Friday, May 20, 2011
When I was a kid in the 80s, I don't remember a lot of overweight people in my area. Obesity was still a relatively rare phenomena, but there were concerns about it becoming a problem. The government changed dietary guidelines. They said Americans ate too much meat. Saturated fat was making us fat and heart attack prone. They changed dietary guidelines, and the high carbohydrate, low fat diet emerged. Snackwell fat free cookies dominated the new diets.
We got fatter. Much fatter. "Adult onset diabetes" was renamed "Type II diabetes" because now kids were getting diabetes at younger and younger ages.
Back in 2000-2002, I was obese after never being overweight as a kid or teenager. I was overweight AND obese for the first time in my life. I blamed it on 'slow metabolism' and 'aging' (at 28 years old). There was nothing wrong with my metabolism, or my age. It was entirely bad food choices and lack of exercise.
In 2002, I regularly had double quarter pounders, supersized fries, and 32oz fully leaded coke for lunch.
I started turning it around in 2004. My diet had drastically changed. I stopped eating at fast food restaurants completely. I shopped only at farmer's markets in Seattle, buying fresh veggies and fruit. I ate mass quantities of wild caught Pacific salmon. I ate more fish than beef. I started eating more grass fed beef, and free range chickens.
My diet was not perfect by any means, though. I drank beer and happy hour cocktails with friends. A few more margaritas than I should probably admit to. ;) I began exploring wines, as there are so many vineyards in Washington.
I managed to lose 30 lbs. I wanted to lose 40. These last remaining 10 lbs are stubborn. I've been trying to get rid of it for about 4 years? To be honest, I probably haven't been super motivated.
During my last physical, my doctor called me an 'athlete'. My bloodwork is perfect. Cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin, kidney, liver, thyroid function - everything - is all above average health. My interior body is all functioning like an 'athlete'. But I don't look like one. Still carrying around higher bodyfat than I would like.
So I started thinking. Something else is going on. My body is hanging onto this excess fat and is in stasis. Whatever I am doing is just keeping things the same.
I got to thinking about bodybuilders. They lose fat to ridiculous levels right before a competition. It is not healthy long term, but somehow, they can manipulate their bodies to drop body fat for competition levels. How did they do it?
I started poking around bodybuilding websites. I was expecting to find information about exercise routines. I was surprised to find them discussing nutrition instead. Many of the guys (and female bodybuilders) were saying they did no more than 30 minutes cardio while 'cutting' fat per day. How could this be? This seemed to fly in the face of everything I heard about losing weight.
Then I read a bodybuilding article that changed my perspective completely. It talked about insulin and insulin resistance. How insulin affects fat storage and fat burn. High levels of insulin enables fat storage, and disables fat burn (oversimplified, but that is the gist). Nutrition determines insulin response.
My physical said my insulin levels were good - I am not at risk of metabolic syndrome because I happened to already be doing the right things to control my blood sugar through my diet. However, my diet is keeping things in stasis. My nutrition is neither encouraging fat burn, nor fat storage. My diet is perfect for maintenance levels.
This is not what I want. I want to encourage fat burn.
Remember in 2002 when I was obese? I first started dabbling with the Zone Diet. I did it all wrong, though. I didn't give up eating the double quarter pounders. I wasn't disciplined.
I thought insulin levels were only important for diabetics. I never researched it further because I am not diabetic, nor at risk of diabetes.
Now I'm voraciously absorbing as much information as I can get on it. Just finished reading the "Paleo Diet" yesterday. Now I'm following up on "Protein Power" at the recommendation of Spark friends. It really does throw everything I thought I knew about good nutrition on its head.
I think the Paleo Diet is too restrictive for me. I cannot see myself eliminating cheese, yogurt, and beans. I have already cut grain consumption way back. However, I can say the book got me to thinking. It's opened a thought pathway I might not have considered before.
"Protein Power" is getting a lot closer to what would be a doable 'lifestyle' change I can live with long term. Cheese and yogurt are not restricted. Beans are considered more carbohydrate than protein. I will have to consider that point further.
