Sunday, October 14, 2012
Have you ever heard of coconut oil? I hadn't either, until I read about it in Tosca Reno's "Eat Clean" books. She says she eats 3 Tablespoons of it a day. Now, Tosca doesn't eat any foods that are not clean, so I'm sure that 360 calories of a good source of fat don't hurt her. But for the rest of us it might not be the best idea to consume this quantity if we are trying to lose weight. However, it's a great food to substitute for some other fats in your diet for a myriad of reasons. Here's an article that goes into detail, because I am too lazy to type it all out: www.organicfacts.net/organic-oils/or
At any rate, I have discovered how versatile this oil is and how wonderful it makes food taste! I have tried substituting it in almost all of my recipes that call for fat, from stir-fries to baked goods. Every time, without exception, it improves the recipe tremendously. The texture makes even recipes where whole-wheat flour is subbed in for regular white (which usually results in a tougher product) melt-in-your-mouth.
Case in point: I'm GREAT at making pie crust, but have always had to use refined white flour for it to be flaky enough to grant my approval. Last night I made my traditional pie crust (my own recipe and technique), but substituted 1/4 of the white flour for whole-wheat and all of the shortening with coconut oil. It was wonderful! Next time I am going to try it with all whole-wheat flour. I'll bet it turns out terrific.
Coconut oil can be substituted strait over for any kind of fat a recipe calls for, but is especially good in recipes that call for butter or shortening, the latter of which is particularly bad for your heart and arteries.
An unusual property of coconut oil is that it holds solid at temperatures 76 degrees Fahrenheit and below. Above that and it starts to melt. I was keeping it in a cabinet where I always had and it was beginning to liquify. It finally occurred to me that it was being stored next to an exterior wall: With the Texas summer heat on the other side of the wall, the coconut oil was getting a little too warm to hold it's solid state. I moved it to my pantry, which is on an inside wall, and it went back to solid.
If you want to use it in a recipe that calls for liquid oil, just melt it first. In a recipe that calls for a solid fat (butter, margarine, or shortening), use it strait out of the jar.
Unlike olive oil (which is also heart healthy), coconut oil is heat stable. So you can use it for types of cooking that call for prolonged exposure to heat and it won't destroy the flavor of your food.
And it's not just good for cooking- I like to stir a teaspoon of it into my oats or whole-grain cream of what in the mornings. It adds a nice flavor and texture to it, and the added fat slows digestion and helps to keep me full longer.
Most stores carry coconut oil on the shelves with other types of cooking oils.
One caveat of coconut oil is that it is more expensive than most other commonly-used fat sources. But I think that once you've tried it you'll be sold and never go back to shortening, at least, again. It's worth the investment to get that artery-clogging stuff out of the diets of yourself and your family.
Monday, September 03, 2012
I've lost a majority of my weight on the Weight Watchers program. It is the plan that I return to most often when I need to reign things in again, and to this day I log my foods in my Weight Watchers Points Plus food log even when I am maintaining. (I've always done better with a pen and paper than virtual tracking.) But I've found that with the new program that came out earlier this year I was having a hard time losing weight when needed and others were commenting the same.
Now, let me say before I go any farther that if you are using the Weight Watchers program and losing just fine, don't change a thing! If you hit a stall down the line you can revisit this blog and see if it helps, but in the meantime there is absolutely no point in fixing something that is not broke.
It didn't take me very long to figure out what the problems are, and the biggest in my opinion is the unlimited fruits. Now, I've always thought and still think that fruit gets an unnecessarily bad rap, along with wheat, white potatoes, and corn. But to let people eat fruit without accounting for it can completely stall weight loss, and actually cause people who are maintaining gain weight.
The problem isn't that fruit is bad for you. The problem is that most people in the weight loss world have an issue with portion control. Fruit is higher in sugars, albeit natural sugars. I don't have enough room in this blog to explain the entire biological process (and you'd probably get bored, anyhow), so just trust me when I say that too many sugars of any source can actually change how the body stores calories, sending more of them to fat.
Yes, the Weight Watchers gurus tell you to eat fruit until you feel satisfied. But lets get honest here: If people who are or have been overweight could tell when they were satisfied.... well.... there wouldn't be a need for Weight Watchers.
