Friday, April 6, 2012

Is It Safe To Exercise With A Cold?

Is it safe to exercise with a cold? Science says yes!

Is it Safe To Exercise With A Cold?

We have all been there: You  wake up feeling like warm death. Your nose is so stuffed up that you can barely breathe, and the idea of the coming day makes you want to cringe. One question that immediately comes to mind is about your upcoming trip to the gym and is it safe to exercise with a cold? For a serious athlete, a head cold is nothing more than a nuisance and wouldn’t deter most from missing a scheduled workout and we all know the old wives tale of the sweating out a cold. The hard and fast rule that I use with my personal training clients has always been to go ahead and exercise with a cold as long as the symptoms were confined to coughing, sneezing and mild malaise. If fever or body aches are included in the symptoms, however, I always advocate rest. Personally, when I exercise with a cold I don’t usually scale back my high intensity workouts. Sometimes I will go to the gym intent on taking it easy when I have a cold, but 99% of the time I end up training as hard as I always do once I am all warmed up and my blood gets pumping.  Thanks to the strides in our understanding of human biology we know today that while it is physically impossible to ‘sweat out a cold’ - it might not only be safe to exercise with a cold but actually beneficial and speed up the healing process!

Study Finds No Decrease In Capacity In Subjects That Exercise With A Cold

A study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise conducted at Ball University found that there was no decrease in lung function or exercise capacity in the test subjects exercising after being infected with the rhinovirus, even though they all reported feeling tired and run down from their infection. In the same study, researchers found that there was no difference in overall symptoms between those that rested and those that continued to exercise with a cold. In fact, the results from the questionnaires found that those that did exercise with a cold reported feeling significantly better after their training sessions.

Exercising With A Cold Is Not Only Safe But Can Help You Feel Better Faster!

As I mentioned before, for serious athletes a cold is hardly an issue. I have worked with clients that have run marathons with a cold and clocked their best times in the process! I myself even won a bodybuilding contest with a really bad head cold a couple of years back! If you reflect on the harsh and unforgiving nature of life for humans as a species for the past several thousand of years of our existence, it makes sense that in a time when survival depended on physical exertion that nature would equip us with the ability to achieve peak performance even with a cold.
It says a lot as well about our own mindset, and just how little of our potential that we tap into on a daily basis. So next time you come down with a head cold, don’t let it keep you from continuing your workout regime as long as you don’t have any lower body symptoms or fevers. You might even feel better in the process!
Continue to Read more ...

The Dangers Of Visceral Abdominal Fat

The Dangers Of Visceral Abdominal Fat

In the olden days body fat was considered to be mainly a storage mechanism for our bodies in order to have an easily accessed supply of energy in the event of food shortage or prolonged periods of activity. However we know today that there are different kinds of fat- visceral (surrounding the abdominal organs) or subcutaneous (fat that lies between the skin and the abdominal walls).  The cosmetic considerations aside, several  studies show that  high visceral fat levels increase risk factors for insulin resistance, which sets the stage for type 2 diabetes. (Some research suggests that the deeper layers of subcutaneous fat may also be involved in the development of insulin resistance (in men but not in women).

Visceral Abdominal Fat Plays A Major Role In Developing Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease

These fat cells in the abdominal area are not merely inert storage mechanisms- in fact they are very much biologically active. In a way you should think of fat as an organ onto itself, as it is able to produce hormones and other substances that can have a profound effect on our health. One such hormone secreted by fat cells is leptin. Leptin is usually released after a meal and sends a signal to your brain for you to stop eating. Another hormone produced by visceral fat cells is the hormone adiponectin, which is thought to influence the response of our cells to insulin. Although scientists are still learning more everyday about the roles of individual hormones, it is clear that excess body fat, especially visceral abdominal fat seems to disrupt the normal balance and functioning of these hormones. Thus our body doesn’t secrete insulin the way it should (insulin resistance) and our we overeat because our leptin levels are disrupted by the increased presence of visceral fat.

Visceral Abdominal Fat Creates Chronic Inflammation & Increase Cancer Risks

Another finding that has researchers looking at the link between abdominal fat deposits and increased risk of metabolic syndrome is the role of cytokines. Visceral fat produces these immune system chemicals (namely tumor necrosis factor and interleukin y6) that can bring about an increase in insulin resistance, increased risk of cardiovascular disease and chronic inflammation. Research also shows that there are other biochemicals coming from visceral abdominal fat that appear to have negative effects on insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and the body’s blood clotting ability. The alarming news is that the dangers of increased visceral abdominal fat don’t end at heart disease and diabetes, studies have found that a waist to hip ratio higher than 0.85 was linked to a 52% increase in risk for colorectal cancer among women.
Visceral Abdominal Fat Hampers Daily Activity & Brain Function
Another study on atherosclerosis done at Wake Forest University in North Carolina found interestingly enough that even among people of normal weight, those with higher waist to hip ratios had just as much difficulty performing the daily tasks of everyday life as those that with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI).  Apparently having a big belly seems to make simple tasks such as getting out of bed and performing routine household chores far more difficult! More shocking was a study presented at an annual meeting for the Society for Neuroscience which found that older people with bigger bellies had on average worse memory and less verbal fluency, and that was even when adjustments were made in the study to take diabetes into account.

How Do I Get Rid Of Visceral Fat?

So how do we combat this nefarious form of fat around our waists? Simple, exercise in conjunction with healthy eating are the most universally accepted and proven methods of reducing visceral abdominal fat. The great part is that by making healthy eating and exercising a regular part of your life not only will you reduce your risk of developing potentially fatal diseases, but you will look and feel better in the process as well!
Continue to Read more ...

As Little As One Drink Of Alcohol A Week Can Significantly Reduce Fat Loss

Just one drink of alcohol can stop your fat loss efforts!

As Little As One Drink Of Alcohol A Week Can Significantly Reduce Fat Loss

Here is the common statement- if you eat well and exercise regularly having a drink once a week or so isn’t going to affect your weight loss that much. Unfortunately, having worked with hundreds of people over the course of almost two decades I can tell you from personal experience that it will. In fact my observations over the years have borne out that by having as little as one drink of alcohol a week is more than enough to reduce your weight loss by over 60-70% as compared to those following the same dietary plan and exercise regime. More important is that for those final pounds to come off those that consistently had as little as one drink a week were never able to attain flat and rippling abdominals while those that did not drink were consistently able to do so while following the prescribed dietary and exercise protocols. Working with the individuals that indulged I was also always able to tell whether they were drinking or not as their performance in the gym was noticeably reduced if they consumed alcohol for well over 48 hours after consumption. Why does alcohol have such a negative impact on weight loss and performance- the standard idea is that alcohol is high in calories and to lose weight one must at all times burn more calories that you are taking in- but in reality this has nothing to do with why alcohol has such a negative effect as even low calorie alcoholic drinks are problematic. The real problem is that alcohol works to reduce the amount of fat your body is able to burn while increasing your appetite and lowering your testosterone levels for up to 24 hours after your last drink.
How alcohol can inhibt your fat loss efforts!After having a drink or two here is what happens to your body that you may not be aware of:
  • A some of the alcohol consumed is converted into fat.
  • Your liver converts most of the alcohol into acetate.
  • The acetate is released into your bloodstream, and replaces fat as a source of fuel.
  • The alcohol raises levels of the stress hormone, cortisol which also acts to increase muscle breakdown.
  • The alcohol also reduces testosterone levels.
  • The alcohol intake will increase your appetite thus making it more likely that you will overeat without being aware of it.

How Alcohol Inhibits Fat Loss

As we said earlier conventional thought is that beer bellies are caused by the excess alcohol calories being stored as fat- but studies have found that on average less than 5% of the alcohol calories you drink are converted by the liver into fat. Rather, the main problem with alcohol is that it reduces the amount of fat your body is able to burn for energy. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 8 men were given two drinks of vodka and sugar-free lemonade in half hour intervals. Each drink contained less than 90 calories and fat metabolism was measured both before and after consumption of the drinks. For several hours after drinking the vodka, whole body lipid oxidation which is the rate at which your body burns fat was reduced by 73%[1],!
Instead of being stored as fat, the tendency for your liver to convert alcohol into acetate. Acetate is used by your body as an alternative fuel source- one that replaces fat as a primary fuel source when it is present and available in your system. So when acetate levels rise your body burns more acetate and consequently significantly less fat. In the study it was found that blood acetate levels were 250% higher than normal and this sharp increase in acetate goes a long way in inhibiting fat loss.

