Weekly Health Tip: You snooze, you win!

Getting enough sleep is key to staying on top of your game. If your job requires you to be alert, nimble-minded and productive, then coming into the office well-rested is the first step in the right direction.

On the other hand, a study in the The Western Journal of Medicine showed that people who were awake for 19 hours scored lower on performance tests and alertness scales than those with a blood-alcohol level of .08 (i.e. legally drunk).

Super Secret Yoga Strikes Again

Our Super Secret Yogis are back at it in a beautiful location on the Portland waterfront. If you live in Portland and are interested in stretching to the sound of water lapping against the shore as the sun sets to the West, then email recess@recessfitness.com with "Super Secret Yoga Society" in the subject line.

When: Wed. nights 6:00-7:30 p.m., or, Sundays 9-10:30 a.m. until it gets too cold.

How much: Classes are $10 or 3 for $24.

Health as accessory

We cannot tell a lie; accessorizing is fun! Regardless of what people think about getting healthy and fit, everyone we meet can agree that they love the Recess logo. So do we. We love it so much that we've put it on a T-shirt. And the best part? We're giving 'em away.

If you've worked with Recess, all you need to do is click here and answer a few questions about your experience with us and you will be entered to win one of these 100% cotton tees.

Sizes are women's small, medium and large. Of course, if you are one of those types who feel you never win anything then you can also just order the T-shirts ($25 includes shipping and handling within the US) by emailing recess@recessfitness.com with your size.

Guys, we promise, men's T-shirts are coming soon!

(Don't) Stop bragging!

Of course we love to brag. Who doesn't? But our high opinion of ourselves is hardly unbiased. So if you feel like us tooting our own horn lacks credibility then check our Web site each month to see what some of our customers have to say about us:

"I found the 'Six Steps to Better Health' seminars offered by Recess and Umpqua Bank to be informative and comprehensive. These seminars really made me take stock of my physical and emotional health and gave me the push to make some serious changes.

My trainer has worked with me individually to integrate these changes into my busy life. She has been a great teacher and a huge source of encouragement and support. Whether working with Recess staff on individual basis or in a class setting I have been incredibly pleased with their knowledge, patience and instruction."- Sheila in Portland, OR

Healthy lifestyle D.I.Y. - When Fat Free Fails

Eating everything "light" with little results?

Americans are eating bigger and bigger portions of less healthy food with each meal. And as we spend more hours on the road and at work our lives are generally more sedentary. Have you turned to the numerous "fat free" or "light" options that are now sold in nearly any place you buy food? Chances are that what seems a good choice might leave you no thinner, better nourished or healthy than you were before.

Like many things having to do with nutrition in our culture, calories, fats, and a healthy diet seem harder to understand the more 'information' we are given. That is to say that it is okay to eat twice as much of a "light" or "fat free" product as a full fat equivalent, right? Not necessarily.

Many, erroneously, assume they can eat all of the foods they want as long as those foods are low in fat or calories. If those low fat foods were things like: vegetables, low fat stocks, and unprocessed whole grains that are additive-free, then certainly it would be difficult to overdose. Of course it is possible to go overboard on any food, but given the sheer bulk, fiber and low calorie content of such foods we often would have to eat huge portions for the same calorie equivalent in a more energy dense choice.

Other foods and beverages like: breads, juices, dairy products or processed foods like cookies and bars can be low fat, fat free and even nutritious, but give us less nutritional 'bang for the buck.' It can be relatively easy to eat more of these foods than our body needs from a nutrition and energy standpoint.

The bottom line is that if we eat more than what we need of any food, even healthy and nutritious foods, that any energy (calories) will be turned into blood glucose and stored as fat if not used.

Relying on a food's designation as "light" or "fat free" will not guarantee that we are maintaining a healthy weight or getting the right proportions of macro and micro nutrients to nourish our bodies.

Only nuts and berries, then?

Here is an interesting example of a delicious full fat meal versus a fat free alternative. Click on the food name to see the original nutritional information source:

Quinoa tabouli Starbucks Reduced Fat Blueberry Coffee Cake
Serving size 349 g 124 g
Calories 360 350
Fat 20.9 g (2 g saturated) 11 g (6 g saturated)
Carbohydrates 39.3 g (5.5 from fiber, and 3.9 from sugars) 61 g (1 from fiber and 37 g from sugars)
Protein 7.8 g 4 g

Though the calories are approximately the same, note the huge differences in these foods. For twice the weight in food, the quinoa tabouli salad provides a tasty, balanced meal with lots of fiber, low sugar, healthy fats and protein.

The "Reduced Fat" coffee cake has half the bulk (i.e. you don't feel as full afterward) but more saturated fats, simple sugar and half the amount of protein. This food gives your body fewer of the essential nutrients it needs to perform its work. In the meantime you continue to crave foods that might satisfy your body's need for essential nutrients like fat and protein, overdoing it on calories as a result.

This is sometimes the case with processed fat free or light products. Many derive their flavor from additives like sugar. While they may have less total fat, the fats they do have tend to be saturated or trans fatty acids. Some have more or as much calories and sugar as those foods they are meant to replace.

Those differences between our food choices, when accumulated throughout the course of a week, a month, a year, can make significant differences in our weight, our feelings of satisfaction with what we eat, and our overall health.

So now what?

Look at nutrition labels for your food. Sure, those chips might only be 120 calories per serving, but maybe there are four servings in that little bag, with only a fraction of the other macronutrients that might be more abundant in another food that you'd enjoy just as much.

Before you choose a snack or a quick meal ask yourself this:

  1. Do you understand how much is in one serving size of what you are about to eat?
  2. Is there a less energy dense, more nutritious, more satisfying alternative for that food?
  3. Do your daily foods provide nutritiously balanced meals and snacks, replenishing your body's essential building blocks?
  4. How does eating this food make you feel? Pay attention to how your body and "gut" responds to your food. Indulge less in those things that create energy peaks and valleys, digestive upset, or other unwanted side effects.

With what amounts to a general scope creep on calories, energy density and portion size in our culture, being more aware about portion sizes and the nutrition in food is an important part of good health.

If you have a health topic that interests you and you would like to see it in the next DIY Healthy Lifestyle then write to recess@recessfitness.com with your request.