Guest Post, Health, Nutrition

College Eating- Healthy Lifestyle Living on a Budget

By Ellie

Moving off to college and living on your own for the first time can be a major adjustment. Personally, the biggest adjustment I found was learning how to cook for and feed myself on a regular basis around classes and other activities. Through my experiences in college and living on my own, I’ve acquired a few tips and tricks when it comes to cooking, including tips about cooking for only one person, eating healthy, and eating inexpensively.

Cooking for One

One of the more prominent challenges when it comes to living on your own is adapting recipes – whether they’re from websites, apps or even good ole’ fashioned cook books — that make 4-6 servings for one person. My first tip is embracing freezer meals. By freezing leftovers, you can cook recipes without having to adjust to fit your serving size, and you have future quick and easy meals readily available. All you must do is heat them up! Personally, I’ve found this very helpful with dishes such as lasagna, soups, breakfast sandwiches, muffins, quesadillas, and casseroles.

Another freezer tip you can use is instead of freezing whole meals you can freeze pre-cut ingredients so that they won’t go bad, and they’re ready to use whenever you need them. I’ve found this helpful in: soon to expire fruits that can be used for smoothies; leftover vegetables such as onions, carrots, and celery; and even products like cheese or breads. I use this most often when I need to cut a recipe in half (or even quarters) to fit my serving size.  If I’m left with three-quarters of an onion in my fridge, I’ll cut it up, bag it, and freeze it for future recipes.

Eating Healthy and Inexpensively

A common myth is that it’s cheaper to eat unhealthy foods than healthy foods. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive.  You can save a lot of money by eating out as little as possible and doing more home cooking.   As you do more grocery shopping, you’ll learn that vegetables, grains and beans are much cheaper and more accessible than meat.  I’ve also found that shopping is easier if I plan out what weekly meals I will be cooking at the beginning of the week and decide what ingredients I need before I get to the store.  This way, I’m not making trips to the grocery store every two days or buying things I don’t need that then go to waste. When shopping, be sure to stick to foods that will give you the most nutrients, like brown rice instead of white rice, whole-wheat bread products, and stay away from processed ingredients/foods that are high in sugar. When shopping for produce, you can save a lot of money by buying fruit and vegetables that are in season or on sale in bulk and freezing what you don’t use.

Lastly, many people don’t like to cook at home because they don’t have a lot of cooking experience or confidence. Some would-be cooks don’t know where to find recipes, or they don’t know how to cook for their own food preferences or dietary needs.  There are many great websites, beginner’s cookbooks, and apps with hundreds of delicious recipes and easy to follow, step-by-step instructions for those who are new to the kitchen. These will help you be inspired to eat at home more, which will save you money and help you eat healthier.

Overall, cooking is an individual process. There are going to be ideas that work for you and ideas that don’t.  This will be mostly dictated by personal preferences and needs. The most important thing is to be constant in cooking at home and cooking with quality ingredients.

Post content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE
Fitness, Guest Post

Summer Fitness Idea: Swimming

By Sara Evans, Aquatics Supervisor
The Clubs at Charles River Park

Swimming is a great, total body exercise for building strength in your muscles as well as your heart and lungs. Swimming is also a safe activity for anyone. Because you’re weightless in the water, there’s less wear on your joints and you don’t need to worry about tripping or losing feeling in your feet. Unless your healthcare provider says no, there’s no reason not to try swimming.

Swimming uses every muscle in your body, but especially your core. A strong core is needed to keep your head above water, and will help improve your posture in other activities like running or walking. Since the whole body is used to pull you through the water, swimming is a great time saver workout. Just 30 minutes in the pool is about the same as at 45-minute run on the treadmill. You can also adjust how hard you work by making small changes to your hand positions. For instance, keeping your hands flat adds resistance and challenge.