Alcohol Makes You Eat More

The combination of alcohol and a high-calorie foods creates an even bigger problem as alcohol works to stimulate your appetite. The word aperitif is French in origin and refers to the alcoholic drink taken before meals to increase your appetite and has been a tradition for hundreds of years. A Canadian study showed that an aperitif increased calorie intake far more than a carbohydrate-based drink [2]. Many other studies have validated this and the bottom line is that you will always eat more when you consume alcohol with your meals.

Alcohol Reduces Testosterone Levels

As if it wasn’t bad enough, not only does too much alcohol inhibit fat loss, but it also decreases testosterone levels. Studies have shown that one bout of high alcohol consumption drinking raises levels of the muscle-wasting hormone cortisol and increases the breakdown of testosterone for up to 24 hours [3]. Even more alarming is the fact that it was found that the damaging effects of alcohol on testosterone are made even worse when you exercise before drinking [4]. The testosterone reducing effects of alcohol on testosterone could be one reason that people who drink a lot carry less muscle and thus are unable to achieve the levels of muscular development and fat loss required for a lean and sculpted physique. A 1993 study showed conclusively that alcoholic men have bigger waists and smaller muscles than those who abstain from alcoholic beverages [5].

Can You Have Maximum Weight Loss And Still Drink Occasionally?

Having alcohol with a meal will increase your metabolic rate, but will also reduce the amount of fat your body burns for energy — far more so than high protein, high carbohydrate, or high fat meals [6]. A drink once in a blue moon might not do that much but it is important to understand that if you really want to maximize your fat loss and muscle building efforts to create a truly lean and sculpted physique, alcohol is more of a liability than an asset. It isn’t always easy especially in many social situations, but at the end of the day it is important that we understand fully the consequences of our actions rather than pretending that a drink or two a week won’t make much of a difference.
1. Siler, S.Q., Neese, R.A., & Hellerstein, M.K. (1999). De novo lipogenesis, lipid kinetics, and whole-body lipid balances in humans after acute alcohol consumption. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70, 928-936
2. Buemann, B., Toubro, S., & Astrup, A. (2002). The effect of wine or beer versus a carbonated soft drink, served at a meal, on ad libitum energy intake. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 26, 1367-1372
3. Valimaki, M.J., Harkonen, M., Eriksson, C.J., & Ylikahri, R.H. (1984). Sex hormones and adrenocortical steroids in men acutely intoxicated with ethanol. Alcohol, 1, 89-93
4. Heikkonen, E., Ylikahri, R., Roine, R., Valimaki, M., Harkonen, M., & Salaspuro, M. (1996). The combined effect of alcohol and physical exercise on serum testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and cortisol in males. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 20, 711-716
5. Kvist, H., Hallgren, P., Jonsson, L., Pettersson, P., Sjoberg, C., Sjostrom, L., & Bjorntorp, P. (1993). Distribution of adipose tissue and muscle mass in alcoholic men. Metabolism, 42, 569-573
6. Raben A, Agerholm-Larsen L, Flint A, Holst JJ, Astrup A. (2003). Meals with similar energy densities but rich in protein, fat, carbohydrate, or alcohol have different effects on energy expenditure and substrate metabolism but not on appetite and energy intake. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 77, 91-100
Continue to Read more ...

You Can Eat Nuts Guilt Free And Not Gain Weight

Studies have shown that you can enjoy the health benefits of nuts without fear of gaining weight.

Nuts Will Not Make You Gain Weight 

You can’t have your cake and eat it as the expression goes, but you can have nuts and not worry too much about weight gain even thought they are high in calories and fats! One of the most interesting observations that I have made over the years is that people are able to eat peanuts and tree nuts in significant quantities and still lose weight in spite of the significant amount of calories that come with every handful. Nuts of all kind (what we categorize as nuts are not actually nuts at all- almonds, walnuts and pecans are technically fruits, cashews are seeds as are candlenuts, pistachios and pine nuts, macadamias are kernels and peanuts are actually legumes) are high in many valuable nutrients and have tremendous health benefits. Many nuts are rich sources of vitamins E and vitamin B2, and are rich in high in protein, making them quite popular among those who choose to avoid or limit their meat intake. Nuts are also high in folate, fiber, and vital minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and selenium. Nuts are also very high in fats namely essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic and most of the fats found in nuts are unsaturated and include monounsaturated fats which are extremely beneficial. Studies have found that people who consume nuts on a regular basis are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease1 and that certain nuts such as almonds and walnuts can lower LDL cholesterol levels (the bad cholesterol)2,3. In addition to their heart friendly benefits, nuts are also recommended foods for individuals with Type 2 diabetes thanks to their very low glycemic index. The problem is that because of their high caloric nature, many are afraid to add them to their diet for fear of gaining weight. Interestingly enough there are several studies that have validated what I have seen for several years now, namely that you can ingest a significant number of calories from nuts and not gain weight.

Studies On Nuts And Weight Gain

During a thirty week study of fifteen healthy normal weight adults at Perdue University participants added approximately 2000 kJ worth of peanuts to their regular diet for eight weeks and then for the next eight weeks peanuts replaced an equal amount of other fats in their diet. Researchers found that the subjects compensated for 66% of the energy provided by the nuts and body weight gain was far lower than expected with an average gain of only 3.6 kg. However when customary dietary fats were replaced with calories from peanuts body weight was maintained perfectly. Resting energy expenditure was increased by 11% after regular peanut consumption for 19 weeks and more importantly the high consumption of peanuts did not turn them off to its taste or lead them to consume other snack foods during the study. The study concluded that despite being high in calories, peanuts have a high satiety value and chronic ingestion evokes strong dietary compensation and little change in energy balance.4 Another study found similar findings with almonds. This study’s aim was to determine if adding 1440kJ (about 343 calories) of almonds in a daily diet would elicit positive energy balance and body composition change. For the duration of the 23 week study with twenty women there were no changes in bodyweight from daily almond consumption, but an inefficiency in absorption of energy from almonds was noted. The study concluded that a daily 340 calorie serving of almonds enough to brig about positive cardiovascular effects could be added to the diet with a limited risk of weight gain.5

Why Nuts Don’t Make Us Gain Weight

Why is it that nuts seem to defy the laws of thermodynamics that do not apply to other foods? We don’t exactly know why you can ingest more calories than the body needs to maintain an energy balance from nuts and still not gain weight but some data points to the fact that eating nuts increases the amount of energy our body expends and there seems to be evidence that our bodies do not absorb calories from nuts very efficiently. In either case these mechanisms seem to offset most of the calories ingested or the weight loss studies conducted all found that dietary compliance was improved when nuts were permitted. I personally include in all weight loss dietary recommendations for my clients for the health benefits and the fact that it does provide a welcome guilt free treat that actually helps you stay on your diet as well. Just be sure to get the unsalted variety!
Continue to Read more ...

Is Exercise As Effective For Relieving Depression As Therapy and Medication?

Exercise may be a viable treatment for depression.

Is Exercise As Effective For Relieving Depression As Therapy and Medication?

Depression affects over 340 million people across the globe and here in the United States it is estimated that about 16% percent of the population will suffer from a major depressive disorder (MDD) during the course of their lives,  with women being almost twice as likely than their male counterparts to develop a disorder. 1,2 With all the emphasis with regards to health care on obesity related illnesses it is often overlooked that depression is on track to become the second largest contributor to the global burden of disease by the year 2020.3 We know that physical inactivity increases the likelihood and duration of depression and that physical activity, whether it be work related, exercise or recreation significantly reduces the risk of developing a depressive disorder. This holds true across the board for people of all races and socio-ecomomic levels, but for those adverse to conventional therapeutic interventions, the question remains, can exercise be as effective as conventional therapy and medication in relieving depression?

