Category Archives: Weight Loss

The Bread is NOT Why You Can’t Lose Weight

Wouldn’t it be easier to place blame on something that’s so available on your weight loss woes? That’s exactly what happened in the late 90’s by Dr. Atkins, Dr. Sears, et al. in their quest to combat the rising obesity epidemic. They scared people into believing that bread, more specifically carbs, were the enemy to be avoided like the plague. In response, the food industry was forced to develop product that was low carb or no carb that people would buy by the dozens. And they did. Fast forward to current day and the low carb craze as it came to be known still has a life today. But despite its alleged magical powers, obesity in this country has continued to rise.

It’s All About the Bread

Bread sales in the country have decreased, albeit slightly. The biggest reason can be attributed to the fact that’s there so many options available to consumers. Low carb, whole grain, organic, diet, half sliced, sprouted, low sugar, etc. – the options are endless. Bring a snow day here in the northeast though and the bread aisle is wiped out! Apparently snow doesn’t care about your waistline. Here’s another tidbit. The bread doesn’t care about your waistline either. The amount or type of bread that one eats has no bearing on how much weight an individual will gain or keep. Now this is not a license to eat all the bread you want but it brings up a fact that most miss when they consider losing weight or dieting. Calories. That little number some obsess over and others know what it is but no one pays much attention to when concerned for their weight. It’s just easier to dump bread or eat a sandwich without it.

Back to Basics

Calories count. If you don’t think so, you can stop reading. But if you do, you have to pay attention to how many calories you need and how many you need to burn. Simply putting the bread aside isn’t going to be enough. For example, let’s say you order a cheeseburger you feel you earned but ask for the bun to not be included or halved. You might save about 150-200 calories. But what does the rest of the meal look like? No fries? Ok, so now you’re down about 350-400 calories. What about the burger itself? That can vary greatly depending on what or where you ordered it. That can be anywhere from 200-650 calories! The bun was a calorie culprit but a small one indeed. The point here is that bread became the scapegoat of irrational, minimally substantiated evidence that carbs, specifically bread, was bad for your body composition. Sure, there’s plenty of evidence showing the net effect of carbs on spiking insulin levels but note that’s when the carbs are consumed by themselves. (A major flaw of the GI – glycemic index; a discussion for another time.) If you enjoy bread, then eat it. Trust me, it’s not the issue with your waistline.

But What About My Waistline?

Waistlines didn’t expand in a day. They are the cumulative effect of poor diet choices and/or genetics, not because you ate bread. As I stated previously, it’s much easier to pinpoint and blame a single food group or item than take the responsibility that your diet overall is the issue. Who knows? Someday it could be green, leafy vegetables that are the problem. The very first step to achieving optimal health is examining what you consume on a daily basis, including Saturday and Sunday. There are no “cheat” days. If you “cheat” own it and move on but understand that “cheats” add up just like everything else, bread or no bread. Most of these food blamed scenarios all stem from a single thought, or idea that sounds good on the surface. Upon further review, they’re nothing more than a desperate attempt to satisfy a desperate audience.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Why Your Diet Doesn’t Work…..AGAIN

Currently in the U.S. it is estimated that 66% of the population is on a diet; more than 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese; the weight loss industry is $66.3 billion industry. What gives? We seem so entrenched in an activity that should yield a ton of result yet the numbers continue to grow in the wrong direction. Do we really have any idea about what to do or are we just clinging on to the hope that this too shall pass? Let’s examine this.

Diets Don’t Work

It’s almost cliché now but whenever the discussion revolves around going on a diet someone will unequivocally say don’t waste your time – diets don’t work! Yet billions of dollars are spent on books and programs each year defiant to that statement. Truth be told, diets don’t work. They’re not even programmed to do so. They’re designed around some sort of gimmick that will initially cause a positive change, whether it be dismissing a food group, a component of a food group, or particular items that are somehow the demise of our plight. They’re “endorsed” by celebrity doctors, lab rats, or anyone else they can make to look or sound convincing. Beyond that, there isn’t a morsel of truth to what they promise or deliver. But…

Diets Do Work

Yes they can and will. IF you find one you like; IF you can follow them for all eternity; IF they become your lifestyle; IF you throw all intuition and knowledge out the window. They will work and serve you well until any or all of the aforementioned takes a turn in the other direction. Hopping from diet to diet doesn’t count and often times is why people fail so much. They’re not livable, repeatable, or palatable long term. But find one that meets all that criteria and your home free. There’s nothing magical about them except….

