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Hollywood Half Marathon & 5K/10K is coming up!

If you're going to be in the LA area on Saturday, April 11, 2015, I highly recommend the Hollywood Half Marathon & 5K/10K. My daughter Alexis and I did the 5K last year and it fulfilled my criteria that a road race should be somehow unique to its area, and not just in name. This one was!

1) It was still dark out at the starting line on Hollywood Blvd., which means it was all lit up with neon signs and lights. So it felt like you were getting a taste of the glitzy Hollywood night life, even though you were standing there in your running gear and kicks in the starting corrals, getting ready to do your healthy thing. 

2) We ran by one iconic Hollywood building after the other. I was excited to see Grauman's Chinese Theatre, still lit up at night and looking so exotic and "old Hollywood."

3) As daylight was breaking, we rounded a corner and behind us could see the famous HOLLYWOOD sign up in the hills. There's just something fun about that, and it energized me for the rest of the race.

4) While I'm not a big fan of participation medals, I thought it was pretty cool that they gave all the finishers a glitzy star-shaped medal, a nice tie-in to the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It's a great souvenir. 

2014 Hollywood Half Marathon & 5K/10K Finishers Medal

After the race we walked back along the sidewalks and I had to pause more than once at the star of a famous actor or actress I've admired.

The course is fairly flat and the race was well-managed. There are so many people, I don't know how you'd even notice any celebrities, if there were some in the race. That wouldn't be my reason for doing this event.

I flew in from Minnesota to do this race and used the excuse of a snowy, long winter to not run much. Alexis kindly walked or jogged along with me for the entire race. 

I have a habit of not wanting to overdo it early in the season. But when I know the finish line is nigh, I feel like I should expend a bit more energy. So I took off running and left Alexis behind to wonder where I had gone. It resulted in a race finish photo that looks like I came in ahead of her. Ha. In my dreams!

That's Alexis in the purple scarf. I'm the Minnesota-pasty-white one in the gray striped shirt.

Wish I could run in this year's Hollywood Half Marathon & 5K/10K, but I just got back a few weeks ago from spending a month with Alexis in West Hollywood and walking/jogging through the "hills of Beverly" nearly every day. Now I'm training (if you could call it that) for the triathlon event at the 2015 National Senior Games in July. I'm sure I'll be blogging about that here.

Wherever you're running or walking or biking these days – enjoy the springtime weather, and happy trails to you! 



Now that's sticking to a fitness program!

Every year at this time there's a slew of articles about how to keep your New Year's Resolution to lose weight, get fit, get healthy, and so on. That focus lasts for a few weeks at best, for most people. But what if you could make it last all year – year after year – for over a decade?!

Amazingly, there are people who have been doing that. How do I know? Because every year since 2004 we have had the honor of shipping them a new Streaming Colors Fitness Journal. 

Outside of family, there are few things in life as emotionally rewarding to me as seeing their names year after year and knowing our journal helps them maintain healthy habits. I wish I could get to know each of our dedicated journal users personally. I'm sure they all have a story to tell about how they've come to grips with their health and fitness challenges. 

Some may be awesome athletes, and others may be quietly (yet colorfully) waging the war against weight gain or type 2 diabetes. All are impressive to me for their consistency in holding themselves accountable for their health and fitness actions.

One regular calendar user I don't have to wonder about (but would like to meet someday) is the amazing and I'm pretty sure extroverted Pam LeBlanc, who shares her actual colored-in calendar pages with her readers at her Fit City blog. Pam acknowledges that she would probably be an active runner/swimmer/bicyclist anyway, but that our calendar seems to motivate her to do even more. You can't argue with that. 

Some of our calendar users have asked about an app, so I asked Pam what she thought. I'm with her on this. When you're at the computer for most of the day, the last thing you want to do is log back in to track your fitness. 

That's not to say I wouldn't like to try out some of the wearable fitness devices. They might give me some interesting biometric info – but I'm not sure they'd help me stick to my program. Rumor has it the handy little wearable trackers can be less than effective due to a certain shortcoming. 

So for now, we'll be low-tech and high-touch. When trying to be more mindful about my fitness actions, I kind of relish the process of coloring in my daily module with my positive fitness actions for the day. 

Like Pam, I also love looking back over my calendars from previous years. It definitely reminds me that I am capable of working toward a fitness goal and achieving it. This is what is known in health behavior change circles as "perceived self-efficacy" and it's an important factor in successful health behavior change.

As always, we thank Pam for helping to spread the word about our journals. She has a few calendars to give away to readers so be sure to respond to her blog post and tell her why you think you might best deserve one.

We don't learn the names of our Streaming Colors Weekly Planner users when they order the non-spiral-bound version sold at amazon.com. If you're a "regular" who buys through amazon.com, please know that we value your loyalty, and would love to hear your story, too.

We wish all of our journal users a happy and very colorful 2015.

 Jen & Alexis


Training for the triathlon at the 2015 National Senior Games in Saint Paul, MN

Jen has qualified for the triathlon event at the 2015 National Senior Games, to be held at Lake Phalen in Saint Paul, MN, in early July, 2015.

There are some pretty impressive and inspiring athletes at this event. http://www.today.com/health/i-just-love-it-meet-15-senior-athletes-who-will-1D79872078

Jen's qualifying triathlon was not pretty, but she finished, and that's all that matters for now.

Jen is SO excited because she grew up in a time when athletic programs for girls were virtually non-existent. (She didn't even start running until she was 46.) 

She isn't athletically gifted by any stretch of the imagination. 

She's not even very competitive. 

She's an introverted writer/creative type who shuns crowds and has not yet accepted the fact that she's been qualified for an AARP membership for well over a decade. 