Studies Find That Exercise Is A Strong Preventative Against Depression

In 2001 the British Medical Journal did a review of the antidepressant effects of exercise treatments. After looking at a total of fourteen randomized controlled trials they found that the positive effects of exercise treatment for depression when compared to no treatment at all was statistically significant. There were major reductions in depression ratings among those engaged in exercise programs as opposed to those who were inactive. There was some debate over the validity of this review as some of the participants in the studies may have had subclinical mood problems rather than fully diagnosed major depressive disorders. That being said the idea that exercise treatment is more effective than no treatment at all is supported by at least two other systematic reviews4, 5,6 and most of the systematic reviews find as well that ‘the antidepressant effect size of exercise can be comparable to that of psychotherapy and to that of pharmacotherapy.’ 7, 6, 8, 9

The Anti-Depressant Effects Of Exercise May Be Comparable To Drug & Therapy Interventions

Does this mean that you should focus solely on exercise as a way to relieving depressive symptoms? Not at all, as there is a saying that in a battle one should always go down fighting with all swords drawn from their scabbards and the same applies to clinical depression. Given the effects of exercise on mood elevation, the combined use of therapy and drug interventions might result in faster onset of antidepressant action, so drug and therapy should not be instantly ruled out.10 More trials are needed before exercise can be recommended clinically as a prescription for dealing with depression, but if exercise could act as an immediate salve to the symptoms of depression given that antidepressant medications and therapy all take weeks to months before clinical improvements can be seen whereas the positive effects of exercise occur much faster. Most importantly, the use of exercise protocols are safe and do not interact negatively in any way with other drugs or therapeutic treatments.
Some experts argue that adherence to a standardized exercise program is the number one reason for failure among the general population and that it would be far more difficult for a severely depressed individual to find the motivation to exercise on a regular basis, but given the promising fairly recent results of brief high intensity weight training programs on relieving depressive symptoms11 it might indeed be viable if the duration is considerably short especially as adherence to regularly taking anti-depressant drugs is equally a problem among individuals with depression. At the end of the day what these findings really highlight is that exercise and physical activity have a major role to play in our overall mental health and that more research should be done into its potential use as a clinical anti-depression prescription. In coming articles we will explore the relevance of short high intensity training on depression and how it might make getting the anti-depressive benefits of exercise far more attainable to those that find it hard to stick with an exercise program to being with.
Continue to Read more ...

Being Skinny Doesn’t Mean Being Healthy

Being skinny doesn't mean you are healthy! 

Being Skinny Doesn’t Mean Being Healthy

In today’s society, especially for women, being skinny is the ultimate goal of most people interested in weight loss.  The media not only bombards us with a constant barrage of ultra thin models to advertise everything from clothing to cars while medical experts continuously tout the reduction of risk of metabolic related disease by being thin. But the question remains, can you be on the larger side and still be in good health? The reality, outside of selling fat burning supplements diet pills, tummy tucks and liposuction is that getting fit is far more effective at reducing the markers for type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease than by just being thin.

You Can Be Overweight And In Better Health Than Someone That Is In A Healthy Weight Range

According to a study conducted at the University of Exeter in the U.K., longevity and good health comes far more from your activity levels than by simply being thin. The study observed the health of four groups of adult males, those who were thin and in good physical condition, those who were thin and in poor physical condition, those who were overweight but in good physical condition and those who were overweight and in poor physical condition. What was important for the relevance of this study in the real world is that everyone in the fit groups were long term exercisers and not just a group of people put on an exercise program for the purpose of the study. Blood sampling revealed an interesting fact: that both groups that were in good physical condition had significantly higher hdl (good cholesterol) levels than the unfit groups.

Visceral Abdominal Fat Levels Are Lower In Overweight People Who Exercise Regularly

What was also significant is that the visceral abdominal fat and liver fat, which have been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (see my article on the dangers of visceral abdominal fat) was far lower in the overweight group of men in good shape than the overweight group of inactive men even though their body fat percentages were the about the same.  So although someone might be classified as being overweight because their Body Mass Index (BMI) is on the higher side and they have a higher body fat percentage as long as they consistently engage in intensive regular exercise it appears that they will not have a dangerous visceral fat distribution around their internal organs. At the end of the day a low fitness level is a far greater threat to your health even though you might be thin and svelte.

The Biggest Predictor Of Mortality Is Fitness Levels Not BMI

You can be overweight and still be fit!
Overweight but fit people are often healthier than their slimmer counterparts!
The study at Exeter University isn’t the only one that has come to these conclusions, a study here in the U.S. of 5,400 adults found that half of those classified as overweight and one third of those classified as obese according to BMI standards were found to be metabolically healthy. That means that they did not have any indicators that might suggest a predisposition to health problems. The study also found that a quarter of those that fell into the ‘healthy’ weight range had at least two risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A 12 year study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked at mortality rates among 2,600 adults aged 60 and over found that while death rates were highest among the very obese (those with a BMI of 35 or higher), fitness level was always the strongest predictor of mortality risk, not BMI. Those who scored the lowest on treadmill tests were four times more likely to die in the next 12 years than those who had high fitness levels.
Regular Exercise Is Far More Important Than Simply Being Thin
The message is simple- looking good is great but the key to longevity and good health is regular exercise. Keep that in mind the next time you look in the mirror and don’t quite see the six pack you might want to see- by exercising regularly and watching what you eat you’ll live longer and be in better shape that someone who may be skinny but is inactive. Keep training!
Continue to Read more ...

5 Reasons Why You Should Never Take Weight Loss Supplements

5 Reasons Why You Should Never Take Weight Loss Supplements

The prevalence of obesity in the United States continues to increase at alarming levels with one third of the adult population currently overweight or obese. Not surprisingly 15% of the American population uses dietary supplements for weight loss [1] yet in spite of the wide variety of products that purport to induce weight loss, the most one common aspect that they share is their abysmal failure rate. Weight loss is of critical importance to many people, but consumers often lack the information necessary to make informed decisions about the use of potentially harmful products like weight loss supplements. My stance against weight loss supplements is one that is seldom shared by other athletes on the payroll of companies in the industry, but it is one that will never waver. (You wouldn’t waver either if you had to visit your friends in the hospital several times over the course of 20 years thanks to readily available over the counter weight loss supplements.) Here are five reasons why you should never use weight loss supplements:

1. Weight Loss Supplements Don’t Work

It is that simple. Regardless of the widespread and ever present promotion of non prescription diet aids that are supposed to do miraculous things like stop fat absorption from your foods, block carbohydrates and increase your metabolism, the truth is that weight loss supplements will not bring about long term weight loss. Using them is not only a waste of money but a risk to your health as well. In twenty three years in the weight loss business I have yet to see a weight loss supplement help anyone achieve and sustain their ideal bodyweight. Back in the days when dangerous drugs like ephedra were included in weight loss stacks people did see a temporary reduction in their bodyweight while from the use of a powerful and (we know now) potentially deadly drug. But any weight loss quickly went away after stopping it.
Today’s supplements don’t have ephedra anymore and their active ingredients have been proven to be useless as an aid to weight loss. A German study presented at the International Congress on Obesity in Stockholm had 189 either obese or overweight middle aged men and women participate in a weight loss program for eight weeks using nine of the major weight loss products on the market. Half were given commercially available weight loss supplements and the other half took a sugar pill. At the end of the eight week period researchers found that the weight loss supplements were no more effective than the placebo pills.
This study was one of the most rigorous scientifically credible tests of weight loss supplements to date and included common ingredients such as L-carnitine, polyglucosamine, cabbage powder, guarana seed powder, bean extract, Konjac extract, fiber, sodium alginate, chitosan and certain plant extracts either alone or in combination. What we can infer from this study is that weight loss supplements are effective in helping you lose money- not weight.

2. Weight Loss Supplement Companies Are Allowed To Lie

You hear the commercial on television, you see the ads in the magazines and you see your favorite celebrity or athlete endorsing the product or book- but when you tried it you really didn’t see much in the way of weight loss. How could that be when so much is made of the efficacy of the product? Simple- weight loss claims by supplement companies, programs and products are not regulated and their claims do not have to be proven by clinical trials 4. That’s correct; in one of the most developed countries in the world there are no laws that demand truth in advertising when it comes to weight loss supplements or any weight loss product for that matter. Unfortunately the minor snag that the products don’t really work and that the ads are a bit far from the truth doesn’t stop us from spending 1.6 billion dollars on weight loss supplements each year!
Why do we keep spending money if the results are less than advertised? There are two reasons- one is if you are overweight and suffer everyday from the type of negative body image than can be associated with being obese you desperately want to believe that it will work. Not unlike the drowning man reaching for a straw. The ads work by highlighting young men and women that are in phenomenal shape- which makes someone that is overweight even more self conscious and creates a strong awareness of their problem. Thus you are far more apt to believe that the supplement that you are buying really will help you lose weight. This type of emotional manipulation is sadly the cornerstone of marketing today and is far more powerful than most people realize. The other reason why people keep on buying is that weight loss companies always have a steady stream of ‘new and improved’ products coming out, and with them come the growing hope that this new breakthrough formula will be the one that finally helps you lose the weight and keep it off- but it won’t.

