Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Math and Physics Apply to You

It really bothers me when people say “it isn’t the calories” or “diets don’t work” or “calories in, calories out is a myth”. The laws of thermodynamics apply to everyone. Fat gets stored when we consume more calories than we need, and it gets released when there are too few. There are nuances to this, as to where the fat gets stored, what kind of fat gets made, whether the body turns to fat or muscle to obtain calories, but those nuances don’t negate the basic principles.

Here is the basic principle

You’ve heard it takes eating 3500 fewer calories to lose a pound which is the basic formula for figuring weight loss. A better way to understand this is not to think about individual pounds, but goal weight. Lets say you currently weigh 200 lbs, and want to go to 180. To maintain 200 lbs, in a lightly active older man takes about 2,350 calories. To maintain 180 is about 2150, according to the Mayo clinic calorie calculator. All you would need to do is trim 200 calories a day and stick with that in order to get to your goal weight. However, that 200 calories a day would take quite some time to get you there, which most people don’t like. Most health professionals cut about 500 calories a day to speed up the process. I also have to say my experience with calorie calculators, such as MyFitnessPal, shows that they are overly generous in their estimation of calories needs, so you do need to tweak according to your experience. For example, most calorie counters say I need 1,700 calories a day to maintain, I find 1,500 to be more realistic.

The idea behind this is simple, lets use cars as an example. If you have a truck that gets 23 miles a gallon, most of the mileage is due to weight. If you have a compact that gets 38, it’s mostly because it is lighter. Now some fuel efficiency is also tweaks to the engine, better engineering and streamlining, but weight is the biggest factor. The truck needs .043 gallons to go a mile, the car .026. We are similar. A heavier person takes more calories to move than a lighter person. As you lose weight, it takes fewer calories to move you, so you need to adjust your calories downward to continue to lose weight

Now we get to the hard part

Therein lies the rub. We get heavy because we like to eat more than we need, it is hard enough to cut back to lose the initial weight, then finding out you need to cut more to continue… well, you can see why we are in this fix. Food is a more immediate reward than is looking good. If you do not have sufficient internal motivation, you won’t stick with it. We live in a society reveling in food in complete disregard for it’s impact on health.

So what is the answer?

First, find your motivation, and it can’t be appearance. It has been shown over and over that is not sufficient motivation. You have to internalize the idea that self love and self care mean eating healthy, not downing a pint of ice cream. Second, find supportive people. Hang out with people on a health journey. You will tend to imitate your friends behaviors. Third, learn to love healthy foods. There are so many, don’t eat stuff you don’t like. If you hate kale, you don’t have to eat it to be healthy. Fourth, find a stopping point you can live with. If you can be happy and healthy at 180, stay there. Don’t make yourself miserable trying to get to 150. Make your goal a realistic one you can live with.

Healthy Eating: A Hierarchy of Needs

Do you eat cereal? I was thinking about having a bowl of cereal for desert, as I was craving sugar. Most commercial cereal is so unhealthy it is a desert, yet it is touted as a healthy choice. But then it occurred to me that in many, many households, it is the healthiest choice they make, and how much boxed cereal improved the nation’s health when it was introduced, simply because it is vitamin fortified. That led me to think of how relative healthy eating is.

While some of us worry about whether our produce is organic, if our food is locally and humanly raised, or if it is the healthiest of competing eating plans, while many people here in the United States don’t even know, or chose not to know, what they should even be worrying about. There is a vast distance between the  “haves and have-nots” of nutritional awareness. Many people think fried chicken and biscuits are suitable to feed a child. Most Americans have no idea how much refined grains and sugar they are consuming, or the correlation between that and type 2 diabetes.

Don’t romanticize the past.  While I do believe much of our obesity problem is because of the food industry, eating like your ancestors doesn’t guarantee healthy eating. The one thing I disagree with author Michael Pollen about in his book, “In Defense of Food” was his contention that people in the past ate better. Some did, most didn’t. We may be dying from an overabundance of sugar and calories now, but people died from pellagra, beri beri, scurvy and rickets in the past. Poverty and poor availability of food were extremely common. People in the rural south at corn, but, unlike the Native Americans, they didn’t know to soak their corn in alkali to make its niacin content digestible, which caused rampant pellagra. They also liked it “degermed,” taking more of the B vitamins out. People, for some reason, like their food white and mushy. So rice was also degermed, making it “white.” Rich people ate white bread because it cost more and was “finer”,  that made everyone want it. People abandoned whole wheat as being too rural or poor, which we now know was a huge mistake.