Consequently, my proposal is that you count the first two servings of fruit as "free", and account for any after that in your daily points. In case you weren't around for previous Weight Watchers programs, a serving/points-worth of fruit is about 60 calories, or the equivalent of a cup of cut-up fruit. Or in the case of bananas, a half of a large banana. (So if you eat a whole large banana for breakfast, that's the end of the "free" fruits for the day.)
The unlimited non-starchy veggies are still good, though. While it's not portion control, it'd be almost impossible to eat enough of them to mess with fat storage.
The second tweak I would suggest is to up the intake of water from 6 cups a day to 12. And make it real water- not "non-caloric beverages". (To read my blog on why water is so important, click here: www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
Another thing I would highly recommend is to rely more on whole foods rather than processed, to include Weight Watchers food products. While I think Weight Watchers is a good program, it bugs me a little that they don't put more emphasis on minimally processed foods. Calories are not all created equal, and the your body turns processed foods into fat much easier than foods the way Mother Nature made them. (This is, by the way, the reason I could never be a Weight Watchers leader: They push the employees to sell their products. I could not in good conscience sell people foods that I know aren't truly healthy.)
And lastly, eat your exercise points earned, but forget about your weekly Points Allowance, unless you are really desperate. Doing so seems to put the daily calories at a more metabolism-friendly level. And when you count your exercise points, err on the side of caution and don't be too generous with your estimations. But do go ahead and give yourself more than the 42 on the log, if you have earned more than that.
I realize this blog is not going to apply to the majority, and I am sorry for that. I just thought the few frustrated might find it helpful.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
I have mentioned my workout partner, Ivory, in my blogs a few times. He's a big fella (6'2" or so) with the kind of look many men aspire towards:
(No, he's not on steroids- trust me! Everyone wonders, but that fact is that it's a combination of genetics and willingness to suffer in the gym. Also, interestingly enough, he has never and does not now compete. He just likes to work out.)
We have been working out together for over two years now. Over that time I've noted a go-to pattern he generally uses when he lifts weights by his own devices (purely out of this own head, no outside input). When we first started lifting together this method exhausted me. Now I've adapted, and I have noted that the times I stick with this program both my strength AND muscle definition increase. I don't look big and bulky or any less feminine, so don't worry about that. Women who lift heavy (and avoid steroids) have a TOTALLY different look than men who lift the same way.
Anyhow, thought I would share what I've observed. I love hearing what others are doing and thought this might inspire someone else in some way.
Keep in mind that this is an advanced lifting routine. You want to be a fairly experienced weight lifter (6 months or more) who is well-versed in proper form before attempting this program. The beauty of it is that it grows with you as your strength increases.
He uses this method most often for his big muscle groups: Chest, Back, Shoulders, and Legs.
His first set is one that is multiple-joint and uses the entire muscle group. So for chest this would be some kind of a chest press, for shoulders some kind of a shoulder press, and for back usually a pull-down or pull-up. Legs are almost always a squatting movement.
Of this exercise, he'll do a couple sets of 15-20 with a fairly light weight to warm up and bring some blood into the area. In-between warm-up sets, he stretches the muscle group. (It's a hot debate about whether stretching before is beneficial to the workout or not, but it's what he does.)
Now it's on to working sets, where he goes into pyramiding this exercise like this:
He'll do another set of 15, but with increased weight so that he's really feeling it by the time he's done.
The next set is a set of about 12, slightly increased weight from the set before. He could do several more reps, but he doesn't want to blow his muscles out this early in the game.
He rests for a minute or so. The next set he raises the weight a little so that he's somewhere in the 10 rep range. He could still get 2 or so more of these out, but stops at 10.
Another short rest and the weight is raised again for a set of 8. At this point he could get another rep out if you held a gun to his head.
Now he needs a couple of minutes rest to get his strength back before going into the fifth and final working set. He's raised the weight again so that it's pretty darned heavy- He pushes out about 4-6 reps, usually being spotted, and there is no way under God's green earth he's going to be able to get another rep out. He's spent. And done with that exercise.
The next exercise he chooses will be a little more specific as to the area of the muscle it targets, yet still incorporates the whole muscle group. With chest he'll usually choose some kind of machine incline press or a flye movement. With back this will usually be a rowing movement. And with delts he's going to go in for either a front or a lateral movement, because that's where he prioritizes. With legs it's usually some kind of a leg press.
