Tuesday, June 26, 2012
I've been on Spark a long time, and one of the recurring themes on message boards I see are women saying, "I need to lose weight, but I don't like exercise. I don't want to lift weights because I don't want to look like a body builder."
These women are setting themselves up to fail.
Ladies, you will not bulk up without a very specific training regime and eating plan. Most people cannot do this without advice of a trainer or coach.
What you eat and how you exercise determines what your body looks like.
This is runway model Adriana Lima:
Here's how she gets this look. Before a runway show:
"She sees a nutritionist, who has measured her body’s muscle mass, fat ratio and levels of water retention. He prescribes protein shakes, vitamins and supplements to keep Lima’s energy levels up during this training period. Lima drinks a gallon of water a day. For nine days before the show, she will drink only protein shakes – "no solids". The concoctions include powdered egg. Two days before the show, she will abstain from the daily gallon of water, and just drink normally."
Powdered eggs and water. Yum?
This is Oxygen fitness model Linda Minard:
I couldn't find an article that describes what Linda eats, but I know that Tour de France competitors eat 9,000 calories per day. That is not a typo. 9,000 on average.
Linda is 5'2" and weighs about 130lbs. That's pretty close to me. 5'0" and 128lbs. Except I don't look like her.
This is me:
Linda has WAY better abs and arms than I do! I definitely have more bodyfat than she does. I'm guessing she is about 14% bodyfat, which is very low, and 'competitive' range. I'm currently about 28% bodyfat, which is the upper end of 'normal'. Clearly, muscle makes her leaner for a similar amount of 'weight'. She's built like a cheetah.
Muscle is smaller, denser, and tighter than fat. Fat takes more volume per pound.
Here's a visual example. These are pictures I took at the Whole Foods meat counter.
This is a non-organic, corn-fed beef ribeye. This cow has eaten corn feed most of its life, and not much access to pasture, if any. It has a high degree of fat on it. There is a lot of marbling - streaks of fat - embedded within the muscle tissue. Basically, this cow was obese.
This is a grass-fed, free range, pasture raised beef ribeye. The muscle tissue is tight and compact. There is very little fat on it, and very small if any, steaks of fat within the muscle tissue. This was a thin, healthy, muscular cow.
I'm not anywhere close to 'fitness' model body composition, but because there are so many health problems these days, I am comparatively 'thin' for my area. My pet peeve at the moment is restaurant servers who say I can 'afford' to get the dessert because I can 'afford' the calories. Or that I have a 'high metabolism'.
No, I do not. This takes work and good choices. I eat mostly clean, and as few processed foods as possible. Most of my workouts are designed to combine both resistance training and cardio at the same time - more bang for the buck. It's the strength training that makes you lean, not cardio.
I see people get on elliptical machines and run at a very high cadence. Comparatively, I must look like a slacker. I workout at a pretty slow cadence. But if you were to look closer, you would notice that I set my resistance at moderate to high levels. When I get on the treadmill, you'll never see me running. I set a walking pace of about 3-4mph, but my incline is between 10-15%.
Whenever I get up from my desk, I do a few stretches, and about 20 squats.
For my arms, I like resistance bands. It's easy to stretch and pull while seated at my desk. Due to a wrist injury when I was 8, I can't do push ups, which is a shame because using body weight is a great way to build muscle. At the moment, I have a crazy fitness goal that I want to be able to do pull-ups. Why? Because I've never been able to do one!
We are relative newcomers to where we live, and I've had people say to me that I'm 'lucky' that I don't have a weight problem. They didn't know me when I was 42% bodyfat. Luck had nothing to do with it.
While I'm not a Tour de France competitor, and I don't eat 9,000 calories per day, I do eat well.
I can strength train with moderate cardio, eat about 1,400-2,200 calories per day and be fit. Or I can drink powdered egg protein shakes and be thin.
It's not luck. It's a choice.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
I've been looking into sugars and how they are metabolized because I believe this is how I damaged my body.
