May 10, 2012

Born to Eat - 1, Love Handles of Death

Mr. Fickle, I started crafting a crabby cabbage post on the concoction below, but decided to rewind a bit and share my philosophy on food and health instead.  As I smacked the Mac, it was clear I need to break this into a series. 

My B&P blog motto is fast becoming:

    Make you angry.  

I hope this food and health series causes more thinking than rage, but who knows.  Let's do this.

Which factor below presents the greatest risk to a person's health:

    A) Smoking
    B) Obesity
    C) Crazy tanning-bed lady
    D) Heavy drinking (alcoholic)

Ding dong if you answered B.  That's a surprise, I'd peg smoking as most harmful.

So we have a weight problem in America, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 35% of adults and 17% of children are obese in this country.  Nearly 70% of adults are overweight or obese.  Heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, stroke and tight pants are all yoked directly to obesity.  U.S. obesity-related medical costs approach $300,000,000,000 (that's $300 billion) per year. 

You get the point.

Another question for you...which of the following is more effective for weight loss:

    A) Diet
    B) Exercise

I'd guess exercise, but the correct answer is diet.  This is especially true for women, research shows ladies may lose NOTHING with vigorous exercise alone, if they don't also trim their fat intake.  

From what I've read, here's my understanding of weight loss mechanics:
  • Diet alone is the simplest and most direct method for cutting weight.  It's often easier to reduce 500 calories from your day than to sweat out 500 calories.  Burning 500 calories = a 5 mile run.  Most people won't run 5 miles a day, but many can trim 500 calories from their plate with simple changes.
  • Diet and exercise combined cut weight the fastest, but require extra time and commitment to pull off consistently.  Exercise can spike the appetite, which is fine as long as the burn exceeds your caloric intake.  
  • Exercise is effective for maintaining weight, but incoming fat needs to be kept in check.
  • Extreme dieting and fad diets are dumb.  They eventually backfire and often cause weight gain in the long run. 

The best diets are those that are realistic and sustainable for a lifetime.  Mom was on Weight Watchers growing up, she literally weighed and tracked every morsel of food.  That's silly, it's not realistic or sustainable to expect a person to scale food every day of their life.  So I'd argue the Weight Watchers plan she was on was flawed since it was impossible to stick to.

Common sense eating is a good way to ease into intake changes.  Begin with simple tweaks like cutting soda, limiting junk food to twice a month and pounding down water.  Once that solidifies into a habit, slowly introduce additional food changes while adding on a daily 2-mile walk/jog combo.  Slow and steady, molding habits through consistency are what count on the wide timeline of a healthy lifestyle.

So we know obesity jabs health harder than smoking.  Diet controls weight better than exercise alone.  This means what we eat is deadly important.  Since our children's eating habits are molded by what they are fed growing up, parents should be careful about what's for dinner.  

I'll dig more on what I feed my kid and why next time on the series.

I'd like to shape the flow of this food and health discussion by your input.  Please share in comments your thoughts on the matter.  Speak up and tell me where I'm wrong.  And let me know if there's something specific you'd like me to write about on diet and exercise.

The health screening today showed my cholesterol pegged at 254, send help.

 Bon app├ętit!



  1. Anonymous5/11/2012

    Oh, if it were just calorie intake.... I'm not going to go into which of those risk factors apply to me (yes, plural), but I will point out that there is another important factor in weight management that becomes far more influential in weight loss success as we age, especially as women age, and that is metabolism. I don't know the exact science behind it, but I will say that in my teens and twenties, I could simply diet alone (albeit extreme dieting, as girls that age are wont to do) and the weight would drop right off. Perhaps metabolism is a finite thing, and if we overuse it when we're young, we don't have any left in storage. Maybe it just dissipates over time. All I know is that now, in my late forties, I seem to have none left. I promise you that I could go two weeks eating only 500 calories or less a day, and I would lose hardly anything. I have even been known to gain after such attempts. It is as if my body has grown fond of the extra fat and wants to keep it. Anyway, this is my perpective and why the "diet PLUS exercise" mantra seems to be the only answer. Now, if I could just get the exercise part going...... You obviously love running. Any tips on how to get from sedentary to loving to run? Once a person "gets it", they have all the motivation they need to get outside and go.

    1. I have 3 pieces of advice for you...and this comes from somebody who HATED to run 4 years ago (and recently ran a marathon and am training for a 50k in October).