If you’re new to swimming, the first steps are learning to float and developing good breath control in the water. Most of all you’ll need to have confidence about swimming in the deep end. The best way to build confidence is through practice. I recommend beginners start with 15 minutes twice a week at either the beginning (warm up) or end (cool down) of your workout. Remember, swimming is much different than running so it’s best to take it easy to start so you don’t wear yourself out. As you get stronger, you can increase how long and how often you swim. Eventually you’ll be able to swim every day of the week if you want! Swimming is a life-long activity and there’s no risk of injury from overuse.

One last thought: There’s no one “right” way to swim. You’ll soon develop a style that works for you. Be comfortable with your stroke, even if it’s different from someone else’s. The best fit for you is whatever gets you to the other end of the pool and back.

 

Guest Post, Uncategorized

Navigating Health Information on the Web

Jen Searl, MLS, CHWC

If you’re like the majority of Americans (over 60%), you use the internet to find health information. And why wouldn’t you? The internet is full of answers to any question you could possibly have. However it’s important to remember that not all websites are created equal. Just because you read something on the internet does not mean that is true! Read below for things to look for when evaluating health websites.

  • Source: Who is the owner of the website? For example, is it a non- profit, federal government agency, pharmaceutical company or other? Often the ‘About’ section on a website will give you this information.
  • Bias: Is the website trying to sell you something? Is it difficult to tell what an advertisement is and what is fact?
  • Quality: Where does the information come from? Is it based on solid research or personal experience?
  • Date: When was the website last updated? Is the information current? Are there broken links?

You can tell a lot about a website from how it ends:

.gov = This website is owned and operated by the government. An example would be medlineplus.gov, an excellent source of health information

.org =This website is owned and operated by an organization. When looking for diabetes information, a great reputable source of information is the American Diabetes Association at www.diabetes.org

.edu = This website is owned and operated by an educational institution, such as a college or university. An example would be www.health.harvard.edu, a division of Harvard Medical School

.com = This website is owned and operated usually by a commercial site. When looking at .coms, use the tips above. Some websites, like ours www.mghdiabeteseducation.com is a great source of health information! Others can be less reliable so use your judgment.

If you ever wonder if information you have read is true, make sure to talk with your diabetes educator. They know you and your diabetes best!

Guest Post, My Story

My Story: Overcoming Fears of Starting Insulin

By Kevin

Rock climbing. Photo Credit: Bryan Wintersteen

Writing a blog post on “Overcoming Fears of Starting Insulin” turned out to be harder than I thought. I mean, who knew writing something like this would be that much more difficult than composing an e-mail at work or posting a snarky comment on Facebook? And to be completely honest, after extending (read: missing) my deadline a few times I was starting to feel a bit hopeless that I could actually pull it off.

But then I saw Steve Martin, the actor, comedian, author, and banjo virtuoso (don’t believe me? Check this out, I think you’ll like it) on Late Show with David Letterman and inspiration struck. Martin’s appearance on Letterman reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from his 1986 comedy ¡Three Amigos!

To set the scene, at this point in the film The Amigos (played by Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short) have decided that although they are merely Hollywood actors who play hero gunfighters in the movies, they will help the inhabitants of a small Mexican village confront and defeat the very real bandits and their ruthless leader, El Guapo (played by Alfonso Alau), who have terrorized the town for years. Lucky Day (Martin’s character) attempts to inspire the villagers with this speech.

What on Earth does this have anything to do with “Overcoming Fears of Starting Insulin”? Well, I think for most people with Type 2 diabetes, like yours truly, our “El Guapo” is starting insulin. It’s something we will have to face eventually and something that once we do, we will be better and healthier for it. For me, when my endocrinologist suggested insulin five years ago, there were two very different fears I had to overcome.

The first was the fear of admitting failure. The suggestion that it was time to start insulin was, for me, like admitting that I had failed myself, my wife, my family – everyone who cared about me.  If I had eaten better, I wouldn’t need insulin. If I had exercised more, I wouldn’t need insulin. And now if I needed insulin, then clearly I failed at managing my diabetes.

When I met with my diabetes educator, however, she reminded me that Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, moving on to insulin was merely the next step in my treatment, and that it was my previous treatments that were failing to adequately treat the disease. In short, it wasn’t me it was my treatment that was failing. Once I heard this I was much more accepting of insulin as an option. I wanted to feel better than I was feeling at the time, and insulin was just the next phase of my diabetes management.

