Saturday, December 31, 2011

How Much Wine Is Too Much Wine?

Whether its a holiday get-together, a gourmet meal or a romantic dinner for two, wine adds a special flair to many of our special occasions.  But do you ever stop and ask the question "how much is too much?"  In terms of getting behind the wheel of a car, you hopefully pay close attention to your consumption, but what about the calories?

Wine is one of those things that fits the bill of a Calorie Terrorist, meaning that it quietly sneaks up on you and then BAM suddenly you have just downed 600 plus calories without even realizing it.  Liquids are notorious for that, as we tend to associate calories with solid foods since you can feel them piling up in your stomach.  But at the end of the day, it's what's INSIDE the food rather than the physical makeup of the food that creates weight problems.
Here are some general calorie values associated with wines:

8 oz Glass
Red Wine - 170 calories
Dry White Wine - 170 calories
Rose Wine - 180 calories
Sweet White Wine - 240 calories

If you want more specific information for calories in wine, click here.

The troublesome thing with wine, is that most bottles really don't give you much info in terms of caloric content, thus you don't really know what you are consuming.  At least with products like beer (50-200 calories in 16oz) you can find the info on the label.

Liquor is another product that will get you in trouble in terms of calories (and other things as well) as again its a lightweight liquid and the containers rarely tell you anything in terms of calories.  Considering that a typical shot runs 50-60 calories, that can add up quick, especially when you are mixing up concoctions that use high calorie accessories such a fruit juices and soft drinks.

So the next time you get ready to uncork that bottle of wine, remember that you may be opening yourself up to an excessive flow of calories.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Low Calorie Sangria For The Party

When it comes to Party Drinks, you can pretty much count on two things - first, if you drink enough you will get drunk - second, every sip comes at a high cost in terms of calories.  Of course if you drink enough, you won't even care about the calories... until the next day.  And if you are one of those New Year's resolution kind of people, New Year's EVE is a blank check for doing whatever you want, since you have until the net day to implement your new strategies.

Ok, for all the rest of us, who take notice of calories on a full-time basis, the concept of a low calorie drink option for New Year's Eve has some appeal and Rocco DiSpirito comes through with his Guilt-Free Sangria.  Not only is it low calorie, its also alcohol free.

Here is his recipe:

Start to finish: 15 minutes active, plus chilling
Servings: 4

1 cup water
3 bags pomegranate tea (such as Yogi)
3 bags hibiscus and rosehip tea (such as Teekanne)
6 packets stevia sweetener powder
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon aromatic bitters (such as Angostura)
1 1/2 cups fresh cut up fruit (such as citrus, grapes, apples, berries and melon)
5 sprigs fresh mint
2 cups seltzer water

In a small saucepan, bring the 1 cup of water to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add all 6 tea bags. Cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags, pressing them to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in the stevia, agave and bitters. Add the fruit and 1 sprig of the mint. Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours.
Fill 4 tumblers with a third of the way with ice, then divide the chilled tea between the glasses. Add 1/2 cup of seltzer water and 1 mint sprig to each cup.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 43 calories; 0 g fat (0 percent calories from fat) (0 g saturated); 0 mg cholesterol; 10 g carbohydrate; 0 g protein; 1 g fiber; 2 mg sodium.

For more information, read his tips on this special concoction.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Calorie Terrorists Are Lurking

So what the heck is a Calorie Terrorist?  I'm referring to the products that are seemingly innocent in terms of calories, but which are really quite dangerous in terms of weigh management.  For example, salads, especially those in restaurants. 

The term "salad" suggests low calorie and healthy.  After all, how can you screw up lettuce and vegetables?  Easy, add in meat, cheese and dressing!  As a meat and potatoes guy, I made the same classic mistake as many others of assuming that because a salad was a salad it was a healthy alternative.  Thus, I would load up on a huge chef's salad complete with four types of meat, three types of cheese and plenty of thousand island dressing.  And of course, I made sure to leave off those icky condiments like tomatoes, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, etc - why would I want to screw up a perfectly good salad with that kind of junk?

And being a tyical guy, I decided that if a small amount was healthy, then a larger amount had to be super healthy.  Of course the flaw here was in assuming that the particular salad I was consuming was health at all.  So ultimately, I was fooling myself while consuming over 1000 calories...

BTW - just for reference - the McDonalds Premium Southwest Salad with Crisy Chicken has 430 calories.  Not extremely bad in the grand scheme of things, but probably more than you assumed.

Another great example of Calorie Terrorists are fruit juices.  Obviously, in terms of ingredients, true fruit juices are better for your body than soft drinks, but you might be surprised to find out how many calories may be lurking.  An 8oz glass of apple juice has around 115 calories.  Orange juice is about the same.

A cup of milk checks in at 170 calories. So if you like a glass of milk with breakfast, plus a bowl of cereal, you could easily be consuming 340 calories not including the cereal itself.  By comparison, skim milk still checks in about 110 calories, which can be very misleading, as many people consider skim milk to be very low in calories. 

Liquids in general are prime culprits in terms of calories, as most of them don't feel "heavy" thus there is the illusion that they don't contain much in the way of fat inducing ingredients.

So how do you defend yourself against Calorie Terrorists?  Read product labels and do food research.  The more you know, the safer you will be...  but you will only win the war if you fight back with a plan and a mission.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fondue Made Healthy?

I know what you're thinking - how can anything like Fondue, chocked full of typically great tasting, but extremely fattening ingredients, possibly be healthy.  It all comes down to your choice of ingredients.  Like almost every other "created" dish, the degree (or lack thereof) of healthiness is determined by relatively simple decisions on the part of the cook.  Something as simple as mashed potatoes can be made much "lighter" by using margarine and skim milk instead of butter and whole milk.

Thus, even something like cheese fondue can be improved upon if you pay a little attention to whats going in the pot.  Sure, it will still have calories and fat, and if you go on a feeding frenzy... well, you get the picture.