I admit that changes that seem to throw your paradigm on its head are difficult to unravel. I'm shocked that some consider "The Zone" diet to be a dangerous low carb diet. Food pyramid recommendation is 60-20-20 carbs/fat/protein. The Zone is 40-30-30. Atkins is 20-40-40. The Zone is actually the moderate carbohydrate diet.
All I know is, the USDA recommendations are a disaster. We are fatter and unhealthier than ever. There was just one girl in my entire high school who was severely overweight in the 90s. I learned recently that she had a heart attack when she was just 33 years old. These days, I see high school kids who are proportionally much larger than my high school class. 65% of the entire population of the US is overweight or obese. How many of these kids will also be facing coronary issues in their 30s?
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Continuing my latest saga on anthropology. ;) Yesterday we talked about food. Today, let's talk about fitness!
Has anyone read the book "Manthropology"? It's about how wimpy modern man is compared to our primitive ancestors. Even not so primitive civilizations like the Romans.
Couple of the eye opening points:
- Roman legions carried half their body weight in gear, completing the equivalent of one and a half marathons per day when on the march.
- Many prehistoric aboriginals could run faster, jump higher, and farther than many of our elite Olympian athletes. Some anthropologists estimate primitive man in Africa with modern running shoes and running track might reach speeds of up to 45 kph!
A couple of my own thoughts.
- Any of you old enough to have grandmothers who told stories about how difficult churning butter is?
- How many can beat cake batter with just a wooden spoon, without a cake mixer? I dare you to try it sometime. If your muscles aren't screaming, then I am in awe of you!
- American pioneer woman was no girly girl. She had to have serious muscle to carry heavy loads of laundry down to the creek, and scrub clothes on a washboard.
- How many of you chopped trees, dragged it through the woods, and built your own house?
- Easier question. How many of you can chop firewood?
- Raise your hand if you can climb a palm tree to reach a coconut?
- Could you go on a one year extended backpacky hike, with no trail maps, no GPS, carrying a baby from N. Dakota to Oregon? Sacajawea did.
Have any other feats of fitness done in the past that the average modern office worker would find extremely difficult?
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Based on the recommendation of some Spark friends, I decided to check out the "Paleo Diet" book. I admit to being drawn to the idea for a couple of reasons. I'm really fascinated about our ancient ancestors and how they lived.
This may be a terribly nerdy and potentially embarassing thing for me to admit, but when I go camping, I imagine what life would have been like as cave woman. I imagine that I'm not in a tent, but a teepee or cave. My sleeping bag is a cured animal hide, not a high tech synthetic. I can rough it pretty well - I can be wilderness survival girl if I needed to be. So imagining a cave woman diet sounds intriguing!
Ahem. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.
At first glance, this seemed to be a great fit for me. Carb/fat/protein ratios are about 40/30/30 - same as Zone Diet, which I favor. Fish, lean meats, all the veggies and fruit you can eat. Ok, I'm on board with this.
Then I got to the 'no-no' food list. No dairy of any kind. No legumes. No grain.
Ok, I have reduced my grain consumption pretty heavily already. But no cheese? No yogurt? No beans? Yikes!
I am mildly lactose intolerant, so I don't consume straight milk. Yogurt and cheese I can eat with no problem because the bacteria consumes most of the lactose.
I haven't finished the book yet (about halfway through), but one thing that struck me odd is no mention of Mongolians. The author mentions Eskimo high protein/low carb diet frequently as his case study that high carb diets are unnecessary. Eskimos eat a diet very similar to our paleo ancestors. Lots of fish, caribou, and seal meat. Very little plant matter. No dairy.
Mongolians also eat a very high protein/low carb diet. They also consume a high amount of dairy. Mongolians have been dependent on the blood, meat, and milk of their goats and horses since the neolithic age. Since food and resources are scarce in the harsh desert climate of Mongolia, they butchered their animals sparingly. They drank the milk. They bled the animals with just a little cut, then boiled the blood to consume. Blood and milk were renewable resources that wouldn't require killing their animals as frequently as necessary to sustain their population. They butchered their animals to cook and dehydrate the meat on a sustainable basis. They still live mostly this way today.