3. The Science Of Weight Loss Supplements Is Compromised By Conflict Of Interest

According to Ano Lobb from the Dartmouth Medical School, “trials used to determine product safety and effectiveness…tend to be small, of short duration, and frequently lack financial conflict of interest disclosures.”[2] He goes on to say that “these factors could conspire to place consumers at risk, especially when published research cited in advertising cloaks products with the suggestion that their safety and effectiveness have been proven by science.”[2] In a paper published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology that included analysis from studies published by Hasani Ranjbar et al.[3] Ano Lobb went on to take a critical look at studies passed off as sound science for the promotion of popular weight loss supplements such as:
  • Xenadrine- was cited for a study that were far too small (only 47 participants) and far too short a duration (6 weeks) to be clinically credible. The studies used for product promotion also did not have any mention of an independent funding source- so the reader has no way of knowing whether there is a conflict of interest.
  • LeptiCore -The material used to market their weight loss product cited a study[4] that followed 62 participants that supposedly reported losing weight, body fat, a reduction in waist size and lowering of their cholesterol, however one of the authors appeared to be a chief scientific officer of a dietary supplement company, and was listed as the inventor of a weight loss supplement whose patent was held by the very same company that he was employed by.
  • Hydroxycut Advanced -Studies cited in marketing materials for Hydroxycut were according to Lobb’s paper ‘small and of short duration and reported no serious side effects. In spite of this, Hydroxycut was withdrawn from the market in 2010 after being linked to 23 cases of liver toxicity and one fatality.[5] Again there were no financial conflict of interest disclosures or evidence that funding for the studies were not received by the supplement manufacturers themselves. (Note that after a change of ingredients- Hydroxycut is once again on the market shelves).
4. Weight Loss Supplements Can Kill Or Seriously Harm You

Unlike the far stricter laws applied in Europe and in Canada, manufacturers of dietary supplements here in the United States are not required to conduct any trials to establish the safety or efficacy of their products. All that is required is that a copy of their label is sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for review[6,7,8].  What this means to you the consumer is that you become a lab rat in the post marketing trial of every weight loss product’s safety. Reviews have shown that the FDA only gets about 1% of the harmful events resulting from supplement use by consumers and there is no coordination between the FDA and the Poison Control Center to regulate ill effects from weight loss supplements.[9]
Factor in as well that weight loss supplement companies created for the sole purpose of turning a profit are not always honest and forthcoming about the safety of their products. The manufacturers of the weight loss supplement, Metabolife 356 withheld over 14, 000 reports they received over a 5 year period that documented serious side effects associated with their weight loss supplement product which contained ephedra, including myocardial infarction, stroke, seizure and death[6]. It took 155 deaths before ephedra was banned here in the United States by the FDA, all the while several supplement companies were fully aware of the dangers and continued to sell ephedra to the public.[10]
As mentioned earlier, Hydroxycut, was the number one weight loss product in its market selling just about a million bottles a year[11] was recently pulled from shelves after 23 cases of liver damage and one death[4] and it took only a few months before they were back on the shelves with a ‘new and improved’ formula. That’s how the industry operates- when one ingredient (in this case Garcinia cambogia) is found to be responsible for the sickness and or death of several members of the public, the product is simply reformulated with something else. Lawsuits and other fines from people injured by their products are part of the cost of running their business and is a small drop in the bucket compared to the profits from their weight loss supplements.

5 Weight Loss Supplements Distract From The Real Steps Needed For Long Term Weight Loss

There are no secrets. No magic exercises or magic foods or harmless pills or powders that will help you lose weight. You have to make healthy and sustainable changes in your eating habits and find a way to incorporate exercise into your daily life. Sustainability is a word often associated with our interaction with the environment, but it is time that it is used more frequently with regards to how we approach diet and exercise. You can’t take a weight loss supplement for the rest of your life, nor can you follow an extreme diet or workout for any significant period of time. Don’t be mislead by the temporary weight loss some of these methods may bring about- as any decrease in weight (if any at all) won’t be sustainable. It isn’t easy- if it was we wouldn’t have obesity as a national epidemic, but staying away from weight loss supplements and their instant-weight-loss-cousins gives you a better chance of doing it the right way.
Thanks for reading and I hope you share this article with your friends and family members.

1.     Blanck HM, Serdula MK, Gillespie C, Galuska DA, Sharpe PA, Conway JM, Khan LK, Ainsworth BE. Use of nonprescription dietary supplements for weight loss is common among Americans. J Am Diet Assoc.
2.    Lobb A. Science of weight loss supplements: Compromised by conflicts of interest? World J Gastroenterol
3.    Hasani-Ranjbar S, Nayebi N, Larijani B, Abdollahi M. A systematic review of the efficacy and safety of herbal medicines used in the treatment of obesity. World J Gastroenterol
4.    Kuate D, Etoundi BC, Azantsa BK, Kengne AP, Ngondi JL, Oben JE. The use of LeptiCore in reducing fat gain and managing weight loss in patients with metabolic syndrome. Lipids Health Dis
5.    Lobb A. Hepatoxicity associated with weight-loss supplements: a case for better post-marketing surveillance. World J Gastroenterol
6.    Consumers Union. Dangerous supplements: still at large. Consum Rep 2004; 69: 12-17
7.    Morrow JD. Why the United States still needs improved dietary supplement regulation and oversight. Clin Pharmacol Ther
8.    Gardiner P, Sarma DN, Low Dog T, Barrett ML, Chavez ML, Ko R, Mahady GB, Marles RJ, Pellicore LS, Giancaspro GI. The state of dietary supplement adverse event reporting in the United States. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf
9.    Gardiner P, Sarma DN, Low Dog T, Barrett ML, Chavez ML, Ko R, Mahady GB, Marles RJ, Pellicore LS, Giancaspro GI. The state of dietary supplement adverse event reporting in the United States. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf
10.    Moran M. Did delay of ephedra ban cause unnecessary deaths? Psych News
11.    Weight control a high priority. Chain Drug Rev
Continue to Read more ...

Obesity And Chronic Disease- Is It Genes Or Lifestyle?

Obesity And Chronic Disease- Is It Genes Or Lifestyle?

While there is a clear correlation between physical inactivity and bad dietary habits to most chronic diseases in the world today, many offer up genetics and not lifestyle as the major reason for our higher incidences of obesity and the metabolic syndrome that tends to accompany it. Almost 60% of the adult American population is either overweight or obese [1, 2,3] and it is becoming increasingly common to hear genes blamed as the root of our current health crisis. In many ways this rather defeatist attitude would lead one to believe that the leading causes of death in Western society (coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke Type 2 diabetes and cancer) are not preventable and that to succumb to the ravages of these diseases is simply a normal part of the aging process. Taken as a whole, these diseases combine to account for almost 70% of all of the deaths here in the United States [4], and few realize that that these health problems have been for the most part non-existent in many underdeveloped countries for decades, but rise as Western diet and lifestyles become more popular in those countries. [5]

Do Other Cultures Have The Same Problems With Obesity & Disease That  We Do?

To fully understand the impact that our genes have on our health it is useful to observe how other cultures fare when Western diet and relatively sedentary habits are not a factor in daily life.  Studies on the Tarahumara Indians of Northern Mexico, (best known for their running ability), the Pina Indians of Southern Arizona and the Machiguenga Indians of Peru give us interesting insight as to just how much Western lifestyle seems to adversely affect our health. The Pina Indians living on the Indian reservation in Arizona have one of the highest incidences of diabetes known, with approximately 50% of them being Type 2 diabetic. However a group of Pina Indians with the same genetic background as their reservation-living counterparts following a more physical indigenous life in Mexico eating the traditional diet of natural foods have an incidence of Type 2 diabetes of only 10%.[6,7] Similarly when the Tarahumara Indians consume a mostly Western diet they rapidly experience a rise in their blood lipids when compared to their native counterparts. [8]. The Machiguenga Indians, due to the physical requirements for survival without the luxuries of supermarkets and packaged foods expend one third more calories than the average American [9] and chronic diseases as we know them are simply non-existent in modern hunter gatherer societies, highlighting the role of lifestyle in the development of obesity and metabolic disease. [10]

Genes Cannot Be The Only Answer To Obesity & Metabolic Disease

In a paper published in the Journal of Applied Physiology by Frank Booth et al. called, Waging war on modern chronic diseases: primary prevention through exercise biology, researchers note that
“100% of the increase in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes and obesity in the United States during the latter half of the 20th century must be attributed to a changing environment interacting with genes, because 0% of the human genome has changed during this time period.” [11]
In essence, we have not changed. Our genes have not changed, but our way of life and the foods we eat have changed and this more than anything else explains the problems faced by in Western societies. We all inherit the same genome that makes us designed for daily physical activity and a high fiber diet[12] thus sedentary life, processed foods combined with other factors such as smoking alcohol consumption, stress and hazardous elements in our environment inevitably bring about the onset and progression of chronic disease. [10] Most of these factors are easily modified and therefore are realistically preventable through proper diet, exercise and a lifestyle of moderation or abstinence from smoking and excess alcohol consumption. Within the framework of our own society it has been observed that Seventh-Day Adventists have higher life expectancies than other Caucasian groups in the United States thanks in part to choices regarding their diet, patterns of regular exercise and avoidance of cigarettes and alcohol. Research funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health has shown that the average Seven Day Adventist in California lives 4 to 10 years longer than the average Californian. Similarly Mormon studies show that they have a low standardized mortality rate compared to the general U.S. population attributed to their close to the earth lifestyle.[13]

Lifestyle & Environment Not Genes Create Our Health Problems- Not Genes

What does this mean? It means that for the most part genes don’t cause metabolic disease. In some individuals genetic factors may predispose them, but environmental and lifestyle factors are what determines whether disease manifests itself or not [10]. It also means that we are indeed the masters of our own destiny, captains of our own ships and that an individual’s choice to incorporate exercise into their daily life, manage stress and avoid modern processed foods makes far more of a difference in our susceptibility to the cocktail of chronic disease than the genes that we are born with. Make your choice today.

1. Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Kuczmarski RJ, and Johnson CL. Overweight and obesity in the United States: prevalence and trends, 1960–1994. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord
2. Mokdad AH, Bowman BA, Ford ES, Vinicor F, Marks JS, and Koplan JP. The continuing epidemics of obesity and diabetes in the United States. JAMA 286: 1195–1200, 2001.
3. Mokdad AH, Ford ES, Bowman BA, Dietz WH, Vinicor F, Bales VS, and Marks JS. Prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and obesity-related health risk factors, 2001. JAMA
4. Arias E, Anderson RN, Kung HC, Murphy SL, and Kochanek KD. Deaths: final data for 2001. Natl Vital Stat Rep
5. Diet, nutrition, and the prevention of chronic diseases. World Health Organ Tech Rep Ser
6. Bennett PH. Type 2 diabetes among the Pima Indians of Arizona: an epidemic attributable to environmental change? Nutr Rev 57: S51–S54, 1999
7. 1Valencia ME, Bennett PH, Ravussin E, Esparza J, Fox C, and Schulz LO. The Pima Indians in Sonora, Mexico. Nutr Rev
8.  McMurry MP, Cerqueira MT, Connor SL, and Connor WE. Changes in lipid and lipoprotein levels and body weight in Tarahumara Indians after consumption of an affluent diet [see comments]. N Engl J Med 325: 1704–1708, 1991
9. Montgomery E. Towards representative energy data: the Machiguenga study. Fed Proc
10. Roberts CK, Barnard RJ.  Effects of exercise and diet on chronic disease. J Appl Physiol
11. Booth FW, Gordon SE, Carlson CJ, and Hamilton MT. Waging war on modern chronic diseases: primary prevention through exercise biology. J Appl Physiol
12. Eaton SB and Konner M. Paleolithic nutrition. A consideration of its nature and current implications. N Engl J Med
13. Enstrom JE. Health practices and cancer mortality among active California Mormons. J Natl Cancer Inst

Continue to Read more ...

Keeping Us Fat- Why Not Losing Weight Is Profitable

It isn’t only the muscle and fitness magazines packed with weight loss product propaganda that profit from an overweight population eager to learn how to be slim and trim, it’s every part of American media- from the news to talk shows. Ask any publicist in how to get on TV and they will tell you that the key stories are weight loss, sex and aging. These issues have always captivated large audiences and the obesity epidemic has given birth to a slew of weight loss reality shows in addition to the bombardment of diet and weight loss tips that flood the airwaves. By making weight loss information a form of entertainment the media does more to confuse people actively seeking credible information on how to improve their health. Unfortunately, the message of healthy lifestyle, exercise and balance isn’t sensational enough and won’t do to entertain the masses so a new and exciting new diet, breakthrough, study, , exercise or system has to be introduced all the time. The result- a confused pubic that stays fat but tunes in to see what they can try next to get into shape.

Keeping Us Fat- Why Not Losing Weight Is Profitable

Diets don’t work and weight loss supplements don’t work- most people are aware of this on some level and yet it doesn’t stop Americans from spending 46 to as much as 100 billion dollars a year on diet products and self help diet books. Studies, (and the personal experience of about anyone you know), have shown that two thirds of Americans that went on a diet regained all the weight they had lost within one year. A whopping 97% gained it all back within a period of five years! [1] The question thus becomes why isn’t the success rate higher at a time when there is more weight loss information out there than ever before? Studies have proven that  lifestyle and not genetics are to blame for our current weight crisis so achieving a healthy body weight is possible for the majority of the population, and yet for all the information, products and medical knowledge at our disposal there are still 1 billion overweight adults on the planet and that number continues to rise.(2) Could it be that on some level it is more profitable to have an overweight population rather than a healthy one?
There is an unavoidable cacophony of contradictory information and weight loss propaganda that exists in our society. It acts as background noise that drowns out the basic (and mostly hard to profit from) tenets that have helped millions of people stay in shape. Namely, a lifestyle change where you avoid high calorie processed foods and incorporate a regular routine of exercise. This approach has been validated by numerous studies and millions of people around the world are able to sustain a healthy weight and fitness level by following these guidelines, so why are we bombarded by so many other ways to lose weight? Given the stakes it seems almost a crime to lead the public on a wild goose chase when so much is at stake in terms of health and when a crime is committed the first step towards identifying the perpetrator is to ask the question ‘Cui bono?’- literally ‘who stands to gain?’ In this case you can’t help but notice that our overweight population is worth billions to the not only the diet, fitness and weight loss industry, but also to the food industry, medical and pharmaceutical industries and interestingly enough the media at large.

How The Diet Industry Profits From Keeping Us Fat

Diets like Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, The Zone Diet, NutriSystem, The Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers, The Ornish Diet, The South Beach Diet, Slim-Fast and the always popular Subway diet all have two major things in common:
1.      Their abysmal long term success rate.
2.      The fact that you have to spend money to follow them.
According to figures from a Forbes report, the above mentioned weight loss diet costs an average of $85.79 a week! That’s more than $30 more than the $54.44 that the average single American spends on food![3] Not only is it expensive but each weight loss plan banks on your failure- that way you will remain a long term customer. It puzzles me that our society allows for an industry that keeps growing in spite of the fact that most of their customers fail. It is equally bewildering that so many different diet systems thrive on the market today. Logically the very existence of so many different systems actually highlights their inherent ineffectiveness. If only one diet system, self help book or workout dvd could provide a safe and effective way for everyone to lose weight and keep it off, then all the others would be out of business.  Instead it makes perfect sense that noise from the diet and weight loss industry should serve to confuse the public in an attempt to keep us fat and their coffers overflowing.
While the economy wallows in the doldrums, the food industry continues to profit by appealing to the nation’s desire for ‘health food products.’

How The Medical Industry Profits From Keeping Us Fat

Surgical procedures are the ultimate quick fix for weight loss and not surprisingly the number of active surgeons performing bariatric weight reduction operations like gastric banding, gastric bypass and variants of these stomach surgeries jumped nearly 500 percent
from 168 in 1993 to 860 in 2003 as the number of gastric bypass surgeries climbed more than 600% during the same period. [4] At an average cost of $30,000 per procedure [4], fees paid mainly by health insurance providers or government health benefit programs with your taxpayer money, it is easy to see how profitable it is for the medical industry. Liposuction is the most popular form of plastic surgery for men and women combined with more than half a million women having the procedure each year.[5] At an average cost of $2500 per procedure it doesn’t take much to realize that it is a huge cash cow for the plastic surgery field.
Equally profitable are prescription diet drugs. Doctor prescribed appetite suppressants and fat absorption inhibitors net millions for the drug companies that make them. Research has shown that while over the short term prescription dietary drugs can help reduce weight and potentially reduce temporarily reduce health risks in obese individuals it is only a short lived benefit as there is no concurrent change in lifestyle. Interestingly enough there are currently no studies to determine the effect of these medications over the long term. Not that we really need them as these drugs can only be administered for a period of weeks and if they were truly effective a single pill would have stopped the obesity epidemic a long time ago!