So, if you are planning on a get-together for New Year's Eve which includes "eating" (why do we celebrate with food instead of a nice 5 mile walk?) then take a look at this new twist on a classic snack, brought to you by Rocco DiSpirito.  He has come up with a new version that has just 227 calories and 10 grams of fat, compared to 670 calories and 29 grams of fat per serving found with traditional cheese fondue.

By the way, if you plan to complement the fondue with a nice glass of wine, be sure to drink in moderation.  Not to avoid getting intoxicated, but because wine has more calories than you might realize, easily 150 to 180 calories per glass.  So imagine if you go for the whole bottle, where you will end up..

Small steps and smart decisions are key factors for losing weight and maintaining it. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This Thanksgiving Lighten Up Without Giving Up

I came across a great article by Rocco DiSpirito about a  better way to prepare Thanksgiving Dinner that preserves flavor while slashing the calories.  It's an excellent lesson in food preparation that goes way past the Holiday Season.  Eating lower calorie food doesn't mean giving up what you like, it just means you need to be smarter about how you cook.  There are all kinds of alternative ways to prepare the foods you like that still deliver great flavor and satisfaction, but with less calories and fat.

Here is an excerpt:

To scale things down, I've used turkey breast, whole-wheat bread for the stuffing, a cranberry sauce made with agave nectar rather than sugar, and a delicious low-fat gravy. This recipe will satisfy anyone in your family for just 303 calories and 6 grams of fat. A comparable regular dinner would weigh in at 1,450 calories and 58 grams of fat.

His full article contains complete recipe and cooking instructions.  It's not too late to work these lower calorie approaches into your upcoming meal preparations.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Overeating - It's Not Just For Thanksgiving

A big part of of the weight problem can be attributed to overeating, something that is readily associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas.  In fact, for most of us it's considered acceptable and even mandatory that we throw out any reservations about how much we eat and what we eat during these traditional holiday celebrations.  But in our modern day world, overeating is not limited to seasonal binges, it happens everyday.  In fact, with our super-size culture most of us have any clue as to how much is too much. 

The reality of overeating, is that its not about eating huge amounts of food, it can be defined as eating more than your body needs to sustain itself.  Everyone needs a certain amount of calories to sustain their normal bodily activities on a daily basis.  Anything beyond that can generate unwanted pounds.  Thus, if you eat more than you need (calorie-wise) you are technically overeating.

If weight loss is on your mind, then you need to focus on what is contributing to yours and a great place to begin is to anaylze your eating habits.  I have posted plenty of information on this subject which can be found throughout this website and in my book.  I also came across an interesting blog post from someone else on this subject that is worthy of reading. 

From Feast To Fat: Living In A World Of Plenty gives a unique perspective on how bad our eating habits have become and who we might effect a change that will yield less intake and less pounds. 

I used to be a "shoveler" - speed eater - but have gradually changed my lfestyle to that of a slow speed racer, meaning he who eats the slowest wins.  Slow eating yields less food intake!  It takes time and effort to change your ways, so get started today.  Don't wait until New Year's to make a resolution, as by then you will probalby have gained more weight.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner - Keeping It Under Control

Thanksgiving meals are not known for their low calorie choices.  In fact, most people don't pay attention to the concept at all (until too late) choosing instead to figure out just how much food they can possibly cram into every square inch of their body cavities.  It's amazing how large the stomach can expand when force-fed huge gluttonous amounts of gastric delights.  Then when its all over, everyone retires to the closest couch to lament on how much they ate and how bad they feel.  Gradually the conversation transitions to snoring, as much of the family burns off the food they just consumed.  If only sleeping really burned off those thousands of calories.

Sadly there is nothing very healthy about the traditional Thanksgiving meal and all the successive meals composed of the leftovers.  But it doesn't have to be that way, as their are plenty of creative ways to cook healthy for this annual food marathon.

Check out this article by Stepfanie Romine - Comfort Foods Without All The Calories which provides some creative food options for the big meal.  Who ever said that you have to eat an unhealthy meal at Thanksgiving.  This year, give yourself and your family an early Christmas Gift - no unnecessary pounds! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner - Short Term Pleasure - Long Term Food Debt

Thanksgiving is just around the corner which means celebrations, family gatherings, tons of food and long term food debt.  And no, I'm not referring to the cost of preparing a feast (though that van be pricey as well) I'm referring to the calories you are likely to consume over the course of the holiday.  The reality is that there is a heavy price to pay for all that eating, which is akin to taking on debt, because you are going to have to work longer and harder to burn it all off.   And worse yet, Thanksgiving is just the beginning of an extended period of potential weight gain that stretches all the way to early January.  And in case you haven't noticed, its a lot easier to put on weight than to get rid of it!

The really sad thing about eating too much stuff, is that its a short term pleasure that has long term consequences.  One of the things I practice is reminding myself that while it tastes great right now, fifteen minutes after I finish eating, all the pleasure will be gone.  Though it took a while to instill that in my brain, I am pretty good at using it to limit my food intake.  Think about the regret BEFORE you eat, rather than later when you feel the need to loosen your clothing and take a nap due to the over-indulgence.

Now is a good time to start paying attention to the calories that come with traditional dishes associated with Thanksgiving.  A cup of cranberry sauce can easily be 400+ calories.  A large slice of turkey clocks in at 300 calories.  Add a healthy heaping of mashed potatoes for another 240 calories, plus a mound of stuffing that cashes in around 400 calories.  And lets not forget the bread and butter - 250 calories. And who can turn down pumpkin pie with a healthy shot of whipped cream?  Try 400 calories.  Grand total food debt from just these basic items - about 2000 calories.  But considering that I have never seen a Thanksgiving Dinner with that few food choices, I'm willing to bet the total calories will climb much higher.

