Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Best to Be Skinny to Exercise

life's dirty little secret
Originally uploaded by debaird
A few of my coworkers went to a pick up game of basketball last night and their tales made for a very humorous lunch hour. Aside from the one guy who plays regularly, everyone else quickly found out just how out of shape they are. They said that by the end of the night, they were just wandering from one end of the court to the other, trying to keep up with the ball. I proudly was able to say that I saved myself from humiliation by not going -- that I know that I am out of shape.

And thus, the weight loss paradox. I know good and well that if I went and played basketball for a few hours, I would have burned more calories. But besides humiliation, I also risked injury and utter exhaustion. Apparently, fat rats have the same outlook on exercise that I do -- they phone it in every once in awhile, but they leave the real work to the skinny mice. Recent research found that as weight goes down, the motivation to run goes up, as does the rewards of running.

But still, I know I have to exercise. I haven't tried jumping rope again because the only real place to do it is outside and people might see. The same excuse has explained why I'm not doing the shovelglove or hula hooping. I guess for the time being, I'm regulated to walking and the treadmill -- hopefully my motivation will go up as my diet takes care of some of my extra baggage.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Crispy Pepperoni Chips

fried pepperoni?!
Originally uploaded by misfitgirl
Since eating better, I've noticed that I've been missing textures. I know that probably sounds weird, but there's just something about the light fluffy texture of fresh bread or the crunch of a potato chip. At the same time, chips are a good scoop too -- dips, chili, etc.

I decided to look around for low carb chip substitutes and I stumbled up Crispy Pepperoni Chips over at the Food Network. Honestly, the recipe couldn't be more straight forward -- take sliced pepperoni and put it in the oven until crispy. They definitely were crispy and worked well as a chip and a cracker. I ate them with cream cheese but next time I might find a low carb dip to add a little more flavor.

Through this recipe hunt, I found out that the Food Network used to have a low carb show, Low Carb and Lovin' It. Apparently it was on during the height of the low carb craze when every food related company was trying to cash in.
For all those who have struggled to lose weight and failed: Meet George Stella, the low carb chef. Once weighing in at 465 pounds, George transformed his life with controlled carbohydrate eating. Now he shares his secrets to successful weight loss, proving that the low carb lifestyle doesn’t have to be boring.
It is a shame the Food Network doesn't have the old episodes of the show available on their website, I'd love to watch them.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Jaguars are Obligate Carnivores

Originally uploaded by _guu_
On almost every weightloss forum I visit, there are challenges. Most of them seem to center around the Biggest Loser but I have seen others like 25 Pounds by Christmas and things like that. The basic idea is the same -- everyone signs up, weighs in weekly and the winner is whoever loses the most pounds/percentage of pounds. The prize? Well, the praise at the end is nice, but the real prize is better health through team-based motivation.

For the last six weeks, I've been participating in a challenge over on fatsecret called Ride 'em which was cowboy themed. I didn't get into the theme as much as the energetic women on my team, but let me just say that I've never been called "partner" more in my life. All in all, the challenge went really well -- I lost 16 pounds in six weeks, which was short of the challenge goal of 1% per week, but I still did well. Overall, my team came in third place!

Well, the new challenge starts today. Same rules, but the theme is racing or Are you born to be wild?. This time, I'm not only the member of a team, but I'm the leader of one! I volunteered to lead and let me just say that the Green Jaguars are going to kick butts and take names. Every few days, I'm supposed to send motivational notes and articles to my team while commenting on their journals to help them along.

How can I lose motivation when I'm responsible for motivating other people? I can do this, it will be awesome. 6% in six weeks wound leave me roughly twenty-four pounds lighter by St. Patrick's Day. That seems like the perfect reason to celebrate with an Irish Carbomb.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tracking with a Pedometer

Originally uploaded by Jasmic
I got a pedometer for Christmas and since then, I've kept it tucked in my pants to see how far I walk every day. On days that I get outside for a twenty minute walk, I average about 4,500 steps and on other days about 2,000. As you can tell, I lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle - my daily routine is bed, car, desk, car, desk, bed.

