Archives for November 2008

Yeah, But Boy Was it Good!

I hope all of our readers had a blessed and restful Thanksgiving. I have been spending my break (which started Tuesday evening) with my wife, my parents, grandma, and my brother and his family. We had a nice big meal, and I had plenty of turkey, stuffing, cranberry dessert, mashed potatoes, and of course, pumpkin pie. Jonathan and I began the day by running at the school I graduated from. There are nice rolling hills surrounding the track, so we ran a few “country miles” as our old football coach would call them. I overate quite a bit, but the extra activity made me closer to breaking even, although I still consumed more than I burned. I suppose if there is one day of the year that is allowed, it is Thanksgiving. So yeah, I consumed too much, but boy was it good!

I have a lot to be thankful for, and in the end, I am always more thankful for people than I am for stuff, so it was nice to spend time with my family.

Image of Pumpkin Pie taken by me

The Martial Arts

My step daughter and I recently started taking karate lessons. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but never got around to doing. What started as a way to benefit my stepdaughter with me just tagging along has actually turned into a new passion. Here are the benefits I’ve found from taking karate:

1. Great exercise- When the sensei puts us through “spirit” drills and we get off 500 kicks, it’s hard not to feel winded! Even on days where we don’t go that heavy, karate is still a great workout.

2. Different exercise- It’s so easy to get into exercise ruts and simply doing something different becomes vital to keep a person’s interest. Karate is a nice way to break up my normal elliptical/weight lifting routine that can become commonplace.

3. Self defense- I’ve always had a strong view of self defense and learning to defend yourself is always a plus in today’s world. Knowing how to fight can even the odds in a fight and make them better when a weapon is involved.

4. Thrill of fighting- Ok, I don’t want to sound like I’ve got bloodlust or anything here, but there is something incredibly exciting about sparring with another person. I don’t mean ultimate fighting or even street fighting, just the enjoyment of a controlled spar among friends. If you haven’t tried it, get the correct gear and see what I mean.

So, if you’re looking for a fun way to get more exercise, check out the marial arts. I will be blogging more about this in the future.

Feeling Good and Staying that Way on Thanksgiving

I have lost about 35 pounds since August 2007. As I have mentioned on here before, my weight has fluctuated since high school, so I know the different way I feel when I am overweight, and when I am in good shape. I am probably in the best shape of my life right now. I work out every other day, which includes the best weight lifting program I have ever been on. I have seen amazing gains of muscle, and have steadily dropped weight from body fat. Basically, I feel good. When I was heavier, I always felt full and drained of energy. I hated the feeling of not fitting into clothes, and getting winded walking up stairs. When I was overweight, I felt bad, and there was always a certain “weight” on my shoulders (and mostly on my gut actually!). So the point of this post is that I feel good and don’t want to come out of Thanksgiving feeling like crap again.

As a teacher, I have a 5 day Thanksgiving break (Wednesday-Sunday), which will be a nice period of rest and visiting family. However, I also want to keep my eating in perspective, and continue to work out. To do so, I will do the following things to limit my weight gain (I doubt I will actually lose):

– Go to the YMCA to lift weights as usual, but adding extra calorie burning to my routine, to make up for the extra eating. As I always mention, weight loss is essentially a calorie balance issue, so when I take in more calories, I need to burn more.

– Get some exercise outside on Thanksgiving Day. Traditionally, I go hiking, or else go to the local school and pass football (and run pass routes) with my brother. We play a little game where we give ourselves 4 passes to get about 50 yards, ending with a field goal. It is like a series of 50 yard sprints.

– Avoid snacking. Typically I have the extra calories in a day to get away with snacking, but on an already high calorie day, I will just drink a little extra coffee or chew some gum between meals.

– Take “Lean Balance” supplements, which contain Chromium, green tea, and Citrimax. Do I believe that these pills work? Well…maybe, I won’t say for sure, but since I got them for a dollar a bottle at a clearance sale, they can’t hurt. Some small studies have shown benefit to the ingredients.

– Walk. If it is nice, I will try to get out and walk, but with the unusually cold temperatures as of late, this may not be as feasible!

Basically, I want to keep things in control, because feeling good year-round is better than going overboard during my Thanksgiving break!

Image Taken by me on what I think is a quintessential Midwestern November day

Vitamin C and E Pills Don’t Prevent Cancer

According to a long-term study, Vitamin C and E supplements do not prevent cancer, at least not in the large group of doctors studied.

I haven’t taken the vitamin E supplements used in this study for awhile, because of some negative studies associated with it. Apparently, the worst form is dl-alpha tocopherol, the synthetic form, which is what the study referenced above used. 400 IU seems to be too much too. I take 200 IU occasionally, but it is the all natural form of vitamin E, with mixed tocopherols. I wonder how Vitamin C would have fared individually, without being accompanied by a high dose of Vitamin E.