The second fear was about the administration of insulin. I had visions of not being able to do anything spontaneously with friends or family anymore (“Sorry I can’t make it, I forgot my insulin so I need to head home.”). I was pretty nervous (and admittedly still am) about hypoglycemia after a previous episode with another class of drug. And while not generally afraid of needles, I had never self-administered an injection. How long is the needle we’re talking about here? I thought it was going to be about six inches long. Would it hurt? I was sure it would be agonizing.

Again, a little education went a long way to allaying these fears. Injecting insulin turned out to be pretty anti-climactic, really. It’s had no negative impact on my life whatsoever. Being on insulin has not limited me socially. With help from my health care practitioners I have had no issues with hypoglycemia. The mini-pen needle is about as long as my pinky fingernail and causes no pain at all.

And most importantly, I’m healthier and happier ever since I faced the Type 2 diabetic’s “El Guapo” – and won.

Fitness, Guest Post, My Story

Gardening for Body and Mind

By Rebecca Ocampo
Project Coordinator

phlox

Medulla Oblongata, Phlox Subulata, Calamagrostis Acutiflora, Panicum Virgatum – they may sound alike and look alike but are all very different. The medulla oblongata is the lower stalk-like section of the brain. The rest are plants: beautiful creeping phlox and exotic perennial grass. The photograph to the right is Phlox Subulata or creeping phlox. They bloom in the beginning to late spring and are perennials. They are used for garden edges or “fillers” near a stone wall.

There is an old Chinese proverb that goes like this: “If you drink tea, you will be happy for a day. If you roast a pig, you will be happy for a week. If you get married, you will be happy for three weeks. If you garden, you will be happy forever.”  My love of gardening peaked recently when I moved to the suburbs and found myself in an apartment surrounded by beautiful and lush forestry. Never did I imagine that gardening would be one of my priorities outside of work. It’s very relaxing and a healthy way to exercise. I’m outdoors and not connected to anything electronic.  Most of the time, I do not use my gardening gloves and dig right in the dirt.  It’s like making cake batter without utensils, if you will.  The texture is soothing to the skin.  It may have something to do with childhood, like making mud pies at the beach.

When I was growing up in the Philippines, my family’s ancestral home was surrounded by a variety of fruit trees (banana, avocado, mango and jackfruit) sugar cane, bamboo, and a variety of tropical and exotic flowers including different shades of hibiscus – all surrounding an in-ground (almost Olympic size) swimming pool. Flash forward to the United States where my mom, brother, and I visited several garden centers every Sunday. They would never agree to go to a mall, so it was either another pair of shoes for me or a Panicum Virgatum which is a metallic blue (sounds like shoes to me!) grass that blooms in late summer and grows up to 3’ in height and approximately 18” wide. It has pretty blue blades during the summer and turns to golden and bright yellow blades in the fall.

I mostly grow perennials:  orange and red tiger lilies, pink and white English daisies, bright orange poppies, vinca with purple flowers.  There are purple irises, red knock-out roses (tough roses that will come back every year no matter the weather) and some annuals like impatiens and pansies as well. The benefit of gardening is twofold.  First, it’s a good form of exercise because you rake, mow the lawn, pull weeds, thatch the grass, prune trees, and design your garden so it’s esthetically pleasing. Second, gardening exercises the mind. There is a calmness and peacefulness in gardening. It’s a proven source of good mental health awareness, and releases tension. It means I have escaped confinement from my cubicle. It’s a form of exercise that soothes and calms my mood after a hectic day at the office.

Fitness, Guest Post, My Story

Spotlight: Charlestown HealthCare Center Activity Tracker Pilot

By Rajani Larocca, MD
Charlestown HealthCare Center

with Chrisanne Sikora, Senior Project Specialist
Diabetes Self-Management Education Program

FitBit activity tracker

Lifestyle change is ultimately in the hands of the individual, and our job as medical  providers is to find a way to empower people to make those changes. It’s an old problem, but the question is: how do we get there? And can new technology help us solve the problem in new and innovative ways?

