Archive for the ‘Weight, Weight, Don’t Tell Me– Does it have to do with what I eat?’ category

Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate

August 4th, 2011

By the time we make it to August, we’ve been hearing about (not to mention feeling!!) the heat for months.  We’ve moved from “wishing for Spring” to “hating the dog days” in what may feel like a week.

And in the supreme heat you’ve probably heard and read quite a bit about hydration.  But have you been getting the fluids you need?

Do you even know why you need so much?

Well, our bodies are 55-60% water.  (Yes, that means you can multiply the number on the scale by .4 and say the rest is “water weight” if you need to.)  According to the USDA:  Our bodies depend on water to keep our cells and body systems running smoothly. Most importantly, it is used to maintain blood volume, which is imperative for regulating body temperature and delivering oxygen and nutrients to the rest of the body. Water also provides a medium for the biochemical reactions that occur at the cellular level. In addition, water is crucial for the removal of waste products through the formation of urine by the kidneys.

So when it gets so hot outside you can barely breathe, the sweat you use to regulate your body temperature ends up dehydrating you; not only does it become harder to sweat, but your blood volume is diminished and can’t help keep your body at the right temperature.

That’s bad.

BUT, the good news is that you don’t have to drink only water and non-caffeinated beverages to keep yourself hydrated.

Nope: you can eat your water, too.

The more fresh fruits and vegetables you can consume (and the fewer high sodium processed foods) the better for your hydration.

How handy, then, that summer fruits like watermelon and peaches and vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers are so readily available to us—for some of us, they are right in our back yards!  (Did you know broccoli is 90% water? Broccoli?!)

Rather than foregoing the recommended daily water altogether, when it’s extra hot reach for high-water fruits and vegetables to ensure you are staying healthy, safe, and hydrated.

The Diet Soda Debate

July 29th, 2011

It was not unusual for me to go through a six-pack of Diet Cokes in my years in high school and college.  I used to call Diet Coke the “nectar of the gods” I drank it so much.

It’s embarrassing and a little frightening to think about it now!

What made me give it up?

When I went on Weight Watchers and really started to try and lose my excess weight, I started drinking a heck of a lot of water.  What a difference that made in my life!  So in part I gave up so much soda because my bladder just isn’t that big.

And then a few years later I started to really get into being fit.  And I started thinking about how what I put into my body really was making my body what it is.  I’m not all the way there yet, at all, but I realized just how many chemicals, particularly aspartame, that scared me.

When I see news reports linking diet soda consumption to higher weight and risky waist to hip ratios I wonder even more.

Sure, I am at zero risk of developing diabetes as a result of diet soda consumption.  But that doesn’t mean I want to taunt unknown other effects of those chemicals!  (And no, I never had diet soda or aspartame or anything close before I was diagnosed with type one diabetes.)

One group studied the body measurements of people who drank diet soda and those who did not.  After nine and a half years:

Diet soft drink users, as a group, experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference compared with non-users. Frequent users, who said they consumed two or more diet sodas a day, experienced waist circumference increases that were 500 percent greater than those of non-users.

Why does waist circumference matter?  It signals the amount of abdominal fat, a major risk factor for a whole host of chronic conditions that include cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The other study reported was conducted on mice: they gave half the diabetes-prone mice (how did they know that?) food with added corn oil, and the other half received food with added corn oil and added aspartame.

After three months on this high-fat diet, the mice in the aspartame group showed elevated fasting glucose levels but equal or diminished insulin levels, consistent with early declines in pancreatic beta-cell function. 

Oh dear.  When someone starts discussing beta-cell function it’s already too close for comfort in my world.  (Pancreatic beta cells, responsible for insulin production, are what my body attacked to cause my type one diabetes and why type one is an autoimmune disease.)

As someone already living with a chronic condition, I want to avoid any other reasons to be under a doctor’s care.  So for me, the choice to avoid artificial sweeteners is a good one.  Now I drink a lot of water, a lot of tea, and soda water.  It works, and I don’t feel deprived.  It feels like a great healthy and simple choice to have made for myself and my body.

We’re all doing the best we can, after all.

Here’s to you and the healthy choices you make for you and your body!

A New Idea for Me About Evolution: Body Weight, Insulin Resistance, and Fructose

July 28th, 2011

This paper is fascinating me right now despite being sidetracked yesterday. Dr. Richard Johnson of Denver Colorado is the presenter and researcher; he presented at the World Congress on Insulin Resistance, Diabetes, and Cardiovascular Disease in November 2010.

