer to see someone before deciding on a course of treatment.”

Doctor’s Office: “Okay, talk therapy then.”

What’s really troublesome about this conversation was that the patient was asked to choose a treatment plan without even being accessed by a professional. As it turns out, the talk therapy was very effective and he was able to learn a few simple techniques for managing his mood WITHOUT becoming dependent on mind altering drugs.

The average person when faced with the same choice as my friend would likely just take the drugs without considering therapy. With antidepressants, once you find a drug that works for you, you pretty much have to take it for the rest of your life. Most have side effects – the most severe being suicidal thoughts.

In general, I believe the medical establishment is not well equipped for helping patients make the right decisions for the treatment of mood disorders. Health Insurance companies along with the government may have a bias towards prescribing drugs rather than treatment. Treatment is more costly for one and requires that the patient plays an active role in getting better. Psychotherapy be difficult to quantify, control and enforce pricing guidelines.

The only way to insure that you get proper treatment is by doing your homework, asking questions, raising concerns and taking charge of your health care.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

August 13, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Increase Your Walking Speed to Burn More Calories

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Walking is a great way to burn calories and reduce stress. You can find opportunities to walk at work, school or while running errands. Practically everyone knows the benefits of walking and it is what most people can do at any fitness level.

The problem with walking is that it is very time consuming and the calorie burn-rate is relatively low compared to other activities. Walking alone can help you lose weight but it’s going to take a lot of walking to get you the results you are looking for.

I walk every chance I get. When I’m at work, I will walk the length of the building every time I get up to use the rest room. When I park my car in the morning, I park far away from the door. I’ve done this for so long, I don’t even think about it anymore – it’s just what I do.

One thing I’ve noticed whenever I’m out walking is that most people walk really slow. I know I walk faster than most people, but when I’m behind someone  I can’t pass, I feel like I”m walking in slow motion. When I walk with someone, I try to walk slower than I usually do, but I still get requests to slow down or even take a break.

I understand that people often take walks to relax, but I believe a fast walk can be just as relaxing, if not more so, than a slow saunter.

I suggest making a conscious effort to increase your walking speed. I developed a fast walking speed by deciding to walk as fast as I can whenever I can. Don’t worry about it looking weird because people will just assume you are in a rush to get somewhere or that you are exercising.

Every time you go for a walk, even to use the rest room or to get a glass of water, walk faster than your usual pace. Imagine you are late for an appointment and go at that pace (if you still saunter when you need to get somewhere fast, I can’t help you).

If you have access to a treadmill, increase the speed while continuing to walk. Keep increasing it until you feel forced into a jog. Walk as fast as you can for a minute and then go back to normal walking speed for a minute. Repeat. If you do this right, it is going to hurt in the hips and maybe the glutes. Don’t overdo it – ten repetitions should be enough.

The great thing about doing this on a treadmill is that you can track your progress. You will see your walking speed increase over time. The speed that was your usual pace will seem a slow crawl.

I also suggest having a pedometer on you at all times. When you go for a walk, track how many steps you took and try to increase the number in the same time period. If you can take a couple hundred more steps during that 5 minute walk that’s more calories you are burning – not to mention the added cardiovascular benefits.

 

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

May 27, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Fitness

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How Do You Handle the Hungry Horrors?

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Since before I can remember, I’ve used the term “hungry horrors” to describe a state of extreme desire to eat. I don’t associate with real hunger because it can occur even when calorie consumption has been met or exceeded for the day.

After a quick online search, I could not find any medical or scientific references to Hungry Horrors even though it is mentioned in numerous anecdotal articles. What surprising is that all the articles I’ve read appear to describe it in the same way.

When the Hungry Horrors hit, eating a moderate amount of food does not provide relief. When you start eating, it just gets stronger. It only goes away when the stomach is completely full. When it is gone there’s an unpleasant bloated feeling – not like the feeling of satiation you get from eating when you are truly in need of food.

Anyone who has had the Hungry Horrors will know exactly what I’m talking about.