According to a recent study, to get on par with people who are of normal weight, I need to walk about 12,000 steps per day. Effectively, that means that I need to take 4 twenty minute walks per day. I could also walk faster, which is what I'll probably end up doing.

My first goal will be a specific number of walks per week. At the moment, I typically only walk when my stress levels dictate it. I'll start off aiming for 4 twenty minute walks per week. Only a seventh of the end goal, but it is a definite start!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”

Lately for dinner, I've been having the same dinner: two cans of tuna, mayo, cheese and lettuce. While that's good and satiating, I noticed that I was slowly growing bored of it. To add some variety, I tried salmon but that didn't work out too well. Last night I had a bit of an eureka moment when I saw that sliced steaks are 0 carbs. I don't know why it was surprising -- I was just expecting lots of sugary additives.

What goes with steak? Potatoes! But those are strictly out on the low-carb eating plan. I googled around a bit and stumbled upon a recipe for Creamy Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes.
1 bag frozen cauliflower florets
4-6 oz of cream cheese (to taste)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2-4 oz of butter, softened (to taste)
I made these tonight and they certainly look like mashed potatoes, but thats where the similarities ended. The first batch had too much cream cheese and both batches were really watery, so I didn't have to add any cream. I'd recommend trying them, but don't try to pass them off as potatoes at your next dinner party.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Protein Power

My whey protein drink
Originally uploaded by shadowtech
Today I tried something new for breakfast: a protein shake. I've been getting a lot of complaints at work that my eggs stink up the place, which I don't really understand -- egg beaters in the microwave just smell like eggs to me. I did find that hard boiled eggs mixed with Tabasco sauce smell pretty bad, but taste darn good. Regardless, I decided to be considerate and try something else. I couldn't think of something quite as easy and suggestions like cereal and oatmeal were obviously out. So I picked up a small bag of protein powder and mixed it with heavy cream to add in some fat, and sure enough, I was full until lunch time.

As it turns out, protein is an excellent tool for keeping hunger at bay. A study, which is set to appear in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, compared the different macro-nutrients and their effect on ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone secreted by the stomach that stimulates appetite. The study only tested sixteen people, so it doesn't seem very conclusive but I did find this bite about carbohydrates really interesting:
Basically, the carbohydrates eventually made people even hungrier than before they had eaten.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I'm Not on a Diet, I'm Living!

Originally uploaded by toyohara
The best weightloss advice has always been to make permanent dietary changes as opposed to making radical changes to lose weight quickly. The guys over at Fat 2 Fit Radio recommend eating like the person you want to become -- if you want to weigh 185lbs., eat like a person who weighs 185lbs. If your diet requires you to only eat apples, then the first time friends want to have a birthday party at the local dive, you won't be able to go -- or you'll eat something that isn't an apple.

It seems like the big diet brands have gotten the memo -- people need a lifestyle, not a diet. Well, sort of. I haven't seen that they've made any changes to their programs, other than to the name. Both the South Beach products made by Kraft and Weight Watchers changed from diets to a lifestyle in 2008.

Personally, I don't think either of those programs are a real lifestyle changes but if they work for someone and they can stick to them, then more power to them. It really just seems that the big companies are trying to pick up the language of the people to remain hip and trendy. After all, they have to compete with the deluge of new diets that come out each year just in time for New Years resolutions.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Reverse Anal Leakage

Originally uploaded by roboppy
Anal leakage seems to be the popular way to lose weight, doesn't it? Both olestra and alli have that as one of the possible side effects, with the alli instruction manual going as far as to suggest that you wear dark pants and keep an extra pair in your car. I've had some weird stomach troubles when changing my diet dramatically (i.e. lots of junk food to lots of vegetables) but never to the point where I feared I might spring a leak.

Now it seems that the opposite problem may be an excellent way to lose weight as well! Glucomannan, a water-soluble dietary fiber made from the konjac plant, apparently helps in the battle of the bulge. It does this in two ways; the first is by slowing down the absorption of sugar in the intestines and the second is swelling up in the stomach to give you a full feeling. Fiber, better regulated blood sugar and satiety? Sounds perfect, right?

The only problem is that people taking this natural supplement have suffered from intestinal and esophageal obstruction. For that reason, several countries have already banned it. I'm not sure if intestinal obstruction is worse than constipation, but not being able to swallow food or water because your esophagus is blocked can't be good.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

One Down, Twenty Three to Go

Wide leather belt
Originally uploaded by Leather Art Studio
I don't know if this is normal for over weight men, but my belt has two "modes" as I like to call them. One is where I normally wear it and the other is "super carrying mode" which is tighter than regular and helps hold my pants up when I have to carry something. My wife often teases me about this, but the simple truth is that if I tighten my belt to the point where it can hold my pants up, it is uncomfortable while sitting. Just the way my stomach folds when I'm sitting makes it uncomfortable.

When I bought my current belt, I had to get the biggest one the Big-and-Tall store had and, at first, I wore it on the very last hole. Now after losing 25 pounds, I can comfortably wear it on the second to last hole instead. The holes seem about an inch apart, so I figure that means my waist is 59 inches now -- 26 inches from my goal. I do have a real tape measure somewhere, but I can't seem to find it.

The bad news is that when I need to carry something, I now pull the belt tight enough that I'm using the very last hole. Because of the style of belt, I won't be able to punch my own holes in it. More weight loss means I'll need a new, smaller belt. Oh, I guess that really isn't bad news at all.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Obesity and the Regulation of Weight

I finally powered through and finished Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. After two long parts discussing high-fat/low-carb vs. low-fat/high-carb, this part got down to the nuts and bolts of dieting and losing weight. It takes aim at busting two of the common mantras of weight loss: "Calories In, Calories Out" and "A Calories is a Calories is a Calories." The late, great Dr. Atkins is also discussed in length including the tragic story of how he was ostricized by the medical community for daring to preach anything but low-fat/high-carb.

What I found most interesting was the story of Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who ate nothing but meat for one year and emerged perfectly healthy. He did it to prove to scientists what he learned from the Inuit (indigenous people living in the arctic regions of Alaska, Greenland, and Canada) -- you can live perfectly well on nothing but meat.
The Inuit considered vegetables and fruit "not proper human food," Stefansson wrote, but they occasionnally ate the roots of the knotweed plant in times of dire necessity."
In the end, I was disappointed by the lack of conclusions drawn by the book, but that wasn't the author's fault. He points out that no research has been done to positively prove whether or not a low-carb diet is the best way to eat and he hopes that his book will inspire that research to be done. Personally, I've been doing amazingly well on Atkins Introduction and the information in this book has only affirmed that what I'm doing is not only safe, but good for me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Canned Salmon Sucks

Soy Salmon Donburi
Originally uploaded by ^-^liz
One thing that I learned from my original eating plan is that eating the same meals over and over again makes it easy to stick to my diet. Eggs for breakfast, meat and broccoli for lunch and a big salad with tuna and cheese for dinner. It isn't hard to stick to and it isn't hard to prepare. But I did want to change it up a little, just.. well, just because.

Remembering that salmon is one of the foods that is recommended for good health, I stopped at the store and picked up a can of it tonight. I was expecting it to be just like a can of tuna but pinker. What I got was two hunks of fish, complete with skin and spine. Before you wonder, I didn't get a store brand -- I got the same brand as I do tuna.

I powered through though and removed the undesirable bits before adding it to my salad. I ate it but I've firmly decided that I'd rather get my omega-3 fatty acids from olive oil instead of canned salmon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Drink Coffee to Lose Weight!

Coffee Break
Originally uploaded by bitzcelt
Despite the fact that they apparently advertised everywhere, I some how missed the amazing Slim Coffee. If I had known that I could lose weight just by drinking coffee infused with hoodia, I would have been all over that. I mean come on people! Who doesn't want to lose weight without changing their eating habits?

