In the news: Calorie Counting

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OK, short and sweet is the theme of the day. Two things caught my attention last week, both of which centered on calories. I know most of us hate calorie counting…I can attest that I’m not a fan, but I am actually doing my best do so because I think I’m at a stage in my weight loss where it matters.  I will certainly concede that it is not for everybody.

The first item came from a blog post on Yahoo from Lucy Danziger, editor-in-chief of SELF magazine.  I am not familiar with SELF at all, but obviously the title caught my attention…

Lose Weight Without Counting Calories

OK, well this will be completely obvious to just about anyone who has a pulse. Let me briefly reiterate her tidbits: 1) pick up produce, 2) snack smart, 3) sip more water, 4) map out your meals, 5) eat every meal. With no disrespect intended for Ms. Danziger, it seemed the the first utterance out of my mouth was, “duh.” Is it that simple?  I think it can be…though we know it usually takes much more than that to get real results.

The second item is still in the same ballpark, but with a twist.  I am an alumnus of Arizona State University and on occasion I’ll check the website out to see what’s new. Last week I came across a press release for a recent study done by the W.P. Carey School of Business…

ASU Study: 100-calorie packs makes dieters eat more

Slightly intriguing, no? I think there is clear face validity here…doesn’t it make sense that our minds often focus on the quantity we eat over the content? Well, let me put it this way…I get what they’re saying, but I don’t know if I always buy it. I think there’s a problem here with external validity in terms of the study. They used M&Ms and Mini M&Ms and I just think that some other food combos should be tried out before a b-school tells the world what’s up with how people perceive and eat their calories. When I think of 100-calorie packs, I think of the little, low-fat Oreos or packages of Wheat Thins. We don’t get them often in our house, but when we do, I think it’s understood that you still just eat…one. I don’t like diet food in the first place…I prefer to eat regular food with extreme moderation and monitoring…but hey, that’s just the way I prefer it.

So, now, I throw it to you…what are your thoughts on calorie counting and 100-calorie packs?

In the news: Better to Be Fat and Fit Than Skinny and Unfit

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This week’s story comes from Tara Parker-Pope’s Well blog in the Health section of The New York Times. It originally ran online August 18th…

Better to Be Fat and Fit Than Skinny and Unfit

I appreciated this article greatly, especially in light of last week’s AP story on Patrick Deuel that focused mainly on the perceptions of fat as unfit. This isn’t to say that I necessarily agree with it, but I appreciate the varying perspectives presented.

Ms. Parker-Pope poses a question all of us have surely asked ourselves, “… is a person’s weight really a reliable indicator of overall health?”

If we’ve asked ourselves that question enough, most of us have probably answered in the negative…weight is not necessarily the most reliable indicator of overall health…but I believe it’s an indicator nevertheless. I have a couple of friends who are larger than I am, and are in better health so to say. One friend in particular (let’s call him Freddy) weighs in at about 380, does not exercise regularly, and to my knowledge does not have high blood pressure or cholesterol problems. I, on the other hand, last weighed at 346, am on medication for high blood pressure, and received an e-mail from my doctor last week to “renew [my] mission to get in better shape.”  He’s a great doctor, but I hope he realizes that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do. Perhaps he hasn’t noticed my weight loss as much as I would have hoped.

But that’s just it.  I’ve dropped some pounds, and yet I’m clearly still at risk. My “comorbidities” have definitely manifested themselves in one form or another. The one thing that I think I can attribute to weight-loss and exercise is that my cholestorol has gone down considerably, and I no longer have to take medication for that.

Last week, my wife told me that weight-loss is not an exact science. I believe she’s right. No two people are the same. Parker-Pope’s story uses a lot of statistical information, and also points out that some of the data used in studies sparked the ire of many readers and bloggers. If I look at it statistically, I can’t help but think that the error term–the “unobservables” that somehow may or may not factor into our weight–is always too great to ever provide a definitive, uniform method of weight-loss.

Or, you could be like me, who after having tried every diet from here to the moon lives by the mantra “Eat better, move more.”  Some people might phrase that “eat less, move more,” but we all know that less is not always best.

Later on in her post, Parker-Pope noted a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found that “fitness level, regardless of body mass index, was the strongest predictor of mortality risk.”  Of the test used for fitness, she wrote:

During the test, the treadmill moved at a brisk walking pace as the grade increased each minute. In the study, it didn’t take much to qualify as fit. For men, it meant staying on the treadmill at least 8 minutes; for women, 5.5 minutes. The people who fell below those levels, whether fat or thin, were at highest risk.

The results were adjusted to control for age, smoking and underlying heart problems and still showed that fitness, not weight, was most important in predicting mortality risk.

OK, then…so, last week I discovered I can run 20 minutes straight now. Does that mean I’m fat and fit?

And, may I just point out that these “underlying heart problems” were never specified. In my opinion, there are probably myriad threats to the validity of this study.

It’s not the most inconceivable thing to be overweight (and for all purposes intended in the article, obese) and be somewhat fit. But the vast majority of people who struggle like I do…they definitely don’t make the case.

Your thoughts?

What is Your Biggest Health/Fitness Vice?

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I have been tagged by Andrew from Andrew is getting fit!

And, I might say, I think this is a great topic to be tagged on. It seems as if there are numerous things I could call a vice in terms of health and fitness, and I’ve had difficulty in pinpointing what could be the biggest or worst of all of them.

I don’t smoke (my mother did for over 20 years and it revolted me), or chew tobacco (my father did/does and I was equally repulsed by it). I don’t drink (too many alcoholics in the family) and I’ve never tried any drugs (unfortunately, I’ve got loved ones who are substance abusers, and its just not for me). So, I think we can cross all of this ‘big’ stuff off the list.

