Where we get fit and spin (wool)

…And here’s reality from a guys perspective! Thanks JR!

Straight Talking Fitness

Apparently you ladies want to have your own thigh gap?

Apparently it represents health, happiness and even sexiness?

Apparently if you’re a chick without a thigh gap, you’re less of a woman, right?

That’s the thigh gap fad talking. Not me. 

Enjoying the company of some girls the other day, they referred to a magazine image that supposedly portrayed “feminine perfection” – or words to that effect.

I’m not sure of the exact image, but it looked a little something like this……………

Okay okay, maybe I’m stretching it a touch…………….

Yes. That’s more like it! There’s your classic, stereotypical thigh gap magazine type image.

“Wouldn’t it be great to have legs like that?!”

“Oh HELL yeah! Guys love it!”

Hang on a minute!

Being a relatively young and heterosexual guy, if there was ever a time my input could or would be relevant, it was now. And if that didn’t…

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Rant

Today is just a rant. I’m reading a book “The Cure for Everything” by Timothy Caulfield. He didn’t say anything I didn’t already know, but he reminded me of all my favorite hobby horses, leading to this rant.

purple and white laser blasting rings

Ouch! Don’t do this!

First of all, you can’t burn fat, melt fat, zap fat, or do anything but slowly lose it. Well, ok, you can melt or burn it, but it involves fire or lasers, not something I want to do. Fat is made up of fat cells. Cells. You know, the stuff you body makes? It isn’t some foreign substance that got laid over your hips. Your body made it to store the excess calories you ate. How do you get rid of it? Basic laws of thermodynamics – reduce the intake, increase the output. Your car can’t get fat, it only can hold whatever the tank holds. The gas nozzle shuts off when it is full. Unfortunately, we don’t have automatic shut offs.

So stop getting disgusted with yourself, going on some weird diet, taking pills, or exercising till you fall over. Instead, take an honest look at what and how much you are eating, and change it. Trade the sweet tea for unsweet. Stay OUT of the bakery department. OUT. DO NOT GO IN. Don’t buy loaves of bread, or keep them in the freezer. While bread is not evil, it is a lot of empty calories. Buy smaller plates. In fact, go in your kitchen right now and measure your plates. If they are greater than 9″, go find some 9″ diameter plates and use only those. Make half of that plate vegetables. Do all that and see where you are in three months. You didn’t get in this mess overnight, you won’t get out of it overnight. And even if you could, you’d just go back to your original size because you wouldn’t have changed anything. Eat lots and lots of veggies. Low in calories, high in everything that will make you live long and prosper.

Last, not everyone will be happy at a size 8. If you love food, and won’t give up certain things, make peace with it and be happy. It’s healthier to be a size 12 and stay there, than it is to yo-yo back and forth. Fitness and health is about a lot more than just weight. Most people will not look like swimsuit models or Brad Pitt. Get over it and get happy. Oh, and unless you are anorectic, you will probably have some cellulite.  And even if you work out, the back of your arms will jiggle a bit too. It’s not a crime and people won’t judge you for it. If they do, ask them to jiggle theirs. Join the party and jiggle with us.

Boost Your Metabolism

boost your metabolismOk, now that I have your attention.

This is what everyone wants to hear, right? “I want to burn more calories, without changing what I’m doing.” But can we be honest, and talk about what metabolism is, and what we are doing when we are “burning calories” ?

Metabolism is just the sum of all the chemical reactions that happen to make you alive and mobile. Your metabolism consists of your cells dividing, your heart pumping, your lungs breathing, tiny muscular contractions keeping you upright, secretions being produced, etc. Approximately 90-99% of all the calories you burn each day are spent just keeping you alive. All large skeletal movements are added to that, so the more you move, the more calories you use one top of the basic ones.

You are not above the law.

The math is pretty basic. The laws of thermodynamics do apply to living things. However, all measurements are approximate as we are all a bit different. For example, most measurements are based on men having more muscle mass than women. That may or may not be true. Most good calorie trackers currently tie into fitness trackers or allow you to put your activity range in, allowing them to dial in better. Until we get to the point where we can perfectly register every bite you put in your mouth and all your exertions, there will be some discrepancy. Having said all that, I will not believe you if you tell me you are eating 12oo calories a day and not losing weight. (Unless you are a child or child sized.)