So it's surprising that she's almost giddy about competing in games with over 12,000 athletes ages 50 and up from all over the country. http://www.nsga.com/2015-national-senior-games.aspx 

She's even revoking her introvert status for the Games and hoping to get to know some of the other participants. If you're competing in the games, tell Jen about it by commenting on this blog post or emailing Jen at jenluhrs@shopcolorcodemode.com. (Jen is from the Saint Paul area and has done the sprint triathlon at Lake Phalen three times before. She'll be happy to answer your questions about the course in general or about the area.)

Jen created the color-coded Streaming Colors Fitness Journal and will be giving hers an especially hard workout over the next six months.

There's nothing like not wanting to be last in an event to motivate you to train a little harder. (Not that there's anything wrong with being last. Jen's done it several times, with pride, because hey, it's a sprint triathlon, and at least she finished it. Most of all she did it because it was fun. That's right, we said fun.)

Hi, I'm Jen Luhrs and I hope you'll follow along as I blog about training and getting ready for the 2015 National Senior Games. I'd like to hear your stories, too!  


The most effective fitness journal is...

...the one you use year after year after year. Because that's what helps you practice the consistently healthy habits that become your healthy lifestyle.

One of the most rewarding things about having created the Streaming Colors Fitness Journal is knowing that there are people who have used our journals for ten years in a row, now. Thank you to every one who has shown such loyalty to our journals. We appreciate each and every one of you!

One of our favorite long-time journalistas is Pam LeBlanc, who lets others know via her wonderful Fit City blog that she's in for another year of journaling. She doesn't hesitate to show a picture of her latest monthly calendar filled with an impressive amount of color.

Our journalistas are creatures of habit, you might say, so we don't change much on our journals from year to year, except the main cover color, which is on a four-year rotation. Last year's cover was predominantly blue. This year's is green.

Streaming Colors Fitness Journal 2014 Monthly Calendar

Whether you're an accomplished athlete or you're just trying to get started on developing better eating or exercise habits, coloring in our journals will help you stay motivated long enough to establish those better habits. That's why they're called "the healthy habit-forming journals."

Make 2014 your year! Both the monthly calendar and the weekly planner are shipping now.

Pop over to our shop.



Yet another study says to keep a journal to increase weight loss

At the risk of sounding repetitious, here's another study that shows that keeping a journal is a key factor in successful weight loss. In fact, this study says it's one of the three main habits that will help you lose weight.

The other two are "not skipping meals" (so that you don't overeat at the next meal) and "not eating out" (which tends to result in calories running amok.)

The article originally ran in July of 2012, but is showing up again on the news sites most likely because this is the time of year when people really start thinking about making the changes that will help them lose weight.

I thought it was particularly interesting that this study was based on post-menopausal women between the ages of 50 and 75, a very challenging time of life for weight loss, if you ask me, since your metabolism tends to slow down. Mine is at a crawl.

Other researchers cited in the article point out that the study is probably applicable to the wider population as well.

Of our three ColorCode Mode journals, the daily Lean Mode Food Diary is probably your best choice for developing the healthy habits cited in this article.

First of all, it's already set up with a column to track daily calories.

And because it's "Not Your Usual Food Diary" you can have the additional fun (and motivating effect) of coloring it in when you make the other two healthy choices cited in the study.

You can color in the FoodDot next to each item you enter if it was eaten (or drunk) at home. Your goal would be to "connect the FoodDots" each day by not eating out. (I'm guessing that pizza delivery would count as eating out.) If you don't see much color, you're eating out way too much.

If you didn't skip any meals that day, at the bottom of each page there's a PowerCircle you can color in to show a "skip-free day." (Write in "skip" instead of "french-fry" as seen in the example below.)


Lean Mode PowerCircles

And there's a special PowerCircle at the bottom of each page to color in and track your consecutive days of journaling, because we kind of already knew that making a daily habit of journaling is a big deal.

As the article notes, you need to make a daily habit of all three of those behaviors. Which makes our "healthy habit-forming" food diary a trifecta for tracking the weight loss strategies cited in this study.

"Our study was unique in that it looked at a large array of weight-loss behaviors to see what worked and what didn't," said study researcher Dr. Anne McTiernan, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. "We were surprised at how much of a difference using food journals and eating at home made," McTiernan said.

So there you have it. Basically, we need to be mindful of what we eat, and that means tracking our food consumption in a journal and avoiding situations where we tend to consume too many calories -- which is after we've skipped a meal, and when eating out.

Of course the article doesn't entirely let us off the hook regarding what we eat, as it goes on to cite a low-carb calories strategy over low-fat, which you can also track in our food diary.

Rounding out the news story is the familiar advice to "eat less and exercise more." And of course, our Lean Mode Food Diary has a special area where you can record your exercise, with another circle to color in.

If it all seems too daunting to you, remember that habits are behaviors you repeat without much thought, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower in the morning. They come quite naturally to you. After time (a month at least, but we think it's longer for eating habits) you'll be so in the habit of journaling and controlling your calories, it will come much more easily to you. It will just be a natural part of your healthier lifestyle.

Kudos and good luck to you if you are taking advantage of the New Year to rethink your habits and lifestyle, and then taking action!  Studies are great, but it's what you actually do that counts.


Red dishes as a way to eat less food, lose weight?

So here's another interesting study that I highlight here because it has to do with color, and of course, at ColorCodeMode.com we are all about color.

I'm just not sure of this study's overall value in the battle against obesity.

Apparently people consume fewer calories when eating off red-colored dishes because red implies "stop."

There could be other reasons a person would eat less off a red plate.

As someone who is sensitive to color combinations, I'm guessing food doesn't look particularly appetizing on a red plate (think brownish-pinkish steak, or spaghetti, or salmon, or any food with reds or pinks that might look a little "off" against the red of the plate.)

