Fat Cell Theory

It can be disheartening to dieters, but it appears that we cannot actually reduce the number of fat cells within our body. So, when we lose weight we are merely decreasing the size of the set number of fat cells. However, this still leaves the cells themselves intact, waiting to be filled. This is called “fat cell theory.”

Our number of fat cells seems to be determined throughout infancy and adolescence. And, some scientists believe that this can be controlled, so that skinnier kids create fewer fat cells. Thus, they have an advantage throughout life. This may explain why so few obese children become skinny as adults.

For more info, visit this article

Bad Carbs are Bad for the Heart

I guess there is a reason they are called “bad,” right? A new study shows that high-glycemic foods, like Corn Flakes and white bread, can contribute to heart disease (which seems to vindicate what Dr. Atkins and others have said, which is that carbohydrates can negatively affect circulatory health).

Another study found that consuming a moderate level of carbohydrates, i.e. less than the average American consumes, “had lowered blood insulin levels, more stable blood sugar, and a longer duration of a sense of fullness after a meal than did the 14 people on the control diet.”

I tried the Atkins diet for about 3 days. I became cranky, and gave it up pretty quickly, especially since I didn’t really need to go on such a diet. Nonetheless, my study of Dr. Atkins’ ideas has convinced me that there are bad carbohydrates, namely those found in refined grains. I consider myself to be on a “lower” carb diet, or perhaps a “modified” Atkins, which is to say I try to eat only unrefined grain products, avoid high-sugar products, and consume a lot of nuts, seeds, and beans. I was eating a few of my mom’s Sun Chips the other day, and I notice that despite giving the impression of being “healthy” the product contained less than one gram of fiber per serving.  Of course, not that I have room to talk, since I just finished off some ice cream!

Spring Break: The Good, The Bad, and the Pretty

spring night

Yesterday, Jonathan posted on how his Easter went, so I thought I would tell you how my spring break is going. I have a longer break than Jonathan, so I am visiting my parents a little longer, and getting a few more days of needed R and R.

The Good:

I just got back from a trip to New York City, which was really enjoyable.  I had a great time, and walked about 10 miles a day, which was some nice exercise. I got a chance to see my cousin who lives there, and I visited some really cool sites. I went to the Y on Saturday morning after I got back from NY, but I haven’t been since. I had hoped for some nice weather, but so far it has been pretty cold. Thursday and Friday look VERY nice, and I plan on running outside both of those days. Thursday is April 16th, which means that I should be able to make some Vitamin D! And, I have to say that I am glad it is Easter, which is the high point of the Christian Church Year, so I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter season (Easter is a 50 day season that starts on Easter day). It is nice to see family too.

The Bad:

I ate pretty poorly in NYC (it seems as if all of our meals set up by the touring company involved a hamburger), so my calories were pretty high. I also didn’t get as much sleep as I normally do, so I am sure my metabolism is a little off right now. My fiber was pitiful. As for right now, there is way too much candy around here, and because the weather is rainy and fairly cold, I don’t feel like leaving (I will probably get my butt to the YMCA a little later). While it is nice to sleep in and relax, I feel like I lose a lot of my day when I am on break. I feel lazy and bloated.

The Pretty:

The weather may be a little dreary, but spring has broken out here (see the photo above). The winter went pretty quickly, but it seems as if the coldness will never end! We had a break in the rain and had a nice walk last night (see photo below). I have also discovered some cool GIMP techniques that help me enhance photos the way I have wanted to enhance them for months.

walking in alley

Weight Loss and Fitness Blogs

What is a better way to keep yourself on track and share your own weight loss experiences? Well, the answer could be starting a weight loss, fitness, or diet blog. This blog is more than just weight loss, and is really about a sort of holistic wellness and health that includes, but is not limited to, weight loss, although weight loss is an important component to what we cover here (remember, we now have the official Life in Your Years Weight Loss Tips Page). This means that posting here is kind of like keeping a weight loss or fitness journal. Unfortunately, food is a tough foe, and I have seen weight loss blogs come and go, but I would like to link to some weight loss blogs I have found that a) are current, and b) may help you in your weight loss efforts. Please note that the majority of such blogs seem to be run by women, so I am not just gravitating to blogs run by females (note to my lovely wife)!

