Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,
Rowyn
rowyn

Challenging

My job is participating in something called the "Take Charge Challenge". The theory is that participants focus, over the course of a ten-week period, on cultivating healthier behaviors. The first one was "get exercise". The second, and the one we're in now, is "eat right". The next one is "Stress Down"; I find the notion of systematically trying to be less stressed quite amusing, but we'll see how it goes. Participation is voluntary -- we've all been gently encouraged to sign up, but it's by no means required. (Note to the management at Weyco, Inc: see, this is the way decent companies try to improve their health care costs.)

The structure of the "challenge" is interesting, because it's only as challenging as you decide to make it. With the exercise one, you'd pick however many minutes of exercise you wanted to do in a given day, and however many days per week you planned to do it, and that would be your goal. "Exercise" was loosely defined; walking counted just the same as jogging or cross-country skiing would. Given that the program was geared at people in all kinds of different conditions, making it flexible like this was probably the best way to do it.

In theory, I was walking to and from work each day, for a total of 40 minutes of exercise 5 days a week, or 200 minutes per week. But I low-balled my goal, going for a mere 90 minutes. I wound up averaging about 150, as Lut's schedule changed to accomodate giving me rides to and/or from work at various points in that period. But I did get more exercise than I would have otherwise in the same ten-week period, because several of the people on the challenge were going for 20-minute walks twice a day, when the weather was good, and I went with them most of the time.

For the "eat right" challenge, the structure is different. The challenge defines "eating right" as "eating more fruits and vegetables". I guess the latest dietary guidelines from the US government recommend 8-11 servings of fruits and veggies per day. At a half-cup per serving. I don't find this an especially useful guideline, myself; a half-cup of fresh spinach leaves is a lot less spinach than a half-cup of canned, for example.

But apart from the guideline being a bit screwy, the concept seems sound enough. Of all the dietary problems in this country, not eating enough veggies is probably the most common. I mean, you ever met anyone who said "I gotta cut back on my tomato consumption. I'm eating way too many of these things"? I sure haven't.

In an apparent effort to keep us from backsliding on the goals of the last challenge, the "eat right" challenge includes exercise, too. We're counting "points" now. Each half-cup serving of fruits or vegetables counts as a point, and each 15 minutes of exercise is also a point. The minimum you could sign up for is 2 points per week -- one of each, one day per week.

Well, lately I've been only walking home from work, which is worth about 6 points per week. My typical consumption of fruits and vegetables in a week woud be worth 0 points.

Yes, I do not eat fruits and vegetables at all. Unless you count the tablespoon of jam that goes on my PBJs each workday, which I sure don't. Lut and I don't even keep fruits and vegetables in the house. I pretty much subsist on starch, with a side order of fat and some trace elements of protein. And Diet Coke.

Mmm, starch. I've never quite understood why I've never contracted scurvy, but there you go.

Anyway, I decided to high-ball my goal this time and make an effort to change my behavior to suit it. So I signed up for 10 points per week, which is, OK, pretty modest given the USDA recommendation of 70 or so, but it's still more than I've been doing.

The challenge started this week, and I forgot to buy any vegetables during our weekly shopping trip; not an auspicious start. But I went to the store last night for cold medications for Lut, and while I was there, I got some staples (read: Diet Coke) and some veggies.

I didn't get any fruit. It's not that I object to fruit, per se. I like fruits fine. It's just that, deep in my heart, I don't think of fruits as "healthy". I think of them as "just as calorie- and sugar-laden as a chocolate bar, only not as tasty". (I know this isn't really true; it's just the lingering effect of having looked at the caloric contents of various fruit juices and realizing that it's more per serving than regular soda pop.)

Vegetables, on the other hand, appear to be mostly water held together by a layer of vitamins and fiber. I don't know what else is in there, but it's not calories. I got a 9 ounce bag of fresh spinach and the whole bag has 60 calories. (And nine ounces is a lot of spinach -- twelve cups, by volume). A pound of baby carrots will net you a whopping 190 calories. There is surely no way to get fat on this stuff alone.

So I bought various types of fresh veggies that I consider moderately tasty: baby carrots, grape tomatoes, a cucumber, and fresh spinach. Apparently, I need to go to a grocery store with a real produce section, because this place only sold expensive spinach in pre-packaged bags. Is spinach supposed to be $3.50 a pound?

I chopped up half the cucumber last night, threw it in a bowl with spinach, carrots, and grape tomatoes, tossed some raspberry vinagrette (minor_architect: <3 ) on it, and had that before dinner.

This morning, I hard-boiled a couple of eggs, chopped them and some baby carrots up along with the rest of the cucumber, and had even more salad. And got even more dubious about this "measuring servings per cup" thing: when you put a half-cup of baby carrots and a half-cup of tomatoes and a half-cup of cucumber and two hard-boiled eggs in with four cups of fresh spinach, you still only have four cups of salad.

I felt absurdly healthy eating it. Unless you consider eggs unhealthy, the only bad-for-me thing in it was two tablespoons of raspberry vinagrette. All four cups of it can't have had more than 450 calories, but I feel stuffed.

The spinach, egg, and cucumber all work pretty well together. The tomatoes are okay, but the baby carrots are too tough and crunchy, even after I whacked them into smaller bite-size pieces. I may just bring those to work for snacking during the week. Baby carrots and grape tomatoes make good snacks, part from being kind of expensive.

But now I'm out of cucumber, and in two more salads I'll be out of spinach. See, this is what I don't like about vegetables: either I run out before it's convenient to go to the store again, or I buy too much and it spoils before I get to it. I could get frozen, I suppose, but I don't like frozen veggies unless I smother them in cheese sauce or something, which kinda defeats the whole "healthy" purpose.

Ah well. I'll see how it goes -- maybe by the end of ten weeks I'll have found some convenient way to incorporate veggies into my diet permanently. In the meantime, perhaps the sudden and unforeseen influx of vitamins and vegetables in my system will ward of Lut's evil cold. A girl can dream, y'know.
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