Tuesday, April 11, 2006

BlueChoice Weight Loss Advice Not Too Shabby

My health insurance provider offers mixed weight loss tips

I have to admit something that I can't believe I'm actually gonna say. But I LIKE my health insurance provider BlueChoice HealthPlan, a division of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina. For me to say anything positive about a health insurance company, you know they MUST be good. My experiences with "other" (they will remain nameless) insurance companies has been less than spectacular.

But the BlueChoice HealthPlan has been very good for my family this year with all the tests my wife has been having regarding that pain in her side that they still don't know what's wrong with her. After last week's colonoscopy turned out okay, she goes for an endoscopy on Wednesday to see if they can determine the cause of her mysterious pain. THANK YOU to everyone who has been praying for her during this difficult time.

The good thing is we've had so many tests done that the rest of them are FREE this year. So I say, "Test away until we find what's wrong!" My wife Christine isn't so gung ho about it and is quite frustrated by the "not knowing." Yeah, me too, but each test eliminates what it could be until eventually they find out what it actually is.

Anyway, speaking of my health insurance provider, I received a health newsletter from them today for the Spring 2006 version of HealthWord. This little pamphlet includes suggestions about how to make your health better, utilizing the services offered by the insurance company, and tips for keeping yourself away from the doctor. I guess this kind of publication is created by just about every health insurance company out there and usually the information found in it is forgettable.

However, one article in this newsletter stuck out like a sore thumb and caused me to perk up when I saw the title of it -- "WEIGHT LOSS WISDOM." Okay, what's this all about. As someone who has lost close to 200 pounds, I was very intrigued to read what kind of advice was going to be suggested to help people lose weight. Some of the information was surprisingly good while other parts of it were, not surprisingly, not-so-good.

Let's take a look at the 10 suggestions they made regarding weight loss:

1. Change the way you think about food. Do not focus on dieting or starving yourself to lose weight. Instead, choose foods that are minimally processed, high in fiber and low in fat and sugar to fill you up and keep you feeling full on fewer calories. Some examples of these foods are fruits and vegetables, whole-wheat products, brown rice, chicken breasts and pork loins.

Pretty good advice, although the "low in fat" and "fewer calories" comments don't match up with what I believe is sound nutritional advice for people who are livin' la vida low-carb. But this idea of forgetting about going on a diet or making weight loss a painful experience is VERY good advice. I also think avoiding processed foods and sugar while eating more fiber-based foods is important for a healthy lifestyle change. Don't forget your protein, though, as it helps keep you satisfied for many hours of the day when you usually feel like munching. Eat your fruits and veggies but be careful about certain "whole-wheat products" and "brown rice" as they can contain an overabundance of carbohydrates that you can live without.

2. Make your daily exercise routine fun. Find a reason to exercise and stick to it. Take up enjoyable activities such as aerobics class, hiking and swimming for at least one hour a day, five or six days a week. Exercise should make you feel good.

If I knew how enjoyable participating in a daily exercise routine was going to be in terms of stress relief and the natural high that comes from releasing millions of endorphines in my body, then I would have started doing it a long time ago. How in the world can people go through life WITHOUT doing ANY exercise is beyond me! I used to be that fat slob who sat around on the couch watching television all day, but now I'm an athletic man looking for a new challenge to put my body through. Amazingly, at 34 years old I am more active than I have EVER been in my entire life and I feel fantastic, too! Despite what you hear about people on low-carb and exercise, I have found it to be an incredible invigorator that has me overflowing with energy. Making exercise both interesting and a priority in your life will help you reap BIG dividends in your weight loss efforts.

3. Avoid eating because you are bored. Pay attention to your body cues. Avoid eating to relax or overcome depression.

Okay, I want a show of hands on this: How many of you have ever eaten something you didn't really need just because you were bored? Had a bad day? Felt down in the dumps? I'll admit it, so have I. It's human nature to want to make ourselves feel better when life throws us a curveball. But even when things like the death of a pet, for example, can bring you down, it is important to avoid that temptation to reach for food to make yourself feel better. Instead, do an activity that you really enjoy doing, such as playing a game, taking a walk in your neighborhood, or watching your favorite movie. We need to break the cycle of choosing food to lift us up. When you resolve in your mind that nothing is going to stand in the way of your weight loss success, then you cannot help but see that goal come to pass. Remember, food is not a drug to wash away the pain. It only exacerbates the problem even more!

4. Eat at home more. If you do eat out, choose soup and salad and ask for the dressing on the side. If the portions are large, take half home with you. Not only will you lose weight but you will also save money.