You’d Be So Pretty If…

Pretty-Face Heather

Discipline or Regret

A Merry Life

Chronicles of a Diet Drop-Out

The Token Fat Girl

I Don’t Want to Die from a Heart Attack When I am 25

Escape from Obesity*

Take some time to visit these blogs and offer some encouragement. Also, I just love the names of the blogs…very creative titles!

*- When I read the URL of this one, I thought it was “escape from mobesity,” and I thought, “hmm, is “mobesity” a trendy way of saying “morbid obesity?” Feel free to use that one folks.

Fitday 2.0?

I can’t find much about it online, but it looks like Fitday 2.0 has been released. There seem to be no screenshots available of it, and I tried to download it online, but I couldn’t (despite the claim that once you buy Fitday, you get free updates…we’ll see about that I guess). Does anybody know anything about it? I emailed the people at Fitday to see what is going on, and I’ll let everybody know the response I get.

I also found another diet software that looks very comprehensive, Nutribase EZ. I downloaded the software for evaluation, and while it seems more complicated than Fitday 1.0, it is rather comprehensive and powerful. The price is higher than Fitday.

UPDATE:

I received a reply from Fitday, which is pasted below. Their customer service is prompt and friendly. First, a few comments. I don’t think Fitday was very clear when they said updates were free, by which they meant bug-fixes and minor updates were free, whereas major upgrades (e.g. going from version 1.0 to 2.0) would cost . Perhaps that they used “update” versus “upgrade” should have clued me in. Second, there is still nothing about 2.0 on their site, but the site does mention it is the current version, so I am guessing it is on the way. If the upgrade is nice enough, I will definitely be paying for it. I use Fitday a lot, and I am more than willing to pay for it. It is an excellent program.

Hi David,

Thanks for your question. Version 1.0.0.6 is the latest version. We’re in the
process of updating the website and rolling out Version 2. Version 2 is not yet
available for download.

Updates are free that include patches to the current version of FitDay (version
1). But this does not include the next major upgrade to FitDay (i.e. Version 2).
Version 2 will not be free.

Let us know if you have any questions.

Thanks,

FitDay Support
support@fitday.com

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

No Surprise: Restaurant Kids Meals Are Unhealthy

It is no surprise to me. A new study finds that restaurant kids meals have too many calories. Most kids meals exceed the 430 calorie threshold for kids to stay in normal weight ranges. Some of the meals even hover around the 1000 calorie mark! Kids in the 4-8 age range need about 1300 calories a day, so one of these meals puts them at around 77% of their needed calories for a day. Most adults would likely be overweight if they consumed 1000 calories in one meal.

When I say this isn’t surprising to me, I mean that there aren’t that many choices for adults either. In fact, there are some restaurants I nearly have to avoid if I want to eat right, and at most restaurants, I have to avoid the majority of the meals. That kids meals would fit this same logic makes perfect sense. So how can you eat healthy when eating out? Well, it is pretty difficult, but it can be done. I eat out about once or twice a week, and these are the tips I use.

– Look at the nutritional information beforehand, and plan out what you want. Almost every restaurant has something available that is healthy

– Avoid caloric drinks; stick to unsweet tea, diet, or water. It is very easy to put down 3-4 glasses of pop in one sitting, and this adds a LOT of needless calories

– Avoid appetizers, bread, etc. I try to limit my intake of these items, because their calories can easily add up

– Avoid dessert, or get a low calorie dessert. Again, check the calories beforehand

– Exercise that day so you have more calories to play with

– Eat at home. You don’t have to eat out a lot

The last point is probably the most important. The article says:

“Parents want to feed their children healthy meals, but America’s chain restaurants are setting parents up to fail,” CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan said in a statement. “McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and other chains are conditioning kids to expect burgers, fried chicken, pizza, French fries, macaroni and cheese, and soda in various combination at almost every lunch and dinner.”

I find this rather amusing. So now parents are being controlled by restaurants? While I think it is probably true to some degree, it doesn’t have to be this way. Not every kid is conditioned to think “fast food” is real food, but when parents don’t have the time or will to ever cook at home, so that the family can experience a real home-cooked meal, I can see why many kids probably think a home-cooked meal is warming up left over fast food. I often wonder if we (including our children) would all be thinner if we ate at home as a family more often, instead of allowing corporations to plan our meals for us.

