Monday, March 29, 2010

Another Nifty Study

Following up on yesterday's discussion, Losing Weight After 45 (ooh, these strenuous links!) posted a link to this study. Which was fascinating to me, because the rats were subject to "Cheat Day" type conditions (lab chow all day plus junk food 1 hour a day) in addition to a control (lab chow only)and a free access situation (lab chow or junk food 23 hours a day.)

Interestingly, the 23 hour access rats got fat. They also developed some distressing brain changes similar to those you see in human drug addiction, even ignoring an aversive cue (they had been trained to fear a certain light cue preceding a shock). They were so focussed on the junk food they kept eating it even though the light was flashed. If you've ever read the moving blog Escape From Obesity or similar ones describing the problem of compulsive eating, this change in brain chemistry really fits with the subjective experience the writers describe.

The 1 hour access rats got a little fatter, but not significantly more so than the chow-only rats. The authors concluded that the 1-hour access rats didn't develop the same addiction-like reward deficits (whew!) or eat significantly more calories than the chow-only rats. But they did (let's face it) binge during that 1 hour. They just ate less the rest of the day and more when the ho-hos and bacon came out.

So it looks like the best situation for both humans and rats is to be fed nothing but a nutritious chow until you're sacrificed at the end of the experiment and get your spleen weighed. No, no! Just kidding!

Failing that, I'm guessing that what works for most people is regular meals consisting of highly nutritious food. Some people do great with regular access to junk food (however you choose to define it). They can eat a little and their reward centers light up and they go happily about their business. Others seem to need to limit access (raises hand). I keep chocolate around and eat a few squares daily. But I can't keep, say, pastry or malted milk balls in stock-- just askin' for trouble. My husband wouldn't be able to resist Doritos (which are dusted with cheese flavored crack, I'm pretty sure.) A few people seem to need to stick with the lab chow only.

Of course people are not rats, except possibly Sandra Bullock's husband. (Wonder how much his spleen weighs?) But it's all interesting stuff unless of course it happens to directly contradict your own pet health practices. Then it's just another worthless rat study :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

When Your Diet Comes Under Fire

Dang it, Cammy. I was going to go be productive but now I have to write a blog post.

The excellent Cammy linked this interesting article. Especially interesting for me as it attacked one of my pet institutions, the much-reviled Cheat Day.

I was gearing up to write a balanced, persuasive response but you know, I decided I'd rather just jump up and down and bitch at the top of my lungs. And right there that's a more interesting post than debating the pros and cons of cheat days, or intermittent fasting, or intuitive eating, Weight Watchers or Medifast or anything else.

(Let me just issue a clarification that it is not the highly tactful and kindly Cammy so much as lifting an eyebrow at my beloved Cheat Day. The dietician blogger characterized Cheat Days as "very dangerous" which I thought was theorizing waaaay ahead of limited evidence, but that's another post).

There are 95,000 diets (or "non-diets") out there. Something works for me, and I immediately want to apply it to my friend down the way. "Don't try to eat moderately of refined carbohydrates and desserts. Limit them to one day a week. That's what works!" That's what worked for me-- maybe they would do better focused on intuitive eating, or increasing exercise drastically, or eating 90/10, or counting calories and watching macros. I might think someone is losing too fast, and destined to gain it back because their metabolism is cooling off too much. They might think I'm wasting time and pussyfooting around and should get to it already. If one approach worked for all, there'd be only one.

The part I'm addressing here is the problem of letting criticism weaken my focus. If I have concerns about what I'm doing, I need to address them, but if I find that I'm letting someone's else's generic disapproval deflect me from my goals, then it becomes a real problem. Have you ever embarked on something (fitness-related or other) only to read ten different conflicting approaches? "This way!" "No, whatever you do, not THAT way!" "X way's dangerous and wrong!" "Y method is SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN." And you end up doing nothing because you can't be sure that any one method is exactly right? There are as many ideas about fitness and fat loss as there are stars in the sky. There are thousands of studies but in the end each of us a study group of one-- what works, or doesn't work, for you. Because in the end you're the one who has to live with the results.

What do you all do when you encounter criticism about your health practices?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Okay, She Convinced Me

Losing Weight at 45 posted a persuasive study about HFCS (see my sidebar for her post). There are some critics (notably the Corn Council) saying the methods are murky-- I will ask my research-prof husband to have a look if I can get to him before World of Warcraft does. Anyway, it's enough for me. I'll do a search and destroy mission this weekend. I'll buy the special catsup and everything. Yikes, who the hell needs 48% more fat? I sure don't, and neither do my beautiful healthy children whom I am trying so hard to keep slim without giving them miserable body image tapes playing in their skulls.

