EXPERIENCE A W3 L!FESTYLE February 2011
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Bad Eating Habits
Tangled up in Food
Making Sense of the New Nutrition Rating Systems
Apartment Living at itâ€™s Best
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Info 101 Financial Wellness
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Our relationship with food is complicated - and often a little confounding. Here are five problem-eating patterns that may be standing int he way of your health and happiness - and how to unsnarl them for good. By Catherine Guthrie
Even the healthiest eaters are prone to occasional food transgressions — a dinner downed in front of the TV, a lunch wolfed down on the way to an appointment, a snack attack that sneaks up on us. As long as such lackluster eating experiences are the exception, and not the rule, they’re probably no cause for worry. But what about when the occasional “whoops!” becomes part of a more persistent pattern? Over time, such patterns can become ingrained tendencies — unconscious ways of interacting with food so automatic, and so subtly destructive, we don’t fully recognize the damage they’re doing to our bodies and minds, or just how habitual they’ve become. The first step in disentangling ourselves from such tendencies is identifying where problemeating patterns may have taken root in our own lives. The next step is deciding which of those patterns we want to take on first — and how. “Trying to address too many habits at once is overwhelming,” says Brian Wansink, PhD, director of Cornell University’s food lab and author of Mindless Eating (Bantam Books, 2006). “For most people, changing one or two habits at a time is plenty.” To help make your untangling efforts easier and more successful, we’ve investigated five of the most common problem-eating patterns. Read on to get expert insight on the ways each might be affecting you, and how — with awareness and self-compassionate experimentation — you can break free of them for good.
Speed Snarfing Eating too fast is endemic to a fast-paced way of life. “We live too fast, we drive too fast, we talk too fast . . . why should our relationship with food be any different?” asks Marc David, MA, founder and director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and author of The Slow Down Diet (Healing Arts Press, 2005). “Learning how to slow down with food is a metaphor for slowing down with life.” Mind-Body Toll: Bolting your food robs you of the full satisfaction of eating, leading you to eat more than you otherwise would. Digestion starts with the brain’s sensory experience of seeing food, smelling food and anticipating food, David explains: “When you eat too quickly, you bypass food’s sensory pleasure.” Both biochemically and neurologically, he notes, “this has the effect of slowing the metabolism and diminishing your body’s ability to burn that food as fuel.” Eating too fast also inhibits proper digestion, David explains. Do anything quickly and you trigger the body’s stress response (a.k.a. fight or flight). As a result, breath becomes shallow, blood is channeled to the arms and legs, and digestion shuts down. From an evolutionary standpoint, turning off digestion made sense. Speed often meant danger. If a tiger was on your heels, digesting lunch wasn’t a big priority. Today, our environment is less immediately threatening, but our basic biochemistry hasn’t changed. Devour an egg-and-cheese muffin in rush-hour traffic and the body’s fight-or-flight response kicks into high gear: Digestive enzymes dry up, gut transit time may speed up (causing diarrhea) or slow down (causing constipation), and nutrient absorption grinds to a halt.
to Break Free
Speed Snarfing (con’t) • Guard mealtime. David calls on Americans to “reclaim their right to dine.” That means scheduling dedicated time to sit down at a table and savor your food. Fend off the impulse to whittle away your lunch hour running errands or downing breakfast at your computer.
• Take five to 10 slow, deep breaths before every meal to flip on the body’s relaxation response, a built-in protection against stress. Breathing deeply expands the diaphragm, stimulating the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the colon and activates the relaxation response, thwarting fight or flight.
• Pace yourself. If you normally eat breakfast in five minutes, for example, take 10. “If you are a fast and furious eater, it’s time to change gears,” says David. “The more time we set aside for a meal, the more we place ourselves in the optimum state of nutritional and calorie-burning metabolism. The less time we take for a meal, the less the body is able to determine when it is full.”
If you hide chocolate in your desk drawer, stash potato chips in the utility closet or keep a candy bar in your nightstand, it’s a sign you have mixed feelings about your own snacking tendencies. Sneaking food implies that the food and/or the appetite for that food is “bad,” says David. “When you label things ‘bad,’ like any good criminal, you will do it in secret.”