Poverty was a driving force. People took advantage of each other, bakers put sawdust, chalk or alum in the bread, spices covered the smell of spoiling meat, they watered down and chalked the milk. People ate what they could afford, which might be good, like collards or beans, or bad, like fat back, white bread and mayonnaise sandwiches. The ultimate hierarchy of good eating for most people in the past was simply getting enough food to not go to bed hungry.

Education was spotty or nonexistent in the past. Who was teaching about food? The local grange or cooperative extension? Home Ec. class in school? What did they teach? Did they just focus on food safety or how to follow recipes? Or did lessons of nutrition get taught? Did you only get this education if you were middle class or higher? I’ve read some grange and home ec. material from the 40’s and 50’s, and most of it was very sound. Even back then they recommended to not eat cake often. However, then, as now, people had to seek out information, and most didn’t.

Cereal was invented as health food. At the time commercial  cereal was invented, rich people ate whatever they liked, without regard for whether it was good for them or not, poor people ate whatever was cheap.  Having read writings from the past, there was a lot of common knowledge that vegetables were good for you. But then, as now, cake tasted better. People went to spas and sanitariums as they do now, to lose weight and feel better. The sanitariums, for the most part, fed them vegetables and whole grains. It was out of these sanitariums that the cereal industry was born. Those early cereals weren’t too bad; they were whole grains that weren’t overly sweetened. Boxed cereal was affordable, so the poorer people bought it too.

The government got involved. The government later demanded fortification in response to widespread health deficiencies. Bread and flour was fortified with B vitamins in response to pellagra and beri beri, milk with A&D against night blindness and rickets, salt with iodine to prevent goiter. The government also passed food safety laws. While I’m no fan of overreaching governmental influence, those things have made a huge difference.  Not every parent can parent, and if you can prevent a child from having a low IQ from serious deficiencies, they at least stand a chance.

You know, but you don’t know. Now we know better. As a society we are being educated to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. That’s why no one eats hot dogs on buns anymore. Fried chicken has been completely taken over by grilled. And when was the last time you saw a french fry? Ok, so my sarcasm is over the top here. But seriously, do we know? Then why is there a whole aisle devoted to soda? Why is sweet tea still the national drink of the south? Why are white flour breads, rolls and cookies still out there in abundance? Judging by the success of the fast food industry, the amount of donuts brought into work, the aisles of junk in the supermarket, we still have a very, very long way to go.

Getting back to my cereal. For me, it’s desert, for someone else, the healthiest choice of the day. If the choice is between cereal and a donut, cereal doesn’t look so bad. For those of us who worry about our diets and try to eat for health more than taste, try to remember “The perfect is the enemy of the good”. Many people will not give up what tastes good, in spite of being diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, metabolic disorder or the host of other ailments that can be prevented or mitigated with diet. If we can make some of those foods healthier, or steer people away from the worst offenders, we’ll have still made a difference.

Scrooged

You are hereby absolved from your Christmas baking. Yup, you don’t have to do it. I know what you are thinking, “I was enjoying this lady’s blogs, but now I’m wondering if I’m reading stuff from a nut job. I mean, here it is August, why are you talking about Christmas now?” Well, I figure if I say it now, you’ll have time to let it digest. Plus, if I say it any closer to Christmas, I’ll probably get hate mail.

So back to the Christmas baking. Either you are the Nana, MeeMaw, Gigi, Grandma, Granny, Mom, Aunt or other producer of the family Christmas goodies, or you are the recipient. If you are the recipient, pass this on to the producer. You know who they are! They are the martyrs who tell you, “I was up till midnight last night making three dozen pfefferneuse, two dozen chocolate chip and two batches of kringles.” They are the ones who bring the huge plates of cookies to the office parties or give them as gifts. They strive to outdo each other as the preeminent cookie supplier. Points are given for both quantity and quality. They wouldn’t dare have less than three kinds of cookies on hand for any occasion from November 30 to the end of January.

They are also the ones who complain that they can’t lose weight, or they gained x number of pounds over the holidays. So stop it. Just stop.

