Monthly Archives: August 2013

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A few things have changed from my last super-positive and optimistic post about my new 'counting calories' diet regime.

First, and most importantly, I gained weight.

Well, at first anyway.  I did in fact get down to 160 from 163, but then promptly went back up to 164.  I won't deny it, I was greatly upset.  I felt like a hack, and a failure.  Even worse, a hack and a failure who had to post about how she was a hack and a failure on the internet.  Oh the humanity.

The shame

The shame

Let's ignore how when I looked in the mirror I swore I looked leaner.  Or that when I tried to demonstrate how a pair of shorts didn't fit me anymore, magically they fit me.  Or that I knew I was in a caloric deficit and, seriously, you can't gain fat in a caloric deficit.

Let's also ignore that, aside from my neurosis over the scale, I was pretty happy.  I was enjoying food.  All kinds of food.  I was eating a substantial amount of carbohydrates and protein consistently for the first time in...I dunno.  I hit a couple PR's in the gym.  Forget all that.

THE SCALE WENT UP - REMEMBER WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT HERE.

(just so no one is confused, the above sentence is sarcastic) And, actually, I did go back down to 162ish after a few days.  But even typing out how much I weighed just sounds vapid to me now.

Anyway, thankfully I took some pictures.  For full disclosure, for 5 days prior to this I was testing out a program my gym will be offering.  The diet part included a super-duper low carb meal plan.  I was eating around 1800 calories per day, which was about the same as I was doing before.  However, I did lose about 4 pounds.  Don't worry I've gained all but one of those pounds back since.

8-24-13

Taken this past weekend

 

Before (After 'Clean Eating' Phase)

Before (After 'Clean Eating' Phase)

So, not a ton of progress, as we can see.  But, definitely got a little leaner around my stomach.  Progress?

Should I Trust the Process?

It's hard to say whether or not I've made any positive impact on my body composition when the pictures are so small in difference and the main metric I used last year - the scale - isn't changing like it did.  I always say that the scale is useless and yet when it comes to applying that knowledge to myself, I am struggling.  Partly because part of my goal was to compete in the sub-148's, but also partly because I don't want to fool myself.

It really is rather absurd, however, that a little number carries so many of our emotions with it.  How petty.

Cutting it Short

Unfortunately, whether I wanted to trust the process or not, I'm cutting this little experiment short, for a few reasons:

1) I have a Powerlifting competition coming up in November and potentially December and I don't want to suck.

2) I'm feeling a little burnt out of thinking about food and dieting so damn much.  Seriously, it's exhausting sometimes.

So, in all likelihood I won't be picking this back up again until January or so.  (DID SOMEONE SAY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION???)  (No, because I think that's silly)

In a way, this makes me feel like a failure.  A failure on the internet.  But I think it's best for me right now.  The little bit of shame I get from the proclamation is outweighed by the relief I feel.

I will be continuing to count calories, but not as stringently as I was, and I probably will keep it around 2,200 rather than 1,800 - 2,000 depending on if I get morbidly obese or not.  I'll still take pictures intermittently, but I probably won't be posting them.  Speaking of counting calories, here's my overall impression:

Pros

  • No 'rules' on what you can and can't eat
  • Can reasonably eat out at restaurants
  • Always knowing you're getting adequate protein

Cons

  • Counting calories can be really annoying sometimes
  • Counting calories is basically never 100% accurate
  • Many of the better local restaurants don't have nutrition information.

Well that's the end of my little post on insecurity.  On the plus side think of how much more intellectual focus I'll have now that I can divert to more useful projects, like MSPainting all over Pinterest posts and bashing critiquing Bob Harper!

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So after my post regarding Pinterest (which is actually by far my most viewed post - thank you for the support everyone!), I did go ahead and make a Pinterest account.  I've been intermittently posting things, though I'm far from consistent.  At first I tried to look at popular posts on the Health & Fitness board and repost the ones that were good, or repost them with things to look out for in the comments.

While doing this, I also took screen caps of some of the more...ridiculous, harmful or misleading ones.  I made some comments on those too.  Enjoy!

I too enjoy doing tricep extensions with 2lb weights while looking contemplative.

I too enjoy doing tricep extensions with 2lb weights while looking contemplative.

THECUPCAKEISTHATWAY

Good Lord I hope nobody actually sees themselves this way.

Good Lord I hope nobody actually sees themselves this way.

EVERYTHING IS ABOUT WAIST WHITTLING THAT SOUNDS PAINFUL.

EVERYTHING IS ABOUT WAIST WHITTLING THAT SOUNDS PAINFUL.

Also, please stop with this 'thigh gap' bullshit please.

