Where we get fit and spin (wool)

tomatoes stuffed with salsa, corn on the cob and other vegetable dishes.

Gasp! Healthy and tasty? who’da thunk it?

Do you track your food? Do you use logging software or a paper journal to keep track of what you eat? Or do you eat a preplanned food regime? If not, you are missing out on the one skill that make all the difference in your nutrition.

Information is power. When you see your food laid out before you, you can see where to make changes, and what changes to make. This was hit home to me this weekend. We went to several social events, disrupting my normal eating habits. I logged the foods I ate at the parties as best I could, and the results spoke for themselves. My calorie count was way over, and my nutrition count was low. Some of that is due to poor record keeping, a journal is only as good as the solidity of the information entered. I’m not going to “make a recipe” for every mixed dish I eat out. I look up “coleslaw” and I’m at the mercy of the person who created that food in the data base. If all they entered were the calories, then that’s all I get, so it looks like I got no vitamins or minerals. I don’t panic when I see really bad numbers.

I also don’t panic when the calorie count is through the roof. My weight stays fairly constant, and I have noticed that while one week I may be 900 calories over, another I may be 500 under, and over the long haul it balances out. If you are trying to lose weight, you do have to be more concerned, but freaking out doesn’t change the past, you just get back on that horse and keep riding.

This weekend also pointed out how different healthy  eating is  than the “standard American diet”. Getting away from that doesn’t happen overnight. It’s  one baby step after another. Skip sugar if possible. Avoid hot dogs. If white bread is the only thing available, skip it or eat half. Try new recipes. Learn how to cook brown rice. Try quinoa. Try new bean recipes. Forgo the Raman noodles. Find ways to put veggies in every meal. Cut the meat consumption in half. Cook fish. Etc. etc..

So what baby step can you make this week? If you are going to a picnic, have the chicken first, hamburger second, and avoid the hot dog or brat completely. (No, I don’t mean have both hamburger and chicken!) If you have the chicken, take either a breast or a leg, no one needs both! Skip the bread, it’s always white bread at these things, look for the green salad and fill your plate. Have seconds on the watermelon. Take an extremely small portion of the mayonnaise slathered salad and put it on top of your green salad. Drain as much sauce off of the baked beans as possible. Leave room on your plate so your food doesn’t touch, and eat very slowly. Drink a glass or two of water with your meal. Don’t stuff yourself, and don’t look at the desert area. What you can’t see can’t tempt you.

I would LOVE to hear either your success stories or your stories of change, trial and tribulation. Please comment and let me know how you are doing. Have you started logging? What app do you use, and how do you like it? I use myfitnesspal, but I’m trying to use fooducate and compare the two. It is a pain, logging isn’t always easy or convenient, and doing it twice for every meal is eye rollingly boring, but if one ends up being more accurate or easier, I’ll switch.

Man doing a t-pushup

Men’s health does offer some killer exercises!

You do know I’m kidding, right? I just saw ANOTHER article, this time for “The Best Arm Exercise”. You can insert any body part, and there’s one a week. “6 Best Ab Moves”, “Rock your Rear with this Tushie Exercise”. I have nothing against people exercising. You know that. My problem is there is no one best or 6 best exercises. Why? We aren’t all the same.

The article that got my goat this morning was featuring a close arm push up with your hands making a diamond on the floor. That is a great exercise. I’ve done them, they are really tough. HOWEVER, none of my clients or class members could do one. Most of the people I work with are women. Most women cannot do push ups at all. That’s the first thing I work on if the person is fit enough and has no shoulder or back issues, is getting them to the point where they can do push ups. Most of the “best” exercises come from studying muscle activation. The ones that activate muscles the most are usually the hardest, not achievable by beginners.

But that brings me to point 2. If you have any problems, you need to address those first, then go on to work on general strength exercises. I have clients with rotator cuff problems, back problems, etc. If you can’t do  plank without pain, you can’t do a push up. A large part of what I do as a trainer is figure out exercises people can do without pain and without aggravating preexisting conditions, as well as improving those conditions.

My last point is exercises serve different purposes. I would never just do push ups for my arms. I do bicep curls, flys, over head presses, ball walk outs, etc., etc. Why? Your arms are attached to your shoulder. Together, they are capable of a huge range of motions. Push ups only cover a small amount of that motion. And what about pulling motions? There are some who suggest we should do twice as much pulling as pushing, since we don’t do that much pulling in our modern lives.

So try those “one best”, if you are strong and healthy, but don’t limit yourself to one exercise for any body part. If you aren’t able to do whatever it is, do what you can do. Join a gym, go to classes, take a walk. It’s all good.