I did find an article that offers an explanation of the cause: Explaining the Hungry Horrors. It suggests that it is caused by Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). I believe the effect of  EPOC is overrated. I certainly don’t believe it has a measurable effect days later. Still, I think the article does offer something worth considering and that is that hunger can occur for calorie expenditure that occurred days before.

There a biological process called homeostasis that explains how humans maintain a certain weight in the absence of extreme external factors. Left alone, people will generally maintain a healthy weight with little or no effort.

In light of the current obesity epidemic, one may dismiss the concept of  homeostasis as being effective in maintaining a healthy, but we must consider the external factors that screw up homeostasis. Modern society is fraught with conditions that contribute to weight gain, mostly access to abundant cheap, low quality food and few opportunities for physical exertion.

As individuals we must deliberately find ways to counter the negative factors in our environment. We have to make conscious choices about what we eat and we have to do exercises that simulate what our ancestors did naturally to survive. If we eat what they ate and did what they did, there would be no obesity epidemic.

So how does homeostasis relate to Hungry Horrors? Well, as stated homeostasis is trying to keep a body at a certain weight, but all those external factors have messed up the balance. When we get the urge to eat to bring our weight back up to “normal”, the foods we eat are not sending the right signals to our brain to tell the system to stop sending hunger signals.

If you eat a snack loaded with sugar the weight and volume of that snack is nowhere near what the body thinks it needs to eat to be satiated. So, we eat more. If you were to substitute that sugary snack with a low calorie-density food such as vegetables, you would feel full faster. Unfortunately, the human body becomes accustomed to getting sugar so the craving will still be there even though the hunger isn’t.

When hit with a case of the Hungry Horrors, the body wants the most calorie-dense food that’s available. If all that is available is healthy vegetables, that will satisfy it, but calorie-dense foods are always available. Even if it means getting into the car and driving to a 24 hour store, the urge to do that will be strong – almost unbearable.

In a house full of nothing but healthy foods, I’ve had to fight the urge to pick up the phone and order a pizza. Most of the time, I can make the right choice, but the average person who hasn’t committed to a healthy lifestyle has no chance of fighting the urge.

At times I may seem a little extreme in the advice that I give, but I’m nowhere near as extreme as the environment we live in. I was always a health conscious person but despite that, I saw my weight grow steadily year after year. It was only when I fully acknowledged the forces I was fighting against was I able to turn it around and get back down to a healthy weight.

We have to realize that this is a fight to the death. If you don’t understand the stakes, you will lose. The medical community has figured out tricks to keep us alive despite our bad habits, but is simply staying alive enough?

Since, I’ve started this journey, I’ve had a number of tough conversations with people I care about. By far, the toughest conversation I’ve had was the one I had with myself when I first started. I knew what I needed to do, but I could not see a way to make the changes I needed to take control of my health. I remember coming to the realization that even though I could not see the entire path to the destination, that didn’t mean the path wasn’t there.

Now that I’ve achieved the goal of a healthy body, I have a perspective that helps me understand others who are dealing with weight issues. A part of me wants to force them down the path I just took but I know my path will not be their path. They have to find their own way.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

May 23, 2014 at 1:53 pm

Beauty Is More Than Physical Appearance

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While it is important to strive for a healthy weight, you should not let your size affect your sense of self worth. Whether your are 300 pounds or 95 pounds, how you feel about yourself is more important than how much you weigh. I’ve known obese people who were happy, confident and full of life and I’ve known thin people who were depressed and hated themselves.

Accept and love yourself at any weight. Being overweight is a condition that you need to deal with like any other disease. Treat it and get better. You don’t hate yourself when you catch a cold so don’t hate yourself if you have extra fat around your midsection.

If you try and fail to lose weight that doesn’t make you any less of a person. You just need to analyze your treatment strategy. You may need to give it more time or you may need to try something else.

Obesity is an extremely complex disease. My last medical doctor was obese. If trained medical professionals struggle with weight loss than you should not take it personally if you are having a hard time. You just have to keep learning and trying new things.