I can hear the screams of outrage now. “I can’t, my family expects it.” “What fun are the holidays without goodies?” “Lighten up, you have to live.”

So how serious are you about your health? Do you really want to lose weight, or do you want to just complain without really doing anything? How about that family? Do you really want to set your children and grandchildren up to be overweight as well? Do you seriously want to train them to be unhealthy? It scares me how we have this mindset to give our children food that is bad for them, simply because it is not making them fat at the moment. What do you think happens when they stop growing? Also, if that food is unhealthy for you, why do you think it is any less so for children? While it is a topic for its own blog post, we are training our children to be unhealthy by giving them the white flour, sugar, salt, processed meats, and fats that we know we shouldn’t eat. Our society is a bit schizoid as well in its competing beliefs that we should party for two months and not gain weight. Generally, people gain 1-5 lbs over the holidays, and never lose it. Half of that is alcohol, so there is another part of the equation, but telling people to not drinking is even less popular than telling them to lay off the baked goods!

If you can’t stop, may I suggest modifying. Instead of baking two or three kinds of cookies, bake one batch of one kind. Do not bake another till the first is gone. When you have multiple kinds, people feel obligated to take one of each, encouraging over-consumption.

Think about it. All the time you save not baking all that stuff will give you time to go for a walk or to the gym. If all this is causing you to have a glassy eyed look of horror pasted on your face, well, you have a few months to adjust to the idea. And when you come out of hibernation in the spring a few pounds lighter instead of heavier, you’ll thank me. Really, you will.

Your Weekly Pep Talk

I know some of you out there are really struggling with your weight. I don’t like to make weight the main issue, health is far more important, and while there is a correlation between the two, most people focus on weight for appearances. I like to refer to it as healthy eating. Healthy eating usually leads to weight loss, since most people don’t get too overweight on eggplant and okra, even if it is fried.

I’m here to give you a pep talk.

All the right information is already out there, it’s just so much easier to succumb to the “lose weight fast” garbage. So I’m just going to give you another reinforcement of the good stuff so you can renew your efforts this week.

Reassess

What are the sticking points for you? Quantity? Feeling hungry? Favorite foods you don’t want to give up? Psychological need to treat yourself? Everyone is different. Take a piece of paper and write down your problem areas. Be specific. Write “Every night I REALLY want a bowl of cereal. I can’t go to sleep without it”. Or, “Going out to eat makes me so happy, I can’t give it up.” “I won’t or can’t cook.”

Make a plan

When it comes to food, planning is everything. Like spending, it is the impulse items that get you every time. Even if you don’t count calories, you need to control portions, and decide  what you are going to eat when you are hungry ahead of time. Plan breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus any snacks you need. If you need a good quantity of food, plan to add a large salad to each meal- yes, you can eat greens for breakfast. Really clamp down on the starch and fatty foods, and decide how you can increase your vegetable and fruit intake. Swap hot dogs for fat free ham or turkey, add 2x as much lettuce, tomato and onions to your sandwich.

Some things are a given, if you are still eating white bread or pasta, swap it out for whole wheat immediately. No one should be eating white bread any more. Make sure your pasta and potato servings are 1/2 cup. Put that potato in your one half measuring cup. If it won’t fit, eat half. Buy one box of “white wheat pasta”, whole wheat or Barilla’s protein plus. Cook your pasta, rice and potatoes ahead of time and reheat- it makes more of the starch resistant, meaning it won’t raise your blood sugar as high. A lot of starches are empty calories, and cause bouncing blood sugar that makes you hungrier sooner. Empty calories mean they don’t have any nutritional value other than calories.

If you can’t or won’t cook, read menus and labels carefully. All restaurants are supposed to have their calorie counts available. Choose carefully and stick with it. Be ready to ask for a “to-go” box early in the meal and place 1/2 in it, or split it, if the meal is over your calorie limit. Remember the 1/2 cup for starches? Most restaurant potatoes are double that, so don’t eat the whole thing. Many supermarkets have salad bars and take out items, again, choose carefully. Cheese should be a condiment. Olives are high in fat, hence calories, so go sparingly on them. Treat breaded and fried things like the plague.

Address your needs.

