12/3/07 - 12/7/07

Chancellor's Challenge. Chancellor Bill Richardson has made the decision to change to a healthierlifestyle. Follow his daily accounts and remarks from nutritionists to help him stay on course.

December 7, 2007

The Sweet Science

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I’m sure at one time fruitcakes were popular. But I must tell you I have never had a piece of fruitcake that made me look forward to eating one again. Why something so dry filled with rubbery pieces of fruit and apparently left over from WWII became so popular is beyond me. At least the tin they come in has some utility for storing stuff. But how many of those do you really need? As you might surmise, I really do not like fruitcake. Maybe we can start a fruitcake diet. Perhaps if all you ate…naw, that sounds rather irresponsible. Thinking of eating fruitcake all day long makes my new-found nutrition plan sound really good.

But put me in front of a plate of holiday cookies, and I can eat enough to make any dietitian cringe. I will confess in advance that over the upcoming holiday season, I plan to eat a few holiday cookies. Notice carefully the word “few.”

I will also confess that I will not eat any fruitcake. So how do we approach the cookie, cake, pie, pecan, pralines, pecan log rolls, candy and more cookies this season? By now you all know the answer. Moderation, portion control (a few cookies not dozens), and maintain our exercise program. If we have a plan, then the step on the scales on January 1 won’t shock us. My plan is simple. I want to step on the scales on January confident that I was able to maintain my cookie sanity and did not gain any weight. A few good cookies won’t hurt you. Moderation, portion control and exercise.

We can also use the season as a chance to teach our children and grandchildren about good nutrition. In our house, we simply don’t buy sweets. Maybe we could use healthy snacks to replace the mountains of cookies and other stuff that seems to grow abundantly this time of the year. We should take every opportunity to be a role model to our children, peers, family and friends. Moderation, portion control and exercise.

If you were planning to send me a fruitcake or cookies for the holidays, might I offer a better suggestion? Why not give yourself the gift of a healthy lifestyle and use the holiday season to find that inner motivating factor that helps you turn 2008 into a year of personal change? That sure sounds better than fruitcake, doesn’t it?

Do people in Europe really walk more than we do? We will discuss this Monday along with my first week of experience with the pedometer.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Fruitcake, cookies and candy are foods high in sugar and fat. They take up what is called discretionary calories in our diet.

You need a certain number of calories to keep your body functioning and provide energy for physical activities. Think of the calories you need for energy like money you have to spend. Each person has a total calorie budget. This budget can be divided into essentials and extras.

With a financial budget, the essentials are items like rent and food. The extras are things like movies and vacations. In a calorie budget, the essentials are the minimum calories required to meet your nutrient needs. By selecting the lowest fat and no-sugar-added forms of foods in each food group, you make the best nutrient buys. Depending on the foods you choose, you may be able to spend more calories than the amount required to meet your nutrient needs. These calories are the extras that can be used on luxuries like solid fats, added sugars, alcohol or more food from any food group. They are your discretionary calories.

Each person has an allowance for some discretionary calories. But, many people have used up this allowance before lunch-time! Most discretionary calorie allowances are small, between 100 and 300 calories, especially for those who are not physically active. For many people, the discretionary calorie allowance is totally used by the foods they choose in each food group, such as higher fat meats, cheeses, whole milk or sweetened bakery products.

You can use your discretionary calorie allowance to:

  • Eat more foods from any food group than the food guide recommends.
  • Eat higher calorie forms of foods – those that contain solid fats or added sugars. Examples are whole milk, cheese, sausage, biscuits, sweetened cereal, and sweetened yogurt.
  • Add fats or sweeteners to foods. Examples are sauces, salad dressings, sugar, syrup and butter.
  • Eat or drink items that are mostly fats, caloric sweeteners or alcohol, such as candy, soda, wine and beer.

For example, assume your calorie budget is 2,000 calories per day. Of these calories, you need to spend at least 1,735 calories for essential nutrients. Then you have 265 discretionary calories left. You may use these on luxury versions of the foods in each group, such as higher fat meat or sweetened cereal. Or, you can spend them on sweets, sauces or beverages. Many people overspend their discretionary calorie allowance, choosing more added fats, sugars and alcohol than their budget allows.

The discretionary calories allowance is based on estimated calorie needs by age/sex group. Physical activity increases calorie needs, so those who are more physically active need more total calories and have a larger discretionary calorie allowance. The discretionary calorie allowance is part of total estimated calorie needs, not in addition to total calorie needs. The chart gives a general guide.