And if the "stop" theory is valid, shouldn't one eat more from a green plate (since green implies "go")?

Apparently they didn't test that.

White plates induced the highest intake of calories, according to the study. Then blue plates.

Of course, I eat off blue and white plates.That explains things a bit...

Strolling through the china department of a retail store, how many sets of red dishes do you see? Not many. Not that I would invest in red dishes anyway for the sake of testing a theory.

But my grocery store carries some relatively inexpensive, garish red plastic plates, which might make it practical for me to test out the theory. (Although the fact I'd be eating off plastic plates might also cause me to eat less, so there goes the validity of the test.)

Eating off red plates is something that would be easy to track in either the Streaming Colors Fitness Journals or the Lean Mode Food Diary. You could even use one of the red highlighters in the Zazzle Brights 10-pack we sell in our online shop. (Not many highlighter sets have an actual red pen.) Zazzle Brights red highlighter is actually a bit more cherry red than shown here

If you decide to track it, let us know how it goes.

If you really wanted to eat less, while you dined you could stare at this photo of a carpet pattern that within five minutes induces seasickness.

Sorry I can't show it here because it makes me sick to look at it—in less than five minutes. Just thinking about it makes me queasy. But then, I am really sensitive to motion sickness.

Apparently your brain picks up a sense of motion from the vibrating moire pattern created by strongly contrasting colors intersecting at weird angles.

Maybe for the next study someone could print one of those black and white moire patterns onto a dinner plate, with a big splotch of red for good measure.

Wait a minute. I think stores sold those plates in the sixties, probably out of Melamine, when op art was trendy.

Don't make me go back there. I never liked those dishes. 

(Then again, people were a lot skinnier.)

There are probably lots of things we could do to put the skids on our enjoyment of eating, but would we actually go through with it? The whole idea runs counter to the philosophy of savoring everything about the experience of dining with our friends and family.

How about this? Instead of worrying about the color of our plates, we could end the subsidies for fat-inducing high-fructose corn syrup, and instead subsidize the more costly but colorful, nutritious fruits (like cherries, for example) that should make up a much larger portion of our diet.

That would help put a healthy spot of color on more American families' plates — no matter what color plate they like to use. 


Thank you, Pam LeBlanc, for your colorful mention in Fit City

Thanks, Pam LeBlanc, for your kind words and for including a picture of your colored-in Streaming Colors calendar page in your Fit City blog for the Austin-American Statesman.

Screencap of Pam LeBlanc's Streaming Colors Fitness Journal page

Pam has many years of colored-in Streaming Colors Fitness Journal pages tucked away in her desk drawer, going all the way back to January, 2004, when we released our first calendar and Pam helped spread the news.

In fact, Pam wrote our favorite news story ever!

We know that Pam gets tons of new books from authors hoping for a mention or a good review.
Technically speaking, after all these years, we're old news. That's why we couldn't be more honored when Pam mentions us anew to her readers.

In the fitness and diet area, there's always a lot of new stuff to try out, but it's unusual to find something that works year after year after year after year after year after year after year...well, you get the picture.

Someone like Pam who has discovered the secret to fitness (having fun doing activities you truly enjoy, in Pam's case, water skiing) would probably do OK without our calendar.

But Pam claims the calendar motivates her to do a little bit more throughout the week (like biking to work) in order to make sure she has plenty of color on her page. That extra physical activity adds up over time to the better fitness that makes anyone's favorite sport even more enjoyable.

When you consider that every day is a new day to do something good for your health, and every week's a new week to tally and then start over, and every month on our calendar gives you a chance to set new goals, and every year there's a fresh new calendar to fill with color...maybe we're not such old news after all.

Not surprisingly, we have more new and old Streaming Colors Fitness Journal users in Pam's Fit City (Austin, TX) area than any other large metro area.

Thanks again, Pam. We wish every city could have a Fit City blog to give people an in-depth idea of the fitness scene in their community and to make them feel comfortable becoming part of it, whatever their fitness level. 


Jamie Oliver finds a "loophole" into LA schools. Maybe he could stop in at the USDA, too

Jen, the mom at Luhrs Media writes:
forcechange.com I was so disappointed that the LA public school district (LAUSD) school board decided not to let Jamie Oliver film in their cafeterias. They didn't want the drama of a reality show. Better to let the kids have the drama of showing up in the emergency room somewhere down the road due to an obesity-related illness, I guess. Ah well.

You can learn more about it in this TODAY show video.

As you saw in one of my previous long blog posts (Jamie Oliver gives me so much to talk/rant about!), I'm a big fan of what he did in Huntington, West Virginia, even if there was a little back-sliding. Two steps forward, one step back. It's still progress.

Looks like the LA story's not over yet, though.

Just saw this from The Guardian in the UK. In an Observer interview with Ian Tucker, Jamie laments the lack of transparency he thought should exist in a government-run program (I suppose it would help if he were a U.S. citizen.) But he appears to have managed to sneak into an LA school kitchen anyway.

guardian.co.uk The Observer, Photograph by Phil Fisk/C4"I don't have any access but you know me – I'm kinda like a bad rash. I tend not to go away. It's been very tough but we got into one school via a loophole and we've been working with a lot of families in their homes. I've seen some of the most compelling, upsetting and inspiring stuff that I have ever done. If one of the threads of the story is a lack of transparency, then so be it, but I didn't start it. That would never happen back home."