Mind-Body Toll: Secretive eating feeds the shame spiral that perpetuates poor eating habits. “Any behavior that takes place in secret tends to go hand-in-hand with shame,” says Michelle May, MD, a board-certified family physician and author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat (Greenleaf Book Group, 2010). “If I eat something ‘bad,’ then I feel guilty, and I feel like a ‘bad’ person for doing it.” The brain is similarly shackled by joyless eating. Compared with actively savoring food, eating in secret can create stress, which means the release of fewer endorphins, the pleasure chemicals that promote digestion. Endorphins help assimilate nutrients and, ultimately, burn calories. “The chemistry of pleasure is intrinsically designed to fuel metabolism,” says David. “When food comes with a helping of guilt, the nervous system registers only a minimum of pleasurable sensations and we are physiologically driven to eat more. We’re compelled to hunt down the pleasure we never fully receive, even though it’s continually within our grasp.” Eating furtively easily leads to overeating because it allows you to skirt the emotions at the heart of the issue. Instead of sitting with an uncomfortable situation or emotion, seeking a quick pleasure fix through food becomes a way to change or manage emotions quickly, says May. When the urge strikes to eat behind closed doors, stop and ask yourself what emotion you are trying to escape. “You may think you are overeating ‘just because it tastes good’ or ‘because you lack willpower,’’’ says May, but that’s rarely the case. “The ‘why’ becomes clear only when you explore the feelings that underlie your actions.”
to Break Free
• Notice which foods you stash or squirrel away. Note what triggers the desire for that food. What scenario typically precedes the sneak attack? Which foods cause the greatest guilt? Next time the urge to stealth-eat strikes, David suggests asking yourself, “What is my body really hungry for?” Other than food, what comes to mind?
• Don’t allow others to shame you. “There may be people in your life who feel like they can judge what you’re eating,” says May. “Tell them ‘I appreciate your intention, but when you tell me what I can and can’t eat, I feel angry and guilty, and it actually makes me feel like eating more. I’d appreciate it if you stop commenting on my food choices.’”
• Redirect your inner rebel. Sneaking “forbidden” foods can be a thrill. “There’s a part of us that likes breaking the rules,” says David, “and engaging in secret eating can be exciting.” If that’s true for you, look for other ways to appease your inner rebel. Say, do or try something a little edgier than you normally would, or look for a way to more openly express your authentic self.
Starving and Stuffing Tuning out the body’s hunger signals during the day creates an energy and nutrition deficit that can set you up for uncontrolled eating later. “If all day it’s coffee and cottage cheese, then night falls and all hell breaks loose, that’s a sign you’re setting yourself up for overeating and making poor food choices,” says Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, FADA, a nutritionist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. This problem-eating behavior — sometimes called nighteating syndrome (NES) — is more common in men than women and often goes hand-in-hand with weight gain and, sometimes, depression. NES is often defined as eating 25 percent of one’s total calories after the evening meal more than three times a week. “And the calories people binge on usually aren’t salad,” Ayoob says. “Let’s face it, it’s hard to make good decisions when you are hungry.” Mind-Body Toll: When the body is deprived of food for
to Break Free
• When you finish one meal, plan the next. At breakfast, think ahead to lunch and make a sandwich or pack up leftovers to take to the office. After dinner, consider what healthy breakfast fare you can enjoy the next morning. Maybe slice some strawberries for cereal or make a couple of hardboiled eggs. People who want to eat well may need to accept that this involves a certain amount of advance planning, says Ayoob. “That doesn’t mean you can’t ever have treats or be spontaneous,” he notes, “it just means that planning and prepping healthy options is a must.”
more than a few hours, blood-sugar levels nosedive. That triggers a voracious appetite for quick-energy foods (carbohydrates). On cue, you gobble carbs, which makes blood sugar rise but doesn’t initiate the gentle, rolling hills of energy the body needs to stay on its game. Instead, carb-heavy snacks and meals translate to big blood-sugar spikes and deep valleys. “Our willpower is no match for our physiology,” says Annie Kay, MS, RD, lead nutritionist at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and author of Every Bite Is Divine (Life Arts Press, 2007). “The biggest determinant of hunger later on is big drops in blood sugar early in the day.” A 2007 study published in the International Journal of Obesity found a strong correlation between NES and weight gain. And that makes sense, because eating in the middle of the night — when your circadian rhythm has your body in “sleep mode” — makes it harder to process food properly.
• Factor a protein source into every meal and snack, aiming for a small protein infusion every two to three hours to help keep your blood sugar steady. Top your salad with a hardboiled egg or chicken breast, eat your crackers with hummus, add miso to your bowl of quickcook noodles, or mix up a protein drink if you don’t have time for anything else. If you graze, reach for small-but-filling portions of protein-rich foods, like a dozen almonds or a tablespoon of nut butter with apple slices.