How The Pharmaceutical Industry Profits By Keeping Us Fat

Unfortunately it is not only the diet and weight loss branches of the pharmaceutical community that profit from you being overweight and staying that way. We know being overweight or obese increases the risk of coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia (high cholesterol or triglyceride levels) and stroke [6]. Thus it should be no surprise that Lipitor- a statin drug designed to reduce cholesterol was the number one best selling drug not only in the United States in 2006 but in the entire world with an impressive 14 billion dollars in US sales alone for the pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer![7] To put things in perspective, in the United States, Lipitor made more than twice as much as the nearest other drug, the asthma medication Advair. Not surprisingly several other drugs in the top ten were also used to treat obesity linked diseases such as Plavix by Bristol-Meyer Squib, Norvasc, (another Pfizer drug) and Diovan altogether netting 60 billion dollars in the United States alone in 2006.[7,8] What is cause for concern is that the biggest pharmaceutical companies all profit mainly from diseases related to obesity, companies that have a major role in shaping public health policy- which has failed painfully to curb our growing obesity problem. With literally thousands of lobbyists in Washington, DC and an estimated $855 million spent on lobby activities from 1998 to 2006, pharmaceutical companies spend more than any other industry to ensure that their interests are protected. [9] Interests that focus on increasing profits for their shareholders and not on improving overall public health. Many have criticized the pharmaceutical industry on focusing solely on making drugs that profit from current health problems and not ones that solve them.
How The Media Profits From Keeping Us Fat
This impacts women more than lled ‘healthy foods’ universally find that such populations do not suffer the weight problems of developed countries.
Over the past twenty years I have realized that half of the work required to help people lose weight comes teaching them that our very culture is part of the problem. Try to live a healthy lifestyle where you eschew processed foods, exercise and limit or eliminate alcohol from your diet and you immediately become a social pariah. This in itself is a tremendous barrier to overcome when your peers are influenced by many conflicting messages but it is one that must be crossed if you don’t want to help enrich the lives of those that stand to profit from our current health burdens.
1.       The diet business: Banking on failure. (BBC News World Edition, Feb 5 2003).
2.       World Health Organization
4.       The American Bariatric Society
5.       Facts On Platsic Surgery-
6.       NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults.
7.       Source: MedAdNews 200 – World’s Best-Selling Medicines, MedAdNews, July 2007
8.       Herper, Matthew and Kang, Peter (2006-03-22). “The World’s Ten Best-Selling Drugs”. Forbes.
9.       Center for Public Integrity
10.   The Canadian Women’s Health Network (Body Image and the Media).
Continue to Read more ...

5 Tips For Eating Well And Losing Weight On A Budget

Eating Well & Losing Weight On A Budget- It Can Be Done
In spite of the daily pronouncements of slow economic recovery the majority of the population is still feeling the effects of the global recession. This is great news for cheap processed food manufacturers and fast food outlets as when budgets are tight many see no other alternative than to turn to inexpensive and unhealthy foods as a way of surviving. Unfortunately many believe that given the current economic difficulties the prospect of eating well and losing weight on a budget seems almost impossible as such endeavors are often equated with spending more money on food. But is it really impossible to eat healthy and lose weight while on a tight budget? It can be done, I have done it, so have many others that I have worked with over the years, but it does require a change in your way of thinking. Here are five well used tips to eat healthy and lose weight on a budget:

Eating Well & Losing Weight On A Budget – Tip 1

Eat Breakfast At Home.
There is a saying back were I come from in the islands that a rich man brings his food while the poor man buys his foods out and that is why the rich man stays rich and the poor man stays poor. It’s pretty accurate as it is always far cheaper and healthier to cook your own meals and carry them with you to work than it is to eat out. A consumer review group found that as many as 37% of Americans adults ate breakfast at a fast food chain within the past month.[1] Not surprisingly McDonald’s was the top restaurant (if you can really call it that) followed by Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and Burger King rounding out the top four national fast food chains frequented for breakfast.[1]. (As an interesting aside, people who eat breakfast at fast food restaurants tend to have active lifestyles and are 14% more likely than the average adult to belong to a health club and engage in regular exercise- so much for the idea of active people eating healthy!) The general cost for breakfast at McDonalds- which is the cheapest of the lot comes in at about $1-$5 (not including tax) depending on where you are in the United States. For those prices you can get some really terrible foods that will go a long way towards helping you start your day the wrong way (there is nothing remotely healthy about things like Egg McMuffins, hash browns, sausages, breakfast burritos or bacon, eggs and cheese made with the lowest grade food products possible and processed meats) . Now while their dollar menu dominates the morning meal battle by offering a fast and cheap way to eat on the run, it is still cheaper to eat better. But it will take a bit longer.
Here’s why- a perfectly balanced and nutritionally sound breakfast of oatmeal (old fashioned oats- not the instant or sugar added varieties), two egg whites and a banana tallies up to a mere $1.49 using organic bananas and free range eggs! A container of Quaker Old Fashioned Oatmeal costs $4.89 and yields just about 15 servings (they say 30 servings on the container- but no one would really eat that small of an amount in the real world) so figure about 32 cents a meal- a dozen organic free range large brown eggs cost $4.99 a dozen- which only sounds like a lot if you don’t factor in that two egg whites will cost you only 66 cents a meal. The bananas are organic and at 99 cents a pound would cost just about 49 cents for one. Of course you could go even lower if you didn’t choose organic fare and keep in mind that the prices quoted are all from Fresh Direct, which is for the most part a tad more expensive than what you can find if you shopped around. Either way you are still eating breakfast for less than what you would pay for at Starbucks and the regular menus at McDonald’s but you do have to watch your portions, which leads to the next tip on eating healthy on a budget:

Eating Well & Losing Weight On A Budget – Tip 2

Eat smaller portions.
One of the first things that I noticed when I came to the United States is just how large the portion sizes are. I remember well ordering at a restaurant and being amazed at how much food they piled on my plate, it was at least twice as much as I would have got at a restaurant back in the West Indies! In general few people realize that you really don’t need to eat as much food as they do and that eating less is not only healthy, but will save you money. Knowing how much is enough is not an easy task and studies have consistently shown that most people are unable to accurately estimate their food intake. It is so difficult that a study involving nutrition students that had been rigorously trained in food energy content found that even they had a low level of accuracy (18.5%) in figuring out the caloric value of several foods set in front of them. [3] Also you don’t want to go down the road of measuring your food and counting calories as it can become a bit obsessive and has little to do with a natural way of losing weight. So how do you know how much is enough? Simple, you use my rule of thirds for losing weight.
The rule of thirds- First when preparing your meals, always give yourself one third less than your regular serving. It isn’t that hard to do, but you are in one move cutting your calories, ensuring that you don’t overeat and reducing your food bill by 33%! The second part of my rule of thirds is to imagine your stomach as divided into three equal sections. Now whenever you eat you always leave one third of it empty.
As simple as this may seem, these two easy methods of self regulation have helped everyone from housewives to physique competitors that I have worked with over the years get into optimal shape and it is a simple way to accurately regulate your dietary intake without depriving yourself. It also helps you cut down on your food expenses by eating less. As a result, you will have a little more money to spend on better quality foods.

Eating Well & Losing Weight On A Budget – Tip 3

Cook Your Meals And Bring Them With You.
We already covered how much cheaper it is to eat in than eat out when it comes to breakfast, but keep in mind that the healthiest of restaurants for lunch or dinner can never be as healthy or cost effective as the food you make at home. The convenience of being able to grab something on the go is appealing, but to get a really good meal, you will pay more buying from a health focused restaurant- and you don’t really know if the food is as healthy as they claim it to be. Chains like subway create the illusion that somehow their foods are healthy- but for the most part, they are not. As for fast foods- they might be easy to get and inexpensive, but keep in mind that you are paying for food- not nutrition and that your body will always want more as it isn’t getting what it needs. Also the price you will pay in medical costs resulting from obesity and the slew of metabolic related diseases that come with it such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension is a hidden cost in every cheap meal. So what do you do when you don’t have that much to spend on food- cook and carry!
The best way to afford good quality food is to cook all of you meals for the week on the weekend and portion your meals out (using the weight loss rule of thirds) into Tupperware containers that you refrigerate and take with you when you need it. A simple meal consisting of organic chicken, brown rice and lentils can cost as little as $4.05 [2]- which is even less than what it would cost in some fast food chains! An organic chicken costs about $14.00 (I know it sounds like a lot, but trust me it is worth it as all chicken isn’t exactly chicken!) which would yield let’s say four servings (even less if you are under 180 lbs or not very active), which works out to $3.49 per serving. Basmati brown rice costs about $4.29 for a 2 lb bag, which is about ten servings (the label says a ¼ cup per serving which would yield 19 servings, but ½ cup is a bit more realistic) which comes to 42 cents a serving. Add lentils to give everything some flavor and it adds only 14 cents to the total.
You can make these prices go even lower by following these rules:
  • Buy in bulk whenever you can- you’ll spend less per serving.
  • Avoid uselessly pricey meats like skinless boneless chicken breasts- a whole organic chicken usually costs as much as two or three tiny cutlets and who said you only had to eat chicken breasts to lose weight? Eat the whole chicken!
  • Don’t shop hungry- you’ll buy stuff you don’t need.
  • If there are farms near where you live- go straight to the source to buy. Farmers are people and you can always strike up a relationship with some of them and not have to pay extra for the transportation and middlemen that it takes to get their produce to the markets!
  • Grow something. A small home garden is a good idea for anyone trying to stay on the straight and narrow path of eating well on a budget- the bigger the better, but a small plot on your windowsill is good enough.