The rest of Tucker's interview is good reading, too. Jamie Oliver was a less than stellar student, who's a role model (with a TED prize!) for other less than stellar students, once you light a fire under them, which he's trying to do with the school he's set up.

jamieoliver.comMaybe it takes a non-academic to cut through all the double-speak of marketers, government agencies and endless research studies, to matter-of-factly dump the fatty deep-fried over-processed food on the kitchen table and say quite simply to the parent, "This is the food that is killing your family."

Oliver set up a special dream school for kids who couldn't cut it in traditional academics. I had been thinking that in the U.S., a charter school focused on healthy eating and nutrition might be one way to overcome the defensiveness and insistence of some parents that their kids be allowed to eat junky foods at school. Ooh, what a can of worms you open up when you challenge just about any parent on how they feed their kids.

At least with a charter school, the parents who want something better for their kids could opt in. Such a school would have been a dream come true for me when Alexis was in school, although I did find a certain purposefulness and pleasure in making her lunches.

I'm not a morning person (unless it's the wee hours of the morning when I'm up writing) but I used to pop up like toast to make her healthy lunches. I didn't want her to feel weird for having a bag lunch, and just writing her name on the paper lunch bags seemed kind of boring so I also decorated them with crayon drawings. At seven in the morning. Me. One of her little girlfriends took some home and put them on her wall. First time my artwork has been hung by anyone, as far as I know.  

It looks as though there's a charter school in Chicago that's putting the emphasis on health and fitness, and it's involving the parents, which is key. By and large, these kids have learned their attitudes about food and their eating habits from their parents.

You know, the thing about parents and excess weight is that we figure we can always lose it, and so can our kids, and no harm's been done, right?

What if some of the effects of poor eating in early childhood were irreversible?

What if all the parents and grandparents who spend a fortune on infant learning toys and pre-preschools to boost their offsprings' IQ's were made aware that "a predominantly processed-food diet at the age of three is directly associated with a lower IQ at the age of eight and a half, according to a Bristol-based study of thousands of British children."

Would it be enough to change how some of them feed their kids and grandkids? 

Not that all parents are fanatical about IQ or school performance, but I've never ever heard of a parent who said they wished their kids could be dumber or would have to struggle harder in school.

Nursery child eating lunch. Photo: Graham TurnerA study like this might not start a rush to free-range organic chicken, but it might at least get parents to question the wisdom of feeding a toddler deep-fried, chemical and fat-laden chicken nuggets five or six times a week. To perhaps throw in some vegetables, fruit and milk and other brain food.

(Side note: Um, I don't think the hands holding the knife in that photo belong to a "nursery child." As someone who has styled photos, I notice stuff like that.Compare the size of those hands to the child's hand holding the green glass. Maybe they had some liability issues with having the child hold a knife. Especially since so many kids today don't know what a knife is for.)

What would happen if we changed the emphasis from "you might have a fat kid" to "feed your kid's brain properly during the first three years of life when its growth rate is fastest or their IQ will be lower in grade school and improving their diet at that point won't increase it."

I can see why Jamie Oliver's "hair's on fire" over childhood nutrition.

It's been breaking my heart for decades, too, to see what's being fed to such lovely little children with so much potential. The food in the pre-schools and daycare centers isn't substantially any better than the food in the grade schools and high schools where Jamie's been focusing.

jamieoliver.comTo be honest, we've had this information in one form or another for decades, or I wouldn't have been so diligent to introduce my daughter right off the bat to a highly-nutritious diet of home-cooked food even though I was a working mom.

Cooking up simple foods is not that hard. It's actually pretty easy. As far as I'm concerned, there's no excuse for not doing it. It's no different than making sure your child gets a bath and has clean clothes.

Why has nutrition gone all to hell these past three or four decades?

The ubiquitous fast food, junk food, over-processed convenience food and high calorie/empty calorie food being marketed to us non-stop would be a good place to start.

www.nutrition.govBut that's free enterprise, and if we listen to the more rabid "personal responsibility" people the onus is on the consumer, even the two-year-old consumer apparently, to have the willpower to just say no if their parents are too uninformed to know that soda pop and a Happy Meal is a crappy meal for a child's developing brain.

See how ridiculous that reasoning is?

Especially since many young parents today have been raised on the same crappy food (probably losing a few IQ points in the process) and don't even know how crappy it is. Or where to begin to develop healthy eating habits.

So who is protecting the innocent three-and-under crowd to make sure their fast-developing brains get proper nutrition?

Well, that would be the United States Department of Agriculture, a lumbering giant of an agency charged with the conflicting goal of guarding America's nutritional health while keeping food producers happy. Not sure how much you paid your lobbyist lately but I'll bet it's not nearly enough to compete with the big food interests.

Mark Bittman does a good job of summing it up in his online commentary for the New York Times called "Is 'Eat Real Food' Unthinkable?"

You say you want a revolution well I say, it's going to be tough because the culprits are so spread out. At least Egyptians could focus on one man, Mubarek.

The unhealthy food problem runs so deep in America, even schools who think they're doing a good job are still feeding the kids junk. You'll have to read down into Natalie's comment (#3) in this ForceChange petition to see what I think sums up perfectly what I was feeling as a parent over twenty years ago.

Here's the test of how good your child's food is.

Sit down and eat what they're feeding your child for lunch some time. If it seems like substandard, unhealthy food to you, that you wouldn't want to eat, do you really want them shoveling it into your precious little one day after day and training his or her taste buds to accept and even crave such crummy food?

My advice to Natalie would be to pack him a real food lunch. If a child's taste-buds are trained to enjoy real food, those over-processed foods taste like the junk that they are and he'll grow up resisting them.

To 'Eat Real Food' should be affordable, right? 

For a lot of people these days, the mantra 'Eat Real Food' is simply unaffordable when it comes to getting enough servings of fresh fruits and vegetables for a whole family. Have you seen the price of apples, that not-exotic, hard-working, keep-the-doctor-away staple for me when I was growing up?

