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Issue Date: December 2006 Issue


Health Care Guide - Be Better in '07

Tired of guilt-driven resolutions that never produce lasting results? Want some sane, practical and balanced advice? We talked to doctors, coaches and educators about how you can improve your nutrition, exercise habits, relationships, work/life balance and brainpower, whether you’re a dabbling novice or a self-improvement veteran.

 


Lori Valyko Weber
The Basics: Don’t skip meals. Although it may be convenient to skip breakfast or lunch and seemingly eliminate a bevy of calories, they’ll usually more than catch up with you later in the day when you give in to binge eating temptations. “A general guideline is to eat one hour after waking, and then every three to four hours,” says Wendy Steffens, a registered dietician at Cleveland Clinic. “Plan simple meals or healthy snacks when you’re too busy to cook.”

Advanced Placement: If you already eat on a regular schedule and make healthy food choices, take inventory of what goes on your plate. Steffens calls it the rate-your-plate plan, which entails conscious portion control.

“Most people don’t understand what a normal, adequate portion is,” Steffens says. “There’s a tendency for people to think an oversized portion is normal.” To get around this flawed belief, she suggests the following plate ratios: About one half of a balanced plate contains a non-starch vegetable such as broccoli, carrots, lettuces, tomatoes or peppers. Another quarter of the dish should hold a whole-grain starch such as a whole-wheat pasta or brown rice. The final quarter should include a lean protein such as chicken, turkey or fish.

“The rate-your-plate plan makes sense to most people,” she says, “Everyone can visualize the proportions. Everyone needs variety and this simple formula provides it.” However, many people don’t know what a normal serving size is, according to Steffens.

“We tend to overdo it, especially with starches,” she says. A sufficient starch, for instance, is only about one-quarter of a full-size bagel. A vegetable or fruit serving is 1 cup of raw (or 1/2 cup cooked) vegetables or fruits, while a protein serving is about 3 ounces of lean meat, 1/4 cup of cottage cheese or one egg.

The Extreme: People for whom nutrition is a way of life may want to consider the lean protein plan that calls for eating 12 ounces of lean meat or a meat substitute every day. Limit starches and fruits to about three servings every day. “And everyone should be grilling, baking or broiling their meats,” Steffens says. “Avoid frying and heavy oils. If you have to use oil for a certain recipe, choose olive or canola.”

The Basics: Take a hike. It may seem obvious, but walking is one of the best forms of exercise. It’s free and can be done indoors or out, alone or with a partner or group.

“If your schedule is so tight that finding time to walk is a problem, then get in the habit of parking your car far away from the store and walking farther in parking lots,” advises Dr. Mark J.

Mendeszoon, a 1988 Olympic 400-meter hurdler for the Netherlands, owner of Achilles Running Shop in Mentor and a podiatrist with offices in Cuyahoga and Geauga counties. “Take the stairs instead of an elevator. Push-mow your lawn. Find ways to stay active during the day.” Advanced Placement: To attain a prime level of fitness, Mendeszoon recommends developing cardiovascular vigor as well as muscle strength.

“Depending on people’s medical issues such as overall health and weight, I often urge people to try a little running,” he says. “Whether you’ve run in the past or not, check with your doctor and get a little guidance.

“Don’t just put on a pair of Chuck Taylors and start pounding the pavement, or you’ll end up with an injury.”

Mendeszoon says beginners should seek advice in finding a pair of shoes appropriate for their body type, adding that some people just aren’t designed to run. And if you can’t run, there is always biking, swimming or the elliptical machine.

“I have a lot of patients and customers who live in the Snow Belt,” Mendeszoon says. “These people have a natural cardiovascular and strength-training tool: snow. It provides resistance while they’re increasing their heart rate. Get out there and take a walk in the snow or go cross-country skiing.”

Gaining strength doesn’t necessarily mean bulking up either. Simple exercises that

develop core and back muscles help build strength without investing in a lot of exercise equipment or joining a gym. “Make use of what you have,” he says. “Do yoga. Get a large inflatable fitness ball and stretch.”