      First, check out the Couch to 5k (commonly referred to as the C25k program). It takes a hating non-runner to a 5k finisher in 9 weeks (but you can take longer if need be). I'm a firm believer in this program. I'm a product of the C25k program and I know tons of other people who have started running by using this very same program.

      Second, as silly and as cliche as it may sound, sign up for a race. I recommend the tiny little local running club races. I know that the entry fees for our local races is $5-10. It makes you that much more motivated to complete your training!

      Third, try trail running as an alternative to road running. I say this for several reasons. The most important reason to me is because I DESPISE the pounding of pavement. It's boring and monotonous. On trail it's a different story. You have to be alert and pay attention or you wind up tripping and landing in cactus or with mesquite thorns in your knees (in my part of the world, at least!). The scenery is MUCH better and it's a lot easier to run sans headphones (running WITH headphones is a dangerous practice in itself for a variety of reasons). In addition to all of the other perks of trail running, it's easier on your body. You just don't have the impact on your joints. Hello! Soft dirt or hard pavement? I'm obviously a die-hard trail girl so I may be a biased, but I always encourage people to try the different options that they may not know about. Something will fit!

      Good luck in your running endeavor and DO NOT GIVE UP!

    2. Andrea5/11/2012

      I have to aree with G about he couch to 5K program. I started the program at which is a little different from cool running's program because it's 10 weeks and uses different timed running intervals, but I'm mid week 9 and I'm really happy about it.

      My other piece of advice to you is to get a friend to do it with you or just let people know about your goal. When I first started I wanted to keep it secret from my coworkers (I run after work because my building is right next to the entrance to a really nice rail trail) because I was worried that I couldn't do it and didn't want people to know if I failed. But on my very first day of running, a coworker saw me all changed into my running clothes and was like "what are you doing?". So obviously after that everyone knew what I was doing, but in the long run it has actually helped me. Everyone is really supportive and they like to ask me how the running is going. Someone that I don't talk to much even came up to me and offered running adive (since she is from a family of runners) and she even gave me a $10 off coupon she had for new running shoes. It has really helped me stay motivated!

    3. G and Andrea covered this perfectly, I don't have anything else to add. Other than make sure you get a quality pair of running shoes and real running shorts and shirt. Proper shoe fit is key to a bane on blisters, try and hit a running shop that will help analyze your stride and fit you with the proper running shoe.

  2. You are right on. Diet and exercise is the way to go. I tell my patients after heart surgery to eat lean meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables. I explain to them how important it is to attempt to cut preservatives and processed foods. I have even been so bold to have some patients research a whole foods diet, and to incorporate meat if they still wanted to eat meat. I am currently fascinated with Dr. Weil's anti-inflammatory diet. I am fascinated by it. I recently lost 10 pounds cutting my calories, and exercising. It does work. There is great truth in diet when it comes to women. Especially after having children and being in your late 30's.

    1. A paper I read said a group of women in the study age 40 to 50 needed to do 1 hour of vigorous exercise 6 days a week just to MAINTAIN weight. That's a daunting number. The "20 minutes a day 3 days a week" is a dishonest estimate of how much we need to sweat each day, and that's assuming we eat the right foods. Eat the wrong junk and we need to workout more than an hour a day.

  3. Hannah5/11/2012

    As far as your cholesterol, you also have to not only look at the big number (254) but the breakdown (HDL vs. LDL, triglycerides etc.). I'm one of those nutrition facts label readers at the grocery store who you don't want to be stuck behind. But to me, it's so worth the dirty looks. Obviously, the exercise portion of your life isn't the issue so take a closer (if you already don't) look at those pesky labels. You might be surprised! Good luck. :)

    1. My HDL (good cholesterol) is 69, which is good since optimal is > 60.
      My LDL (bad cholesterol) is 172, which is bad since optimal is < 100.
      My triglycerides are 66, which is good since < 150 is considered normal.
      My total cholesterol/HDL ration is 3.7, which is good since < 4.6 is desirable.

      Decent overall, but I need to work on lowering that LDL number. I blame DNA: I eat healthy and workout a bunch, but my folks both have high cholesterol numbers.

  4. Anonymous5/11/2012

    Agree with ^ total cholesterol is not enough check this for more

    To live well EAT REAL FOOD, ditch refined foods and vegetable oils. Focus on complete body exercise rather than cardio.