(This is one of what seems like an infinite number of instances wherein “diabetes” means type two diabetes, by my figuring.)

Full disclosure here: I’m not a scientist.  One of the reasons I’m not a scientist is that I have to read science terms very slowly and I’m not patient enough to do so.  So please remember I’m pointing to words, terms, and phrases in the online work itself rather than paraphrasing in large part because I’m not familiar enough with what I’m writing about.  (Not that that stops me from writing about it.) 

Johnson believes that “fructose may not be simply an energy source, but may have specific metabolic effects that may aid in increasing fat stores.”

He goes on to say that islet injury from fructose is in part mediated by urate, and uricase deficiency is a genetic mutation that may just have saved our ancestor’s lives. (I can’t fully explain how the islet injury occurs to begin with, or why.)

So, in a world where fruit and fruit sugar is a main source of energy, those with a uricase deficiency would have had a tough time of insulin management, which would today appear as insulin resistance (one of the hallmarks of type two diabetes).

Until  you consider Survival of the Fittest: those best able to survive periods of famine were those who had the genetic propensity to insulin resistance.


Because a body resistant to insulin makes more insulin to manage glucose in the blood.    It also in turn increases fat storage since that’s one of the functions insulin serves in our bodies.  More body weight (fat) means more insulin required, which means more insulin made, which starts the cycle all over again.

So those who carried extra body fat and body weight due to a uricase deficiency would have been those best equipped to survive a famine.

Wacky, isn’t it?

Our ancestor’s propensity to increase fructose consumption without proper genetic tools to manage that consumption helped them survive, and here we are in the twenty first century with insulin resistance and type two diabetes as one of the world’s most alarming health crises.

It’s important to keep in mind that the amount of fructose our ancestors consumed is NOWHERE NEAR the amount we consume today.  Johnson points out that in our lifetimes we have seen an incredible increase in the amount of sugar we consume compared to just three hundred years ago:
“…from a mean of 4 pounds of sugar intake per year in 1700 in the United Kingdom and United States, to greater than 150 pounds per year today….we found that 25% of the population was ingesting over 130 g of fructose per day, which equates to over 200 pounds of sugar per year …some individuals are ingesting more than 50 times the mean amount of sugar than was being ingested just 300 years ago.”

So while we owe our ancestors a debt of gratitude for surviving as well as they did, we need to make some changes in our own lives and in our own world so that our children and grandchildren and 10-times-great-grandchildren can thank us, too.

Don’t Ignore Your Upper Body!

July 25th, 2011

I’m always talking about how to do a squat or a lunge or how to keep your core strong, not to mention discussing what it takes to get my legs to run, but don’t take my relative silence on the  upper body to mean it’s okay to ignore it!

Take my suggestions here with a grain of smart salt: if a certain move doesn’t work for you for whatever reason, don’t do it!

You may have been one of those people who adopted a new catch phrase for your upper body ‘round about 2008-09: Michelle Obama Arms. 

And you might recognize that a large part of Mrs. Obama’s sculpted arms is genetic, a large part of it is a result of her diet, and about 5-10% is related to her workouts.  (How do they look to you now, once you think about how well she must eat in the White House compared to how we eat when we feed ourselves?)

That said, we do owe it to ourselves to love our arms.  LOVE them.  Make them the best and strongest arms they can be.

Which does take some thought, and some knowledge.

Your upper body consists of five general muscle groups: back, chest, shoulders, biceps, and triceps.

Back and chest muscles support all motions of your arms as well as facilitate movement and stability of your spine as you move through your day.  Keep up your ab work and strengthen your lower back with moves like supermen and bird dogs, and always think about your posture!!

Your shoulder joint is the one joint in your body with the greatest range of motion and therefore can be injured if you don’t pay attention to your form! Keep your shoulders pulled back and down to combat the hunch and inward caving you experience from sitting at your desk or computer.  Always follow the Rule of Thumbs: be able to see your thumbs throughout any overhead moves to avoid nerve impingement and injury.

Biceps help you grasp and carry, and are those “flex” muscles.  Your biceps (“bi”= two) attach to your shoulder in two separate places and attach inside your elbow in one spot.  Doing hammer curls (thumbs up, palms face inward toward the midline of your body) and traditional bicep curls (palms face the ceiling as your hands move toward your shoulder) uses different portions of the muscle, so make sure you hit them both!

Your triceps (“tri” = three) extend your arm and have three separate attachment points along your upper arm but share a common tendon above your elbow.  To avoid that certain waddle, you want to use all three aspects of your triceps as you perform kickbacks, dips, overhead extensions, and triceps pushups.

