Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Archive for February, 2013

Quit Snacking! But Please Eat.

I ran across this article on Shine, Yahoo’s magazine. It is a critique of popular “healthy” snack foods. I would have just nodded and smiled, if I hadn’t just had this discussion twice this week with two different people. It proves sales gimmicks trump common sense.

Quite Snacking!

picture of all kinds of snack food.

Notice the granola bars? Yup, junk.

Unless it is real food, like fruit or vegetable sticks, snacks should be eliminated. Anything marketed as a snack food is just about guaranteed to be high in fat, sugar, preservatives, salt or deficient in fiber, vitamins and protein. As I’ve often noted, nobody can afford empty calories. Either you are dieting, and not eating many calories, or you are maintaining, and your body needs those nutrients. That’s not to say you can never have a treat, but if you keep the idea in your head that no empty calories are good, then you won’t fudge and keep saying “this one won’t hurt”. Most people underestimate the amount of junk they eat. It’s a little here, and a little there, and people don’t add it up. People also fall prey to marketing. Cliff bars are loaded with sugar. Unless you truly are out hiking in the wilderness, you don’t need the extra sugar.

But Please Eat.

Now that I’ve depressed you, I’ll lift you back up. While I don’t want you “snacking”, I do want you eating. A lot. Frequently. I eat at least 4 times a day, and often 6. All I ask is that you eat real food. As I mentioned above, Fruit, vegetables, cheese, yogurt, nuts, and seeds all make great mini meals. Instead of that Cliff bar, eat a banana with peanut butter. On the go? Fruit comes in it’s own wrapper.  As long as you can afford the calories, I have no objection to those string cheese snacks. I have LOTS of objections to most yogurt, as they load them with sugar, artificial sweeteners and chemical flavorings. Learn to like real yogurt with real fruit. If the taste really bothers you, add a tiny amount of jam. I’m not a big fan of commercial cereal, but it beats a bowl of ice cream for sugar and calories. Just choose wisely, less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. Some commercial cereals have 12g or more. A serving of molasses has 14g, to put that in perspective.

 The pit falls are everywhere.

That virtuous pumpkin bread? More sugar than flour in most recipes. Your coffee? Those flavored creamers are nothing but sugar, oil and chemicals. I like my first cup with stuff in it, I add soy milk and a bit of molasses. Sometimes cinnamon. Cinnamon is great, it makes everything taste sweeter and helps regulate your blood sugar. A win-win in my book. In any case, read labels, and try to stick to things that don’t have labels, like everything in the produce section.  Please avoid things that are heavily marketed, and sold as convenience, snacking or “healthy”. You have to be on your guard in the supermarket. If you read the article I referenced, they did give the thumbs up to a few things, but a sweet potato chip cannot compare to a sweet potato.

Make your own.

The smartest, safest and easiest way to eat well is to make your own. Again, referencing the article, your homemade kale chips will far surpass the store bought. You can control the sugar and salt in what you make. Plus, spending the time making it will mean you aren’t sitting on your butt watching tv! If you tell me you don’t have time, what are you spending your time on? If you have time to watch movies, party, or otherwise to other things that don’t benefit your health, then you have time. If you truly don’t have time, buy those prepackaged vegetables sticks and fruit, the cheese sticks, and plain yogurt. If you read labels, you can find healthy foods. Make larger batches of healthy food and freeze some. You spend your time on what’s important to you. If your health isn’t the most important thing to you, you aren’t looking at the big picture. You can’t do all the other things you want to do if you don’t have good health.

We Don’t Need More Surgery, We Need More Lifestyle Change.

I know it doesn’t take much to rile me…

This just frosted my shorts. I saw an ad on tv for i-lipo, promising to lose a dress size in one session or less. I thought, either this is a complete fraud, or they aren’t telling you something. They don’t mention in the ad that it is surgery. I found this on a British site:

What is Laser Lipo?

By WLR’s Site Manager, Laurence Beeken

Laser lipo is a new cosmetic procedure to remove body fat,claimed to be as effective as traditional liposuction without a hospital stay.

The laser lipo suction technique uses lasers to break up fat before its removal from the body, reducing the need for harsh suction. There are two types of laser liposuction, internal and external.

  • External liposuction uses a laser (in the form of a pen or pad) outside the patient’s body before the surgery begins.
  • Internal laser liposuction uses a laser attached to the suction device or the end of a fibre-optic probe which is inserted into the area to be treated.

Remember that surgery is only a short term result to a long term issue. If you want results that last and good health inside as well as out, then start your journey with Weight Loss Resources.

This makes me furious for two reasons.