Vitamin D and Fertility

This is not turning into the “In praise of Vitamin D Blog,” I promise you, but it seems like a lot of Vitamin D related news is coming out lately. I have taken Vitamin D since 2004 when I read about the relationship between sunlight and cancer (sunnier regions have less cancer). Now, a study shows a correlation between low vitamin D levels and infertility. As my psychology professors always hammered home “correlation doesn’t show causation,” but nonetheless, this is rather interesting.

In a recent study of infertile women, 90% had vitamin D deficiencies. Also from the authors of the study:

Of note, not a single patient with either ovulatory disturbance or polycystic ovary syndrome demonstrated normal Vitamin D levels

Yet another reason to try Vitamin D.

I Just Paid 1.67 for Gas

It is hard to believe, but I paid $1.67 for gas a few days ago, and the same station is selling gas for $1.57 today. I haven’t paid this little for gasoline since 2002, when I remember gas rising to 1.70, at the time, I thought it an outrageously high price. Today, it seems like a much-needed bargain.

The reason gas is falling is that demand is falling, mainly because of the economy. I think this highlights the importance of conserving energy. If we reduce demand, prices go down. We can blame the speculators, OPEC, oil companies, etc, but what is causing this drop is a lack of demand. I hope we don’t let these “low” prices make us complacent. We still need to conserve and promote alternatives to keep these prices low. I don’t know about you, but I like having an extra 20 dollars a fill up in *my* pocket, and not in the pocket of an oil company of foreign country.

Even More on Vitamin D

We have made Vitamin D our Nutrient of the Month for November, even though it had this honor in July. The reason is that I am extremely excited about what this nutrient can do. Just recently, we have touched on the relationship of Vitamin D and autism, and it seems that Vitamin D does much more.

This article explains why Vitamin D is important for preventing obesity, heart disease, diabetes, skin problems, infections, and even cancer. This is not based on speculation, but scientific studies, including those that recommend getting 1000-2000 IU per day, which is much higher than the 400 IU currently officially recommended. Jennifer and I have been carrying out our own little case study regarding adult acne and Vitamin D, and the results are very good. I have the spreadsheet to prove it. Of course, this is one case study, but we are happy with the results (more info later perhap).

Winter is approaching, and according to Doctor Roizen of Real Age fame, if you live above Raleigh, North Carolina, we are in the period when the sun is not strong enough to cause our skins to produce Vitamin D (this period runs from October 1-April 15). Fortunately, Vitamin D is cheap.

Autism Rates High in Rainy Areas

A new study shows that autism rates are higher in counties with high rainfall. One of the studies referenced indicates that homes with cable also had higher rates of autism. This has led the study authors to suggest that something environmental may cause autism.

A few weeks ago I posted on Vitamin D and autism, and if a lack of sunlight causes autism, then this study seems to back this up.

Our Kids are on Drugs!

fat kid

And I am not talking about illegal drugs, although many are on those too.

The number of children on medications for chronic conditions has skyrocketed in recent years, largely due to childhood obesity. Especially high are the number of children on medication for Type-2 Diabetes. The number of boys taking diabetes drugs jumped 39% from 2002 to 2005, while the number of girls jumped 147%! Doctors also saw big increases in prescriptions for high cholesterol and hyperactivity. As the article I linked to points out, we are not talking about a 7-day course of antibiotics. Rather, we are talking about some children possibly taking medicines the rest of their lives because of obesity.

This is really scary. Health care costs are rising quickly, and the childhood obesity epidemic is virtually guaranteeing children will be struggling to have a high quality of life into adulthood (not to mention causing health care costs to skyrocket).

Cutting Out the Sweet Stuff

Notice I didn’t say the “white” stuff. Yes, I’ve mentioned in the past how bad sugar is, but artificial sweeteners aren’t exactly splendid or all that equal to the task of weight loss (puns intended). There are two reasons why artificial sweeteners aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. First, they often have a lot of side effects, some of which can be very troublesome. Recent research on Splenda definitely gave me pause about using it. Second, some researchers have noted that using artificial sweeteners may actually contribute to weight gain. Why? Probably because our bodies never get weaned off the taste for sweets and we are more likely to indulge it with actual sugar. Thus, I’ve decided to actually cut down on sweeteners in general. I drink my coffee now with just cream or occasionally stevia. I’ve tried to drink more water and fewer zero calorie drinks. I also use stevia when I do need some sweetening not anything artificial. It hasn’t been completely easy (especially with coffee), but I’m adjusting.