Thank you all so much for your very dear support in my last post. This community is so important for me. There's kind of a headwind when you're trying to change your diet and exercise habits. The bracing effect of like minded friends can't be underestimated.

Gratitude list:

1. Taxes were what we were told to expect and what we prepared for. I want to give our accountant non-HFCS cookies.

2. Great first year of private practice for my hard-working sweetie.

3. The timer trick works. I reaaaally wanted something sweet coming in the door. I set the timer for five minutes and told myself I could have it after that. I got involved in blogging and now I don't want it (though now I have to go throw out any and all HFCS crap!)

4. My house is in decent order and I have time again, YAY. I am doing Flylady-inspired routines which I should never have departed from. It is such an awesome system for my easily distracted brain.

5. Spring! I was out in the country today seeing a patient and it was so, so beautiful-- Central PA in March. Greening grass and little rivers and round hilltops and the forested ridges with the maple blossoms just showing red.

My poor patient was an object lesson in what can happen (and doesn't always, but he wasn't lucky) when you eat a slipshod diet and smoke. Poor guy. He is only in his forties but looks ten years older and now the consequences-- COPD, diabetes-- are hitting him like a lead hose. Seems like people can unintentionally hamstring themselves with their food and then, once their knees are shot and they're insulin dependent, even if they want to change, the effort and expense required are harder with those disabilities to tackle. It's sad, and I see it a lot. Of course there is a tendency to blame ills on overweight-- there are plenty of very sound fat people and some slim ones in poor health. But it's definitely influenced my desire to fight off diabetes as long as can.

Enough pontificating, gotta go. Have a great spring day, all!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reviews: Pilates and Glucerna Bars

Zumba was too early so I opted for Pilates, which scares me. Everyone knows about planks. I was looking at the line and asked two ladies, "Is this the line for Pilates?" They told me it was. I said brightly, "I've never been. Will I bitterly hate it?" Turns out one of the nice ladies was the INSTRUCTOR. OOPS. There were quite a few elderly people in the class, some rounder people (all of whom kicked my butt, by the way), and all was well. I can't say I enjoyed the planks or those evil bicycley things, but it was stretchy and good for me and mercifully short (45 minutes), plus it gave me comraderie with my 8 year old who takes Serious Ballet. I'm always encouraging her to work hard in class and this was my turn to pull in my belly and even out my hips and all that stuff. I'm planning to visit Pilates again.

I bought Glucerna bars at Costco, seduced by the promise that they are Scientifically Proven not to spike your blood sugar, or minimize spiking your blood sugar. Paid $20 for a large box versus $10 for ordinary mortal type bars. I discovered the main high-tech mechanism the bars seem to use is being very small. (To be fair, they are labeled "mini bars".) They are quite tasty, such that I mistrust them a bit-- long list of lab-tested ingredients. But they are handy to have in the car when ballet goes longer than it was supposed to. Alas, 100% of my sample of 2 little ballerinas rejected them. After a tentative lick they were pronounced "yucky". (In the interest of disclosure my 8 year old rejects 97% of food that way.) I'm not sure I'd spend that much again but I'd think about it.

I am feeling torn between an energetic spring urge to Get Somewhere (dropping another ten pounds) and being happy with my bod and my current routine and not wanting to mess with success. I'm worried nobody will be interested in my blog if I don't soldier on to a BMI of 22. But then, *I'm* still interested in my blog, and other people's blogs, so that's okay.

What are you all opting for? Holding steady or a Spring Sprint? My physical is in early May which is a nice 6 week target.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Born Organized?

Diane had a timely post about organization and why it matters for fitness. In particular, eating right is not a spur of the moment thing for most of us. When the word "Organization" enters the picture, I tend to have a similar reaction to when I hear the word "Excellence"-- I break out in virtual hives and hastily change the subject. I'll get into my excellence-avoidance another time, but I want to tackle the other one now. I think I rebel against organization because (1) I'm not good at it and (2)sometimes organized people are also tense and controlling, two no-nos in my book. I prefer relaxed and cheerful. So is it possible that you can be organized, relaxed, and cheerful?