• Plan a preemptive strike against the post-work binge. Hectic workers often ignore the body’s needs for nourishment during the day — either because they’re too distracted or too busy to eat. “After work, when the brain finally gets permission to attend to our physical needs, the body is as ravenous as a neglected dog, and so we tend to overeat,” says David, who suggests eating a high-fiber, protein-rich predinner snack to take the edge off hunger pangs and curb the urge to binge later.
Stress Feeding Ever made it through a stressful scenario only to be gripped with a sudden compulsion to eat? Those cravings probably come courtesy of cortisol, a hormone made in the adrenal glands and unleashed into the blood when the body faces a real or perceived threat. Elevated cortisol levels arouse the appetite, especially sugar and fat cravings. Just knowing that can make you more conscious of what motivates your food decisions. “Noticing that you aren’t hungry but you feel like eating is half the battle,” says May. “Ask yourself in that moment, what else can I do to address this emotion?”
to Break Free
• Exercise your options. If stress sends you running to the refrigerator, remind yourself that eating won’t erase the stress, says May. Try making a list of things you find relaxing, such as a hot bath or taking your dog to the park, and keep the list on the pantry or refrigerator door. Next time you are stressed and tempted to reach for a snack, pause to look at the list and consider your alternatives.
Mind-Body Toll: Like an air traffic controller, cortisol signals where energy is delivered inside the body. And studies show that cortisol prefers to divert extra calories into deep abdominal fat (a.k.a. visceral fat), which is more detrimental to health than the superficial flab in, say, love handles. Stress also reduces your gut’s acidity and, consequently, its ability to absorb key nutrients. A final insult? Not only does stress-induced cortisol damage your body’s ability to digest properly, it also decreases your body’s ability to repair itself.
• Conserve your energy. Keep in mind that the setup for stressinduced splurges can build over the entire day, says Kay. “Practicing self-awareness, such as noticing negative self-talk, and taking deep breaths at the first signs of stress, can put you on a different path.” Taking more frequent breaks can also help dispel stress, making it more likely that you’ll get through the day with your self-awareness intact.
• Cut yourself some slack. Beating yourself up after a stressinduced splurge only fuels negative feelings. Instead, acknowledge what happened and move on. “Turning to food at times of stress is part of being human,” says Eunice Chen, PhD, co-director of the eating disorders program at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “Stress eating only becomes a real problem when it’s your only way to deal with stress.”
Mindless Munching Mindless eating tends to be most noticeable after the fact: You plunk down on the couch with a full bag of chips, and before you know it, the bag is empty. Or you sit down at your desk with a sandwich, check your email, and suddenly there’s nothing but crumbs. Eating mindlessly is a natural byproduct of a hyper-stimulating environment, says Wansink: “We have too many things competing for our attention and food drops to the bottom of the list.” Wansink calls the food environment we build for ourselves
to Break Free
• When you eat, just eat. If you’re going to have a meal or snack, eat it before you sit down to do anything else, and then put all edibles away before you begin your next task. If you tend to eat while watching TV, instead keep your hands busy by folding laundry, paying bills, giving yourself a pedicure, holding a mug of hot tea, lifting weights or knitting.
“choice architecture.” In broad strokes, his research shows that the easier and more unlimited our access to food, the more we’ll choose to eat. Keeping a candy dish on your desk, stocking lots of treats in the pantry, sitting down with an entire bag of chips, and keeping food within reach while we are driving, computing, having a meeting or watching TV — scenarios like these all lay the environmental groundwork for mindless overeating. Mind-Body Toll: A 2006 study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that people’s caloric intake can balloon by up to 71 percent when they eat in front of the tube. Wansink explains that eating while watching TV is a problem for two reasons: “First, you don’t pay attention to whether you’ve had 14 or 40 potato chips. Secondly, you often won’t stop eating until the end of the show, regardless of whether you’re full or not.” Another problem: Such eating patterns can become mutually reinforcing — it becomes hard to watch TV and not eat.
• Make the mechanisms of mindless eating work for you, advises Wansink. “If you’re three times more likely to eat the first thing you see in the cupboard, make sure the first thing you see is something healthy. If you’re 30 percent more likely to eat more if you face the buffet, don’t face the buffet. If you eat third and fourth helpings of dinner, leave the serving bowl on the stove or put leftovers away before you sit down to eat.”
The first step to rerouting any problem-eating habit is recognizing it. The good news? From there, change can happen almost immediately. Start by implementing one or two healthy shifts, and you might be surprised by how many others come along for the ride. You might also be surprised by how much you discover about yourself in the process. “The antidote to modern food culture is bringing more self-inquiry into your day,” says Kay. “This is far from a chore — it’s a juicy opportunity to delve into what’s going on in your body and mind.”