We all know that debt is bad and the best way to avoid it is to spend within your means.  Translating this to food debt, eat within your daily calorie limits.  And yes it can be done with Thanksgiving!  You don't have to deprive yourself of a good meal, you just need to pre-plan your approach in order to keep things under control.

To be successful, there are two key factors that need to be addressed: overeating & high calorie foods.  Here are my approaches to handling both areas:
  • Commit to eating very slowly in order to allow yourself to fill up quickly.  Then stop when you are full.
  • If you eat slow enough, you may even lose your appetite, which makes it even easier to avoid the temptation of eating everything in site.
  • When you have the urge for "seconds" remind yourself that it will take a lot longer to burn off that extra food than it will to eat it.
  • Grandma might be offended if you don't go for seconds, thirds, etc.  Eat slowly, but make it look like you are eating a lot.  If there is always food on your plate, she will think you too are overeating like everyone else.
  • Take an active role in meal preparation and focus on lighter fare.  There are plenty of traditional dishes that can be created in such a way as to maximize flavor while minimizing calories.
  • Know your food calories!  Take smaller portions of high calorie items and larger portions of low calorie foods.  Try to fill up on the low calorie stuff.
  • Plan some form of exercise immediately following the meal.  Avoid couches and recliners, no matter who is playing football.  A 30-45 minute walk isn't enough to burn off the meal, but its a simple way to start attacking the food debt that you took own.
This Thanksgiving, do not be led mindlessly to the food trough like millions of other Americans.  It's just a meal!  Focus on enjoying the time spent with others, rather than than eating a big meal that will have no positive impact on your life.  Remember, its a only short term pleasure that comes with term conequences.  Is it really worth it??????????????

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sitting Disease? I Think I Have That One Covered

I'm sure you have heard the reports by now, that more than 90,000 new cancer cases each year in the US may be the result of prolonged periods of sitting.  (Get Up! Sitting Linked To Cancer - Nanci Hellmich - USA Today) Specifically mentioned are breast and colon cancer.

Researchers have known for years that there is a correlation between physical activity and the development of chronic diseases, but the latest analysis brings a lot more attention to the link.  To put it bluntly, in a study of 123,000 people researchers found that the more time people spent sitting, the higher their risk of dying early. In fact they even gave it a name "sitting disease."

Whats even more disturbing is that this isn't limited to those who are sedentary, it also applies to people who are regularly active.  For example, someone who participates in 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day, but still spends many hours in a chair is just as likely to get "sitting disease" as someone who is a total couch potato.

Personally, I have found that sitting too long makes my body stiff and grumpy, so I figured out a long time ago that I needed to get out of the office chair and move around.  Then when I started my weight loss program, I further keyed in on the fact that I wasn't burning off very many calories while parked on my butt, so I made it part of my daily routine to get up and engage in some kind of physical activity on a regular basis.

For example, most of my days are spent working from a home office (lucky me) so I usually ditch the chair once per hour and go outside and walk around my pool.  It takes 50 steps to go around the 20x40 concrete sidewalk.  40 laps equals one mile. (I never quit with the numbers!)  I don't go any set distance as I have a very busy schedule, but I still get in steps towards my minimum goal of 10,000 per day.  In addition, when I have phone calls to make, I usually do them while walking around the pool.  For rainy days, I do conference calls from a treadmill at slow speed.

Of course not everyone has the ability to go in their backyard during work hours to walk.  But don't let that be an excuse.  Even when I go to our corporate offices, I do the same basic thing, but use the back parking lot instead.  I've raised a few eyebrows walking in circles dodging cars, but its not really that difficult.  In fact its a great way to handle long conference calls, as the traffic is actually almost nonexistent which keeps the background levels low.  And I get my steps in! 

It really doesn't matter where I am, I always find a way to get up and move around frequently!  Not because of a cancer risk - I didn't know there was one - but because it is part of my daily weight management routine.

So maybe in the grand scheme of things, the link between sitting and cancer will get more people on their feet, moving towards a healthier lifestyle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Weight Loss - 5 Simple Steps To Get Started

I read an article from Gregory Ramey, PhD who is a child psychologist about weight loss for kids.  I couldn't find an online version to point you towards, so I will just cover the high points, which really apply to everyone, not just children.  In the article, Dr. Ramey sets out these five key principles for weight management:
Weight Control Is About Self Control - Controlling one's weight is about exerting self control.  That means denying yourself something that feels good today for the benefits of looking better for tomorrow.  (BTW - I am more about modification than denial.)
Set Realistic Goals - The real purpose is to gradually change bad habits and focus on living a well-rounded healthy lifestyle rather than achieving a short-term weight loss. (1-2 pounds per week maximum!)

Clean House - It's just too tempting to have junk food in the cabinets and refrigerator.  Get rid of all that stuff!  (BTW - that means getting rid of it by throwing it out, not eating it all up!)

Increase Your Activity - Focus less attention on the numbers on a scale and more on developing healthy habits.  Find something physical that can be enjoyed on a regular basis.  Avoid the TV, computers, video games, etc.  (Of course, you can put a treadmill in front of your electronics and actually get a workout while playing.)

Make It A Family Affair - A child's weight management program, or even an adult's is likely to fail without family involvement and support.  Plus as a parent, you should be setting a good example for your kids - nothing like a fat Dad telling his kid to go run around the block five times...  better to lead the way.  Meals are really the toughest aspect of this category, as its nearly impossible to have one person eating healthy while everyone else around them is eating the same old, same old bad stuff.  (It's hard to switch to broccoli when everyone else is eating french fries - the smell alone is enough to put an end to the effort.)