Remember: muscle tissue does not know age—it knows use and it knows disuse.  USE IT or lose it!

Some Reasons Your Basal Rates Are What They Are (It’s Your Metabolism)

July 20th, 2011

I read this and appreciated how cut and dried it seemed.  At the end of the day, we are who we are.  Olympians, models, Jane and Joe.  It’s nice to see some of the reasons behind our pump basal rate requirements, and to recognize how big a factor weight training is as we age.

Reading this, it would seem that the only way we can alter much of our predestined fate is THROUGH EXERCISE.

Go figure.

So, rather than paraphrasing a straightforward article and making comments here and there like one of the old guys from the Muppets, I’m just going to copy and paste a Cathe Friedrich article below.  (Factoid of the day: those guys are named Statler and Waldorf, after two NYC hotels.)

But back to the show.  Here, now, are SIX FACTORS THAT AFFECT YOUR METABOLIC RATE by Cathe Friedrich!!!!

Do you wish you had a faster metabolism so you could eat more without gaining weight? Many people are convinced their metabolism is too slow, and it makes it harder for them to lose weight. Each person has a metabolic rate that’s affected by a number of factors. Some of these factors can be altered, while others can’t be so easily changed. Have you ever wondered what makes your metabolic rate fast or slow?

First, a definition. Metabolic rate is simply the amount of energy expended over a given period of time. This energy is released as heat. You can measure your metabolic rate at a single point in time using different methods, but the rate will vary throughout the day based on a variety of factors including activity level. Here are some factors that affect metabolism.

Factors That Determine Your Metabolic Rate


According to a study published in Obesity Research, black women have a resting metabolic rate that’s about 5% slower than white women.


Men have a metabolic rate that’s 10 to 25% higher than women. This is at least partially due to greater muscle mass since muscle is more metabolically active than fat tissue. You can’t control your sex, but women can increase their lean body mass through exercise.


Resting metabolic rate drops by as much as 2% each year after the age of 20. Both men and women also lose muscle mass as they age, which accounts for some of this decline. You can’t control the aging process, but you can do strength training to increase how much muscle you have.


Larger people have higher metabolic rates because they have greater total mass. You can’t determine your height or the size of your frame, but you can alter your body composition and how much mass you carry to some degree through diet and exercise.


Genetics play a role in determining metabolic rate too. Most people know someone who can eat anything they want without gaining a pound. Unfortunately, it catches up with them as they age, and their metabolism starts to slow down. Some people aren’t able to adapt to their changing metabolism and gain significant amounts of weight as they grow older. You’ve probably heard formerly thin people say, “I was as skinny as you
when I was younger.” They probably were.


The primary hormone responsible for regulating metabolic rate is thyroid hormone, but sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone play a role too. This may be due to their effects on lean body mass. Most women experience a steeper decline in metabolic rate after menopause, but accelerated loss of muscle mass also contributes to this slow down. Growth hormone and other fat-burning hormones likely plays a role in regulating metabolism, and growth hormone levels decline with age.

Other Factors That Affect Your Metabolic Rate

Factors such as ambient temperature affect metabolic rate. Colder temperatures boost metabolic rate by causing shivering, which produces more heat. Turning down the temperature in your home can subtly boost your metabolism.

If you’re anxious or have a fever, you have a faster metabolic rate and produce more heat. Some medications can alter it too. Thyroid hormone, nicotine and caffeine raise it, and some medications such as anti-psychotic drugs lower metabolism.

High-intensity exercise that uses the anaerobic energy system such as heavy weight-lifting and sprinting boost metabolism for hours to days afterwards, and when you build lean body mass you burn more calories. Moderate-intensity endurance exercise has less of an effect on metabolic rate.

What and how you eat plays a role too. Restrict calories too much and your metabolism slows down to protect you against starvation.

What You Can Do to Boost Your Metabolism

Certain factors such as genetics, sex, race and age you can’t control. But you can boost your metabolism by doing high-intensity exercise and resistance training to increase lean body mass. If you restrict calories, never go below 1200 calories a day to avoid slowing down your metabolism. Focus on eating smaller meals more frequently that contain small amounts of lean protein. Drinking caffeinated beverages and green tea may also subtly increase metabolism.

Is It All About Processing?

July 15th, 2011

Did you hear about the guy who lost 27 pounds in 8 weeks by eating the majority of his calories in the form of Ho Hos, Little Debbie cakes, and Twinkies?