Before 2000, I was normal weight. Like many teenagers and 20-somethings, I thought I was fat when I was the farthest thing from it. When I was 13, there was a commercial from Special K cereal. It had a jingle that ended with the line, "Can't pinch an inch on me." From that point on, I was convinced I was fat because I pinched an inch on my gut. This seemingly innocuous event was the start of unrealistic expectations throughout my teen years. I started the concept of 'dieting' at 13 years old.
I was never really overweight, I only thought I was. In 2000, I started my first career job, got a boyfriend, and started making some extraordinarily bad choices with diet.
I ate super-sized breakfast and lunch at McDonalds. I bought 32oz fully leaded Cokes to drink at my desk. I didn't cook at home because I didn't know how, so I ate at KFC, Applebee's or Chili's for dinner. I drank oversized adult kool-aid margaritas that didn't have a drop of real juice.
I must have been taking in about 3000 calories per day. I'm a petite 5'0". That is beyond ridiculous. I gained weight very rapidly to weigh in at 160lbs. I might have weighed more at one point. I stopped weighing myself after a while because I didn't want to see it. I pretended that it wasn't happening.
Before I went on this crazy spiral, I could eat bowls of rice and potatoes with impunity. I ate pizza, burgers, and beer without gaining a pound.
I think I was fairly lucky growing up because my mom made food from fresh ingredients. I didn't eat a lot of processed foods. Once I was on my own, I didn't know how to cook, so I relied on processed foods and restaurants. I said that I 'didn't have time' to cook.
I am convinced that those 32oz Big Gulps of Coke and the Kool-Aid Ritas did the most damage to my system. Even though I was never diagnosed with clinical insulin resistance, my body showed signs of damage.
Insulin normally tells cells to start storing sugars, fats and protein in cells. However, when you chronically abuse your body by overloading with sugars, cells stop responding. It is because they seem to have an upper tolerance where they risk cell death if they take any more. So they shut down, and stop listening to the cues. This is insulin resistance.
Then something fortunate happened. My boyfriend and I broke up. Ok, it seemed devastating and the worst thing ever at the time. But this ended up being the best thing ever. He was a loser that was dragging my life down. I moved to Seattle and transformed myself.
Clean slate. I ditched the sugar. No more Big Gulps. No more chain restaurants. I learned to cook.
Combined with buying a bike, I lost 30 lbs. But then I stalled and stayed there until last year.
I thought I eliminated all sugars, but there was another type that I didn't know about. Last year I made the revelation that breads, pastas, rice and potatoes are another form of sugar. Carbohydrates, no matter what the source, is converted into glucose. (Except fiber, which is an indigestible carb.)
Eating 5 servings of grains/starch portions per day was enough to keep me fat. Didn't matter that I averaged 1 hour of exercise 5x per week, and about 8 hours of exercise on the weekends. I could not lose the fat. I was fit-fat.
All I did was drop my grain/starch portion to 1-2x per day. The weight I struggled to lose was finally starting to slide off again.
But I still don't tolerate carbs as well as I used to. True, I am 12 years older than I was in 2000. I'm not a 20-something anymore. However, I suspect that the Big Gulps accelerated the natural age related slow down.
I don't blame the soda industry or 7-11. It was my own stupid fault for drinking those things. Did I really think I was so invincible? Bizarrely, when I weighed 160lbs at 28 years old, I blamed 'slowing metabolism'. Yes, I slowed my metabolism by damaging my insulin sensitivity.
The past is past. Can't change it. It's clear that 1-2 portions of starch/grain is all I can handle. So my beloved rice, potatoes and pasta are things I enjoy less frequently.
That's not such a bad thing. I find that they are something I savor, and perhaps I appreciate a little more.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
I've been doing more research into sugar. I'm not a chemist or biochemist, so I don't have labs where I could run my own tests. I'll have to rely on information I can find by others.
One of the things I wanted to understand is how sugar is metabolized, is one more harmful than the other, and how are they different. Glucose and fructose are the two types.