Really in truly, successful weight loss is more about common sense than anything else.  Oh sure, its easier said than done, because you have to change years of bad habits and that is hard, but don't make things any more difficult than they are.  Focus on gradual changes to lifestyle.  Apply these 5 things and once they are routine, then add another layer of changes , and then another layer until you finally find yourself on the right path.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Learn More - Burn More

In case you haven't noticed, I'm all about walking.  That's not to say its the best exercise for weight loss -  I never claimed it was - but rather it's what works for me.  And that is one of the most important criteria when starting a weight loss program: choosing a form of fitness that's right for you and can be actively pursued forever.  Remember, successful weight loss is not a short term proposition!

But just burning calories may not be enough, as the body can do strange things when it comes to where it burns off the fat.  A common question when it comes to exercise is:  can I selectively lose weight from specific parts of the body? The answer is NO.  While you can tone up certain areas, where the fat is burned off  is really controlled by your body without any input from you.  For some of us, it comes away fairly evenly from top to bottom, with basic exercise while for others it burns away very disproportionally, which can be quite distressing.

If you fit that category, then you may need to consider working with a personal trainer who can help you focus on not only reaching your weight loss goals, but also on achieving the physical appearance that you desire.

In an article published in the Wilmington Star News, the author, Scott Perry of Real Results, Inc answers some important questions about exercise, muscle mass and weight loss.  It's worth a quick read, because it explains in fairly simple terms the relationships between all of the physical aspects going on behind the scenes in your body.

People wake up every day with the notion of losing weight, but without any clue as to how to do it and what path to take.  Most do it all wrong and end up frustrated with their efforts and soon quit.  You should approach the process with a plan based on doing research into methods, not products, for weight loss.  Before you take the first step or lift the first weight, learn everything you can about weight loss and the human body, then build a plan that fits your personality, with a firm understanding that what you start today you must be able to maintain forever.  Your weight loss is only as good as your plan, and that same plan (with evolutionary changes) it what will keep it from coming back.

Ignore the ads and the hype - focus on facts.  LEARN MORE - BURN MORE!

My website is full or weight loss resources and includes a synopsis of my plan (no products involved) which is fully detailed along with an accounting of my first five months, in my e-book.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shortcuts Are Short-Sighted

I presume that most people who exercise do so for a reason.  Losing weight, building muscle, improving health, etc.  Soooo, if you are actively pursuing a high level of physical activity in order to achieve a desired end result, why would you cut yourself short?  It's kind of like saving money to purchase a house, but turning down the opportunity to work an extra hour each day.  You may eventually reach that goal (or not) of enough dollars for a decent down payment, but its going to take a long time and at some point you might get tired of waiting for the pay out and just give up.
I witness this kind of short-sightedness on a a regular basis when it comes to running and walking - a lot of people take shortcuts - literally.  Why?  Each step you take contributes to calorie burn - maybe not very much on an individual basis, but when taken collectively it does add up.  So why would you walk a two mile course and then take a shortcut near the end that cuts off a 1/4 mile?  You might have save a couple of minutes, but you lose big time in the fitness category.  
Recently, there was a bridge closing (maintenance) on the Wrightsville Beach Loop, which is a 2 1/2 mile circular course perfect for walking and running.  I normally walk two full laps, but because of the closure that wasn't possible.  Did I shortcut my walk? Nope.  I started at my normal location, walked until I bumped into the barricades at one end of the bridge, then turned around and went in the opposite direction until I bumped into the barricades at the other end of the bridge.  Then I walked back past my starting point an equivalent distance of two bridge lengths so that my total walk was still in the five mile range.
But how many other people did that?  I was amazed at the numbers who got within sight of the bridge, then turned around.  They didn't go the full distance!  For most of them they were satisfied that they put in some kind of effort, not thinking about the fact that a reduced level of exercise had a reduced effect.  I on the other hand focus on time and distance, with my trusty pedometer providing ample evidence as to the effectiveness of my efforts.
This goes beyond bridge closings!  On any given day in any specific place that is frequented by runners and walkers, I witness people taking unwarranted shortcuts.  For example, on the Mt. Pleasant, SC side of the Ravenel bridge, people have worn a path up a grassy embankment between the parking lot sidewalk and the bridge's pedestrian walkway, even though both they link up just another 100 feet away.  You might be thinking its just the results of tourists climbing the bridge for the view, rather than exercise.  Nope, I see walkers and runners using the shortcut all the time. 
OK, so two hundred feet isn't a real big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it can be a symptom of a dangerous mindset - I'm doing this because I have to, not because I want to!  And that can lead to failure in the game of weight loss!  Your exercise routine must provide you with a high level of satisfaction and you in turn must be committed to making it happen by going the full distance each and every time.  
For sure, things happen (been there, done that) - weather, cramps, blown out shoes, blisters, tight schedules, etc. and that is legitimate stuff.  But I see a lot of people taking shortcuts out of laziness or simply a lack of commitment. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because you took part in some form of exercise, you are on the right track.  However, a lackluster effort can actually work against you. If you don't consistently achieve a level of physical activity that really makes a difference, you won't be going anywhere fast.
When it comes to running and walking, more is better.  My motto is: The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is The Longest Route You Can Find!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Did It Again - Beat My Old Walking Speed Record

                                                  I must be on a roll!  (Not something you technically want to happen when walking...) Just broke my walking speed record again.  Just the other day I did 5 miles in 62 minutes, and today I did the same course in 61 minutes.  I really can't tell what shaved off another minute on the time, which is actually pretty significant.  My top end speed doesn't feel any faster, so I am apparently getting up to full speed quicker. 

Is this an earth shattering moment?  For me yes, but for the rest of world - no.  It's just part of my reformed lifestyle to push the limits with my chosen form of exercise - walking.  It helps keep things fresh and interesting, which is important for staying on track.  The minute you get bored with your fitness plan, find something else quick or you may end up back on the couch.  So in addition to walking in interesting locations, I'm always trying to throw in another angle to keep myself moving and racing against myself is one of them.