Also, seriously stop with this 'thigh gap' bullshit please.

WTF ARE YOU CIRCLING PT1

WTF ARE YOU CIRCLING PT1

NO SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE YOU CIRCLING PT2

NO SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE YOU CIRCLING PT2

7000 Jumping Jacks give you fancy lingerie, who knew?!

7000 Jumping Jacks give you fancy lingerie, who knew?!

Yep, pretty sure those dumbbells are in the negative pound range.

Yep, pretty sure those dumbbells are in the negative pound range.

Whew.  Okay.  Glad to get that off of my chest.  I promise to have an actual substantial post later this week!

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This week's post is less of a splattering of information and more of an open-ended question.  I'm not going to pretend like I have the answer to this.  In fact, part of the point I think is that the answer will be different for everyone.  And I want to hear those!

The question is, in its most basic form: When is it okay for someone to desire to lose fat?

Let me elaborate on that a little bit.  This is a question that's been mulling over in my head for a while now.  Since writing this article, in fact.  I've recently been reading a lot from several people in the fitness industry who focus on body acceptance and trying to undo some of the neurosis people feel over food.  (If you're curious, it has primarily been from GoKaleo, FitMamaTraining and EatMore2WeighLess.  There is certainly a lot of thought-provoking information there.)

I like the message of these women, and it also just so happens to jive with the "eat whatever I want kinda" part of my diet right now.  (I'll have some updates on that next week)  I've known plenty of people who have gone really far with their diets, to the detriment of social lives, relationships, and performance in sports / everyday life.  I've gone off the deep end when it comes to how I treat food quite a few times in my life, so many of these stories really resound with me. (Obviously the following questions do not apply to people who need to lose fat / gain fat for health reasons, such as the unhealthily obese or someone who is severely underweight / anorexic.  I'm talking about all of us in between.)

I also whole-heartedly agree that there's no need to aspire to look like a model or <insert really lean / thin person here>.

Whether it's 'fatspo' 'fitspo' or 'thinspo' they're all basically the same.

Whether it's 'fatspo' 'fitspo' or 'thinspo' they're all basically the same.

I agree that chronic dieting is a generally bad thing, and that being able to enjoy food - all foods - guilt-free is something we should aspire to.

However, what happens when someone reads all that, agrees with it, yeah yeah, that's great - and then still wants to lose fat?

How can you pinpoint whether YOU want to lose fat as a reflection of how you see yourself or whether you want to lose fat because you think you need to look like said fitness models?  And the real question - does it even matter which one it is?

If you feel bad when you look at yourself in the mirror, do you need to work on your self-image and accept who you are as you are, or should you try to lose fat to achieve whatever aesthetic you'd be happy with?  When is the latter an "okay" thing to do?

When is losing fat something to do 'for you' and when is it giving into societal expectations?

Thankfully I was able to articulate these questions to a blogger whose work I've admired for a long time, Leigh Peele.  She had an AMA on Reddit today and I jumped at the opportunity to ask her opinion.

I'll get the conversation started by posting responses from a couple of other users and Leigh herself.  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

LP1 LP2

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Chapter / Rule 5 - Eat 30 to 50 grams of fiber each day

Well this one is easy enough - a brief 3 pages and pretty simple to understand.  Fiber is filling, fiber can slow digestion and generally is found in foods you'll want to be eating anyway.  (Fruits and vegetables, that is)

Those are enough reasons to be eating fiber right there.  Bam, done.  However, probably to take up some space, he goes on to talk about other health benefits to fiber: lessen the risk of certain cancers, decreases cholesterol and prevent onset of type 2 diabetes.

The issues with the study he cites to back up these claims is the same issue we run into with studies from previous chapters.  Correlation does not mean causation.  The study used 7-day food records to determine a participant's general intake of cereal fiber, refined and whole-grains.  They then cross-examined this information with other factors such as fasting glucose and cholesterol.  This is an on-going and long-term study.

Unfortunately, just like with the Nurse's Study we discussed before, asking participants to measure and accurately report their food intake is often very inaccurate and unreliable.  As well, people who are more health-conscious tend to eat more fiber and whole-grains.  This does not mean that fiber and whole-grains are what is causing the decreased chances of cancer or type 2 diabetes.  This also doesn't mean that fiber and whole-grains are what cause the participant to lose or keep a lower BMI.  It could be do a whole host of other lifestyle factors that are outside the scope of the study.

Moral: Fiber can increase satiety, slow digestion and is often found in foods you would want to eat while trying to improve your health.  However, fiber itself is not a magic weight-loss ingredient.  Not everyone does well on the same amounts of fiber, especially those with pre-existing GI issues.