My mom was the worst at keeping the frig stocked with much of anything, but woe to her if there was not a steady supply of apples so I could eat one as I walked to elementary school each day. With many apples now costing as much as or more than a McDouble cheeseburger, I can see why a lot of struggling families are choosing the latter so their kids at least get some protein for the day.

The new USDA Dietary Guidelines are easy to understand and not unreasonable.

They're just completely unaffordable for an awful lot of American families, recession or no recession.

usda.govHere's the food the report splashes across the top of the page. Yum. Doesn't that look good? It's mouthwatering, and aspirational, and a pipe dream for a lot of families who are lucky to scrape together a dollar or two to buy a box of generic mac and cheese and hope there's some unsoured milk left at the bottom of the milk container to make it with so no one goes to bed totally hungry.

Hello. The people who can afford a steady diet of the food pictured above are the ones who made out like bandits with the Bush tax cuts.

There is a HUGE disconnect between what Washington tells us to eat and the policies they have in place that affect the prices and food supply to which we have access.

The show I'd like to see is Jamie Oliver going into the offices of the USDA and asking them why we don't have a program to increase the abundance of and somehow support an eminently affordable price for the five servings a day of fruits and vegetables we're all supposed to be eating, while removing the subsidies that support unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup products.

Give the farmers a decent price and then get the fresh fruits and veggies to the consumer for cheap, cheap, cheap, including convenience stores in low-income areas with few grocery stores. An apple for 25 cents or a bag of salty, greasy chips for $1.25? At that price, the apple just might have a chance.

(And where would we get the money for that? From a nominal tax on soda pop and other junky fast foods? What? A tax on huge corporations that make zillions of dollars off of destroying America's health? How unfair! Get over it, bleeding heart conservatives. The corporations and Wall Street will adjust and be just fine. They have every advantage. Unlike the two-year-olds who don't have two nickels to rub together.)
jamieoliver.comThere you go, Jamie. Try to get some transparency and straight, sensible answers out of the USDA. Just for starters. Dump the crappy food out on their desks and say, "This is the food that is killing the people of America."

Then you could get back to the lunch ladies.

Also, if you're in Southern California where Jamie is shooting and would like to become part of the grassroots movement, sign up on the LA page where there's also a Facebook link.


If you've read all this, hey thanks for reading along. I know it's a lot, but this is the stuff that keeps me up at night and it helps to get it all out into the ColorCodeMode.com blog.



The Feast Day Known as SuperBowl Sunday is over 

Photo by Marianne Shira, The Sun (Osceola)Jen, the mom at Luhrs Media, writes:

Congratulations to the Pack and to their fans, some of whom live across the street from me and watched the game outdoors in a "Little Lambeau" field they built out of snow. I'll have to keep that in mind the next time I use the cold weather as an excuse not to go out and exercise.

Now that SuperBowl Sunday is over we can start over again on our New Year's Resolution to eat better, lose weight, get fit—and this time succeed!

Do you even remember your New Year's Resolution?

Have you been sticking to your resolution but are beginning to lose momentum?

Sometimes I think January 1 is the worst time of year to set New Year's resolutions—too many left-over holiday cookies and other goodies still around and my carb cravings going full tilt. Too much really awful weather (especially this winter!) that makes an easy excuse for staying indoors, eating comfort foods.

But those New Year's Fitness Resolutions we set are important all twelve months of the year. If you got off track with yours—Super Bowl parties or for whatever reason—our journals can help you with the motivation you need to get back on track and stay on track.

Just color in the positive things you do each day to eat better or exercise. Easy, fun, and not a test. It's just a way for you to visualize how actively you're trying to improve your fitness habits.

If you don't see much color, you'll figure out on your own that you need to make some changes.

That kind of self honesty is the beginning of improving your self control and self motivation. Chances are you're not going to be cast for the Biggest Loser, so you may as well learn to do this on your own.

You should do this because here's the deal. It's not the Super Bowl party food that's going to kill you. It's eating EVERY DAY as if you were at a party. Chips, pop, sweets, snack foods, greasy pizza, etc. And then not burning off the excessive calories. (Well, who could?)

The human body evolved by working hard for its food, and until modern times has never had to contend with such a steady supply of calories and little exercise to burn them off (unless you were the Grand Poobah and reclined on your side and had someone pop grapes into your mouth. But at least they were grapes.)

Obesity rates have doubled since 1980, a new study shows. These are not the stats of a team we're watching as spectators. These are our stats. They affect how we as a country will perform in the future, whether our kids will be obese and miserable, whether we'll have enough fit people for our military defense, whether we'll crush our healthcare system and eventually our economy due to easily-preventable, obesity-related diseases.

These are all things I was fretting about in 2004 when I wrote the "Message" for the Charter Edition of the Streaming Colors Fitness Journal.

Alas, it appears to be human nature to think we can do a last minute Hail Mary effort and lose the weight just as disease and disabilities start setting in. This "just in time" approach might make sense as a model for businesses, but it's no way for humans to live.

Think about what you're missing out on every day because you let your weight hold you back. If that adorable Aaron Rodgers called you for a date, would you tell him to call back in six months while you got rid of your muffin top? 

Put off your weight loss long enough, and by the time you decide to get fit, the excess weight and its effect on your ability to get moving will make it seem impossible.

As they say, we can do this now. Or we can do this later—when it will be a whole lot harder.

If you decide to get fit now, it's actually pretty easy. Because as you journal over time, you'll gradually develop healthier habits. Habits are things you do without thinking much about them.

Developing a healthy lifestyle is as close as you can get to putting your fitness on automatic pilot. Like the cavemen, and our great grandparents—they just lived their lives and for the most part were not overweight.