Table sugar, sucrose, is 50/50 glucose and fructose. It is broken apart by an enzyme called sucrase. Glucose can be used immediately, and our bodies prefer this type to store as glycogen. Glycogen is stored in our muscles. Whenever we need a quick burst of energy, like lifting something, we burn the glycogen. Heavy weightlifting and cardio will deplete glycogen the fastest, but any prolonged activity will burn some, and it needs to be replenished. If you eat a carbohydrate, after a workout is the best time to do it. Replenishing glycogen is a priority in the metabolic system, and so some of the carbs will be stored as glycogen rather than fat.
Glucose causes the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin turns on fat storage mechanisms. How fast this happens is measured by the glycemic index.
Fructose is different. Fructose is processed in the liver. Fructose does not stimulate insulin. It also does not raise blood sugar levels. Diabetics measure blood glucose. Fructose is rapidly disposed of into fat cells, primarily in the liver.
Glucose increases abdominal fat. Fructose is primarily responsible for increase in visceral fat. The dangerous kind that attaches to organs that you can't see.
Fructose tastes sweeter than glucose, which is why HFCS were invented. The food industry can use less, for the same amount of sweetness. HFCS is 55/45 fructose/glucose. That 5% difference is significant in volume, and over time.
Fruit is more fructose than glucose, but there is a difference. Sugars in fruit come packaged with fiber. The digestive system has to break down the fiber, then enzymes go to work to sort and process the components. If you eat a cookie, not much work has to be done to get to the fructose/glucose. It happens much faster.
In order to get 500 calories worth of fructose from an apple, you have to eat 20 apples. An equivalent amount of table sugar is 14 tablespoons. HFCS is just 7 tablespoons.
How many of us have overeaten and binged on apples?
There's more I can say, but I need to wrap this up. The faster this happens, the more fat you will store because rising blood glucose and fructose is toxic. The body must eliminate it as quickly as possible. Our bodies have simply never encountered the fructose load in nature as it does when we eat a few Chips Ahoy cookies with HFCS as the primary sweetener.
Friday, June 22, 2012
One of the reasons I fell in love with Seattle was the farmer's market. Of course there was Pike Place Market, the most famous one. But I didn't know Washington state was farm country until I moved there. Farmer's markets and veggie stalls were all over the place. There were u-pick farms where I could pull carrots, lettuce, potatoes, radishes, onions, zucchinis, etc, etc, etc straight from the ground. I was once told by a local, "If you can't grow a vegetable in Washington, it can't be grown anywhere." The moist, mild climate does seem to be a boon for plants. There is a rain forest in the Olympic mountains, after all.
All I had eaten up to that point was store bought produce. I didn't know how veggies tasted fresh from the earth. They taste 'alive'. They taste 'green'. They don't need seasoning because they are naturally sweet and the flavor of fresh. Eat them raw and they burst with water.
I was in the best health of my life. Produce that fresh is jam packed with minerals and vitamins.
Make no mistake, our paleo ancestors ate their veggies because they tasted good. We sit in our offices, eating fast food wrapped breakfast sandwiches and look down at those knuckle draggers. In truth, our paleo ancestors probably were better nourished. We did not rise to the top of the food chain without being well fed on high quality food.
Since moving to Savannah, GA, I've seriously missed the WA farmer's markets. One time when we were traveling to Atlanta, and I saw a road sign for "Farmer's Market". I got excited and told the husband to take the exit. We drove and followed the signs to "Farmer's Market". What we found were stalls selling tractors, tractor parts, and plows. Hmm. I see.
A farmer's market, selling farm equipment. Well, yes. That makes sense.
While we've lived here 2 years, I still feel quite new. Locals have pointed us to a few things we like to do, but I had been unsuccessful finding fresh produce at an, ahem, 'farmer's market'. I didn't ask around because I was afraid I'd get pointed to more tractors. It was frustrating because I knew there were farms in Georgia. Vidalia onions come from here, but oddly, the grocery stores tend to sell the California variety. Where were these farmers selling their produce?
Just recently, I did some poking around. I was looking at taking cooking classes. Apparently Savannah has a cooking school that's a popular destination for cooking tourists. Sort of like an organized vacation trip somewhere, but with a culinary focus. The one in Savannah is called 700 Kitchen Cooking School.