So many of you might already have read this article. I heard about it from a Nutrition Diva Podcast. It’s an article outlining how the food industry really is out to get us. I don’t think there is anything new in this, but seeing it in black and white, with quotes from the people involved, really can give you pause.

In my last blog post I talked about how people don’t really factor the odds of their behavior into their choices. Immediate gratification wins out for most people. This article from the Times spells out why that is.

The public and the food companies have known for decades now — or at the very least since this meeting — that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities that we consume them. So why are the diabetes and obesity and hypertension numbers still spiraling out of control? It’s not just a matter of poor willpower on the part of the consumer and a give-the-people-what-they-want attitude on the part of the food manufacturers. What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive.

Nothing new, right? How many times have you said “I must have potato chips”,  “I can’t live without chocolate” or found yourself with things in your cart you didn’t want or need?

We KNOW the food industry spends millions of dollars “optimizing food”, finding the perfect combination of salt, fat and sugar, mouthfeel and odor, to make the food irresistable. irresistable. How’s that work with your waistline? Here’s another snippit from that article:

As we talked, he made clear that while he has worked on numerous projects aimed at creating more healthful foods and insists the industry could be doing far more to curb obesity, he had no qualms about his own pioneering work on discovering what industry insiders now regularly refer to as “the bliss point” or any of the other systems that helped food companies create the greatest amount of crave. (italics are mine)

Wanna feel sorry for them?

The prevailing attitude among the company’s food managers — through the 1990s, at least, before obesity became a more pressing concern — was one of supply and demand. “People could point to these things and say, ‘They’ve got too much sugar, they’ve got too much salt,’ ” Bible said. “Well, that’s what the consumer wants, and we’re not putting a gun to their head to eat it. That’s what they want. If we give them less, they’ll buy less, and the competitor will get our market. So you’re sort of trapped.”

Poor babies are trapped!

Release them! Don’t buy those products. Don’t try them. Don’t succumb. What’s the easiest way to quit smoking? Don’t start. I will tell you, in the beginning, you will go through withdrawal. The language of addiction in this article is not coincidental! You started out with a biology ready to succumb to sugar, fat and salt, as those used to be hard to get, and were like bonus rounds back when starvation was a real possibility. Now, when that basic drive has been shaped and honed by scientists, working on them to trigger them over and over, you will feel a loss when you stop stoking that fire. However, in 6 months to a year, you will find that some of your previous favorites taste too sweet. You’ll be able to taste the chemicals in many of them. Non dairy french vanilla creamer- yuch- once you are off it long enough to distinguish real from fake.

You know the answer; if it comes in a box, a bag, a carton, if it has more than five ingredients, and if sugar or salt are in the first two, don’t buy it. Start cooking for yourself, and if you tell me you don’t have time, I’ll tell you you are wrong. I can get a meal on the table in the time it takes you to go through the drive through at McDonalds. It does take planning ahead and preparation. I have about 6 containers of soup in my freezer for “quickies”.

Before you go freaking out about GMO or vegan, gluten free, dairy free or whatever, get chemical free and junk food free. See how you feel after that. Even peanut butter has been engineered, get all natural first, and see if your peanut butter intake drops. (That was for all my friends who complain about finding themselves pigging out on that in an attempt to avoid other sweet, salty, fatty snacks) Get unsalted peanuts- you won’t find those nearly as irresistible.

Not everyone who smokes will die of lung cancer.
Not everyone who eats Fruit Loops and Yoo Hoo for breakfast will get diabetes.
Conversly,
Not everyone who believes in God will have an easy life.
Not everyone who prays will get the answer they hope for.
Not everyone who exercises will have a long life.
However,
Everyone who smokes has less health, smells bad and is wasting money.
Everyone who eats  bad diet has less energy and health.
And,
Everyone who believes in God has an access to a source of help and that would not otherwise be available, not to mention an Eternal reward.
Everyone who exercises will be better off than if they didn’t.

People have an interesting approach to odds. Since the bad things associated with things we want to do don’t happen to everyone, or happen later in life, people discount the odds. Later, if the bad things  happen, people appear to have a fatalistic attitude of why or how it happened. conversely, not everyone who does the right things gets a reward. We will still do the bad things assuming the bad outcome won’t happen, and we won’t try the good things to see if the good results will happen. Or, we try the good things, get the results, and abandon them anyway.  Operant conditioning training by using rewards and punishment, isn’t real life. Certainly not in the immediate sense. Humans operate under forces far more complex than chickens or dogs.

