Zero Calories !?!?

   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator

So, I don’t mean to sound negative, but it drives me nuts when I see blatant misinformation pushed on people in an attempt make them feel better about their own poor choices. We make enough bad decisions in our lifetime; sticking your tongue to a pole in the middle of winter, listening to your friends when they tell you that you can easily jump that ravine on your bike, or the ever infamous “dude you gotta try this, we’ve all done it!” Liars! Not that I’ve fallen victims to these…twice. But I’m talking about information regarding our food choices and what is healthy and why. We all know that pizza is bad for us and fruit is good, but let’s make sure we all know why something is good for us and that nothing is free.

As I was walking out of my local fitness center, feeling better that I may have possibly burnt off enough calories to justify the amazing apple induced sugar rush I was going to give myself, a handmade billboard caught my eye. “ZERO CALORIE FOODS!” Low and behold, there is a Heaven, and according to this poster, it is filled with zero calorie apples, bananas, pineapple, celery and almost every other type of fruit and vegetable you can think of. Hallelujah! But then I remembered, wait, this apple in my hand, this gorgeous, ruby red, juicy piece of sweetness named Fuji actually contains about 100 calories with about 30g (90 cal) coming from straight up sugar; fructose to be exact! What! (Not that fructose is bad for you)
Zero Calories

Zero calorie foods are a myth people! It has been a thought out there for a long time that there are some fruits and vegetables that require more calories to digest than they actually give. Unfortunately, this is total hogwash. There are foods out there that have very few calories. For instance, a stalk of celery has between six and ten calories. There is a metric called TEF (Thermal Effect of Food) that measures how many calories are used to digest food. Generally speaking, it’s only about 10% to 20%. That means a ten calorie stalk of celery still gives you eight calories even after digestion. So in the case of my delectable Fuji, this means it still “contains” 80 calories after you factor in my tummy doing some work.

I’m not saying that we should all give up on nutritious fruits & veggies and go binging on a swimming pool full of ice cream and donuts; I’m just saying that we need to be properly informed about what we eat. Keep eating those fruits and vegetables, just know that you are consuming calories. So after ripping down the poster and high tailing it out of there screaming “They’re all out to make us fat,” needless to say, I’m looking for a new place to get in shape. Any suggestions?

“Culture of Wellness” – Buzz Words?


Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Wellness Account Manager

“Culture of Wellness” could be called a Buzz Term in the world of corporate wellness, as it is used a lot.  Don’t get me wrong – culture is VERY important to the success of a wellness program an.  But what are we really talking about when we discuss “Culture of Wellness”?

The first place we tend to look is the environment.  Do you have signs/posters with health tips or motivating messages?  Do you have stairs that are well lit and easily accessible?  Do you provide healthy options in your cafeteria or provide free or low cost healthy snacks in your vending machines?  Do you provide fun and engaging activities to support employees in their quest for wellness?  All of these are important and while they DO contribute to the culture, THERE’S MORE TO THE STORY!

Culture also includes employee morale – finding meaning and purpose in their jobs.  With millennials making up 70% of the workforce in the next 10 years, this is an incredibly important focus, since millennials are demanding more and more that they are clear on their roles and how those roles provide value within the organization.  Creating a focus on self-care and consumerism is a step all successful wellness programs should take to move in this direction.

Who cares if a workplace has health food and a fitness center if employees are being worked to death?   Oftentimes, when designing a wellness program, we tend to think “how can we get employees to lose weight?  How can we get them to stop smoking?”  I encourage a focus shift to “How can we create conditions to motivate employees to __________”.  We need to be designing our programs FOR or WITH employees, rather than doing something TO them, and they need to view it that way.  People only support what they help create – I challenge you and all of us to refocus on the employee experience.

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do…”  – Steve Jobs

The Holiday Weigh In

 

Nicole Griswold, CHWC, Wellness Coordinator

Did you know that on average, Americans gain 6lbs over the holiday season? With the inevitable downward winter weather spiral and the overwhelming amounts of glorious foods and treats, it’s easy to throw on the extra pounds. I’m a pretty big advocate of treating yourself and allowing the occasional indulgence, especially during the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year are times to celebrate, relax with family, and have a few extra drinks. Everyone has their weakness when it comes to the yummy temptations lingering in the kitchen so here are a couple tricks to enjoy yourself but not overdo it.