I just found it odd to exclude Mongolians from the discussion. Inuit eskimos are most likely descendents of Mongolians. They appeared in North America about the time the Mongolians were established with herds of domesticated animals in the neolithic era. Herding is probably what enabled them to travel the long distance across the Bering Straight as they brought their animals with them. So I am not entirely convinced about the exclusion of dairy.
I've decided that the "neolithic diet" probably suits me better. Neolithic people did not raise their animals with growth hormones or antibiotics. They domesticated plants without requiring genetically modified "Roundup" genes. So I'm keeping the organic cheese and yogurt, and non GMO beans. I'm reducing the amount of grains I eat, but not eliminating entirely.
I guess I'm more of a "Bronze Age" than a Clan of the Cave Bear "Stone Age" woman.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I've been trying to adjust my diet to Zone diet ratios of 40% carbs/30% fat/30% protein, but I've been having trouble reaching it. I'm getting closer to 60/20/20 consistently. My calorie goals are about 1300-1400. 1500 max.
If you aren't familiar with the Zone diet, it was developed by Dr. Barry Sears, who found that controling the hormonal response from foods eaten led to better weight loss results. The most well known hormonal response is the release of insulin. All foods have a glycemic index which measures how much and how quickly the body releases insulin to control blood sugar levels. Insulin is a fat burning inhibitor. The body will turn to glucose from carbohydrates first before it will turn to stored fat. Zone diet tries to reduce glucose levels from foods, so more stored fat is burned.
Zone diet isn't as restrictive as many of the low carb diets. Dr. Sears says many low carb diets miss the point. They ignore the hormonal response. The bad rap low carb diets are getting is the mistaken notion to eliminate carbs. Carbs are brain food. The brain is a carbohydrate lover. It is powered by glucose. The brain uses 20% of the carbs you consume. However, sugary foods have the paradoxal effect of depriving the brain of glucose.
I am not trying to eliminate carbs, just shifting where they came from. My carbs come primarily from fruit/veg, and high quality grain in small quantity. I don't buy processed foods anymore, so I am eating pretty clean.
On the zone diet, you eat 5 meals a day: breakfast/lunch/dinner and 2 snacks. There aren't any forbidden foods, but foods that you should enjoy infrequently or less of. Eat no more than 500 calories in a single meal. This isn't so different than a Spark recommended diet. The difference is in how the calories are allocated into carbs/fat/protein. Spark recommends 50c/30f/20p.
On the Zone diet, you have to figure out your protein requirements for your lean mass. You first need to know what your lean mass is by calculating body fat, then multiply by an activity level modifier.
Sedentary - multiply lbs of lean body mass by .5
Light activity (e.g. walking) - multiply by .6
Moderate (30 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days per week) - .7
Active (1 hour per day 5 days per week) - .8
Very Active (10 hours of vigorous activity per week - .9
Athlete - multiply by 1.0
For me, I require at minimum 70g protein per day.
Earlier, I made a post with my meal plan goals, but I made an error in calculating my meal planning macronutrient ratios. I've been trying to make a meal plan using Zone diet ratios of 40% carbs/30% fat/30% protein.
Well I made a pretty big mistake. I was trying to balance 40/30/30 ratios in grams.
Here's what I should be balancing.
1g Carbohydrates = 4 calories
1g Protein = 4 calories
1g Fat = 9 calories
My ideal zone ratios should be for 1400 calories:
Calories per day: 560 carbs/420protein/420 fat.
Grams per day: 140g carbs/105g protein/46g fat.
Grams per meal: 28g carbs/21g protein/9.2g fat.
I've been experimenting with my meals, trying to find the optimal menu to hit the 40/30/30 ratios. My meal plan has high quality carbs (fruit and veg, small amount of grain/starch) spread throughout the day. Here's a sample I've come up with:
This may be somewhat controversial to some people, but I try to exercise before breakfast. There is research showing people who exercise before eating burn more fat. Exercising in a fasted state also primes cells to be receptive to insulin. However, this is not for high performance training. Performance will suffer during fasted exercise. Do not try to do this before spinning or yoga class. Also, never, ever strength train this way.