The Joke is On You

Dietary success is strictly due to control of caloric (energy) intake. That’s it. There’s no magical combination of nutrients; no special bundle of macronutrient uptake; no magic timing of nutrient uptake, etc. It’s as simple as calories in vs calories out. Take in more than your body can assimilate over time and you will gain weight. Successful management of what you take in over time and you will have better control over what you gain. Most if not everyone has no idea just how many calories it takes to run them. Yet they’re easily willing to cut calories because eating less must be better, right? Wrong! Cutting calories with no idea what the numbers even mean is like throwing darts with a blindfold. You’ll be lucky to hit the target. It’s arbitrary and while some might have success many will not and the cycle of dieting, not dieting begins which is the real problem here. Rather than blame or hate on a diet, take charge of yourself by doing the following:

Determine your BMR (basal metabolic rate). You’ll be getting a rough estimate but it’s a place to start.
• Track for about a week everything you put past your lips. You can use online services such as My Fitness Pal or LoseIt to track and record.
• Once you can determine how much you take in or don’t, develop a long term plan with mini goalposts along the way.
• Make small, subtle changes initially. This isn’t a race. This is more like a marathon. You’re in for the long haul so find what’s manageable and sustainable first with minimal effort.
• Incorporating exercise is a no-brainer but I can’t recommend enough that you include some sort of resistance training. Just as with the nutrition, start small and see what you’re able to tolerate initially.
• Hit cruise and go. Anything worthwhile is worth doing correctly. Diets promise quick fixes to long term problems. Slow it all down and realize it’s all within your control. It just takes a dedicated focus but one that will reap greater rewards.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

 

Your 2017 Passport to Success

Well here we are just a month into the New Year and it won’t be long before 2017 becomes a carbon copy of years past. If you’re like the thousands each year who make a “resolution” every January 1 to exercise more, eat better, lose weight, etc., your time is almost up. In another week you’re lofty goals and aspirations come to a crashing halt like a boat hitting the rocks! How can someone with an optimist mindset dare make a statement like that? I can tell you I have seen it every year of my 20+ years as a fitness professional. It’s so common that it’s an anticipated time when workout regulars look forward to “getting their gym back.” True? Yes. Sad? Absolutely. It doesn’t need nor should be that way and it has to stop – NOW!

Turn The Ship Around

Statistics don’t lie. Despite everyone receiving the same messages, close to 70% of the US population is obese! Are the messages wrong or are they being heard but not listened to? In my experience I have found the latter to be more true. I believe people know what they need to do; they just fall in quickly with the herd and get lost only to be sent back to the beginning again. If you keep following the same path that leads to no where you’ll end right back where you started – like a round trip ticket to paradise with no stop in paradise. Likewise, if you keep doing the same thing but expect a different result, that’s what they refer to as insanity. Here’s where we can turn the ship around, now and for good.

Passport to Success

1. Exercise needs to be looked at as the means to an end, not an end to a means. If exercise is something you loathe, stop right there! It’s never going to work for you the way that it can or should. Find something you enjoy doing first. Once you can get into an active mindset, then explore what you need to be doing to match your goal.
2. Don’t go all in. The biggest mistake anyone can make is going from 0-60 in no time flat. The New Year becomes a new hot and heavy relationship with injury, illness, and burnout lurking just around the corner. Be smart, start slow, and progress effectively.
3. No one type of exercise is best for everything. Don’t get sold (i.e. suckered) that (X) is the only exercise you ever need to do. There are no extremes when it comes to exercise – just extreme stupidity. (Hint: refer to #1) Do your homework.
4. End your marriage to cardio. This may or may not come as a shock to some people, but the most popular and most used piece of exercise equipment is the treadmill. Why? It’s very versatile, low entry level to use, etc. and most see it as the solution to their waistline. But this is not to pick on the treadmill. Any cardiovascular exercise that is done for the purpose of weight loss, more specifically fat loss is a loss in futility. Until you change and improve your eating habits, a treadmill/bike/elliptical/stair climber, etc. is a walk, ride, climb to no where. Do cardio because it’s good for the cardiovascular system, not to lose weight.
5. Dining out needs to be kept as a special event for special occasions. What does that have to do with New Year’s resolutions? EVERYTHING! The average American eats out (breakfast/lunch/dinner) 3-5x/week! No matter how “healthy” you think your choices are, you have no real control how it’s all made and prepared, despite what the marketing tells you. Plan, shop, and prepare more home meals.
6. Goal set. Plan. Go. It’s not enough to say “I want to lose 10 lbs”. How are you going to do it? What exactly do you need to do? How are you holding yourself accountable? Goals need steps, a plan to execute, and accountability to that end. Excuses, justifying, and self-served pats on the back are the perfect formula for not achieving your goal. If you struggle, seek help and put your ego away.
7. Match your expectations with reality. A whole lot of good comes from a healthy lifestyle – a lifestyle that’s adhered to most days of the week, not just Monday through Friday. Add to that weeks, months – not just a few weeks when the calendar flips or right before summer. So-so effort equals so-so results. (Hint: refer to #5)

A Departing Message From 2016

As some of you may or may not know, I keep a presence on the social media outlets, one of which is my Jeffrey S Harrison Fitness business page on Facebook. I leave you with my final post of 2016 on that page which was also my most read and shared post for the whole year.

A New Year’s Blueprint for All.

