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.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How the Red River Soil Brothers and Sisters kept it real

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(Editor’s Note: This week’s blog is written by a group in the LSU AgCenter’s Northwest Region who participated in a recent Chancellor’s Challenge competition. The Soil Brothers and Sisters, as they call themselves, won first place and received LSU AgCenter jackets as prizes.)

Let me begin this blog by saying to all of you who are trying to live fit, “We Salute You!”

As I’m sure you’re all aware, the road to fitness Nirvana isn’t always a lovely ribbon of pristine asphalt. It can be littered with potholes, wrong turns, break downs – and yes – traffic circles. Oh, and yes it is true, every little burg in the continental U.S. has a Sonic drive-in…or so it seems.

But, like any journey, the trip will be much more pleasant if you have the benefit of a map and the insight of fellow travelers who have made the trip before.

This is why we members of the Soil Brothers and Sisters were so delighted when asked to share some of our stories of the road with our fellow wayfarers.

After settling on the team name of Soil Brothers and Sisters to promote a club feeling, it was mandated that we all select a “tribal name” drawn from the pool of 70’s-era soul culture icons. As such, we address you today using our team names. The cast of characters is: Shaft, JJ “Kid Dyn-O-Mite” Walker, Tina “Legs” Turner, Thelma, Wheezy, Lamont, Grady, and, of course, Tudie.

We hope you find the following “travel advisories” useful!

Shaft (aka Rusty Anderson)

As team leader from the beginning, I wanted to infuse the challenge with an element of fun. This was the basis for our team name selection as well as our tribal names – an allusion to “Survivor”. The “soul 70’s” backdrop provided a perfect vehicle from which to draw humor in team communiqués. Music files attached to team e-mail were also used to keep it interesting and promote team cohesion. All of us were familiar with the same relevant songs by such artists as James Brown, Deee-lite and Fat Boy Slim, and that provided fodder for lots of light-hearted joking around.

My advice to any team leader would be to avoid singling out, belittlement and badgering. Instead, do what you can to develop an encouraging environment for your team members. I believe a little fun, a little humor and maybe even a little hipness can be useful in doing this.

On a physical note, setting a goal of spending more time daily standing than sitting is a good way to increase your daily consumption of calories. This can really help in getting those extra pounds off without excessive dieting.

JJ Walker (aka Jim Hayes)

A couple of the things that kept me motivated during the last fitness challenge were team meetings and when I finally started seeing results. We had two teams participating here at Red River Research Station, and there was a lot of smack talking early in the challenge. That kind of competition between teams was helpful at first until the opposing team fell by the wayside. We had team meetings a couple times a month during afternoon breaks to be sure everybody on the team was properly motivated and cranking out the steps.

Rusty monitored the team performance as a whole and let us know when we were starting to slack up in our efforts. About two months into the challenge, after replacing fruits and veggies with what used to be snack machine foods, I began to drop body fat and felt better throughout the day.

Wheezy (aka Carrie Fletcher)

One surprising thing I discovered during the challenge was the importance of the time of day chosen for physical activity. I found that it was critical to pick a time that would offer the least interference with my daily routine as well as those of my friends and family. No one likes to have to wait for their significant other, mom or dad to finish their hour long workout before they can have supper. Mornings before work turned out to best fit with my schedule. This was time I was not previously using so no one had to alter his or her day to accommodate my walking.

An added plus was that it rarely rains during the hours just after dawn – probably no more than three to four times a year, avoiding another possible excuse not to do my thing.

Thelma (aka Darinda Dans)

For the fruits and veggies portion of the challenge, changing my routine was key. A bad habit that I had was skipping meals; an easy fix was having fruit in the morning instead of totally skipping breakfast. Also, preparing a salad to bring for lunch is really quick and simple – plus it’s cheaper than going out to eat.

With the exercise portion, I added more time walking into my schedule. Other than that, I continued to do a daily 15-20-minute workout. Nothing too strenuous, but a daily workout of stretches, crunches, etc. keeps me feeling more energized.

Tina “Legs” Turner (aka Mary Ann Van Osdell)

Having a good leader, fun meetings and friendly competition kept me on track, and now I don’t want to revert back to pre-challenge habits.

I was never one to exercise or watch what I ate because I am, luckily, underweight. However, working for the LSU AgCenter has made me realize the importance of good nutrition and physical activity, so I joined the team at the last minute. Through the competition, I began walking with my dog and eating more fruits and vegetables. Even Zoe, the dog, shed pounds (her latest trip to the vet put the sum at thirteen pounds…wow!). I also aired up my bicycle tires and went for rides in the neighborhood I grew up in, recalling childhood memories.

I kept up with the competition while on vacation in New York City, where I got lots of points for walking. On my fall trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I tried fresh beet, carrot and cantaloupe juice that I otherwise would not have before the challenge.

More importantly, my husband has caught my enthusiasm. He bought a Wii Fit and a treadmill. But if David hears Smart Portions one more time, he might throw his plate at me.

Proudly wearing the jacket we received for winning the LSU AgCenter competition, I got noticed the first time I put it on. Someone in line next to me at Barnes and Noble spotted the logo and asked what the LSU AgCenter did. Great publicity for my place of employment and team!

Lamont (aka Eddie Millhollon)

During the past year, I watched my mother-in-law go through treatment for colon cancer – a long, difficult, painful process. This event made me realize how precious our health is and how important it is that we maintain the one and only body we will ever have. We are all presented with a multitude of choices each and every day. For our bodies, the choices we make today regarding healthy eating and exercise play an incalculable role in the health we will be able to enjoy in our later years.

I love this quote by Mark Twain: “Change is the handmaiden Nature requires to do her miracles with.” So, if we want to enjoy the miracle of good health in our later years, it’s important that we make the necessary changes in our lifestyles now that will lay the foundation for our future. The changes I’ve made in my lifestyle, thanks in part to this challenge, are relatively simple.

