The Power of the Mind and Weight Loss

The mind is powerful, and it is apparently so powerful, that a woman who was hypnotized to believe she had gastric-bypass surgery actually is losing weight! In fact, the woman, just like those who have undergone gastric-bypass surgery, gets a sick feeling if she eats too much.

While I am not sure if I would want to undergo hypnosis to lose weight, I do believe the mind is powerful and capable of literally helping us create our own reality (have you ever noticed how it seems bad things always happen to those people who always expect it?).

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

Choosing Eating Over Life

Connie: You would rather stuff yourself and roll around in your stupid electric cart than take me to the dance?

Bobby: Why, I guess I would.

This little conversation comes from the TV show King of the Hill when chubby Bobby Hill develops gout from eating too many deli type foods from a local restaurant and prefers to keep the food (and the gout) rather than go to the dance with his girlfriend.

This storyline is indicative of the decisions many people, especially in the USA, make on a daily basis. They choose food over many of life’s alternatives. Now, the choice may not be as clear cut as in King of the Hill, but it is real. Obesity can often lead to lack of mobility, shortness of breath, a lower quality of life, and an early death. So, in a sense, by choosing to eat too much, many people are rejecting such things like an active lifestyle, playing with their kids, general mobility, and spending a longer time on earth with their loved ones.

I love food and believe it should be enjoyed in life, but not at the expense of the other good things. The sad truth is that large numbers of people are choosing food over living life.

Iceland’s Massive Decline in Coronary Deaths

From 1981-2006, mortality rates from heart disease went down by 80% in Iceland. Yes, that is 80%. In an era when we hear about chronic disease rates going up, how in the world can Iceland have such a massive reduction in heart disease?? Researchers recently studied why this happened, and they have concluded that 3/4 of the reductions were due to lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise, eating healthier foods, and quitting smoking. That is it, basic lifestyle changes that are pretty simple (although admittedly often difficult to implement, because of addiction, habit, etc).

It is really unbelievable that a disease that is largely preventable takes so many lives in the U.S. each year, and causes our health care costs to skyrocket. Maybe U.S. citizens should look to the good people of Iceland for direction.

A Disappointing 2010

The US Dept. and Health and Human Services, in 2000, outlined goals for national health promotion. Specifically, they hoped to make the United States healthier by 2010 in several measurable categories. Let’s just say that unless some trends dramatically reverse (parting of the Red Sea level drama, mind you), 2010 will be very disappointing.

For example, they wanted to increase the percentage of those at a healthy weight to 60% of the population by 2010. At the time, the number was around 42%. As of 2004, the estimate was 33%. They also wanted to lower the obesity rate to less than 15% of the population. They were working with a 23% number. As of 2004, it stands at 32%. I’m going with 2004 figures because I have them available, but the numbers now are probably even worse.

These numbers are actually good compared to the nutrition ones. The government wanted 50% of the population to consume at least three daily servings of vegetables. The original number was a whopping 3%. By 2004, that number was pretty much the same. Yikes! The goal for 6 daily servings of grains was 50% and the trends are not better: starting at 7% it was also largely unchanged in 2004.

While the government has made strides in other ways, the numbers are not good and the US population doesn’t seem to be embracing health in meaningful ways. The government will never solve this problem, for a variety of reasons. But, private individuals and businesses through incentives and persuasion just might. Why? Because media, commercialism, and society have gotten us into our current mess and only those factors can probably get us out.

So, to all of our many creative and thoughtful readers. Start working! 2010 is just around the corner and the government could use a bailout.

Political Pork

Congressmen and women are having the same problems many Americans are having these days: gaining weight. The article I linked to blames long hours, poor food choices, economic stress, and extra workload. It’s tempting to think of these people negatively since they are politicians, but I actually felt an odd degree of sympathy. Perhaps because it’s a struggle that I’ve faced and still struggle with.

My guess is that the issues cited in the article are ones that lots of Americans face and have faced. It’s helpful to see that it’s not just the average person who is struggling. In fact, the statistics suggest that it’s every American. I also hope that as the leaders of our nation battle the bulge they will realize the value in letting ordinary Americans enjoy the same benefits they do, like good food choices (the congressional cafeteria is amazing), gym access, and nutrition consulting. And hopefully they’ll stop subsidizing crap for our schools. But, that’s another issue.

