How much does obesity cost?

I’ve heard all the excuses.

“It’s too expensive to eat healthy”
“I can’t afford a gym membership
“I don’t have time”

I’ll shut down those arguments with a few facts that will blow your mind. More than 1/3 of our nation is considered obese. How much does obesity cost? Let’s take a look at the costs of a few obesity-related procedures. You tell me what’s more costly…

Total hip replacement
Average cost: $51,594
Range: ($38,612 – $86,716)

Total knee replacement
Average cost:  $46,679
Range: ($24,482 – $81,549)

Right Heart Catheterization
This is a procedure where a fine hollow tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery, usually through the groin area, passing it to the heart.

Average cost: $11,020
Range: ($10,024 – $12,296)

Left Heart Catheterization
Average cost: $11,384
Range: ($6,240 – $48,178)

I see so many patients in my hospital’s rehab unit who are overweight or obese. Their knees and hips cannot take the weight and they have to be replaced. The sad part is that unless they lose weight with their new knees or hips… it’s only a matter of time before the new become old and worn again. There are a few common factors I’ve identified when assessing these patients’ lifestyles:

Shake it like a salt shaker
The diet contains many foods that are high sodium and fat. Why? The majority of the food consumed is processed. Home cookin’ has lost its touch.

I (don’t) like to move it move it
Other than the walk from from the parking lot to the office, there’s not much exercise involved. Exercise helps to lower blood pressure & cholesterol and promotes bone strength from weight-bearing exercise. It makes sense why my patients don’t work out because it hurts their knees/hips to workout. It doesn’t make sense why we can’t prevent this from happening by getting our heart rate up even just a few days a week.

Zombie apocalypse
Habitual routines involve food. Some eat out of boredom. Some eat when the TV is on. Some eat while on the computer. Some didn’t realize they were eating while reading this article until I mentioned it 😉

Depending on the type of gym you want to join, it can be costly. However, there are endless options for exercise without a gym. I recently found an awesome free app called Nike Training Club and I’ve loved working out at home on days I don’t want to drive to the gym. Sure, it’s easier to swing by the drive through than slave in the kitchen, but there are many online resources that offer quick, easy, cheap, and healthy recipes. For every excuse you come up with, I will respond “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

What is one practical step you can take to start planning ahead to make sure your health stays a high priority? It could be looking at your schedule a week ahead and writing in workout times. You make all of your doctors appointments and coffee dates with friends, why would miss a workout appointment? Maybe you could start by taking a half hour this Sunday to come up with meal ideas and a grocery list to avoid spontaneous visits to the drive through. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, but your health is something that’s highly worth investing. Now, would you like fries with that $50,000 hip?

What steps will you take to maintain or achieve good health?

Nike Training Club- get your app in shape!

I have a new favorite app- Nike Training Club. I still go to BodyPump and cycling at my gym, but the gym is a 12-minute drive away and I can’t always make the classes due to my inconsistent work schedule. This app surprised me with how much it made me sweat in 30 minutes using a few weights or just my body weight. I was very impressed with the set up of this app. Let me show you how it works:

I select “Get Workout” from the home screen

I choose what type of workout I want


I select an appropriate workout level

I pick which workout I want to do

I can see what moves I’ll be doing for the workout before I get started

I start my workout

Easy as that! If I don’t know how to do a certain move, I can click the “play” button on the picture and it shows a quick 5 second video of an athlete doing a demo of the move. The app keeps track of how long you’ve done each segment and even provides reminders to check in on your form. It also lets you know when you have 15 seconds or however many seconds you have left that way you don’t have to keep checking your phone.

I usually bring up my Spotify app and rock out to the “Club/House” radio station. The NTC app will quiet the music when it gives you any verbal prompts, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally doing three minutes of lunges instead of two because you missed your cue. Not that an extra minute of lunges would be a terrible thing to do 🙂

Do you use the Nike Training Club app? How’s your experience been?

Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Pears

Instead of having some sweet potatoes with your butter and sugar, these spuds get the spotlight in this recipe. Sweet potato casserole usually makes an appearance next to the turkey on Thanksgiving but it’s often a calorie-bomb hidden under a pile of marshmallows. My sister-in-law made this dish for Thanksgiving the first time I celebrated with Dave’s family. They were oh-so-good that I didn’t think it was possible for them to be healthy. I’m not sure where she even got the recipe from but I’ve made it a handful of times throughout the year. The secret to this dish is the natural sweetness from the pears and guess what else? The sweetness from the SWEET potatoes. It’s crazy talk, right?

Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Pears
(makes 8 servings)

5 lbs sweet potatoes
4 T. butter, room temperature
1 large can of pears (8 halves) (save 1/4 cup of juice)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 400. Pierce potatoes with a fork and place on a baking sheet. Bake till tender – about 1 hour.
2. While potatoes bake, puree pears and 1/4 cup of pear juice in a processor.
3. Remove potatoes from oven, peel, and place in electric mixer. Reduce oven to 350.
4. Add butter to potatoes and mash till smooth. Mix in pear puree, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Spread mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2 in. glass baking dish (spray with non-stick first!)
6. Bake at 350, uncovered, until just heated through – about 20 minutes.
7. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.

What is your favorite dish to make for Thanksgiving dinner?

Photo source: Food Network

When calorie counting becomes an obsession

I recently got an iPhone 4s from my generous father and shared the useful apps I loaded. One of these apps was MyFitnessPal. I was so geeked that you could scan a barcode and get instant nutrition facts that I showed Dave more examples that he cared to see. As a dietitian I’ll be the first to admit that while I know what I should eat, that’s not always the case for me because 1. I am not perfect and 2. I have a major sweet tooth. Therefore, I wanted to log a few days to see what areas I could be working on since hey, I should be taking my own advice I provide clients on a daily basis, right?

Before MyFitnessPal there was Jess, Dietetic Student
An objective for one of my undergrad dietetic classes was to memorize the diabetic exchange list. This means that I learned how to calculate the calories, carbs, protein, and fat content based off of the serving size of just about any food. This is very useful now when I do a three-day calorie count to see if a patient is meeting their needs, but this memorization wasn’t initially beneficial to learn. Counting calories became second nature like reaching for milk to pour on your cereal is second nature. You don’t need to decide what to pour on your cereal; your hand just reaches for the milk (hopefully). I found myself adding up my total intake as I walked through the cafeteria line in the dorm and chose my lunch. I still ate what my body needed, I was just way more aware of the contents in every bite. If you read my post about body image, you know I was conscious of my lack of perfections. Comparing myself to an unrealistic standard was a little exhausting. Having a great community of women helped me address my new tendency to make food an idol and counting calories gradually lost its stronghold on me.

Enter marriage
Ever since I got married in 2010 it’s like a flip has been switched. Not that my insecurities completely vanished, but Dave continuously affirms my beauty; so much to the point where I forget about my insecurities because he never seems to notice them. My body does not look like any body you’ll see in a magazine but my body is Dave’s standard and frankly, he’s the only guy I want to want my body! Double win.

Well I mentioned earlier about logging my intake for a few days… I logged 60 continuous days down to the bite. The funny thing is that I’ve weighed the same since high school, I enjoy eating healthy, and I enjoy working out a few days each week. Despite a wicked sweet tooth, my body has stuck around a weight that is healthy for me and anything less than this would likely be a weight I can’t maintain without making drastic changes. Logging my food intake on MyFitnessPal simply confirmed this because at the end of the day, I was eating the calories my body needs to maintain my weight. I didn’t need an app to tell me this but I did like the affirmation. Apparently I valued an app’s conditional approval of my body more than my husband’s unconditional approval of my body.

Parting ways
I would have continued to log my intake if I hadn’t asked a dear friend what apps she recently got for her new iPhone. MyFitnessPal was included in her list but then she explained that she deleted it because she saw it becoming an obsession. Humble me, I just smiled and responded “oh that’s good you realized that.” Talk about conviction! I knew my unnecessary calorie counting was definitely headed in that direction and I deleted the app after leaving her home. My phone even asked me if I was sure if I wanted to delete the app and lose my 60 days of data entered. Ugh. Yes, because that data does not define me and my body naturally knows what it needs.

No one person is the same
I think MyFitnessPal is a great app and I’ve heard multiple stories of how it’s helped friends and family lose weight and see eating trends that they need to work on. A friend of mine lost 20 pounds from logging his intake because it helped him realize that while he was eating 1,600 calories from meals, he was eating an additional 1,600 calories from snacking throughout the day. Making a few changes caused the weight to melt off and now he’s maintaining a healthy weight. For me, the app is not necessary because I got a degree in nutrition and basically have the app in my head. I did learn that I consume more sugar than I should and that I eat a bigger dinner than I need. I blame Dave for the big dinner because I feel that I should have seconds if he has seconds. Unfortunately I’m not 6’2” and almost 200 pounds so I have less body to maintain than he does. It’s a crazy concept, but when I eat nutrient dense food when I’m hungry and don’t eat when I’m not hungry, my body seems to get what it needs. I hope you won’t think less of me for sharing a period of weakness but instead you’ll be encouraged to listen to your body and learn to love it.

What are your thoughts on nutrition apps for phones?

Talk your way out of a fine

Have you ever been fined for something? Do you talk your way out of a fine? Aside from a few parking tickets on campus and a late fee for a library return, I haven’t had many fines. While this is a blessing, it may be the reason my first thought after getting a ticket isn’t to fight it. My husband and I missed our first rent payment EVER this month and didn’t even realize it until we got a repossession letter in the mail from our apartment complex saying we were 7 days past our rent due date and had a $50 late fee to pay in addition to our overdue rent. I was bummed that I totally forgot to pay it so I quickly wrote a check and ran it to the office before it closed at 5pm.