1. Don’t let 2017 be a carbon copy of 2016.
2. Make taking action your mantra.
3. Stop making excuses and start taking responsibility.
4. Stop judging and start appreciating.
5. Spend more time “investing” and less time regressing.
6. Do things that have a positive impact on you and your world, not negative ones.
7. Be a contributor, not a detractor.
8. Never settle. Demand more.
9. Take more time to take care of you.
10. Learn the power of the word “no”.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2016: Day 8 – The 10 Biggest Lies of the Weight Loss Industry

(This is Part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some useful health and fitness info over the holiday season)

The weight loss industry is big business, grossing nearly $60 billion per year (and still growing). It grows nearly parallel to the increasing obesity levels worldwide. I don’t know about you, but that clearly means to me it’s not working or people just don’t care. I like to think that the $60 billion makes me believe otherwise. Couple that with fellow “colleagues” (I use the term very loosely) in the fitness industry who claim to offer all the outrageous solutions and you have a land of confusion. Both industries are full with false truths, misleading info, scams, and lies. It’s time to start ignoring the propaganda and listen to the truth, although not always as sexy or glamourous and selling boat loads of books and magazines.

Lie #1 – Fast Weight Loss is to be Expected

Popular media and  TV shows like The Biggest Loser reporting dramatic body transformation that make headlines perpetuate the idea that you should be able to lose 5lbs a week, or even 30lbs in a month. This can happen, but is a far cry from the norm. Most people will safely lose between .5-1% of their body mass per week. This will ensure maximal muscle retention while losing body fat. The Truth: Don’t expect to lose 50lbs in a couple of months. Real life transformations take time. The dramatic transformations you see can inspire you to make positive change, but they can also discourage you when you don’t get similar results. Be patient. Strive to make continual progress, however small that progress may be. Want to make a difference? Do your part to stop the lies and feel free to share this article!

Lie #2 – Fitness Magazines and Tabloids

There are some good magazines out there, but I’d say 90% of the ones you see at the checkout registers are plastered with attention-grabbing headlines that are flat out lies. Women’s health and fitness magazines are the worst offenders. Headlines like “get abs by next week”, or “10 exercises to tone your butt in no time”, are put on the cover to sell magazines, usually accompanied by some celebrity who recently lost some weight. The Truth: You are being told what you want to hear so that you will hand over your hard earned money. There is nothing easy and fast about transforming your body and life. Don’t get fooled.

Lie #3 – Weight Loss All Comes Down to Eating Less and Exercising More

If it were only that easy. Tell that to all the people eating 1200 calories per day and doing an hour or more of cardio but can’t lose weight. Unfortunately, that scenario is far too common . Weight loss is a function of negative energy balance over time. However, a negative energy balance isn’t automatically created by eating less and moving more. That’s because your metabolism adapts to large calorie deficits by down-regulating important fat loss hormones and by using the calories you eat more efficiently. You might lose weight quickly for a while, but that is sure to come to an end in time. The Truth: Sustainable weight loss all comes down to eating as many calories as possible that still enables you to lose weight, while exercising safely and effectively with the ultimate goal of improving your health and fitness.

Lie #4 – You Need to Create a 500 Calorie Daily Deficit to Lose 1 Pound

We’ve all heard that there’s approximately 3500 calories in a pound. Based on that, the standard advice is to eat 500 calories per day less to lose 1lb per week. Lucky for us, that math doesn’t always transfer over to the real world. The problem with this advice is it starts people out with lower than needed calories right from the get go, and when their weight loss stalls, they cut another 500 calories from their diet – effectively lowering their calorie intake to close to nothing. The Truth: Even small reductions in food intake can cause significant weight loss. Many times a 100 calorie reduction per day is enough to see your 1lb/week weight loss pace continue forward.

Lie #5 – Eating 5-6 Small Meals a Day is Best for Weight Loss

That’s the standard advice that’s been coached for years. Usually it’s 3 meals and 2-3 snacks. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this advice accept for the fact that a vast majority of the population has a difficult time fitting that many meals into their lifestyle. The good news is that it makes no significant difference whether you get 2000 calories from 5 meals or 2000 calories from 3 meals. At the end of the day you’re still eating 2000 calories and creating the same calorie deficit. The Truth: When deciding on a meal frequency you should choose one that you’re going to be able to stick with for the long term. Eating 6 meals a day is not best for you if it causes you so much stress trying to sneak in a meal that you end up giving up on your eating plan.

Lie #6 – You Can Target Fat Loss in a Certain Area With Exercise

Spot reduction is a myth that never seems to die. Entire fat loss programs are based around the concept of blasting away fat in particular areas (think buns of steel, or one of the hundreds of six pack abs programs). If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to choose where the fat went on, and we don’t get to choose where it comes off either. The Truth: Fat loss is systemic, not localized. Combining a quality diet that maintains a calorie deficit with a balanced exercise program is the only way to lose fat from all those trouble areas.

Lie #7 – All Food Labeled as Healthy is Healthy

Food marketers have really started to push the legal limits of what’s considered true and what’s not. There has been a huge boom lately in the health food industry. It seems food manufacturers are trying to make a healthy version of every “pleasure” food you can imagine.  A processed food is a processed food, and it doesn’t matter if it’s made with all organic ingredients or not. Sure, it’s nice to not have that artificial crap in it, but the healthy cookie is still packed with sugar and flour, and is void of any real nutrition. The Truth: Food marketers have almost free reign to sell on the fronts of food packaging, but they are much more tightly regulated when it comes to the food label on the back. Look closely at the ingredients section. If the first ingredients are sugar or flour, it’s likely not as healthy as the box claims.