As a personal trainer, I try to get people to see past the immediate gratification of the donut, to the long term satisfaction of looking and feeling better. What  I hear is “I don’t eat them that often” “Once in awhile won’t hurt you”, or “You still have to live.” Ok, then don’t complain about your weight, your aching knees and back, or how terrible you feel. If it really was “once in a while”, it would be ok.  Except once in a while means once a week. With a muffin the next day. A hamburger with fries the next. Pizza the next. Or, my personal favorite, starve yourself all day, then “reward” yourself with the donut.

Instead of telling yourself what you’re “not going to do”, start telling yourself what you are going to do. Decide today what kind of healthy breakfast you are going to have, and prepare it ahead of time, so you aren’t rushed. Pack a healthy lunch, with snacks, so you aren’t the least bit hungry at 3 pm. Did you know that 1/2 cup plain yogurt, a banana, a cup of grapes and 4 strawberries has only 260 calories. Put that up against the candy bar and see which one takes you further!

The complaints I hear about how hard it is to do the “right things” have some validity. Our society has made it so easy to do the wrong thing, and we are reaping that harvest. So many people talk about not wanting to follow the crowd, making good choices would be the perfect way to be a rebel and follow your own way, and end up healthier and happier to boot.

Vitamins

I was contemplating the conundrum about vitamins, and as soon as I logged on, this article, telling me not to take vitamins, popped up. If you don’t feel like reading it, it says that there is no correlation between vitamin use and increased health, in fact there is some evidence to the contrary. Of course, I’m suspicious if they don’t include links to the research they are citing. The minute I did a search on research on vitamin benefits I got this article from Harvard School of Public Health, stating it is a good idea to take a multi vitamin. Another article from CNN, shows very inconclusive results as to whether vitamins prevent breast cancer or heart disease. Even Vitamin D, the current darling is starting to lose its shine, see here.

From everything I’ve read, I think there are some things we can say.

  1. You are always better off getting your vitamins from food
  2. More is not always better.
  3. Pills cannot compensate for poor choices
  4. Diseases are complex, and any kind of pill is only part of the answer.
  5. We don’t understand the whole picture of how food affects our body, so pulling one nutrient out and focusing on it may be counter productive.

Vitamins and minerals have been on my mind lately. As I’ve my mentioned before, I use myfitnesspal. I don’t have trouble with my weight, but I do it to help my clients, and to have an objective measure of “healthy” eating. I eat most of my diet with the objective of it being healthy choices. I find it interesting what the results are. First, A and C are easy to get. You almost have to try to be deficient in those two.

Interestingly, those are the two most often listed on labels. Myfitnesspal doesn’t give you the option of tracking the b family, d or others. You can however track sodium, potassium, iron and calcium. I find that I don’t get enough minerals, even though I eat a largely whole food diet. (No one’s perfect-I do eat desert). There is the possibility that Myfitnesspal is inaccurate. Much of what is in the database is user supplied, making its accuracy suspect. However, the other day I had commercial cereal, and for the first time, my iron intake was over 100 percent.

So, if taking a multivitamin is not beneficial, why do we fortify foods? We do have proof that fortifying foods reduced the incidence of pellagra and rickets. Is is possible to get all your nutrients from food? Is the USDA’s RDA inaccurate? Is the only way to get it all from food is to go from the other direction, and pick foods based on their nutrients, then figure out how to make meals of them?

I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t think science does yet, either. It is beneficial to pay attention, learn, and do your best. Another thing to remember is that “vitamins” and “supplements” are pretty broad categories. there is a world of difference between a daily multivitamin and some “proprietaries blend” of goodness knows what. There are people out there hawking all kinds of “supplements” There is no evidence that mega doses of anything is good for you. The funny thing is, many of the people who are taking tons of crazy  supplements are the same people who are eating right. When you do start to study nutrition, you see how important it is to eat healthy food as much as possible. You don’t have a lot of calories to waste on junk, especially if you are a small person, who doesn’t take a lot of calories to maintain.

 

This is a snippit of an article I read today, I can’t say it better:

“All Natural”

As businesses compete for eyeballs at the grocery store, they increasingly rely on aggressive marketing practices to entice shoppers to open their wallets. Food makers are especially prone to over-exaggerating nutritional benefits of their products for a simple reason — people are willing to shell out big bucks for it. The natural and organics food business brought in $81.3 billion in 2012, up 14% from the year before.

The problem is that while the U.S. Department of Agriculture actively polices “organic” claims on food labels, the Food and Drug Administration still hasn’t gotten around to clearly defining the term “natural.” As a result, food makers are free to slap the label on their products, but consumers can’t be sure the food is actually “from nature” as claimed. Arguably, any food, no matter what garden or local greenhouse it came from, is “processed” the minute it’s put in a box and shipped to stores.

It’s not that these foods are inherently unhealthy, but the fact that they’re often being sold at a premium and marketed as “better than” other alternatives is what irks regulators and consumers alike.

