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Fit versus Thin

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.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CAROLJEAN64 6/27/2012 5:07PM

    I cannot imagine that the eating the models do is healthy overall and I am quite sure there will be consequences in their later lives.

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TOOTHFUL99 6/27/2012 8:16AM

    Great blog! Puts everything in perspective.

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SNOWSNAKE 6/27/2012 1:55AM

    This is perhaps one of the best blogs, most sensible and easy to understand... practical information with great supportive photos and explanations...look at all the people you helped have an "aha" moment!! I love it, and that you are a real person who has real expectations in a real time frame! Good job, I loved it!! ***SNOW*** emoticonHarrah!!

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WATERMELLEN 6/26/2012 10:50PM

    What a great blog: "Luck has nothing to do with it" is so true!! Thanks for commenting on my eating disorders blog . . . so fascinating the assumptions people make because you're not fat.

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NEILITHICMAN 6/26/2012 4:54PM

    I remember reading somewhere that you have less liklihood of developing heart diesease if you are fat but fit than if you were thin but unfit. You've gotta move it to lose it.

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LADYROSE 6/26/2012 12:36PM

    Awesome post as usual!

It just goes to show that yes, you can lose 'weight' through whatever measure, and get 'thin', but it doesn't mean you're fit or healthy, unless you mean you 'fit' into a smaller pair of jeans. ;)

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SEPPIESUSAN 6/26/2012 12:29PM


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MIPALADY23 6/26/2012 12:12PM

    Great Blog!! Well written and SMART! Nice job!

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VHALKYRIE 6/26/2012 11:57AM

    It makes sense that a pull up is easier to do with lower body fat. You're having to pull your own weight. I'm working on bringing my bodyfat down a bit further. I have a goal of getting down to 24%, but I'm trying not to get hung up on the numbers. That has just lead to destructive behavior in the past.

I've been reading exercises on how to train for a pull up. I have a pull up bar - I'll try hanging from it. I also read about using the lat-pull down machine in a modified form that simulates the pull up muscles.

Got to go for now, but more comments later...

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 6/26/2012 10:47AM

    Here's a fun reference in this topic if you haven't seen it yet: http://www.leighpeele.com/body-fat-

I listen to her solo podcast (excellent) and also the one she does with a couple of buddies that they call the Fitcast.

The biggest take-home message I'm getting is that if you want to maximize muscle and minimize fat, a dedicated strength program is key, along with adequate protein. They say to do low reps, high weight. And yeah, it's rare for a woman to "bulk up." I am a pretty easy gainer and my arms aren't model-scrawny; I'm pretty happy with the shape of them and they can DO stuff.

Pretty much everyone has nice things to say about "New Rules of Lifting." and I'll be starting the "for women" version when I come back from kayaking in Canada next week.

P.S. I seem only to be able to do pull-ups when I'm under 150 with about 18% body fat or less. Right now I'm closer to 158 with about 20% body fat. (Bah)

P.P.S. Peele wrote a couple of articles about percieved "bulkiness" of women's arms that are also interesting:

Comment edited on: 6/26/2012 10:54:31 AM

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EATNBOOGERS 6/26/2012 10:18AM

    Loved this blog post. I have been able to do pullups (I could do ~8-10 when I was 30). It just took a lot of persistence and training. I'm working on it again. I have a pullup bar--I do a lot of the hanging and gradually lowering myself. (I will also say that for me, having less mass to pull up helped.... I was able to do the pullups when I was ~10 lb lighter than now).

I'm not interested in being a stick. I'm interested in being that woman who blazes by you going uphill on the hiking trail or the mountain biking path.

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WOUBBIE 6/26/2012 10:18AM

    Choice indeed! Almost none of us either has the time or the willingness to do what would be necessary to become endurance-athlete-thin-and-fit. It's a very specific lifestyle and definitely not for everyone.

Much as I like certain cardio, like Zumba, for instance, I'm focusing first on building my muscles - slowly but surely. I really like your advice about the elliptical machines, which I am just beginning to use. I've been trying to keep up with the "sprinters" and feeling guilty, but you're absolutely right. I should slow it down and run up a "steeper hill" instead. Thanks!

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KAYOTIC 6/26/2012 10:01AM

    I hear very similar things from people who didn't know me "when"....but then, my heavy period was over 20 years ago, so that's almost everyone, except my family! I don't know why people assume that a "thin" person can eat with abandon and not exercise, how do they think we stay that way? Like you said, it isn't luck!

