15,000-19,999 SparkPoints 18,401

Fit-Fat or Fit-Slim

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Yesterday I showed you exercise comparisons of a full-housechore day versus a full-couch potato day. I recorded the information with my BodyMedia Fit device.

For further comparison, here is my activity graph of 30 minutes elliptical cardio in the morning, followed by a mostly sedentary day. I picked up activity again around dinner time. This should be fairly representative of a typical office worker day. 30 minutes is the minimum exercise recommended for good health.

Here's how they match up with total calorie burn per day:

Full Couch Potato: 1500

Full Day Housechores: 1900

30 Min Exercise + Sedentary: 1715

Hah! I burned 185 more calories cleaning house than my normal routine. And my housechores are very light compared to homemakers with a large house and a couple of kids. Homemakers, rejoice! You are very likely more active and fit than many 9-5 office workers and chronic cardio goers at the gym!


We are more sedentary than our grandparents. There's no denying that.

However, as many of us discovered, lack of exercise isn't the whole story on why we are more fat than 60 years ago.

Take for instance this man, Gene Rychlak. He was the first man to bench press 1000lbs.

He has huge muscles...but he also has a huge belly. The man is undoubtedly an athlete...and has rippling muscles under all the bodyfat.

This man is also an athlete. His training schedule includes squats, bench presses, and powerlifting, just like any bodybuilder:

This man was a bodybuilder. At his prime, though, he could "only" bench press half of Gene Rychlak's world record: 500lbs.

All of these men are/were athletes, but with varying levels of bodyfat.

Genetics is part of it, and a big part. Men who don't have the 'bulking' genes won't get the bulging manly-man Arnold muscles.

However, each of these men manipulate their bodyfat with what they eat.

A quick search for "sumo wrestler" diet shows they eat 2 extremely calorie dense meals per day made up of chicken, fish, tofu, vegetables, and high calorie starches. They eat about 10,000 calories per day, skip breakfast to slow their metabolism and increase fat gain, and powerlift with a bodybuilder-like regime 6 days per week. They bench about 400-500lbs on average - it takes a lot of power to grapple other sumo wrestlers! Their life expectancy is shorter than the average Japanese, about 60 years due to complications from diabetes, heart and liver disease, arthritis, and high blood pressure.

A competition bodybuilder diet is ketogenic - high fat, moderate protein, and very, very low carbs. Weight lifting, and moderate cardio. Too much cardio is catabolic - it burns muscle.

Exercise is important for "fitness" and good health. There are thin people who are NOT fit. There are also overweight people who ARE fit.

Nutrition is important for "body shape" and good health. If you want a fit-fat physique, skip breakfast and overeat calories. All the exercise in the gym will just serve to make you more "fit" underneath your fat.

If you want a fit-slim body, eat high quality calories. More protein and vegetables, less grain and starches. Strength train and moderate cardio.

Going back to the question of why people in the 50s were slimmer than today, I think it has more to do with their nutrition than the activities.

Looking at the meal for a 1950's housewife in Britain:

Breakfast: One slice toast and butter and boiled egg 220
Lunch: Corned beef sandwich and butter 430
Snack: Slice Victoria sponge 175
Dinner: Two pork chops, boiled potatoes, swede, cabbage, tinned pears and custard 993
TOTAL: 1818

- The toast was either home baked, or bought from a bakery. No HFCS or other additives.
- Real butter. No artery clogging trans-fats from margarine.
- Home baked Victoria sponge (a sponge cake with jam). No HFCS or other additives.
- Dinner: Protein and whole vegetables. No HFCS in the tinned pears, probably cane sugar. Modest sized dessert.

My depression era German-American grandmother's 'diet' for her sons included limiting their bread, pasta and dessert portions if she thought they were putting on too much fat.

My take? We should be enjoying superior health compared to our grandparents, but we are declining. My generation and the ones after are the first to have lowered life expectancy. This cannot be the legacy our grandparents wanted. According to Dr. Deepak Chopra, our cells have the capability of lasting 115-130 years. More centurians should be possible. 60 years is not enough to blame 'genetics' - it has to be environmental.

I believe this comes from changes in our food supply. This is why I changed my nutrition to whole, unprocessed produce and proteins. It takes time, but my bodyfat comes off far better when I focus on nutrition, rather than calorie burn.

There are benefits to our modern world that our grandparents didn't have, if we chose to take advantage of it. Canned vegetables and fruit were common back in the 1950s because these items were seasonal. The modern world opens up our food supply so that avocados, pears, lettuce, carrots, etc, etc are available year round. We should be enjoying superior nutrition because of this.

If you want fitness AND lower body fat, look at what's in your shopping cart. I only shop on the outer edge - produce, meats, and dairy. I skip everything boxed and plastic wrapped in the center.
Share This Post With Others
Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Another great blog! We donĀ“t have nearly as much processed or fast food here as there is in America. There is usually only one row of frozen items in the grocery store and a small stand up fridge of TV dinner type foods. Norwegians do tend to eat a lot of bread. They also exercise as part of everyday life...skiing, biking and running o work as well as playing a lot on the weekends. Guess what? It is really unusual to see a fat Norwegian!
    2044 days ago
    Great blog, and comments! Well done!
    2050 days ago
    no boxes here ma'am
    2050 days ago
    I find your information and writing form interesting. Have you thought about writing a book? emoticon
    2050 days ago
    My food is key to me getting results and many of my low carber friends are helping to grasp the truth of this issue.

    I like your take on it because you are a woman and many of the other low carbers that I follow now are men. Also, you being very petite adds to the dynamic and probably makes it more difficult for you...

    I'm by no means "petite" and thus I don't even have that excuse!

    I think I'm a "fat fit" at that point. I'm hoping with more Spark "counseling" I will become a "slender fit"

    Keep the blogs coming!!
    2051 days ago
    Interesting! I agree with your conclusions as well. Also, I remember reading somewhere that the sumo guys eat a huge meal and then have a nap after.
    2051 days ago
    Good analysis. I think the diets for sumo wrestler and the bodybuilder speak for themselves.....hi calorie starches and 10K calories a day gets the sumo ready for battle. I bet the body builder eats 6K calories a day as well, but mostly fat & protein...add in the HIIT when they're cutting down for competition and next thing you know, they're down to single digit bodyfat readings!
    2051 days ago
  • -LINDA_S
    Thanks! Interesting stuff.
    2051 days ago
    And then there are those rare supermen who are huge, muscular, and FAST (and traumatize you when they come barreling towards you, wielding a giant stick, and screaming during a game of floor hockey in college, haha.). Each body is capable of different physical tasks based on our own proportions of fast/slow twitch muscle, limb proportions, heart strength, lung capacity, etc.

    But regardless of whether you have the naturally lithe body of a gymnast, the hulking power of a body builder, the sinewy speed of a sprinter, or just the average build of we mortals, one thing is true: You can't out-train a bad diet. Crap in, crap out.
    2051 days ago
    Very interesting information - thanks so much for posting it!!
    2051 days ago
    Nice follow-up experiment. I agree that it is what is in the shopping cart more so than what is in the activities we do.
    2051 days ago
    Loving the info!!! Thanks!
    2051 days ago
    V another fantastic blog. My great grandfather was a farmer. And a farmer up in the bluffs. He worked dusk to dawn and the fat content of his meals would have had today's average joe running for the statins.
    2051 days ago
    Interesting blog. My son has been watching me cut back on the calories and composition of my diet and started paying more attention to what he was eating. He has so far this summer lost thirty pounds and is feeling fitter now than he has in several years. I just wish he could still eat beef and pork to help stretch the budget a bit. emoticon
    2051 days ago
    Fitness is increasing but it's the average that brings us down. I saw a programme on obesity in England recently and they had a class of kids complete a fitness test that children in the 1950s had to sit and compared it to the results kids from the 1950s had scored.

    The top kids from now performed far better than the top kids in the1950s, however the overall average was worse, why? Because there were less children that did well now than in the 1950s. For every kid that's into sport and fitness there's 3 that just want to sit on the couch and play play-station.
    2051 days ago
    And speaking of fit, but really fat athletes... take a good look at the line backers of your favorite football team. These guys are ENORMOUS. One of the Pats linebackers was over 300+ pounds ! Yet, he could still run across the field with a ball.

    You do not want to be the guy being tackled by a 300+ pound linebacker running towards you at 90mph ! LOL !!!
    2052 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/7/2012 3:41:10 PM
  • BECKYB73
    This was a very interesting read.
    2052 days ago
    I tangentially commented on health in the 'sumo wrestler' section. I think Gene Rychlak falls in the same category. Lifting that unnaturally heavy weights undoubtedly causes joint stress problems...even in bodybuilders who aren't overfat.

    I think it is an example that:

    1) Exercise does not necessarily make you thin.
    2) Extreme exercise does not necessarily make you healthy.

    He is very strong, but not very 'healthy'.

    I didn't mean for 'athlete' to mean healthy. Just a description of physical capability.
    2052 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/7/2012 1:54:52 PM
  • BOB240
    Incidently I am note sure that Gene Rychlak would be considered "fit"

    He has numerous injuries and limitations because of his training techniques. He can bench a lot but on the other hand he does bench because he gets tired standing up! His CV capacity will be compromised - at that level parts of the heart harden badly.
    2052 days ago
  • BOB240
    Actually in the fifties we in Britain were still using ration books. We ate that way because of food shortages and government control As a result two of my grandparents lived to 83 and the other two lived into their ninties (despite one of them smoking 60 a day from the age of 13!)

    My grandfather once cycled from London to plymouth in a day (200 miles over very poor roads on a heavy bike). He also beat me at tennis at the age of 67- then had the cheek to retire from the game before the rematch..

    2052 days ago
    Thanks for the info! emoticon emoticon
    2052 days ago
    "We are more sedentary than our grandparents".

    You can thank the modern conveniences for that. Before the remote control, people had to get up to change the channel. And we only a few channels when I was a kid, not the hundreds there are today.

    When I was kid, we had to drive to go to a Jack in the Box or a McDonalds. So, getting to go to McDonalds was a treat. Portions weren't supersized. we had a small burger and fries. today, fast food chains are everywhere.

    Our grandparents walked more places. today, there are places in the US where people have to have a car to just get to the nearest Walmart. Some towns aren't pedestrian friendly either. It makes it hard to tell someone to take a walk when there isn't any safe place to walk.

    Oh and one personal pet peeve, people made less garbage. these days, our society is disposable. TV broken ? Buy a new flat screen. Computer broken ? Buy a new ipad. Phone busted ? get a new smart phone.

    Too much mass consumerism if you ask me.

    Wait, were we talking about health ? LOL !!

    2052 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/7/2012 12:27:14 PM
    In the '50s families usually only had one car. One spouse walked to the store or the office, so they were fitter. Interesting info.
    2052 days ago
    Couple comments, illustrating from my own life, as usual...

    In my husband's and my comparison of my test results are so good and his are so bad, the routine activity of our days came up. In my adult life, my "occupation" has always been something that has kept me moving.... I've been a scientist (lot of physical activity for me--in the field, etc; lot of time on my feet in the lab), I've taught community college (again, on my feet), I've been a stay at home parent (biking/swimming/hiking with my kids, coaching their teams, dragging them to playgrounds, long walks in the jogging stroller, etc), and I'm transitioning to being a teacher (again, on my feet, moving around, lot of squatting down, etc). My husband has always had a desk job. We never even thought about how this kind of choice of occupation could have an impact on health. This is part of the reason he has a fitbit now... it reminds him to get up and move during his day. He's contemplating asking for a standing desk.

    And a related comment (about husbands and what they eat/what to eat)... I was at Costco, doing my usual thing of buying enormous bags of spinach and broccoli, tons of blueberries, nuts, olive oil, tofu, sardines, etc. I had emailed my husband before my errands to ask if there was anything he wanted. He called me, and he asked that I get more of "those multigrain crackers" that he had gotten the last time he was there.

    I was a little frustrated... I've tried talking to him about processed foods, simple carbs, etc. I was exasperated, so I was frank. "Crackers are not really something you need to be eating on a regular basis, you know." "But they're whole grain." "Honey, even FLOUR is something that's processed; just by grinding grain up, the carbs are more accessible, and the glycemic index changes. And crackers tend to have more fat and bad fat and more simple carbs, including sweeteners." "They're healthy crackers." "I'll read the label, and then I'll decide."

    So... they aren't completely evil, but they do have saturated fat (and not the "good" kind), and the 3rd ingredient is potato starch, which is essentially white carb filler, as far as I'm concerned. I see crackers as a "treat"--essentially like a cookie. Not something to eat on a regular basis.

    On the positive side... he's becoming more fit, he's lost 5 lbs, and he's generally eating much better. He has more energy, and his "attitude" is better. But there's more "work" to be done. ;-)
    2052 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/7/2012 11:10:55 AM
    2052 days ago
  • Add Your Comment to the Blog Post

    Log in to post a comment

    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.