The next morning I told my co-worker about our fine and he responded “Why didn’t you fight it? If you’ve paid rent on time for the past year and a half; I’m sure they would have given you a pass on this one.” I never even THOUGHT to ask! Shortly after my coworker rocked me with this thought I remembered that I wrongfully got a parking ticket a few months ago for parking in a spot that was a visitor’s spot with no time limit after 6pm (I got there at 6pm). It was a $25 ticket but I just wrote a check and sent it in. The following week I arrive at my friend’s where I got the ticket and another friend who also got a ticket said they called the number and got the fine removed by simply stating that the sign only had a time limit until 6pm. To date since I’ve been living in the town I’m currently in…I’ve wasted $75.

Now that I’m aware of my tendency to roll over and take a punch, my fight response should be more in tune than my flight response next time I get a fine. Actually, I’m hoping I’ll just remember to do things on time and there won’t be a fine to fight, but now I know.

Have you fought to have a fine canceled? How far would you go to get rid of it?

Healthy lunch ideas for work (not sandwiches!)

I already shared how you can save $2,000 to $3,000 a year by packing your lunch instead of eating out, but often we end up packing the same ol’ food day after day. My dad used to bring a SPAM sandwich for lunch every day for 7+ years and he looked forward to that sandwich every day. Unless you are my dad, you probably get bored of sandwiches for lunch. Even if it’s turkey one day or a PBJ the next, you still wish there was more variety beyond two slices of bread. I take that back– Dave has to have a PBJ in every lunch. Since he eats a lot though I end up packing a second sandwich like a turkey or tuna sandwich so there’s still a longing for more variety.

When it comes to packing a lunch with more variety, you don’t need to rely on a loaf of bread. Making extra servings of your dinner dish offer leftovers for lunch the following day. I did this last week with extra eggplant I had. I roasted some eggplant and Brussels sprouts and then tossed it with tortellini and pesto for a simple and REALLY yummy lunch.

20121108-135832.jpgI had a few large slices of eggplant left and simply dipped the slices in egg, coated them with bread crumbs, and baked them in the oven (this is the first step I do when making my eggplant Parmesan recipe). I packed two slices with my lunch and ate them just like you see in the picture below! The bread crumbs mixed with Parmesan & basil add great flavor. You could put a dab of spaghetti sauce and mozzarella if you wanted to microwave it at work for a quick eggplant parm. It doesn’t seem like much compared to a sandwich, but each cup of eggplant contains only 40 calories and 3 grams of fiber (100% whole wheat bread has 2 grams per slice) which helps you feel fuller.

20121108-135906.jpgAnother easy lunch I made this week was tossed cucumbers and tomatoes with crumbled feta and quinoa. I cooked one cup of quinoa in water and added balsamic vinegar and pepper so it absorbed the flavor while cooking. I wasn’t sure if my husband would like it, but he ate a bunch right after I made it and then again for lunch the next day!

20121108-135859.jpgEach of these dishes took less than 30 minutes to make and had little prep work. The tortellini took 6 minutes to boil while the vegetables roasted for 15 minutes. It took 12 minutes to cook the quinoa and I prepared the vegetables while it cooked. The eggplant took 30 minutes to cook, which gave me plenty of time to pack the rest of our lunches, cut up enough veggies for the week, and slice up a honeydew melon.

What are your healthy lunch ideas for work?

How to make eggplant parmesan the healthy way

This past weekend we spent $28 on a boatload of produce from the awesome wholesale produce store down the street from my parents. Don’t remember how awesome it is? Check out the redonkulous amount we got for $31. One item I picked up that we haven’t had in awhile was a beautiful purple eggplant. I was planning on making eggplant Parmesan but I ended up roasting it and mixing it with some tortellini, feta, and pesto (SO GOOD!). If I had a second eggplant I’d totally make my favorite recipe that’s both delicious AND healthified. If you don’t know how to make eggplant Parmesan, let this be your first experience. Care to try it?

Budget for Health’s Healthified Eggplant Parmesan

1 eggplant, cut into 1/2″ round slices
12 oz pasta sauce
1/2-3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 egg, beaten
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup basil
1.5 tsp garlic, minced
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 egg, beat

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Dip eggplant slices into the egg and coat them with bread crumb & Parmesan mixture
3. Lay breaded eggplant on a cookie sheet coated with non-stick spray
4. Bake for 30 minutes, turning over after the first 15 minutes
5. Combine filling. Pour thin layer of sauce on a 9″x13″ pan
6. Layer eggplant, sauce, cottage cheese filling, mozzarella. Repeat.
7. Cover tightly with foil coated with spray
8. Bake an additional 10 minutes.

What’s your favorite dish to make with eggplant?