The Extreme: Do something new or start cross training. Even people who are proficient at a certain sport improve their specialty by developing other muscle groups.

“I work with a lot of high-school runners,” Mendes-zoon says, “and these kids know how hard they can push their bodies because they’ve been doing it for years. But constantly doing the same movements stresses the same parts of their bodies.”

Cross training, he says, takes some of the stress off these overworked areas and builds strength in other areas.”

The Basics: Stay organized. Schedule necessary tasks in your weekly routine. Designate one day a week for doing laundry and another for planning meals and grocery shopping. “Even doing just one thing a day helps keep a system so tasks don’t pile up too high and get out of control,” says Dr. Elizabeth LeMaster, University Hospitals urgent care site director in Chesterland and Mentor and a mother of four.

Advanced Placement: Maintain communication among all family members regarding upcoming activities. “Don’t assume your spouse and kids know what’s coming up in the week or next day,” LeMaster says. “Write all your appointments for the entire household in one place that’s easy to see so that everyone can refer to them.” This includes sports practices, doctor appointments and school functions.

Additionally, train your children to put things where they belong immediately after they’re done using them, and not create extra piles of stuff that will eventually need sorted. “This alone is a huge time saver,” she notes. “Have places set aside for the things you reach for all the time, like keys and book bags. This doesn’t require any extra time or effort. It’s just a way to stay efficient and save time.”

She suggests children pack their own book bags after doing homework, and then place them where they’ll be easy to grab the next morning. “You don’t want to scramble to find papers and folders and lunches when the bus is at your driveway. Have it all ready beforehand,” she says,
This principle is also appropriate at the office, and can help you get out of work on time and back to your family. Communicate with co-workers. Don’t let files pile up. Put things where they belong. And, when appropriate, designate responsibilities.

The Extreme: Some of the most balanced people make prioritizing and list-writing an art in their personal and professional routines. “These folks organize their days, weeks and months in notebooks, calendars or with software,” LeMaster says. “There are even software packages that plan meals and help organize grocery lists. They’ll prompt users on what ingredients they bought at the grocery store over the past several trips and help avoid redundancy.”

The Basics: Take a few moments every day to connect with your special person. Kathy Dawson, relationship coach and author of “Cleveland Couples — 40 Inspiring Stories of Love & Commitment,” recommends touching at least five times a day: before getting out of bed to start the day, before leaving the house to go to work, sometime during the day, at the end of the work day, before dinner and before bed.

“These don’t have to be long or involved,” she says. “Happy couples make the most of a 10-second hug at the end of the day. Even a simple text message during the day goes a long way.”
Advanced Placement: Most couples’ communication is akin to snorkeling, Dawson says with a laugh.

“We tend to stay on the surface and simply exchange information all day,” she says. “That’s not real sharing. People need to connect in meaningful ways. Put on your scuba gear and go deeper and share your thoughts and feelings. Eventually, you’ll get to the ocean floor, and that’s where the treasure is.”

People enter a committed relationship to create intimacy and to learn and grow both personally and as a couple. Doing this well takes planning and a willingness to be vulnerable. Dawson recommends that couples plan simple things to do such as meals or walks and share with each other.

“No one wants to be lonely and many people think marriage is the cure,” Dawson says. “People need to remember each other and share on a deeper level. When that doesn’t happen, couples get in trouble.

“Don’t be afraid to tell your partner how you feel and what you want,” she says. “You may be surprised how your partner is willing to change.”

The Extreme: People dedicated to their relationships consciously work to create memories.

“These folks understand that every day is a gift,” Dawson says. “They’re not afraid to get out of their comfort zone and tell their loved ones they matter more than anything else, even more than their careers. Memory makers don’t let resources hinder their relationships. What’s important to them is sharing their money and time with their love. They want to look back with no regrets.”


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