Thursday, May 26, 2011

Get Fit or Go Broke--Part II

Yesterday, we looked at the financial strain that obesity causes for those that struggle with their weight.  If you missed that post, you can find it here.  Today, we look at how you can fight the battle of the bulge on a tight budget, both in terms of diet and exercise.  So without further ado....

Eating healthy on a budget isn't as easy as it should be, but it is far from impossible.  The biggest obstacle to overcome affects those that shop with coupons and BOGO type deals at the local grocery store.  Big agriculture and big food producers are always offering coupons and deals on their food products, and most of the time these products are of the highly processed variety.  As foods become processed, their nutritional value decreases.  Therefore, when you consume overly processed foods, you get far less nutritional value for your money.  With that in mind, spending a little more money shopping the outsides of the store (where you typically find your fresh meat, dairy, and produce) actually provides you with more vitamins, minerals, and nutrients per dollar than shopping the inside of the store and chasing the deals.  If you're willing to spend a few pennies more to shop the organic parts of the store, the health benefits are even greater.

There is no arguing that shopping for the most healthy foods in a grocery store will cost you more than shopping the aisles for hamburger helper and microwavable meals, but that isn't the only way to eat healthy.  More and more cities and towns across the country are having weekly (or even daily) farmer's markets, where farmers from the area can sell their products directly to you, the consumer.  This works out great for all parties involved, as farmers can often charge a few cents more than they would get for their produce from the food manufacturers, and the consumer can get farm fresh produce way cheaper than you can find it at any grocery store.  Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms are also rapidly popping up around the country.  In a CSA farm, many people buy shares of the farm's produce prior to the growing season, and then share in the harvest weekly or bi-weekly.  A great advantage of a CSA is that you are constantly receiving fresh produce, and often times you may get some crops that you would never have bought on your own.  My wife and I joined a CSA for the first time this year, and we have learned that some veggies, like beets, aren't as bad as we once thought.  Never would have even tried beets if we didn't have a few of them in our bag one week from the farm, but since we had already paid for them, we weren't going to let them go to waste.

Another way to save on your grocery bill while improving on the quality of the food you eat is to find a farmer in your area that raises meat animals to be butchered and sold to individuals.  Oftentimes, especially if you are dealing with a beef farmer, you can buy portions of a cow so that you don't have to find a way to store hundreds of pounds of meat at one time.  Again, my wife and I have a couple of farmers in the area that we use, one for eggs and chickens, the other for beef and pork.  The great thing about both of these farmers is that they raise their animals on the pasture, meaning they have access to fresh grass daily and aren't confined to a feed lot with hundreds of other animals in a confined space.  They also eat foods that are natural to them, instead of all grain diets of many factory meat farms, and  therefore the meat is much lower in fat and has a much higher nutritional value.

Click here to find CSAs, farmers markets, individual farmers, and other sources of local fresh meat and produce in your area.  And remember, even if the price isn't significantly cheaper than what you find in the store, the quality is usually so much higher. You'll eat less food while getting a higher nutritional value, which is good for both the waistline and the wallet.

Just as with nutrition, exercise doesn't have to break the bank either.  Every one of us has access to one of the most versatile pieces of fitness equipment ever created, the human body.  Even the most highly trained and fit people in the world can get a great workout using nothing but their own body weight to train with.  Whether its running and doing plyometric exercises for those in excellent shape, or walking and doing push-ups, the body provides all you need to change they way it looks and feels.  Of course, if you are willing to spend a little bit of money to add variety and additional options to your fitness program, that may help you reach your goals faster or keep you from getting bored.  But the amount you spend on exercise is completely up to you, and spending all the money in the world doesn't help you achieve your goals any faster than spending no money but having an iron will to make the necessary changes to your lifestyle. 

Ultimately, everyone has the power and the resources to improve their health by changing their diet and increasing the amount of physical activity they get.  For more information on getting fit without going broke, email me at and we can figure out the way that works best for your needs and your budget.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Get Fit or Go Broke--Part I

When it comes to fitness and becoming more physically active, everybody has an excuse as to why they can't commit to being active.  (You know what they say about excuses, right?)  The leading excuse that I hear is, "I don't have time to exercise".  That topic will be tackled in an upcoming post, but believe me, you have time.  Another common excuse concerns the wallet.  Apparently, the cost of eating healthier and getting some exercise on a daily basis is a major obstacle for some.  However, when you think about the associated costs of not taking care of yourself, the question you need to ask yourself is, "How can I afford to not be improving my health?"

As costs of medicine and insurance continue to rise at an incredibly alarming rate, those who are sick spend more and more to get healthy.  For people who are classified as obese (34% of American adults, source), the estimated annual costs are alarming.  According to researchers from George Washington University, all things considered, the annual cost of being obese is $4,879 for women and $2,646 for men!  If you do the math, being obese for 10, 20, or 30+ years can cripple you financially.  Being obese also greatly increases your odds of suffering from many kinds of illnesses; from cancer, to diabetes, to heart disease, and everything in between.

In American medicine, we have a terrible habit of waiting for a problem to occur before spending lots of money to try and solve it.

There is, however, an alternative to this "reactive medicine" that is starting to gain traction in the United States.  "Preventative maintenance" is relatively new to the scene in terms of one's health, but it is hardly a new concept altogether.  Think about all the things in your life that you maintain to prolong the lifespan of a particular item.  You change the oil in your car to help the engine last for 200,000 miles or longer.  Your computer updates its software every so often to protect against viruses and other technological issues so you won't need to replace it as often.  Some people even put sheets over their fancy furniture so that the upholstery lasts a few years longer before it fades or gets dirty.