Eating Well & Losing Weight On A Budget- Tip 4

Drink Only Water.
That’s right- stop the coffee, stop the juice and for your own good stop the vitamin water and sports drinks. (Don’t worry about not getting your vitamins by avoiding juices- as you can get more than enough from fruits and vegetables, but with healthy fiber and without the excess calories.) Drinking alcohol is a great way to spend a lot of money on something that will make you gain weight and pretty much negate most of your diet and exercise endeavors and cutting it out will not only help your wallet but your waistline.  The only fluid your body needs is water and if you live in most parts of the United States tap water is fine- most of the bottled water you drink isn’t that better than what comes out of your faucet- it just has millions of dollars in advertising behind it designed to make you think it is. I am always astonished by the number of people that say that they can’t afford to eat healthy and yet ‘treat’ themselves to a Starbucks coffee once or twice a week. At about $5 a week that is $260 a year or two months worth of healthy lunches! Take into consideration how much we spend on juices and the dental fees that accrue as a result of tooth decay and you can clearly see that there are hidden costs involved. Drinking only water will also reduce your caloric intake significantly and you will see a major and permanent reduction in your body weight and body fat if you make the switch and follow the aforementioned guidelines.
To make it work always carry a bottle (not plastic if you can avoid it- we do also have an environment to keep healthy) with you. Don’t spend money on vending machine drinks (or water) and keep refilling it from the tap or water fountain if you have one. Don’t fall into the bottled water trap. Americans spent 15 billion dollars on bottled water in 2006, that’s more money than we spent on iPods or even movie tickets![4] All for something that you can get for free! No study has ever found bottled water to be healthier or better for you than tap water- so put the money you save towards better quality food.

Eating Well & Losing Weight On A Budget- Tip 5
Slow Down And Change The Way You See Time.

You might wonder what time perception has to do with eating healthy on a budget, but it has everything to do with it. We live in fast paced society where every second is supposed to count and convenience has long triumphed over quality. It is the way we see the world that enslaves us as most of us make food choices with the idea that we don’t have enough time to cook, or enough time to find a healthy food alternative or even enough time to leave our desks to sit and have a proper meal. The average American over the age of 15 spends only 67 minutes just eating and drinking and 16 minutes a day eating while working, watching TV or doing some other activity [5, 6] figures far removed from that of our European counterparts who place more importance on the idea of sitting down and enjoying a meal. Four percent of us reported never spending any time just eating or drinking but doing so only while engaged in work or some other activity. It is this very mentality that creates our unnatural perception that our food needs to be something quick. Studies have found that the faster you eat, the more likely you are to overeat [6,7], so don’t make eating a race. Everything comes with a price and fast and convenient food comes with a price that no budget can handle- the price of your health. The price you pay in taking the time to plan and cook your own meals not only saves you money, but will go a long way towards helping you achieve the type of body that you can be proud of, and how priceless is that?
Continue to Read more ...

Overcoming The Fear Of Going to The Gym

“Panic at the thought of doing a thing is a challenge to do it.” ~Henry S. Haskins

Overcoming The Fear Of Going to The Gym

My throat went dry, my knees locked, beads of sweat begin to form on my brow and any capacity for speech that I may have had is suddenly impeded as a blinding terror grips my heart. No, this isn’t a description of my first attempt at rock climbing without a rope nor is a recount of the first time I learned I was going to be a father -although that was pretty terrifying as well! What I am describing is the first time that I mustered up the courage to step foot inside a gym as a then lanky teenager. Even today with all the many clinically insane things that I have done over the years the anxiety that I experienced during my first weeks at the gym still stands out as one of the biggest fears that I had to overcome. Many have the idea that someone like me was born with a love for gyms, but the truth of the matter is that even though I grew up literally surrounded by bodybuilders- my father, brother and cousin were all aspiring bodybuilders at one point or another and some of my earliest memories are that of my back yard being converted by my older brother into a neighborhood gym- and still I found gyms to be intimidating! So much so that when, as a gawky 125 lb teenager I decided that I would join a gym, the first thing I did was to purchase some dumbbells and start training at home so at least I wouldn’t look too pathetic in a gym environment surrounded by god-like figures of physical perfection.
We talk a lot about why people don’t exercise- lack of time has been cited by every study on the subject, but is there another reason? One that most are too embarrassed to admit? I think there is and I think that it would surprise you to know that most of the people who adorn the pages of fitness magazines probably found the gym to be an intimidating place when they first started training as well. Studies show that 60% of the American population don’t get enough physical activity while more than a quarter of adults don’t exercise at all.[1] Fitness club owners do their utmost to entice people to join up and start the process of getting in shape, but while it is a thriving industry  there was a 63 percent increase in the number of Americans joining gyms between 1990 to 2001[2]) only a mere 14.7% of adults aged 35 to 54 had gym memberships as compared to 17.6 % of adults aged 18-34 and 12.6% for those over 55.[3] It’s enough to turn a healthy profit but obviously not enough to stop the growing numbers of overweight or obese Americans as the overwhelming majority of adults would not set foot in a fitness facility. Of course- the dropout rate of those who do purchase memberships is sizeable as well- a British survey found the dropout rate to be as high as 60% with only 20% working out more than once a month.[4] I can say from personal experience that it isn’t simply a matter of economics or lack of motivation, people don’t go to the gym because they are afraid. Some of those fears are rational and some of them are not- but they exist nonetheless and until the fitness industry beings to address this almost taboo subject, most of the population is going to stay away.
What are we afraid of:

Gym Fear Number 1: Gyms Are Filled With People Who Look So Much Better Than You Do

While our fears and ads say otherwise most people in gyms don't look like Greek gods.
It is not a secret that gyms almost always use images of perfect bodies to promote their facilities. The idea pivots around a marketing strategy that focuses on creating a scenario where you see someone enjoying the body and the fitness level that you most likely don’t have.  But the sight of a young man or woman with sleek and slender muscles rippling from shoulders to almost always exposed midsection having a great time at the gym working out fills most with a sense of apprehension as well as the idea of going to a place where people look that good will only make you feel worse about how you look. Women especially don’t want to be in a room filled with taut and tight younger bodies when they are struggling with their own self image. Men who are not the athletic type don’t feel comfortable around hulking monsters and that’s how we perceive people in gyms to be. The men and women there are seldom anything like the ads but it does nevertheless create a real feeling of unease for most who are not in the shape that they would like to be in.

Gym Fear Number 2: Gyms Are Filled With Machines And Weights That You Don’t Know How To Use

Walking into a gym is for most people akin to sitting in the cockpit of a modern airliner- as in both instances you are confronted by equipment that you have no idea how to use. There are two fears that spring from not knowing your way around the gym equipment. The first is that you will horribly maim yourself for life using a machine incorrectly or lifting more weights than you should or from having bad form while performing an exercise. As much as this fear is a rational one, the fear that stops most people in their tracks is the fear of looking silly by using a machine incorrectly. Our sense of embarrassment tends to be far more powerful at putting on the brakes sometimes than our fear of hurting ourselves and over the years I have heard hundreds of people express how awkward they felt when they didn’t know how to use a machine, especially when everyone else seemed to know exactly what to do. The result is that most head straight for the aerobics section to use the less intimidating machines, but unfortunately to get the results that you want you have to incorporate weight training (see my article on why aerobics are not best for weight loss). Thus beings the cycle of frustration at going to the gym spending hours on the aerobic machines and not really seeing much in terms of progress. Your motivation then beings to lag and if you are like most people, you stop going.