  1. Portions! This is easily the biggest issue for most people – not even during the holidays. How many times do re-load your plate? Two or three more times? Try eating one plate and waiting 20 minutes. Are you still hungry? Do you still really want more?
    • Use a smaller plate as opposed to a full size dinner plate. Load it up! You’ll be looking at a plate just full of delicious food. Yes, there is less food there but it appears like you have just as much.
    • Still tempted for more? As soon as you’re finished with your original plate, get up and rinse it in the sink. No more plate = no more food.
  2. Desserts! So much pie. How many different desserts does your family have available and how many different kinds of dessert ends up on your plate? Contrary to popular belief, you actually are not required to try every single dessert available. Pick your favorite and leave the rest. Maybe have a bite or two of something else later on.
  3. Pre-Dinner Snacks – Often times there are plates of mini appetizers scattered about. You see it, you eat it. Your socializing, maybe have a glass of wine, and before you know it you’ve snacked enough to not even be hungry for dinner. Is that cracker with cheese on it that exciting? A good rule of thumb here is to not go into the event starving. Have breakfast, drink some extra water, and you won’t be tempted to load up on the finger foods.
  4. Drinking – Watching the Lions lose on Thanksgiving day as well as a handful of Christmas parties on the calendar, it’s pretty obvious that you’ll drinking a bit more than usual. If you’re trying to watch the calories, grab a lighter beer, a glass of red wine, or a clear liquor like vodka or gin.
  5. Buddy Up – A great way to find some accountability in these situations is to tell someone ahead of time what your plan is. Tell your spouse, a family member, or friend that you are trying to watch how much you’ll be eating. There is a chance you’ll start caving in the temptation of extra food or sweets and it’s nice to have someone there to lovingly slap your hand away.

Wellness on a Budget


Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Wellness Account Manager

When I was acquiring my certification as a Certified Worksite Wellness Program Manager at the National Wellness Conference in Minneapolis, MN, our two-day intensive class consisted of professionals like myself sharing their experiences and struggles in wellness.  One topic of discussion that was clearly a concern for HR and wellness professionals was the lack of a budget.  Conversations were that “my wellness program isn’t successful because we don’t have the money to do things”.  Bravely, a wellness coordinator from Saudi Arabia raised her hand, stood up and said, “Our company is massive.  The amount of figures in my wellness budget would sicken you, it’s so much.  We have all the money you could want and our program. isn’t. working.”  She opened everyone’s eyes to show that it’s not a hefty budget that makes a wellness program successful.  It’s the cohesion of your programs.  It’s the creativity of your people and your vendor.  It’s your leadership team’s public support in your efforts (NOT through finances, but by example).  It’s these things that give your wellness program a personality and your workplace a culture.

Since 2001, Health Plan Advocate has been providing corporate wellness programs.  Although we provide services that require a budget, we also work as consultants in sharing our ideas and experiences with the hopes that your wellness program will be the most successful it can be.  Here are 5 of our budget-friendly wellness ideas:

  1.  Wellness Committees.  If you don’t have a wellness committee, you should.  Sure you may have to pay these employees for their time on your committee during the work shift, but these are the people who are out in the workplace who know what will work and what won’t.  They will also be your CREATIVE TEAM!  As a client of HPA’s, we can run these committees for you, we can sit on them consistently to offer our experiences, or we can do a one time visit – whichever you prefer!
  2. Health Fair.  This is one of my favorites.  All you have to do is pick the date and time.  Your benefit vendors, local health food stores, hospitals, gyms, and more show up and do all the work for you!  It’s about introducing local resources to your employees to support them in your journey.  Vendors will typically provide decent door prizes, too.
  3. Parking Tickets.  During the warmer months, take a trip once a week (or as frequently as you’d like) into your parking lot.  On the cars parked the farthest away, leave them a “parking ticket”.  On that ticket, it will tell the employee that they have parked HEALTHILY and once they collect 3 tickets, they can turn them in to you to claim their prize.  This can be something tangible and low budget like a water bottle, t-shirt (it’s amazing what people will do for trinkets!), or something non tangible like a free jean day, or 4 hours of PTO, whatever you’d like!
  4. Healthy Selfies.  We have to give credit to one of the agencies we work with for coming up with this one.  They had their employees submit “Healthy Selfies” – photos of themselves doing something healthy.  After collecting photos, they sent them out to their staff to vote on their favorites.  Not only did they have fun with it (and was it completely FREE), but it allowed employees to see all the other fantastic healthy things their peers were doing, were able to share about this great fitness class they were a part of, share their favorite walking route, and more!
  5. Scavenger Hunt.  Have your committee (or some fantastic volunteers) stand at different points of your facility or campus with a clue directing participants to their next destination (ever seen The Amazing Race?) but they have to answer a health and wellness trivia question to earn their next clue  Once they reach their final destination, they can earn a trinket or maybe everyone who completes it goes into a drawing to win a day of PTO, tshirts, gift cards – whatever you prefer!