Age and sex

Not physically active*

Physically active**






Females 19-30 years old

2000 calories


2000-2400 calories

265 to 360

Males 19-30 years old

2400 calories


2600-3000 calories

410 to 510

Females 31-50 years old

1800 calories


2000-2200 calories

265 to 290

Males 31-50 years old

2200 calories


2400-3000 calories

360 to 510

Females 51+ years old

1600 calories


1800-2200 calories

195 to 290

Males 51+ years old

2000 calories


2200-2800 calories

290 to 425

*These amounts are appropriate for individuals who get less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days.
**These amounts are appropriate for individuals who get at least 30 minutes (lower calorie level) to at least 60 minutes (higher calorie level) of moderate physical activity most days.

Thinking about using just your discretionary calories for luxury foods can get tricky, and you might not know exactly how many discretionary calories you can have, so you may want to consider another approach. When you know that you will be having foods high in sugar and fat that results in excessive caloric intake, you may want to think about balancing them with smaller meals. It is all about balancing intake with expenditure. And think about balancing your intake over three days instead of having a perfectly balanced intake and expenditure every single day. That way, if you lapse, you can correct it over the next few meals.

Heli Roy


December 6, 2007

All For One And One For All

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I am often asked what motivated me to write this blog. In earlier blogs I have tried to answer that. That answer, while truthful and accurate, might not address the internal forces that contributed to the execution of the effort. That gives rise to the question: What really motivates us?

One response that I received from a reader indicated that he changed lifestyles because of existing medical conditions. It was either revamp his approach to nutrition or face the consequences of a later life filled with medical issues. Like you, I support his efforts to make the changes and stick with them. But sometimes we have to have the motivation to change even if there is no life-threatening obstacle to overcome.

Sometimes we simply want to look better. And, for sure, we live in a culture that puts emphasis on looking good. Thin is advertised as better than fat. And soon every other sound bite will urge us to “diet” for the new year. I just don’t think that advertising motivates us to make changes, even if we know it will make us look better.

We often make changes to improve our overall health. The information is there to support a healthy lifestyle. We all know that healthy eating and regular exercise are good. But what makes one stop and decide to change after decades of a not-so-healthy lifestyle?

Over the past 10 years I have approached losing weight numerous times. I tried about every diet imaginable, sporadically exercised, read every diet book I could find, and as a result, failed miserably. The weight remained or increased.

In June 2006, I started consistently exercising. Over a couple of months, I lost some weight and increased my energy levels. But I wasn’t able to sustain the effort. This summer, the light finally came on, and I was motivated to develop a plan and execute it. My motivation: I wanted to feel better, look better and fight the aging process with vigor. Fortunately, I was blessed over the years with good health and a healthy body. It became a goal to see just how much I could do given the constraints of work, private life and living in my fish bowl. The blog became the tool and the approach to lifestyle changes critical to the future of our state. If I could change and my personal battle could be used to motivate others, then let’s do it. I knew that once I started, I could not fail. My personal goals became the motivation to help others and vice versa.

Again, what motivates you? How do we motivate thousands of others? I once read that all revolutions in recorded history were started by a few motivated people. Maybe the few of us, who become highly motivated, can start a lifestyle revolution. Wouldn’t it be nice to look back in 10 years and see changes that we made by sticking our necks out and leading an effort to fight obesity?

Like fruit cake? Let me tell you about it tomorrow.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

The goal is for good healthy eating and physical activity behaviors to become a habit. You’re less likely to break them when temptation occurs. Motivation is important, but as Congressman and Olympic medalist Jim Ryun said, ""Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."

Take a look at your eating habits. Do you find you snack on high-calorie foods when you’re bored? Do you eat too fast?

Some tips to help form healthy eating habits include:

  • Plan meals and snacks ahead of time. Bring low-calorie snacks with you to work or when traveling in your car.
  • Try to stick to an eating schedule. Studies show missed meals can lead to overeating.
  • Don’t go grocery shopping when you are hungry. This will help you avoid the temptation to buy things you don’t need.
  • Eat from plates, not out of a bag. It is much harder to keep track of how much you’ve eaten if you are snacking from the bag or carton.
  • Eat slowly and enjoy each bite. Since it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell you're brain you're full, eating slowly will help prevent overeating.

Beth Reames


December 5, 2007

Chewing The Fat

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There has been so much written about how much and what kind of fat we have in our diet that I get confused. Maybe we should not eat any fat at all! What is a trans fat? Saturated fat? Omega-3 fatty acid? As I’ve stated before, my goal is to keep it simple. Here is what I found searching the LSU AgCenter Web site.