Good luck with the pull-up goal! I did that too, it's a great feeling when you can finally do it!

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BOOKWORM27S 6/26/2012 9:48AM

    Great blog! You are correct, it is very difficult for women to put on muscle mass.

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How I Slowed My Metabolism

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.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VHALKYRIE 6/25/2012 5:11PM

    Lactose is no good for me, since I'm lactose intolerant. ;) I eat cheese and yogurt, because the good bacteria eats the lactose that make me uncomfortable.

I eat very low sugar fruits in general, like raspberries, blueberries, and dried cranberries.

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NEILITHICMAN 6/25/2012 5:07PM

    Some sugars are ok though, naturally occuring sugars like lactose in milk and fructose in fruit are better for you than the refined sugars in soft drinks. Try keeping a bunch of grapes handy for a sweet treat.

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FITGIRL15 6/25/2012 11:14AM

    I took a fitness nutrition course, in which we (as the health profesional) were forced to use the Canada Food Guide as our guide in creating healthy diet plans for people wanting to get a hold of their weight problems or reach other fitness goals.

Ugh... this food guide is TERRIBLE... and will keep MOST PEOPLE FAT!!! 6-7 servings of carbs a day, only 4 servings of protein/dairy!?!?! Yeah, NO THANKS! I never used that course knowledge... After my body building experience and my Sparking, I felt that I knew more about healthy eating then they did!

I agree, too much carbs can allow us to hold on to excess body fat... but I don't think that everyone needs to go low carb as a lifestyle! You will never build muscle under such low calorie diets. Complex carbs give you the energy to workout harder/longer and for those who are fitness NUTS like me, I need energy to be there when I need it!!!

Comment edited on: 6/25/2012 11:15:44 AM

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VALKYRIA- 6/25/2012 10:08AM

    I also believe I damaged my metabolism from years of excess sugar and possibly starch intake. It sucks, and sometimes I wonder if it will be permanent, or if it is reversible at all... but even if it isn't, a low-carb diet is something I will just need to learn to live with for the rest of my life and I am OK with that.

It does come down to personal choice--unfortunately, the damage I did was during my childhood years and I did not have the healthiest parents in the world to help me change my habits. But really, I do think some of the responsibility should now fall on the government: there is so much new evidence that Americans eat WAY too many carbs compared to other nations (especially processed stuff like bread and crackers), and that soda in particular causes insulin resistance... we really need better education and FEWER SUBSIDIES so the stuff isn't so cheap. I would vote for a soda tax.

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DDOORN 6/25/2012 10:06AM

    Whole grain doesn't matter for me either...it's all a trap that builds or holds the weight for me.

While we of course have our own personal responsibility for our food choices, my pet peeve is that there are MANY potent sources of influence against which we must swim:



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MILLISMA 6/24/2012 9:44PM

    Great blog and some great responses!!! emoticon

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LADYJAKE1 6/24/2012 7:37PM

    Good read...thanks

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EATNBOOGERS 6/24/2012 1:52PM

    Yeah, I know for some folks, the whole grains don't matter. What I've been reading is that for some folks (this is heart health and weight), just getting the carbs out and the weight down is much more important and gives better results.

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VHALKYRIE 6/24/2012 1:49PM

    GETSTRONGRRR: Thanks for leaving your great comments! You've given me some interesting things to think about. It's good to challenge what we think we know every once in a while. I'm in way better shape in my 30s than I was in my 20s, myself.

EATNBOOGERS: For me, whole grains didn't matter. I was eating whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice. My weight loss didn't budge. The effect was the same, 5-6 servings of any grain will grind my fat burn to a halt.

Comment edited on: 6/24/2012 1:57:40 PM

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EATNBOOGERS 6/24/2012 1:34PM

    More and more people working on heart disease are realizing that simple carbs aren't great for heart health. I'm more concerned about the processed carbs--the white flour/pasta/rice etc--than whole grains. But I hear you.

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GETSTRONGRRR 6/24/2012 11:49AM

    Thanks again....I have immensely enjoyed your posts since we "friended"

I believe I'm in a similar boat...albeit I'm 52. Still, I am fond of telling most of the 20 & 30-somethings that work for me that I'm in better shape today than when I was 30 & 40.