  1. Having lipo surgery does NOTHING to address the reason you are seeking surgery in the first place. You will immediately begin gaining back whatever they took out if you don’t change your habits. They’ve found out that sometimes you gain it back in weird places, since they take out fat cells, other fat cells get bigger, often in places that one wouldn’t normally think of or see.
  2. This is the bigger reason, and it’s twofold. They poo-poo exercise and diet as the real solution, giving people an excuse to avoid them, depriving them of the multiple benefits of both. The other prong of that is it is focusing on weight alone, but weight is only one aspect of health.

Reason #2 is the why I am so passionate about fitness. I didn’t get into this to lose weight. I got into it because my parents died from heart disease at an early age, neither of whom was fat. Once I got in, I found there was so much to it, and that you can be so much happier with your body once you learn how to use it.

Can weight loss surgery make you more graceful? More balanced? Better coordinated? Can it make you more able to catch yourself if you slip on the ice? Will it address metabolic syndrome? Will it make it easier to pick up your child, or a heavy box? Exercise does so much for you, well beyond weight loss. If you change your diet, you will lose weight too.
We don’t need more false answers, we need to encourage people to find the right ones. Rather than come up with another surgery or pill, lets come up with more new ways to make exercise fun, or more ways to put more activity into our daily lives.

I Don’t Mean to be a Killjoy, But….

I saw an article this morning and thought I’d pass it along. The message is simple. Alcohol is a carcinogen, and even moderate drinking, 1.5 drinks a day, can increase your risk. Now, before everyone starts freaking out, remembering their misspent youth, I have a lot of questions about this study. I can only assume they are correlating self reported drinking behavior and cancer rates.  Although if that is how they did this, we all know correlation does not equal causation. What else did they do to make such a definitive statement? I have emailed the original reporter to ask if I can get more details. I’ll blog the answer if I get it.

Having said that, no one will call alcohol health food, and quitting drinking is one of the quickest and easiest ways to improve your health and control your weight. Sorry, guess I am a kill joy.

There’s One Born Every Minute…

And your evidence is?

I was a strange kid, instead of reading romance novels or whatever passed for kid lit in our day, I read books written by naturalists and zoologists.  This gave me a strong bent towards science. During my teen years, I got interested in the occult, and read books both embracing it and debunking it, which led to a habit of always trying to find both sides of the story. I say all this to tell you that whenever a new health craze comes out, I’m interested, but skeptical. I like to wait and see what evidence supports the new claim(s). When faced with some new diet craze or exercise fad, I try to apply some common sense principles to cut to the heart of the matter.

  • Could applying this hurt me?
  • How costly is it?
  • How does it fit in with the general body of knowledge?
  • Does it contradict things I know to be true?
  • Does it claim too much?

So, if a new claim comes along, if it won’t hurt, isn’t costly, and I can’t see anything glaringly wrong with it, I might give it a try.

Real Life

So now that we’ve laid the framework, lets look at some real examples. This post was prompted by a Washington Post article stating that there is little evidence that alkaline water promotes health claims. I had heard some ads for the water treatment devices, and they are very costly. Like most of these things, they start with word of mouth advertising, along the lines of multi level marketing. Right away, anything that is sold that way makes me very leery. Especially when the people selling it are “true believers”, coming across like converts to a religion. The whole idea of acid imbalance in your body flies in the face of science. Your body is very delicate, and very good at regulating itself. That is part of why your electrolytes are so important, calcium buffers the ph in your blood, so it doesn’t get too acid when conditions warrant it. So getting back to my principles, it violates three of the 4 , as it won’t hurt you to drink it.

Some Fads go Mainstream

Lets look at some recent fads that are gaining traction. Low carb diets, vegan diets, gluten free diets, coconut oil, and blenders. Low carb diets started with Atkins, and have gone through many permutations. I don’t recommend any of the more extreme forms, and I don’t think they are a lifestyle diet, which is the real goal of a “diet”, to created a daily way of eating that benefits your weight and health. However, any diet that gets you to eat less white flour and sugar isn’t too bad. Just when they say to cut carrots- that’s getting foolish.

Vegan is popular, and it is too extreme to be very healthy. You can’t do it without modern supplements for your B vitamins. Also, any diet that extreme makes most people fall off it rather quickly. Done wrong, without paying close attention to the nutritional value of what you are eating, it can be very harmful.

Gluten free is one that I think will fade over time. There are a percentage of people who are gluten intolerant. It can be tested for. The rest are on a bandwagon. Most of the health benefits people claim who are not suffering from celiac disease come from cutting the empty carbs, which does benefit everyone. Cut baked goods- cookies, pie, pastry, bread- out of your diet and you’ll see the same benefit.