Lie #8 – Use a Protein Powder if You Want to Lose Weight

The protein powder market is huge. Supplement sales total over $11 billion every year, and the biggest portion of that are protein supplements. Don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with supplemental protein but it is not  going to help you lose weight if you don’t create an energy deficit. Products claiming to be weight loss powders should come with a big caveat – when used in conjunction with a quality diet and exercise program that maintains an energy deficit. The Truth: There’s no such thing as a weight loss protein powder. Protein powders are supplements. They should not take the place of real foods. While convenient, powders cannot compare to the vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant properties of whole foods. Feel free to use them, but don’t expect weight loss miracles.

Lie #9 – Every Single Weight Loss Commercial

I tried hard to think of a weight loss commercial that wasn’t packed with every marketing trick in the book. I’m sure they’re out there, but I’ve yet to see or hear one. Most of these commercials use gimmicks like lean fitness models demonstrating a product they have never used before. Then, they use words that speak right to your insecurities, followed by hope, and then a call to action to purchase their product at a discount if you act quickly. The Truth: If the product claims to help you lose weight fast and easy, while eating anything you want, without having to exercise, and you’ll be looking skinny like you did in high school, just laugh and give yourself more credit than that –  you’re not a fool.

Lie #10 – You Must Eat “X” Calories/Day to Lose Weight

I’m not exactly sure where these numbers came from: 1200 calories/day for women and 1800 calories/day for men. Supposedly it’s how much we’re supposed to eat to lose weight. Eating 1200 calories leaves you absolutely no room to further cut calories once your weight loss stalls, and it will stall. Pretty soon you’ll be eating under 1000 calories. That’s a recipe for unbearable hunger, nutrient deficiency, a slowing metabolism, and eventually giving up. The Truth: Eating less than 10 times your body weight is rarely needed to achieve weight loss, and most people can eat much more than that if they would just be patient and let their bodies adapt to a higher calorie intake.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day 1 – Why Not Eating Enough Won’t Help You Lose Weight
Day 2 – 5 Ways You’re Self-Sabotaging Your Workouts
Day 3 – 10 Fitness Fibs You Tell Yourself
Day 4 – Never Diet Again!
Day 5 – Benefits of Exercising in Winter – Outdoors!
Day 6 – Understanding Your Metabolism
Day 7 – The Most Addictive (And Least Addictive) Foods

12 Days of Fitness 2016: Day 6 – Understanding Your Metabolism

(This is Part 6 of a 12 part series to provide you with some useful health and fitness info over the holiday season)

Metabolism. It’s a word we’ve all heard and especially in terms of talking about weight control. We usually use it as an excuse for why we can eat whatever we want when we are younger, and more often as an excuse for why we get bigger or can’t seem to meet our weight loss goals. The truth is, metabolism does have a lot to do with body weight and energy balance. Perhaps a better understanding of what metabolism is and how we can use it to work for us, instead of against us, is the secret to achieving and maintaining a fit, healthy body for running and for life.

Energy Expenditure

It is widely known that if you want to lose weight, you have to create a negative energy balance. In other words, you must expend more energy than you take in. Energy expenditure doesn’t just occur through physical activity. Our daily energy expenditure can actually be divided into three categories:

  • Basal (resting) metabolic rate (BMR)
  • Thermic effect of food (thermogenesis)
  • Energy expended through movement (DCE))

For this discussion, let’s look at the BMR. The basal, or resting metabolic rate is typically what people are referring to when they say their metabolism. It is defined as the amount of energy (or calories) required each day to keep your body functioning while at rest. More specifically, it is the energy that keeps the brain functioning, the heart beating, and the lungs breathing, in addition to many other cellular processes.

It is responsible for about 60-75% of our daily energy expenditure, but may account for less in individuals who are very physically active.

Determining the BMR

BMR can vary greatly between individuals and there are a few personal characteristics that determine one’s metabolism. The first is body size. In general, larger people have higher metabolic rates than smaller people. It is based on surface area so that a greater surface area equates to a higher metabolic rate. Therefore if a tall person and a short person both weighed the same, the taller person would have a higher metabolic rate due to the larger surface area. However, the composition of body weight is the biggest determinant of metabolic rate. Fat-free mass, or FFM (muscle, bones, organs) is metabolically active (calorie-burning) tissue so the more you have, the higher your metabolism, hence the importance of incorporating resistance training.  If two individuals were the same height and weight, the one with more FFM would have the higher BMR. In general, athletes have RMRs that are ~5% higher than their non-athletic counterparts due to more muscle mass as opposed to fat mass. Knowing your FFM is the best way of determining your BMR and therefore your daily caloric needs. The preferred method of obtaining FFM is through underwater weighing, though not always feasible or practical. Other options such as body fat measurements through calipers or body fat scales can provide a reasonable estimate. Once FFM is determined it can be used in a prediction equation, like the Cunningham equation, to determine BMR:

BMR = 370 + (21.6 x FFM[kg])

Other Factors on Metabolism

Age and sex also have an effect on metabolic rate. One’s metabolism is the highest during periods of rapid growth such as infancy or puberty, which is why feeding babies and ravenous teenagers is important. As we age, however, we start to lose muscle mass and thus the metabolism begins to slow. It is estimated that we lose ~2-3% of our previous BMR for each decade of life past 30 years old. Also, since women generally have more body fat and less muscle than men, men typically have higher metabolic rates but are still subject to declining BMR with age. Other factors to consider when thinking about metabolism include:

  • Hormonal disorders such as hyperthyroidism, which will increase your BMR, and hypothyroidism, which will decrease your BMR.
  • Acute injury or illness can temporarily increase your energy expenditure.
  • Having a fever increases the metabolic rate by ~7% for every degree increase above 98.6° F.
  • Finally, living and exercising in tropical climates can increase BMR anywhere from 5-20%.

Metabolism’s Affect on Weight Loss

The big question is how to manage weight loss and metabolism to find a healthy weight that will allow you to perform optimally, but is also easy to maintain. One of those tips was to make sure you don’t cut calories too drastically. Having too few calories can lead to the body breaking down protein, and therefore muscle mass, for energy. As we just learned muscle mass is the biggest determinant of metabolic rate and the less of it we have, the lower our metabolism will be. The lower the metabolism, the less calories are needed for daily maintenance, and the harder it becomes to lose weight. Another issue is that the more we restrict our calories, the more efficient the body becomes at using the calories that we do give it. Normally efficiency is a good thing, unless we are trying to lose weight. When trying to lose weight, or create a negative energy balance, we don’t want the body to be efficient at using calories so that it has to work harder and thus burn more calories. The final difficulty involving weight loss and metabolism is that as we lose weight, we require less energy (because BMR is determined mainly by body mass). This means you need to continually decrease your intake to account for the decrease in metabolic rate.

Managing Weight Loss and Metabolism

To off-set the natural decline in metabolism that comes with age, start and continue a weight training program and do it 2-3 days per week to preserve lean muscle mass. To avoid big drops in BMR, limit calorie restriction to ~15% less than what is required to meet your maintenance and training needs. So if you needed 2300 calories a day to meet your BMR + training expenditures, you should only reduce that by ~345 calories per day (consume ~ 1955 calories per day). Be realistic about your weight loss goals and once you reach those goals, stop dieting. Your BMR will return to normal once calorie restriction has ceased and a normal caloric intake is resumed. Don’t fight against your metabolism but learn how to structure your nutrition to fit with it. Some factors contributing to metabolism are out of our control or very difficult to change. Furthermore, metabolism is a finely tuned and highly regulated operation of our bodies and we function best when it is in balance.

See you tomorrow for Day 7 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day 1 – Why Not Eating Enough Won’t Help You Lose Weight
Day 2 – 5 Ways You’re Self-Sabotaging Your Workouts
Day 3 – 10 Fitness Fibs You Tell Yourself
Day 4 – Never Diet Again!
Day 5 – Benefits of Exercising in Winter – Outdoors!

12 Days of Fitness 2016: Day 1 – Why Not Eating Enough Won’t Help You Lose Weight

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(This is Part 1 of a 12 part series to provide you with some useful health and fitness info over the holiday season)

We all know that calories matter a lot when it comes to weight loss. As long as you eat fewer calories than you burn, you should lose weight. The logic is sound for most healthy adults, but we can also take that logic too far. In the case of healthy, sustainable weight loss, more restriction doesn’t always lead to better weight loss. In fact, regularly eating too few calories can put you at risk of malnutrition, resulting in unhealthy weight loss, nutrient deficiencies, or worse, possibly weight gain. For someone trying to lose weight, not eating enough can be more detrimental to them than eating too much.  How little then is too little?

Fasting vs Under Eating

The difference between fasting and chronically under eating (which can lead to starvation) is a matter of duration. Fasting is commonly practiced on a timescale of several hours, but while the term has earned itself a bad reputation from notorious fasting diets fasting for weight loss can be safe. Our bodies were actually designed to handle short-term fasts, like when we don’t eat for eight hours during sleep. We also go anywhere from 4–8 hours without eating when we skip meals during life’s busier moments. On the contrary, going without food for several days or eating less than the calorie minimum for weeks to months puts you at risk of malnutrition. As well-nourished individuals, we do carry enough stored fuel to meet our needs for 1–3 months in the form of muscle tissue and fat. However, our body can only store 1–2 days’ worth of glycogen (the body’s carbohydrate stores), which, if not replenished, is quickly used up to maintain blood sugar. After several days of undereating, the body switches to energy-conservation mode, meaning your metabolism slows way down, making you feel tired and edgy. As carbohydrate stores run low, protein and fat become the dominant sources of fuel. After 48 hours without food, your body runs out of glycogen to power the two organs that need it the most: the heart and the brain. While glucose is the only fuel blood cells can run on, the brain will begin to adapt to power itself with ketone bodies made from fat. To meet basic energy needs, your body ramps up breakdown of muscles and organs in addition to fat. Eating at such a low calorie level makes it very difficult to obtain all the essential vitamins and minerals through just food alone.