My Pre-Workout Vitamin Cocktail

Before each workout, I usually take a cocktail of supplements, along with lots of water, each chemical serving a purpose. I have listed them below. I want to make known that these are, of course, legal supplements, because I would never use drugs, illegal or legal, to get a better workout (kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?). I freely admit that some of these nutrients and their benefits remain unproven, in that the research behind them is based on smaller human studies, and studies on animals. I also admit I might seem a little nuts for taking all of these, but here goes. Note that I have researched these carefully, and I am not taking any prescription drugs that may interact with these supplements. Always consult with a doctor before starting any supplement regimen.

Green Tea – Right now, I take a Green-Tea, Alpha-Lipoic Acid supplement that I got at a dollar store on clearance. I will switch to Puritan’s Pride Green Tea Extract capsules after that runs out (and possibly take Puritan’s Pride Alpha-Lipoic Acid, 100 mg, with it). Green Tea has been shown in studies to increase the effectiveness (calories burned) of a workout. I don’t care for its taste, but drinking a few glasses prior to working out would likely be effective too. Green Tea contains caffeine, so if you experience any side effects of caffeine consumption, like rapid heartbeat, etc, stop exercising. Cut your green tea dose next time.

Vitamin C – Vitamin C has been shown to reduce inflammatory stress on the body during exercise. I am not sure if this is due to its antioxidant status or not, but regardless I am covered. I take 250 mg prior to a workout. I read somewhere that one study showed that taking 1000 mg or more may actually reverse the vitamin’s effect on workouts, so it is prudent to stick with around 250-500 mg. I currently take Healthy America‘s Vitamin C 500 mg tablets, split into two.

Movenzyme [Wobenzym] – This is a generic version of Wobenzym, a popular enzyme supplement overseas. It is available in the U.S. too. Unfortunately, Movenzyme is no longer made. UPDATE: A similar product (for a decent price) called Proteolytic Enzymes is available now, which I take.  Wobenzym contains protein-digesting enzymes, which when taken on an empty stomach, do not digest food, but act as potent anti-inflammation agents. Studies have shown that enzymes taken this way have benefited arthritis sufferers, helped those with athletic injuries recover more quickly, and exhibited a very powerful anti-metastatic effect  in rats with cancer (the last when taken rectally…eww…but it works). All of these formulas contains the enzymes Pancreatin, Bromelain, Trypsin, Chymotrypsin, and Papain. Enzymes may have a mild blood-thinning effect, so as with all supplements, consult with your doctor before using.

Bromelain – Bromelain is a mix of protein digesting enzymes contained in pineapple, particularly the root. I take it prior to a workout for the same reasons listed above, for the lessening of inflammation and related athletic injuries (studies show that the enzyme effect is the strongest when taken prior to an injury). I take Now Foods, 500 mg of 2000 GDU Bromelain. I buy it from Vitaglo for a good price. “GDU,” gelatin digesting units, is a unit of Bromelain’s strength. Most experts recommend a higher GDU, which basically means that 1 mg of 2000 GDU Bromelain will digest twice as much protein as 1000 GDU Bromelain.

Pancreatin – Pancreatin is basically hog or beef pancreas extract. It sounds kind of gross, but believe it or not, the pancreas of an animal is not only edible, but considered a delicacy by some (it is often called “sweetbread”). I take Puritan’s Pride Pancreatin 1400 mg. You may wonder why I take all these enzymes. Well, studies show that to have the desired effect, you have to take quite a few, since the absorption rate of enzymes into the bloodstream is relatively low (the anti-cancer effect in the rat study linked above was 45 mg of protein digesting enzymes for every kg of body weight).

Rutin – Rutin is a sugar, and is found in the rinds of citrus fruits. It exhibits an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect, and is a source of Quercetin, one of the two nutrients (along with Resveratrol) that Drs. Oz and Roizen mention as having strong anti-aging possibilities because of their relationship with sirtuin. Rutin contains Quercetin, in that Rutin is a complex sugar consisting of Quercetin and Rutinose. I currently take 50 mg of Rutin before working out, from Puritan’s Pride, although it looks like they only sell the 500 mg tablets now (Rutin is dirt cheap, and I can split the tablets into fourths).