I was thinking about this today and I realized that among other sources of resistance, I'm worried about messing with the stuff I like about myself. I have a lively internal critic and I can give you a detailed list with footnotes about what's wrong with me. The part that seems to work well is the affectionate, accepting, consider-the-lilies, you're-gonna-be-okay part, which was sort of the warm core of my mom. Recently it dawned that the warmth and the acceptance are probably quite separate from my organization or lack of it. It's not a barter thing, where I have to trade, or even something I could trade if I wanted to. Not being organized is a branch in the path making me stumble. I can clear the path and I'll still be me, hopefully minus some of the skinned knees and barked elbows.

Getting better at this, or at anything-- including fat loss-- doesn't have to mean a repudiation of the way I used to be. I'm just looking for a way that works better. Doesn't mean I'm shunning the old me. Isn't that odd? I'm so concerned with hurting my own feelings. Perhaps I need to write myself a nice note :).

Have a great week, everybody. Try Zumba!

Thursday, March 18, 2010


From Jack's blog, which I am not going to get out of linking, a series of provocative questions. Here they are.

Why do you suppose you let your life be less than you imagined it to be?

This is a very good question that also sort of pisses me off. (Spot of denial, anyone?) I will launch into my reasons in a minute. The question is asking why I got fat. I can tell you what it wasn't-- ignorance (I've read avidly about weight and nutrition since I was 14), family schtick (no abuse or major control issues so far as I know), war with spouse (he's the Crown Prince of Tact), weird binges or junk food addiction, or lack of exercise.

What did matter-- pregnancy (I gained all of the weight with my first), genetics/prediabetes (not the whole story but a large factor), contentment, denial, and the Standard American Diet intersecting with a certain amount of innate disorganization. I know from blogging that many people do have fascinating and powerful psychological factors behind their level of fatness. But for me to angst after the psychology of it is probably a false trail. It is not at all difficult for a distracted person whose ancestors evolved on lots of labor and few refined foods to pack on the pounds, especially if that person likes to bake.

But, truly? Some of the happiest years of my life I was 50 pounds overweight. I remember having chipmunk cheeks and size 18 pants and being terrified something bad would happen because I was so happy. I had (have, knock wood, please God) affection, companionship, sweet kids, a cheerful sex life, sufficient money, and a few close friends. As far as I can tell, my major social sacrifices for my fattest years were pleasing my inlaws and getting hit on by strangers.

Why do you stumble so often despite all your good intentions?

50 pounds is maybe 500 calories a day. It is very, very easy to eat 500 extra calories. You don't have to binge. Three chocolate chip cookies and not working out will do it.

Why do you sabotage yourself?

I don't think I do, really. Is that boring?

Why are you here anyway?

Because I'm prediabetic. I may not have minded shopping at Lane Bryant, but I sure do mind losing my gallbladder and probably half of my beta cells. That sucks!

If you’re making it, if you’re succeeding on this weight-loss journey, tell me why this time is different than all the others.

Interestingly, I never did lose this much weight before. I was worried about weight cycling and figured if I didn't have a decent chance of keeping it off for good, I didn't want to take it off at all.

Why are you going to make it this time when you’ve fallen short before?

I don't know that I am, but if I do, it will be because of the proverbial lifestyle change-- I don't (usually) count calories, I eat more like a grownup and less like a silly person. I exercise differently.

Why are you going to keep it off this time when you’ve gained it back before?

See above.

Why are you a different person now than you were before?

I'm not really, and I don't think I have to be. I eat fewer breads and desserts. Otherwise, I'm still me.

Something about these questions touched a nerve. I think it has to do with treading carefully between what is "best" (normal weight) and what is necessary to happiness (whatever that is, for some of us it doesn't have that much to do with weight). If circumstances took from me an eye or a limb or my hearing, I would still hope to suck the juice out of life and burp loudly afterwards. It is painful to me to think of anyone (me included) refusing to dance, date, snuggle, wear pretty clothes, swim in the ocean or think well of themselves because they have too much fat.

I don't want to give a false picture of being perfectly fine with my fatness. If I could change that about myself, I would in a heartbeat. I am envious of bloggers who get a handle on it at 30 or 35. I am doing all I can to spare my kids the hassles of being overfat. I miss my gallbladder. I don't want to have to take Metformin. Even with all that, fatness is not incompatible with happiness. If I get hit by the metabolic bus in 10 years and gain back my 25 pounds, I hope I will still manage to get a kick out of life.