    Grok on :)

    1. Agree, my numbers a okay, other than I need to bring that LDL number down. LDL last year was 140, 172 this year, likely because I slacked on eating oatmeal each morning. I've found oatmeal is good for a 20 to 30 point drop in overall and LDL cholesterol numbers.

      Cardio running/biking and weight lifting mix is what I do, good stressor for the heart, lungs and muscles, plus it's fun.

    2. Anonymous5/11/2012

      While your exercise regimen is certainly great, you may want to watch your food. You should aim for a TC/HDL ration of less than 3.4, A low-carb diet will definitely help you with that. An increase in tri-glycerides (marker of poor coronary health) is definitely a result of high carb diet (check American Heart Association-->What your numbers mean).
      Oatmeal may be good, but dont you think a 2 egg omelet with spinach, sundried tomato (maybe some pasture raised bacon as well) is a better breakfast and quick to make as well?? That will give you the same result in your numbers as oatmeal will.
      If you are worried about saturated fat its really not the devil it is made out to be

    3. I do eat healthy, triglyceride # is solid at 66, so carbs aren't the problem. I think genetics are playing heavily into the mix here.

      Eggs are high in cholesterol and may actually raise your blood cholesterol levels, unless you eat just the egg whites (the bad stuff's in the yokes). They taste great though, we do whole wheat pancakes and eggs nearly every weekend. Oatmeal is the clear win during the week for chol' fighting abilities, I go with plain rolled oats and add cinnamon, flax seed and a shake of brown sugar.

    4. Anonymous5/11/2012

      "may actually raise your blood cholesterol levels, unless you eat just the egg whites (the bad stuff's in the yokes)" is not true at all...The yoke is infact the most nourishing part of the egg as most of the nutrients lie therein!! Check this link for further reading
      Also cholesterol is not entirely bad

    5. Sweet, we eat whole eggs when we do them on the weekends, so we're good. A Mayo Clinic paper I read spins it a little differently than the article you sent, saying eggs may increase cholesterol. I think it depends on how many we eat and how they affect each individual person's blood levels. But I tend to agree with you on the whole egg approach.

      I'm fairly confident oatmeal is more effective than eggs at lowering LDL. The one diet factor I've changed this past year is dropping oatmeal, and my LDL shot up accordingly (even with continuing eggs on weekends). I'll add rolled oats back into my daily breakfast, I guarantee the LDL number will improve for 2013.

      Good info, especially that second link above, thanks for sending!

  5. Shannon5/11/2012

    With all the exercise you do I would not be surprised if your HDL (the "good" cholesterol) is quite high & that is what's driving your "elevated" cholesterol numbers. If that's the case I would not be concerned. What does your doctor say?

    1. My good cholesterol is high, but so is my bad, so I need to return to pounding the oatmeal each morning to help with that bloated LDL.

  6. Anonymous on the couch5/11/2012

    Great feedback from everyone - special Thanks to those replying to me with the Couch25K suggestions. Much appreciated!

    1. Good luck Anon, hope you'll race a 5K+ this year!

  7. Anonymous5/11/2012

    Reading your post, yesterday, during my morning train ride commute inspired me. I had a baby in November and have only lost 20 of the 47 pounds, that I have gained.

    This is exactly what I need to read.

    I wanted to come make a comment to thank you.

    I skipped all of the other ones as to not dissuade myself from my current line of thinking.

    Thank you for the motivation!

  8. Eep! Great post, except for the fact that I just signed an online membership with Weight Watchers three days ago! Seriously, I remember Weight Watchers from back in the day (I'm 48 years old) and it was a pain to weigh each and every thing and it ALL counted against you. There have been a lot of changes to the program in recent years, with "tools" like learning that a 3 oz. serving of meat is roughly the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards - no need for scales! And there are "free" foods that you can eat without worry (fruits, veggies - in normal moderation, of course).

    I need to track what I eat to keep me accountable. There have been days that I've started out with a plan, but if I don't write it down, I think I've eaten less than I really have. (Unfortunately, I've developed a BAD habit of perceiving food as entertainment. Not a bad thing on your birthday ... a little more so two, three or more times a week.) Hoping the online plan will keep me honest. I downloaded the app to my iPod Touch to keep track on the road.