If you are a sweets lover, don’t sit here and say “I just won’t eat them.” You can try that, but it won’t work for long. Instead, find healthier sweets by making or baking your own, or buying less harmful ones. Portion control on sweets is hard for people. My husband and I will cut a Klondike bar in half to make it more reasonable. Make sure you are eating till full of the good food, so you aren’t eating sweets when you are hungry. Don’t keep “trigger” foods in your house. I can’t have trail mix in my house. Every time I do, I eat 2-3 portions a day. Find a sweet that satisfies you without causing binging.

I hope something I’ve said here resonates with you, and that you will feel empowered to make some constructive changes or get back on track. Eating isn’t black and white, it is a continuum. Don’t get discouraged, at any point you can improve, and that’s all you need to do.

Normally, I’m not big on “rules”.

However, people seem to like them. I have to admit, I feel so strongly about some things, I would have to almost consider them rules. Here is a list of the “rules” I eat by.

1) The #1 vegetable rule

This one is a no-brainer for me. If possible, I try to make the focus of my meals the vegetables. There is no downside to this. It keeps your weight under control, maximizes your nutrient intake and gives you lots of healthy fiber. In fact, it’s what inspired me to post tonight. I made salmon patties for dinner, and served them with a salad, as well as roasted veggies. Three quarters veggies, one quarter protein. When I successfully follow this rule, we usually have a variety of vegetable dishes at the same meal, making it feel like a feast.

2) Make in bulk to make it easy

Again, going back to tonight’s dinner, I had previously washed and torn a head of romaine lettuce, making it like the bagged stuff in the store. Yesterday, I made a variation on a Caprese salad with tomato, onion, basil and ranch dressing. I took the leftover tomato salad and put it over some of the lettuce, making the easiest salad ever. I cooked up half a head of cabbage while I was cooking the salmon patties, that we can either eat as is, or use for cabbage lasagna or stuffed cabbage. Try and make enough of anything you cook to go for the next meal(s). If you might get sick of it, freeze it.

3) Treat starch like a condiment.

I’m not anti carb, but if it isn’t a vegetable, go lightly. For example, never eat spaghetti without a big salad, and make it a small portion of pasta , same with the meatballs, compensated with lots of sauce, preferably with tomatoes added.

4) Try to make it homemade, or half the portion.

I’m specifically thinking of coleslaw, potato salad or other quasi-healthy foods. The store bought kind are generally swimming in dressing and sparing on the vegetables.

5) One starch per meal.

Many of you might consider this sacrilege, but if you are having pasta, skip the bread. Ditto a potato. In fact, I usually only eat bread if I am having a sandwich or if the bread is the focus of the meal some other way.

6) Go ahead and treat yourself, but be honest.

A treat is something out of the ordinary. It isn’t a treat if you go out to breakfast, then have a desert after lunch. Or if you go out to eat three times a week. An occasional treat won’t mess up your eating, but you have to be honest in the frequency of your treats. If you are going with frequent, they have to be small.

7) Consider the impact of what you are eating.

Sure, we all are influenced by tastes and cravings. But ask yourself, “Is this food going to benefit me, or make me sorry?” Most of us have a good idea of what’s right. Why eat something that you’ll be sorry for? This starts in the store. You can’t succumb to cravings if the junk food isn’t in your house.

I know I focus on food a lot on this blog. As soon as I tell people I’m a personal trainer, the conversation almost always veers towards weight control. The person often justifies their current eating pattern, then complains about their weight. Or, complains about their eating, but then offers reason why they can’t change. This post is incorporating facets of many of those conversations. You have to make consistent choices of what you eat if you want to be healthy. There are no other options.

The Truth Doesn’t Change

It’s harder and harder to blog lately, because I feel like I’m always saying the same things. The trouble is, I am. Why? Because the truth doesn’t change, despite what people say. If you are reading this and getting a visceral reaction of “What do you mean it doesn’t change? One week fat is bad, the next it’s good, etc.” Let me elaborate before you start ranting. Oh, you wouldn’t rant? Sorry, must just be me.