But to get to that point, you need to pay attention to what you're doing every day and be mindful about making gradual changes you can live with. It's easy to get distracted, but our journal will help keep you on track.

We can even help you get through the next feast day that's coming up. Valentine's Day. We know, we know. You need to have some chocolate. Maybe go out to dinner. No need for guilt.

Our journals encourage you to have a "free day" every now and then. But to not let all the rest of your days become a fitness free-for-all. Because we all know how easy it is to PACK on the pounds (did you catch that one last Super Bowl XVI reference.) And how hard it is to take them off.


Can Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution change America's eating habits?

Jen, the mom at Luhrs Media, writes after watching the first two hours (twice) of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution:

I couldn't wait to see what would happen when that crazy Brit hit American shores.

I've been dedicated to healthy childhood nutrition for over thirty years, and was already an admirer of what Jamie's done to change school cafeteria food in England.

Would American audiences tune him out? (I'm still not over my disappointment at how low the ratings were for Shaquille O'Neal's show to help obese middle-school teens. If a popular American like Shaq can't engage TV audiences, what hope does a "foreigner" have?)

Or would they tune in to his message and his antics?

Turns out Jamie's ratings were surprisingly good.

Monitoring what people were saying on the web the next day, it's clear Jamie hit a lot of emotional nerves with people. Talking about weight and the very food we eat can do that.

Seems everyone has a different takeaway. So do I.

Here's my recap and comments based on decades of trying to figure out what works to help people develop healthier habits. (This post is long, but Jamie gave us a lot to digest, if you'll forgive the pun.)

Who's watching this?

My first thought is—who exactly is watching? The people who need the most help with their eating habits, or the people who already know how to eat healthy and are hoping that the people who need the most help are watching?

It's not going to help much if Jamie simply preaches to the choir. (Although I do think he was smart to get buy-in at the local church.)

So far, I've only seen the ratings broken down by age group. But toward the end of this post, I'll tell you what I saw that made me wonder if advertisers didn't have more specific information.

NO ONE likes to be picked on for how they eat—or cook

Jamie starts his reality show/quest in Huntington, West Virginia, statistically the unhealthiest city in the increasingly unhealthy U.S. Nearly half the adults in Huntington are considered obese, and the higher death rates due to obesity attest to the seriousness of the problem.

We can all get a little defensive about our weight and our eating habits, but I can't imagine a more volatile combination than a successful British chef (cheeky attitude, English accent and all) criticizing the eating habits and nutritional knowledge of West Virginians, who are already sensitive about being characterized as backwards.

Wait, yes I can. Add in criticism of the low-paid, dedicated school cooks who take pride in efficiently feeding hundreds of kids a day on a meager budget, obeying (as they must) government rules and guidelines that sound scientific, but in fact capitulate to highly processed foods over the freshly prepared.  (Or, as Jamie would say of the USDA guidelines, "they're rubbish.")  

School cooks, like the defiant "lean, mean processed-food cookin' machine", Alice Gue, are but tiny, tiny cogs in the vast corporate and government re-shaping of America's food sensibilities (insensibilities?) over the past three decades or so. 

There's a reason Jamie's calling for a revolution

I know I sound as though I came over on the Mayflower when I mention that I may be of the last American generation that was reared (for the most part) on scratch cooking and real food. Fast food, convenience foods, and highly processed foods were in their infancy when I was growing up. (Miraculously, and against all odds by today's standards, ordinary people were able to cook foods from scratch. Actually, it wasn't a big deal. If you have enough intelligence to operate a cell phone or computer, you probably have the intelligence to read a recipe and prepare it.)

On the rare days when our school cafeteria served "mystery meat", our taste buds told us that this was some way over-processed, manufactured crap of unrecognizable origin, and a lot of it went in the garbage can. (Mine did, despite having been trained to always clean my plate in deference to the starving babies in China.) We'd rather go hungry than eat that slippery conglomeration of meat-related products.

Now, day after day, kids happily gobble down deep-fried chicken "nuggets" made of a strained, ground-up mess of left-over chicken carcass, tendons, extra skin, artificial flavorings and chemical stabilizers, as shown in Jamie's failed "experiment" designed to gross out the kids by showing them the slimy, gooey mess they would be eating—and which they all said they wanted to eat anyway because they were hungry.

Note to Jamie: Make sure the kids are fed before doing this experiment the next time. I can also attest to the popularity of those "friendly shapes" because we use lots of circles (but in a good way) in our color-coded food diary. Your big downfall was probably the breading that disguised the ugly mess inside, and the familiar aroma of it cooking in that hot grease for which so many families have a deep fondness. (There's a reason the Edwards were solemn at the burial of their deep-fat fryer.)

The lost art of eating real food

From a very young age, taste-buds are being trained to prefer the deep-fried and the artificial. Kids eat what they know, and this is what they're being given almost as soon as they can eat finger food! Real food seems strange to many children, and they are ignorant about even the most basic vegetables (as Jamie's vegetable quiz showed.)

Many young parents don't know any better because they too were raised on the same junk. Everyone drank the Kool-Aid that the "happiest" of meals were deep-fried, artificial, and came with a prize, in a box, from the car. Vegetables were out. Finger foods were in, and as Jamie showed, some eating utensils have become strange relics from the past that children have no idea how to use.

Cooking from scratch--what's that? Even if it takes just as long, or longer, and costs just as much to prepare chemically-laden Hamburger Helper from a box, somehow it's not in our consciousness to think we could have prepared a delicious, nutritious pasta meal using wholesome basic ingredients.

Soda pop has become a basic food group. The milk in Huntington's Central City Elementary School has to be flavored, loaded with sugar and put in colorful plastic packaging to get today's kids to drink it?