I was looking at the classes they offered, and I noticed there was one for "Farmer's Market". It was on a Saturday morning, and they said they would go to the market at Forsythe park to get fresh veggies to make lunch with.
I became excited. I looked it up, and sure enough, it said there was a market in Forsythe park every Saturday morning. It had been going on the whole time and I never knew! My husband and I sometimes take a walk around there in the summer, but we had just never walked far enough down to see it!
Fortunately, I discovered this on a Friday, so I didn't have long to wait. I got up Saturday morning, and grabbed my produce bags. Is it weird I was excited for veggies?
This is the famous fountain at Forsythe Park in Savannah. It is in one of Thomas Kincaid's most famous paintings. Sometimes I forget I live in a tourist town. So I stopped and played tourist for a few moments taking pictures.
Forrest Gump sat on a park bench waiting for the bus to see Jenni a little further behind me where I took this picture.
My husband and I have walked around here many times on a Saturday morning, but we just walked around the fountain then headed back into town for a coffee. The market is further down, on the other side of one of the civil war memorials! We just happened to never keep going far enough.
I finally found it. It was very small, but I didn't expect it to be on the grand scale of the Seattle markets. That wouldn't be fair. The only larger markets than the ones in Seattle that I've been to are in San Francisco and Vancouver. And, well, Seoul, S. Korea, but that's not fair at all because their markets take up whole city blocks.
Point is, I was excited that I could get fresh veg, not store bought dead veg. Anything was an improvement.
I didn't end up getting much. I got there too late to get the farm fresh eggs (early birds get the eggs). I got 4 cute little eight ball zucchinis. Zukes are my favorite veg. My mouth was watering when I saw them. Fresh carrots, and 2 pounds of green beans. That was plenty of fresh veg for the DH and I for the week. I didn't see any fresh lettuce for salads, so I would have to get that from our local market.
I made a steak for dinner that night. I sliced one of the zukes, sprtitzed with a little olive oil and salt, and baked it in the oven. One thing that I forgot about super fresh veg was the water content. I baked it at too low a temperature, so it got a little soggy. However, it was still fine, just more steamed rather than seared like I intended. But gosh, was it good. It tasted 'alive', and 'green', and like 'zucchini x10'. My husband remarked on how you could taste the difference.
The thing about super fresh veg is it tastes almost 'sweet', even if it has no sugar content. I believe this is one of the reasons that I broke my sweet tooth when I lived in Seattle. When I started eating naturally fresh, sweet veggies and fruit, my palate changed. My body craved those vitamins and minerals, and I didn't need to eat a lot of food, because I was nourished on less. Over time, sweet and salty packaged foods tasted bad because they were artificially sweet and devoid of nutrients. I needed to eat more, because I wasn't getting every vitamin and mineral I needed.
Yesterday, I made a chicken and vegetable soup for my lunch using my fresh carrots. I had to mix it with conventional veggies like celery. The soup was good, but let me tell you what. The brightest flavor in the soup was the carrot. It just popped. The celery tasted like cardboard. All fiber and no flavor.
I wished I bought celery at that market. Maybe this week.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
No matter what your diet paradigm, most of us would agree the processed foods aren't doing anybody any good. Americans are fatter and unhealthier than ever. The biggest growing industry in America is healthcare. There's something disturbing about that. A lot of jobs are based on a lot of people being sick. It's cause and effect.
It's one thing to say obesity is hereditary or due to fast food when you're an adult, but what about children? There are obese toddlers today. Type 2 diabetes used to be called adult onset diabetes. Not anymore. There are now pre-adolescents with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, so they have changed the name.
I went to school in the 80s and 90s. There were a handful of kids who were considered 'chubby'. There was one girl in my high school who was morbidly obese. I found out recently she had a heart attack at 35.
Kids are far, far heavier than they were back in my school days. This wasn't back in the good old days of the Greatest Generation. I'm a GenXer. This was just two decades ago.
This is not just genetics. It just doesn't happen that fast. It's not just that kids are more sedentary. I'm the "Nintendo" generation, and parents complained that we didn't get enough exercise either. Except few of us were morbidly obese. Not like today.