I work out a lot, lifting weights 3x/week and doing some form of cardio 3 other days. Since joining SP in jan 11, I have lost maybe 10-15 lbs, but transformed my body by adding some muscle & dropping inches.

Yet when I took a bodyfat mesuarement earlier this year through a thing called a "BodPod" (see my blog at;


My bodyfat came out to 27%!

So I have high hopes to see how all this works out!

here's to low carb living!

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More About Sugar

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.



  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LYNDALOVES2HIKE 7/23/2012 9:31AM

    Very thought-provoking - and here's something many people don't know about apples. Some of them are INJECTED with sweeteners including grape juice to increase the flavor - I figure it's just a matter of time before HCFS is injected into all sorts of fresh fruits so we need to be aware of the possibility, as well as the possibility of GMO produce which has unknown effects. It's scary but we may not be able to 'trust' even fresh produce unless we grow it ourselves!

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EATNBOOGERS 6/25/2012 11:43AM

    I only get organic apples, too. I go for pink ladies. The ones I get are not particularly big. I guess I wasn't thinking about gigantic waxed conventional apples...

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VHALKYRIE 6/25/2012 11:07AM

    Goes to show how we all can vary. I don't generally like eating a full conventional apple - they are too big. Organic apples are smaller, and less sweet, and those are what I generally buy. Two doesn't sound appetizing, and 3 would give me a stomach ache.

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 6/25/2012 11:01AM

    There's a reason I used to weigh over 330 lbs. I can binge and overeat almost ANYTHING.


Apples, along with any other kind of fruit, are a trigger food for me. I have to limit my access, especially at home at night.

If I could stop at just 3 I might be doing well, comparatively.

Comment edited on: 6/25/2012 11:03:31 AM

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EATNBOOGERS 6/25/2012 10:51AM

    I can eat about 3. ;-)

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VHALKYRIE 6/25/2012 10:45AM

    I'm truly amazed! I can't eat more than one at a time.

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 6/25/2012 10:43AM

I have overeaten and binged on apples.

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CAROLJEAN64 6/24/2012 10:31AM

    Thanks for all the great information.

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MRS.CARLY 6/24/2012 9:57AM

    What great information ! Thank you for taking the time and effort to post in a blog!

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LADYJAKE1 6/23/2012 9:38PM

    Very good, glad you did all the work.

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KAYOTIC 6/23/2012 5:31PM

    Nice overview of sugar! Thanks for sharing it.

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POMATOJUICE 6/23/2012 10:54AM

    Thanks for posting this! It was really informative. I went back and read your previous sugar post& the following comments as well. My dad always used to tell me from a young age: "Sugar is evil!" and try to steer us away from sweets and sodas. I'd just say "But it tastes so good!" lol
He wasn't always the best at explaining the hows& whys, so it's really interesting to read the reasearch on it. I saw a clip from "Fat Head" the other day that explained insulin interaction pretty well. It's mostly about how cels store fat and use energy, but they go into the insulin stuff around halfway through. I haven't seen the documentary, but this clip was interesting!


I have to wonder if the damage done by years of eating processed foods and HFCs is permenant. It sounds like there's some serious metabolic change going on because of that stuff. There's just so much info out thee, and it's hard to know what's true. :(

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EATNBOOGERS 6/23/2012 10:36AM

    Two comments: metabolic syndrome. And.... dude, I *have* totally binged on apples. (I love them!) ;-)

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IACTA_ALEA_EST 6/23/2012 10:32AM

    I would like to see a commercial to counter the sugar industry dumbed down ads about why HFCS is no different or "sugar is sugar".

Thanks for putting this together!

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Savannah Farmer's Market

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.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CAROLJEAN64 6/23/2012 2:51PM

    I love Farmer's Markets and agree with you about the taste of fresh veggies. What I didn't realize was that it extended to eggs. My son gets his eggs from a farmer and I couldn't believe the difference in taste.

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GETSTRONGRRR 6/23/2012 12:15AM

    Sounds like a great adventure. We used to live near Macon and drive down to Savannah & Tybee Island for weekend get-aways (SWMBO was a girl scout and we had to make pilgrimages to Juliette Gordon Lowe's house)

8-ball zucchinis huh? Never heard of them, but they look pretty cool!

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VHALKYRIE 6/22/2012 2:48PM

    Yes, that was the truck that ran out of eggs when I went there last Saturday! Need to wake up earlier tomorrow!

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 6/22/2012 2:46PM

    There's a mobile truck offering Tuesday and Wednesday options there too. :-)


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VHALKYRIE 6/22/2012 2:39PM

    4A-HEALTHY-BMI: Hmm! I might have to check it out next Wednesday! Thanks!!

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 6/22/2012 2:36PM

    Looks like you might have one at Trustee's Garden, too!


Check out the CSA, farm, and other options listed on there, also.
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 6/22/2012 2:40:01 PM

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VHALKYRIE 6/22/2012 1:59PM

    WOUBBIE: That's sounds so wonderful, I could almost taste those peas! We tried to grow strawberries in our backyard when I was little, but Colorado soil is poor. What we were able to grow, the birds got to first. Darn birds! But if we could manage to get them, they were oh so different than the plastic store bought variety!

JECKIE: I did find a co-op when I first got here. The only problem is they don't let you buy ala carte. I found their box sizes they sold were much too large for the two of us, so I dropped out of it, rather than getting a bunch of veggies that might go to waste.

FITGIRL15: A friend of mine in WA had a chicken coop and gave me some eggs one time. Wow - they were indescribable! Hope you get some good finds at your farmer's market!

EATNBOOGERS: I live an apartment. I do have a very small container garden, but obviously I am limited. :( I have some cherry tomatoes that should be ripening soon (I need to get a net to keep the birds out!), and I'm going to try growing some lettuce in a box container. The rest are fresh herbs. But I definitely couldn't live on it! lol It's very small supplemental, but it's the best I can do.

Comment edited on: 6/22/2012 2:00:59 PM

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EATNBOOGERS 6/22/2012 1:06PM

    Do you have space to garden?

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FITGIRL15 6/22/2012 11:08AM

    I have a coworker who's arents have a farm so she brings in farm fresh eggs from time to time! The yokes are the most amazingly bright, nutrient rich things I've ever seen! Makes it hard to eat a store bought egg!!!

Organic carrots are always better tasting! I love my soups... I might just have to hit the Farmers market this weekend! You make it sound all so yummy! I won't forget to get celery... and an onion or two :)

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JECKIE 6/22/2012 10:56AM

    It amazes me that you have a hard time finding fresh produce there! I live in the land of the "blink and you miss it" growing season, but you can't turn a corner without running into a farmer's market and/or CSA around here. We're very fortunate - and I HATE having to go back to store veggies in the winter!

Do you know about localharvest.org? They might have some more ideas for you on where to look!

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WOUBBIE 6/22/2012 10:08AM

    sigh* My grandparents had an enormous garden and I grew up with everything fresh. When I would walk along the narrow path between our house and hers there were fresh things growing on either side and I didn't realize for years how privileged I was to just reach out and grab a young peapod straight off the plant, and eat both the sweet yummy peas inside as well as the outside of the pod, still hot from the sun and sometimes a little dusty from the earth. I can still picture my grandparents teaching me how to pop open the pod and how to peel off the tough membrane inside. Yum! We didn't dare steal Baba's strawberries though! She always raised the small sweet ones, not those big bodacious watery ones people go for these days. And the blueberries!!! Yikes!

*sniff* Miss you Baba and Didi!

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Not All Sugar is Equal

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.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

LYNDALOVES2HIKE 7/23/2012 9:26AM

    I just discovered this blog thanks to your current blog - sorry I missed it before but so glad I've read it now - great info and thanks for including the link to the Princeton research. Definitely adds a lot of credibility to the issue!


Comment edited on: 7/23/2012 9:31:56 AM

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GETSTRONGRRR 6/21/2012 8:17PM

    Great blog and analysis.....as with many things as I get smarter about the relationship between carbs & fats, the actual chemistry matters.

It stands to reason that different types of sugars are metabolized differently and there fore put your body in a different state of equilibrium.....one where you store more fat in your "steady state"


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NEILITHICMAN 6/21/2012 5:21PM

    We try to get our kids out as often as possible. I take them for walks with me and they're both pretty fit. One of the other parents from kindie was amazed to hear our younger boy (3 years old) managed a 2 and a half hour walk up Mount Cargill. Get helthy ideas into them early and set them up for life.

Comment edited on: 6/21/2012 5:22:31 PM

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VHALKYRIE 6/21/2012 4:14PM

    That is so true! I remember going crazy for McDonald's french fries when I was a kid. When I tasted some a few years back, they tasted different somehow. I didn't understand why I used to like them. Turns out the fries I had when I was a kid were cooked with tallow. The formula they use these days is vegetable oil with beef extract. It's not the same.