As noted in the specialist response below, a healthy nutrition plan includes some fats – normally about 20 percent to 35 percent of daily nutrition planning. Given my 2,200 calorie plan, that is about 49-85 grams of fat. That sounds like a lot to me. I want to lower my overall cholesterol and get a better ratio between the HDL/LDL – that is, increase the good cholesterol and decrease the bad stuff. To do this, I asked to have a nutrition plan that decreased the amount of fat. As noted below, saturated fat and trans fats are the bad guys. Too much of these bad guys raises cholesterol, whereas the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats do just the opposite. So what do I eat to accomplish this decrease in fat consumption and the use of more good fats and less bad fats?

I like olive oil and use it when an oil is called for, such as cooking a chicken breast or a piece of fish. Pan sautéing such products with olive oil is tasty and a good use of a polyunsaturated fat. When I eat meats, I try to ensure that they are lean with the fat trimmed away. My milk consumption is reduced-fat milk or skim milk. With just a little planning, you can make better use of the good fats. I also strongly urge you to read the labels. I look at the label to determine two things – grams of sugar and type of fat.

Finally, please remember the discussion about portion control. We just consume too many calories. Even if you dramatically decrease your fat consumption, that does not mean you can eat as much of the other stuff as you like. Moderation, portion control and exercise! It really is quite simple.

What motivates you? Tomorrow we will delve into what motivates me and discuss how that relates to nutrition.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Many people trying to lose weight believe that reduced-fat or fat-free foods are always low in calories and they can eat as much as they want of these foods. However, too many calories from any source, low-fat foods included, can add pounds.

A healthy eating plan includes fats and oils. The recommended intake of fat is 20 percent to 35 percent of calories (49 - 85 grams of fat for 2200 calories). Fats and oils are needed to supply energy and essential fatty acids, for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and as building blocks of membranes.

There are some risks for consuming too much fat or too much of the wrong kind of fat. High intakes of saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol may raise unhealthy blood lipids and increase heart disease risk. Fat intake greater than 35 percent usually leads to increased intake of saturated fat and calories.

Most Americans need to lower saturated fat and trans fat intake. Saturated fat, trans fatty acids and dietary cholesterol raise blood cholesterol. Some studies suggest that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) slightly when eaten as part of a low-saturated and trans-fat diet. Most fats should come from polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated fat is found mostly in foods from animals (beef, beef fat, veal, lamb, pork, lard, poultry fat, butter, cream, milk, cheeses and other dairy products made from whole milk). It is also found in some plants including the tropical oils – coconut, palm oil and palm kernel – and cocoa butter. The American Heart Association recommends less than 7 percent calories from saturated fat. Read more.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, and fish. In addition to the essential fatty acids they contain, oils are the major source of vitamin E in typical American diets.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that may help lower heart disease risk. Foods containing omega 3’s include fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon, as well as tofu and other forms of soybeans, canola, walnut and flaxseed, and their oils.

Monounsaturated fats may help lower blood cholesterol levels when eaten in place of saturated fats. Rich sources of monounsaturated fats include canola, olive and peanut oils, and avocados.

Trans fats are unhealthy fats. They raise total blood cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and lower HDL-cholesterol (good cholesterol). When liquid oils are hydrogenated to make shortening and margarine, partially hydrogenated oils called trans fatty acids are formed. Trans fats may be found in margarine, shortenings, baked or fried goods, dairy products, beef and lamb. Food products now must list trans fats on their labels. We can read the labels to choose foods that are lowest in trans fat. However, restaurants and fast food establishments aren’t required to have nutrition information. These foods often have high amounts of trans fats. Ask for nutrition information when you eat out.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fatlike substance used to form cell membranes, some hormones, bile acids for digestion and insulation for nerves. Most of the cholesterol in our bodies is produced by the liver, and we also get it from foods. (The body makes about 800 to 1,500 mg a day, compared with 300 to 450 mg eaten in foods.) Cholesterol is abundant in organ meats and egg yolks and is also found in meats, chicken and shellfish. All plant foods, including vegetable oils, shortenings, grains, fruits and vegetables, are cholesterol-free.

Beth Reames


December 4, 2007

Step On It

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I sure liked the results that we reported yesterday. My motivation level is at an all-time high. My weight is the lowest it’s been in 15 years, and all the other baseline data is very good. It is easier each day to maintain the nutrition goals and exercise.