Gym Fear Number 3: Going To The Gym Is An Admission That You Are Not Pleased With How You Look

Being afraid of stepping into a gym is perfectly natural
Being afraid of stepping into a gym is perfectly natural, but it shouldn't stop you from going!
Most of us that go on to become successful in the physique industry start off with a complex of some sort about the way we look. For me it was being painfully skinny, while for others it might be that they were overweight or not skinny enough. In either case there is usually some degree of insecurity that drives us to create the bodies that line the pages of most fitness publications and television shows. The actual act of admitting to yourself that you don’t like how you look and that you want to change is easy- but going to a gym where (you feel) like everyone knows you are there because you are either overweight or underweight is an entirely different animal altogether and can make many blanch at the idea of walking into a training area.
So how do you overcome these fears? Here are some useful tips:
1. Hire a trainer
Hiring a personal trinaer can often help many make the leap required to go to the gym, as you have someone who can guide you through the potentially scary halls and show you how to use the equipment safely and correctly. Having a trainer also makes it a little easier to not focus on the people around you- which for some helps a great deal.
2. Go to the gym with a friend or loved one
A University of Indiana study of married couples who joined health clubs together found that the couples who worked out separately had a 50% dropout rate after one year as opposed to the 10% dropout rate among couples who went to the gym together, regardless of whether they did the same type of exercise. [5] I am certain that the extra motivation and accountability of having someone else there at the gym with you makes a difference, but I am also certain that the prospect of not having to go into a new environment all by yourself also has a lot to do with it as well.
3. Choose a gym based on its training atmosphere- not its social scene.
If you are insecure about how you look the best bet is always to choose a gym that is as untrendy as possible. The trendy places tend to be more pick up joints that workout facilities and many find that kind of atmosphere uncomfortable- especially women that don’t want to be ogled and hit on by men at the club.  It’s not uncommon to go to a trendy gym and see women training in skimpy outfits with full makeup on or men who spend more time looking at everyone else than they do exercising. As a rule the more serious the establishment, the less attention the gym-goers pay to anyone else as everyone is very much focused on their own workout. I have only found those places to also be the most helpful in terms of people taking the time to answer your questions or help you out if you need it.
One final and important note is the fear and sense of intimidation that many beginners can feel around men or women that lift a lot more than you do and at times make some noise doing so. Some gyms have gone so far as to outlaw people that make too much noise while training and I for one don’t believe that is the answer. The problem is that we tend to fear what we don’t know or don’t understand, and in so doing deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from those that truly can help us achieve our goals. Some people do overdo it and you can easily spot the ones that are making noise to attract attention to themselves very much in the way a two year old throws a tantrum to get a little bit more notice.
That being said you can’t lift 500 plus pounds off the floor without making some noise and the best way to overcome your fears to people that do lift pretty heavy weights is to talk to them! If they can truly move some serious poundages, they might have a lot of advice that will can help you with your own workouts. Most are more than happy to talk about what they are doing or working out in general. It’s actually how I got my start. If I hadn’t plucked up enough courage to speak to some of the bigger guys at the gym all those years ago, I would never be where I am today! Looking back, walking into the gym was one of the scariest times of my life, but I hardly have words to express how much it was worth overcoming my fears. Try it- you may be surprised by what you will achieve!
1.    Center for Disease Control And Prevention
2.    SGMA International-Tracking the Fitness Movement 2002 edition
3.    IHRSA Guide for Lenders and Investors
4.    Britons Are Leaving The Gym- Sunday Times 2008
Continue to Read more ...

Food And Self Control- How Do You Stop Cravings?

Food And Self Control- How Do You Stop Cravings?

For the majority of us, the hardest part of losing weight and keeping it off comes not from the rigors of exercise but from the willpower required to control your eating habits. The most common statement that I have heard over and over over the past 20 years is that when it comes to certain foods all lot of people feel that they can’t control themselves! The very thought of having to deny yourself your favorite junk foods sends most of us into paroxysms. So much so that most of us tend to resign ourselves to the idea that we do not have the willpower to eat consistently well. This opens up some interesting questions about human nature. Are some people naturally endowed with an innate ability to control their eating habits? Is it something ingrained that helps people maintain a healthier lifestyle? If so, does that mean that if you aren’t one of those iron willed people that easily walk past the-not-so-great-foods at the buffet table without stopping that you are doomed to an eternity of trying hard to stay on your diet but always failing? Research has given us some fascinating and useful insights into these questions and the answers leave us with hope for everyone being able to master their eating habits.

What Research Can Tell Us About Self Control

In 1965 a landmark experiment was carried out at Stanford University by Professor Walter Mischel with 653 preschool children. It was called the ‘Marshmallow Experiment’.  The goals of the testing were to explore how some children are able to delay gratification while others simply succumb to temptation. By using preschoolers, they were able to assess innate ability rather than skills learned through life experience. The idea was to explore from as an objective standpoint as possible the natural inclinations of the children in the study. The tests were extremely simple, but perhaps torture for the preschoolers involved. Each child sat in a game room and was asked to pick a treat from a tray of marshmallows, cookies or pretzel sticks. Researchers then gave each child the option that they could have one treat now- which was placed directly in front of them at the table, or if they were willing to wait for a few minutes they could have two treats when the researcher returned.  If the child rang a bell left on the table, the researcher would run back into the room and the child could eat one treat, but would not get the second treat.
You can easily picture the dilemma those poor kids endured all those years ago. A dilemma not too different from what many of us experience today as adults when we are faced with the choice of instant gratification from eating junk foods now, or abstaining for a future reward of a better body and better health.  What happened next in the experiment was as you may expect. The kids all wanted the second treat and struggled to be patient and not ring the bell immediately. Some kids ate the treat as soon as the researcher left the room. Some ate the treat immediately without even bothering to ring the bell! On average most struggled for about three minutes before succumbing to temptation. What was fascinating, however, were the 30% of preschoolers who were able to successfully delay their urges until the researcher came back into the room fifteen minutes later- an veritable eternity by preschooler standards!

Self Control Can Be Learned

Professor Mischel continued to track the kids into adulthood and he found that those who were on the lower scale of being able to delay their gratification as kids were more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI), more inclined to have substance abuse issues and behavioral problems as adults. Not surprisingly, the kids able to hold out for the full fifteen minutes, tended to do better academically and socially. Proof that some of us do seem to possess genetically predetermined abilities that help delay gratification and determine our success at many tasks as adults. In terms of weight loss, it would seem that some of us are naturally able to resist the temptation of eating foods that taste great but are bad for us. Nevertheless, it is heartening to know that these skills can be learned,  and that someone who naturally has a hard time delaying gratification can use simple tricks to improve their self control.
Of all the data extrapolated from the marshmallow experiment, the most intriguing comes from the discovery of  the group of kids who failed the marshmallow test early on- but went on to become adults with high degrees of self control. This group reinforces that what we term ‘willpower’ is really a matter of learning how to control our thought processes. A skill that we can learn over time with experience. Professor Mischel found that the kids who were able to wait for the full fifteen minutes used certain coping mechanisms to hold out- skills that anyone today can use to us stay on track in the face of temptation.

The Golden Rule For Stopping Cravings & Increasing Your Self Control- Distract Yourself!

The kids that were able to hold out the longest distracted themselves by covering their eyes, singing songs or playing games. Basically, anything to remove the focus from what is called the ‘hot stimulus’. For those of us placed in a similar situation where we are confronted by foods we want to avoid, the key is not to think about it. You should not even let yourself think about avoiding it. The more you think about the food and how good or bad it is, the more likely you are to eat it. Instead, the idea is to not think about it in the first place. It is a method that I understand well. I struggled several years ago with cravings for donuts- not a light craving, mind you,  but a serious one, especially after bodybuilding contests. One day after winning a show I stopped by Dunkin Donuts and got myself a dozen donuts, glazed were my favorites back then. I promptly proceeded to my office several blocks away where I ate all twelve and immediately marched out to get another dozen! I ate that dozen and went out one last time, eating 36 donuts in the space of a half hour!
It didn’t stop there- as time when on I would find myself suddenly struck with an almost insatiable urge for those sugar coated monsters. I would leave the house at odd hours in search of my fix- seek and destroy missions for glazed donuts until one day about a month into this insanity, I realized that I had a problem and that it had to be addressed. The next time I had one of my overwhelming donut desires, instead of focusing on not eating them I would distract myself by thinking about something else or occupying myself with some form of activity. It was not easy at first but over time the cravings did subside and I haven’t had a donut in over ten years, nor do I ever see myself eating one again in this lifetime! This strategy didn’t only work for me with donuts- but for pizza, bread, pastries and just about every food that I loved growing up, but knew wasn’t good for me. The more I distracted myself the better I got at it, until I got to where I am today, where eating well is pretty much second nature. Many look at my achievements in terms of dietary adherence and believe I was somehow gifted with a steel will that enables me to eat the way I do- and that is not exactly true. Like everyone else I struggled to eat better, but I used some very useful tools to get me through the hard parts. This skill is called metacognition- and is the most powerful tool in your arsenal of being able to resist the foods that you should not eat- but it is a skill like any other that only gets better with practice.
Professor Mischel found that by teaching children a series of mental tricks such as pretending that the treat in front of them was only a picture in their imagination, the kids that could hardly wait for 30 seconds were able to wait for the full 15 minutes. As adults we can use similar processes to create delay strategies but keep in mind that they will work best when we have practiced them to the point where it becomes second nature. What is great is that by learning how to increase our self control by understanding how our minds work, we are not only able to resist temptations like cake and ice cream, but we are also able to improve our concentration on numerous tasks in life that will ultimately lead to our success.
Continue to Read more ...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts