Sunday, August 22, 2010

Eating Too Much Vs. Not Eating Enough

We all know what happens when you eat too much. Excess calories are stored by our body and over time we gain weight. I mean, this is common sense, right? We only need so many calories a day and in a world where serving sizes and portions are completely out of control it's no wonder that we are overweight or even obese as a population. But, the flip side of overeating can be just as detrimental to losing weight. Seriously!

What you need to know and remember:
  • Your body needs a basic amount of energy (calories) to function. This is known as BMR (basal metabolic rate). This does NOT include ANY activity. Not walking, not brushing your hair, not talking - NOTHING.  This is purely body survival folks. Your body processes (breathing, heart beat, organ function...etc) will use/require a certain amount of energy.
    • There is another term, Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR.  It's sometimes used interchangeably with BMR.  The main difference is that the testing conditions used to determine RMR are not as strict. 
Everyone's BMR/RMR will vary.  It's dependent on age, height, weight, lean body mass just to name a few.  You can spend the money to get your BMR/RMR tested (I went and got my RMR tested.) Testing is beneficial if, like me, you feel the need to know how your specific body works.  Most will not find this necessary and you can easily do 1 of 2 things to determine yours.
  1. Go by the general rule of nothing less than 1200 calories per day for women and nothing less than 1800 calories per day for men. Note: This guideline MAY be too LOW for you.  It is just an overall rule that is generally accepted by most health authorities. 
  2. Use one of the various online calculators that ask for some basic parameters to calculate your BMR/RMR for you.   For example: BMR Calculator
Ok, so now you know what you need or should use as a guideline.  But, WHY is it SO important that you not drop below this figure for any length of time?  See, your body is a lot smarter than you realize.  If you drop below this minimum number for too long, your body will go into what is often referred to as starvation mode.  When in starvation mode your body will slow down your metabolism (even more) in order to prevent what it thinks is starvation and eventual death.  Your body is trying to save you.  It doesn't care that you want to lose weight.  It's thinking, "I'm going to die if this keeps up.  Let me slow everything down and maybe I'll get more food if I wait this out."  While you think you're being so awesome at watching your calories, your body has another idea and basically starts working against you.

Let's look at an example of a dieter who decides to drop their calories way too low.  Dieter Danny is underconsuming, but is losing weight and excited! Woohoo!  He has dropped 40lbs in a short amount of time and is encouraged.  Soon, the weightloss begins to slow down and eventually stops.  Dieter Danny is stumped! He's barely eating, but not losing weight.  So, understandably frustrated, Dieter Danny throws it all out the window and decides it's not worth it.  Goes back to his old ways or even just decides to eat what he normally should.  What happens? Oh, yeah, you guessed it.  Not only does he gain back the 40lbs he lost, but because his metabolism slowed down due to the underconsumption (his body requires even less calories than before) he gains even MORE weight.  It will take the body time again to reset, but in the meanwhile the metabolism is slowed down by this extreme caloric fluctuation. If he does this again (and again, and again) it only gets harder to lose weight and even easier to gain it.

Trust me, I know how easy it is to fall into the mindset of less is better when it comes to dieting. Been there just like most.  You get it into your head, how eating less is what you need to do.  It's not that simple.  You need to eat the right amount to lose weight.  Tell yourself that eating the proper amount of good, healthy food is not only acceptable, but necessary!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What are you doing?

This is probably the question I get asked the most. 

Simply put - eating as clean as I possibly can and working out 3-5x per week. What exactly does that mean? Let me explain....

Eating Clean:
  1. NO HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)
  2. NO Hydrogenated Fats
  3. NO Artificial Sweeteners (No blue, pink or yellow packets!)
  4. Very limited processed foods (b/c they normally contain items #1 & #2)
  5. Lean Protein & Good Carbs at each meal
  6. Meats, Veggies and Fruits are organic when possible/available
That is a very high-level summary of what I do. More details to follow in other postings - there is way too much information and detail to post in one location. The above is just a foundation of what I've incorporated into my life. I'll explain separately my meal frequency and my food log. :D

First of all, you need to figure out what you like. We're all different and each have different goals. There is no one-size-fits-all for exercise. If you don't enjoy it (somewhat) then you're going to dread having to do it and that will only make it THAT much easier for you to talk yourself out of the workout.

I have found that doing a bunch of cardio and some weights didn't really get me the results I wanted. I went the Jillian Michaels (MY IDOL & GOAL!) route which really emphasizes resistance training with spurts of cardio. You do a "cardio only" day maybe 1-2x per week. The key is to build your muscles and boost your ability to burn calories.

Here is what I do/have done/recommend:

  • Jillian Michaels' 30-Day Shred - 3 Levels/25min each - work your way up the levels
  • Jillian Michaels' Burn Fat-Boost Metabolism - 1 Level/50min
  • The occasional cardio class - like Turbo Kickboxing
  • Tabata Sessions - not for the newbie, you need some conditioning
  • CrossFit - you can modify as a newbie, but I think a good solid foundation is needed first as well

  • *Check my "Recommendations & Products I Personally Own" Section below for links!

    That's it in a nutshell - see, easy! :) As I said above, I'll have separate and specific posts about meal frequency, food logging, food labels, ingredients to watch for and just overall tips and advice.

    I hope you found this introduction to be helpful!

    Organic - Where to Buy

    Damn Hippie Food!!  I hear Cartman's voice in my head when I see organic labels and signs or even when I pass the local Whole Foods or Sprouts Market.  I used to roll my eyes and think to myself, how it was just trendy or posh to buy organic foods.  That people did it to "look" like they were trying to be environmentally responsible - you know, hippies!  But, I must admit, I was wrong.

    I want to explain the basics about organic food - where you can buy it rather inexpensively (it will still cost more than conventional items), what you should look for and, of course, why you should take the extra time and money to do this for you and your family.  I want to try and keep these postings shorter, so this one will cover where you can buy organic.  Look for separate postings on the What and Why.

    Just about anywhere!  Wal-Mart, Target, Market Street, Sprouts, Tom Thumb, Publix, Albertson's.  You name it! You can probably find a dedicated organic produce and fruit section in addition to various store or national organic brands for canned or prepared items.  Archer Farms at Target (look for organic in the label - not all Archer Farms items are organic), O at Tom Thumb, Full Circle at Market Street just to name a few.

    Personally, I split my grocery shopping mostly between Target and Market Street because they are close by.  But, I do make the trek to Whole Foods when I want to buy meat - they only sell grass-fed which is also important because the meat is leaner and has more CLA.  Grass-fed cattle is a topic for another posting to come.  :)

    One thing to note - just because you're at Whole Foods or Sprouts, it doesn't automatically mean that anything/everything in there is organic.  They sell both organic and conventional options.  Easiest way to tell if produce and fruit are organic is to look at that sticker - it will actually mean something to you and not just the cashier!  If the number on the sticker begins with a 9 - then it's organic.  You'll notice some even make the 9 a larger size to make it easy to spot.  So, if the signage isn't clear or you're not sure, then just look for the sticker and the leading 9.

    Anyways, check out your regular grocery store and keep your eyes out for organic options.  You might be surprised at the kind of selection you have.  As people are becoming more aware of what it means to buy organic it is becoming increasingly popular - which means the big grocery chains are following suit to make sure you'll buy it from them and not go elsewhere.

    Organic - What to Buy

    Once you know Where to go, you need to know What's worth the extra pennies for organic.  There are items that are worth the extra cost and others that you can do if it won't bust the budget - there are even a few items that you don't have to worry about buying organic at all.

    In general, the items that you buy the most are the ones that should be organic - especially meats, veggies and fruits.  Most stores carry organic chicken, steaks, and ground beef.  If you cannot find anything specifically labled as organic, then look for the following:

    Meat & Poultry
    Beef - free of hormones and antibiotics, grass-fed
    Chicken - free of hormones and antibiotics, free range, minimally processed

    Another healthy and nutritious option is bison (or buffalo) meat - it's nutrient dense and typically bison are minimally handled and spend most of their lives grazing on grass and not commercial feed or grain.  They are not as exposed to chemicals or hormones.  This results in a fantastic alternative to beef if you're willing to try something different.  Some say that it's tougher or it has a gamey taste, but I personally have not found it to be like that.  Just be sure not to overcook your bison (because it is leaner, it cooks faster).