Eeek! Starvation mode!

Which brings me to my next point. Actually, to my whole point in writing this. When we talk about “starvation mode”, or raising or lowering our metabolism, what we are actually talking about is increasing or decreasing movement. Remember the last time you were literally starving? Like after having the flu, or when you fasted? You feel like you can’t move. The effort to lift an arm feels like too much. That is all we mean when we talk about lowering your metabolism. If your body doesn’t have enough for the “keeping you alive” part, you certainly won’t have the energy for a 20 minute cardio workout. So you want to eat enough to feel capable of doing exercise. (Willingness is another issue.) Your metabolism isn’t some magic engine that is revving up while you are sitting in front of the computer. It is you deciding to walk to work, run on your lunch, hike after work, or get to the gym. Your metabolism revs up as it is required to, by moving. You can’t make your cells divide faster, or secrete more, the only part of your metabolism you have control over is skeletal movement.  And, if I may speak from personal experience, moving makes you more energetic. No one gets more energized by sitting on the couch. People who say “I’m resting up” don’t ever seem to get rested enough to do anything.

Take home message:

Use a decent calorie tracker, know your limits and move, Move, MOVE! (And don’t fall for hype. If you take something to “boost your metabolism”, then use it to move!)

(But don’t take anything to boost your metabolism, they are generally useless.)

A Walk in the Woods

Myself and a friend, looking at the map.

It’s always good to know where you are going.

Since fitness is my passion, most of my posts are commenting on articles I run across pertaining to fitness. However, I just had the opportunity to backpack for the weekend, and I feel it was worth writing about. I find it ironic that I’m getting into this hobby at the time when “Wild” and “A Walk in the Woods” are in vogue. I was told to read both those as I started doing this. I don’t think I’ll ever be a through hiker, the term for those who stay on the trail from start to finish. When I was younger, I wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, but now that I know what that entails, I find I’m happy with just doing weekend hikes.

I have experienced many facets of fitness – aerobics, weight lifting, biking, kayaking, swimming and walking. I’ve worked out in the gym and at home. I’ve participated and taught classes, and done fun things that were incidentally fitness producing. I’ve done indoor rock climbing and learned how to climb trees safely. Having done all this, I’ve discovered that fitness is a positive circular cycle. You have to exercise to be fit enough to do active things, and doing active things increases your fitness level. A way to demonstrate this is how you feel the first time you go for a bike ride in the spring, vs if you keep it up all winter on a stationary bike.

a picture of me going down the stairs.

Down is worse than up.

So, I had to train to hike, and hiking was what I did to train. It is excellent for fitness. There are all the benefits of walking, and many of the benefits of weight training, since you are carrying 30 lbs on your back. Unlike walking, most trails are rather challenging, like the one I just went on that had an uncounted number of stairs. The first few times I did it around my neighborhood, I was so sore the next day, especially my calves and feet. I quickly adapted. The heat was an issue, we had one seasoned member bow out after the first day, opting to get a boat home. (We were hiking along a lake.)

We left on a Friday, and did 8 miles (roughly) the first day. We did shorter hikes the next two days, roughly 6 miles Saturday, and five on Sunday. Since I had not trained on consecutive days, I was concerned that there would be some adaptive stress to daily hiking, but there was none. My right knee and foot got sore the second day, after all those stairs, but seemed completely recovered the next.

Hiking and backpacking aren’t for everyone. If you have physical limitations, or just aren’t sure of your

a group picture, including the dog.

Our merry band

footing, it can be daunting. Backpacking means carrying everything you need on your back, which can be physically too much for some. It also means accepting a certain amount of risk, being organized and learning new skills. Of course, it also means eating, sleeping and peeing in the woods, which can be a gross-out for overly fastidious people. Having said this, many state parks have shorter, flatter trails for the less able. My husband hikes on shorter hikes. Also, you are in control of your hike. You can decide how many miles you want to do. You can always turn around and go back. Many trails are loops, of set mileage, which helps determine if they are something you’d like to challenge.

