Fat Loss

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Chapter / Rule 8 - Learn to read food labels so you know what you are eating

I'm all for knowing what you're eating.  Obviously if you're looking to lose weight, having an idea of how many calories you're getting, or how much protein you've had is very important information.  And if you're feeling extra frisky, knowing that you're getting the Recommended Dietary Allowance of essential vitamins and minerals is pretty swell.  (I'll admit though, I don't do that last one at all.)

So, at first anyway, it seems me and Harper agree.  Knowing how to read a food label can be a helpful tool to keeping your weight in your control.  However, I apparently have a lot more faith in humanity in general to figure out how to read nutrition labels that Harper says are:

"frequently confusing - graphically busy, laden with irrelevant claims and detail, sometimes almost impossible to find on the container."

Yeah, just look at all those graphics and irrelevant claims.

Also containers are typically only so big.  I'm not sure how it could ever be tough for someone to find a nutrition label on it if it has one.  I'm envisioning something like a black-and-white scene in an infomercial for a useless product of someone having way too hard a time doing a mundane activity.  

Anyway, Harper then goes on to cite a couple studies about how people who read nutrition labels eat more fiber and nutrients and less calories and blah blah blah blah correlation without causation people who read nutrition labels are more likely to be concerned about their health and make better food choices etc etc etc.

Let's take a look at what Harper says are the "absolutely fundamental" things to understand when reading labels:

Serving Size / Number of Servings 

I definitely agree with this.  I can't tell how many times I read the calories on an item and thought "not bad" only to realize it was one of three servings.  How one cookie can get away with being technically 3 servings, I don't know.  Speaking of the ridiculousness of serving sizes, allow me this opportunity to share one of my favorite stand-up bits:

Calories

The single most important thing when it comes to losing weight.  Probably why it's the easiest thing to find to read on the label.  I've got no complaints about this one.  But just because something is dense in calories doesn't mean you can't eat it, even if you're looking to lose weight.

Protein

Probably the second most important thing when it comes to fat loss.  Assuming you're looking to retain your muscle, that is.  (Probably something you'd want to do)

Sugar

I mean, I guess it's cool to know how much sugar is in whatever you're buying.  It's probably surprising to see how much is in some products.  The more sugar, the quicker it will likely digest, the less satiating it will probably be.  But, again, if you're looking to lose weight, you can still eat this if it's within the more important calorie range.  That's certainly more realistic than Harper's advice to not buy it if it's a main ingredient.  Guess we all should stop eating apples.  (Oh wait, you're supposed to eat those Every. Single. Day.  I'M SO CONFUSED HARPER.)

Roughly 76% sugar here. (Well, 100% if you consider the fact that all carbohydrates become simple sugars eventually) Image from prevention.com

Sodium

Unless you have a blood pressure issue, there isn't much of a reason to be super concerned with how much sodium you're taking in.  There are much more important things to concern yourself over if you're struggling to lose fat.  Sodium may increase your water retention which will make the scale number fluctuate annoyingly, but that's really not the best metric to use, as I'm sure you've heard a million times.  Drink enough water and you'll be fine.

Fat / Trans fats 

I like that Harper says fat is not a bad thing - there is still a sense out there of the fat-phobia left over from the 90's.  Fat doesn't make you fat.  It seems people are taking baby steps though and aren't completely ready to relinquish the fear of fat with certain restrictions:   "Unsaturated fats are good, saturated fats bad."  It's time to let go of that last bit of fat fear: saturated fats are fine.  Eat red meat and full-fat dairy if you like them.  You won't clog your arteries or get heart disease from them, it's okay.

However I can't completely say all fats are fine either - there is evidence that trans fats may be harmful in certain amounts.  However I'm not sure I'll ever call them 'demon-spawn' as Harper does.

As well, Harper says not to eat anything that is over 20% fat calories.  I'm sure he doesn't mean one shouldn't have oil or most nuts, but he should really specify that.

Carbs

Yep, carbs are a thing.  They have calories.  If you eat the kind with more fiber, vitamins and minerals, you'll get more fiber, vitamins and minerals if that's your thing.  However Harper has a whole list of kinds of carbs that you cannot eat to lose weight.  Did you know that you absolutely can't have cornmeal or potato starch and stay slim?

Fiber

Generally the more fiber in an item, the more full it will make you feel and as Harper says, probably the less processed it is.  I really enjoy feeling full, so eating vegetables and fruits and Quest Bars and Arctic Zero (completely processed foods that are also completely filling and awesome) is a good idea for me.  However, I also eat lots of things that don't have a ton of fiber, like cake.  Mmmm cake.

Net Carbs

Net carbs is basically this on a nutrition label:

Total Carb grams - Fiber grams = Net carbs

This is because fiber is indigestible, but still counts towards the carb amount on the nutrition label.  I mentioned in my old blog about how food companies are already allowed to reflect this fact in their total calories.  So this is more just a fun fact, not something you really need to pay attention to.