When I really think of it, I think the biggest health and fitness vices I have are: 1) doubt and 2) carbs.

Doubt. Yes, doubt. Doubting that I can accomplish what I want to. Doubt that I could actually lose weight and learn to live a healthier life. Doubt led me to quit anything, which in turn led to depression, which led to weight gain. Hell of a lot of good doubt did me. And it’s weird, because I was and am still competitive. I was an athlete in high school.  I played football, basketball, soccer (yes, believe it or not), golf and threw the shot put and discus. But through it all, the doubt won, my weight fluctuated, and what can I say? I got fat.

Carbs. When I was most recently living in Arizona, I saw a nutritionist who’s response to nearly everything that went wrong was, “Ohitsdefinitelythecarbs!” She really did talk like that, by the way. But it was frustrating to accept that answer, though she was more than likely right. I don’t load up on much fat, sweets or salty things. I eat meat sparingly (and after living in Georgia and seeing the gigantic chicken transportation trucks, I’ve wanted to quit altogether…but I won’t). But, I love bread, I love pasta, I love potatoes, I love grains…the list goes on and on, and I just hear Debbie rattling off, “Ohitsdefinitelythecarbs!

The great carb debate came about on Saturday when a couple of other guys and I went to give a little bit of service to a Vietnam vet in some pretty bad condition (cancer, super-emaciated…down to 97 pounds). One of the guys cleaned his house, while another cleaned his yard, and I took him in to town for some errands. The first thing he said to me once in the car was, “You have to stop eating carbs after 3 p.m. God knows we’d hate to lose you so young.” Wow…two minutes into our relationship, and I get hit with this bomb.  I wasn’t too shocked though…I’ve heard things like this most of my life. Like when I lived in Italy…a woman whose house we painted, Ines, just stared at me (while speaking to someone else as if I were deaf or not there), “Ma, dai…questo qui deve dimagrire subito…e’ troppo ingrassato!” Which more or less means: Come on, this one here needs to slim down immediately…he’s too fat! I wasn’t nearly as big as I am now, not to mention her son was much bigger than I am. I was reluctant to paint her house after that comment, but did it anyway. Afterward, she fed us lunch as kept pushing a plate of bread and cheese at me. “Mangia,” she’d mutter as if she didn’t really mean it.

I lost it. I told her I wasn’t a circus freak, and I hopped on my bike and left.

For those of you who recall, I actually lost a lot of weight while in Italy (only to gain it back of course — you can read that earlier post HERE if you’d like).

So, plain and simple…I’ve stopped doubting myself.  I have a great network of supporters who help me a great deal, not to mention more motivation than ever to help me make these changes. Carbs and I will be at war for a long time. I’ve done a decent job at managing them for the most part over the past 25 days, but I am prepared to educate myself on how they should best be consumed for me. It will be a battle that will last a long time, but I know that there’s a strategy for winning the war…

I think that a lot of hard work in these two areas will definitely help make a better me.

OK, I tag:

Elisa

Paul

Matt

Sharon

And anyone else who might want to give it a whirl!

FOOD!

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Food is an interesting topic with me. I think a lot of people tend to generalize that all overweight and obese people are fat because they eat too much, when in fact, I might not completely fit into that category. I know, I know…it sounds like an excuse, but sometimes my wife has to prod me to eat! But those who know how the body works know that not eating isn’t exactly healthy either, especially for those of us who tend to be insulin resistant.

I am not, nor do I intend to start a diet anytime soon.  I am done with dieting.  I’ve tried and tried, and realize now that I’ve gained nothing (but my weight back) from dieting! So, I have a goal to make healthier choices with food, to use portion control, and to eat the right amount of calories my body needs per day.

When I was in my early 20’s I lived in Italy for a couple of years.  One lady who found out I was going there was worried about me. “Oh my,” she said. “They have such a fattening diet.” Suggesting that she obviously though I could stand to lose a few…which I could have. I wasn’t too offended because she perpetually stuck her foot in her mouth, but she did make me think about it for a minute.  I’ve never seen a fat Italian, I thought. Maybe I’d actually lose weight? And that’s exactly what happened.  I ate a diet high in carbs nearly every day in a country where my main modes of transportation were bicycles and walking…after three months, 38 pounds melted away, and over the next five I lost 26 more and then plateaued after moving to a city where I traveled mostly by bus. In two years of not a lot of exercise, and a so-called “fattening diet,” I still managed to lose 64 pounds.

When I returned to the U.S., over the next three years I gained back 80.

Yikes.

One of the reasons I love Italy (and loved my experience there) is not only because it’s the land of my ancestors (alla parte della mia mamma), but also because I loved the food! I learned how to cook what the Italians cooked, but the food had a reverse effect on me when I came home.  Why?  Because I decided to lug my fat ass around in my truck instead of walking or biking more…that’s why.

And so goes my challenges and goals with eating healthy. I know it’s a perpetual process, and of course, I always welcome suggestions from others.  Since discovering MizFit’s blog, I have really enjoyed the recipes she’s posted and will definitely have to try them out. But I know that in the long run, I need to exercise more to burn off more of that I eat.  I need to avoid huge meals, and perhaps get better at ‘grazing’ or smaller, more frequent meals.

Any thoughts lingering out there?

Perfect Strangers – “Weigh to go, Buddy,” Part 3

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Perfect Strangers – “Weigh to go, Buddy,” Part 2

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Video length: 9m9s