Bad habits add up on the scales


Obviously, most people who try to lose weight generally focus all or most of their attention on the foods they eat.

But what about their behavior? Are there habits they could be breaking that would also help them lose weight?

A recent study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity suggests so. In case you have carelessly allowed your subscription to lapse, here are the details: Researchers at the University of Minnesota polled 400 people who had successfully lost at least 10 percent of their body weight in the previous year, asking about how and when they ate. The results indicate that it is not just what you eat that determines how much weight you lose.

According to the Ohio State University Extension, which summarized the findings, the researchers learned the people who routinely ate breakfasts, lunches, and dinners were inclined to have more success losing weight than people whose eating schedules were irregular. As a bonus, they were also more likely to eat a larger amount of fruits and vegetables.

One activity that tended to lessen the amount of weight that people lost was watching television, particularly if they ate while watching TV -- and especially if they ate while watching TV after 7 p.m. People who did these things, including simply watching a lot of television, tended to have a higher body-mass index (BMI), as well as a higher intake of fat and sugars.

Those who ate out a lot also tended to partake in more fat and sugars, while eating fewer fruits and vegetables. For the purposes of the study, eating away from home was defined not only as eating in restaurants -- either sit-down or fast-food restaurants -- but also eating food provided by an employer, eating food provided by colleagues at work, buying food at convenience stores or gas stations, or buying foods for fund-raisers.

Finally, the best results were achieved by those motivated people who kept written track of the amount and type of exercise they did and how many calories they ate, who planned meals, and used meal replacements. Those who did these things the most generally lost more weight, had lower BMIs, ate less fat and sugar, ate more fruits and vegetables, and engaged in more physical activity.

So yes, cutting out all those doughnuts will help you lose weight. But so, apparently, will changing some of your habits and behaviors.

Canning can'ts

The nice folks at the Michigan State University Extension don't even know you, but they care about you. And they really, really don't want you getting sick from food-borne illnesses.

So the Extension's Rita Klavinski put together a quiz of eight questions that should be explored by anyone who cans his or her own food. Any of us is certainly guilty of one or two of these things:

● Do you make up your own canning recipes? Well, don't. If the recipes have not been scientifically processed (such as by the National Center for Home Food Preservation), you won't know if they are safe.

● Do you thicken your recipes with extra starch, flour, or other thickeners? Doing so can make it take longer to heat the food, which can then become harmfully underprocessed.

● Do you add extra onions, chilies, bell peppers, or other vegetables to salsa? Doing so can reduce the salsa's acidity to the point that Clostridium botulinum can grow in the jar. That's the bacterium that causes botulism.

● Do you process jars of high-acid foods in an oven instead of in boiling water? Bad idea. Not only can it make the food unsafe, the jars themselves might explode.

● Do you try to save time by not venting your pressure canner, if you use one? That can cause air pockets which can keep the food from reaching a high enough temperature to be properly processed.

● If you are canning tomatoes, do you neglect to add acid? One tablespoon of lemon juice per pint (two tablespoons per quart) or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid per pint ( 1/2 teaspoon per quart) will keep the botulism-causing bacteria out of tomatoes.

● Do you try to save time by cooling down your pressure canner under running water? Don't do it. Remember that the recipes take into account the cooling time -- the food still cooks as it cools. Shortening this time can lead to underprocessed, unsafe food.

● Do you retighten the screw bands while the jars are still hot? It's tempting, we know, but doing so can interfere with the sealing.

Scared yet? You should be. Nothing is better than home-canned foods, but be careful. When done right it is perfectly safe, but when done wrong, well, a fatal case of botulism can really ruin your day.


From the Yeah, We Probably Could Have Guessed That Department comes word from the Gallup pollsters that American adults prefer beer (at 39 percent of those surveyed) to wine (35 percent) to liquor (22 percent).

Duh, right?

Men in particular reach for a beer (also duh), at 55 percent, along with Midwesterners of both sexes (47 percent for beer, 29 percent wine, 20 percent booze).

The people most likely to drink beer? Men between 21-34. That is also the group that the beer industry sees as its primary source of growth.

There is a certain satisfaction that comes in having one's expectations met, in knowing that order, of a sort, has temporarily staved off the forces of chaos. In this case, the answers to the questions are precisely what one would expect. All is right with the world.

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