    I knew I had to do something when I discovered I was packing 212 lbs. on my 5' 2" frame. While I don't have any ridiculous notions about regaining the cute figure I had when I was 25 and even 30 years old, I have made my goal weight 145, which I think is reasonable. Starting with "baby steps" - my short-term goal is 201, and when I weighed yesterday, I'd managed to reach 209.5.

    As far as exercise goes, I banged up my knee twice: once on Christmas Eve when I missed a step and fell full force on my knees and then again when I somehow managed to trip walking across a sidewalk on February 10. The knee is still a bit wonky (and I probably should have gone to the doctor, but I thought it would heal up on its own). Jogging/running are out. But we have a Wii and I think my 16 year old daughter and I are going to start doing some fun stuff with that in the evenings. As long as you're moving, it's exercise, right?

    1. The WW plan mom was on was flawed, due to unrealistic expectations for weighing food. That was back 25 years ago, I agree the newer WW plans have evolved to the point where they are simplified and can be followed more easily.

      I think there is value in tracking food, especially in the early phase of a weight plan, to:

      1. Determine how many calories a day we are actually eating. Most of us eat more calories, fat and salt than we are aware.
      2. Ensure our modified eating plan is hitting our daily caloric intake goal.

      Once you figure out how many calories are in various foods, what a proper portion size is, and it becomes habit, tracking may become less necessary. The app you downloaded will be a great way to more easily track your intake.

      For workouts, there are some excellent apps on the App App Store you can download to your iPod to help. The "You Are Your Own Gym" app is a couple bucks and gets top reviews. It lets you workout with stuff around the house, check the reviews and see if it'll work for you.

      You got this, good luck!

  9. Anonymous5/13/2012

    More good advice....don't drink your calories. Milk and a little fruit juice is OK. The average American probably drinks more than 1/3 of their daily caloies and that is a huge problem.

    1. Liquid calories are deceiving, they add up faster than they fill you up, and they're usually concentrated in the form of high fructose corn syrup. I'm also not a fan of zero calorie drinks that sweeten artificially, I'm pretty sure that craps not doing' the body any good.

      My first dieting tip is to alway start with adding more water each day. It rinses the internals while while keeping the appetite in check. Often when we feel hungry, we are actually just thirsty.

    2. That is so true, many people don't realize that when they are actually thirsty, instead mistaking it for hunger. I would suggest that anyone who is having problems maintaining weight to drink water at three important points - 1) immediately after waking, 2) immediately before eating every meal, and 3) anytime you think you need to have a snack.

  10. Anonymous5/13/2012

    Likewise, portion control and too many processed foods are health busters.

    1. Do people know what a proper portion size is? When eating out, I usually order one meal and split with my kid, and even then we sometimes have leftovers.

      General pattern is folks eat too much processed and very little whole foods. Bloating the body with refined sugar and sodium, even as it starves for nutrients.

    2. Anonymous5/13/2012

      My honest answer is - no. Most people don't consciously eat. A person certainly doesn't want to become so fixated what he/she eats that it becomes a chore or unhealthy obsession, but it's important to establish and sustain good habits. And to do so, requires conscious thought, at least in the beginning. For most of us, it's a humbling experience, but we're better off for it in the long-run.

  11. I try to stay away from industrialized foods, anything that comes in a box or bag that isn't organic, I avoid. I eat lots of meat, fish, dairy, and use butter, but I buy organic or grass-fed. I avoid anything that is labeled low-fat, low-carb, or no sugar. I try to avoid anything with refined sugars, refined oils (unrefined coconut oil is ideal), or food colorings.

    If you read about GMOs and how lax the American government is in regards to regulation and research, you'll be astounded. For me, it's about quality of life over longevity. Sure, I want to live to a nice old age, but I don't want to be battling heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

    I'm only 25, but over the last two years I've become a lot more aware of the importance of feeding your body right. I'm a firm believer in a return to more natural living/eating. I grow some of my own vegetables, have a couple of chickens that lay eggs... I like to know how where my food came from, preferably a farm over a factory or worse yet, a lab.

    Incorporating digestive aids into your diet like cinnamon, lemon juice, yogourt can really help in the long term too.

    I love to eat, and rarely diet, I drink a bit every week, and exercise 2 to 3 times a week. I feel so much better having cut sugars and processed foods. Some people spend excessive amounts of money on electronics or clothes or what have you, but I just tend to spend a bit more at the grocery store on quality items, because I think it's probably worth it in the long run.