Chapter // Rule 6 - Eat apples and berries every single day.  Every.  Single.  Day!

I haven't even read the chapter yet.  This is just my initial reaction from the title:

"That sounds like bullshit."

Okay, off to read the chapter.  Be right back.

-------------------------

All right, I read the chapter and it's not really as bad as I thought it'd be.  We actually start out quite reasonably:

"[apples and berries] have lots of desirable vitamins, all kinds of micronutrients, and lots of fiber..."

All true.  Apples and berries, among other fruits and vegetables, contain a lot of the above.  That's why they're considered good foods for your overall health and weight loss.

However, why he limits it to apples and berries and not say, apples and grapes or berries and peaches or garlic and cucumbers, I'm not really sure.  He states the reason for apples and berries is due to their high anthocyanin content.  While phytochemicals (what anthocyanin falls under) have been found to be anti-inflammatory, I don't know if that is a good enough reason to deign foods that contain high amounts of it 'non-negotiable' for weight loss.

Other foods that are high in anthocyanin that aren't apples or berries:

  • Eggplants
  • Grapes
  • Red Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Peaches
  • Carrots
  • Black soybeans

Phytochemicals and Watermarks everywherrrrreeee

So why is this chapter not called "Eat Red Cabbage and Carrots every day" or something else?  He mentions a study where participants who ate whole apples before a meal ate 15% less than participants who ate applesauce or fiber-spiked apple juice.  I'll agree that apples are very filling - likely due to their high fiber / water content which tends to get degraded as you mush / liquidate it.  Anecdotally, apples are one of the most filling foods to me.  However you could probably replicate that same study with watermelon or cucumbers or any other high-water, high-fiber food.

Moral: Once again, I agree that eating fruits and vegetables are generally a good idea.  However, to specifically call out apples and berries as THE required food to eat everyday doesn't make sense.  If it's just for the reasons of phytochemicals, any of the other foods listed above would serve just as well.  And again, you could still lose weight without including these in your diet at all.

Chapter // Rule 7 - No carbs after lunch

I vehemently disagree with this rule.  This is a short chapter, and the weak reason he gives for this rule is:

"Carbs are forms of sugar, and sugar cues the pancreas to make more insulin, which in turn triggers appetite.  The later in the day that you consume sugar, the more likely it is that you will get food cravings late at night.  Late-night food cravings are not a good thing!"

Two things,

1) Protein stimulates insulin as much if not more than carbohydrates depending on what is ingested.

2) What makes late-night food cravings any worse than mid-morning food cravings?

I mean by this logic, you really shouldn't have that bowl of oatmeal in the morning because the earlier in the day that you consume sugar, the more likely it is that you will get food cravings early in the day!  Except where Harper is all about him some fruit (sugar) and oatmeal (sugar) in the morning.  So why is late at night so bad?  I would argue if you're going by this logic, late-night food cravings would be better because you could just go to sleep.  If it's mid-day you've got a long ways to go.

I was expecting to read something about how eating carbs at night means that you'll just store the carbs as fat because you'll be going to sleep and not expending any calories to burn it off.  Which is false, you can eat carbs whenever you want, assuming you keep at or below your daily caloric needs.  It's not like you fall asleep and suddenly your body stops working.  Again, protein also raises insulin levels.  This is not a bad thing.  In fact, there is a whole diet regimen out there based around eating all your shitty carbs late at night.

OM NOM NOM NOM

OM NOM NOM NOM

Moral:  It's not when you eat, it's how much you eat.  If you feel like eating a piece of chocolate cake 30 minutes before bed and you are still under your calorie expenditure, you will still lose weight.  Some people will get bad heart burn or acid reflux, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

Chapter / Rule 4 - Slash your intake of refined flours and grains

First of all I would like to point out that I am eating a white bread sandwich while writing this part of the review.  Just wanted everyone else to appreciate the irony.

Secondly, here is a rule that I can generally get on board with - but not exactly for the same reasons as Harper.

"Grains - mainly in the form of refined flours - dominate our modern diet."

A pretty true statement to start out with.  Harper does a decent job of perpetuating this by advocating everyone start out their day with some refined carbohydrates in the form of sugary oatmeal...but I guess that's me attacking the person instead of the argument.  Whoops.

(If you look up the definition of "Pandering" on google, this video appears)

"...if they are at all refined - from rice to bread - they make you fat."

Harper sure doesn't shy away from making really bold statements.  Pretty much all of them are wrong, like any kind of blanket statement, but there it is.  Let's clarify: refined breads won't make you fat, too many refined breads will make you fat.  It is easier to eat too many refined breads than say, broccoli.