Exercise doesn't have to be painful, uncomfortable, distasteful or boring - in fact it better not be - it just has to be something you can commit to and that yields some personal satisfaction in addition to the calorie burn.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's Not Your Fault - Hormones LinkedTo Weight Regain

Puhleezz - quit with the "it's not your fault" rhetoric.  An article in the Denver Post refers to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that suggests that hormones are responsible for regaining pounds after successfully losing them.  I'm not a scientist and don't dispute their findings, however as I read through the article I saw several glaring issues in how they conducted their study.

I suggest you go read the article, and carefully review the data as presented.  Try not to make any snap decisions - instead take some time to read between the lines.  Then come back here to see the problems that I saw with the study.
Here Are The Problems I Saw With The Study:

Rapid Weight Loss - First of all, successful weight loss and long term maintenance are challenges - there is no doubt about that.  Thus, you have to be prepared to use methods that you can comfortably live with forever.  Quick weight loss has proven to be ineffective because you can't maintain the process.  The participants (who survived) lost  almost 30 pounds each in 10 weeks.  CRAZY!  Normal weight loss is in the range of 1-2 pounds per week.  That is a shock to the body and it will naturally fight back, especially in terms of hunger.  Plus its an uncomfortable, unpleasant process which makes the individual long for "getting back to normal".

500 - 550 Calories Per Day - Are you kidding me?  Yeah, that can produce some quick weight loss, but what a nightmare.  I would fantasize about eating non-stop!

Optifast Meal Replacement - Great, force them to starve, then pump some chemicals into their body to trick them into feeling like they are getting a decent meal.  Unfortunately, this is so common in the masses who try to lose weight - replace "normal"with something artificial.  First of all, you lose the pleasure of eating the foods you like.  Second you are taking something that you can't wait to get rid of, meaning its a short term solution.  Once you end such a diet you will gain weight back.

Reintroduced To Ordinary Foods - Here we go again.  Lose the weight quick, then get back to normal, which invariably leads to weight re-gain.

Listen, I don't dispute the facts that our bodies tend to work against us and certainly hormones can have a real effect, but in my opinion this study has too many flaws because it used the wrong approach to weight loss.  Actually, I said that wrong - it used the same stupid approach that most people take (and ultimately fail).

The reality is that weight loss has some challenges and it will always take a high level of mental focus to succeed.  But you simply cannot dump a bunch of weight using artificial methods, then return to normal life and not expect to regain the weight you lost.  Thus you need to carefully, gradually and effectively reshape your normal life in such a way that you don't feel like you are missing out or are burdened things you hate.

I lost 70 pounds, 50 pounds of it in 5 months!  That was almost 5 years ago.  Sure, I fluctuate - usually gaining 5 pounds in the winter when I don't exercise quite as much.  (By spring its gone).  I still eat what I like, but in much smaller quantities and I offset that with exercise, so that I control calorie intake.  I am happy with my new lifestyle and have very little problem maintaining it.  I put together a formula which is illustrated in my book that worked for me.  No big secret - you can figure that out on your own without me - plus I have some details on my website under MY PLAN. 

And please, whatever you do, don't fall for that statement in the article that says "it's better not to gain weight than to try to lose it."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Set A New Personal Best Walking Record

My typical walk is 5 miles and I treat it as a competition - against myself.  I'm always striving to go just a little bit faster.  If speed is my goal, then why don't I run you might ask?  Too many knee surgeries sevearl years ago, which left very little cartilage in my right knee.  I actually can run without any problem, but on the advice of those in the Medical Profession, walking is less damaging to that remaining cartilage than running.  As one Orthopedic Surgeon once said "why would you want to run when walking has done so much for you?".

But don't confuse power walking with casual walking.  I move fast and it feels great!  It took a long time to go from 15 minutes of pure agony on a treadmill to 5 miles (or more when I have the time) of high speed, pain free fluid motion.

So today I did 5 miles of walking in 62 minutes!  My old record was 64 minutes.  And considering that I have just recovered from a fairly long bout of pneumonia (and I was still walking while sick, just not as fast and furious) that is pretty amazing in my book.  I'm not bragging, ok maybe I am, but my point is that I used to be a couch potato and now I'm completely reformed and loving every minute of it.

Successful weight loss is a long term investment and its tough to see where you might be when you are just starting out.  There is hope for everyone - I am proof of it.  So don't give up and don't expect any quick miracles, just set a course and stay on track.  One day you might just be able to pass me by on a power walk of your own - NOT!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Learn How To Lose Weight While Unlearning How To Gain It

Unlearning is just as important as learning when it comes to losing weight.  A bona-fide weight loss plan not only focuses on helping you to LEARN good healthy habits, it also has to deal with UNLEARNING bad ones.  And the unlearning is much harder than the learning, by far!  Imagine if you suddenly had to unlearn basic math or to read or to speak.  Those things have been ingrained in you over many years and so have bad habits in terms of health and fitness. 

Enter Drew Manning.  He is a Certified Personal Trainer and self-confessed fitness addict who has decided to gain 50-60 pounds over a six month period, then lose it over another six month period, all in full public view via the Internet.  In an interview on Good Morning America, he said he felt the experience would help him to better understand what someone who wants to lose weight has to go through, which in turn would help him be a better personal trainer.

On the surface it seems like a noble cause, and I am not here to malign him in anyway, but when I step back and look at what he is doing, I see the same Learning VS Unlearning issue that comes with weight loss, except in reverse.  Here is a guy who in his own words says: "I’ve always had a passion for fitness. My love of fitness began at an early age and through sports it became an addiction. Throughout college I gained more experience through not only sports, but college courses as well. This inspired me to become a certified personal trainer through NASM."  

In other words he has spent his whole life being healthy and fit, and now must temporarily learn how to go the other way in order to gain weight.  Luckily for him he doesn't need to unlearn the good habits, as he plans to go right back where he was.  So will he really find out what its like to have lived a life of fatness and then be tasked with losing it and keeping it off?????  I think not... as he doesn't have to unlearn a lifetime of bad habits to be successful with weight loss. 