Don’t wait until after you lose the weight to feel good about yourself. Taking charge of your future and committing fully to improving yourself can be like a shot of adrenaline to your self confidence. People will notice and react. Some may be fearful of your new path because it may shine a light on their own faults. If they can’t handle it, let them go – there will plenty of new people on the path to meet.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

March 10, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Posted in Fitness

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Measure Everything

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One of the first steps to getting fit is to measure everything you can related to physical fitness. Just the act of tracking your calories and weighing yourself can kick start the process of losing weight. Knowledge is power and when you know what you are eating, you’ll tend to make better decisions. Also, the number on the scale can be less discouraging when you know you are better off than when you started.

There are number of web sites with mobile apps that can help with keeping track of everything. My personal favorite is MyFitnessPal which has a mobile app I use to track all my data on the go. MyFitnessPal will help you determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR) which is the amount of calories you need to consume to maintain your weight. It will also help you determine the amount of calories you need to consume to meet your goal weight.

When thinking about your goal weight, I suggest focusing on a short term goal of losing 5 pounds. You can write down a long term weight loss goal on a piece of paper or electronic storage, but try to focus on the short term on a daily basis. Once you lose that 5 pounds you can set another 5 pound weight loss goal. The thought of losing 50 pounds can overwhelm you, but losing 5 pounds at a time means you’ll hit 10 rewarding milestones.

For people starting a health and fitness routine, I suggest that they spend the first week or two just tracking what they eat without restrictions. By doing this, you get a clear indication of how you gained the weight in the first place.

Measure Your Body

Take as many measurements of your body that you need, specifically your waist. If gaining muscle mass is a priority, then you’ll also want to measure your thighs, biceps, calves and chest.

Start tracking your weight by weighing yourself at least once a week. You can weigh yourself on a daily basis, which I prefer to do, but you need to realize that body weight can fluctuate on a daily basis.

Track The Food You Eat

Keep track of everything you eat. Buy a food scale to weigh your portions or use measuring cups. Don’t try to guesstimate portions! Take the time and measure what you are eating and you’ll be surprised at how many calories you are consuming. You don’t have to weigh items that are easy to estimate like apples, bananas, eggs, single serving food packs, etc.

The one type of food that is not as important to measure are vegetables. It’s difficult to gain weight eating vegetables so eat as much as you like within reason. The great thing about vegetables is that they crowd out higher calorie foods. If you fill up on broccoli, you’ll be better able to resist filling up on foods high in carbs or fats.

While the number of calories is the most important measurement, it is also important to know what percentage of carbs, protein and fat you consume. There are different opinions on what the right percentage is but most can agree that carbs should be less than 60% of your total calories – some would suggest as low as 10%. Most will also agree that you should at least 10% of your calories from protein – I personally strive for 20-30% protein.

Again, MyFitnessPal can help with tracking your macro-nutrients. I am not associated with MyFitnessPal in anyway – it’s just the tracking tool I use and know. There are other tools out there, but I don’t know them enough to make recommendations.

Track Your Exercise

Exercise does not burn as many calories as most people believe. The real benefit of exercise is that it helps you maintain weight loss. If you are significantly overweight it is crucial for you to accept the fact that you will need to exercise for an average of an hour per day for the rest of your life. Let’s put that in bold:

People who are or were significantly overweight will need to exercise an average of an hour per day for the rest of their lives in order to maintain weight loss.

For most people, that can be a bitter pill to swallow. Most think that just need to diet and exercise until they lose the weight and then they can go back to a normal life. It doesn’t work that way. Once you return to the same habits, you will gain back the weight and then some.

If you haven’t exercised regularly before, it can very difficult to start exercising an hour per day from the start. But don’t worry – you don’t have to exercise that much to start losing weight. The hour per day exercise is a long term habit goal that you should work towards over time. It may take months before you have developed the habit and made adjustments in your life to exercise an hour per day. By the time you get to that point, you’ll have made amazing progress in your weight loss and fitness goals.

Even if you start with only 10 minutes of exercise per day, if you do it consistently you’ll be able to add another 5 minutes, then another 5, then another until you have reach your hour per day goal. It is important to note that the goal is an average of an hour. You may need to miss days of exercise so to compensate, you may need to exercise even more than an hour on some days.