    The first thing you need to consider if you're going to be buying organic vegetables is - what you like!!  The last thing you need to do is spend your hard-earned money on produce that you don't like or don't know you like.  Vegetables that you currently eat frequently should be at the top of your list for organic options. 

    I've read a few articles recently that also help narrow down your best values in buying organic.  The following veggies are the ones that are in the "dirty" list due to lack of a thick protective skin or heavy use of chemicals:
    • Celery
    • Bell Peppers
    • Spinach and other leafy greens
    • Potatoes
    • Carrots
    • Tomatoes (although, this guy belongs in the fruit section technically)
    Want to save a few bucks?  The following are good as conventional options:
    • Onions
    • Avocado
    • Sweet Corn
    • Asparagus
    • Sweet Peas
    • Cabbage
    • Egg Plant
    • Broccoli
    • Sweet Potato
    An important note - the above refers to buying fresh produce.  There are canned options for convenience too - try to avoid canned veggies if possible.  I use them in when I have a time crunch - it's just better if you don't because they tend to have higher amounts of sodium in the water solution they are packed in as well as canning results in loss of nutrients.  One thing I learned is that frozen is a better alternative to canned, so I'm in the process of using up my canned items and moving to frozen for convenience.  Freezing helps keep most of the nutrients in place in comparison to canned.  Here's an article on just this topic:  Frozen vs Canned Vegetables

    Same thing that applies to the veggies goes here - if you eat it frequently, then try to buy organic. Order of preference is again fresh, frozen and lastly canned.  Be VERY wary of canned fruits they are normally packed in sugary syrups and sugar-laden juices. 

    Here are some of the dirty fruits that you'll want to get organic:
    • Peaches
    • Strawberries
    • Apples
    • Blueberries
    • Nectarines
    • Cherries
    • Grapes
    • Pears
    Here are some that you can get by with conventional:
    • Pineapple
    • Mango
    • Kiwi
    • Papaya
    • Watermelon
    Here's one food group that you should really strive to go organic at all times.  You should find both store and national brands at most grocery stores.  In our household we love Horizon 1% - my boyfriend's son has specifically said multiple times how much he loves the milk we get. 

    If you haven't discovered the decadence of greek yogurt, it's a MUST.  It's not like any other yogurt  you've tried - not like Dannon,'s thicker and creamier.  Plus, there's a bonus! It's got a significant amount more of protein!  It's an incredible snack option.  My personal favorite is Stonyfield's Oikos brand - I buy their Plain Non Fat version.  You can add all kinds of yummy fruit and nuts to really make it wonderful.  Oh, and a side note - Stonyfield has a rewards program.  The yogurt labels have a code that are worth points - which you can redeem for free yogurt!  They are probably sick of sending me my free yogurt coupons at this point. 

    Shellfish & Seafood
    No worries here.  You're not going to have to look for organic - your best bet is to look for fish that is wild caught.  Avoid farm raised when possible - although, for some fish you're not going to be able to avoid it (like Tilapia).  In those cases, just try to stick to stores that have some kind of guidelines for responsible fish farming - like Whole Foods. 

    Other Things
    If you can give up your favorite brand of coffee and find an organic brand you like, then go for it.  I can freely admit to trying several brands....only to end up with our favorite Dunkin' Donuts time and time again.  So, again, if you've got the extra cash and you're not married to your coffee brand then give it a try. you know Where and What, but let's talk about Why.

    Organic - Why to Buy

    Ok, so...after the Where and's the Why.  In a nutshell, you want the cleanest and most natural meats, fruits and vegetables you can buy.  It's that simple.  When you are buying something that is labeled as Organic, the product has gone through a strict certification process.  This process normally means that the product meets the below guidelines:
    1. Avoidance of most synthetic chemical inputs (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics,food additives, etc), genetically modified organisms(GMO), irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge
    2. Use of farmland that has been free from synthetic chemicals for a number of years (often, three or more)
    3. Keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail)
    4. Maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products
    5. Undergoing periodic on-site inspections.

