How portion control can help you stay healthy
Time is often the biggest barrier to lifestyle change, so how do the busiest among us make health a priority?
MD Anderson’s President Peter WT Pisters, M.D., leads a team of 22,000 employees and is ranked as one of the top 50 CEOs in America. But he doesn’t let his responsibilities get in the way of his health.
“Healthy living is extremely important to me,” says Pisters. “With the demanding job that I have, I know that I have to make cancer prevention a priority.”
Here is how Pisters ensures that he successfully follows all the ways to reduce the risk for cancer.
Integrate change into your life
When you ask a successful person what keeps them flying high, they will almost always say routine. Pisters is no different.
“I would hazard a guess that when you look at our employees, every one of them brushes their teeth before they go to bed,” Pisters says. “You need the same disciplined approach to diet, exercise and all your other priorities.”
Pisters has gone to the gym at 5 a.m. for most of his working life. It’s an integral part of his day and he’s created a community around it.
“It’s the same people there at that time of the day, so you get a different friend group on the machines,” he says. “That discipline helped me enormously.”
Pick your perfect time to exercise or prepare healthy meals and stick to it.
Focus on the 168
Pisters is one of only a few people who know what the magic number, 168, means.
“It is the number of hours in a week,” says Pisters. “Everyone has the same, and how you allocate what you do against that 168 is very, very important.”
The principle is that everything we want to do will take up a part of that 168 hours. So if we want to exercise or plan healthy meals or de-stress, we must set aside some hours to do it.
Working with a large number like 168 relieves the pressure of trying to fit everything into one 24 hour day.
Grab a piece of paper, list your priorities and then note down how much time you dedicate to those goals each week.
No commitment to change works unless you regularly check your progress. Pisters reviews his day each evening to check that his priorities really are getting the time that they deserve.
“If I say that exercise is a priority, I need to ask myself, how much of the 168 did I allocate to exercise?” he says.
This period of self-reflection allows you to consider what might be getting in the way of your goals and address any priorities that are falling by the wayside.
“The 168 plan and self-reflection allow me to bring the right energy to my job,” Pisters says. “And I can make certain that I don’t lose sight of the fact that I’m a husband and a father, and that I don’t let go of important things like friends.”
Even healthy foods will make you gain weight if you eat too much of them. Pisters says portion control is key to his healthy eating plan. Especially when he wants to treat himself to a guilty pleasure.
“My biggest health challenge is avoiding ice cream,” says Pisters. “I love mini ice cream bars. We keep them stocked at home, and I have got to limit myself on those.”
While it can be difficult, Pisters ensures he stays thoughtful about his portions.
It pays to take the time to learn the correct serving sizes for the foods you like to eat. It can save you thousands of calories a week.
Form a partnership with your doctor
To maintain your health, a partnership with a doctor can help you keep track of cancer screening exams and other health checks that are essential.
“Ideally, that individual should be the architect of a health plan that is linked to your life plan,” says Pisters. “But there is a personal accountability part of it as well. I have got to be thinking about all I need to do.”
For both men and women, that includes colorectal cancer screening exams like a colonoscopy, and, in some cases, lung cancer and skin cancer screening. Men should discuss prostate cancer screening with their doctor. Women should get cervical and breast cancer screening exams.
“Katherine, my wife, just had an experience with melanoma and was treated here at MD Anderson,” Pisters says. “That sharpened our family focus on UV exposure.”
Cancer screening exams ensure that the disease is caught early, when it’s easiest to treat. Make sure you know the exams that are recommended for you.
“We know that many cancers can be prevented if we just deployed what we know works today,” says Pisters. “And so prevention has been deeply integrated into our mission for decades and is very, very important.”