I do think most people would benefit from some sort of hiking. Getting out in nature, getting your vitamin D, socializing (you should never hike alone), and, of course, exercising, are all benefits of it. I like backpacking because of the feeling that I’m tied to all of human history. Most people lived their whole lives in a fashion similar to how we camp. It gives you great respect for our forebearers, and deep gratitude for all our technological advances.

Caveat Emptor

You thought I fell off the face of the earth, didn’t you? Seriously, I haven’t been terribly motivated to write as much lately, and  it shows. However, I ran across an article today that made me just have to say something.

A journalist, John Bohannon, apparently wrote a bogus study, got it published, and it was subsequently picked up by the news media. I say “wrote a bogus study”, but he actually did a bogus study. He got volunteers, separated them into groups, a control and two study groups, had them follow certain protocols, took actual measurements, then ran the statistical analysis. What makes it bogus it that there were only 15 subjects. To use his own words:

Here’s a dirty little science secret: If you measure a large number of things about a small number of people, you are almost guaranteed to get a “statistically significant” result. Our study included 18 different measurements—weight, cholesterol, sodium, blood protein levels, sleep quality, well-being, etc.—from 15 people. (One subject was dropped.) That study design is a recipe for false positives.

Apparently, there are a number of  “peer-reviewed” journals out there that aren’t any such thing. Instead, they are money-making schemes.

Now, you may ask, how do I know this story is real? Maybe he’s faking the fake? I did do some homework on this. I followed the links, I read the original story. I couldn’t find his article in the International Archives of Medicine, but they may have pulled it after realizing what was going on, or maybe I just wasn’t successful. I think this does point out the pitfalls of getting any of your information from the internet. It’s only as good as the source. I do know that the problems he is pointing out are real. As Mark Twain once said, “There are three types of lies. Lies, D***ed lies, and statistics”.

I run into this every day. People ask me about this diet or that drug. This “cleanse” or that product. Very few people remember high school science, or even care.

Losing weight is simple, but not easy. There are no quick fixes. The basic principles still apply, whether you dress it up in new buzz words or fancy diets. I suggest you read his article and educate yourself on some of the pitfalls and take any “new study” that touts some amazing results or counter intuitive ideas.

This is another of my philosophical musings, so if you came here for the fitness, sorry! Although the person deadlifting the hex bar in one scene had darn good form. I wonder if it’s the actor or a replacement? Anyway, we went to see “American Sniper” last night. Prior to seeing it, the only talk I had heard about it was some talk about whether it was pro-war or anti-war. I don’t remember where I was listening to the discussion, but one person talking said that Clint Eastwood was anti-war.

Seriously? That’s what you got out of the movie?

The movie hit me hard. I didn’t even want to talk afterward. To boil it down to a stance on war, seems ludicrous and petty. After seeing numerous war movies, I have never come away with the feeling that “this movie glorifies war”, or “this movie is a good anti-war movie”. I don’t “like” war movies, but I feel watching them is the least I can do to honor those who have endured what war inflicts. Having seen it, this movie may show more of what motivates someone to go to war, but I’d hardly go so far to say it is in favor of war.

To say someone is pro-war is like saying someone is pro-hurricane, or pro-house fire. I think every war movie I’ve seen shows how terrible war is, the pain and devastation it wreaks on everyone involved. There are never “winners” in a war. Not like there are in sporting events. There may be one side that surrenders, but both sides pay, and pay, and pay.

There was a scene where they were going after a “bad guy”. I don’t want to give anything away, but the guy they were going after was clearly a psychopath. I’m becoming more and more convinced that wars occur because psychopaths get the upper hand. If I’someone willing to kill and torture to get what they want, and gather other like-minded people around them, if there isn’t a strong social structure in place, they will become the leader. I think that is how all the horrible dictators got in power. They made promises, threats, bullied, then finally killed and tortured to get to the top of the social structure. What happens when a psychopath is running the country? Certainly he won’t be making decisions that are in the best interests of others.

