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One Small Change

Contributing writer Joe Kita dares to make one little, healthy change every month. Past experiments include giving up caffeine, napping daily, and stretching like it's your job.

One Small Change

Eat More Fiber to Lose Weight

David Cordner / Getty Images

If, like me, you still haven’t lost the weight you gained from eating so many Christmas cookies but, nonetheless, have just ordered a dozen boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, then the apocalypse could indeed be upon us. But suppose, just suppose, that there was a way to turn yourself into a Thin Mint™ without giving up your Do-si-dos™? No doubt, you’d say Thank U Berry Munch™. But I digress. (Does it sound like I’m obsessed?)

Not long ago researchers at Tufts University reviewed every study they could find on fiber consumption and weight loss. What they discovered was even more miraculous than those delicious Peanut Butter Patties™. (Have you tried them frozen?) Specifically, the researchers determined that study participants who ate an additional 14 grams of fiber per day—about twice what they had been eating—consumed 10 percent fewer calories overall without even trying.

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Tags: Metabolism, Weight Loss, Calories, Food

One Small Change

A Charitable Resolution

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This past year I made 12 small changes in my life for the sake of this monthly blog. These ranged from the indulgent (napping for 20 minutes daily) to the nearly incontinent (drinking 120 ounces of fluid every 24 hours to stay fully hydrated.) Some of these small changes stuck with me (like eating real food and stretching regularly) but others I’ll never revisit (like giving up caffeine and drinking 120 ounces of fluid every 24 hours). But no small change has proven more perplexing and personally troubling than the one I undertook this month.

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Tags: Goals, Attitude, Leisure Time

One Small Change

The Altruistic Workout

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All this month I’ve been experimenting with a new kind of heart workout. Instead of just exercising my heart aerobically as I usually do, I’ve been trying to exercise it altruistically by donating time and money to worthy causes and individuals. Last week, I rung up $608 as a Salvation Army bell ringer, and this week I’ll be handing out fifties to complete strangers. As it turns out, this type of workout may actually be as beneficial to health and longevity as running intervals.

In his book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, Ph.D., a professor in the school of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, presents findings from more than 50 studies supporting this connection. Some of them are downright amazing. For instance:

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Tags: Family, Longevity, Health, Leisure Time, Disease

One Small Change

Ringing in the Holidays

The author shows off his ringing technique from his command post.

This month’s One Small Change is about exercising my maximus philanthropis, or building up my heart muscle in a way that for once isn’t cardiovascular. As part of my attempt to make a small change in my life to help others, and in the process discover strategies for you to do the same, I volunteered this past weekend as Red Kettle bell-ringer.

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Tags: Leisure Time, Weekend

One Small Change

It’s Better to Give When Not Deceived

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Years (okay, decades) ago when I was a cub reporter at a small-town newspaper, I was sent to cover a meeting of the local United Way. It was at a nice restaurant, and I was shocked to see board members ordering top-shelf booze, jumbo shrimp cocktail, and surf-and-turf. Being fresh out of college and a product of the Woodward and Bernstein era, I thought I was about to break the next Watergate—how these hometown fat cats were wasting donor dollars on bibs and brown butter. I’d even snapped a few clandestine photos and sweet-talked the waitress into giving me a copy of the check as evidence. When I handed the story to the city editor, he just smiled at my naiveté as he dutifully redlined (yes, these were the days of paper and pencil) all the juicy material. When he finished, my story was devoid of color and criticism—little more than a recitation of the meeting’s minutes.

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Tags: Home, Goals, Attitude, Leisure Time

One Small Change

A Month of Giving

Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images

Since December is the season of giving, this month’s One Small Change—my monthly attempt to make one little, healthy change in my life—is going to involve actually giving away some small change. I’m going to take a portion of the money I receive from writing blogs throughout the year—$2,000 to be exact—and give it away to 40 strangers in $50 increments.

These people will be totally arbitrary; I will not research worthy causes, visit children’s hospitals, hunt down the homeless, or seek personal gain by tipping waiters, store clerks, strippers, or personnel at other places I frequent. (I was kidding about the strippers, dear.) My plan is to always have some fifties in my pocket so when an opportunity arises I’ll be able to practice a little spur-of-the-moment philanthropy.

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Tags: Goals, Attitude, Health

One Small Change

Last Call: Lessons from a Month Without Alcohol

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Giving up alcohol for a month was one small change I dreaded. In fact, I was so unsure I’d be able to pull it off that I qualified it—I’d give up booze during the week, from 5 p.m. Sunday to 5 p.m. Friday. It was a face-saving loophole I was embarrassed giving myself. But the experiment played out much differently than I expected. Here’s the verdict:

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Tags: Calories, Goals, Beverages

One Small Change

6 Ways Alcohol Disrupts Performance

SuperFantastic / flickr

Sometimes we want to believe that something is good for us even when we know it’s really not. Take alcohol, for instance. All the press about how a daily nip can prevent heart disease has convinced many people that it’s beneficial overall. But as I’m learning during this month’s One Small Change experiment in which I’ve significantly reduced my alcohol intake, there’s a lot more to consider than just heart health. Athletes need to weigh the effects of alcohol on fitness and performance. And here, I’m sorry to say, the evidence is almost entirely negative.

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Tags: Sleep, Hydration, Beverages, Training, Sports Performance

One Small Change

A Strange Connection Between Exercise and Alcohol

Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

For this month’s One Small Change experiment, I’ve given up drinking on weekdays. But after building some momentum last week, I carried right through the weekend and have been dry now for 10 days.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll recall that I swore off caffeine for a month a while back. I’m not exaggerating when I say that was akin to having dental work done without anesthesia. My whole head hurt for days. But, surprisingly, going cold turkey on booze didn’t have any negative repercussions. In fact, I’m feeling mentally sharper and physically stronger. I’m even sleeping better.

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Tags: Hydration, Beverages, Health

One Small Change

Are We Drinking Too Much?

Jakob Montrasio / flickr

I learned two major lessons from my old man. The first was delivered at dawn more than 15 years ago when the phone rang and my mother cried, “I think Daddy died.” His alarm went off, but he never got up. Dead of a heart attack at 62. Not long after that I started exercising and eating smarter, eventually losing 35 pounds. I even started doing triathlons. Like most kids, I had ignored the bulk of my parent’s advice, but not this time. That alarm clock is still keeping me awake.

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Tags: Beverages, Health, Leisure Time, Weekend, Disease



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