• Never eat out of the package. Even if you just want a handful of chips, put them on a plate. Plating food increases your awareness of portion size, says Wansink. “Dishing out a ration makes you see exactly how much you are eating.”
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Quick & Easy Eclair Cake
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By: Cathy Gordon “This is a very quick and simple no bake dessert cake. It uses graham crackers and a pudding mixture. It tastes just like an eclair, but there is enough for a crowd!! It is a great recipe for children who are learning to cook, there is no baking involved or any power kitchen tools. Just a bowl and a spoon!”
Ingredients 2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix 1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed 3 cups milk 1 (16 ounce) package graham cracker squares 1 (16 ounce) package prepared chocolate frosting
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In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the pudding mix, whipped topping, and milk. Arrange a single layer of graham cracker squares in the bottom of a 13x9 inch baking pan. Evenly spread half of the pudding mixture over the crackers. Top with another layer of crackers and the remaining pudding mixture. Top with a final layer of graham crackers. Spread the frosting over the whole cake up to the edges of the pan. Cover, and chill at least 4 hours before serving.
Super Recycling Idea Turn Office Documents into Toilet Paper
(NaturalNews) A Japanese company known as Oriental has invented a device that recycles office paper into toilet paper onsite. “All the customers needs to do is put the shredded paper in, take the toilet paper out and supply the machine with water,” said Oriental’s technology manager, Kimihiro Nozawa. The machine, dubbed White Goat, can turn 40 regular sheets of office paper into a roll of toilet paper in only 30 minutes. According to Oriental, the device removes all staples then shreds the paper, mixes it with water and turns it into pulp, flattens and dries the pulp, then converts into a toilet paper roll. Accounting of operating costs of the machine, it costs only 10 cents to produce a single roll. The Telegraph notes that this is substantially cheaper than a typical roll of high-quality toilet paper, which retails for approximately 38 pence (59 cents). The quality of the White Goat’s toilet paper is probably closer to that of Tesco Value paper, which retails for 11 pence (17 cents a roll). Yet while the machine may help offices save on toilet paper and offsite recycling costs, the up-front cost will still be daunting for many. The machine retails for $100,000, meaning that it would need to produce 200,000 rolls of toilet paper in order to pay for itself. This would require running continuously for at least 11 years. In addition, the machine is 6 feet tall and weighs 1,300 pounds. Nevertheless, the machine received a prize for innovation upon its unveiling at the 2009 Eco-products International Fair in Tokyo, and has attracted a fair amount of attention on the Internet. “I can think of several people who’d like to flush their workload down the loo, but this takes it to another level,” said James Holland, editor of the web site Electricpig.
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The new ANDI and NuVal food-rating systems strive to make healthy choices easier. But they can be misleading, too. Here’s how to make sense of the numbers -- and their limitations. By Dennis Cass For better or worse, most Americans have been guided by nutritional directives — food pyramids, recommended daily intakes, guidelines and allowances — that exhort them to eat by the numbers: Five servings of this, 10 grams of that, and count those calories, please! Well-intentioned though they may be, these dictums have given rise to a rigid, formulaic mindset, one that has left many eaters confused. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, they figure, but who knows — maybe a 100-calorie snack pack of low-fat, vitamin-enriched, high-fiber apple chips would be even better? Two new numerical food-rating systems — the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System and the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) — are attempting to simplify matters. Piloted in some
Kroger and Whole Foods Market stores, respectively, both share a common goal of streamlining the process of evaluating various foods’ nutritional merits. Although they differ in their approach and delivery, both systems ultimately distill the nutrient density of each food into a single numerical score. The stated objective of both these rating systems is to help shoppers make healthier choices in the grocery aisles. And they may. But because they rely on a massive aggregation and simplification of complex information, they may also lead consumers to some mistaken conclusions — about the true nutritional merits of certain foods, about how whole and processed foods compare, and more. That’s why, for those healthmotivated shoppers who want to understand what these food ratings are
reflecting (and what they are not), it’s helpful to know not just the numbers, but also a little something about the logic and assumptions built into the algorithms that produced them. Once you understand both the advantages and pitfalls of each system, you stand a better chance of interpreting their results in a way that serves your own healthy-eating goals.
