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Healthy Desserts and Restaurants

Posted in dining healthy, food and dining, Health, health and beauty by commorancy on August 9, 2010

I’m not getting this about restaurants. Is it that restaurants are getting more and more lazy or is it that they just don’t want to serve healthy desserts (or, in general, healthy food)? Yes, they don’t really even serve healthy meals, but that’s another topic. I know I’m not the only one, but consuming a decadent chocolate molten cake with a huge scoop of ice cream is the last thing I want after a heavy meal. That goes for key lime pie, tiramisu, cheesecake or baked apple crisp with ice cream. For me, the meal was enough to cover what I needed. Yes, I want something a little bit sweet after the meal, like a piece of fruit, a fruit cup or even a small cup of cinnamon apples. But, I don’t need a second 1000+ calorie meal.

Why do they always come with ice cream?

A scoop of ice cream has between 144 and 260 calories just for one scoop. As a whole dessert, for example, Chili’s chocolate molten cake is 1070 calories (according to their nutritional chart). Probably 200+ of that is just the ice cream. 1070 calories is a meal! In fact, it’s more than a meal. But, the added ice cream isn’t necessary. Granted, if you’re planning on splitting the dessert 4 ways, then that’s 250 calories per portion. That’s still a bit high compared to a piece of fruit, but it’s at least manageable. But, eating an entire molten cake yourself is just plain overindulgence.

Consider, though, that ice cream is made from a food designed for infants, not adults. The milk makes that dessert all the worse for your health. Ask your server to skip the ice cream and lose that extra 144-260 calories (and associated unnecessary hormones). Save those calories up for a later meal.

But, it’s so hard to tell the calories in a dessert.

No, it isn’t. Most premade baked desserts are made from processed white flour. White flour creates the most calorie dense baked goods known. So any baked good is at least twice the calories you think that it is. For example, you might tend to think a single fudge brownie is less than 100 calories. Wrong. The average 2″ fudge brownie is 243 calories. One small piece of cake with frosting is about the same as that fudge brownie.

If you still find it hard to determine the calories and you have any brand of smartphone, then visit Google and look up the calories for what you’re about to eat.

Restaurants and Food

The trouble with restaurants is that they know people want unhealthy food. Well, not that people want it unhealthy, they just don’t want it healthy. Granted, places like TGI Fridays and Chili’s don’t exactly serve unhealthy food, they just server you too much of it. So, when it comes to the dessert course, you end up way overeating. You’ve probably overeaten just with the meal alone. Then adding a 1000+ calorie dessert doesn’t do well to keep the weight off and the waistline trim.

Overindulgence

Since the 70s, I believe portion sizes have dramatically increased in restaurants. This is true in many cases because Chili’s and TGI Friday’s didn’t exist in the 70s in the way they do today. Their food items have gotten bigger and more dense over the years. Some of it is from the ingredients changing, but others are simple recipe changes.

Let’s make a change

The next time you go into a restaurant and want something sweet after the meal, ask if they offer fruit. It doesn’t matter if they say no, just ask anyway. The more people who ask, the more that will spur restaurants to change their desserts to be more health and calorie conscious.

The next thing you need to consider is eating off of the Kid’s menu. Most kid’s meals are anywhere from 100-350 calories per meal. That’s a far cry from the 800-1600 (average) for an ‘adult’ meal. Although, a half-rack of Chili’s original ribs is 480 calories without sides. Add in broccoli for 50-70 calories and the meal is around 520 calories. That’s actually a reasonable sized meal if you want to also add a dessert.

In this case, if you add a fruit cup, that’s about 100-150 calories. Adding the fruit raises the meal to 620-670 calories which is very reasonable for a single meal. Remember, you will eat 3 meals per day (plus snacks). You don’t need to eat a 2000 calorie meal (1000 main course and 1000 dessert). Consider that an average sized man probably only needs 2000 calories a day with minimal exercise (mostly sedentary). For a man who works out at the gym, runs or does any strenuous exercise, then he will need to eat more than 2000.

So, the more people who ask for healthier dessert alternatives, the better our waistlines will look. But, that also means you need to understand the portion sizes of the meals from restaurants and work around those.

California nutrition guides for restaurants

Now that California has required restaurants to place nutrition guides right on the table, it’s easier than ever to see how much you will be eating in advance. Knowing how a meal is prepared, you can also reduce the calories you consume by requesting higher calorie items be substituted with lower calorie items. For example, instead of fries or a baked potato, ask for broccoli, spinach or a house salad. Although, with a salad you have to be careful. Salad dressings are some of the highest calorie items. So, ask for light and use half as much as you need.

Going back to desserts, these are also listed in the nutrition guide. So, you should plan your meal ahead of time. Look for your entree and determine how many calories it is. Then, look for the dessert and do the same. Add them together and see how many calories both together are. If both together total more than 700, you’re eating too much. Of course, if you’re dining with someone else, consider splitting the dessert in half which halves the calories each person eats for dessert.