Comment edited on: 6/21/2012 4:15:16 PM

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ARCHIMEDESII 6/21/2012 4:09PM

    Speaking of Twinkies... the Twinkies they make today ARE NOT the Twinkies of my youth. A co-worker of mine brought in a package and offered me one. Since I hadn't had one in many many years, I tried it. Needless to say, I was really disappointed. You could taste how artificial it was.

That's another reason I stay away from most junk food like say KFC. it just doesn't taste the way I remember it from my youth. And like your other blog, my taste buds remember.


PS - Yes, read the End of Overeating and if you're looking for a really good book, try Mindless Eating by Wansink. Now that was an eyeopening book.

Comment edited on: 6/21/2012 4:11:27 PM

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VHALKYRIE 6/21/2012 3:34PM

    Karen: I agree with you on the portion sizes in Europe. They are smaller than Americans. Overall, I found food in Europe much more satisfying on a smaller plate than oversized American portions. The reason is because the European places I went to used real ingredients, and flavors. You didn't need to eat until you burst. American restaurants generally use poor quality ingredients, and use tricks with salt, sugar and MSG to make them hyperpalatable.

My British nephew said something interesting about Twinkies that we brought him one time. He said, "They don't taste good, but I can't stop eating them anyway." I think that generally sums up why American cuisine has such a bad reputation around the world. It doesn't taste good, and it makes you fat.

Have you read "The End of Overeating"? It's a very good book that discusses how American restaurants have formulated poor quality food into "hyperpalatable" monstrosities.

Comment edited on: 6/21/2012 3:48:47 PM

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ARCHIMEDESII 6/21/2012 3:25PM

    Here's something I noticed from my own travels overseas, European portions (excluding Britain) aren't gut busting. In France, Holland and Italy, I ate smaller portions of good quality food. In Rome, you could see locals munching on a piece of fruit as they walked along the street. They also sat down to meals. People savored their food. Unlike Americans who can inhale a meal like a Hoover. If someone had a pastry or gelato, it was one small pastry with their espresso, not two or three through the day.

While it's true that the obesity epidemic does seem to correspond to an increase in the use of artificial sweeteners, it also corresponds to an increase in portion sizes. The 1980s saw the rise of super sizing !

When I was a kid, back in the Dark Ages, it was considered a real treat to go to a McDonalds or Jack in the Box. My family had to get in the car and drive to one of these places. So, it was a thrill to get a taco.

At school, there were no soda vending machines. If you wanted a soda, you had to bring your own or to to the local grocery store. Today ? You're probably within walking distance of a McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, etc... Not only is sugar in everything, fast food is everywhere.

Here's my list of the things that have contributed to the increase of the American waistline.

1) increased portion sizes
2) expansion of fast food restaurants
3) increase in sugar, salt and fat in processed foods
4) no more sit down meals as a nuclear family
5) decrease in over all physical activity

Shoot, before remote controls, a person at least had to GET UP out of their chair to change the channel ! We've become way too sedentary. Moms of the world had it right when they told their kids,"go outside and play".

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VHALKYRIE 6/21/2012 2:59PM

    Regarding the female rats:

"3.3. Female rats with 7 months of HFCS access gain significantly more body weight, have more abdominal fat and elevated TG levels compared with chow- and sucrose-fed controls"

While they had more body weight, HFCS did not alter the triglyceride and insulin levels as dramatically as the male rats. This could be why men statistically have higher risk for heart disease.

From the graph, the difference is more dramatic in male rats. But this is just another way of showing that women are biologically inclined towards fat gain. Sux. =/

Comment edited on: 6/21/2012 3:29:42 PM

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VHALKYRIE 6/21/2012 2:27PM

    That study is very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

This part at the end caught my eye:

"...HFCS causes aberrant insulin functioning, in that it bypasses the insulin-driven satiety system. Whereas circulating glucose increases insulin release from the pancreas, fructose does this less efficiently, because cells in the pancreas lack the fructose transporter. Typically, insulin released by dietary sucrose inhibits eating and increases leptin release, which in turn further inhibits food intake. As previously discussed, meals of HFCS have been shown to reduce circulating insulin and leptin levels. Thus, fructose intake might not result in the degree of satiety that would normally ensue with a meal of glucose or sucrose, and this could contribute to increased body weight."