The Ingredient List

Ingredient lists are super helpful when it comes to figuring out exactly what you're putting in your body.  Whether or not long ingredient lists necessarily mean something is bad for your health though is not cut and dry.  There are heavily processed products that can absolutely support a healthy, lean body.  (See Quest Bars, Arctic Zero and the wide variety of protein powders available.) And here's one quote I'm going to go off on a bit of a tangent about:

"For one, if it's got that many ingredients, it's probably incredibly processed - dense in chemicals that Mother Nature never intended you to eat."

Please, what exactly did Mother Nature intend for us to eat?  Did she intend for us to eat Quaker oatmeal for breakfast everyday?  Did she intend for us to domesticate pigs and chickens and eat bacon and eggs regularly?  Did she intend for us to turn the unrecognizable wild banana into the domesticated kind we see in supermarkets today?  Did she intend for people to ever drink tea, or eat horse meat?  Is there any kind of of force, or power, or spirit that has dictated what is 'good' and 'bad' for us, or is it not completely up to us?

Anyway, sorry for that rant, but for some reason it's started to grind my gears whenever people say we weren't 'meant' to eat a certain kind of food item.

Chemicals

I'm going to make a confession.  I am not in any way qualified or knowledgeable in this area to make a good analysis of the chemicals in the list of things to avoid by Harper:

  • Food dyes
  • Aspartame
  • Polysorbate 60
  • Olestra
  • MSG

However, if you're interested, I wouldn't take the book at its word.  Ask your friendly local food safety professional if you want a second opinion.

The "Percent of Daily Values" Section

Helpful section if you're looking to make sure you're getting sufficient vitamins and minerals.  Honestly though, if you're eating a diet that contains fruits, vegetables and animal products of some kind, you're probably getting enough.  Typically your local, fresher, grass-fed type will contain more, but that can get a bit pricey.

Moral:  If you're looking to lose weight, understanding what is in your food is important.  The most important component is the calorie content, followed by protein.  After that things tend to get a bit muddy and open to personal interpretation and preference.

Chapter / Rule 9 - Stop guessing about portion size and get it right - for good

Harper touches on one point that I find interesting about the culture of food in recent years, especially in America.   Portion sizes have gotten much larger - he gives the statistic that at-home meals have increased by 20 to 30 percent over the past 20 years. (20 to 30 percent increase in what he doesn't say.  Calories?  Volume? Plate size?)  Regardless, the size options available at fast food places have certainly increased, and perhaps our expectation of appropriate food volume has with it.

From Gawker

This chapter has 2 techniques to control your portion sizes:

1) Forced Portion Control

Basically the advice of have snacks already partitioned in small sizes so that if you're in a bind you can quickly grab something that isn't super calorie-dense.  I can get on board with that - it makes counting your calories real easy if you're into that kind of thing too.

However, I know that if there are easy things to snack on around the kitchen, there is a high chance that I will snack on them.  So, whatever works for you.

2) "Harpersizing"

Described as "taking advantage of high-fiber, low-calorie foods that fill you up." Basically saying, vegetables have very few calories and are very filling, so you could eat a whole plate, be absolutely stuffed, and still not have eaten much in the way of calories.  I like this idea, and I do it often.  Here is a favorite dinner side dish:

  • Take a shit ton of broccoli florets and lay them on a pan
  • Spray with olive oil
  • Top with seasoning salt, garlic powder and pepper
  • Put in oven on 415 for 15-20 minutes until they're basically totally burnt (Okay, this step is just because I'm weird and like my vegetables burnt to a crisp)

This is paired wonderfully with some responsibly-raised, grass-fed, free-roaming, anti-biotic and hormone-free beef, or cake.

Moral: Controlling your portion sizes is just another way to control your caloric intake.  If you'd prefer a big, huge meal at one point during the day or several small meals throughout the day both are okay.  Oh, and vegetables are filling.

Chapter / Rule 10 - No more added sweeteners, including artificial ones

"You won't psychologically expect supersweet when I'm done with you."

That sounds terrifying.

"You don't have the physiological ammo to "just have a little"."

That sounds inaccurate.

Here's an anecdote.  Take it with a grain of salt:

Before I was doing the "If It Fits your Macros" part of my experiments, I tried avoiding things like chocolate and sweets on a regular basis.  When I did have them, they were in huge quantities I couldn't get enough of.  I scoffed at the idea of anything in 'moderation' - in fact I hated that term.  I couldn't fathom people not desiring huge quantities of sweets if they ever got their hands on some.

Enter IIFYM.  I would have bits of chocolate or sweets on a daily basis.  Shortly after, 2 squares of dark chocolate was enough.  I could eat that and be satisfied.  I think I 'get' what people meant by moderation now.

So, perhaps you don't feel like you don't have the 'physiological ammo' for moderation because you...don't eat stuff in moderation.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents on that subject.  We don't have any studies to analyze here about whether or not that's backed up with data.

Harper, going off of a previously de-bunked idea of certain foods causing weight gain more than others independent of their caloric content, says that sugar will make you gain weight more than fat will.  Yes, over the decades our consumption of carbohydrates (and thus, sugar) has gone up, but much more importantly our consumption of just straight-up calories has gone up even more.