Oh wait, that sounds like a scam, doesn't it?

Thankfully, the Federal Trade Commission thought so as well. Under a proposed settlement with Diet Coffee, Inc., the makers of Slim Coffee, the company is forbidden "from claiming that any product enables users to lose substantial weight without reducing caloric intake or increasing physical activity." The settlement also contains nearly a million dollars in monetary damages, but those have been suspended because the defendant is unable to pay.

The company advertised their snake oil on popular television networks, radio stations and in newspapers. That just serves as a reminder that some ad-supported businesses care more about their revenue than the well-being of their customers.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Fitness Tunes to Get You Going

Originally uploaded by phil h
If they ever make a movie about my weightloss journey, I have to admit that Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk will be part of the soundtrack. I was first exposed to the song by Kanye West's remix, Stronger, but I like the original better. It and Technologic by the same group are staples in my workout mixes, but lately I've been looking to expand that playlist.

Today I stumbled upon SkinnySongs, an album of music written by Heidi Rozen, a successful business woman who one day decided to slim down before turning 50. She sampled the diet music that was available at the time, but didn't like what she heard since most of it focused on the dreary aspects of dieting.

Taking it upon herself and building on her creative-writing degree, she worked with two established music producers to make ten songs, including Use It to Lose It, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, and I'm a Hottie Now. Some critics of the album have pointed out that the songs focus on the vanity of losing weight instead of the health benefits. Keith Ayoob, a nutritionist in New York City made one such comment.
The tunes are catchy and short, but they are focused on superficiality and cosmetics instead of managing weight for health. From a useful standpoint, I don't know how much they are going to help anybody.
I'll have to disagree. While my main focus of losing weight is to be around a lot longer for my family, I can't help but want to look better too. Even if my only motivation for losing weight was to fit into a specific pair of jeans, that wouldn't mean that I wouldn't also achieve better health at the same time.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I Can't Jump Rope

BIG Ball Of Rope
Originally uploaded by Big-E-Mr-G
Today I was out for lunch and saw that there was a sporting goods store in the same strip mall, so I stopped in and picked up a jump rope. I got the cheapest one to start off with since I didn't know if I could actually jump rope. As it turns out, I can't. That doesn't mean I'll give up, but it is going to take some practice.

I decided to look around for some tips on jumping rope and the most common one seems to be regarding the height of the jump.
Don't jump too high off of the ground. I find this to be the single-most problematic part for people who try jumping rope for the first time. The key is to get a nice bounce off the balls of your feet, probably no more than a few inches off the ground.
I have to find a good place to jump at since it seems like concrete and asphalt aren't good surfaces for jumping rope. We have low-nap carpetting but the ceilings definately aren't high enough for me to do it inside.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What is Sugar Alcohol?

Until I started Atkins, if you had mentioned sugar alcohol to me, I would have thought you were talking about something like absinthe. But as it turns out, sugar alcohol is a carbohydrate that doesn't count towards the daily limit of 20g. I noticed that most food labels don't mention sugar alcohol; instead, they have total carbohydrates, fiber and sugar. Apparently a food manufacturer is only required to list sugar alcohol if they claim their product is sugar free, but they can do so voluntarily like many Atkins supplements do.

Technically called polyol, sugar alcohol is neither sugar nor alcohol. Per gram, sugar alcohol has less calories than sugar and it does not require insulin to turn into energy. The most common types of sugar alcohol are sorbitol, maltitol, isomalt, and xylitol (used in sugar-free gum).

And ofcourse, there are side effects of eating too much sugar alcohol. Common problems are gastrointestinal in nature, including bloating and diarrhea. These problems are more pronounced in people who have had gastric-bypass surgery.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Weight-Loss Drug in the News

Pretty pills.
Originally uploaded by nicasaurusrex
Sadly, it is inevitable. Drug companies will continue to search for the miracle prescription drug that they can peddle to overweight people with the promise of dropping the pounds. The diet industry is a billion dollar a year business and pharmaceutical companies want their piece of the pie. Like all medicine, there are always potential side effects.