    1. Keep in mind that an item labeled organic doesn't mean no pesticides were used on it. I think many products labeled "organic" are a sham...unless I know the producer personally, I have no idea what types of chemicals were used. I'm certainly not going to pay 20% to 100% more for something with a fancy organic label.

      I'm a bigger fan of all-natural products. Trader Joe's is a good example, most of what they sell is all-natural. Not necessarily organic, and since they package it in a generic label, you're not paying premium price like you would at some high end "organic" shops.

      We also grow a garden and don't use chemicals, so it produces organic produce in the purest sense. I'm 100% sure of what's going into my veggies that way, plus growing your own costs only a few bucks.

      Time to switch back to my morning oatmeal with cinnamon and flax seed to get the LDL roped in.

      Thanks for the comment and encouragement to eat right!

    2. You're definitely right about the labels and mark-ups, and that's why I try to shop at local farmer's markets and do research on the brands that I do buy. It takes a lot of time to understand exactly what you're eating, but it kind of makes sense to understand what you're shoveling into your face.

      I eat rolled oats with cinnamon every morning, it's a great quick start to the morning!

    3. and for me my primary concern is genetically modified foods, which cannot be sold under the label "organic" but can be considered "natural" or "all natural". You can thank the FDA for that.

    4. Anonymous5/16/2012

      Curious, if you don't mind sharing, what's a typical food-day look like for you?

    5. Hoping Stanton will chime in too, not sure if Anon was asking him or me.

      Let's see, we start with a 5-egg meatnormous omelet for breakfast, pork rinds for late morning snack, brisket for a light lunch....

      Just kidding, during the work week, a typical menu goes something like this:

      Breakfast - Hot green tea or coffee, apple, oatmeal with flax/cinn', 20 oz of water
      Lunch - Usually leftovers from last night's dinner, 60+ oz of water in the afternoon after the workout
      Snacks - We like yoghurt, fresh fruit, prunes, popcorn, unsalted nuts and tortillas with salsa
      Dinner - Spring and summer I grill often: chicken breast, fish and sometimes burgers. I try to include milk, grilled vegetables or greens with each meal.

      We've been on a kick lately doing meatless burritos with vegetarian refried beans, black beans, sharp cheddar, shards of cucumber, cilantro, smoked salsa and a spoon of sour cream.

      Colder months we do oven bakes, soups, roasts, homemade pizza and baked chicken.

      Weekends we do eggs and whole wheat pancakes, Indian buffet for lunch on Sat., dinner depends on what we're in the mood for and how lazy I'm feeling.

    6. Anonymous5/17/2012

      Thanks Beard! Stanton, you there? Many voices lend many choices. Anyone else?

  12. Eek on the cholesterol! My BF's dad went to a nutritionist who suggested flax seed, whole grains, and Kashi (with flax and whole grains). He's lost 20 lbs (not a big guy to begin with) and lowered it so he doesn't need medication for the first time in years. Obviously it's specific to you but might be worth it to see if your insurance will cover a consultation with a nutritionist.

    I also agree with the no-anti eggs idea, I read today that you can have 2 whole eggs a week without really impacting cholesterol since they don't understand the correlation between food and cholesterol levels completely.

    Good luck!

    1. I'll switch back to whole rolled oats, cinnamon and flax seed for breakfast, I bet my LDL drops 20 to 30 points by next year. I'll get another blood test in 2013, we'll see if it pays off.

      Mmmmm....eggs, yum.

  13. Anonymous5/21/2012

    I found this article in Delicious Living Magazine (the one they give out free in Hy-Vee's health food section). Thought you might be interested, as I remember reading that you make your coffee with a french press.

    Also, I was really touched by Curl's writing this week. As a fellow Iowan (Cedar Rapids), and Catholic, I am praying for both of you. I really hope that you both can find the peace that you need so you can move forward in life together. God bless!

    1. That article is news to me, first time I've heard French pressing the beans can bloat the LDL. The taste of a cup brewed with a press is so delicious that I don't plan on backing down soon. Hoping that ragged LDL number will dip 30 points by next year if I keep up on the daily oatmeal regimen.

      Thanks for the note and prayers, we'll take them!


Thanks for the note, check back for my response!