Tag Archives: freakonomics

Cheeseburgers for health?

I promise I am not affiliated with Freakonomics in any way. But they had another podcast recently about health and nutrition that I found very interesting. It was the antithesis of Super Size Me and fits within my philosophy pretty well, too.

The podcast, titled “The Cheeseburger Diet”, follows the story of a women who was determined to find the best cheeseburger in Louisville, Kentucky. She determined to eat two cheeseburgers for a week for an entire year. Since that logically raises some health concerns, she monitored her weight throughout the year as well as testing her cholesterol before and after. After a year, her weight was exactly the same. Her total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol had increased but not to concerning levels. Her HDL (“good”) cholesterol had actually increased to a better level. Surprising, yes?

Not really, when she further examined her life during that year. Since she new that she was going to be eating cheeseburgers regularly, she focused on healthier items the rest of the week. She also exercised more to help offset any effects of the cheeseburger. She even said once the experiment was over, she ate less healthy because she wasn’t monitoring her “junk” intake as much.

While I don’t recommend eating fast food twice a week every week for a healthy life, I think her experiment highlights something important. You don’t have to never eat junk food, fast food, or the food you love. The trick is to eat it sparingly, and be healthier the rest of the time to compensate for it.

What does that look like in real life? Here are a couple other examples, a few which may be helpful as we continue with the busy holiday eating season and as you are considering your New Year’s resolutions.

– Once a week, we eat breakfast for dinner. Often, that means we have less vegetables for dinner than we normally would. On that day, I focus on eating extra vegetables for lunch to make sure I get enough in for the day.

– I’ve known several friends who limit themselves to treats only one day per week. If they cheat, they have to pay money to a “fund” that goes to any participants who don’t cheat.

I hope you have a wonderful, delicious holiday season filled with moderation as needed but enjoyment of your favorite Christmas treats!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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An interesting listen

My apologies for my 2 week+ hiatus. I was traveling Thanksgiving week, and the week after was oddly a train wreck at my house. I hope you had a holiday that was delicious. Mine was.

Freakonomics published an extremely interesting podcast about food a few weeks ago. I highly recommend you listen to it if you get the chance. Or the transcript is also available at the link above. I will only share two of my favorite highlights here.

The first guest recently published a huge cookbook, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science. I really liked his last statement on the show:

“Well, I’m one of these people who really thinks that it’s all about moderation. And from the way my book is written, you might think that I eat steak and potatoes every night, but the reality is actually really far from that. So, if I’m going to eat a hamburger, I want that to be the best damn hamburger I can make, right? So that’s where this idea that I’m going to try to perfect these foods, these comfort classics that people love — that you shouldn’t necessarily eat every day, but when you make them you want them to be really great. So, on a day-to-day basis, my wife and I stay mostly vegetarian; we eat a lot of fish, a lot of seafood. We both exercise. So, you know, food can be delicious, but it should also be sustaining at the end, and your health is not really worth that extra serving of burgers or extra serving of creamy potato casserole.”

Sums up so much of my philosophy in a really great way. You don’t have to give up the foods you love entirely. But when you do eat them, eat a good version to make it worth it.

The second guest talked more about nutrition. Jo Robinson is an investigative journalist that focuses on nutrition. As a side note, I find it very frustrating that many people get more of their nutrition advice from journalists, such as Robinson or Michael Pollan, than from dietitians.

However, I did agree with some of what she had to say. She especially highlighted the interesting fact that raw vegetables are not always better for you than cooked vegetables. She also mentioned that steaming vegetables in the microwave is a great way to cook vegetables and preserve their nutrients. Both of these are true and great tidbits to remember.

I hope you have a great, healthy week!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Temptation Bundling

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really enjoy running. I enjoy the way I feel after I run and the feeling of accomplishing something, but I don’t get pleasure out of actually pounding my feet to the pavement. I also hate cleaning my house. I clean on Mondays, since it is already a kind of “bad” day anyway. Why ruin a perfectly good Friday with cleaning, I say. To make running and cleaning more enjoyable, I listen to audiobooks or podcasts. I enjoy listening to these for many reasons: I am at least partially distracted from the task at hand, I learn something, I laugh, or I get something to use as conversation starters. It’s really a win-win.

Turns out, I learned that this is called “temptation bundling” in one of my favorite podcasts, Freakonomics Radio. Apparently, economists have done studies and shown that people are more likely to exercise or to stick to a diet if you bundle this unpleasant activity with something they like. For example, they only let people listen to really addictive audiobooks when at the gym. Gym attendance increased for those people.

I like this idea as a strategy for eating healthy  since it is making positive associations with healthy behaviors.   For example, one of my friends used to get Frosty’s a lot. She wanted to eat healthy and lose weight and knew cutting that out would help. So, each time she wanted to get a Frosty but didn’t, she put that money in a jar. Then she got to use that money to buy herself new clothes. Or maybe you let yourself eat a piece of chocolate after dinner if you eat 2 servings of vegetables. Or if you are craving sweets, you call a good friend and chat instead.

I’d love to hear any of your health-related temptation bundles in the comments.

To hear or read the whole podcast, click here.

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Bribes for health?

From a recent visit to Sea World.  I doubt this sea lion would keep performing without his rewards.

From a recent visit to Sea World. I doubt this sea lion would keep performing without his rewards.

A recent Freakonomics radio episode discussed the importance of incentives for people to make healthier eating choices.  Studies indicate that educating people on the benefits of healthy eating is not enough; an incentive or “bribe” is necessary for actually making a change.

With my limited financial resources, I cannot bribe any of you to make a change in your diet.  I can only provide you with information on how to make healthier choices.  Taking the step to change is definitely up to you.

But I agree with the economists from the radio show – incentives are important.  Future health and well-being are not the best motivators for making healthy choices right now.  Here are some ideas for more immediate incentives you can use to help yourself make a diet change.

–  Save money on each day that you make a healthy choice.  Treat yourself to a concert, play, sporting event, or other activity you enjoy.

–  Indulge in something else that makes you feel good, such as a makeover, spa day, or professional shave.

–  Set a short-term weight loss goal, and buy yourself some new clothes when you reach them.

–  Try a biggest loser competition with friends or family.  Paying money for not making good choices works for some people.

I would recommend avoiding any food incentives.  Many of us over-indulge when we eat our reward food and negate most of the good choices we made.  Besides, food is what we eat because we need to survive.  While we can enjoy what we eat, we need to take out the extra emotional baggage of eating – “I earned dessert”, etc.

Hope these tips help incentivize your healthy choices!  If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments.

To learn more about the original Freakonomics episode, click here.

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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