The Right and Wrong of Ratings ANDI is the brainchild of Joel Fuhrman, MD, chief medical officer of Eat Right America and author of Eat for Health (Gift of Health Press, 2008). ANDI rates mostly whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits and legumes, but includes some processed fare as well. It bases its rankings primarily on the amount of beneficial nutrients (such as calcium, carotenoids, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) present in a given food in
relation to its caloric value. By comparing nutrient values from an equal caloric portion of food, ANDI adds up 23 different nutrients to assign each food a number on a scale from 1 to 1,000. For example, kale and collards earn a perfect 1,000, while a white potato rates only a 31. “It’s a micronutrient score,” explains Fuhrman. “The basic science behind this is that foods give us macronutrients [carbohydrates, proteins, fats, etc.] and micronutrients [vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients]. The more macronutrients we eat, the shorter our life span. The more micronutrients you eat, the longer your life span.” ANDI’s approach, accordingly, reflects the extraordinary nutritional value of low-calorie, high-nutrition foods like vegetables. Yet, it also produces some counterintuitive results, giving a number of very healthy foods surprisingly low ratings. Walnuts, for example, get a rating of only 34 out of 1,000, despite their beneficial sterols and stenoids. That’s not much better than the aforementioned white potato. Fuhrman’s algorithm penalizes walnuts for their relatively high fat and calorie content. And that can send a skewed message to consumers, says Kathie Swift, MS, RD, a nutrition educator at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C. “Do we really want to give a lower score to walnuts than to kale just because they are more calorie dense?” Swift asks. “To me, the big picture is that we need to get Americans to eat more vegetables and nuts.” Fuhrman says he agrees that people need to be eating a variety of foods, including nuts and seeds, legumes, and fruits. His intent with the ANDI rating scale is not to steer shoppers
away from these healthy choices, he notes, but rather to get them more excited about super-nutritious foods, like dark leafy greens, that too many shoppers currently overlook.
The Frozen-Pizza Factor
Like ANDI, the NuVal system rates both whole and processed foods, but it rates many more processed options. Developed by a team led by David Katz, MD, MPH, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center, NuVal takes U.S. government nutrition data from food labels and calculates a single score for foods based on a scale from 1 to 100, with 1 having the lowest overall nutrition quality and 100 having the highest. “Our algorithm starts as a simple mathematical equation,” explains Annette Maggi, RD, NuVal’s senior director of nutrition. “In the numerator are factors that have a positive impact on health: vitamins, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids. In the denominator are factors that have a negative impact: sodium, sugar, saturated fat and trans fats.” (For the skinny on saturated fat, see “Big Fat Confusion,” next page.) The formula also factors in “weighting coefficients” that measure a food’s impact on conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Appropriately, fresh vegetables, legumes, fruits and other whole foods score higher than salty, fatty, processed foods. A mango, for example, rates a 93 while Chex Mix scores a 13. But the same calorie penalty inherent in ANDI applies to NuVal. And canned vegetables (provided they don’t contain salt, sugar or any sauces) can score just as well as fresh vegetables, which undergo no processing at all. For example, both fresh broccoli and canned Del Monte Fresh French
Green Beans (No Salt Added) rate a 100. Part of the reason, says Maggi, is that the government doesn’t measure the difference in phytonutrients between, for example, raw green beans and canned green beans. NuVal crunched numbers based on “the tools that are available in the marketplace today, and that [government] nutrient database is based on raw fruits and vegetables.” Nutritionist Liz Lipski, PhD, CCN, author of Digestive Wellness (McGrawHill, 1999), declined to comment directly on NuVal or ANDI, but she notes that “any system is only as good as the philosophy that underlies it.” And most nutritional experts agree that the government’s food philosophy leaves quite a lot to be desired. The USDA Food Pyramid, for instance, doesn’t distinguish between the carbohydrates found in whole brown rice or quinoa and those found in the flours of store-bought breads. In Lipski’s mind, it should. She’d also like to see food-rating systems consider whether a food is fresh, frozen or canned, and whether or not foods are organic. But Maggi contends that the NuVal system syncs well with the way most Americans really eat — and shop. “The average shopper spends 26 minutes to buy 60 items,” she explains. “That’s less than 30 seconds per item, which doesn’t leave much time to compare brands, much less nutrition.” NuVal, says Maggi, is designed to help consumers trade up within a category. So, she says, if you’re looking for a cold cereal, go with Post’s Shredded Wheat (91) over General Mills’ Cheerios (37) because it has more fiber and less sodium.