I've traveled around the world and one of the things I do is study the way people eat. S. Korea, Spain and France are all very different places, but have a few things in common. The populations as a whole are thinner than America. They eat a lot of starch and carbs (rice, potatoes and bread), but they don't have a problem with weight. They also eat a lot of meat and fat (cheese and real butter), and they also don't have a problem with weight. So they are neither low carb, nor are they low fat.
So why are they overall thinner? Why is obesity and morbid obesity prevalent here, and not there?
Could it be the sugar?
"Wait, wait", you say. "What about the French and their pastries? Don't they use sugar?"
Good point. French pastries, oh so buttery, flakey and lightly sweet. The so called French paradox. Butter, cheese, and wine, and yet they are seemingly walking exemplars of health, mocking the rest of us by living longer. Darn them.
I saw the French bakeries working by about 5am every morning. Their bakeries were rolling, kneading, and baking breads and pastries fresh. Every single morning, except one or two days where they were closed. Every piece of bread was freshly made that morning. Once they sold out of something, that was it for the day. The loaves of bread that weren't sold that day were tomorrow's croutons and bread slices for the onion soup.
My theory? They don't use high fructose corn syrup. They use real sugar.
In Asia, their baked goods are much less sweet overall. They rarely drink beverages like Coke. Their Coke cans were these miniature 6oz cans, and I saw people share with friends. Compare with Americans who regularly down 16oz plastic bottles, or 32oz Big Gulps.
There's a marketing campaign going around where the food industry is promoting that HFCS is sugar, and is metabolized just like sugar.
This is not true. High fructose is not metabolized like sucrose. It's not even metabolized like natural fructose. Chemistry was never one of my strongest subjects, so I'll struggle a bit to explain it, but basically it has to do with their compound chains. Sugars are made of part fructose, part glucose. In table sugar, these chains are held together with a water molecule. Fructose/glucose is broken apart with an enzyme called sucrase that separates the water molecule off. The glucose can then be used immediately. Fructose has to be broken down further in the liver.
In HFCS, the chains are not linked. Glucose and Fructose, unlike sucrose, are not chemically bound to each other. They are free floating.
HFCS and table sugar are both glucose and fructose, but differ in the link. Table sugar is 50/50 fructose/glucose. HFCS is commonly 55/45. Less HFCS is needed than table sugar to make something taste sweet.
My source is this study: www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/
Using less seems like it should be better, but something is wrong. If less HFCS is used then table sugar, shouldn't we be thinner? Maybe HFCS raises our blood sugar faster somehow. Less is needed to make us just as fat.
Our bodies must maintain a neutral blood sugar. Our pancreas releases insulin to lower rising blood sugar. Some of this gets used, but then the body starts trying to shove excess sugars into cells in order to get rid of it. Over time, some cells stop responding to insulin cues to remove the sugar from the blood stream, and this becomes insulin resistance. Once this damage is done, it is permanent. You can control it and manage it, but you'll never have the same tolerance again. As say, when you were a teenager and you could down bottles of Coke and pizza and not gain a pound.
My working theory is Asians, French and Spanish enjoy their seemingly high loads of rice, bread, and potatoes because of limited use of HFCS. They have lower insulin resistance overall because their cells are largely undamaged due to low fructose consumption. They buy whole made ingredients. Because they are fresh, they don't have a long shelf life as they aren't loaded with preservatives.
If you think the preservatives aren't harmful, consider this. A lot of processed packaged foods are loaded with phosphates as preservatives. This is what makes convenience foods shelf stable. Lots of Americans drink skim milk. Vitamin D is fat soluable. Calcium is water soluble, but fat is calcium soluble, meaning excess calcium will attract fat molecules that do not get absorbed and flush out of the body. Skim milk is liquidized calcium and vitamin D that can't be absorbed. When a person suffers from kidney stones, what are the kidney stones primarily made of? Calcium and phosphate is the most common type.
- Additional info added about the HFCS and sucrose chains.
- Correction about calcium absorption.
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