I could go on all day with budget friendly wellness ideas, but I’ll stop here.  Talk to Health Plan Advocate to see how we can help you with your program!

What Is Cholesterol

   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator

Something that comes up a lot during Health Screenings and Health Coaching are questions around: “What is Cholesterol?”

Cholesterol is in the fats in your blood. Two types of cholesterol exist: LDL, which is also known as low-density lipoprotein and HDL, which is also known as high-density lipoprotein. LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol, because it causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries. HDL is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps the body get rid of excess fat in the blood by carrying it away from the organs to the liver, so that it can be removed.

Ok, that’s all fine and dandy, but why do we need to be so mean to the poor lipoproteins and start calling them names! Look here, LDL cholesterol isn’t necessarily bad. Wait! What did he just say! Yeah, you heard me, it’s not all bad. LDL cholesterol plays an important function in the body, if not, it wouldn’t be there and our bodies sure wouldn’t be producing it naturally. So, what does it do then?

LDL Cholesterol is produced in the liver as a transport mechanism for fat to be taken to the organs that utilize fat as an energy source. FYI, the brain can only use fat as an energy source. So these lipoproteins serve a pretty important purpose, get energy to your brain so you don’t die! The problem with LDL is it has a tendency to drop fat particles as it travels to the organs. This is where HDL comes in. HDL transports excess fats in the blood stream back to the liver to be reprocessed. Let’s make an analogy out of this cause well, that’s how I understand stuff best.

LDL is a worker carrying a load of wood pellets down a hallway to a stove (ie, your brain) to get it working. He has so many pellets in his hands that he has a tendency to drop some along the way. Well along comes HDL, the cleaning crew, and he picks up the dropped pellets out of the hallway and takes them back to the recycling center (your liver) to get them ready to be picked up again. This works out great in a 1:1 ratio, LDL : HDL. Now let’s say that we have hundreds of workers carrying pellets to the stove, each dropping some along the way and only a handful of cleaning crew members trying to pick it all up. Ugh oh, anyone else see the problem? Sooner or later the small cleaning crew just can’t keep up and the hallway gets clogged up. Can anyone say clogged arteries? This is why we like to see low LDL numbers and high HDL numbers. Now this is a very simplified version of what LDL and HDL do for the body. As we all know, the body doesn’t like to be simple in any way, shape or form. Just know that the best way to make changes is to know what your numbers are. So get your screenings done so you know where to start.

DC Calls it Quits – Cessation Tips for Employers


Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Wellness Account Manager

In Washington D.C., September 21 – 25 is QUIT WEEK! That brings to light a hot topic in employee wellness. Smoking Cessation is an important and high demand piece of worksite wellness programs.  The average tobacco user costs employers approximately $5,816.  That’s $2,300 more than a healthy employee and similar to the cost of one with a Body Mass Index >35, according to a study from Ohio State University. In fact, this study breaks down the annual costs to business in the following way:

Absenteeism: $517
Presenteeism, or reduced productivity related to nicotine addiction:$462
Smoke Breaks: $3,077

There are many things an organization can do to aid in cessation:

  1. Tailored 1-on-1 Health Coaching: each person is different and has a different “why” to quitting. Coaches will explore this on a personal level and bring forward the motivation to quit smoking and educate participants on not only the risks of using, but what options are available to quit.
  2. Online Self-Paces Courses: While participants are twice as likely to be successful when they work with a coach, making an online course available will get participants thinking about their addiction and will put to practice great cessation methods. An incentive ALWAYS helps employees complete this step!
  3. Nicotine Testing: In our experience, we see a 10% increase between self-reported nicotine usage and tested usage. That means 10% of people are LYING! Imposing a wellness incentive for non-nicotine users may be just the thing that user needed to quit.
  4. Marketing Campaigns: It could be as simple as educating employees! Strategic marketing can be point-of-contact reminders to employees what resources are out there to help them and that they are not alone.
  5. Nicotine Use Policies: A very effective method of impacting your workforce is amending company policy. These could include: a nicotine free campus, putting in “butt huts”/designated smoking areas, not hiring nicotine users, and more.
  6. Reimbursement Programs: Budget to provide a reimbursement to employees if they complete a local cessation course at either 50% or even 100%. Your support would really send the message that your organization cares about the wellbeing of their employees.

 

Health Plan Advocate, an employee wellness company in Grand Rapids,  can help you implement the most successful nicotine cessation program to your employees. Contact us at 616-575-0211 x108 to get started!

The Truth Behind Sports Drinks

Nicole Griswold, CHWC, Wellness Coordinator

The advertisement of sports drinks are often misleading and untrue. They are portrayed as being nourishing and necessary during all types of exercise. These days, unfortunately, most of the general public will believe anything they are told if they are being told it will make them healthier. Most people don’t even see them as a sports drink anymore. They’re being drank as an everyday beverage which should be pure water. Commercials, ads, and celebrity endorsements are just another ploy from the big beverage corporations.

Many of the mass produced drinks have brand names that sounds healthy, right? It’s a pretty good marketing ploy to help boost sales. It’s a trick to get consumers to believe they are nourishing the bodies and minds with liquid magic. Realistically, they should just name each drink “sugar” and call it a day. Experts in the fields of nutrition, epidemiology, and obesity are starting to blame the nation’s health epidemic on big beverage companies – but that’s an entirely different topic.  Would you trust a product from a corporation that has easily contributed to almost half of the United States being classified as obese?

There are many different brands of sports drinks out there. What do they all have in common? Extra calories and lots of sugar. The amount of added sugar is comparable to a can of your average cola drink. With these added negatives, most brands have produced a line of zero calorie or reduced calorie options. This will be a better choice but it will still contain artificial sweeteners and flavoring. Below you can find a generic label from a popular sports drink.

So, when are these drinks beneficial? Some types of sports drinks do provide athletes with necessary electrolytes post a vigorous exercise routine. After exercising for over 60 minutes of high intensity exercise, your body will most likely need a replenishment of sodium and electrolytes. This is where some of these drinks can come in handy but there is another loophole – you only need about a quarter of what’s in a large bottle to do the job. Body types and exercise intensity will vary regarding how much of the supplement you really need. In this case, less is more. Drinking an entire bottle after a workout will just add in some extra calories you tried so hard to burn. The excess sugar will convert to fat and the sodium will dry you out. Regarding the added vitamins, yes these are good for you but they are artificially produced so your body will not absorb them fully as they would in getting them from a natural source. Any of the vitamins and/or minerals listed on the bottles can be easily found in fresh fruits and vegetables.

The moral of the story is this – drink regular water. Your body runs off water and is 100% necessary for your survival. If you are involved in a high intensity exercise routine, having a low calorie sports drink available is a good idea. Just make sure to drink a recommended serving size or less. One large bottle can last you a long time if you use it correctly. Focus on lots of water and a balanced diet. And remember, with any food or drink – natural is best!

The Game Plan – Strategic Planning in Wellness


Toni Sperlbaum, CWWPM, CHWC, Wellness Account Manager

“Wellness” is defined in many ways, and when an organization is faced with implementing a new wellness program, the sky really is the limit. But there are many things that need to be considered when making your program the most budget-friendly and effective it can be.

Year one should be an assessment year:

  • Measure the current health of your employees through biometric screenings and Health Risk Assessments.
  • What are employees not only needing as far as education and encouragement, but what are they actually interested in learning about?
  • Is your facility set up to provide structural and cultural support for a wellness program?
  • Do your policies truly support the wellbeing of your employees? (Flextime, healthy meeting options, nicotine free campuses, and more).
  • What are your goals for the program?