My wife and I enjoy eating out. It's a great way for us to enjoy each other's company while eating delicious and healthy foods. We visit our favorite restaurant because they cater to my low-carb needs perfectly with appropriate substitutions. I NEVER feel obligated to eat anything that I know I am not supposed to unless I am giving myself permission to do so. I order exactly what I want to eat and can usually eat it all and be satisfied. And I don't have to stick with soup (which can be high in carbs!) and salad all the time either! Although I love a good salad with Ranch dressing on top, mmmmm! In the end, though, it is better to eat meals at home where YOU can control what you see on your plate and how many carbs you are consuming.

5. Learn to shop smartly. Fill the majority of your grocery cart with fat-free dairy products, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, seafood, chicken, beans and rice.

If you buy everything on that list above, then you are NOT shopping "smartly" when you are livin' la vida low-carb. I don't buy "fat-free" anything anymore because I know I don't have to. Stocking up on healthy low-glycemic fruits, non-starchy veggies, and fresh cuts of meat will keep your low-carb lifestyle going for a very long time. Be careful with beans and rice, though, because they can sabotage what would otherwise be a healthy diet because of the excessive carbs they contain. Look for foods that are high-fiber, high-protein, and low-carb and you'll be doing well when shopping for food.

6. Learn to eat healthy snacks. Try to keep snacks to less than 150 calories and five grams of fat. Most Americans have a hard time eating enough fruits and vegetables, so enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables with low-fat dips as a way to help balance your diet.

"Healthy snacks" depends on which eating plan you are on. For a low-fat diet, the advice above is fine. But when you are livin' la vida low-carb, don't worry about the calories or fat. Instead, find low-carb foods that will satisfy your appetite, which can include strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries dipped in real whipped cream for a refreshing snack. Also, nothing beats a cold tossed garden salad topped with cheese and Ranch dressing for a quick pick-me-up snack around mid-afternoon. Of course, you can also enjoy some low-carb chocolates, nuts, string cheese, or pepperoni slices to curb your hunger during the day as well. The options are only limited by your imagination.

7. Try new things. Be willing to try foods from other cultures as a way to break up your everyday routine.

What an excellent idea! I'm sure this is how shirataki noodles became so popular lately. Somebody got to reading the nutritional content of this popular Japanese food while visiting an Asian market and said to themselves, "Hey, this could be pretty good!" Check out some of the aisles you don't normally shop on at the grocery store or even an entirely different store to see what's out there. The key is to READ THE LABELS and make sure it is compatible with your low-carb lifestyle. If it is, then GO FOR IT! Doing this will keep your low-carb plan from getting boring, another popular excuse for not doing it. Phooey on that excuse!

8. Change the way you prepare foods. Instead of frying food, broil or grill them to reduce the amount of added fat.

You can forget about worrying about reducing the fat when you decide to grill any time of the year. Grilling that chicken, beef, or pork will help you soak up all those wonderful flavors from freshly grilled meat. And how about this? Try grilling some green peppers, onions, and tomatoes on that grill, too! Oh my goodness, talk about slap your momma silly good...woooweee! Mmm mm mmmm! Okay, I'll stop slobbering all over the keyboard now, but I think you get the picture. It's amazing how much better food can taste when it's cooked in a different way.

9. Limit sugars and refined starches.

This is Low-Carb 101 here. Sugar and refined starches are why we have an obesity problem in America and eliminating these unnecessary carbs from our lives forever is sound dietary advice for everyone to heed.

10. Eat breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and helps prepare your body for the day.

Again, I could not agree more and scientific studies have proven this to be true. That's why I enjoy eating a healthy portion of eggs with melted cheese on top for breakfast because the protein in them keeps me satisfied longer than any high-carb breakfast food would. NEVER EVER skip breakfast because you'll cause your metabolism to put on the brakes which will stop weight loss. That's the LAST thing you want to do, right? So don't miss breakfast!

All in all, BlueChoice didn't do so bad with their weight loss suggestions, although some of them needed to be tweaked just a bit. I applaud them for at least trying to point people in the right direction nutritionally so they can get their weight under control which in turn will help them get their health under control as well. Healthier bodies mean they don't have to pay out as much for medical expenses -- something that benefits both them and the people they insure in the long run.

Do you have any other weight loss tips to add to this list? Feel free to share them by clicking on the comments link below.


Blogger Mark said...

Regina Wilshire has pointed out in her brilliant blog, Weight of the Evidence, several different times that by eating low or no fat dairy products, you significantly reduce the vitamin and mineral content of your diet. Furthermore, summarizing her Tuesday, September 13, 2005 column, a low fat diet is typically deficient in certain minerals and vitamins while an example Atkins menu from her weight loss period met all nutritional requirements. And they say there is no long term data on the safety of low carb diet. A cursory glance at the data show that low fat diets are UNSAFE in the long term!

4/14/2006 11:29 AM  

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