Why are we only now starting to realize that taking care of our health is one of the most important things that we can do?  Why do we all know the saying that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" and yet seem to make the conscious decision not to do something about our health? 

Folks, at it's core, becoming healthier is an investment in yourself that pays off exponentially.  When you invest a little bit of time, energy, and money into making yourself healthy, the long-term financial savings are well worth it.  And if you think the cost of this initial investment is more than you can handle right now, check here to find out how inexpensive getting healthy actually is.

And honestly, can you put a price on being healthy enough to chase your grandkids around the playground?  Or seeing your grandson get married?  Or rocking your great-granddaughter to sleep?  I didn't think so.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Black Bean Burgers

Giving the whole "Meatless Monday" thing a try this week.  Giving black bean burgers a shot, along with some fried potatoes and steamed green and yellow beans from the garden.  Got the main frame of the recipe from, but made a few substitutions based on preference and ingredients on hand.

Here is the recipe I used:

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 jalapeno, seeded/sliced
1/2 banana pepper, seeded/sliced
1/2 onion
3 cloves garlic
2 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Mash beans with a fork.  Combine peppers, onion, and garlic in food processor and mince.  Drain off as much liquid as you can from the minced veggies (I dried it a bit with paper towel) and combine with bean mash.  Add salt and pepper to taste and mix together.  Add eggs and bread crumbs.  Once thoroughly mixed, form into patties.  You should get 4 good sized patties. 

To cook, heat a frying pan to med/high and add TBSP of olive oil (just enough to coat the pan).  Cook on each side about 3 minutes and serve.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Best Kept Secret of Weight Loss

Want to know a secret?  Who doesn't?  This may, in fact, be the best kept secret of all in terms of weight loss and getting fit.  It's a big one.  Here goes.

Losing weight really isn't that hard, but it's not that easy, either.

Confused?  Don't be.  Allow me to explain, one part of the oxymoron at a time.

"Losing weight really isn't that hard"

Anyone who has ever tried losing weight is calling shenanigans on me right now.  But hold off judgement for a minute, please.  At its core, losing weight is a simple formula.  Calories burned off must be greater than calories taken in.  When this happens, viola, weight loss occurs.  But how do you get the equation in your favor?  The biggest thing you have working for you is your basal metabolic rate (BMR, calculate yours here), which is the number of calories your body burns doing all of the everyday tasks (breathing, heart beating, digesting food, etc) that you need to survive.  The rest of your equation is made up of the calories you consume and the calories you burn exercising.  Your BMR is pretty much set, and any changes are gradual and occur over time.  But your calorie consumption and calorie burn can be adjusted rather easily.  Eat healthier.  Choose a salad instead of french fries.  Drink less pop and more water.  Exercise.  Park at the end of the parking lot and walk instead of circling the lot looking for the closest spot.  Take the stairs.  There are literally 100's, if not 1000's, of unique and simple ways that you can help alter the weight loss equation into your favor.  The more you turn the equation in your favor, the faster the weight comes off.

See what I mean, losing weight really isn't that hard.

But wait, there's more.  "It's not that easy, either"

Now for the part where I go ahead and contradict myself.  If you've ever had the pleasure of watching any fitness equipment infomercial (shake weight, anyone?) or new fancy diet infomercial, the manufacturers would have you believe that all you need to do is make 3 easy payments and the excess weight will just disappear.  Hopefully you realize that isn't really true.  Remember your parents always telling you as a child that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is?  Well, they were right again.  Any product making an outrageous claim about how much weight you will lose in almost no time at all, with almost no effort at all, is not worth your time or your dollars.  Those ads almost always have fine print, and in that fine print you learn that the results they are advertising are not typical.  Or the people claiming to lose the weight are really paid actors.  Or the before and after pictures aren't even the same person!  Or, or, or.  If it sounds too good to be true, listen to your gut and forget about it.

Boy, maybe losing weight isn't that easy after all.

Maybe we need to alter the best kept secret of weight loss.  Try this on for size:

"Losing weight really isn't as hard as you might think it is, but it's not as easy as some would like you to believe, either."

If you want to lose weight, you have to make a commitment to yourself to do it.  At the end of the day, that's the most important factor.  Hold yourself accountable.  If you struggle with that, enlist the help of someone else.  Maybe your spouse, or a friend.  Maybe hire a personal trainer to help with the process.  There is help available to those that need/want it, but the decision has to be yours.

If YOU are determined to do something about your weight, doing so becomes a whole lot easier than you ever thought it could be.  There's no better time to start than now.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beef Stew Recipe

Made an awesome (in my humble opinion, anyway) beef stew tonight for dinner.  Used stew meat we got from a pasture-raised cow and veggies from our local, organic CSA.  All in all, a pretty healthy and tasty meal.

If you want the recipe, here it is:

1 c water
1 lb stew meat (any meat cut into approx 1" cubes)
4 carrots
3 stalks celery
4 med. red potatoes
1/2 onion
1 kohlrabi
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 pkg onion soup mix
2 Tbsp corn starch

Add 3/4 c water and 1 pkg of soup mix to slow cooker and mix.  Add all veggies peeled and chopped to desired size.  Add meat on top of veggies (you can brown it first if you want, I don't though) and sprinkle 1 pkg of soup mix on top of everything.  Put lid on cooker and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

When thoroughly cooked, remove meat and veggies into a serving bowl.  Put all liquid from slow cooker into a small saucepan.  Combine corn starch and approx 1/4 cup of water in separate container and stir until all cornstarch is dissolved.  Pour into saucepan and heat on high, stirring until gravy achieves desired consistency.  Add gravy to stew, stir, and serve.