If you want truly natural foods, your best bet is to look for “100% organic” labels. By law, organic means foods weren’t made using pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, or genetically engineered ingredients. But make sure to look for “100%” on the label — the USDA allows products to be labeled organic even if they aren’t entirely made using organic ingredients.

If you’re just worried about eating overly processed foods, the folks at EatRight.org have a nice set of guidelines on what ingredients to keep an eye out for on food labels.

“Weight loss fads”

The $61 billion weight-loss industry is also rife with opportunities for marketers to over-promote the “fat-blasting” power of certain products — from vitamins and supplements to exercise equipment and so-called “fitness-wear.” In January, the FTC fined a handful of health and beauty companies — including L’Occitane and Sensa — $34 million for allegedly making false weight-loss claims about products such as slimming body lotions and powdered food that was supposed to make people eat less.

If a weight-loss product promises it makes losing weight “quick, easy and effortless!” chances are it’s a sham. Anyone who’s ever killed themselves on the treadmill to shed a pound a week will tell you there are only two ingredients needed for weight loss: sweat and discipline, both of which are free.

The FTC cautions against trusting “before and after” photos in ads as well, as there’s no easy way to prove their legitimacy. See its guidance on “Weighing the Claims in Diet Ads” before buying into any weight loss product sales pitch. They also have a good Health & Fitness buying guides with tips on how to spot misleading advertising.

“Privacy”

For Snapchat, which has attracted millions of users based on its promise that the photo messages they send “disappear forever” and that their information wasn’t being collected, the FTC’s ruling is particularly jarring.

We could write volumes on the issue of consumer privacy in the age of Big Data (and we have). In a nutshell, we’d take any company’s promises to keep your personal data completely private with a large grain of salt.

If you carry a smartphone, chances are at least some of your apps are tracking you in some way. You should take time to adjust your privacy settings in each app by tapping into your phone’s privacy settings. The latest iPhone and Android updates also offer a new feature that stops apps from using ad tracking, which allows them to tailor ads to you based on your browsing history, but you’ll need to turn it on yourself. To do so, tap your “settings” icon, scroll down to ‘privacy’ and find the tab labeled ‘advertising’. Turn ‘limit ad tracking’ on.

via What to do when companies deceive you – Yahoo Finance.

close up of a cows nose

mmm, nummy.

Have you heard about “nose to tail”? That is another movement to change how we eat. It is really simple, in theory. If you are going to eat meat, you should eat all of it, and not waste it. In our modern culture, this is rather silly, in that few of us will butcher and process our own meat.  In light of what we now know about good nutrition, it isn’t even sound, since that is why our forebearers made all that yummy, yet unhealthy sausage, to use up the less appetizing bits. The idea behind this is the idea that there are so many of us, and it takes so much land to raise meat, that getting us to use every bit is better ecologically.

Learning about this made me think about all the different movements out there to get us to eat healthier, help the earth, prevent global warming, or in some way live a more mindful life. I don’t think we need to go to the extremes that some movements promote.

We don’t even agree on what we need to do. I do think we all agree on recycling, unless the energy it takes to recycle creates to much carbon. We agree on using less, unless the economy suffers. We agree on using renewable resources, unless that renewable resource is controversal, like ethanol. Oh, but we do agree on green energy, unless they are putting a wind farm in your neighborhood. Sigh.

I have a friend who is convinced if she can get us all to go vegan, the world would be a better place. I don’t know that she’s wrong, We’ll never try it to find out. I won’t even do it. Do I think that eating less meat is a good thing? Of course. Meat should be the side dish, not the veggies. I had some shrimp tacos at Red Lobster that were out of this world. I gorged myself and probably ate 10 shrimp. The rest was veggies and bread. However, I live with a raving carnivore. I have gotten him to eat smaller portions, and occasionally have chicken, fish,soup or something other than straight red meat at a meal, but he still thinks two hamburgers is a serving. The funny thing is, there is a significant portion of the health community that would see bread as the problem, not meat.

My chiropractor just gave my husband some info on the paleo diet. I have a bunch of clients going gluten free.  I applaud people for taking steps to control their health, I just wonder why everything has to be so extreme. Just eating healthy is extreme enough. Put down the crueller and have fruit and oatmeal for breakfast. Have the Southwest Salad instead of the Big Mac. Have a small coffee with one cream and sugar instead of the latte, frappe whatever. Have pudding for desert instead of ice cream. Better yet, have a yogurt parfait, with homemade strawberry rhubarb sauce. Ok, that’s it, I’m outta here. There’s some of that in the fridge calling my name. I put some in my salad this morning and it was really good.

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