Goals – that is where the planning comes in. After year one measurements, come up with a strategic plan that is at least 3 years in length. Design this plan with the following in mind:

  • Develop a mission of the program with a mission statement.
  • Connect the dots on all of your plans for the year. For example: focus on Nutrition in year 1 with all of your programs/education. This will create a focus for employees instead of being overwhelmed with exercise, nutrition, smoking cessation, mental health, sleep, work-life balance, and everything all at the same time.
  • Each program you deliver must lead back to your mission. “Does what we are trying to do here directly support the mission?” If not, don’t do it.
  • Is our program simple to understand? Is it achievable?

Too many wellness programs, while very well-intended, implement activities that do not make sense together in the grand scheme of things. Creating a 3 year calendar of events and strategic plan will help your planning team know what’s coming, be able to budget effectively, and make the biggest impact on your population.

 

Insulin – Good vs. Evil: Which Side Are You On

   Ryan Hall  MS, CSCS, Wellness Coordinator

Insulin and glucagon are the primary hormones involved in the storage and release of energy within the body. Although countless tasks are performed by these two hormones, insulin’s main priority is to keep blood sugar levels from rising too high and conversely glucagon’s main function is to prevent blood sugar levels from falling too low. How about we focus on the instigator of the group, insulin.

In appropriate amounts, insulin keeps the metabolic system running smoothly with everything in balance. In excess it becomes a mischievous hormone running throughout the body, wreaking metabolic havoc and leaving a trail of destruction and disease where ever it goes. Here’s what excess insulin can cause:

  • Hunger
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Bloating
  • Fluid retention throughout the body
  • Increased fat in the cells
  • A changing of protein & sugar into fat
  • Obesity
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol levels
  • Diabetes
  • Arterial damage
  • Heart disease
  • Brain dysfunction
  • Coma
  • Death

Now that we know what too much can do, how do we control it? Well, through diet of course! Controlling our blood sugar levels will control our insulin and glucagon levels. You eat foods high in carbohydrates (sugar) and the pancreas releases insulin to help decrease the jolt of blood sugar. Constant ingestion of high carbohydrate foods in turn causes a constant elevated release of this tricky little hormone. Sooner or later, the receptor sites in our cells (how the insulin gets in) become overloaded and eventually can stop recognizing the insulin, i.e. – insulin resistance. At this point the cells do not receive the insulin to control the increasing blood sugar level, but the body keeps dumping in more and more insulin to try and control it. Oh no! Look ma, excess insulin!

The solution: a diet low in those pesky carbohydrates, you know, that stuff that can cause these giant fluctuations in blood sugar. Now, not all carbohydrates are created equal. The good: fresh fruits and vegetables with low glycemic loads (lower sugar content). The bad: processed carbohydrates such as grains, pastas, rices and packaged baked goods. All of these have high sugar contents that cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket. A good rule of thumb: if it comes in a package or a box it probably isn’t good for you!

Osteoporosis Awareness

Nicole Griswold, CHWC, Wellness Coordinator

Lack of preventative care is a huge reason as to why so many people eventually suffer from ongoing chronic disease. With so many risk factors being asymptomatic, anyone who avoids regular visits with a physician, usually have no idea their health is in a downward spiral until it’s too late.

Unfortunately, osteoporosis is becoming one of the leading health issues contributing to long term unemployment due to disability. Osteoporosis is also known as the “silent disease” because it is nearly impossible to tell if someone is suffering from the low bone density disease, unless they are directly tested for it.

Luckily, we have pin pointed a good amount of risk factors that can keep us aware if we are most at risk than others for acquiring the disease. Like all health related risk factors, some are preventable and others are just the hand that we are dealt.

Take a look at just some of the following factors that could put you at risk for Osteoporosis –

Non-modifiableosteoporosis_Bozeman_Chiropractic

  1. Female
  2. Old age
  3. White or Asian ethnicity
  4. Small body frame
  5. Family history of Osteoporosis
  6. Menopause before age 45
  7. Previous bone fractures
  8. Loss of height with older age

Modifiable

  1. Physical inactivity
  2. Low calcium and vitamin D intake
  3. Smoker
  4. Excessive alcohol and caffeine intake
  5. Low strength/physical capabilities
  6. Poor posture
  7. Excessive soda consumption
  8. Various medications

How many of those apply directly to you? More importantly, how many of the modifiable factors can you change? Focus on controlling what you can as much as possible.  If multiple non-modifiable factors also come into play, it is recommended to seek care or testing from a physician.