Why Under Eating Is a Bad Idea (and Won’t Actually Help You Lose Weight)

For most of us, consistently eating less than the calorie minimum is a bad idea because it leads to a:

  1. Slower metabolism and lousy side effects. With too few calories on board to power you through your daily activities, your body learns to live on less by significantly slowing your metabolism. Short term, you may feel sluggish, irritable and apathetic. Once you stop undereating, it takes a while before your body to recover and your metabolism to rev back up.
  2. Loss of valuable muscles and organs. Just because you’ve adapted to using ketone bodies doesn’t mean your body won’t need glucose at all. A minimum blood glucose level must be maintained to keep you alive so your body continues to break down muscles and organs. It’s a major problem in the long run, because your body doesn’t distinguish between essential tissues (think: heart, kidney, blood cells) and less essential tissues (think: skeletal muscle). Over time, this breakdown weakens and damages your vital organs.
  3. Higher risk for nutrient deficiencies. Eating very few calories will also decrease the variety of foods you can eat, increasing your risk for nutrient deficiency. The type of nutrient deficiency that can occur depends on the food(s) that are being restricted. This includes but isn’t limited to deficiencies in calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin D and the B vitamins, in addition to dangerous electrolyte imbalances and protein malnutrition.

Everybody is different, so it’s important to experiment and see what works best for you. Just know that under eating is not a good long-term solution for living a healthy life or achieving or maintaining weight loss.

See you tomorrow for Day 2 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

 

 

12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 10 – Better Nutrition Starts With a Better Plan

(This is Part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

download (3)One of my all-time favorite sayings is “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. Whether you’re speaking of fitness or finances or nutrition you couldn’t be more correct. People will go out of their way to seek some new magical diet plan or potion when all they really need to do is give their nutrition the focus and attention it deserves. Cooking your own meals is vital to controlling your diet, not putting yourself at the mercy of restaurants or pre-packaged meals. Deciding you want a more healthful diet basically means you begin worrying less about what to cut out and more about what you need to put in your diet. Here are some simple strategies to start taking control of your own diet where you’ve had the power all along:

  1. Write It Down. Planning your weekly menu in advance may seem obvious, but writing it out and posting it somewhere visible will keep you honest and on track. This simple tip turns food shopping into a fast-and-easy errand, because the menu lets you create a shopping list with everything you will need for the week. It will also keep you from making poor last-minute decisions. The bonus? You will save money since you won’t buy ingredients you don’t need.
  1. Add Muscle to Your Cooking Skills. You don’t have to be a professionally trained chef to make good, wholesome meals that taste great! Home-cooked meals don’t have to be complicated, and they definitely don’t have to take up a lot of time. Cooking is a skill so take some time to learn a basic skill or two (lots of good shows on Food TV, PBS, etc.) and don’t strive for perfection – just to be better. Just like training muscles, the exercises will get a little easier over time.
  1. Start With a Base for the Week. Preparing a different meal for each day of the week can be daunting. An easy technique to help you get through the week is to pick a recipe or item you can use a few times during the week. An example could be a roasted chicken. Make a dinner out of it one night with healthy sides then use the rest of it throughout the week for smaller meals, with salads, etc.
  1. Use Your Freezer Better. Frozen foods are convenient but they are also laden with processed and subpar ingredients. Create your own frozen meals by cooking large batches of freezer-friendly dishes and freezing them in single-serving containers. Homemade frozen foods are as good for you as homemade fresh foods, because few nutrients are lost in the freezing process.
  1. Make It Sounds ridiculous but it’s not when you consider the statistics that show a parallel growth between the nation’s increasing waistline and the decrease of the family sit-down dinner. Setting the table, designating a dinner time (free of electronics), forces you to pay attention to what you are eating rather than the mindless shoveling dinner sometimes becomes. If you eat alone, find someone to share the meal time with if not for anything to support you to keep on track with your goals.

See you tomorrow for Day 11 of the 12 Days of Fitness.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar
Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments
Day 5 – The 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Feel Hungry When Trying to Lose Weight
Day 6 – 10 Rules of Fitness
Day 7 – Which Are You – A Chronic Dieter or A Healthy Eater?
Day 8 – What Happens When You Skip Your Workout
Day 9 – The Truth About Lactic Acid

 

12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 7 – Which Are You – A Chronic Dieter or A Healthy Eater?

(This is Part 7 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

struggles-with-the-endo-dietFact: People who diet incessantly are rarely all that lean. How can that be? Shouldn’t they be the leanest of all? I mean, they are always on a diet so why do they have any fat to lose at all? Fact: The leanest people are the ones who do the same stuff, day after day, year after year, rarely needing a new meal plan or a jump start. They barely offer a second glance to New Year’s Resolutions because their only promise to themselves is to keep doing what they do. They don’t need complete lifestyle overhauls and never need to make drastic changes to their eating. There’s an alarming distinct difference between the two facts: healthy eaters are consistent. You decide which one you might be.