My wife and I have Scottish and West Highland terriers who love their walks, and they can be very persuasive in getting everyone out the door for their daily walks in the neighborhood. When we run errands or go shopping, we no longer try and find that prized parking space closest to the entrance. Instead, we park farther away so that we get in extra walking. Another thing I do is bring my lunch from home. That way, I make sure I’m not tempted to overindulge at a fast food restaurant during lunch time. I also pack raw vegetables for snacks during the day. These may seem like simple things. But in the long run, they can really make a difference.

Tudie (aka Sara Menard)

(Editor’s Note: Sara Menard is a student worker.)

During the challenge, I made it a point to include at least two servings of vegetables with each meal. This was important so that by the end of the day, I didn’t have to try hard to get my servings in. Also, having been a runner in the past, I used this opportunity to get back into the swing of things by starting running again. Going for runs in the morning and weekends made it easy to get my steps in. Morning workouts made it easier to not push off exercise at the end of the day when you’re tired from a long day of work.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Run, run, run

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(Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blog is from a Baton Rouge running enthusiast and owner of a sports equipment store, Varsity Sports. She promotes the idea of joining local running groups as a means of combining exercise and fun.)

Running is a sure-fire way of feeling great, staying healthy and having fun. Right now, we’re seeing what looks to be a second boom in the sport, probably because of its accessibility, low cost and, yes, social aspect. Sure, running might have a reputation for being boring and solitary, but it’s anything but that.

The local running scene is filled with great people who have fun training together during the week and completing road races on weekends. It’s a super way to make friends, relieve stress, sleep better and stay fit. And let’s face it, toned muscles look great as we roll into summer.

Join the Varsity Sports running group that just started. Beginners are welcome. They walk/jog just a mile to start. Look at the schedule of all the interesting places we run at the calendar at www.varsityrunning.com. Regular meetings are Monday and Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday at 7:30 a.m. Many of the Thursday evening runs are followed by social get-togethers.

This training schedule is designed to build strength, endurance and cardio-vascular fitness. I’m big on variety. Jogging your same route a few times a week won’t help you improve. But by mixing up your workout with hills and varied paced intervals, you build endurance and strengthen your heart. In fact, it’s like during push-ups for your heart.

It’s more fun than you might think.

Jenni Peters


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Calories count more than the type of diet

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Diet composition and its relationship to weight loss get a lot of attention. Should one follow high-protein diet versus a high-carbohydrate diet to lose weight? Some recent studies have shown that high-protein diets may have an advantage over high-carbohydrate diets. To test whether differences in diet composition lead to different weight losses, Pennington Biomedical Research Center’s researchers together with researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health developed four diets with varying macronutrient composition and enrolled more than 800 subjects in a study.

The length of the study also makes a difference in the amount of weight loss experienced. There are many short-term studies showing initial weight loss, regardless of diet composition, but followup a year or more later shows most people gain the weight back. This study was designed to last for two years, longer than most diets to try to counteract the rebound effect seen in shorter studies.

In the short-term studies, high carbohydrate diets showed superior results over high-fat, high-protein diets. The subjects had to be overweight or obese, and 40 percent of the subjects had to be men. Participants had to be 30 to 70 years of age and have a body mass index (weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) of 25 to 40.

The nutrient goals for the four diet groups were:

  • 20% fat, 15% protein and 65% carbohydrates (low-fat, average-protein)
  • 20% fat, 25% protein, and 55% carbohydrates (low-fat, high-protein)
  • 40% fat, 15% protein, and 45% carbohydrates (high-fat, average-protein)
  • 40% fat, 25% protein, and 35% carbohydrates (high-fat, high-protein)

Group sessions were held once a week, three of every four weeks during the first six months and two of every four weeks from six months to two years. Individual sessions were held every eight weeks for the entire two years. Daily meal plans in two-week blocks were provided.

The subjects (811) were randomly assigned to one of the diets, and 645 (80 percent of those assigned) completed the study. The amount of weight loss after two years was similar in participants assigned to the diets with varying protein levels and among those with varying fat levels. Most of the weight loss occurred in the first six months and continued through year one but rebounded after that. At the end of two years, however, weight loss was still below the weight at the beginning of the study. The low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets reduced low density lipoprotein (LDL) better than high-fat diets. All the diets decreased triglyceride levels similarly, and all the diets except the one with the highest carbohydrate content decreased fasting serum insulin levels. Reported energy intakes and physical activity were similar among the diet groups. The participants who completed the study had a mean weight loss of about 14 pounds at 6 months, which corresponds to a reduction in daily energy intake of approximately 225 calories.

The main finding is that the diets were equally successful in promoting meaningful weight loss and the maintenance of weight loss for two years. The results suggest that any type of diet, when taught for the purpose of weight loss with enthusiasm and persistence, can be effective. It is the caloric content of the diet that is much more important than the macronutrient content. A diet that provides fewer calories than is expended in a day results in weight loss. It does not matter whether those calories come from fat or carbohydrate.

I believe that this study shows that going back to the basics is the best way to lose weight. Reducing caloric intake and eating a type of diet that one can follow works best. It is the sustainability of the reduced weight status in the long-term that tells us whether or not we have learned new eating habits. Reverting back to the way of eating familiar at a higher weight will result in weight gain. Frequent weighing is important in being able to catch a small weight increase and correcting subsequent eating habits so that energy intake matches energy expenditure. Following the MyPyramid plan for specific gender, age and activity level results in a sensible diet high in nutrients and fiber and low in calories that can help in weight loss.

See the full article in the Feb. 26, 2009, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Heli Roy

4/9/2009 12:59:00 AM
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