He then states his plan is based around low-sugar fruits.  Uhh...what is a low-sugar fruit, exactly?  Look at the nutrition for an apple like I listed above.  Same thing for berries.  Low relative to what?

Any splenda or other artificial sweeteners in your coffee or tea?  NOPE DO THAT AND YOU'LL JUST BINGE ON TWINKIES LATER BECAUSE YOU'RE ADDICTED TO SUGAR.  Or something like that.

Moral: Sugar usually means a less-satiating food.  (Exceptions, obviously include things like fruit.) Avoiding sugar typically means you're avoiding excess calories, which is what leads to weight loss.  However, you are fully capable of exercising moderation if you so choose.

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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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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.

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So it's been a while since there's been an update on my second diet experiment.  There's a few good reasons for that, but mostly because -

I fell off the wagon.

Big time.

I participated in eating 'clean' for about a month.  Everyday was a struggle to determine whether this particular food item was clean, or what about that food item??  Mentally, it was extremely frustrating for me.  Did you know it's impossible to purchase a chilled tea like anywhere?  Just cold tea.  That's all I wanted.

I was finding more and more excuses to go out to eat (sweet potato fries are clean right...?) and then just say 'fuck it' once I got there.  Then go out for ice cream afterwards.

This all culminated in about a 4-day eating extravaganza: Help Luke's parents move on Thursday and then go eat a bunch of fried seafood, see my brother for the first time in forever and go out to eat, Saturday have a family reunion with roughly 12 kinds of desserts of which I tried them ALL, Sunday eat with my parents for lunch then go out to eat again at night.

Woke up the next day at 163.  Yeeeeeahhhhh.

So that day I decided it's about time to start Phase II, because this 'clean eating' shit just left me frustrated and EXTREMELY annoyed.

Clean Eating Review

Pros:

  • No calorie counting
  • Forces you to eat more fresh foods which allows you to go by satiety signals.
  • Drastically decreased my diet soda intake - even today I'm drinking much less than I was.

Cons:

  • Clean DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING
  • If you are going out to eat, you either have to be that really annoying person who orders very specialized meals or just concede yourself to 'cheating.'
  • A lot of not 'clean' foods have no good reason to not be eaten
  • In my opinion, promotes an unhealthy relationship with food

Onto Calorie Counting

Started counting my calories and tracking food in earnest last Monday the 22nd.  In general my nutrition goals for right now are:

  • ~2000 calories per day
  • 160g protein at least
  • ~65g fat
  • ~200g carbohydrates (whatever remains after protein / fat)

This is actually a ton of food when I am counting it all up.  If you had asked me if I could lose weight during my experiment last year at 2000 calories I would have laughed.  I was only eating 1200 - 1600 then.  That was only something I could achieve with intermittent fasting.  Surprisingly, so far I have been steadily dropping weight.  I'm already back down to 160 as of this morning.

The best part is how my relationship with food has changed.  Nothing is off-limits.  In fact, even though in my head I say "I could really have a cookie if I wanted to right now and it would be okay," I often don't.

Except for today.  Today I ate a cookie.  WITH NO GUILT AT THAT!

Except for today. Today I ate a cookie. Ain't even guilty about it.

Seriously, a couple of times I've been at the end of the day and still needing to eat 200 - 300 calories, and have thought to myself "ugh...I really don't want to make or eat anything else."  I forced my way through a greek yogurt / protein powder combo yesterday.  IT WAS AWESOME.  Going from feeling constantly deprived to feeling like the last thing I want to do is eat more is so mind-boggling to me - it's incredibly exciting.

So seriously, if you feel like your relationship with food is not a positive or fun one, I encourage you to give counting calories and macros a try for just a little while.  It can be a little annoying to look up the information on everything - especially when you're making recipes - but just remember it doesn't have to be 100% perfect.  Experimenting is a wonderful thing.

P.S.  You can follow EXACTLY what I am eating everyday on myfitnesspal!

P.P.S. Once I've been doing calorie counting for a month I'll have some pictures.  I looked absolutely no different when I took pictures for the end of Phase I so I didn't bother posting.  No one needs that many pictures of me. 

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In my last post we went over the introduction to "The Skinny Rules" by Bob Harper.  He had a few good points, but also some points of contention.  We'll continue with the analysis here, going over rules 1 through 3.

Chapter // Rule 1 - Drink a large glass of water before every meal - no excuses!

Harper states that this is his first rule, not just because it is so easy, but because "...nothing is so crucial to your success [as drinking water is]."  In fact, drinking a glass before each meal is the minimum, he'd prefer at least 5 glasses.

Unfortunately he never states exactly how much is considered a 'large glass,' so we'll just assume it's somewhere between 8 - 16 oz.  At 5 times per day, he seems to suggest 40 - 80 oz per day.  Let's compare to some other recommendations:

Institute of Medicine - Men: 104 oz // Women: 72 oz

Old Adage - 8oz 8 times a day: 64 oz

USDA - Newborns: ~27 oz // Toddler - 8yrs: 44 - 57 oz // Teenage boys, adult men & women: at least 91 oz

Yet Another Adage - Half of your bodyweight in ounces: 160lb = 80 oz

So recommendations are kind of all over the place.  This makes sense because it's a little tricky to try and give a blanket recommendation when you could be dealing with a 100lb sedentary teenage girl or a 240lb professional male athlete.  Think those two might need different intakes of water?