Although I disagree with a lot of what he is doing politically, I will grant that Obama is a great role model for health and fitness (except for smoking). When the media mocked him for being a gym rat, I was annoyed. If only everyone spent as much time in the gym as Obama, I guarantee that our nation’s health and healthcare system would be much better off. Congress could use, at least on this one issue, to follow the President’s lead.

Kids Need Self-Control To Stay Fit

A few weeks ago at church, I noticed there were two families sitting in front of me. The first had about 5 kids, ages 2 to 13, all well-behaved, and when they stopped paying attention or screwing around, mom and dad were quick to put a stop to it. The other family had 3 kids, and they were not paying attention, screwing around, and the parents didn’t really seem too bothered by it (although all of us around them wished they were better behaved). It made me wonder if many cases of ADD are a result being raised in a home where there is no discipline or expectations to sit still. What is my point in all of this? Being raised as an undisciplined child may actually make you fat later. A new study shows kids who lack self-control are more prone to obesity later in life. Thus, the study’s authors recommend that parents try to improve self-control in kids in order to help them remain healthy later.

REALLY? You mean all that buddy parenting and hands-off parenting isn’t a good idea? Okay, okay, I know I should lay off the sarcasm, but does this generation of parents really need to be told to actually parent? Apparently. Kids need supervision, guidance, and discipline. This reminds me of an encounter I witnessed a few years ago. A child was sticking his fingers around a light socket. Jonathan said “don’t you think you should get him away from that?” The mother responded, “ahh, once he sticks it in once he won’t do it again.” Parent of the year!

One In Five Four Year Olds Is Obese

Yes, you read that statistic right. According to a recent study, one in five American four year olds is obese. In addition, the study revealed racial disparities with Hispanics, blacks, and American Indians having an even higher rate. The American Indian number was a disturbing 31%.

Now, these statistics are troubling in and of themselves, but considering that people are more likely to gain excess weight as they get older, these statistics are even scarier. How many of this new generation of children will be obese when they reach the age of ten or eighteen? Most troubling for our society and its fragile healthcare system, how many will be obese when they are forty?

As many who read this blog know, I used to be fat. However, I was not fat as a child. I can pinpoint the exact time I got fat. It was when I got a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Previously, I spent most of my time outside, however, after the NES, rather than kickball, I preferred Mario Bros. And, my figure showed it. How many of these four year olds suffer the same problems, like lack of activity? Judging by the stats, quite a few.

We have our work cut out for us!

Obesity Could Cost You A Decade

A huge study of studies involving over 900,000 people has concluded that being obese can take up to ten years off of a person’s life. General obesity can take off two to four years while extreme obesity, eight to ten. Of course, what the article doesn’t deal with either is quality of life issues. I wonder how many “years” of truly living obesity has taken off people’s lives as well. Either way, the study confirms that obesity leaves many widows and orphans.

Vitamin D and Obesity

Summer Day

Could a little sunshine melt away the pounds? Well, I suppose if the sun is hot enough it would, or…making a little extra Vitamin D might be less painful. At any rate, I found a really cool “quiz” that sums up the Vitamin D and obesity research in a fun way.

The studies on Vitamin D, sunlight, and obesity tend to suggest that moving to from a high to low altitude, thus decreasing sun exposure, increases body fat. There are other factors that could lead to increased body fat besides Vitamin D levels in these cases. However, other studies controlled for these other factors, and found that when populations that dress modestly (e.g. Saudi Arabian women) moved altitudes, there was no weight gain or loss. This suggests that Vitamin D could be the weight-loss/weight-gain factor here.

Studies show that obese individuals have lower circulating levels of Vitamin D and Calcidiol than normal-weighted individuals.  In what could be an exciting finding, some studies have shown a linear relationship between body fat and blood calcidiol (that is, as the calcidiol in the blood drops, body fat goes up, and vice versa). Of course, more research is needed before it is clearly known what role Vitamin D plays in obesity, but it is pretty exciting!

Anecdotally, upping my Vitamin D intake to 1000-2000 IU/day coincided with my “turning the corner” in my effort to gain muscle, and lose fat (even when eating more than I should have). I know that correlation does not imply causation, which is why I am only providing this as an anecdote. I also tend to do a lot of the right things related to my health, so it would be unwise to give Vitamin D all the credit.

Vitamin D is cheap. It is available. It is pretty much non-toxic. If there is one supplement we should be taking (especially in the winter) it is Vitamin D. I take quite a few supplements, but if I was limited to one, it would be Vitamin D (it is funny…but 10 years ago it probably would have been dead last on my list…but recent research has changed all that).

Image taken by me in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, in 2007.