For this one he'll do four sets, starting out fairly heavy for about 12 reps, then raising and going to 10, then raising again for a couple of sets of 8 reps. Those last 3 sets he's pretty much worn out and needs a couple of minutes of recovery time between to get his strength back up for the next set.
The next two exercises he chooses will be area-specific within that body part. Maybe a decline flye and pullover for chest, strait-arm pullover and bent row for back, either a front or lateral move (whichever he didn't do for the second exercise) and a rear delt move for shoulders, and then some kind of leg extension and hamstring curl for thighs.
For both these 3rd and 4th exercises he'll typically do 3 sets of about 10-12 reps, starting pretty heavy and maxing out with each set.
For the fifth and final exercise, he's going to choose one that either hits the whole area again or, in the case of legs, hits his calves. For chest this will often be a standing cable crossover flye, for back a barbell bent row, for delts some kind of shrug.
Of these he typically does two sets of 15-20. It's more of a "peaking" exercise to get a burn in the muscles than one that is used for strength. He's too worn out from the 4 exercises before to get much more out of them.
Here's a sample Chest workout, at the request of Mrs.Carly:
- Warmup: Incline DB Bench Press- Two light sets of 20 (2x20)
- DB Incline Bench Press: Pyramid of 5x15, 12, 10, 8, 6
- Machine Flyes: 4x12, 10, 10, 8
- DB Cross-Bench Pullovers: 3x10-12
- BB Decline Press: 3x10-12
- Low Cable Crossover Flyes: 2x15-20
In the case of legs, this 5th exercise is where he does his calf exercise. He'll usually get in 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps. Sometimes he'll do a second set of calf exercises, depending on how they feel after the leg workout.
He'll break from this routine several times a year, usually when he finds a workout program in one of his fitness magazines that he wants to do for variety (usually these take anywhere from 8-12 weeks to complete). Or sometimes he'll come in and decide to do 3 sets of 15 for most exercises, or he'll super-set. I think a lot of the reason he continues to improve is because he isn't stuck in a rut. But his default program is the one above, and with good reason- Obviously it works!
Let me know what you think. Was this a valuable blog, or something that is just too hard to relate to?
Friday, August 17, 2012
Man.... I have a real problem with this whole "Cheat Meal", or worse yet, "Cheat Day" concept.
First of all, could we please stop using the word "cheat"? Cheat makes it sound like if you don't over-indulge in foods that are horrible for you, you've failed your mission. Do you really want to cheat yourself out of your healthy eating plan?
Additionally, for someone who is a recovering binge eater (like me), it's an open invitation to gorge. I can easily do 3,000 or more calories worth of damage in the span of just an hour or two. It's really not that hard. (Proof: At Applebees, 1/2 order of onion rings- 645 calories, Riblets platter- 1700 calories, 1/2 Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae- 775 calories. Total: 3120 calories, even when I shared the appetizer and dessert. And I was drinking un-sweet tea!)
One pound of fat is approximately 3500 calories. If I managed to eat 500 calories less than my daily caloric intake for a week, that should add up to about a pound of weight loss that week (500x7 days in the week=3500 calories). Which would be great, except I pretty much packed all of those calories into the above Applebees meal.
And people wonder why they aren't losing weight with cheat meals.
If we move into a bigger meal, or (God forbid!) an entire cheat day, it's easy to see how weight gain could actually occur, despite eating well 6 days out of 7.
Look, I don't mean to be Negative Nancy about enjoying a treat every once in a while. But I think we need to rethink the way we view foods in regards to how we are going to live our life from here on out. It all really DOES make a difference over the long haul.
In David Greenwalt's book The Leanness Lifestyle (which I have frequently referred to as my Fitness Bible), he purposes a Splurge Meal. This is a much better thing to call it, IMHO. You are not going off the rails with cheating, you are planning an indulgence. And it is going to factor into your weekly caloric intake.
How do you make this work? Personally, during the rest of the week I'd shave another 100 calories off of each day. This gives me 600 calories more out of my diet I can "play" with for my Splurge meal. That's step 1.