“The reality is that consumers eat processed food,” she says. “They buy cereal. They buy salty snacks. We want to help them make the most of these choices from a nutritional standpoint.” For his part, Fuhrman says that although ANDI does score processed foods, the ratings system is best used for whole foods — which are the foods he’d like to see us all eat more of. Even when processed foods are fortified, he notes, they simply do not have the full spectrum of micronutrients that whole foods contain. Also, because the full value of all nutrients can’t be properly weighted, “some fortified foods may get better scores than they really deserve.” NuVal’s algorithm, Maggi says, takes fortification into account. Fortified vitamins and minerals are capped in the rating formula, while naturally occurring nutrients are not. “If you look at Total cereal, you don’t get credit in the score for all of those [added] vitamins,” she says.
“The average shopper spends 26 minutes to buy 60 items... which doesn’t leave much time to compare brands, much less nutrition.” heart disease, the scientific evidence for this view has never been strong. An article published last year in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at 21 studies involving about 350,000 people and found no significant link between saturated fat in the diet and heart disease. Increasingly, processed sugars and carbs appear to be more important factors. (Learn more at ELmag.com/ heartnews.)
Far From Perfect
Fuhrman readily admits that ANDI “is not a perfect system.” For Big Fat Confusion Another place both NuVal and ANDI example, Fuhrman says veggies like mushrooms (135) and onions (50) invite confusion is in their assessment of fats. NuVal’s scoring system gives walnuts, should be rated much higher given their powerful anticancer properties. which are high in polyunsaturated fats, Yet, like NuVal, ANDI had to base its more credit (82 out of 100) than ANDI does because, as Maggi puts it, NuVal has ratings on what is in the government database, and the government does stayed abreast of the changing views on not currently measure the anticancer nutrients that have an impact on disease, properties of mushrooms and onions. such as cholesterol. Accordingly, says Fuhrman, “Not all fats are the same,” she choosing only those foods with the says. “Trans fat is closely related to heart disease, which is a serious, expensive and highest nutrient-density score is not the only key to an ideal diet. Filling up prevalent problem. Dietary cholesterol, on your shopping cart exclusively with the other hand, is not as closely related to ANDI’s (or NuVal’s) top-ranked goods heart disease. So it’s not as weighted.” would probably leave you short on Both systems, however, have a bias against saturated fats, which have long healthy fats, for example, as well as a little low on variety. been wrongly blamed as a primary factor Still, by comparing the ratings in high cholesterol and heart disease, and which are now thought to be critical to many of foods in particular categories, a smart shopper can come away with biochemical functions. a sense of which foods deliver the Both ANDI and NuVal assign most nutritional bang for the buck, higher scores to skim or fat-free milk and that might encourage consumers compared with whole milk, for example. NuVal relegates saturated fats to the same to try vegetables and fruits they might otherwise pass by. category as trans fats in its formula — When you’re in the produce which explains not only the lower ratings section at your local Whole Foods for full-fat dairy but also why fresh coconut rates so low (24). Fresh coconut fares even Market looking at fruits, for instance, you’ll see from the ANDI ratings that worse in the ANDI system, scoring a paltry apples (72) are rated higher than 10. bananas (30) but not as highly rated Although saturated fat has long as blueberries (130) or strawberries been demonized as one of the main reasons people gain weight and fall prey to (212). That just might make you toss some berries in your basket.
Had Enough of
How to eat simply and well — without doing the math. Flummoxed by all the numerical rankings and ratings that supposedly simplify life in the grocery store? “Nutritionally speaking, we’re drowning in information, but we’re starving for knowledge,” says Kathie Swift, MS, RD, a nutrition educator at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C. If you’re looking for an easier way to make healthier choices, consider some ultra-basic tips: • Embrace a wide variety of whole foods. All of them are good for you in balance and moderation. • Aim to maximize your intake of brightly colored, high-fiber veggies. • Don’t eliminate whole foods rich in healthy fats, complex carbs and phytonutrients — regardless of rankings. • Do moderate your intake of foods high in sugars (added or otherwise) and minimize your intake of processed flours, sugars, starches and fried foods. • Replace some of the grains and starchy foods in your diet with leafy plants and legumes. • When you do eat grains, substitute whole, intact grains for refined grains and flours. • When possible, opt for locally and organically grown whole foods. • Drink plenty of water, less of most other beverages. • Emphasize quality over quantity, and invest the majority of your food budget in nutritious choices.
Above all, Fuhrman says, he simply wants shoppers to see how powerful ➺ green vegetables are. “I want people to think, ‘I should make a green vegetable every night for dinner.’” NuVal’s Maggi wants to help folks make better choices in every aisle. “If you’re looking for a canned vegeta-
ble as a side dish, then you can trade up from Del Monte canned green beans  to Del Monte canned spinach ,” says Maggi. “Overall, the message of guidance is a good one.” Even Kathie Swift sees systems like ANDI and NuVal as a step in the right direction. She notes that while she and
other nutrition experts are debating the finer points of various food-rating programs, “the average person is still eating total crap.” The ratings systems are useful as an on-ramp to better eating, she says: “Let’s get you started here and then move you up.”