But if his efforts help others be successful, then more power to him.  But for you as an individual, there are plenty of people like him or me who stand ready to help you learn good health and fitness habits, but its up to you to unlearn all those bad habits that got you there in the first place.  That is why I always say, whatever system you use to lose weight must be sustainable forever: Learning And Unlearning together in one package!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Success Stories Prove It Is Possible To Maintain Weight Loss

I didn't need a research report to tell me what I already knew - it is possible to maintain your weight loss over an extended period of time.  But its always nice to see that there are plenty of others who are also beating the odds and defying the statistics about long term weight loss success.

USA Today ran an article about a study of successful dieters (I hate that term as it doesn't give you the real picture) who are members of the National Weight Control Registry.  In the analysis, researchers gathered data from 3000 members who have been in the registry for 10 years.   The participants had dropped an average of 69 pounds (each) and maintained a 52 pound weight loss at five years and a 51 pound loss at 10 years.  

What's really interesting to me is how close this is to my own situation.  I lost 70 pounds and now flirt with a 5 pound fluctuation each year.  I can burn it back off, but for some odd reason, my body seems to really like to park itself at the 65 pound lost mark.

In a sidebar, the article list lifestyle habits of those interviewed, which almost mirror my efforts.  Thus, if you are looking to lose weight and keep it off, you can use that information as a guideline for building your own program that is sustainable in the long term, provided you stick with it.

You don't need supplements, weird food, icky diets or painful workouts to lose weight, just a good set of parameters that you can merge into your current life and slowly replace bad habits with good ones that you can live with forever.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Souping Up Your Weight Loss

If you are on the quest to unload pounds you might want to consider stocking up on soup.  It has definitely been a part of my weight loss success, as I found it to be a good way to eat a filling meal without loading up on too many calories.  

Of course, just like with salads, soups aren't guaranteed to be low-calorie and/or healthy so read the labels, but within reason its a great way to avoid overeating because it makes you feel full quicker, so you tend to consume less.

A great article by Rocco DiSpirito illustrates this concept even further.  Checkout his recipe for Mushroom and Miso Soup.  He builds it from scratch and throws in some extras like shrimp and still ends up with an interesting dish that weighs in at an astounding 103 calories.

Just another great example of how you can lose weight without supplements, icky diets, paid programs, berries, etc.  Do it your way by creating a plan that assures good food, fun exercise and life-long sustainability.    That's how I lost 70 pounds and have kept it off for over 4 years.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fat Tax? - Fat Chance!

If you haven't heard by now, the government of Denmark has enacted legislation to TAX foods based on their level of unsaturated fat, under the theory that if it costs more people are less likely to eat it.  Fat Chance!  Minor increases in the cost of unhealthy food (as defined by the Government) is probably not going to have a lot of effect on the ingrained habits of the masses.

Let's see, a typical burger will go up by $0.15 while a small package of butter gets hit with a tax of about $0.40.  Really?  A Big Mac at McDonald's cost a lot more than a basic burger, and has far more calories and fat, yet it remains the top-selling product.  No fat tax there, but definitely a higher price for a less healthy food item - see what a difference it makes... NOT!

Just look at the amount of tax that has been added to cigarettes (in the US) over the past 20 years.  In 1970, a pack cost about $0.38, whereas today its in the $5.00 range, with most of the increase being taxes.  Studies show that the higher tax actually has led to fewer people smoking, however it took a fairly large increase to make a dent.  The so-called Fat Tax in Denmark has a long way to go before it really starts to cause financial pain.

At the end of the day, I have a lot of heartburn with the Government trying to control what I eat by taxing what they perceive to be bad.  For those of us who have lost weight and maintained that loss for multiple years, its safe to say that Government intrusion had nothing to do with our success.  It all starts with what you want to do.  No amount of pressure from friends and family, warnings by Doctors, messages from the media, etc will make a difference if you aren't committed to yourself.  All those external influences can certainly get your attention, but it takes a strong desire on your part to make it happen.

I figured out on my own how to eat what I like while controlling the affect on my body mass.  Creative things like substituting unhealthy food ingredients with alternative ingredients that provide rich taste without all the nasty stuff can go a long way in controlling what enters your body.  But it doesn't take a fat tax to make it happen, just the ability to read the labels and explore the Internet for new recipes.

So will a Fat Tax make people less Fat?  Fat Chance!


Friday, September 23, 2011

Woman Loses Weight To Donate Kidney To Brother

Good Morning America profiled Kari Roberts of Crestwood, IL who lost 135 pounds in order to be healthy enough to donate a kidney to her brother.  She had always wanted to shed weight, but never had the right motivation until her sibling was suddenly faced with the need for an organ transplant.  

Obviously, being a family member, the chances were high that Kari would be a good match, and because her two sisters had existing medical issues, she was the sole family member that had a shot of being able to donate a kidney.  But there was one problem - potential donors must be in good health to even be considered for testing and because of her 320 pound weight, she was ruled out as a possibility.

It was a turning point for Kari who was determined to help her brother. She took on the challenge, put together her own weight loss plan and started the journey.  135 pounds later, she was deemed healthy enough to be tested as a donor and as expected she turned out to be a perfect match.  Surgery is scheduled for this fall.

You can read the full article by Ellen Tumposky and view a video clip at the ABC News website.

Great story, but in the grand scheme of things I don't think they put enough emphasis on the fact that Kari created her own fitness plan and successfully lost the weight without any fade diets, magic pills, etc, etc.  Plus it was not a lose-weight-quick scheme.  She did it right, by focusing on something that she could do on her own rather than relying on the hypes and promises of some paid service.

I am a big believer in doing it "on your own" as true weight loss success is a long-term endeavor that has to be maintained for the rest of your life.  Thus, you never want to be a slave to something you cannot comfortably manage forever. 