Next, I'd cut back on my carbs the day of the planned splurge. I'm taking it out of carbs, because, let's face it: people don't usually splurge on turkey breast.
Here's how I'd put it into action:
I'd bring my regular morning oatmeal from 1/2 C dry measure (before cooking) to 1/4 C. That's 75 calories. I'd probably also skip my fruit for my mid-morning or after-workout snack and have just protein powder. There's another 80 or so calories, all from carbs. Lunch would be reduced by about a single portion of carbs, for about another 80 carb calories. So right there, I've got 235 calories in the bank. Add it to the 600 I managed to cut back on during the week, and I'm 835 calories ahead. Plus, I still have my regular dinner calories to factor in, which is normally about 500 for me. Add that to the 835 I already saved and now I'm at 1335. This I can do.
Now, it's time to plan (not haphazardly wing) that splurge.
Before I go to Applebees, I decide what it is I most want to splurge on. For me, it's the cookie Sundae, which I am going to split with my teen daughter (she's skinny).
Knowing this, I look up the nutritional information online before I ever leave the house. Then when I get to the restaurant I order, according to plan, the 9-ounce house sirloin (I'm hungry!) for 310 calories with the garlic mashed potatoes for 250 calories and the seasonal veggies for about 40 calories. That's 600 calories for a very decent dinner that is still a splurge over what I would normally eat.
Dessert is another 775 for 1/2 of that Cookie Sundae. I'm at 1375 calories, just 40 over my 1335. No big deal.
The trick immediately AFTER the splurge is to stick to the plan. If you are anything like me, you tend to go a bit off of the rails once a splurge has occurred. For me, this means I still have my protein shake before bed, even if I don't feel particularly hungry, just to get myself RIGHT BACK on track.
And what's important is that I did NOT cheat, and I have nothing to feel guilty for.
The closer you get to goal, the more important honesty with yourself and planning like this will be. Fat doesn't take a vacation, so please don't believe it isn't going to show up if you invite it by eating with abandon.
And for Pete's sake, stop calling it a Cheat Meal. At least, in front of me.
Sunday, August 05, 2012
I have a tip I use when figuring out how many cardio calories I have burned. This stems from something I read in David Greenwalt's book "The Leanness Lifestyle", which I consider my fitness bible. In the book he states that it's reasonable to assume that a man working very hard burns 10 calories a minute and a woman 8. Since he goes off of scientific studies and not hunches, I trust David's book and the things he says in it.
I've always felt like cardio machines are a little generous when it comes to how many calories they say I burn. I wanted to adjust it to be on the safe side of realistic for my logging purposes. So, working off of the 10/8 rule above, it's fair to guess that we women burn about 80% of the number of calories men doing performing the same activity at the same intensity. (8 is 80% of 10.) I assume the machine thinks I am a man, since while I have had a machine ask my weight and age, I've yet to see one that asks my gender. Given that, I take the total amount of calories it says I've burned and reduce it by 20% to give me 80%. (This is easier mental math for me than multiplying it by 80%)
So if I worked out on the elliptical machine for 45 minutes and it says I burned 450 calories, I assume I burned roughly 360 calories. (20% of 450 is 90: 450 minus 90 is 360.)
To break it down even further for my usually-exhausted mind at the end of a tough cardio workout, I just double what 10% is to come up with the 20% number, since 10% is easier to tell at a glance. So in the case of the elliptical workout above, 45 is 10% of 450. 45 times two is 90. So 90 is 20%, or what I need to subtract from the total the machine is giving me.
My personal method for logging my food and exercise is in my Weight Watchers tracker, which we all know uses a point system instead of calories. I assume every 50 calories is 1 Weight Watchers point. So I round the number I came up with (360) down (not EVER up- I am trying to err on the side of caution) to the nearest 50. For the aforementioned elliptical workout, this would give me 350. Then I just divide by 50 to come up with the number of Points to check off in my exercise tracker- in this case 7. (350 divided by 50 is 7.)
This is all very rough and by no means terribly accurate, but I've found it's a good way to guess.
If you are a man, forget it. As long as you entered your age and weight into the machine, just go with the number it gives you. If you are a man using the Weight Watchers system, round that number down to the nearest 50, divide by 50, and there 'ya got your exercise points.
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