So what choice do others have? If there are sociopathic people running a whole country, and the world sits back and does nothing, what happens? Do these people calm down and turn to the business of running a country? Or do they start attacking any and everyone around them? I know we all think “Just get rid of the crazy guy at top, and it’ll be over”. That’s just not true. Those kind of leaders surround themselves with people just as blood thirsty and crazy as they are, and one of their underlings just rises to replace them. Any you know it won’t be good, since they will have to fight off other bloody minded people to take over, so they will have to be smarter and more vicious than the rest.

So no, I don’t think this was a pro-war movie. It was definitely a pro-Chris Kyle movie. I do hope he lived up to his story, he was portrayed as a hero. “War is hell” as Sherman once said, but by definition it creates heroes. Anyone who can do what they need to do, and not lay down and quite under the circumstances war creates has to be a hero.

Until we can find a way to neutralize the psychopathic personalities among us, there will be wars. As long as there are individuals to want power and blood and have no regard for their fellow-man, there will be the need to stop them, and we will have war.

I tend to be a skeptic. People often take a bit of a story, and make a whole different story out of it. Here is a case in point. I read this article “Why is Everyone So Nuts About Coconut Oil“, by Rachel Tepper, whose point was “coconut oil is good for you”. She did say in the last paragraph to use it sparingly, citing another article,”Ask the Doctor: Coconut Oil” from Harvard Health Publications. I just want to contrast a paragraph from each article.

From Rachel’s article:

Our verdict? You can buy the hype about coconut oil.

From the Harvard article:

But, for now, I’d use coconut oil sparingly. Most of the research so far has consisted of short-term studies to examine its effect on cholesterol levels. We don’t really know how coconut oil affects heart disease. And I don’t think coconut oil is as healthful as vegetable oils like olive oil and soybean oil, which are mainly unsaturated fat and therefore both lower LDL and increase HDL. Coconut oil’s special HDL-boosting effect may make it “less bad” than the high saturated fat content would indicate, but it’s still probably not the best choice among the many available oils to reduce the risk of heart disease.

To be fair, Rachel did state to use it sparingly, “like any other oil”, right before she said we can buy the hype. I also think it’s funny that a doctor who studies the health effects of food says soybean oil is better, as all the hype now is demonizing soy. Oh, I forgot, doctors are all short-sighted, evil or in the pocket of the corporations. (Always demean those that disagree with you).

I hate to make nutritional information any harder for people. There is SO much partial information, hype and hysteria about food right now. What I hope you take from this is that everything you read and hear if filtered through people. People with biases and emotions. If you are on the paleo bandwagon, you will only hear positives about coconut oil and saturated fat. If you are vegan or vegetarian, there are plenty of studies that will support the benefits of eating less meat and saturated fat. Food is not magic or evil.   If one way of eating was so much better than any other, we would have ample evidence, since there are so many people, eating so many different ways. We can see the “Western Diet” does have serious hazards, and large amounts of processed foods are linked to health problems. But does every octogenarian eat a paleo or vegetarian or even whole food diet? If so, adopt that diet. However, I think they are eating a variety of diets. Health is strongly influenced by our choices, but not all those choices are about food. Look at George Burns, he certainly didn’t follow any of the current diet trends, and he lived to 100.  One of the biggest factors is just don’t eat too many calories. All diets that cause weight loss result in improved health markers.

We are deeply influenced by peer pressure. If everyone around us is saying something is great, we will tend to think that way. However, what are they basing their support on? Do you know the difference between an article and a study, published in a peer-reviewed journal? Does the person you are taking advice from know the difference?

I just read the book behind another highly hyped diet, and while I don’t think the diet is awful, the book is. They are claiming their diet can cure illness. In fact, lots of illnesses. Any diet or product that claims that is automatically suspect. While diet has a role in many illnesses, illnesses don’t all have the same etiology, and they don’t all hinge on diet. Cleaning up you diet, exercising and losing weight will make you feel better, but it won’t cure you, unless your illness is caused by diet, like hypertension or type 2 diabetes. I’m not naming the book, as I don’t want to debate it in this article.

Use common sense, don’t get caught up in hype, don’t look at food as magic or evil, use caution when reading. Did I forget anything? Oh, eat your veggies, everything else in moderation.

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