Don’t Wait, Start Now

December 1, 2010 in Health, Weight Management by Mary Ireland

We are officially now into the holidays – Thanksgiving has past and it is now December. Goodness gracious! Where does the time go? If you are like most people – including me – your days will be jammed packed with all of the preparations you have to make – decorating to be done, gifts to be bought, parties to attend, guests to prepare for or trips to take.

So don’t think that I’m off my rocker when I suggest that you make an extra effort to exercise during the next four weeks. Yes, even if you aren’t currently on an exercise program start one now -- don’t wait, start now. Here is my rationale:

  • If you have the “I’ll start getting in shape after the first of the year” mindset, you will probably eat more and exercise less than if you take the personal responsibility for yourself each day until then.
  • You will be in better shape at the beginning of the year making whatever exercise plans you have for the beginning of 2011 less daunting.
  • Exercise can help reduce the stress of the holidays. This will help you in three ways:
    1. you will be able to think more clearly and get more done if you exercise
    2. you will eat less since stress hormones increase your appetite and most of us reach for sugary, fat-laden comfort foods to relieve stress
    3. you avoid stress-related increases in your insulin levels and abdominal fat stores

Quite simply - find the time. We all have those time drains that are discretionary. Find those drains and convert them to exercise time. Like to watch TV or movies? Grab your some weights and do your weight training. See how many abdominal crunches you can do during the commercial breaks? Going to the mall? Do a couple of laps before you begin your shopping. Enjoy seeing what your friends are doing on Facebook? Stand at your computer and do 10 squats, leg lifts or lunges between each news feed. Do whatever it takes; be creative. The discipline you use to complete your exercise routine will also be good training for some of the other objectives you may have for the New Year such as becoming more organized or working on special goals you want to achieve.

A great holiday gift would be the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, in which the author Dr. John J. Ratey references research that shows the power of exercise. He calls exercise “Miracle Gro” for the brain because it stimulates neurogenesis (the creation of new brains cells); it also improves your mood, enhances your ability to concentrate, helps relieve anxiety and helps mitigate the effects of hormonal shifts. Ratey refers to exercise as a “self-reinforcing behavior,” and I have personally found this to be true. He also states that exercise helps you "...trump your genes. The truth is, your genes are only one part of a very complex equation, and you have control over many of the other variables.” Spark is very informative and motivating.

To provide an additional incentive and direction, a study, published Nov. 24 in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that type 2 diabetics --and the rest of us – can significantly lower blood sugar by incorporating aerobics and weight training into their exercise program. The exercise program used by the study consisted of 100 minutes of higher-intensity aerobics a week and 2 resistance training sessions of 15 to 20 minutes.

So in this time of holiday giving – give yourself the gift of better health. And remember too that good health includes eating whole grain products – make sure that you have plenty of Dr. Grandma’s products on hand for yummy holiday breakfasts and snacks.

Thanks to Dr. Grandma for sharing her Roasted Butternut Squash Soup recipe.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

This soup is just perfect for warm low-calorie holiday season eating. Most of the preparation time is while it roasts. I roasted it, as it adds a nice flavor; but it’s still delicious if you cook it in the microwave. (See directions for microwaving.) This is a perfect recipe for those who do not want to add a load of saturated fat from cream, which is often added to squash and pumpkin soup recipes. This recipe is extra healthy because it uses only a scoop of nonfat Greek yogurt on top and the broth used in the soup is low sodium. If your family needs more animal protein than yogurt to feel satisfied; you could stir in chopped chicken or turkey; or serve the soup as a side dish.


3 ½ to 4 pound butternut squash (Other winter squashes will work equally well.)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, reduced sodium versions work perfectly
1 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste.
½ - 1 cup roasted pecans
1/3 cup per serving non-fat Greek yogurt


Poke holes in squash. Don’t skip this step, as the explosion of a roasting whole squash can cause serious damage to your appliance. Place on a cookie sheet lined with foil; bake in oven at 350 degrees F, until it yields with a mitted hand (approximately an hour or two, depending on the temperature and shape of the squash.) Remove from the oven and cool until easy to handle. When cool, cut in half; scoop out the seeds and strings and cut into chunks.

Caramelize onions to slightly brown in oil. Add the nutmeg, squash, and stock. Heat on medium, stirring periodically until beginning to boil. Using a hand held blender, food processor or blender, puree until smooth. (Be sure to follow the directions for blending hot ingredients, to avoid injuries.) Add the salt and pepper to taste.

While the soup is heating, toast the pecans until golden brown on a cookie sheet or toaster oven tray.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of toasted pecans.

Cut the squash.

Bake until soft and brown.

Remove the skin.

Remove the seeds and strings.

Lightly caramelize the onions in the oil.

Cut the squash into chunks.

Sprinkle the onions with the nutmeg.

Add the squash and stock to the onions.

Foil makes an easy clean up.

Toast the pecans.

Puree the ingredients, except nuts and yogurt.

Add salt and pepper to pureed soup.

Serve with roasted pecans and yogurt.