Another thing: it's REALLY tough to find studies on this kind of thing because no one actually knows.  What is the defining point of dehydration?  Mild dehydration is stated as a loss of 5% of the body's fluid.  How do you know how much that actually is?  What exactly is being measured to make that determination?  No, seriously, I have no clue so if someone could fill me in that'd be great.

But even if you were concerned about your water intake, here are some things to consider:

-Soda contains water.

-Milk contains water.

-Fruit contains water.

-Vegetables contain water.

-Soup, Tea and Coffee are basically water.

First ingredient is indeed water.  I know, it's not kosher to mention it.

First ingredient is indeed water. I know, it's not kosher to mention it.

So if you are consuming the above, I'd venture to say you're probably taking in enough water for health purposes.  HOWEVER, water has been shown to possibly help in decreasing the amount of food consumption during a meal.  So if you're looking to increase your feelings of satiety, it may help to drink water before and during your meal.  Whether that is due to actually filling your stomach or because drinking during your meal will typically elongate its duration, which has been shown many times to decrease overall caloric consumption, I'm not sure.

Harper cites a study showing that water itself will increase your caloric expenditure.  The study recruited 21 overweight children and measured their baseline resting energy expenditure (REE) - or the amount of calories they burn at rest.  They then gave them each 10 ml of water per kilo bodyweight, cooled to 39 degrees Fahrenheit. (This is a pretty large amount of water for one sitting)

Their resting energy expenditure decreased from ~0.8 cal / min to ~0.6 cal / min for about 20 minutes.  REE then increased to ~0.9 cal / min for about 30 - 35 minutes.  The maximal amount of increase was about 1 cal / min.  Unfortunately I was unable to get the entire text of the study, but it seemed that these increases lasted about an hour.

This may seem very exciting, but overall this is really not a huge increase for the time duration.  There was a brief decrease followed by a less-brief increase, sure, but the MAXIMAL increase in caloric burn was only .2 calories per minute.  For some perspective, even if that increase had been the whole hour you would have seen only an extra 12 calories burned.  We're not sure how more or less water affects this, if the same applies to warmer or colder water, or if this would happen more than once a day; at least not according to this study.

Not to say you shouldn't drink water, but I'd take the idea that it will help you burn a significant portion of calories with a grain of salt.

Moral: I'm still speculative about the extreme amounts of water people recommend drinking.  I've been having a rough time just coming up with studies to support ANY of the health benefit claims.  If you drink tea, coffee, milk or soda in any regular amounts you are consuming water.  It takes a LARGE (5-7 cups of coffee worth) amount of caffeine to counter-act their water content.  However, drinking water can decrease caloric intake by increasing satiety, increasing meal duration, and decreasing consumption of caloric beverages.

Chapter // Rule 2 - Don't Drink your Calories

Here is one thing Harper and I agree on: drinking a large portion of your daily calories is a pretty good way to ensure that weight-loss won't be long-term.  Liquids just don't seem to trigger satiety the same way solids do - even solids that are mostly water like watermelon.  It's pretty easy to down a couple sodas and still be hungry.  Try that caloric equivalent with broccoli.  Not quite the same sensation.

However, just as I said in the Introduction review, if you were to only take in 1,200 calories a day in soda and nothing else when your total daily energy expenditure(TDEE) is 2,000 you're still gonna lose weight.  Again, you will feel like shit, but you will still lose weight.

One point that Harper makes is about artificial sweeteners: "If you're a diet soda drinker, you haven't dodged the problem...You're guzzling artificial sweeteners and...I don't think highly of these at all.  They only serve to whet your appetite for more sweet."

I wish I could give a consensus about artificial sweeteners.  I wish I had an answer.  There are studies that show it may blunt insulin sensitivity, there are studies that show they don't.  They probably don't cause cancer.  They may increase your appetite, then again, they might not.

Anecdotal Aside:

I drink diet soda a fair amount.  I usually use about 1/2 a pack of splenda in my coffee.  I'll use artificial sweetener in my desserts.   I think it's asinine to say that it's 'just as bad' as real sugar in terms of weight gain.  How many more calories would I have ingested over my lifetime had I been drinking regular soda the whole time?  While they may 'increase your appetite' or 'make you continue to crave sweets,' whether or not that adversely affects your food choices depends on you.

I'm counting my calories right now (will make a post about moving on to phase 2 of my diet experiment soon), so drinking a diet soda actually won't make me eat more.  It doesn't matter at all if it increases my appetite (I'm usually pretty full at the end of the day which is nice), because I'm still not going to eat over a certain number of calories.