Whether the human body can adapt to this strange, substandard and potentially toxic feeding of our young ones remains to be seen.

(Ironically, I've noticed that TV commercials are now touting the importance of feeding our cats and dogs highly-nutritious and more natural meats and sea foods that include Omega-3's, so I'm hoping some of this nutritional awareness might rub off on humans.)

This redefinition of "food," "cooking" and "eating" is what Jamie Oliver is really up against, and it's all ACROSS America, spreading around the globe with American fast-food chains and highly-processed packaged food brands.

But Jamie probably already knows how pervasive it is, or he wouldn't have used the word "Revolution" in his show title.

This is the food that is killing your family

Like most people, I respond to visuals. What a powerful visual it was when Jamie piled the Edwards' family kitchen table with all the junky, unhealthy, monochromatic "golden brown" food they eat and told mom, Stacy, that this was the food that was going to shorten her kids' life span.

"I needed to get the Edwards to realize if you want to be healthier, if you want to look good, then you just gotta cook from raw ingredients....Quick, cheap nutritious meals is what it's all about and that's what we've gotta do in Huntington."

He's a little disappointed that they didn't 100% jump into his program, use up all the veggies he provided for the week's recipes, and eschew fast food and pizzas. But this is where I come in, to remind Jamie and everybody that small, gradual changes are easier to live with and more likely to become a natural part of your lifestyle.

From a health behavior change point of view, it's unlikely that all of the Edwards family was "ready" to make such a drastic change.

If the Edwards would set a goal to eat a certain number of healthy, cooked-from-scratch meals together each week, their tastes would gradually change. They would probably begin seeing weight and health changes that could motivate them to add more healthy meals each week, and perhaps start getting more active.

It took years, perhaps all their lives, to learn bad eating habits. It takes awhile to replace them with healthier new ones.

You have to pay attention and track (and celebrate) your small successes, or you'll quickly fall back into unhealthy old habits. We created our color-in journals so that it would be quick, easy and fun for people to do that. In the next few weeks I'll post examples of how any family can use our Lean Mode, Color Code—Not Your Usual Food Diary to track the whole family's eating habits, and have fun making some of the changes Jamie is championing. People will be surprised at how easy it is to change.

Cooking is not rocket science, AND it's actually "fun!"

It's not that hard to cook up really tasty meals using simple, basic ingredients, but through our brainwashing by food companies, many people don't know that, unless someone cooks alongside them to show them how.

Bravo to Jamie for setting up a Food Revolution kitchen in town where people can come and cook and learn to make recipes for free.

Teen Justin Edwards seems to be transformed by cooking with Jamie.

"You've got to cook like you walk. Throw your shoulders back, head forward and walk toward it. Kick some ass. Knife skills! Style it! Kids can cook. Smile when you cook!...In forty minutes, we went miles."

"Am I strange?", adds Jamie to his repartee.

"Maybe," answers Justin.

"I am strange." 

Justin says that this was the most fun he's had in his entire life. (There's our favorite fitness word again, "fun.") Really, you mean all those passive "happy" meals didn't make you happy after all?

You can't ignore the cost

Once you've tasted great food, you realize how awful a lot of what you've eaten truly was. The Edwards father even surprises Jamie by saying he liked the taste of all the meals Jamie provided.

Some people have commented on the web that not everyone can afford healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, etc. and I agree that that is another huge, systemic barrier to changing America's eating habits.

Judging by the foods in the Edwards "before" refrigerator, they had enough of a food budget to buy more wholesome foods for scratch cooking. 

But many American families don't, and that's one reason I'd like to see a reduction in federal subsidies for harmful corn byproducts like high-fructose corn syrup, and instead see the start of subsidies for fruit and vegetable growers.

At $1.89 a pound, imagine trying to feed the proverbial "apple a day" I had as a kid to a family of five. That would be 35 apples a week, at a modest sized half-pound per apple--$33 a week, or $132 a month. Just for apples. (And you're supposed to have several servings of fruit a day.) Not in some people's food budgets these days.

A matter of life and death

Seeing fast food cups in the house and still uncertain that the Edwards family realizes that their eating habits are a matter of life and death, Jamie takes them to the hospital to meet the doctors to enlighten them about the health of the family.

Jamie is shocked to learn they haven't had regular check-ups.

"Look, I don't know what's happened in this country with healthcare, I don't understand it, but all I know is I think it's shocking, scary and strange that this family required me to take them to the hospital to find out what's going on."

Don't even get me started commenting on healthcare, Jamie. 

Checking Justin for diabetes, the doctor mentions that the complications of diabetes are terrible—blindness, kidney failure, amputations. "Justin's very likely to develop diabetes, heart problems. He may die in his thirties. We've got to do something about it now."

This was a very moving part of the program for me, because the impetus for Alexis and me to publish our fitness journals was the sharp uptick in childhood obesity which leads to the early onset of Type 2 diabetes and its potentially devastating complications.

We've started with journals for adults, because we feel very strongly that they are the "trainers" and role models for children. If the parents don't understand and practice good nutrition and cooking, their kids don't have much of a chance.

Right on cue, the Edwards dad, Tim, says "If I wasn't thinking for myself, I obviously wasn't thinking for my children."

Then, to Justin, "We're going to be strict on you, and you've got to be strict on us."

OK, at least they realize that they are in the same boat together (versus obese parents who think their obese kids have the eating problem), but the word "strict" makes me shudder a bit, because "strict" sounds unsustainable.