And for those of you that made it to the end of this post: my lies revealed! I cheated, though. Did you catch no. 1? Both 5 + 6 are true. Once when I was traveling in Arizona we stopped at tribal dance. I don't remember what tribe. This shirtless guy in a towering horned mask bumped me with his hip and tried to get me to dance. I still remember looking into that horned mask. I was 15 or 16 and too shy, but I thought it was nice of him to invite me, don't you?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

This Post Is Stuck

I have been putting off writing this post because it involves the dreaded act of linking. I imagine other bloggers throwing fishheads and old cabbage at me because of my terrible link success rate. In fact, I delayed so long those posts seem to have disappeared, so it looks like I'm off the hook for linking. But read Gina's blog anyway. It's wonderful stuff.

I Zumba'd like mad last week and it felt great. My goal for this week is to shore up just a couple of good habits. So many to choose from, but all the latest headlines are urging us not to change too much at one time. So here's my two:

1. Zumba lots.

2. Write down what I eat.

No. 2 in particular in difficult for me. It's one of those for-cryin'-out-loud-anybody-can-do-that stumbling blocks that leave me sprawling and feeling bad about myself. So I'm setting a modest goal, just for the rest of the week.

The dramatically shrinking 266 (link --ow, that hurt) kindly awarded me the Creative Writer Award. I get to make up lies, as follows:

1. Only one of the following is true.
2. I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
3. I danced with Paiutes.
4. I went on the Beverly Hills diet when I was 15 and ate mango for days.
5. I have an International Standard Book Number.
6. My first kiss was professional. In the context of dinner theater performance.
7. I am Libertarian.

Now my blog is Unstuck. Just so I stay away from those pesky links. Very binding.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Time for a Research Post

But I don't have time today, so let me just say: if you are interesting in losing weight, I think you should consider taking probiotics. I will back this up with links at some point or other. Really.

I went to Zumba today AND yesterday. Much calorie chewing. I felt sort of frumpy in class so I went out and bought myself a new T-shirt at the Gap. The old shirt was XL and this is an M so that's better. It doesn't help with the Looking Very Old problem, but I have a whole mantra for that.* My goal is to hit Zumba every day this week. Whee!

I find myself in Getting Back Down to It mode. I am showing solidarity with a friend by eating gluten-free for three days (she decided this was a good week to try it.) I'm open to ideas on what to eat. Kind of stuck with chicken, vegetables, fruit, and protein shakes. And chocolate. Chocolate is gluten free, right? I am a little worried about dropping another size, because I don't have many M/12s and I can still wear some of my 14s now. I'm not making any money to speak of and resizing rings and buying new clothes is expensive. I wore 16s for most of my adult life, and for all of the years that I had any money, so it is a little painful to part with my pretty things. Ten years ago a 12/ size M would have been plenty small for a 5'8", but I weigh over 170 lbs-- not a sylph-- and I'm in medium shirts. What do you 120 pounders wear? Probably have to shop at Wet Seal. I have two shirts from there I can look forward to fitting into, because I bought them in a moment of optimism even though when I put them on I am ready to burst out, Superman style, any moment. I decided the suspense was too great and gave them to my daughter. Who is a 6/8, so no plans to raid her wardrobe.

The plan is still to shoot for the 150s, BMI in the 23-ish, 24-ish range. A shout out to 266 whom I believe is enjoying that territory now-- how's it feel, 266? She honored me with a very fun award in which I get to lie. I'm rubbing my hands and snickering in anticipation.

Have a great, productive second half of the week, everybody! Weekend's coming!

--As follows: it's an honor to grow older, those are good years accumulating, you have an 18 year old for heaven's sake, and the major problem's the lines around my mouth and I got those from kissing four beloved people on a daily basis, could be worse, right?

Monday, March 8, 2010

I Have a Fat Head

So I was trying to go to Zumba, but the schedule changed on me. I had to take Muscle Works instead, which is more of a get-it-done militaristic kind of thing, featuring background music as a concession to the weak and a stability ball which was anything but. I weight trained five days last week (modest polishing of knuckles) so the core stuff and the weighted bar and all that jazz left me more or less unmoved. But you do weird stuff too-- lifting your legs up and down while clutching a big red Target ball in an undignified manner. Leg lifts that make me want to look around for Jane Fonda in a stripey leotard urging me to feel the burn. And lots and lots of core. Who needs that much core? I mean, no one's going to see my core unless I burn some calories/poundage, right? Plus we had to lift the weight of our own heads like 18,000 times. I had no idea my head was that heavy. (And no cracks about muscle weighing more than fat.) I was sadly missing my insouciant calorie frittering dance workout.

