Q: The government is now telling us to figure out our own individual food pyramid based on age, sex and physical activity. Sounds like a good idea, but I am a little confused about how to go about it. I’m a 62 years old female who spends about 40 minutes in the gym 3-4 days a week. What should I do?
A: The USDA took a giant step in the right direction in publishing their new personalized pyramid and dietary guidelines. For the first time, it includes the importance of daily exercise and tries to eliminate the one diet fits all approach.
Based on what you told me, I went to the USDA website http://www.mypyramid.gov/index.html
plugged in age, sex and physical activity, clicked submit and here is what came out:
According to the MyPyramid plan calculations, you should be eating about 1800 calories a day broken down as follows:
Grains: 6 ounces
Vegetables: 2.5 cups
Fruits: 1.5 cups
Milk: 3 cups
Meat and Beans: 5 ounces.
It also tells you to aim for 5 teaspoons of oils a day and limit extra fats and sugars to 195 calories.
Even with its new personalized approach, the USDA’s guidelines are still quite broad. Taken strictly at face value, the pyramid plan may seem to be telling you to eat more food than you need and include some foods that are wrong for your body’s particular needs.
You still need to know quite a bit about nutrition, your particular health issues and the effects of certain foods on those conditions. The USDA says the pyramid is for healthy individuals and you should consult with your health care provider about any special dietary requirements.
If you would like to refine your diet even further, a book called Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating by Walter C. Willett, MD can help you sort through the nutrition maze and make more informed decisions. It is available at Amazon.com
Q: I have a family history of osteoporosis. My bone density test just came back low. My doctor says I have osteopenia and I should take calcium supplements and exercise. What kind of exercise should I do? Skinny bones
A: Dear Skinny Bones,
Weight bearing exercise like walking and lifting weights can help maintain bone mass and even increase it. The process is called bone loading.
Studies with tennis players show that by whackin’ a ball back and forth day after day, the bones in the racquet arm became stronger and denser than the bones in the non-racquet arm.
The three areas most at risk for osteoporotic fracture are the spine, the thighbone at the hip and the wrist.
Here are some exercises you can do at home to get you started.
For your spine:
Get a towel and extend your arms overhead pulling the ends of the towel slightly bending your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together.
Hold for ten seconds and repeat up to 6 times.
You can get yourself one of those big backpack purses and try walking around with that. Hold your abs in and keep an erect posture. This helps to strengthen the muscles that hold the spine in alignment.
For your hips:
Hold on to a chair or wall and, while standing on one leg, lift your other leg straight in front of you slowly up, then down 10-15 times. Then switch.
It’s a double bone loading whammy for both the leg you are standing on and the leg you are lifting.
For your wrists:
Use hand weights or go to your pantry and grab some cans. They weigh about a pound apiece. Hold your arms bent at right angles at the elbows palms up and using only your wrists, curl the cans up toward you and then back down. Repeat 8-15 times. Then hold the cans palm down and curl them up away from your body then down. Repeat 8-15 times.
If you do these exercises every other day, you might just have the best bones in your neighborhood.
Send your Ask Mirabai questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mirabai Holland M.F.A. is one of the leading authorities in the Health & Fitness industry, and public health activist who specializing in preventive and rehabilitative exercise for women. Her Moving Free™ approach to exercise is designed to provide a movement experience so pleasant it doesn’t feel like work. For more information www.movingfree.com