Holy cow.

Somewhat reminiscent of the guy from SuperSize Me, this researcher wanted to prove that a calorie is a calorie, no matter what form it takes.

In fact he was correct: he lost the weight by cutting his normal 2,600 calories per day down to 1,800 calories per day.

It should seem like he lost some good health in there along the way!

Bless the researchers; someone else was trying to figure out what else mattered when it comes to processed food versus whole food.  THEY found some interesting things happening after each type of meal.

The study was conducted with the attention focused on the biological processes that occur in our bodies after we eat: the postprandial thermogenic response.  (My dad taught thermodynamics so I know that thermogenic has to do with the production of heat.  I tried Symlin for a few months so I know that postprandial means after eating.)

A calorie is in our world today a measurement we most commonly use to apply to food and exercise, but it comes from science and means, in thermodynamic terms, an amount of heat equal to 4.1840 joules.  (I have no recollection what that is or why it matters.  My last chemistry class was 18 years ago and I wasn’t very good at it at the time.)

ANYWAY, sorry for that tangent, but it matters for this study.  The researchers discovered that, 5-6 hours after the participants ate their cheese and bread sandwiches, the amount of heat/energy
produced was very different if the sandwiches were made of whole food or of processed food.

Fifty percent kind of different.

The average energy expenditure after the whole food meal was nearly 20% of the calories in the sandwich; the average for the processed food was 10.7%.

The wise researchers concluded that: “this reduction in daily energy expenditure has potential implications for diets comprised heavily of processed foods and their associations with obesity.”  I would say that potential implication is none other than that bugger Obesity.

It seems to me (an entirely unscientific person) that no matter what, food needs to be processed before our bodies can use it.  The potential outcome of that usage is calculated in terms of heat: the calorie.

I think we have outsourced those required processes to manufacturers instead of getting our food from farmers and processing it ourselves.

And look what has happened: rising obesity rates.

Think how fast that guy could have lost his 27 pounds if he had been
processing longer after he ate by eating whole food instead of processed snack cakes.


Strengthening Your Self Control

July 13th, 2011

A little exercise can go a long way when it comes to resisting damaging behavior.

Take this study performed at the University of Exeter, England: 25 chocolate lovers were asked to avoid chocolate for three days prior to the mini stress test performed.  (I really hope they got paid for their participation!)

When the participants arrived at the lab, half of them were asked to walk briskly on a treadmill for 15 minutes while the other half simply waited for the tests to begin.

If abstaining from chocolate weren’t enough, the researchers then put all of the participants through a challenging mental test designed to stress them out.  (Sounds mean!) As if that weren’t enough, at
the end of the test another researcher walked into the room and lets you choose your favorite chocolate bar from the samples he carries.  Then you are asked to unwrap the chocolate BUT NOT EAT IT.

Yow.   How difficult do you imagine that was for the participants?!

The exercising participants showed a smaller increase in blood pressure during the mental tests and had a smaller increase in blood pressure when asked to unwrap but not eat the chocolate.

Researchers concluded that the 15 minutes of exercise helped the participants cope better with both challenges. 

(And it isn’t only chocolate: the same researchers have performed similar tests with smokers and on the subject of basic concentration in the face of distractions.)

It looks like the advice of “if you feel hungry, take a walk around the block” or “do 20 pushups” first before you reach for an unhealthy snack has some research to back it up!

If you are dealing with any number of temptations, use exercise to help you resist temptation and improve your self control!  Use your physiology to your advantage, and start to see exercise as a source of mental and physical strength!

Got a Spare $8,000?

July 7th, 2011

The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services’ Department of Health Policy released a study last year that reported the individual cost of obesity in the United States.

Not the cost in macroeconomic terms, the costs individuals pay for being obese.

Women pay an average of $4,879 and men pay $2,646 each year for obesity-related medical expenses and lost productivity.


Beyond that, the authors added in the value of each individual’s loss of life due to their obesity.  THAT took the toll up to $8,365 for women and $6,518 for men. Each year.

Yikes again.

We aren’t even counting what it costs to live with (presumably) type two diabetes.

Nor what the non-monetary costs are.

I suggest those non-monetary costs are much higher.

Do you travel less than you would if you weren’t concerned about fitting in a seat?  Do you attend fewer functions because you only have one or two “nice”outfits that fit?  Do you feel as though you can’t be yourself because you’re busy worrying about how big you are?

Do you think people aren’t your friend, don’t invite you to get-togethers, or talk behind your back about how much you weigh?  Do you take an awfully long time to climb a flight of stairs or walk to your destination?