As pointed out in the article by Dr. R. Michael Hofmann, medical director of the Living Kidney Donor Program at the University of Wisconsin Hospital, others have lost weight to support an organ donation, but 80% of them will typically gain the weight back.  That is predictable as most people view weight loss as a short term endeavor - which is a sure fire recipe for failure!

Weight lost through unsustainable means is weight that will come back to haunt you in the long run!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Great News - It's Only Pneumonia!

Back in mid-summer I started getting some pains in my jaws, left arm and neck when walking.  Of course I should point out that they didn't occur until the 5th mile on a 95 degree day... but a search on Google suggested that the pains could be a sign of cardiac issues.

So I eventually scheduled an appointment with my Doctor to discuss.  By the time the appointment rolled around, I had grown gradually weaker, and was actually feeling like I had the beginnings of the flu.  (But I was still walking everyday...)

Phase 1,  she diagnosed me with pneumonia - at least in terms of the fatigue and flu-like issues.  So I did a round of antibiotics and grudgingly a small dose of rest.  And got better!
Enter Phase 2.  As I rapidly improved, the Doctor begin to suspect that the pneumonia had been in my lungs for quite some time and could possibly be the cause of the other stuff.  To be sure, she set me up for a Nuclear Stress Test.

For those of you who have never had the privilege of such a test, they basically inject (through an IV) you with a radioactive dye and take a CT scan of your heart. at rest.  Then you hop on a treadmill and work your heart rate up, or pass out trying, then go back for a second CT scan.  Ultimately they will compare your heart at rest versus under stress.

I had done one of these about 5 years ago when I wasn't in very good shape and I always felt like the treadmill had defeated me.  You see, its no ordinary treadmill.  Sure it looks like the same kind of thing you would find in a gym, but this one has a mind of its own.  They start you out slow on a slight incline, then the treadmill automatically speeds up and tilts up - a lot.  Of course they warn you when the change is coming and you are instructed to cry "uncle" when you've had enough.  It can get the best of you pretty darn quick, especially if you are out of shape.  And it did... back then.

Oh yeah, did I mention that they have a "crash cart" standing by, just in case the treadmill really does you in?

But today was a new day.  Yes, I was still recovering from pneumonia, but being a guy who now walks 5 miles per day, I wasn't about to let the treadmill get one over on me again. It was personal this time and believe you me, I was going to ride this thing until it cried "uncle".

The test begin at a painfully slow pace, though because it was inclined slightly, there was a slight tug in my leg muscles.  And even worse - they told me I had to hold on to the safety bar for the duration of the test.  How embarrassing!  I never hold on with my own treadmilll - its acutally much more comfortable with walk with my arms swinging at my sides.  I sure hope on one was taking pictures...

I can't stand to walk slow, so I had to just wait impatiently for the speed to increase.  Eventually I got to a moderate but somewhat lazy rate, but at least it felt like walking.   The Doctor wanted a heart rate of 144, but I was stuck down in the 80 range.  Speed up and tilt.  My heart rate barely changed.  Speed up and tilt.  A slight increase up to about 95, but a long way from the target.  

We got to the 6 minute mark and a comment was made that not too many people went past that.  I laughed - now I was getting the upper hand over the treadmill.  We kept going and finally at about the 9 minute mark my heart rate got into the 144 range.  At 10 minutes the Doctor decided she had all the data she needed and that the preliminary results for my heart looked great, so SHE elected to shut it down.

I got off feeling victorious!  I had beaten the machine, I had won and I wasn't even breathing hard.  While the technician un-wired me I asked what the record time on the machine was.  Without batting an eye he said "a 62 year old guy went 18 minutes, but he was in really, really  good shape."


But the good news is - it was only pneumonia!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Weight Watchers Might Have Potential

I'm not a fan of commercial weight loss plans for two simple reasons.

1. Many of them are high-priced scams promising things that aren't realistic.
2. Long term weight loss requires a lifetime commitment to whatever program you choose and few if any commercial plans fit that bill.

Without a doubt, if you talk to those of us who have lost weight and kept it off, the key factor is a lifestyle change that can be sustained forever.  However, the average person wants to lose a lot of weight quickly, and then embarks on whatever the "flavor-of-the-month" is in terms of weight loss programs and fad diets.  Too many times its an expensive endeavor that is uncomfortable and difficult to maintain for any extended period of time, yet time is one of the major keys with for successful weight loss. End result, money is the only thing that is lost.  Thus, the statistics for losing weight are depressing and downright dismal for actually keeping it off.

But there are exceptions...

Weight Watchers (I have never participated) seems to show a positive degree of success for a significant number of their clients.  In fact, I have talked to participants who are applying the concepts such that they are able to make the necessary lifestyle changes that are required to successfully lose weight and keep it off.  An article by Nanci Hellmich of USA TODAY underscores this trend.  She profiles the results of a study that indicates that Dieters lose twice as much weight participating in Weight Watchers than they do by getting advice from their Doctors.

Of course, if you've ever gotten weight loss advice from a Doctor, its usually not very exciting or inspiring.  Nothing like an overweight Doctor who smells of smoke handing you a stack of papers describing some bland diet that no one can stomach. (Note: My Doctor is nothing like that and is one of my best supporters!)  But really, diet and exercise just sounds like @#$% to the average overweight, couch-potato American.  Without any pizazz and excitement, there is very little motivation to even try.

So is it that Weight Watchers is so great or that Doctors are so bad when it comes to the weight loss game?  Probably both.   

Sooooo, I'm not ragging on Weight Watchers!  If it works for you - great.  Just make sure that before you start down that path, that its a road you are willing to travel forever.  The weight loss journey has no end - unless you want the weight to come back. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Turning Back Time

Everyday we get a little bit older (sigh) and so far no one other than Ponce de Leon has discovered the fountain of youth - and he didn't leave a map.  But though we can't stop the process, we can certainly challenge it.  