I'm back on the bus food-wise, trying to be mindful of my carbs as I don't feel too well when I get too many of the wrong kind. Plus I get that gnoshy, hard to satisfy pseudo-hunger-- blech. I saw a number I didn't like this morning. My theory is that I traded some muscle for fat and I put the muscle back on again, so I'm finally seeing an overdue jump in the scale. I'm not upset about it-- yet. Let's see how it responds to some frivolous minded Latin dance workouts. Because I'm not going back to Muscle Works. I'm pretty sure the stability ball is trying to hurt me.

Friday, March 5, 2010

So I Did It

My friend and I met for exercise at 6:30 am every day this week.

Random observations:

1. I gained 2 pounds
2. I feel better than when I started and much better than midweek, when I was colossally sore
3. I look firmer
4. My blood sugars did not improve
5. It wasn't really all that terribly hard
6. It was a nice little social contact
7. Gym's busy at 6:30 in the morning
8. I missed Zumba, literally and figuratively

My eating was slack this week-- no heinous gobbling, but too many extra bits of chocolate and things. I'm quite sure those nibbles add up dramatically. I think I had this "it's okay" thought because I was going to the gym every day, but I recall from experience that the short weight/elliptical workouts don't burn much in the way of calories-- Zumba/hiking are the real calorie chewers. I could have gotten away with my 300-400 calories in nibbles on a Zumba day. It's very possible I made Zumba less of a priority because I "already worked out." What to do for next week?

1. Take Wednesday off from the morning.
2. Add 2-3 Zumba classes back in.
3. Adhere more closely to 5-Factor eating, specifically: eat five times and do not pop a handful of raisins or chocolate chips and pecans at random intervals. At least sit down or something. Geez.
4. Eat protein and vegetables for dinner-- see if that lowers am blood sugar.
5. Fruit or veg every meal.

There, I tried to pack my list with Do's versus Don'ts.

I still don't know ultimately how much I can accomplish with weight loss, but I'm pretty sure I'm not there yet.

How was your week?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Really. Walking like John Wayne here. I haven't done weights two days in a row for, well, months. (Don't worry, my program is designed for two exercises each day, five days a week, plus some cardio and core stuff, so I'm not bombarding the same muscles two days in a row. I'm just bombarding new ones. So I have to think about it before I do something rash like getting up.) Eating has been "not weight loss portions" as South Beach Steve so aptly puts it. Stress has been high. My oldest was asking today why married people get so stressed when they have money, possessions, and love. He's 18 and is focused on finding a girlfriend, which when you have a high functioning form of autism, is more of a pain than usual. He is fairly gorgeous, which helps a little. Anyway, it did sort of put things in perspective for me. Why do we get so stressed?

I think in my case there are the big things (MIL's declining health, tax season) but I am more bowled over by the little things-- for example, I have driving errands at 6:30 am, 7:30 am, 12 pm, 3:30 pm, and 5 pm. I'll spend about three hours in the car today and that's a normal, non-work day. Behind that is what feels like choking backlog of errands, phone calls, things to remember and send and do. The house is falling apart a little bit-- just normal stuff. And here I sit blogging, :). I do think I will be able to get caught up a little bit now that I'm working less. Maybe do some hard thinking about which things need to stay and which can go. I don't want to be this stressed and I suspect that at least some of it is a choice. So hopefully I will be able to post a better report next week.

Meantime I can proudly say that I got up at 6:ish every day this week and exercised before the day wrestled that away from me. Do I get a gold star? My friend needs one too-- she was right there with me. Go, Lisa!

Monday, March 1, 2010

So That's How I Need to Do That

We had friends in for dinner last night. The wife mentioned she was going to the gym at 6:30 this morning. I offered to meet her. Being expected and not wanting to yield the moral high ground gave me the turbo burst I needed. There were quite a few cars in the lot but Planet Fitness has a ton of machines and enough weight benches so that was okay. It wasn't very difficult, and I got home fully dressed and alert around the time I'm usually getting to my feet like a mummy with a hangover. And now I don't have to worry guiltily about when I'm working out.

On the way back from driving my son to school I heard yet another report on NPR about how exercise enlarges your hippocampus (you want this, apparently) and improves memory even if you are an old duffer.

So here's the plan: for this week only, M-F, I am pledging to go at 6:25 every morning and get it done before it gets ploughed off by the day's events. No matter what other factors are out of my control, I can do that.

Got any tips or hacks for getting your workouts done? I'm all ears.