If the answer is “yes” to any of these, I’m willing to bet you’d pay more than $8,000 to get it to stop.


I’m not going to say that if I can do it, anyone can do it.  Anyone can do it regardless of my own success losing a lot of weight.

And it takes work, and not everyone is willing to work at it for as long as it takes.

But it IS possible, and you CAN do it.  But you absolutely must believe that you can; that’s I think where a lot of the trouble lies.  It isn’t about the monetary costs, and it isn’t about the non-monetary costs, and it isn’t about knowing or not knowing what to eat and not eat.  It isn’t about how long you’ll live or in what condition.

Most of it is about your belief in yourself. 

If you’ve got that, you can do anything.

So if you need to, take some time and have some honest conversations with yourself about what your body needs you to do.  Speak to your doctor, speak to me, speak with someone in your family, speak with a therapist.  Do what you need to do to get yourself to recognize your own needs and believe in yourself.

You (and your bank account) deserve it.


July 6th, 2011

No; that title isn’t the cry of an angry bird.  (That’s “ca-caw!” or “squawk!”)  It’s the official acronym from the United States Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security for the Assumed Average Weight Per Person.

Why would they have such a thing?  Well, just like elevators, I guess, ships and boats need maximum loads posted and obeyed so people have a better shot of staying afloat (or suspended, in the case of elevators).

Why would I know that such a thing as an AAWPP exists?  Because it matters in a professional sense for a fitness professional to know that the AAWPP is changing December first.

It’s changing from 160 pounds to 185 pounds.

It feels somehow more official when the Coast Guard says it, doesn’t it?  We are, on average, gaining weight and staying heavier than our bodies were designed to weigh. I don’t like this trend.

I automatically translate this from boats to elevators simply because I have been on far more elevators (and stared at the maximum capacity signs) than I have boats. This means that when 10 people used to fit on a boat together, now the Coast Guard says only 8 people can fit safely.

That’s a LOT of difference when it’s ten people; imagine how many fit on a cruise ship!  This is going to make our vacations MORE EXPENSIVE!!  It isn’t just the Coast Guard, either.  The airlines are doing it too, I’ve heard.  (That one is much harder to find through the FAA.)

Being shorter than average, I am curious how tall the Assumed Average Height Per Person is, if it exists. But being shorter than average, it feels strange that I’ve been both AAWPPs in my past.  Eek.

I myself need to weigh less than the AAWPP.  What about you?

I know how it is a lot of the time: we feel like we have to pay SO MUCH ATTENTION to our blood sugars, and now you’re supposed to manage your WEIGHT, too?  AND exercise??!

Well, yes.

It’s the hand we’ve been dealt.  So we can either be sad and fold early, or we can play the best game possible with that hand.  You just never know what’s going to happen.

Our job is to do our best to stay afloat.

Amazing Benefits of Exercise

June 21st, 2011

You feel better when you exercise.  It helps you manage your diabetes.  It helps you lose weight or keep your weight in check.  It helps you fit in your clothes.  It helps your heart stay strong.  It helps your blood fat levels get to and stay in a healthy range.  It keeps your bones strong.  It helps you manage stress.

AND it helps you stay young.

I’m telling you, exercise is an amazing thing.

I think I blog more about cardiovascular exercise than I do resistance training, mainly because what I do for my cardio exercise is more interesting and exciting to write about.  (I mean, did you see yesterday’s blog?!)

When it comes to resistance exercise, however, I’m a huge fan and wish I were able to devote more time to it (marathons have taken precedence for the past two years).  Resistance training to help me stave off muscle loss as I age is crucial.  I also have one body so it’s hard to do everything I want to all the time. 

I’m sure you understand.

So you can imagine how fun it is for me to spread the word about TELOMERES

Telomeres are little pieces at the end of our cells’ DNA.  With every cell division, a tiny bit at the end of that telomere is lost. 

You can imagine how this story ends up.  If you can’t, look at your grandparents.

With every cell division snipping off a teensy piece of DNA, we are on a limited time budget.

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to three scientists whose work showed that telomeres are vital to protect our cells’ DNA.  Not only did their work show that the longer our telomeres the biologically younger we are, but they showed that the telomeres of middle-aged people who exercised regularly were only marginally shorter than those telomeres of people half their age who didn’t exercise regularly.

Gotta love scientific proof that regular exercise (and of course good sound nutrition) help our bodies significantly slow the aging process.

Just add it to the list of the amazing benefits of exercise.