Coconut oil is now touted as the cure-all for everything. I’ve even started allowing a small amount into my diet, and will see if my cholesterol jumps next time. I doubt it does everything people say it does:

The health benefits of coconut oil include hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and soothing properties.

That is from organicfacts.com. That goes against the last principle, of claiming too much.  I’m trying some, without going nuts on it in case it proves not to be true. I look at that one like vitamin D. Right now, people are claiming way to much for one lowly vitamin. Do I think vitamin D is good? Of course, but to hear some people talk, it is the cure for anything that ails you. All diseases don’t have the same root cause, so all can’t be cured by the same product.

People are buying blenders for their health. Think about it. You can’t eat these foods unless they are predigested? Sorry, I like blenders, but if you need a $500 blender to eat strawberries and spinach, there is something wrong. I blend my kale in a $25 bullet knockoff every morning and it turns out fine. Besides, I like chewing my food. The only reason I blend my kale is it is kind of tough, especially in my oatmeal. I wouldn’t do that if I was sautéing it. Enough said.

So, every time a new product, diet, or any other type of fad comes out, hear it out, weigh it against what you already know, and decide if the proposed benefits out weigh the risks. Just remember – the person selling it is a true believer, and often is making money off it, so of course they are all on board. Also, before you go buying products to improve your health, look at your baseline – what is your current diet and exercise regime? Could you just improve that, rather than go to some extreme diet?

I Love the Internet

dipiction of pain in the shoulderSo I was working with a client the other day, and she was complaining about her shoulder hurting. I could empathize, since I had done some military pressing earlier in the week and come to the realization my shoulder always hurts after doing those. I told her I would do some research and see if I could come up with anything. We had both already been trying foam rolling and stretching. Of course, I asked her if she had seen her doctor, and like most people, myself included,  the answer was “no, it’s not that bad”.

I went to YouTube- like where else would you do homework like that? I typed in “exercises for shoulder pain” and got an avalanche of results. I already have a good idea how to filter them. If I see a girl sticking her butt out at that camera, I know it’s not a good video. Likewise, if it’s a guy in his basement. Videos that look like they were shot in commercial facilities, or by people with lots of initials after their last names are always a better bet. So anyway, I start sampling them. Some starting with the explanations of shoulder pain, some just started with the exercises.

I need to throw some background in here before going on. I got my certification through ACE, which strongly emphasizes stability and mobility, meaning some joints are meant to do most of the moving, while others are meant to hold the more mobile parts in place. They talked quite a bit about scapular stability, but at the time, I didn’t quite get the importance of it, and how it tied into everything else. In my own defense, if they had had videos showing what they were talking about, I would have had a greater understanding.

anatomy picture showing the acromion process, the humerus and the bursa

picture where the humerus would hit if the acromion process didn’t move out of the way

Back to YouTube, one of the physical therapists had a skeleton and demonstrated what your scapula does to prevent shoulder pain,  the acromion process is part of the scapula, it needs to be in the right position, keeping it out of the way. It goes over your humerus, making part of the socket.  In other words, if your scapula is not in the right place, it pinches your rotator cuff tendons like a finger in a door hinge when you push overhead. I started sampling some of the exercises. I found several that were nearly magic. I did shoulder protraction and retraction first, and found out that in  the painful shoulder my shoulder blade did not initially move normally. After doing the exercise for a few minutes, it freed up, and guess what? The pain dropped by 50%. I followed up with ball rolls on the wall, positioning the ball first in front of me, then out to one side, then across my body. Unlike this video, I used a medicine ball, our gym does not have a lot of wall space, so I had to condense. I also did some stretching, with putting my hand behind my back, making my arm look like a chicken wing, and pulling the elbow forward. Some of the stretches in that video I would use with caution. He does some with a band to assist that I don’t think people should do unsupervised.  Dr. Even Osar disagreed with some of the other video’s and with what I was taught through ACE, but I found after trying some of his exercises that I got to the same place with the others that he got to with his. I would recommend his video since he goes into more detail about the normal working of the scapula.

Now I want to put the disclaimer in. While YouTube is full of interesting stuff, and many educated and amazing people are putting tons of quality videos out there, there is also a lot of really bad stuff too. I can sift through them since I have enough of an educated background to know what I’m watching. I would not recommend just blindly sampling what’s out there. Also, doctors and physical therapists are wonderful. I realize that access to health care is getting worse all the time, but if you can get physical therapy for a painful condition, do it. Last, if you do find an exercise that helps a painful condition, you have to do it regularly, at least for awhile, until both your mind and body become accustomed to the new pattern, otherwise you are wasting your time.


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