The Chronic Dieter:

  • Has a deadline by which they need to achieve a certain goal. When you’re thinking about the way you eat and exercise and have the thought that at some point you will be able to stop eating and exercising that way, it’s a signal you are on a diet.
  • See eating only in black-and-white. They impose such strict rules on themselves they not only limit their options and choices but fall (silently sometimes) into a very counterproductive and unhealthier mode than before.
  • Have a “lack” mindset (as opposed to an “abundance” mindset) around food. Very similar to the previous trait, they have a genuine anxiety around food so they treat food as something that will harm them far more than they would enjoy it. It occupies their thoughts more than it should.
  • Think it’s all about “the plan.” Newsflash! The actual food you eat and the exercise you do is the LEAST important part of this process. Sure, you need to make the right choices more often, but the ability to actually make those choices consistently starts with your mindset, not the meal plan and not the workout routine. Your mindset informs your choices and your choices–one by one, over time–become your habits and habits are automatic.
  • Need and expect it to happen all at once or they’re on to the next “plan”. This is the precise reason people who incessantly diet are not lean. Because engaging in the crash dieting cycle, month after month, year after year actually makes your metabolism less responsive. Whether it’s full-blown metabolic damage or simply slight weight loss resistance, the losing and gaining of dozens of pounds year after year is doing more harm than good. Dieting actually makes you fatter. Every time you lose lots of weight quickly, you are losing fat, yes, but also losing muscle. And then when you regain it quickly (as is the case with crash diets), you gain back only fat. Thus, now you have less muscle and even more fat than you started with (even if your weight is the same).
  • Haven’t spent time developing the mindset necessary to be successful long term. Your mindset determines your actions; your actions determine your outcomes; your mindset drives your habits.
  • Think the answer is out there but hold others accountable for their lack of results. You can complain and blame or you can take action and be successful. Not both. Own your process and open up a new world of possibilities that you’re in charge of. You never have to rely on someone else, ever.

The Healthy Eater

  • Adopt and implement a lifestyle way of eating and exercising that they could do forever. There’s no deadline by which they need to achieve a goal because they see healthy living as their operating system. Something they can and will do forever. Goals are fine but the healthy eater sees them ONLY as a stop along a greater journey into health/fitness.
  • Don’t have to make hard and fast rules around food because they are already eating in a way that they enjoy. They are already not feeling deprived or stressed. They don’t need to be perfect with their eating because they don’t have huge binges that would make them need to double down and get strict.
  • They just eat. They eat what they eat. It’s automatic. But realize it takes time, patience. They relinquish the need to control every single scenario and circumstance. They trust the process.
  • Eat and exercise with very little effort. It’s just “what they do.” It’s their mindset and habit.
  • Buckle in for the long haul. They weather the ups and downs and believe in the process. They give up their expectations and simply do their best.
  • Take 100% responsibility for not only their results, but their actions and their mindset. Blame is never handed out.

 Make 2016 your year!

 

See you tomorrow for Day 8 of the 12 Days of Fitness

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar
Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments
Day 5 – The 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Feel Hungry When Trying to Lose Weight
Day 6 – 10 Rules of Fitness

 

12 Days of Fitness 2015: Day 5 – The 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Feel Hungry When Trying to Lose Weight

(This is Part 5 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful blurbs and  tips to keep your fitness in focus over the holiday season)

ee7f164e38f7ea95_stk72137cor_1_.previewLosing weight is a daunting task. Contrary to common belief, it’s not as linear as just eating less and moving more and when you couple that with the fact that food is such a large part of our social environment, one is left little room for error. The great news is that weight loss is possible and does happen when the focus is on getting the job done with consistency backed by real knowledge and not misguided and misinformed beliefs. One of the many things that should never be an occurrence but happens to people who are trying to lose weight is the sense of hunger. Here are 5 scientifically convincing reasons why you should never be hungry and start losing weight correctly.

Hunger is Nature’s Survival Mechanism

Hunger, just like pain, happiness, thirst, or anger, is a completely natural feeling. It’s not likely we ignore those signals but for some reason people are willing to ignore hunger signals. Hunger is the body’s cue telling us we are lacking either calories or nutrients or both. Ignoring it most likely leads to stronger and stronger hunger cues to the point of causing negative physical and mental side effects.

Hunger Isn’t Necessary For Weight Loss

Hunger is a completely natural signal that your brain sends to your body; we can get them whether dieting or not. When dieting however, ignoring those signals will get you nowhere fast. Sufficient calories and nutrition are an important and essential part of the weight loss process.