    You'll read all about how it benefits local economies and how good for the environment it is...etc.  Those are all also great reasons, but when it comes to how it benefits YOU the key is that you are limiting the amount of chemicals that you introduce into your system.  These chemicals can disrupt your hormones and cause other side-effects.  This goes beyond weightloss, but various conditions and diseases that result from unnatural exposure to the pesticides, fungicides, antibiotics and hormones that our livestock and poultry are given. 

    As for your meat and poultry, the organic label generally means that the following were prohibited:
    1. Use of animal drugs, including hormones, to promote growth
    2. Plastic pellets for roughage
    3. Urea or manure added to feed or in feed formulas.
    4. Direct fed mammalian or poultry by-products such as animal fats and rendered products (does not include fishmeal).
    5. Providing feed supplements or additives in amounts over what is needed by the livestock for nutrition and health.
    Again, it comes down to not only ensuring that the animal was treated well, but that they are also fed as naturally as possible.  Just like when we get sick, animals are given antibiotics - but you don't want to ingest those antibiotics unnecessarily when you eat a steak or drink some milk.  By purchasing organic meat and poultry you are buying chemical, antibiotic and hormone free food. 

    If you want to read more detail of the requirements, here is a link to Vermont's certification guidelines:

    Something else that is important to know when buying meat is that the cattle is grass-fed. Most of the meat that we buy in the stores or at a restaurant is grain-fed.  Cattle given commercial feed or grains have to be given antibiotics because of their inability to digest corn adequately. The reason farmers go this route is because they can get the cattle bigger faster - the faster they grow, the faster they can sell it.  Higher turnover, higher profit.  The end result is fattier meat that is higher in Omega-6 (not good for you).  On the other hand, grass-fed cattle beef has higher amounts of Omega-3 and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) - both of which are important to your health and actually helpful in weightloss as well. When you buy organic meat, you can feel comfortable that it came from grass-fed/vegetarian diet.

    Here is an excellent article on such a topic:

    You know, I was talking to my aunt about this and she put it so well - so simply:  It doesn't take a scientist to understand that if you give something to an animal to make it bigger, that when we eat that animal that we're going to also get bigger.  

    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    Read Your Labels!

    The great thing about fresh veggies, meat and fruit is that they don't need a nutritional label!

    They are what they are - natural food. Here is my favorite tool for finding the nutritional composition of various meats, poultry, veggies and fruits: Nutrition Data.

    Now, I know firsthand that sometimes it's just not possible to pick out a bunch of ingredients and throw together a nutritious and healthy meal. Meetings, appointments, kids and all kinds of schedule killers happen. So, you need to have good viable options to toss into the nuker or toaster oven. That's when you need to read your labels!

    The easiest thing I can tell you is to look for the one with the FEWEST ingredients. That's just something you can do quickly - give the label a quick eyeball and see what you're getting.

    Here's a quick example - I like the occasional b'fast sandwich just like anyone else. But, a sausage patty can have a bunch of things in there that you don't want.

    Jimmy Dean's ingredient list reads as such:

    What is all that? Food Starch? Flavorings? BH-what? Huh? Oh and that's MSG spelled out for you too (Monosodium Glutamate). MmmmmMmmmm!! O.o

    Ok, so let's take a look at an option you can look for at your grocery store (I buy this at Whole Foods).

    Wellshire Farms Turkey Maple Sausage Patties' ingredient list reads as such:
    Turkey, Maple Syrup, Water, Sea Salt, Spices (including Pepper and Sage), Raw Sugar

    See the difference? I didn't even go into the calories, fat or any of the macronutrients. You don't need to care about that (right now). Oh, and in case some of you are going to say "I don't like Turkey patties" (waaaa!) The same brand DOES make pork ones, I just don't choose to buy them. :P

    So, not to go into too much detail and overwhelm - read your labels folks! Look for minimal ingredients. If the label actually reads "minimal processing" it's usually a good indicator.

    Overall, if you look for brands that strive for quality and in being natural or organic (Kashi, Amy's, Stonyfield, Muir Glen...etc) you'll find convenient AND healthy items to stock your pantry and fridge! Where can you get this stuff? So many places!! I'll post my frequent haunts separately.