Back to Harper:

He gives a 'step-down' option for those having a hard time ditching flavored liquids.  In the introduction, he states that the step-down options are an "...intermediary step [that] is meant to be temporary."  His flavored liquid step-down is to experiment with flavored drinks such as seltzer water with lime / lemon juice or tea.

I don't understand why those options should be temporary.  They sound perfectly acceptable to me.  Most people would agree that naturally flavored water, coffee and tea are all acceptable drink options.  I think I get that he's just trying to provide options, but it's confusing to put those in the 'temporary solution' box.  Those are permanent solutions.

Another step-down he gives is to stop putting cream in your coffee - opt for 2% or non-fat milk.  This is another point I disagree with.  Please tell me how a splash of cream is going to ruin your calorie intake.  I find that when using cream a splash is all you need to make the coffee taste a million times better, but skim milk needs to be roughly half the cup.  Of course, this is contingent on the person.  I drink maybe 2 cups of coffee per day, to which I'll add about a tablespoon of half and half.  That's 40 calories per day.  Big whoop.  However if you drink 5 cups per day and add a lot more than a splash, perhaps consider weaning yourself off.  Again, it's not that his advice is inherently bad - it's just that it's not non-negotiable.  It's not a necessary rule.  Think about your circumstances, your tendencies, your lifestyle and what fits.  Think for yourself.

Here are some things I agree with though:

-Juice and fruit smoothies have been improperly labeled as 'healthy.'  They are just sugar and calories.  As Harper says, just eat the fruit.

-You do not need a Gatorade for your hour-long run or lifting session.  These are applicable for people running marathons / ironmans and the like.  If you need an energy drink to get through the day, you should take a good look at your life habits and try to fix them rather than giving tons of your money away to put a band-aid on your problems.

-Most coffees at a Starbucks are basically dessert.

One of these things is not like the other.

One of these things is not like the other.

-Alcohol has like, a lot of calories.

Moral: Drink your coffee with full-fat milk if you'd like.  The jury is still out on artificial sweeteners, so use at your own discretion.  They probably don't cause cancer.  Tea and lemon / lime / whatever flavored water are great.  Drinking calories isn't very filling which is why you should try not to do so.  But it is entirely possible to lose weight while drinking soda as long as your calorie intake is still below TDEE.

Extra Note: While taking notes for this chapter, I wrote this down but couldn't find a really good place to put it above.  I thought it was funny so I'll share below:

"Interesting how he demonizes all sugars – honey, juices, white sugar, high fructose corn-syrup – yet he LOVES him some damn oatmeal."

Rule // Chapter 3 - Eat Protein at Every Meal, or Stay Hungry and Grouchy

I'm going to start this segment out with one of the most ridiculous things I read in this whole book:

"Let me be blunt: if you don't start eating fish, you're going to get fat again."

WHAT.

....WHAT.

I hope you read that and burst out laughing like I did, or just stare dumbfounded that anyone could say anything so fucking stupid.

Let ME be blunt: if you don't start eating fish....you're...uhh...probably not going to frequent Red Lobster.

That's about all I could come up with.  EATING FISH IS IN NO WAY REQUIRED TO LOSE OR MAINTAIN FAT LOSS.

All those lean and healthy vegetarians out there must be using secret voodoo magic to stay that way.  I don't really eat fish and I stay not-fat by making sacrifices to the Gods of Leanness every fortnight.

Here is vegetarian and often-times vegan Natalie Portman, famous for her portrayal of an incredibly obese ballet dancer in "Black Swan."

I almost don't even want to review the rest of this chapter because of how mind-blowingly idiotic that one statement was.  But I'll push through:

Harper starts out with a strong, and true statement.  Protein is crucial for people who want to lose fat.  It's satiating, it preserves muscle mass and helps you recover from the strength-training you should be doing.  In fact, one of the reasons people experience success on low-carb diets isn't because they're low-carb, but because they force people to increase their protein intake.

Different bodies have different recommendations.  The FDA and most government recommendations are notorious for their high-carb, low protein levels, which many other bodies disagree with.  Rejection of these recommendations can be seen with the raging popularity of the Paleo Diet, books such as "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and "Wheat Belly."  Not saying I agree with any of the above, but alternative recommendations are out there.

FDA: 65g protein per 2,000 calories

USDA: .36g per pound bodyweight

Harper: .5g per pound bodyweight

Other recommendations out there typically range from .8 - 1.5g per pound bodyweight.  If you're weight training (and you should be if you're trying to lose fat), I usually say .8 - 1.2g / lb.   That's going to be more than the FDA recommendation for sure.

Back to the fish thing - Harper cites a study and says "Like we talked about in the beginning, some foods seem to boost weight loss, and not just because they are low in calories.  Fish is a perfect example."  Well, we already debunked that part in the introduction.  But let's take a look at the study.

In it, a few hundred young, overweight men and women were recruited and BMI was recorded.  It was measured at 3 points during the study - at the start, mid-point, and end.  The study lasted 8 weeks.  Participants seafood intake was recorded by questionnaire, along with activity level which the researchers recommended they keep at the same level.

