About the Chancellor's Challenge Blogs

A major initiative of the LSU AgCenter is to help the people of Louisiana live healthier lifestyles. The Chancellor's Challenge blog provides educational information on how to lose weight and keep it off and lower the numbers related to such health issues as cholesterol, body mass index and blood pressure. The current blog began in November 2008 and is a weekly blog prepared by LSU AgCenter faculty and staff. They share their expertise--many of them are registered dietitians--and their personal experiences in trying to eat better and be more physically fit.

The initial blog was written by LSU AgCenter Chancellor Bill Richardson as a personal commitment to serve as an example that people can change. He shares the struggles he goes through in trying to eat healthier and incorporate more exercise into his busy lifestyle. Most of his blogs were followed by advice from LSU AgCenter nutrition experts. And all of his blogs contain links to more information. His blogs started Oct. 1, 2007 and ended Oct. 31, 2008.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Return to your childhood and ride a bike to work

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I love walking into a meeting in high heels and a skirt with a flaming pink bicycle helmet in hand. Curiosity is piqued, and the inevitable questions begin, “Did you ride your bike here in those shoes?” To which I will answer, “Yes and no.” Yes, I did ride my bike – but, no, not in high heels. (I carry the heels in my basket and wear tennis shoes). This blog will explain to you how and why I commute to work by bike as often as possible.

I began bicycle commuting when I was an undergraduate student at the University of California-Davis. This continued into graduate school, and I also joined the bicycle racing team – racing both road and mountain bikes. Davis is known around the world as a bicycle-friendly community. Miles of bicycle lanes are common, as are bike circles and even bike traffic lights. The campus is mostly closed to vehicles, which further encourages travel by bike for those 10-minute changes between classes.

We all know that Baton Rouge is not Davis, but I applaud the efforts to make this a bicycle-friendly community. I know that the idea of riding a bicycle at any time of year in south Louisiana – in particular, the summer – sounds absurd to many, but I would like you to consider bicycles as a viable form of transportation. Bike riding has many benefits:

  • Improved health of the rider.
  • Decreased production of carbon emissions.
  • Decreased fuel cost and wear-and-tear on your four-wheeled vehicle.

I often joke that my bike fuel is whatever I ate that day, which is very true. By biking 20 minutes each way to work, I conveniently fit in 40 minutes of exercise a day.

Unfortunately, few communities are designed with pedestrian traffic of any kind in mind. When we moved to Baton Rouge, we made a conscious effort to buy in a neighborhood that would allow us both to bike to work. For this reason, we live near the Garden District. I bike around the lakes and my husband winds through neighborhoods toward downtown. I find my ride into work to be a peaceful, relaxing way to start the day. I have the opportunity to slow down and immerse myself in the natural beauty around me. One evening I saw a red fox on my way home. I often encounter bats hunting at night and, of course, countless birds in flight and roosting for the night.

If you are considering bike commuting, here is a little advice from my experience. My daily commuter bike is a light-weight, aluminum-frame mountain bike with a front shock and a single-gear. A bike with fewer gears is easier to maintain, so I recommend a one-speed to three-speed bike. We don’t have any mountains in Louisiana, so there is no need for lots of gears. I have modified the bike to meet my needs with a comfortable seat, sloping handle bars that allow me to sit up straighter – which is more comfortable – flashing headlight and tail-lights, and a rear-mounted rack with removable bags (called panniers) to carry my equipment. I like to refer to this as my “trunk.” In it I carry a patch kit, tube and multi-tool, and a cable lock. Make sure you always wear a good-fitting helmet, and I recommend gloves for better control and safety in case you ever “hit the deck.”

Make sure to lay out everything you need to take to work the night before. Also consider the distance of your ride and whether or not you might need to shower before you go to the office. I find it convenient to head out early and stop at the LSU Rec Center for a work-out and shower before I go the office. I pack a change of clothes and keep toiletries in a locker.

When riding your bike, keep in mind that bicycles are considered vehicles according to traffic laws, so you need to ride your bike like it is a car. Ride in the same direction as traffic, and ALWAYS BIKE DEFENSIVELY. Unfortunately, many drivers just won’t see you when you are riding. I always try to make eye contact with drivers about to cross my path – even if they have a stop sign or red light. Be aware that drivers will still pull out in front of you even if they see you. If a driver is deliberately rude to you, please for the sake of other cyclists, don’t react in any way. Remember to treat others as you would like to be treated. You can also use a horn or bell, and hand signals, to let cars and pedestrians know you are coming.

Remember, always wear a helmet when you bike, obey traffic laws, and use lights at night. Keep a cell phone handy, and always carry identification in case of emergencies. You can learn more about bicycling by joining up with BRASS and other bicycling organizations. Come on Louisiana – let’s do the Louisiana 2-step on 2-wheels!

 Natalie Hummel


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Step Away from the Cupcake

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(Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is written by Kristen Manes, who is an analyst in the LSU AgCenter’s Human Resource Management office and a member of the AgCenter’s Wellness Committee.)

That’s how I feel when I think about getting healthy. No more cupcakes. No more gooey, sweet, frosted, warm, cinnamon rolls – or doughnuts. No more Fritos and bean dip or globs of sour cream and piles of shredded cheese on my chili. No more yum. My life will go from color to black and white.

That’s my problem. I can take things to the extreme. That all-or-nothing attitude rarely gets me where I want to be – happy.