First, take everything you hear in the news with a grain of salt. If researchers do a study and find that omega-3’s have benefits that omega-6’s don’t, the media says “Omega-3’s good, omega-6’s bad”. Then the scientists do a study to see what the role of omega-6 is, and the media screams, “Omega-6 good for you.” When they do enough studies to see what ratio would be good, the media goes back to “Get rid of the omega-6 in your diet”. Research isn’t black and white, it’s nuanced. It leads you in a direction, it doesn’t usually hand complete answers on a silver platter. BTW, you do need both, but the American diet is lopsided.

However, certain facts crop up over and over. Olive oil good for you? Check. Vegetables the royal family of nutrition? Check. Processed food bad? Check. Red meat? Maybe not as horrible for you as we thought, but still not good.

I read three articles this morning. None of which had anything in them I didn’t already know. “5 Drinks You Had No Idea Were As Bad As (or Worse Than) Soda”. How many of you have been waiting for the Pumpkin Latte at your favorite coffee shop? I’ve been reading and saying “don’t drink your calories” for at least a decade.

9 Foods that Fight inflammation“. Ok, there was one surprise there, maple syrup. However, that still follows what I say about less processed foods. To get white sugar from cane juice, you have to remove anything remotely good. I use molasses as much as possible, as it adds flavor and still has minerals. Everything else on the list are pretty much standards that have been touted for years. inflammation is greatly impacted by your diet, and being overweight produces chronic inflammation. Get lean, eat your veggies, fish and whole grain, avoid sugar and white flour. Hmmmm, sound familiar?

“Foods that are healthier than Kale”. When you see this list, it’s all green leafy vegetables. Maybe that’s a hint? “Eat your vegetables” is what I repeat like a robot.

Why do I do this? Because the while the text of the message is out there, people aren’t incorporating it into their lives. I realize most people aren’t going to add spinach to their oatmeal, (yes, I do) but they can make an omelet with peppers and onions. No time? Sauté up a batch when you do have time and freeze or refrigerate in individual servings. Eggs take 30 seconds in the microwave. Still can’t do it? Have fruit instead. Just get off the white flour breakfast. And don’t tell me about all the protein, breakfast or granola bars. I have yet to find one with less than 12 g of sugar, and most have double that. Sugar is not good. Blend a smoothie instead. By now, you all know what to do. None of this should come as a surprise. When are you going to live it out? Want to go on a radical diet? Ok, ban deserts, pizza, hot dogs, and white flour. Don’t eat anything with added sugar ( I can’t do that, I love chocolate). Eat either fruit or vegetables with every meal. Make the major portion of each meal the vegetable. Radical enough? See how you feel in a month.

Don’t want to go on a radical diet? Fine, eat 1/2 a slice of pizza with sautéed vegetables on it and a large salad. Hate salad? Make a big batch of soup with tons of veggies and have a bowl of that first. Have to have that hot dog? try a whole wheat bun, smother it in onions. I love the sautéed onions and peppers, have that on it. Still avoid the white flour like the plague. Following that keeps you out of the bakery department, the cookie and cracker aisle, the soda and sweetened drinks, etc. Make the easy fixes first, then dig down and get more serious. Don’t forget to eat your beans.

Has the Whole World Gone…Sane?

Normally, I’m prompted to write a blog post by how nuts the subject of an article is. This time, to my great joy, I’m writing because there is some common sense. I’m talking about this article I read on Yahoo Shine. Just like the bible says, “can anything good come from Nazareth?”, I wondered when the title was “Celebrity Diet Craze That Doesn’t Sound So Crazy”. However, I had to eat my skepticism (mmm, yummy and low cal) after reading it, because there is nothing in it I disagree with. I can only vouch for what Andrea Howe, the author of the article says. I did not read the actual book.

The only thing I might quibble with a bit is that, according to Andrea, not measuring food is ok. I say that’s fine at first, and if you it is working for you. However, if you hit a plateau, or are not seeing any results, measuring can help you see where your calorie intake really is. While this style of eating is what I heartily endorse (endorse, endorse, can I endorse it again?), measuring and tracking calories is the only way to know how much you are eating. As a whole though, if you are “eating clean”, or not eating processed foods, with a concentration on fruits and vegetables, while you might not be a stick, you shouldn’t be very heavy. It takes ice cream, donuts and cake to really put the pounds on. Or lots of cheese and nuts, but most heavy people I know didn’t get that way on cheese and nuts.

So, go read the article and breathe a sigh of relief. For this five minutes there isn’t any nuttiness running around.