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Do you fly off the handle at the slightest provocation, or mount a major defense to even the slightest criticism? Here’s how to ditch the drama -- and manage a more measured response.
WHO’S OVERREACTING???!!! By Jon Spayde Perhaps it was meant as a helpful suggestion. Maybe it was intended as a straightup accusation or invitation to argue. Either way, if it sends you into emotional hyperspace, it will probably result in an ugly aftermath — a blowout with your spouse or a nasty encounter with a coworker. The resulting surge of stress hormones can leave everyone feeling shell-shocked. And harsh words spoken in haste can do lasting damage to your relationships. So how do you prevent spontaneous, seemingly uncontrollable overreactions from getting the better of you? According to Judith Siegel, PhD, LCSW, author of Stop Overreacting: Effective Strategies for Calming Your Emotions (New Harbinger, 2010), heeding “early warning signals” from our bodies can give us a chance to dampen emotional fires before they burn out of control.
Barriers to Overcome
• The triggering emotions. There are four main triggers for overreaction, says Siegel: envy, rejection, resentment at being criticized and loss of control. Even the most seemingly benign interaction may spark one of these responses, triggering our fight-or-flight response and limiting our ability to react in a rational or constructive way. • Black-or-white perception. As an emotional overreaction builds, you’re likely to see situations or people as either all good or all bad. “At those moments,” says Siegel, “it’s as if we had a two-drawer filing cabinet in our heads. When the ‘bad’ drawer is open, the ‘good’ one has to be closed. We can’t see any redeeming features in the situation or the other person.” • Flooding. “In addition to dealing with the challenging moment at hand, you may find that every old and negative emotional memory associated with the situation floods over you,” Siegel explains. That can make the current situation seem bigger and more connected to higher stakes than it really is. • Feeling entitled. The black-or-white response, intensified by “flooding,” can result in your feeling justified in having an outburst or other extreme reaction. How to Cope • Notice the body’s signals. “Your neck may get tense, your heart may start to pound,” says Siegel. “Anxiety, which is a bodily response, may encourage
your thoughts to start racing. These are warning signals.” If you’re in tune with your body and recognize these signs, you’ll be better able to shift emotional gears and avoid overreacting. • Breathe. Conscious breathing will help you interrupt the fight-or-flight response and give you a chance to shift out of overreaction mode. Practice deep breathing whenever you feel your body’s warning signals switch on. • Assess your state. Feeling tired? Emotionally ragged? Experiencing low blood sugar? If so, Siegel suggests, it may be wise to withdraw from the situation and revisit the issue when you’re feeling more centered and self-composed. • Name the emotions. Neurologically, overreaction is a loss of access to the left brain. “Naming the feeling that you’re having in the moment — anger, loss of self-esteem — requires reflection and searching the memory, and that’s a left-brain activity,” says Siegel. “It reestablishes the neural networks that connect left brain and right, and restores balance.” • Recast criticism. “Strive to reframe lessthan-positive input as useful information,” advises Siegel. In the face of criticism, ask yourself: What can I learn from this feedback? How can I use this information to improve myself or my situation? By asking constructive questions, you can turn what might have been battleground moments into learning opportunities.
Info 101: Financial Wellness Our wallets got quite a workout during the holiday season, and many of us are still straddled with credit card balances that we need to pay off. Meanwhile, folks are defaulting on their loans, accruing debt, and forgetting the day they decided to save rather than spend.
• Save a portion of your income every week after paying the bills instead of spending what’s left on frivolous purchases or in an attempt to impress others.
And it’s not just us who too often let things slide, losing track of expenditures and failing to put aside some cash for a rainy day; it’s happening at the national and state levels, too.
• Make wise and realistic career choices based on lifestyle and financial goals.