He then goes on to describe some paleo-diet-esque statements about how we weren't created to eat grains, our ancestors didn't so we don't digest them properly, etc.  I'll just leave this video below to let someone much more informed on that topic than I to talk about some of those points:

(Skip to 8:26.  Video isn't working properly for some reason.)

A couple snippets:

"We have...evidence from at least 30,000 years ago of people using stone tools...to grind up seeds and grains."

"Even with the limited research we have...these things include grains, include barley...we even have legumes and tubers."

Now, am I not saying that anyone who feels they don't tolerate grains or legumes or whatever well is wrong.  Regardless of what human history says, you are a unique individual and you have different tolerances / sensitivities from other people.  But to say that all people all the time are not meant to eat grains or legumes is a bit of a stretch.  Do you tolerate them well?  Do you feel well when you eat them?  Are you in good health?  Are you staying within your caloric range and getting in enough protein?  Great!  Have some beans/bread/rice/whatever.

Harper then goes on to describe some grain anatomy, and states that the "bran" of the germ is,

"...utterly indispensable for digestion..."

Grain Anatomy - Taken from runnerbeans.files.wordpress.com

I'm not sure if we have the same definition of 'indispensable.'  One can, indeed quite well, digest grains without the bran.  IN FACT it is far EASIER to digest a grain when it does not contain the bran.  The bran of a grain contains most of the fiber.  You know, that stuff your body can't digest.  The bran also contains a fair amount of gluten.  I'm far from someone who would advocate a gluten-free diet unless you actually have celiac disease (you probably don't), but it's just another point that makes his assertion of 'bran required for digestion' peculiar.

When you remove the bran from a grain, you're removing the fiber, the 'whole grain' part of the grain if you will.  One of the most well-known reasons to eat whole grains over refined grains is that they digest more slowly.  So WHY he would say

"Without the bran, starchy carbs get stuck in our gut for much longer than they should..."

I have no idea.  Maybe I'm missing something, so if anyone has insight into that point, please let me know.  It's true that refined carbohydrates offer one very little in the nutrition department.  I will most certainly agree on that point.  However, many whole grains aren't exactly a cornucopia of vitamins and minerals either.  You'll find far more nutrition and fiber for less calories in vegetables and fruits.  So feel free to enjoy grains if you tolerate them well, but don't fool yourself into thinking they're some kind of 'super-food.' (Aghhhhhh I hate that term SO MUCH)

Harper then tries to make some point about whole grains being awesome but I'm still not really sure what it is.  He references this study, where he says the scientists

"...had [participants] eat a very small serving of barley with their evening meal; other patients ate the same meal without the barley.  In the morning, the researchers drew blood samples and measured blood sugar levels.  The barley eaters' were better."

That could be true.  It might not.  I have no idea because THE STUDY HE REFERENCES HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WHAT HE JUST SAID.

Seriously, go look at the reference link.  I triple-checked to make sure I got the right study.  What he describes in the book is a COMPLETELY UNRELATED EXPERIMENT.  I can't verify it because I have no idea what he is talking about.  The study that he references is about amylose-spiked bread (the study does not say it was made with any form of barley), not barley.  The participants were asked to eat low-fiber foods and white bread the night before, not barley.

So.  That's pretty bad.  Once again, perhaps I am missing something.  After all I'm not a scientist, I may have misread the study.  It is hard for me to believe that someone cited something completely unrelated to prove a point in a widely-published book.  I do really hope I'm missing something here.

To be fair, the study in the discussion section does mention barley products and potential positive benefits of them, but it is referencing other studies.

Also he mentions in this chapter that your daily allotment for calories is 1750.  I'm not sure where that number is coming from.  That's like how much a pre-pubescent girl should be eating so I am not sure who his target audience here is exactly.

Harper then gives the step-down for this rule: eat brown rice, though he'd like you to get off of rice entirely.  Because it's like, bad for you or something.  Do you eat a traditional Japanese / Chinese / any number of cultures that routinely eat rice diet?  TOO BAD THESE RULES ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE.

Here we see a picture of a traditional Japanese dinner with its trademark white rice and consequently severely obese family. Taken from news-walker.net.

Moral

Yes the American diet is refined-carbohydrate heavy.  Refined carbohydrates have very little to offer your body in terms of vitamins and minerals.  It is EXTREMELY easy to over-eat on cookies and bread than it is on broccoli or carrots.  This is why people advise eating vegetables over grains in general.

However, if you stay within your caloric limits, eat enough protein and don't feel like crap, it is 100% possible to lose weight while incorporating cookies into your diet.  You won't feel much hunger satiety from them though, unfortunately.