The subjects were split into 4 groups, one taking a placebo pill and no seafood, one taking in a certain amount of lean fish, another fatty fish, and another took fish oil capsules.  Macronutrient levels were kept relatively level across all groups.  In the end, the men who took in fatty fish and fish oil lost a significant amount more weight than the lean fish / no fish groups. (Around ~1 pound difference in weight loss)  However, women experienced no difference in weight loss across groups.

To me this study isn't very convincing for a few reasons.  First and most importantly, it's another study that relies on questionnaire rather than an actual controlled setting.  It's really hard to say you've concluded anything definitive when there is such a high opportunity for mis-judging and under or over-reporting on the part of the participants.  Secondly, women saw no difference, which makes me suspicious of any significance in the finding with men.

To read this study and determine that one MUST eat fish in order to lose and keep off weight is, again, asinine.

Omega-3 fatty acid intake does certainly have health benefits especially in regards to inflammation, so I'm not trying to dissuade someone from looking into fish-oil supplementation or including fish - or grass-fed beef for that matter.

Harper then goes on to talk about his time as a vegan.  His biggest reason was morals, which I can completely get behind.  Animals are often treated very cruelly, there's no denying it.  However, he then speaks about the supposed superior health benefits of a vegan diet, citing the much-loved "China Study" made famous by the documentary "Forks over Knives."  Now, debunking that study would take a textbook, so if you're interested in reading a second opinion, check out this really detailed review by an awesome lady over at her awesome blog.

Moral: Meat is awesome, and you should definitely take in a healthy amount of protein when you're trying to lose fat - more than the USDA or FDA recommends.  Fish is great for omega-3's, but they aren't magic.  Please read a review of the China Study before you proclaim how much Forks over Knives changed your life.  And seriously, you DO NOT HAVE TO EAT FISH TO MAINTAIN WEIGHT LOSS.

Check back next week for a few more chapters!

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I think it's a new pre-requisite for every fitness and diet book to start out with a statement on HOW MUCH INFORMATION about fitness there is out there.

POWEROVERWHELMING

"With so much conflicting information..." "Everywhere you look there's an expert proclaiming the truth..." YOU ARE LITERALLY CONTRIBUTING TO THAT. Oh wait, so am I. Oh God.

"With so much conflicting weight-loss advice out there to confuse your efforts, it's no wonder you haven't been successful losing weight and keeping it off," he starts.  Will his book be any different?  Will it be just another over-valued diet book proclaiming certain guidelines are THE WAY and nothing else?  Or perhaps this will finally be the voice of reason and the end to all of your searching.

...If you've been keeping up with me thus far, I think you can predict where this is going.  Read on as I dissect this book chapter by chapter.

Introduction

I'll go ahead and warn readers in advance that this is going to to delve into dry scientific studies.  I wouldn't do this unless it was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for your understanding, so please bear with me.  It's for your own good, promise.  Bob Harper thinks you're smart enough for scientific studies, and goodness knows I think you are too.

The introduction starts out like any good book, with a story.  An anecdote, if you will.  The inspiration for why Harper decided to make the 'rules' he's going to outline.  He describes the husband of a contestant on "The Biggest Loser" show who lost 100 pounds himself during taping.  He did so by following meals and tips posted by Harper on twitter, saying they gave him structure like a set of rules.

And thus, Harper concludes, all people need is a set of rules:

"So, what if we eliminated the clutter? I began to think. What if I could come up with a list of simple, nonnegotiable rules that the average Jane or Joe can follow in daily life—rules you can always fall back on in a pinch, rules you can use not just when you are trying to lose weight, but for when you are trying to stay slender.

Skinny Rules!"

I bolded "Non-negotiable" because I want to draw attention to that.  According to Harper, one MUST follow these rules in order to succeed.  At least, I'm fairly certain that's what someone means when they say non-negotiable.

Harper then lists 7 'myths' about diet and weight loss to get out of the way.  Fair enough!  It's always good to make sure everyone is on the same page first.  Some of these are sound: You can't out-exercise a bad diet, starving yourself is generally a really bad way to try and lose weight, you don't need to completely cut out carbs or fat and in some cases losing a lot of weight really quickly is NOT a bad thing.  (For instance in very obese clients, which is his specialty being on The Biggest Loser.)
Here are some points that have contention:

1) You can weigh yourself more often than once per week.
 

You can, and maybe it might help you.  I know I weigh myself everyday for the weight loss experiments.  But to say everyone needs to check the scale on a frequent basis is a bit of a stretch.  He cites a study that showed people who weighed more frequently lost more weight than those who did not.

Unfortunately, the article in its entirety is not available for free so I wasn't able to read the whole thing.  From what I did read, however, it seemed that people were not told how frequently to weigh themselves - it was completely voluntary.  That leads to a host a correlation problems: is it not logical that people concerned about their weight would weigh-in more frequently and those who weren't actively attempting to lose weight would not?  It's hard to reach too many conclusions based on the little I was able to read, but it seems likely.

Moral: Does weighing-in too much depress you and cause you to reach for the nearest pack of Oreos in defeat?  If so, frequent weighing may not be for you.  Does weighing-in everyday keep you on track and let you know when you need to back down on the eating?  If so, frequent weighing may be for you.  SCIENCE. 