One of the new experimental drugs, taranabant, is currently undergoing clinical trials. The results, funded by Merch Research Labratories (who also developed the drug), were published in the January issue of Cell Metabolism. This particular drug works by blocking the same pleasure centers in the brain that cause the munchies in marijuana users. This reduces hunger and supposedly helps people lose weight.

However, the results aren't anything to write home about. The test subjects who took the highest dose of the drug lost an average of 11 pounds in 12 weeks while following a reduced-calorie eating plan. In a seperate study, those who took the large dose reduced their daily calorie intake by 22%. In a diet of 2000 calories, 22% means the person was eating 440 calories less per day, which is a little less than needed to lose one pound per week.

Do we really need medicine to lose weight at one pound per week while eating a low-calorie eating plan? It is also worth noting that the group taking the largest dose of the drug also had the highest frequency of side effects. Over half of them reported gastrointestinal problems while a little less than a quarter reported psychiatric effects.

Dr. Steven R. Smith, a professor and employee at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, commented on this drug and the possibility of the FDA approving it for use.
I think this class of drugs, should it make it to market, is going to need to be reserved for people who have complications related to their obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or severe osteoarthritis.
While that sounds good, we won't know if Merck feels the same way until we see what advertising they do for this new drug.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Carbohydrate Hypothesis

No Bread Today
Originally uploaded by Mr. Guybrarian
Today I finished the second part of Gary Taubes' Good Calories, Bad Calories and I must say that this book continued to hurt my head. As I warned before, the discussion is full of dense scientific research and history. On top of that, it astounds me how much good science has been ignored or disregarded because it doesn't conform to the low-fat mantra.

Essentially, the carbohydrate hypothesis states that it is carbohydrates that cause the diseases of civilization -- obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer. Refined carbs, like polished rice, white flour and white sugar, were pointed out as some of the more dangerous ingredients but high-fructose corn syrup also made the list.
In this hypothesis, it is the quality of the calories consumed that regulates weight, and the quantity--more calories consumed than expended--is a second phenomenon
In summary, part one of the book was "this is why everything you know is wrong" and part two was "this is why everything you don't know is right." The third part of the book promises to discuss weight loss and I'm hoping some sort of recommendations will be made there. There is a lot of information presented for the author not to provide a summary and conclusion.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Doughnut Insanity Correction

Sad doughnut
Originally uploaded by juliekaffe
The other day, I wrote about the Kripsy Kreme Challenge, a race only a nutritional-masochist could love. Thomas Finch, co-chair of the event, was kind enough to send me an e-mail and point out a mistake in my post. Although the doughnuts come from the local Krispy Kreme store, the company does not organize the event. As I noted in my previous post, no one is forced to eat a dozen doughnuts in order to participate.

We don't force anybody to eat the dozen donuts, either. There is a "casual runner" category, which about 40% of our registrants choose. Casual Runners can eat as many or as few donuts as they like, and simply come out for the fun of running and watching the whole spectacle.

I filled out Krispy Kreme's official contact form to ask them for an official statement regarding this event, but they haven't replied yet. Regardless, I wish the participants in the event the best of luck and hope they raise a record amount of money for their charity.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Not Into Nuggets

So last night I was idly watching television and I swore I saw Napoleon Dynamite wrapping about McDonald's nuggets. I saw the commercial again later and saw the caption "Actual user generated content" which explains the poor video quality. But, since then, the song has been stuck in my head! I guess that's probably the point of advertising -- except, I won't be eating any nuggets in the near future.