My goal is to optimize fat loss.
Morning exercise at 6:30am.
7am Breakfast: Yogurt, blueberries, kashi cereal, and a little agave nectar to sweeten. 247 calories
10am Snack: Apple with cashew butter. Hard boiled egg. 245 calories
12pm Lunch: Black beans, cheddar cheese, 1/4c quinoa and salsa on a bed of lettuce salad. Watermelon for dessert. 383 calories
3pm Snack: Wheat crackers with ham slices and dijon mustard. 184 calories
6pm Dinner: 4oz ribeye, 50g potatoes mashed with dijon mustard and dill, steamed brussel sprouts, and side salad with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. 355 calories
Target: 1400 calories, 140g carbs/46g fat/105g protein
Actual: 1413 calories, 146g carbs/50g fat/97g protein.
Target: 40% carbs/30% fat/ 30% protein
Actual: 41.07% carbs/31.65% fat/27.29% protein
My breakfast stays the same every day. It's just easier to not think about 'What's for breakfast' when I get up in the morning and just make it automatic. Snacks will stay pretty much the same. Lunch and dinner will vary, but I'll keep the types of food and proportions relatively the same. I cannot stand lack of variety for long.
Now I've got to go back and readjust my prior week's totals to correct my mistake. That might be why my weight loss stalled a couple of weeks ago. I was calculating my ratios wrong.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
I'm back in my home state of Colorado for the week. While here, I'm trying to stay active. My best friend of the past 18 years has a goal to hike as many of the area hiking trails as possible. I'm so proud of her, and excited that she's taking an interest. It makes it easier for me to stay active while visiting, too.
Yesterday we went for a couple of hikes. We started early, and had to move quick. Forecast was for rain later in the afternoon. The sky was overcast and cool.
My best friend and I lived most of our lives in Colorado, but never really explored the area when we were young. Typical youth, I guess we figured we were too cool for it all. Never appreciated what was right in front of us. We are rediscovering the beauty that lived in our backyards all this time.
Our first hike was a short 2 mile loop to what was supposed to be a waterfall. We followed the sign posts, but then the trail ended abruptly. We were confused a moment, but then I realized we were standing where the waterfall was supposed to be.
Maybe it will be there during the summer run off. There is still snow and ice in the mountains. The weather hasn't been warm enough yet to melt it off.
We turned back, disappointed. But it was a nice easy, fast hike to get into the swing of things. I was concerned about whether I would adjust to the high altitude quickly enough (I have lived at sea level for so long), so I wanted to go slow. I felt fine. We decided to take a lunch break, then go for another short hike.
We stopped at an Indian buffet in downtown Colorado Springs. I filled up on a plate of salad greens with a little mint raita. For my second plate, I added just a little scoop of the tikka masala and vindaloo, plus small pieces of tandoori chicken. I used a small piece the naan bread to scoop up the tikka masala and vindaloo. Indian buffets can be calorie bombs if you overload on the curry, but I just enjoyed a small sample. Eating the large salad plate made sure I was full when I finished my curry, so I wasn't tempted to go back for more.
We then went on our second hike. We originally had a different destination in mind further north, but as we traveled the freeway, we could see the weather was getting worse in that direction. We turned around and went to another location near the first.
It was another easy, short, 2 mile loop hike. This one was higher up in the mountains, though, and for a short minute I could feel the low O2 levels in my lungs. We started slow, stopping frequently for rest and water breaks. I felt fine after we were moving.
We got to the top of the trail where there was a large flat plateau. We spent a few minutes taking pictures.
This rock is an optical illusion. It isn't really precariously sitting on the edge of a cliff! There is a another plateau on the other side. It isn't a drop off like it looks in the pictures...but we liked taking silly pictures with it because it looks like we're being dangerous!
We ended the afternoon by stopping by a local brew pub where my friend's SO works. We enjoyed a strawberry cider, then had sushi for dinner.
I slept extraordinarily well last night, and feel relaxed and recharged this morning. We have plans to do city hikes after work during the week.
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