For many, that means spending thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery, hormone replacements, dietary supplements, etc, etc.  According to an article by David Crary of the Associated Press entitled Boomers Will Be Spending Billions To Counter Aging its expected that sales of anti-aging products and services will top $114 billion by 2015.

More and more we can see the advertising and hype ramping up as hordes of companies jump on the bandwagon to offer tools to battle the affects of aging.  But in reality, according to the National Institute on Aging, no treatments have been proven to slow or reverse the natural aging process, despite the claims and promises of various marketers.  Their advice for aging well: Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and don't smoke.

Wow what a novel concept - who would have thought...

Anti-aging and weight loss sound amazingly similar.  Both are flooded with claims of magic pills and guaranteed products that promise amazing results. Both generate billions of dollars for those making the claims. Both leave the majority of clients with nothing more than an empty wallet.

Successful weight loss, just like successfully weathering the aging process, involves very simple, low cost processes that are available to everyone.  And its a LONG TERM effort, meaning that once you start it, it must be something you can do forever.  Be skeptical of anything that guarantees quick results with little effort - pills, berries, liquids, etc.  Stay away from fad diets that are short term efforts.  Avoid exercise programs that are painful, boring and distasteful.

You can read more on my website or in my e-book about the details of what has worked for me such that I have successfully lost 70 pounds and maintained it for 4 years now.  (Hint - it involves eating slow and walking fast...)  Not only do I feel younger, I also look younger than I am...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Brush With Death While Walking

Walking is a key component of my weight loss and thus a significant part of my daily routine.  I enjoy getting out and taking in the surroundings, whether at home or traveling.  And even though a routine event for me, you never know what you will see or experience when walking. Yesterday was the perfect example.

Coming over the Banks Channel bridge in Wrightsville Beach, I noticed a collection of emergency vehicles parked at the public docks with lights flashing.  Down on the docks was a Coast Guard patrol boat surrounded by various officials - police, EMS, firefighters, etc.  My first thought was maybe some kid had gotten hurt jumping off the bridge (a definite no-no, but it they do it anyway).  After all, it was early on a bright sunny Monday and boat traffic was very light, so it didn't seem logical that there had been an on-water crash.

Upon closer observation I realized that someone was in the Coast Guard boat on their back, with feet sticking up over the gunwale.  It seemed to be a very awkward and uncomfortable position for someone who was injured and being treated.  Then the realization hit me - the victim was no longer of this earth!  Sadly that proved to be the case.  

Turns out it was a very bizarre set of circumstances that led to this man's death and you can read more details in an article from the Wilmington Star News if interested.

It just goes to show that you never know what you will see when you are a daily walker/runner/biker and it certainly keeps my exercise of choice from ever becoming dull and boring (not that I want to see bad things happen to anyone).  And of course staying on track means choosing exercise methods you can actually look forward to instead of hating with a passion.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Exercise Myths Debunked

I came across some interesting exercise info in Popular Mechanics recently.  YES, Popular Mechanics.  Contributing Author Alex Hutchinson shared some information out of his book Cardio Or Weights? Fitness Myths, Training Truths and Other Surprising Discoveries From The Science Of Exercise.

Here is an excerpt:

Stretching Prepares Your Body For Exercise (True or False)
Stretching your body before exercise is a sacred ritual, but researchers have been finding that it actually slows you down.  Florida State researchers recently showed that stretching before a run makes you about 5 percent less efficient, meaning you have to burn more energy to run at the same pace.  Furthermore, there's insufficient scientific evidence that pre-exercise stretching reduces injury risk.

Pretty interesting stuff from Alex Hutchinson.  I haven't read the book yet, but it sounds like a good read and worthwhile for anyone engaged in a serious health and fitness regimen, as too many times we expend a lot of effort pursuing so-called "standards" that end up having little or no basis in science and at the end of the day, have little real benefit to our bodies.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Couch Factor Is The Key To Weight Loss!

Metabolism is kind of a big word with serious sounding implications.  But if you want to lose weight, it needs to become part of your everyday vocabulary as its a big key to how successful you will be...or not. 

The reality behind the calories consumed versus calories burned science for weight loss, relies heavily on how YOUR body handles its energy needs and everyone is different. Of particular interest is the resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you would burn in a day if you sat around all day doing nothing. I call it the COUCH FACTOR!   

For example, when I was 70 pounds heavier I calculated that my couch factor was about 2500 calories per day.  Thus, if I did nothing at all but eat 2500 calories per day, then I shouldn't gain or lose any weight.  If I either increased my caloric burn (exercise) or decreased my caloric intake (food) then my weight should decrease.  I did both and it worked out quite well. (You can read all of the details in my book.)

There are general formulas based on age, height, weight, etc which makes for some useful baseline data, but for most of us its pretty much impossible to know our exact metabolic rate and thus our true caloric needs. That is until now.

In an article written by Marion Callahan, she reviews a new device called the Fitmate which is being field tested by various weight-loss professionals.  The Fitmate is designed to provide accurate data about an individuals resting metabolic rate, so that a specific weight management plan can be designed for that person. 

According to Callahan's article, the device determines exactly how many calories a person needs and how much exercise is required to lose fat weight or gain lean muscle tissue. An individuals genes, body composition, age and sex affect metabolism, so the rate varies from person to person. It's also recommended that someone should be tested over the course of several months so that they can see that exercise and diet changes really do work.

At a whopping price tag of $7900, the Fitmate is not targeted for sale to individuals, but rather to medical and dietary practitioners who can use it to help their clients get off to a good start and keep them on track.

But whether you have access to such technology or not, you still need to base your weight loss plan on your couch factor, as it will truly define what you need to do to be successful.  Even if you are just getting a ballpark number, its still better than just jumping into some kind of ridiculous diet or pain workout routine without a clue as to what your real needs are.