2) It's not as simple as calories in calories out

This one is pretty tricky.  You've probably heard over the years some combination of "FAT BAD" "NO CARBS BAD" "MEAT IS BAD AND WILL LITERALLY GIVE YOU A HEART ATTACK."So what's the deal?  If you eat 1200 calories of Oreos is that not equivalent to 1200 calories of chicken?  The answer is yes and no.  So anticlimactic, I know.  Oreos don't have a lot going for them in terms of nutrition and protein, it's true.  They won't really help you out too much in terms of muscle repair and growth.  If your energy expenditure for the day is 2000 calories though you'll still lose weight.  You'll probably feel like complete shit, but still lose weight.  If your energy expenditure for the day is 2000 calories and you eat 3200 calories of skinless, boiled, rubbery, disgustingly healthy chicken, you'll still get fat.  Sad day

Tricky part: If all you eat is carbs and not enough fat or protein, your body will start slowing down.  You'll lose muscle (especially if you're not performing resistance exercise), lowering that energy expenditure from 2000 to 1800 to 1600. (One of the key factors in why metabolism decreases as you age) Without adequate fat intake, cells and hormones don't function quite like they used to - this too may decrease metabolism.

Harper cites one of my favorite improperly-used series of studies of all time: The Harvard Nurse's Study!  Wondering where you heard that red meat was bad for you?  Hormone replacement therapy decreases risk of heart attack? (completely false)  It's all from right here, in a study that, while extensive, doesn't offer much in the way of SOLID science.  In general the study went something like this:

1) Recruit a bunch of nurses to get baseline weight / BMI / lifestyle and dietary habits.  Get rid of outliers and those with confounding variables such as disease or advanced age.

2) Every 4 years, retest weight, BMI, lifestyle and dietary habits.
3) Over time, analyze data to show what lifestyle and dietary habits are correlated with a higher / lower weight.  Repeat over 20 years.

Sounds pretty simple right?  Unfortunately the lifestyle and dietary habits were self-reported.  This means no one followed around the participants during the 20 years to make sure their reported intake of fruits and veggies was accurate.  This is also an observational study, which means it can't give you a cause for why you're observing what you are.  Harper summarizes the results:

"The answer stunned a lot of traditionalists. Predictably, increases in fruits and veggies were associated with weight loss, while caloric increases in potato chips were associated with weight gain.

The shocker came in the less-intuitive items. Increases in nuts,whole grains, and—usefully for us, as you’ll see later— yogurt were associated with substantial weight loss.  No one is quite sure why, but we can guess: these foods don’t spike your blood sugar and insulin responses the way other foods do, so they don’t make you hungry."

Most of this seems pretty common-sense.  People who eat more fruits, veggies, nuts, <insert healthy food here> tend to weigh less than those who don't.  I don't think we've stunned anyone quite yet.  However, Harper seems to look at this data and reach the conclusion that there is something inherently special about these foods that cause you to lose weight.  I look at this data and conclude that those who are more conscious about their health and weight tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with meat, people used to think fat was bad so those who were health-conscious (and thus weighed less) avoided things like meat.  Now people think that it's meat that was the culprit and so those who are health-conscious don't eat so much, reinforcing that meat is what makes one unhealthy rather than simply eating too much in general.

Two other issues with this study:

1) BMI and weight are fucking ridiculous metrics for one's health.
2) This study depended on people reliably self-reporting their food intake for the past TWO YEARS.  I don't even fucking know what I had for dinner two nights ago, let alone two YEARS ago.

Also, whole grain shredded wheat raises your blood sugar more than a Snicker's bar - fun fact.

I'm not disagreeing with the premise that one should eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, yogurt, etc.  I'm just saying it's not that these foods magically cause one to lose weight, it's that they generally promote satiety better than say, pop-tarts, for fewer calories.  They also provide you with super-awesome vitamins and minerals that leave you feeling super-awesome rather than wanting to take a nap.

Moral
: These foods do not, by themselves, cause you to lose weight.  They typically cause one to eat less.  They also typically make you feel more energetic and inclined to do active things.  This in turn will probably help you sleep better and be a happier person in general.  These benefits, among many others, are a chain reaction that causes you to lose fat.
Harper concludes this section with:

I mean, just how wrong could 129,000 nurses be?

Actually it was only 50,422 nurses after they got rid of those who didn't meet the qualifications for the study.  I also only included this part to be snarky.  And to say that humanity has a rich history of large groups of people believing completely false shit.

Oh...uhh...whoops.
3) Eat Breakfast

I mean everyone had to see that one coming.  He does mention that having a bagel with low-fat cream cheese is probably not the best idea for your meal, which I completely agree with.  However he does say that breakfast is the "most important meal of the day," so let me take this opportunity again to restate:
You do not have to eat breakfast.  It does not 'jumpstart' your metabolism.  You do not have to eat breakfast.  SERIOUSLY IF YOU AREN'T HUNGRY DON'T EAT.