In spring 2013, I ran a series of six weekly group visits with a group of my patients at MGH Charlestown HealthCare Center. The group was originally intended for those with metabolic syndrome, but the majority of the patients already had Type 2 Diabetes.  The idea for this program came from an interest in applying a public health approach to medicine. All of the patients volunteered for the program on my recommendation. The focus of the visits was to educate the participants about healthy lifestyle change, to help motivate them to implement this change, and to provide a support system to help keep them motivated.

Each session focused on a different topic. In addition to the introduction in the first week and a summary group in the last week, we discussed nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, and social connection. A key part of the sessions included removing the all-or-nothing mentality that many people adopt when they are trying to be healthier, focusing instead on taking what steps you can and forgiving mistakes in the past.

During the meeting in which we discussed exercise, everyone who participated was given a FitBit activity tracker to wear. Once the trackers were on, the group went on a short walk through the neighborhood. Many were surprised to learn they didn’t have to walk far to reach 1,000 steps.

In subsequent sessions, reviewing the Fitbit data was part of what we did during our time together. Interestingly, everyone liked the Fitbits – even those who didn’t have ready internet access or who weren’t really internet-savvy. Because the trackers had a display which showed results in real time, everyone could tell whether they were reaching their goals on a daily basis. While there was some friendly competition among participants, most were only competing against themselves, trying to beat their totals from the previous week.

After the program ended, the participants were allowed to keep their FitBits, and some were still wearing them eight months later. Some of those who stopped wearing them said it was because they had incorporated their new habits into their routine and didn’t need the tracker anymore. When asked how he would keep up with his daily walks during the winter, one gentleman responded “I’ll wear a coat!”

Electronic trackers like the FitBit make developing healthy lifestyle habits more fun, but we can’t underestimate what the social connection of the group did to foster people’s success. The participants really enjoyed the group setting, especially the sense of community that developed and the confidence they gained from learning that others face many of the same challenges. Living with a chronic disease can be isolating, but in this group, people realized that they were not alone.

Fitness, Guest Post

Beginning Yoga

By Brenda Santora, Yoga Teacher
The Clubs at Charles River Park

with Chrisanne Sikora, Project Specialist
Diabetes Self-Management Education Program

Yoga is the integration of mind, body and soul. It’s physical, it’s relaxation. It’s working on flexibility, meditation and calming the mind. Ultimately, it’s learning and accepting your own body. There’s a perception that you need to be an athlete and/or able to twist yourself into a pretzel in order to practice yoga. The truth is we’re all built differently. If you can’t do the final pose, there’s nothing wrong with that! Not everyone will be able to do every pose.

If you’re new to yoga, a good first step is finding the correct level class. Starting with something that’s too advanced can be discouraging (and possibly unsafe). Check out the websites for studios in your area and look for classes with the words Intro, Beginner, Basics or Foundation in their title. If you’re still not sure which class is the best fit, you can always call the studio. They’ll be more than happy to answer your questions and make recommendations. Another option is looking into what’s offered by your local YMCA/YWCA or Adult Education Centers. These community centers are a great place to learn about yoga before moving on to classes at a yoga studio.

It’s normal to feel a sense of being overwhelmed at first. Part of it is simply the experience of doing something new, but you’ll find that after a few classes it becomes very familiar. Also when you’re getting started it’s quite normal to see something you’ve never done and feel like you can’t do it. Instead of saying I can’t do this, focus on what you can do. Just walking in the door and standing on your mat is an accomplishment! Over time you’ll start to notice you’re working and stretching parts of the body you didn’t know you could before. You may also notice you start to just feel good and more relaxed.

Finally, remember instructors are all different and each has their own individual way of teaching. Before your class take a look at their background, where they did their training, and with whom. If something doesn’t click with your instructor, don’t give up. Keep an open mind and try experimenting with different styles and teachers.

Brenda is an RYT 200 registered Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher at The Clubs at Charles River Park