Don’t stress out too much about the hour per day rule. Over time exercise can become somewhat addicting. Most people with a high level of fitness have to worry about overdoing it more than not doing enough. Trust me – you’ll love the benefits of exercise so much you’ll want to do more than you need.

To track the amount of exercise you do, buy a stopwatch. Also helpful is a pedometer. With a pedometer, the focus is on number of steps which can be more motivating than time. If you know you can comfortably do 10,000 steps per day, you might get the urge to shoot for 15,000 steps per day.

Conclusion

I know there are experts who say that you don’t have to measure to get fit and healthy but studies have shown it helps (see WebMd: Keeping Food Diary Helps Lose Weight). One big contributor to weight gain is lack of knowledge or misinformation. You see a loaf of whole wheat bread and you may believe that has to be good to eat. But when you know the amount of carbs in even whole wheat bread, and you know you have already consumed too many carbs for the day, you can make a more informed choice. Depending on your food intake at the time, 6 ounces of steak may be healthier than a bowl of oatmeal.

 

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

February 22, 2014 at 9:54 am

Posted in Fitness, Life, Self Improvement

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Physical Fitness is a Life Enhancer

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My grandmother, who would have been considered morbidly obese, lived to be 98 years old. She died peacefully in her sleep, no heart attack, stroke, diabetes or anything else the doctors could label. She must have weighed 300 pounds or more but as far as I can remember she never had with any health issues.

My grandfather, was lean and relatively active when he died in his sixties of a heart attack.

Sometimes when I try promoting exercise and healthy eating, someone will bring up a cases where supposedly fit people died young of heart attacks.

There are many factors related to good health so you can’t look at one specific condition, such as visible body fat, as the only indicator.

My obese grandmother was a very happy person with a great laugh and a loving spirit. It could be that  her attitude and her genetics overrode the life threatening effects of excess body fat.

My seemingly fit grandfather liked to drink beer. He was also a smoker for many years until he quit later in life. He was also eating the same food that made my grandmother fat.

If I could go back in time, I would still advise my grandmother to exercise and eat healthy. She lived a long life but she never left the house. I don’t have any fond memories of her coming to school plays or her taking me to the park or zoo. I don’t think she lived as full of a life as she could have. She may have been healthy from a medical standpoint, but can you really consider someone who never leaves the house as healthy?

When I attended my grandmother’s funeral, I met friends and family members I didn’t know I had.  After the funeral, we had a gathering (they called it as “mercy meal”?). It was good to talk to everyone and hear stories about my grandparents. Even though it was my grandmothers funeral and my grandfather had been dead over twenty years, most of the stories were about him. I heard so many stories about my grandfather that day and was amazed at the life he led.

While my grandmother lived much longer than my grandfather, it was my grandfather who had the fullest life.

A few days ago, our area got hit with over a foot of snow. During the storm, I spent hours outside playing in the snow with my wife and 6 year old daughter. We were a couple in our mid-forties,  sledding and having a snowball fight with a 6 year old. What an amazing life we have! That is just one example of a something we do that most people our age won’t or can’t do.

For most people, maintaining a healthy weight will increase their lifespan. For all of us, maintaining a healthy weight will increase the fullness of life.

 

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

February 8, 2014 at 10:51 am

Posted in Fitness, Life

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Make Health and Fitness a Priority

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Our goals and aspirations may change over time. It is important to occasionally review where we are headed and determine if our direction aligns with where we want to go. Despite changing goals, I have found that eliminating health and fitness activities to totally focus on specific goals is the wrong idea. Whenever I failed to exercise regularly, my productivity and enjoyment in other areas of my life would drop.

Having a healthy lifestyle is crucial for success. I’m sure there are examples of successful people who have bad eating habits and never exercise, but these people have to work harder and suffer more than healthy people.

Former President Bill Clinton is a prime example of someone who dealt with fitness issues but still managed to become president. However, after his presidency, he realized he realized how important health and fitness was and made drastic change in his lifestyle. He became vegan and lost 30 pounds.

The best time to start focusing on health and fitness is today. Whatever else you have going on in your life, it is unlikely more important than your health.

Written by Tim ThinkAuthor

January 27, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Fitness, Life, Self Improvement

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