I think this is why I find my homemade cookies with real butter, sugar and flour are overall much more satisfying than the store bought cookies. I don't overeat my homemade cookies. I have a sweet tolerance that shuts off, and I just don't want anymore. But I can binge on store bought cookies, even if they don't taste very good.

I hope that research will be taken seriously on this. However, I'm not going to wait for them to come to an agreement. I think the rise of metabolic disorder and cardiovascular disease in the United States is due to a two-fold change in the diet from the 70s:

1: Hydrogenated vegetable oils
2: High fructose corn syrup

Scientists have backed away from hydrogenated vegetable oils. I hope they'll come around sooner rather than later to HFCS.

Comment edited on: 6/21/2012 2:32:22 PM

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 6/21/2012 2:06PM

    As you pointed out, S. Korea, France and Spain do not eat as much sugar overall as we do, regardless of the type, so they don't serve as good control populations for figuring out if it's the *type* of sugar rather than the overall *amount* of sugar which is important. There aren't any populations I know of who eat as much sugar as we do, but in a different form.

The closest thing is probably the original study the summary refers to (without citing). You can see it here: http://www.foodpolitics.com/wp-cont
One of their experiments actually did a head-to-head comparison of HFCS to sucrose, and this is what they found:

Male rats with daily 12-h HFCS access gain more weight in 8 weeks
than animals with equal access to sucrose

Animals with 12-h 8% HFCS access gained significantly more weight
in 8 weeks than animals with 12-h 10% sucrose access (F(2,25)=3.42;
pb0.05). Even though the 12-h HFCS group gained significantly more
body weight, they were ingesting fewer calories from HFCS than the
sucrose group was ingesting from sucrose (21.3±2.0 kcal HFCS vs.
31.3±0.3 kcal sucrose; F(1,16)=12.14; pb0.01). There was no
overall difference in total caloric intake (sugar plus chow) among
the sucrose group and two HFCS groups.

They did not report a statistical difference between the head-to-head comparisons of sucrose vs HFCS in female rats.

The statistical difference in weight gain for the male rats does support the assertion that something is different between sucrose and HFCS.

It will be interesting to watch this field as more data roll in.

In the meantime, I'll continue to avoid foods with any kind of added sugar, and starchy foods, as they seem to make me want moar. LOL

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JECKIE 6/21/2012 10:26AM

    Great blog!

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VHALKYRIE 6/21/2012 10:24AM

    4A-HEALTHY-BMI: That is what I'm suggesting. S. Korea, France and Spain do not eat HFCS, and their populations do not have the same issues with insulin resistance and obesity that Americans do. Asians in particular are the lowest sugar consuming population overall.

Everyone who eats processed food is eating more sugar because of the switch to low-fat. Try making a cookie without fat - it tastes terrible. So manufacturers replaced fats with more sugar to make it taste better. More HFCS, that is. Anywhere there is processed food, there is probably HFCS in it. Even Wonder Bread.

I remember that Spark article. I agree with Becky that lowering overall sugar consumption is good all around. However, I respectfully disagree that there isn't a difference. Read the Princeton study I linked if you get the chance. HFCS fructose/glucose chains are not the same as sucrose.

Lower concentrations of HFCS tastes more sweet than the equivalent amount of table sugar because it has more fructose. Thus less HFCS can be used to sweeten soda than cane sugar (which is why manufacturers like it: cost). Shouldn't using less mean less weight gain? This isn't happening. Something IS different.

Comment edited on: 6/21/2012 11:23:31 AM

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KRISLEEB 6/21/2012 10:22AM

    Thanks for sharing.

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 6/21/2012 10:20AM

    It's weird that no one has yet been able to document any hormonal differences between consuming HFCS and any other form of sugar.

Most nutritionists seem to think that the obesity and diabetes changes in the population are due to too much sweet and processed stuff in general.

It just so happens that the most frequent sweetener in the past few decades has been HFCS - so they're saying EVERYTHING is extra sweetened lately, and we'd be seeing the same problems if it were cane sugar being added. At least that's the party line I'm reading, including right here on SP:


Too bad there isn't a control population somewhere eating a similar amount of sugar as us, but where the sugar is cane or beet or some other form of sucrose. Then maybe we'd see if it's the HFCS to blame or just the overall sugar of whatever form.

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PACOISAWESOME 6/21/2012 9:54AM

    Interesting... I really enjoyed your blog!

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