I now own a pedometer. Yep, I thought for years that pedometers were nerdy. But I got one anyway. During December I’m going to use the pedometer to see if I can increase my activity by walking more. Because most of my exercise is on the treadmill, my mileage and intensity are recorded for me. However, for “no exercise” walking, the little device is supposed to tell me how many steps I take and convert that into mileage. I think that having such a device will alert me to the need to walk more during the normal activities of my daily routine. I’ll let you know how it works. The AgCenter wellness committee is recommending that we all use pedometers to chart how much we walk. We will have more to say about this later.

There was a report in the newspaper that childhood obesity in the United States is three times what it was in 1970. Approximately 17 percent of our teenagers are obese. The article went on to say that obesity is a leading cause of diabetes, heart problems and many other diseases. We have many challenges in this arena, and it behooves all of us to continue to work on this problem. It is not enough to just know the data. What are we going to do about it?

Holiday time is starting to get real hectic. It seems that every evening is filled with events and activities. And most of these activities are opportunities to eat. We will get our commitment tested.

One of the confusing factors is the amount and type of fat that is in our diets and how much fat and what type should be included. Tomorrow I’ll try to simplify that subject and share with you how I’ve handled the issue.


Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Step to it! Or as LSU fans would put it, “Geaux walk!” Pedometers are a great way to monitor your physical activity, especially when you a not exercising. Pedometers can also help you stay on track with your physical activity and weight loss goals. One study out of Wisconsin found that along with setting walking goals, wearing a pedometer was a factor that was likely to predict improvements in amounts of physical activity and a person’s belief in their ability to participate in physical activity.

Some leading experts have suggested that a person aim for 10,000 steps per day, which is the equivalent to approximately 5 miles. If 10,000 seems like an unrealistic goal for you, set small, obtainable weekly goals. For example, during week 1 you may want to aim for 2,500 steps per day and increase this by 250 steps every week.

Denise Holston


December 3, 2007

One Goal Achieved

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I have graduated from the Obese School of Fatness and am now in the overweight division. That is a great improvement. So, the first of our objectives has been achieved – getting rid of the obese tag. This makes me a very happy camper.

Here are the numbers:

Dec. 1

Oct. 1

 BMI 29.7


 Waist 39.5


 % Fat 30.7


 Weight 225.2


The BMI has dropped me out of the obese range. I’ve lost 3 inches around the waist, and the percentage of body fat has also dropped. Total body weight over the first two months has declined by 19.5 pounds. And I feel lot better. I could not be more motivated.

The blood test also remained good:

Dec. 1

Oct. 1

 Total Cholesterol 168


 Triglycerides 77


 HDL 39


 LDL 114


The December blood test numbers are almost identical to what we reported on November 1.

As I reported to you on Friday, the first two months have gone better than I expected. While I have room for improvement, I am generally pleased with the progress. The baseline data and resulting tests support the fact that for me the nutrition and exercise plan is working. My low-cal ice cream sandwich will be a great reward tonight. Chocolate or vanilla? I’ll never tell.

Today, I promised myself I would never weight over 230 again! If you ever see me look wishfully at a donut, remind me of my promise.

December is a tough month for most of us. Too many of the things that we should not eat are readily available. But this doesn’t have to derail our plans for a healthier lifestyle. Read more.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

The chancellor has lost nearly 20 pounds. Of those, 9.84 pounds – or almost 10 pounds – are due to fat loss. That is excellent. According to my calculations, that is 34,440 calories (each pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories). That means that in 60 days his caloric balance has been negative by 574 calories a day. He has done this by a combination of reducing his caloric intake and by increasing physical activity. I know he has exercised and done weight training because his bone mineral content has increased at the same time. He has lost some weight in the lean muscle category, but that also includes fluid loss. During weight loss, some lean muscle is always lost. That is because we get lighter (lose weight). We don’t need as much lean muscle mass to help support our weight.

His reduced waist circumference means that he has lost more of the fat around his belly. The fat around our belly is worse for our heart health and for a risk of chronic diseases. Losing weight and fat in the abdominal area is excellent from the standpoint of reducing the risk for chronic diseases. His total cholesterol and triglyceride values are excellent. That tells me he is following an excellent diet, low in fat and calories, and high in fiber and other essential nutrients. His high density lipoprotein (HDL) value could be a little higher. HDL is protective against heart disease as it collects cholesterol from the blood stream and brings it in the liver for disposal. Exercise and a high fiber diet help to increase HDL. It should increase with time as he holds on to his exercise regimen. However, HDL values tend to be lower in men than in women.

The best part of it is that the chancellor reports that he is feeling much better. He has already given a Christmas gift to his loved ones by improving his well-being and reducing his risk for chronic diseases.

Read more on maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the holidays

Heli Roy

2/10/2009 1:16:40 AM
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