"Strict" is not a word Jamie would probably use

"Fun" is a word Alexis and I like to use in referring to our coloring journals and most things that you're going to try to do in order to have a healthier lifestyle. Find "fun" activities you truly enjoy, rather than force yourself to go to the gym if you hate gyms. Get your kids involved in "fun" outdoor activities. Learn to cook a few simple recipes with friends and family and make your time cooking and at the table together "fun."

Maybe that's the reason I resonate so much to Jamie Oliver's goofy style. In addition to raising awareness, he's really trying to make food and cooking more fun so that people will enjoy making it part of their lifestyle.

Crikey, he's like the Steve Irwin of nutrition, that rare, charming show-off any young kid would be thrilled to have for a dad. Bless his heart for not being afraid to go into the classroom dressed up in a silly "pea" costume.

Studies show ninety percent of kids recognize the Ronald McDonald character (second only to Santa Claus, which is why Corporate Responsibility International is picketing in my town for him to retire), but none of these six-year-olds recognize a pea, so they're all bored.

Jamie persists in engaging them in a quiz about vegetables.

You say potato, I say tomato...

One kid thinks tomatoes are potatoes. They know what tomato ketchup is, but not a tomato.They don't recognize cauliflower, beets, eggplant, which is not that surprising, but they don't even recognize a potato. They all recognize chicken nuggets and pizza and french fries, but don't know that the potato makes a french fry. The test is shocking, truly shocking, and for me, one of the biggest revelations of the show.

"If the kids don't know what stuff is, then they will never eat it."

But Jamie doesn't give up, and neither does the teacher, who labels the foods and teaches the kids about them, so that the next time Jamie comes to class, they can name them all!

"Absolutely brilliant. Mrs. Blake saw a problem and she fixed it." Jamie gives the kids and teachers applause, creating excitement around food.

At one point Jamie is running around as a pea on the playground, along with the kids, yelling "eat your vegetables."

Jamie points out that it's really important that the teachers tell the kids what's for lunch and get them jazzed up about eating it. Young children may need to be encouraged to try new foods, and helped to learn to use utensils (something they do in schools in England, otherwise it's the equivalent of saying "we have no use for real food in this school.")

Patrick O'Neal, principal, Central City Elementary School, says he's surprised at how effective working with kids at lunchtime was, and that it's something he'd enjoy doing.

"Kids love stickers."

Another fun idea: Jamie gives the kids stickers that say "I've tried something new." 

We know from our fitness journals that even small visual rewards like coloring in the positive things you eat each day can be surprisingly motivating, even for adults, especially when the reward is immediate. 

Here's an idea. Use part of the stimulus money from Washington to help beleaguered schools hire cafeteria aides to encourage the kids to try new foods, and to hand out stickers. That would provide jobs at the same time it helps our kids become healthier.

"I've got no chance."

That's what Jamie's been saying all week, as he sums up his chances of being asked to stay on, and as tray after tray of his scratch cooking is dumped into the garbage can.

At the end of the week, the kids seem to be warming up to Jamie's food. Jamie meets the superintendent and has cook appreciation day.

Alice Gue seems to be succumbing to Jamie's charm and is smiling. Jamie thanks them all. "Of all the places I've been, you have done an incredible job."

Rhonda, who's in charge of food service for 26 schools, says the meals "looked colorful, very appetizing, I liked the taste. But the food cost was double, and Jamie didn't give analysis of his food."

However, they decide to let him try for another couple of weeks if he gets all his systems (red tape) in place. 

Says Jamie (if he stays within his budget and the kids like his food), "I want to fix every single school in Huntington. End of story. That's the mission."

Looks like next week he gets the high school kids cooking.

I'd cry, too.

I have no doubt that Jamie is sincere in his mission. Yes, he makes money doing this show, but even preachers don't work for free, so why should he?

He has to put up with the rude attacks of a negative talk radio show host, and is accused in the newspaper of being disrespectful of the people and children of Huntington. Apparently no one gets it that a bit of cheekiness is part of his style (and part of why he's so entertaining to watch. This is TV, after all.) I can see both sides, because, as I said earlier, people do tend to be a bit touchy about their eating and their cooking.

He tears up that he's giving up his time and compromising his family because he cares. His critics in Huntington "don't understand me, why I've done what I've done in the past ten years. Because I care."

While I would never cry on TV (or at least, I'd edit it out), I can relate to his feelings from also having a mission of creating tools to help people develop healthier eating and exercise habits. It doesn't make you popular with people who simply aren't ready to change. For those people, who tend to be defensive, it's important to not be pushy, but rather to hope they'll see the benefits of changing as others around them succeed.

I'm guessing that Jamie takes a "glass half-full" approach, devoting his energy and finding rewards in seeing the lives he does manage to change for the better.

I don't think Jamie meant to belittle anyone. I was surprised to hear him actually use the word "shame." I didn't catch it word for word, but I think he's dead on:

 "...You live in an amazing country...right now is a time when we're all confused about how smart we are, how technically advanced we are...we've lost sight of a few things like (here I think he said something about cooking together) ....sitting around the table, breaking bread.... And if you think that isn't important, then shame on you."

"Help make America great again. If people just realize that their efforts make a difference, we can do this."

That's what we say!

Back to the question of who's watching

Ha. Did anyone else notice that during this program an ad came on for Velveeta Shells and Cheese boxed dinner? It's not an ad I've seen before. The plated food looked very plain and institutional.

Velveeta is "Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product," or what we used to call "fake cheese."

I wonder if Jamie knew they'd be running an ad for a food that doesn't exactly live up to what he's espousing? I wonder if the ad agency knew that the people who would be watching the show would also be the people most likely to stock up on Velveeta Shells and Cheese? I wonder if school cafeterias still use tons of cheap fake cheese ("cheese food") like mine did?

If so, Jamie, better send for your wife and kids. This revolution could take awhile...