And that makes right now during Financial Wellness Month the perfect time to put money matters center stage--for the young, the old, and the government, too. On the national level: • The national debt as of 2:00 p.m. on January 25th: $14,076,307,018,134.88; • Each citizen’s share: $45,420.36; • And the debt has been rising an average $4.17 billion per day since 9/28/07. As for Pennsylvania, the latest projections suggest that the budget deficit may be as high as $4 billion, even $5 billion. Meanwhile, according to the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Census Bureau, households carry, on average, $114,434 in debt, which includes mortgages, credit cards, and student loans. And speaking of credit cards, it’s estimated that, as of last year, Americans owed $1.177 billion-or about $6,500 per cardholder. And, as if that’s not bad enough, 51.2% of us have no retirement savings! So what’s a person to do? One option: seek the advice and assistance of a Financial Recovery Counselor, aka Money Coach, such as Karen Polis, founder of Follow Mantis. Her stated goal: “To help people create healthy money behaviors and get clarity about their financial situation, so they can make empowered choices and begin living the life they desire.” Her first step is to make sure you track all your money, so you can see concrete results in black-and-white and connect behaviors with consequences. Meanwhile, she offers these tips: • Become financially literate, starting with educating yourself about compound interest, defined as interest calculated on the principal amount invested, which is then added to the principal amount, and compounded again. It can work to your benefit-or just the opposite.
• When your kids want the latest gadget or upgrade, be sure to let them pay for it themselves-or do without.
• Save and invest for retirement-the younger, the better-and consider it saving for “financial freedom.” In the meantime, talk to your kids about money, teaching them about borrowing and debt, credit cards, the value of a dollar via a realistic allowance, and the importance of savings, too. In other words, put the piggy bank to work; better yet, open a savings account in your child’s name. To help you get your message across, consider the Financial Fairy Tales, written by Daniel Britton for the 6- to 10-year-old set, complete with activities. For older kids, there’s Mike Kelly’s Financial Advice for the New High School Graduate. Each chapter can be read as needed and offers a short summary of key points, plus stories, a quiz, and more. Bottom line: make this Financial Wellness Month the time to put your financial house in order-and get your kids in on it, too. After all, as President John Adams once cautioned: “All the perplexities, confusion, and distress in America arise not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of coin, credit, and circulation.”
Is Customer Service Dead? by David Wolfe
What happened to the days when Customer Service was the absolute top priority? When you visited a retail store and it was your expectation that everything was clean and you were not only greeted but always knew you had somebody to turn to if you had a question. Or when you went to a restaurant and the expectation was...well... good food cooked the way it was ordered. When as a society did we switch from the expectation of good service being the normal requirement to it being the exception. We no longer take the time to write complaint letters nor even waste our time waiting for a manager to complain to. Because after all, poor service levels have become the normal day to day operating expectation and nothing is going to be done to rectify it properly. We are shocked when we actually receive good service and if we receive SUPERIOR service then please pick us up off the floor in absolute shock and amazement. People blame it on the fact that people are getting paid minimum wage at restaurants and retail stores. So? When I started working I worked for minimum wage and I was surely expected to handle each and every customer with superior results. If somebody doesn’t like what they are getting paid, they should quit. If they can’t afford to quit, well then saddle up, because expectations need to be met. You can’t expect a paycheck and yet be as mean as you want and drive customers away from the company paying your salary, no matter how big or small your salary might be. Have we as a society become such awful customers that businesses do not want to deal with us anymore? I’ve certainly seen my share of customers complaining and moaning about things that even made me want to smack them. Is it our fault as customers? Did we do this to ourselves? How many times have you gotten home only to find your fast food drive through order was wrong or missing something? How hard is it people? You take an order, punch it into the computer, fill the order based on what you see on the computer screen and give it to the customer so that they can drive away in pleasure. However, it hardly ever turns out this way. Again, how did we get to the
point that when it actually is right we celebrate and rejoice versus having it as a normal expectation. I came from a time and training that if you didn’t get good service then you didn’t pay. It was as simple as that. If you hired a DJ for a party and they were late or they made disrespectful comments that offended people you simply did not owe for the service...because it wasn’t what was expected. If you got your food messed up by the kitchen, then you got it redone correctly and your bill was cleared so that the management made sure you came back as a valued customer. Not any more, now you get a smile...maybe an apology... and a free dessert. What happened here??? Customer Service levels have decreased on a national, if not global scale. It’s time as consumers that we take back service level expectations. The customer is supposed to always be right...right? But wait...I can remember seeing a customer bring back a jar candle that was completely used down to perhaps enough wax that just covered the bottom of the jar. Her reasoning for bringing it back? She said that she paid for the entire jar to burn and it didn’t so she wanted a full refund or to exchange it for a brand new one. Bad behavior like this is perhaps part of why things are how they are today. Be a good customer while expecting superior customer service levels. Demand to be treated right and maybe we can take this country back and begin getting what we pay for again. Have reasonable expectations but demand nothing less than being treated fairly and appropriately. Take the time to write those letters to companies that disappoint you and explain how things need to change. Perahps if we all start demanding better we will start getting better. Let’s breathe some life back into Customer Service Level Expectations!
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