Ten nuggets, fries and a drink. According to McDonald's website, the nuggets themselves have 26g of carbs plus 2.5g of trans fat. A medium fry adds another 47g of carbs and 5g of trans fat! That's more than half the carbs I'll eat all this week, in one sparse meal! According to an article I found on eDiets, chicken nuggets are among seven foods to avoid no matter what.
Foods cooked in highly heated oils (most notably partially hydrogenated oil) have been known to cause cancer, weight gain and other serious health risks if ingested regularly. One Extra Crispy Chicken Breast from KFC has around 420 calories and eight grams of saturated fat. So unless you want to super size yourself, it’s best to make a clean break with fried foods.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Doughnut Insanity

I have to admit, doughnuts are really tasty -- they are also really bad for you. Luckily, I've found it really easy to avoid them because our local shop is always crowded when I want to stop there. My dislike of putting up with people always trumps any random craving for fried, sugary dough.

However, upon reading about the 2008 Krispy Kreme Challenge, I wanted to vomit. I'm sure after running 4 miles and eating 1 dozen doughnuts, I would vomit. In fact, I'd get sick just from eatting twelve of them. I applaud the Krispy Kreme company for raising money for the NC Children's Hospital, but I'd much rather that they just donate the money and not inflict twenty-four hundred calories of doughnuts on racers! Here are the nutritional facts in one dozen, straight from their website:
  • 2400 calories
  • 1200 fat calories
  • 144g of fat
  • 36g of saturated fat
  • 48g of trans fat
  • 60mg of Cholesterol
  • 1140mg of sodium
  • 120g of sugar
  • 24g of protein

And if seeing that wasn't bad enough to deter you from eatting twelve doughnuts in one sitting, check out this gem from their FAQ. "We never force anyone to eat a dozen donuts. In fact, anyone who completes the challenge is flat out insane." There you have it, they're sponsoring and promoting an event that they themselves call insane.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Winter Fitness

This week in Pennsylvania it has been down right freezing outside. I get cold just walking from my car to the office in the morning -- I do park at the back of the lot to fit in a little bit of exercise, but it's still not that far! So I've been using that as an excuse not to walk this week. I did stop to get gloves tonight with the hope that keeping my fingers warm will let me get back on track. Thankfully, Science Daily has some tips for getting into shape without leaving that house.

Get a Fitness Assessment I honestly don't remember seeing anyone recommend getting a personal trainer to design an at-home fitness routine before. And as always, it is a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine.

Purchase the Right Equipment For any large purchases, I'd recommend renting the equipment first. A treadmill or eliptical might cost fifty dollars to rent per month, but if you stop using it after two months, you can return it instead of letting a large investment collect dust. For smaller purchases like resistance bands and jump ropes, just make sure you get something of quality and not a dollar store knock-off.

Be Creative Whenever I have to carry a gallon of water or tea in to the house, I take the opportunity to heft it about a bit. At eight pounds each, two in each hand is as good as fifteen pound weights.

Embrace the Outdoors It seems silly to have this on a list of tips how to get fit inside!

Maintain a Support System This is one of my biggest problems. When I don't exactly feel like exercising or eating right, I don't have anyone around me to remind me to do the right thing.

Change Up Your Routine One of my favorite things about using walking to exercise is that it can be different every time. Take a right instead of a left and you're discovering new things. A few weeks back, I found a one way road that leads to a dead end. I wonder how many people accidentally drive down it and then have to break the law to escape.

Realize that Weight Loss Won't Happen Overnight It's important to set realistic goals. You can only safely expect to lose one percent of your body weight per week. Anything beyond that is water or muscle weight, not fat.

I'll be doing my best to exercise this winter, but I can't wait for spring to come. There are a lot of places I want to walk and I also want to start the Couch-to-5K program.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Salad with your Oil, Sir?

Fresh olive oil on counter
Originally uploaded by madmaxx

One of the things that has saved me so far on the Atkins diet is being able to put some sort of dressing on my salad. Normally, salad dressings are forbidden or limited to the meager two tablespoon serving. I'm one of those people who regularly is asked "Would you like some salad with your dressing?" Thankfully, vegetable oil mixed with vingegar is carb free. A number of oils have health benefits aside from being non-carb calories!