All right.  That took a lot longer than I thought it would.  Hope you're still with me here.  Look for reviews of Chapters 1-3 in the future!

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This post was mainly inspired by an article I read in the latest issue of Health magazine - but it's also from the million of articles I've seen around the internet about how to burn calories in your daily activities.

Hiking - Cover

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), pg. 40

Want to buff up?  Slim down!  ...Wait what?

During your hike why not do some lunges up the mountain top to get that metabolism running?  While spending time with family and friends at the pool, why not get in a great calorie burn?  Take dancing lessons with your partner - you'll get fit together!  Getting some serious work or studying done?  Why focus on actually accomplishing something when you could be doing these sneaky ab exercises?

Maybe this sounds like great motivation for getting more activity and healthy movement into your life.  But tell me what you think about this proposition:

Alternatively, why not go for a hike because you want to enjoy the great fucking outdoors?  Why not actually enjoy time with family and friends at the pool instead of anxiously trying to get a calorie burn to assuage the guilt of that lemonade?  Why not take dance lessons with your partner so that you have something to relate about and bond over?  WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE ABOUT BURNING CALORIES?!

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), Pg. 43

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), Pg. 43

I'm trying to think of a caption to appropriately encapsulate how ridiculous this is, but I'm finding myself at a loss.

I'm going to take this a step further.  Why not sprint because running fast feels like you're fucking flying?  Why not pick up ultimate frisbee because it's amazingly fun?  Why not lift weights because you'd like to play airplane with your kid without throwing out your back?

If you've reduced the activities in your life into ways that you can justify eating food or try to cancel out something you feel guilty about, you're destroying the point.  Try to enjoy what you're doing for the sake of doing it - not because you feel like you need to look better in a bikini or you feel like you need to earn some birthday cake you're going to eat later that week.  Is that living?  Is that mentally healthy?

I'm a personal trainer and oftentimes I work to try and help people lose weight.  We also exercise together with the best jump ropes - so maybe it's a bit odd to hear from me that I would really like to get people to get away from associating exercise with burning calories and losing weight.  Exercise because you want your body to perform better, not just because you want to lose fat.  If the only reason you're working out is for the latter reason, you'll end up sorely disappointed - not to mention missing out on some INCREDIBLE benefits of working out that don't involve fitting into skinny jeans.

I wish I could start this post with more inspiring news than 'nothing has changed.'  Unfortunately, reporting anything other than complete and utter lack of any progress would involve a lot of creative truth-bending.

I'm about 1 month into this process.  I've done pretty well on a few fronts - taking a multi-vitamin and fish oil 3 times a week, drastically cutting my diet soda intake close to zero, and actually exploring a few new food options.  (Tea, nectarines and apricots, as I have discovered, are delicious)

However, as noble as these small changes are, they circumvent the problem I have of just eating too much to lose weight.  This is where my post from last week about learning my hunger cues is supposed to come into play.  I just don't have it down yet - I think in this regard my previous experience with intermittent fasting has actually done me a disservice.  It's really easy to just not eat for a period of time, then eat basically until I can't.  No real hunger cues aside from 'if you eat another bite, you're probably going to regret it in about 30 seconds.'  That one is pretty easy to listen to.

I'm realizing I should have thought this part through much more than I did before beginning.  I was feeling pretty arrogant after my last successful attempts, and thought I could just go for it.  What I didn't take into account is that 'eating clean' is a fairly new concept for me to implement into my life, as well as the concept of listening to my stomach.  It was pretty foolish to assume that I could just adopt a ton of changes at once seamlessly and flawlessly.  I may be a 'fitness professional,' but that doesn't mean I find this stuff easy to follow either.

(Funny aside - every client that I've spoken to about how much I miss Diet Coke (oh God do I miss diet soda) has seemed surprised and even a bit appalled that I of all people have a problem with something generally deemed 'unhealthy.'  It blows my mind that people see me in a light of a super-healthy person, or someone who simply follows good eating dogma with no problems.  And of course always finds exercise enjoyable and easy.)

On that happy note, here is my lack of progress in numerical and visual form:

WLC3

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

On Cheating

People often ask me what I do for 'cheat days' when dieting.  I don't really like that concept in general.  To me it speaks of tight restriction for most of the week, with one day where you just bomb out and really let loose.  Scheduling in a 'fuck it' day doesn't seem like a healthy, sustainable, long-term plan to me.  What if you go out for a friend's birthday on a Wednesday, but your cheat day is Saturday?  What if it's your anniversary the same week as Christmas?  What if you're on a 3-day vacation? Etc, etc.

Basically I try to make the process as stress-free as possible.  When an occasion arises where I will probably need to off-track my diet a tad, I simply do so.  When nothing particularly special is happening, I don't.

Now, this works for me because I don't have the world's most active social life, so typically this evens out to two or three less-than-ideal meals per week.  If you have social events every night of the week, this probably wouldn't work so well.

Just because it works for me (well, at least for maintaining weight!) doesn't mean it will work for you - I'm just hoping to give you some good ideas.

Thanks for reading, as always leave me any questions or comments below!