Hunger Negatively Affects Your Metabolism

Calorie deprivation is a sure fire way to wreck the metabolism. When the metabolism gets out of whack, it can take some time for it to readjust. Two important appetite-controlling hormones to understand when trying to lose weight are leptin and ghrelin. These hormones signal when it’s time to eat, and they also send signals when you’re satiated. When the latter happens, your body receives a cascade of signals that it is in a fed state. When in this state your body is more likely to shed its energy reserves (fat). The opposite is also true. When in a state of constant hunger your body senses a lack of available fuel in its future and chooses to hold onto the fat it has in case of emergency.

Strict Adherence to Restriction Leads to Poor Habits

Restriction is commonly associated with weight loss. It’s almost assumed you have to tolerate these feelings if you want to lose weight. This excess restriction does nothing but suppress your desire to eat until the feelings are no longer bearable. In the end, you end up bingeing from food deprivation. You go three steps forward and then take three steps back and then wonder why you can’t lose any weight. Try eating real food at a smaller calorie deficit, take it slower, and feed your body when it tells you it’s hungry.

 Hunger is Not a Sustainable Feeling to Tolerate

There are millions of people in this world who live with the pain of hunger daily. No one in the civilized world has any reason to tolerate hunger pains. Living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy body composition doesn’t mean you have to live your life in a constant battle with hunger.You shouldn’t have feelings of hunger on your mind all day long. Eating should be more of an involuntary action. It should happen in the background as you live your life. Constantly having to pay attention to your stomach is both physically and emotionally exhausting. Don’t even try to battle it. You will always lose in the end.

If you’re always feeling hungry it’s time to take a close look at your nutrition. You likely need to increase your overall calories or start adding in more nutrient dense foods. Losing weight and being at a healthy weight shouldn’t be that difficult. It’s your body’s natural state and what it ultimately wants to be at. Go with the flow and listen to your body.

See you tomorrow for Day 6 of the 12 Days of Fitness

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Day 1 – Chew Your Food
Day 2 – Fitness for the Road
Day 3 – The Many Names of Sugar
Day 4 – Side Stitches: Causes and Treatments

 

Throw Away That Scale

scaleThere are many subjects in health and fitness that undoubtedly have “strong” opinions one way or the other. Most are based on popular thought or shoddy science or carry the “this is the way it has always been done’ label. But one particular subject haunts millions of people every day and as much as they would prefer to avoid it, they simply can’t. After all, it’s one of the first things your doctor orders when you go for a visit. Our society’s obsession with weight has become unhealthy on many fronts but it’s important to understand that weight is really just a number, not an absolute measure of success or failure.

The Weight of Things

Are scales bad? No. They are merely a tool to measure what they’re supposed to measure and that is weight. In the case of the doctor’s scale or your bathroom scale, it measures your total bodyweight. But what exactly does that number mean and is it fair to use that number as an assessment of your health? The answer is unquestionably no yet people will live and die by that number. Without getting into the complex science of weight, mass, and volume, our weight is simply a measure of the amount of gravity it takes to keep you firmly planted on the ground here on Earth. For fun, if you’d like to see what that number is on other planets in our solar system, you can do so by clicking this link and see the wide disparity you’ll come up with. Interesting I’m sure which leads me to tell you about why the scale is such a poor representation of your health.

Daily Fluctuations

Would you measure the success of your investment portfolio on daily fluctuations? I doubt it. Your bodyweight can fluctuate as much as 3 to 7 pounds in a 48 hour period for numerous reasons. A single measurement is never an indicator of success or failure. Here are some of those possible causes:

  1. Water Retention: Your body will naturally retain fluid if you consume a meal higher in sodium than your usual diet. This can cause the scale to read a few pounds higher the following day.
  2. Hormonal Changes: Particularly for women, bloating and fluid retention during menstruation can add a few pounds on the scale. Also, an increase in estrogen during this time of the month can increase levels of aldosterone, which can cause the kidneys to retain fluid, promoting weight gain.
  3. Dehydration: Almost sounds counterintuitive but dehydration can cause the body to protect itself by retaining water. Several hormones exert profound control over fluid regulation. If you’re dehydrated, your body works harder to retain water, leading to weight gain.
  4. Glycogen Storage: Glycogen is how the body stores carbohydrates for energy and just as the name suggests, where there is “carbon” there is water (hydration). Glycogen has water bound to it, so healthy hydrated cells, can show up on the scale. After a hard strength workout, muscles also store glycogen to re-build, which is why the scale may actually shoot up after exercise.
  5. Constipation: It may be uncomfortable to discuss, but if you’re having a difficult time in the bathroom due to changes in exercise or diet—or lack of fiber or fluids—it only makes sense that you might see a higher number on the scale.
  6. Diets: After just 24 hours on a restricted diet, you can decrease your metabolic rate by 15 to 30 percent! When you go on a restricted diet, your body goes into starvation mode, slowing down your metabolism. This can actually cause you to store extra calories, causing you to hold more weight.

If you are still so inclined to use the scale, at the very least make the data relevant. To do so, always use the scale under the same conditions; (i.e. first thing in the morning after a bathroom trip, unclothed, same day of week, same time, etc.); plot and chart your numbers to see a pattern develop over time (weeks, months) not days; set realistic and attainable goals that the scale is an asset to and not a drawback.

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.