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil Full of antioxidants and helps promote heart health.
  • Canola Oil Enriched with omega-3 fatty acid, this type of oil can help raise HDL, the good type of cholesterol.
  • Grapeseed Oil A good source of vitamins A & E.
  • Walnut Oil While a rich source of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, this oil was apparently a popular snake oil in the past!
Throughout the ages, walnut oil has been thought to be a cure for many ailments, including stomach & skin problems, tuberculosis, hairloss, diabetes and various sexual afflictions.
So enjoy your oil and vinegar dressing! My current favorite recipe is equal parts of red wine vinegar, extra light olive oil and yellow mustard. I prefer the extra light olive oil to the extra virgin variety for purely taste reasons. Despite its health benefits, I can't stomach the extra virgin flavor.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Biggest Loser Couples

measuring tape
Originally uploaded by the cosmic cat
One of my favorite television shows, The Biggest Loser, started the newest season last night. This time around, instead of competing as individuals, the contestants are group into teams of two. Each week, they're weighed together on a giant scale -- so if one team member does bad, the whole team suffers.

During the first episode, the team members were taken to the hospital morgue to drive home the point that being obese can seriously shorten your life. Personally, I think this was done more for the benefit of television ratings than the contestants. A few years ago, a bad case of upset stomach combined with leaning on my left arm the wrong way convinced me that I was having a heart attack. After spending the night in the hospital and finding out that I was fine, my bad habits didn't change. Sure, I vowed to exercise and eat right, I even bought a treadmill, but I didn't stick to it. Until you're ready to change for yourself, you're not going to change.

Case in point? Lynn, the sixty year old man from the green team, opted to skip a workout that he promised to do with his daughter even after the hospital "wake-up call." In the end, his lack of motivation got him and his daughter voted off the show first. The Biggest Loser always does a follow-up after a contestant is eliminated and it didn't look like the green team lost much weight on their own. At the ranch or at home, people with motivation will succeed and those without it will fail.

The Biggest Loser is on Tuesdays at 8 Eastern / 7 Central. I'd recommend checking it out next week. Despite ratings gimmicks and product placement, the show is very inspirational.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Atkins Nutritional Approach

Inspired by my recent reading, I've decided to try a low-carb diet for the month of January and what better one to start with than the most famous of them all: Atkins. I know there is a lot of bad press surrounding the Atkins diet, but Jimmy Moore, one of the most vocal low-carb bloggers around, lost a lot of weight and kept it off.

As far as I can tell, there are actually four different Atkins diet plans available, only two of which were written by Dr. Atkins himself.

  1. Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution Originally published in 1972, this plan aims to achieve "biologically zero" carbs for the first week. My only exposure to this book when I was in college. One of my co-workers handed it to me and said "I thought you might like to read this." I consider offering someone unsolicited weightloss advice akin to saying "Hey, you're fat and don't know it!" so I promptly ignored the book.
  2. Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution In his new plan, released in 1992, Dr. Atkins recommended limiting non-fiber carbs to 20g per day during the induction phase. Later phases would allow the user to gradually add carbs to their diet to find the proper level for losing and maintaining weight. This plan also puts emphasis on good carbs over bad carbs (i.e. Glycemic Index).
  3. Atkins Nutritional Approach Available online at, this plan seems to be very similar to the 1992 book, however instead of counting vegetables by the cup, it counts them by the carb. It recommends eating 12-15g of carbs per day from vegetables.
  4. The All-New Atkins Advantage Recently released, this book is a twelve week program designed to ease the reader in to the low-carb lifestyle. It includes both diet and exercise instructions.

Out of those four plans, I'm going to be following number three. Since not all vegetables are created equally, I would rather count the carbs in what I eat then limit myself arbitrarily to cups per day. Plus, the eating plan is available online for free. It looks like their business model is selling low-carb supplements like shakes and bars, but the actual nutritional information doesn't push the supplements.