Example: About five years ago, I decided it was time to reclaim the gymnast’s body of my youth. Since taking gymnastics classes again at 28 really wasn’t a viable option, I decided it was time to start running. If I was going to start running, what was wrong with starting with a marathon? If I was going to do this, I was going to DO this.

As coincidence would have it, around the time of my decision and grand proclamation to friends and family alike, I got a flyer in the mail from Team in Training. This was my answer. If I helped raise money for blood cancers, I’d get free training, motivation, accountability and a cause all in one. I signed up. Maybe because my enthusiasm for this commitment was so great, one of my best friends signed up, too. We were given a coach, more training buddies, a training schedule and a deadline. There’s a lot to be said for feeling like you are a part of something. It helps me to get swept up in the challenge and emotion of a cause or an event.

As training began, I quickly realized that those days of four-hour gymnastics training sessions were further behind me than I realized. Our first training day was a four-mile run – of which I could actually run only one. With encouragement from my coach, and assurance that a majority of first-timers have a similar experience, I completed the entire four miles at a pace slightly slower than a jog. As the date of the race grew nearer and the expense of the physical therapist grew higher from developing IT band issues, I was still adamant that I would tackle this marathon. Actually, in the end, the marathon tackled me. Make no mistake, I did finish it. The distance, 26.2 miles, took me a grand total of six hours and 23 minutes. As it turns out, my marathon experience was similar to the first day of training. After a few months of training and completing runs of 16 miles plus, I was only able to run the first four miles on my big day before the pain in my knees bade me to speed-walk the rest of it. (If you want a giggle at my expense, ask me to recount the time during the race that this man, pushing his ailing son in a hospital bed, passed me. It’s a brief but good little story.)

During the training and after the race, I didn’t feel great about myself or my accomplishment because I wasn’t the best or the fastest. It wasn’t until years later (and with all the wisdom that can come with years) that I realized that I FINISHED THE RACE. I COMPLETED A MARATHON. I finished it by putting one foot in front of the other, one at a time. Is this a little corny? Yes. I apologize for that, but it is true. I also had a friend beside me, hurting and complaining and laughing at it all with me, egging me on until the end. She pushed me just by being there.

Do I still get discouraged when I wonder why my 5-foot-2-inch and 135-pound body can’t drop 10 pounds in a week after watching “The Biggest Loser?” Yes. But I get over it. I’m happier. I’m healthier.

Wisdom I’ve gained:

You CAN have a cupcake. One. Every now and then.

One step won’t hurt. Neither will the next. (It’s only around mile 22 when the pain sets in!)

Kristen Manes


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Eat More Vegetables, Exercise Regularly

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(Editor’s Note: This blog is a video file from Robert Richard, professor in the LSU AgCenter’s Organization Development & Evaluation office. When he found out his cholesterol reading was too high, he embarked on a plan to get the number into an acceptable range. Please click on the YouTube link to view the file. It is 4 minutes and 44 seconds in length. )

View Healthy Changes. 

Robert Richard 


Friday, February 6, 2009

Eat Heart Healthy Every Month

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(Editor’s Note: Mandy G. Armentor is a registered dietitian and an associate extension agent in Vermilion Parish for the LSU AgCenter.)

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in Louisiana and the United States every year. February is National Heart Month, reminding Americans to make lifestyle changes to become more heart healthy. Eating heart healthy is simple and requires only a few lifestyle and dietary changes.

A heart healthy lifestyle means no smoking and regular exercise. Experts recommend that we exercise at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week to get the maximum health benefits.

As for diet, we need to reduce our total fat, saturated fat and trans fat consumption because saturated and trans fats raise our cholesterol levels and increase our risk for the development of heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals consume no more than 30 percent or less of total calories from total fat, 10 percent or less from saturated fats and 1 percent or less from trans fats. So, for 2,000 calories in a day that would mean 60 grams of total fat, 20 grams of saturated fat and 2 grams of trans fats per day. Sounds like a lot of fat, right? Pace yourself, and don’t eat it all in one meal – like a fast-food breakfast.

Other tips to reduce fat intake in our diet:

  • Instead of using butter or margarine, switch to light butter or margarine. You can save lots of calories and fat. Be sure to check the food label on the packages to find the margarine that has the least amount of total fat, saturated fat and trans fats.
  • Instead of regular mayonnaise, try low-fat or fat-free mayonnaise. A big savings is just omitting mayonnaise altogether and using condiments like mustard and ketchup. They’re fat-free.
  • Choose grilled, baked, broiled or sautéed dishes when dining out instead of fried items.
  • When cooking at home, do more grilling, baking, broiling or sautéing of vegetables and meats, and watch how much oil or butter you use when cooking.
  • Make a switch with your dairy products; instead of drinking whole milk or eating regular cheese, switch to low-fat or fat-free dairy products. The taste is the same but without all the calories and fats.
  • Watch your salt and sodium consumption daily. We only need about 2, 400 milligrams of sodium per day, but Americans usually consume twice that amount in one day.
  • Consume more fruits, vegetables and whole grains daily. Also, consume lean sources of meat, fish and poultry products.
  • Consume fish at least twice per week for the maximum heart healthy benefit.
  • Last, but not least, get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked at least once a year to know if you are at risk for heart disease or need to make some lifestyle changes.

Mandy G. Armentor

3/7/2009 6:36:40 AM
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