Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

The experts are wrong?

June 28, 2012

HBO launched a series The Weight of The Nation on May 14, 2012. It has all the usual experts in disease control and anti-obesity plugging the same advice that I have heard over and over and over, and tried over and over and over which has not (yet) worked for me.

Who am I to say these experts are wrong? I’m nobody. I don’t have the credentials, the research or the practice. I am not a statistically significant group. What I can say is that I have faithfully tried the eat less, exercise more route for close to 10 years and in that time I have mostly gained weight rather than lost weight.

This is why articles like this: Why the Campaign to Stop American’s Obesity Crisis Keeps Failing by Gary Taubs keep attracting me. I highly recommend reading the article. But in case you are not up to a three page read here are the notes.

He starts out by introducing the history of obesity as a field of public health study way back in the midst of the Great Depression. Turns our a German scientist noticed that there were a large amount of fat children in the midst of extreme poverty. This ties in nicely to the idea that cheap carbohydrates make us fat.

Next he introduces the science behind how cheap sugars found in junk foods and also breads, pastas, grains etc… actually alter our insulin and fat storage systems.

Then he brings in that while the health and diet crowd was targeting fat and meats as the cause of obesity that meat intake peaked in the 1970s – before the obesity epidemic. That it was after meat became demonized that grains, breads and pastas took up a cornerstone in our food pyramid that the obesity epidemic really took off.

Then he addresses the exercise myth. That there is little supporting evidence that exercise will help to reduce or maintain weight citing several examples of active people who are obese.

For someone like me this all makes complete sense. I gained the most weight after I had an accident, moved to college, started eating mostly breads, grains and pasta – because they were cheap and easy to make. I exercised like a fiend. Often going to the gym seven times a week. I found myself completely unable to maintain a low-calorie diet on 1,200-1,500 cal/day for more than six months at a time. I found myself constantly hungry. I occasionally succeed at losing 20 lbs but it would almost always come back and then a few more. Then I would start the cycle again. Wash rinse repeat.

This is a quote from Taubs article I would like to pin up somewhere:

“as Hilde Bruch pointed out more than half a century ago, that exhorting obese people to eat less and exercise more doesn’t work, and that this shouldn’t be an indictment of their character but of the value of the advice.”

The advice that Taubs gives is to simply stop eating sugars. Eat more green leafy vegetables, lean proteins and good fats. This sounds to me a lot like the Paleo Diet. I don’t know if I’m just being led down another garden path that will lead to a cycle of failure. But, at least it is trying something different.


What About Exercise?

May 24, 2012

Diet and exercise.

Healthy Eating and Active Living.

They are almost always paired together. But, there is increasing evidence that it is diet, not exercise that plays the key role in weight loss.

I encountered this idea the first time I hired a personal trainer. At some point the trainer said something to the effect that weight loss was 80% diet and 20% exercise. More recently I’ve started to see numerous articles published citing that it is diet, not exercise that is key to weight loss.

MSNBC: Diet, not exercise plays a key role in weight loss.
Time Magazine: Why exercise won’t make you thin
Mayo Clinic: Better to cut calories or exercise more?
Guardian: Why exercise won’t make you thin

As this idea gets unpacked a familiar food-politics theme emerges: the role of the food industry in our health and nutrition. More specifically what the food industry will do to protect their profits at the expense of the health of the public.

Here are some more articles on this topic:

University of California Berkley: Lecture, Dr. Marion Nestle How The Food Industry Influences Diet and Health
How The Food Industry Influences Diet and Health (book)

One of the best examples I have seen recently of food-politics promoting exercise over nutrition is Coca-Cola Canada’s partnership with participACTION and sponsorship of  Sogo Active. This campaign promotes getting youth active.  It has great examples of programs that get youth active, but it completely fails to mention that drinking Coke is really bad for your health.

This is not to say that exercise is not important. Exercise does some pretty important things like: strengthens bones and muscles, improves mental health and mood, lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

I will credit my reasonably active lifestyle with the fact that although I am in an obese BMI range I have not faced any serious health problems, or even minor health problems. Except for the fact that I am fat, I’m healthy. The fact that I’m healthy, and reasonably active led me to my own conclusions about the role of exercise in weight loss.

Each time I have tried to lose weight in the past I have included exercise as a key component of that weight loss. And, I have generally been more successful at getting myself active than I have at being mindful about what I am eating and how it is effecting me. My general assumption was that I don’t eat a lot of junk food (I think), and if I’m exercising everyday and eating reasonably ‘good’ foods then I should be able to lose weight.

Sadly, this has never, in ten years proved true. My assumption at this point for why this hasn’t works are two-fold.

First, I don’t think I have taken a close enough look at what it means to have a healthy relationship with food. To truly make a food lifestyle change. I’ll come back to this in other entries.

Second, I think that I am proving case in point that while exercise is good for my health, and is likely the reason I am as healthy as I am, it is not having any significant impact on my weight.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to give myself permission to shun all physical activity. I will however, be placing much more emphasis on learning to eat well, in a way that makes me happy, healthy and facilitates weight loss. I will not be putting a significant amount of emphasis on if I made it to this gym each morning.

I hurt, oh how I hurt!

April 16, 2009

I finally made my return to the gym. I would (yet again) like to thank the folks at King West Fitness for being non-judgmental. It makes it so much easier to show back up at a gym when the staff still remember who you are and act as if you were just there yesterday, instead of noting the gaping 12 week MIA.

Going back to the gym for me involves breaking all of the barriers for why I haven’t been in the longest time.

1. Schedule gym time.
As soon as I stop going to the gym regularly there is no chance I’m actually going to go back unless I put it in my calendar. I will not get up early enough. I will not magically find time in my day. No, need to make a decision and put it in writing. I was an hour off my planned time today, but I still made it.

2. Buy the gadget
I’m a total gadget freak. The last time I had to go back to the gym I decided I simply couldn’t go until I had a better gym bag, and new better, proper running shoes. This time, it was an interval timer. I wanted to try this HIIT training I’ve been reading so much about and decided I simply could not do it without a timer. I’ll review the time in my next post.

3. Leave time for girly wardrobe changes & grooming.
If there is a guy reading this post I’m sure he’s rolling his eyes right now, some girls likely are as well. I’m super uncomfortable about myself at the gym and how my flabby body looks bouncing around on the machines, so there’s no way I’m going to show up without my legs newly shaved, and in clothes that I think look like crap. Yes, I realize the irony…. and if I didn’t my partner pointed it out to me today when I asked if the small brown stripes on the arms of my hoodies clashed too much with my black yoga pants. That being said, it’s a barrier, and it needed to be addressed.

The Work Out

After reading a tonne of information from Health Habits, and New Rules of Lifting for Women, I decided that I have been committing most of the exercise sins… or common mistakes. Hours on the cardio machines at a moderate pace, barbie weights, bizarre awkward crunches. I feel a bit embarrassed about this, but not too much. First off, I’m apparently far from alone in these common mistakes and secondly, they did help me loose 6 sizes so it wasn’t all bad.

I decided to start with Health Habits HIIT aerobic, followed by his HIIT anaerobic, and then following it up with workout 1 from NROLFW

Workout looked like this:

Elliptical resistance 8, height 10
5 min warm up
10 min HIIT with 10 second sprints, and 50 second recovery.

HIIT Squats – 9 ‘super sets’ (no idea if that word is right)
10 sec sprint
60 sec recovery

HIIT Push Ups (done at 45 degree angle) – 9 super sets
10 sec sprint
60 sec recovery

NROLFW Barbell Squat using 20 lbs
15 reps
2 sets

NROLFW 45 degree push up (see above)
15 reps
2 sets
(I alternated between this exercise and the step ups to reduce recovery time, may have been a mistake)

NROLFW Step up 3 steps, 24 lbs
15 reps (each leg)
2 sets

NROLFW Seated Row 40 lbs
15 reps
2 sets
(I alternated this exercise with the prone jack knife to reduce recovery time, may have been a mistake)

NROLFW Prone Jack Knife
15 reps
2 sets

Comments / Mistakes

1. HIIT before NROLFW

I didn’t find the HIIT series too challenging, I know that I can progress through that work out. The big difficulty came when I tried to do the barbell squats after doing the HIIT workout, there was way too much burn in my thighs and they were really really painful. As I got through the set they got easier, which I suppose is not supposed to happen. I think I can likely do more weight on the barbell squat but I’d better do them before anareobic HIIT.

2. NROLFW Prone Jack Knife WTF??!!!

I had a lot of problems with the prone jack knife and really wish I had watched this particular you tube video before trying them.

Part of the problem was this description from NROLFW:

Get Ready

  • Grab a Swiss ball and set your shins on top of it, with your palms flat on the floor.
  • Carefully walk your palms out until your body is in the push-up position, forming a straight line from your ankles through your neck.
  • Lift

  • Pull your knees towards your chest, allowing your torso to shift diagonally so your hips rise towards the ceiling and your head tilts down towards the floor
  • Keep your arms straight, and your neck in line with your torso.
  • Your toes will end up on the top of the ball, with most of your weight now shifted to your hands.
  • Return

  • Roll the ball back to the starting position, so your shins are again on top of the ball and your body is aligned from ankles to neck.
  • Basically the drawing and this text gave me the impression that the end position was butt high in the air, head between the shoulders pointed at the ground so that the back was vertical.

    All the youtube videos however stress how important it is to keep the back horizontal and in line with the floor. Which, after trying the exercise seems a bit easier and less awkward than the how to get my head between my shoulders pointed at the floor while on a swiss ball.

    3. Damn I’m sore!

    This is not going to be the workout where I say it feels great to have done it, I feel really really sore, and I expect walking will be a challenge tomorrow morning.

    Could Be Worse

    February 26, 2009

    Following Confessions of a Food Addict’s (now defunct blog) theory that weight loss bloggers don’t post when they are not doing well, I more or less lived up to that in the past couple of weeks.

    It’s not as bad as it has been in the past. I’ve stayed on track with my moderate goal of logging every single piece of food that I put into my body with the exception of last week when I was hit by a nasty cold/flu bug. I’m reasonably sure that there is no chance I over ate that week as food was the last thing on my fevered mind as I prayed for sleep and the virus to leave my body.

    I’m also on track with the overall slow and steady calorie reduction. I’m currently working on 2,400 cal/day this week, a repeat of last week not because I think I over ate, but because I have no idea what I ate since I didn’t log it.

    It has not escaped me that this is the first time I’ve been really and truly sick since I began this ‘get healthy’ kick. It also has not escaped me that this is the first time I’ve been away from the gym for over 8 weeks. So, despite my commitment to getting my food under control before I really focus in on exercise getting back to the gym next week, routine or no routine is a priority.

    In my pre-‘get healthy’ kick I typically got 3-4 bad cold’s per winter and 1-2 per summer. Last summer was pure joy in that I didn’t have a single summer cold. I’m really seeing the benefits of exercise and if I don’t want a repeat of last week I need to get my body moving again.

    The crunchy bits:

    Week 5 Q4 – February 1 – 7th, 2009
    Overall: 70%
    Household: 38%
    Health & Beauty: 71%
    Finance: 86%
    Career: 105%
    Entertainment: 52%

    Week 6 Q4 – February 8 – 14th, 2009
    Overall: 70%
    Household: 62%
    Health & Beauty: 62%
    Finance: 86%
    Career: 71%
    Entertainment: 67%

    Week 7 Q4 – February 15 – 21st, 2009 (sick week)
    Overall: 42%
    Household: 22%
    Health & Beauty: 38%
    Finance: 52%
    Career: 57%
    Entertainment: 38%