Acetyl L-Carnitine or DMAE– ALC is a form of the amino acid Carnitine, and is thought to help improve memory and enhance brain function. DMAE, found naturally in Salmon, is supposed to have similar effects, so I tend to take a half dose of one or the other before working out. A lot of people (including myself) notice an enhancement of vision, perception, and mental stamina after taking one of these supplements, usually about 30-40 minutes after taking it. I currently take 150 mg of ALC or 50 mg of DMAE (from Puritan’s Pride) before a workout, although to avoid any possible side-effects, I don’t take them together. I am not implying these nutrients are unsafe, but I play it safe with unproven substances. To take the half-doses that I do, I have to break open a capsule and empty half of the powder in a large spoon, and then reseal the capsule. I drip in a little water, let the chemicals dissolve slightly, and then its bottom’s up! ALC tastes sweet, and DMAE tastes awful. Acetyl L-Carnitine and DMAE can make a person jumpy, and if you get a rapid heart bear, etc, you should stop exercising, and cut back next time. Same for DMAE. Because of the mild mental effects, I wouldn’t take it near bedtime. Personally, I wouldn’t take more than the doses I listed at once.

Whew…Okay, that’s about it. I should note that for the enzymes to be effective you have to have an empty stomach when you take them. This means you must wait 2-3 hours after your last meal. I have tried to list the places I have found with the best prices, since supplements are often overpriced if you don’t buy them from the right places.

Change #3: Go Sugar Free

This is definitely one of the more difficult changes and thanks to Chad for reminding me to address it. I admit that I used to hate the taste of artificial sweeteners and going unsweetened wasn’t really my cup of tea either (especially in tea). However, a teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories and a person doesn’t have to be a math major to know that removing sugar from your diet can make a big difference. Of course, the main question is “how?” There are two major options, both of which I’ve used.

1. Go “sweetless” when possible- This is probably the best option overall, but also the most difficult. It means avoiding sweet foods altogether or accepting that some foods were simply meant to be enjoyed bitter (like coffee or tea). I’ve done this occasionally, for example gradually shifting to drinking only unsweetened iced tea. But, I have a sweet tooth and simply can’t drink black coffee. I’ve tried.

2. Use artificial or natural sweeteners or buy “sugar free” products- This option has a few difficulties since artificial sweeteners have their own set of health issues, which I’m not going to go into here. Using articial sweeteners like Splenda and Equal (in order of my favorite; I can’t stomach Sweet and Low) have helped me enjoy items like coffee, tea, and even baked goods without the added sugar. I prefer to put stevia in my coffee and yogurt if at all possible since it’s natural. I’ve also bought many “sugar free” items from the store or restaurants and these have also been a big help. You’d be surprised how many options are out there. My Wal-Mart typically offers several sugar free cookie, pie, and cake choices in their bakery. Even my local Amish restaurant sells sugar free pies and desserts. I should add that these are sugar free and not usually low calorie. They are, however, typically lower in calories than their counterparts. For example, a piece of sugar free pumpkin pie has around 200 calories while a regular piece has around 320; both are loaded with fat. You still can’t eat the whole pie, but if you are craving it, those 100 or so fewer calories make a big difference. I also drink a lot of sugar free lemonade, grape, and strawberry drinks. They are cheap and taste great. If you don’t like the taste of artificial or other sweeteners, give them a few days and you will probably get used to them. I don’t even notice I’m having artificially sweetened products anymore.

Change #1: Stevia

This is the first blog post documenting my lifestyle change from fat to fit. It is designed to encourage others seeking the same path as well as provide helpful advice.

The first day that I decided to turn my life around was also the first day I tried the natural sweetener stevia. I don’t think it’s a coincidence! Since then, stevia has been a mainstay in my diet. I mainly use it in coffee, but also in plain yogurt and other things. Stevia is calorie free, but unlike artificial sweeteners, is all natural. It has a very unique sweetness that comes on gradually, a nice effect once you get used to it. I buy mine from Trader Joe’s, the cheapest option that I’ve seen, in the pure extract powder form (without filler). This means that a teeny, tiny spoonful (about half the size of a pea) can sweeten an entire cup of coffee. A couple ounces, at a price of about 10 dollars, lasts me 6 months. I drink a cup of coffee at home every morning and 2 more on weekends (I drink coffee at work, but use Splenda). So, throughout the last year, I have used stevia in roughly 600 cups of coffee. Assuming that I would normally use 2 teaspoons of sugar, at 32 calories, using stevia has saved me 16000 calories, or in more concrete terms, 4.5 pounds.

More tips to come!