Overall, you can eat fewer calories at restaurants by asking for lesser calorie items to replace high calorie items. Like, ask for oil and vinegar for dressing. You can then use very little oil and more vinegar. Ask for colored vegetables (broccoli, carrots, greens, tomatoes) over starchy vegetables (potato, sweet potato, corn, corn chips). When grains are served (rice, couscous, etc), ask for less. You can still eat some, just eat less than what they want to give you. Or, leave more on the plate. If you leave this stuff on the plate, then this may also send a message to the kitchen that they are serving too much food. The more they throw away, the more it’s wasteful for them.

Finally, ask for smaller portions. If you know you can’t eat a full sized portion (or it’s simply too many calories), ask for less food. Alternatively, eat from the kid’s menu which offers smaller portions anyway. Also, don’t forget alcocholic beverages, wine, liquor and even sugary soda, coffee and tea. These drinks add significantly to your calorie consumption. So, don’t forget about them.

We can make restaurants change their menus if enough people ask for change. So, ask to talk to the manager and express your concerns. Also, go online and use the ‘ask a question’ or ‘send an email’ link on restaurant web sites. Give feedback on the things you want to see. The more people who ask, the more likely they are to make the change.

Personal dessert favorite

My own personal dessert favorite is frozen fruit. Why? It may sound strange, but it’s the perfect dessert at the end of a meal. It’s low in calories and it’s cold like ice cream (without the cream). So, you get all the benefits of an icy dessert combined with fruit flavors. I sprinkle a bit of stevia on top to sweeten them up a little. Too bad you can’t get this at a restaurant, but it makes a perfect low calorie end to a meal.

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Diet vs Lifestyle

Posted in Health, health and beauty by commorancy on June 7, 2010

In this article, I will assume that when you’re reading this, you have committed to some level of weight loss. Whether that weight loss is for an event (i.e., wedding, prom, hanging at the pool, going to the beach, vacation, etc) it doesn’t really matter. Or, perhaps, you’ve just decided to make a change and simply want to be thinner than you are. Whatever the reason for the weight loss, the goal is still the same… to lose the weight.

What is your goal?

I’m not asking how much you want to lose. We’ve already established that you want to lose weight and you’ve likely already determined how much. No, this question is asking for how long do you want the weight gone? It’s a valid question. The reason I’m asking this question is very much the crux of this entire article. If you are looking to lose your weight for a month or two and then ‘forget about it’ and go back to ‘normal eating’, then this article really isn’t the answer.

This article may help you attain that goal, but this information is not intended nor designed to lead people back into the dieting trap. This article is designed to help people get out of the diet trap and bring about lasting change. If you are committed to lasting change, then you’ve come to the right place.

Thinking patterns evolved

Let’s start by discussing what the food industry has done for America (and, arguably, the world). We’ll start by saying that the food industry is, first and foremost, in it for the money. Secondarily, they supply food. Plain and simple, without profits they can’t stay in business, so money always comes first. From Kraft, Hershey, ConAgra, Archer Daniel Midland to Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s, the mantra is the same. Eat more. It’s a simple and subtle, yet consistent message. The more we eat, the more money they make. It’s simple economics. It’s also economics working against the waistline. The bottom line is, eat more so they make more money. I’ll discuss how that thinking manifests shortly. As long as you keep this ‘money making’ aspect of the industry firmly in your dietary planning, you can easily maintain your weight loss goals. Remember, it’s about their profits, not your waistline.

Money making manifestation

The ways in which the food industry keeps to their profit goals is through marketing. Whether that marketing is on TV, in print, on menu or on the packaging, the message is always there. Eat more. How? On packages, there are many ways they accomplish this. Some subtle, some not-so-subtle. The first and most bold is the ‘serving suggestion’ combined with ‘image enlarged for detail’. So, for cereal, as an example, it’s always a heaping huge bowl of cereal filled to the top. Granted, the image is ‘enlarged’ so determining scale is out. But, that’s the point. They don’t want to give you a frame of reference so you equate that imagery with the bowls in your cupboard (probably huge due to standard manufacturer sizes). So, then you turn to the ‘Nutrition Facts’ panel and see that 1 cup is 110 calories. You naturally equate the ‘serving suggestion’ to the ‘1 serving size’ and pour your cereal thinking you’re eating 100-110 calories. The thing you don’t realize is that bowl of cereal you poured might account for upwards of 300-400 calories depending on bowl size. Combining that with 2% milk, you are looking at 244 calories in 2 cups of milk. That turns what you thought was a 100-110 calorie meal into a 500+ calorie meal. Granted, 500 calories for a single meal is probably fine by itself, but the nutrition in cereal and milk is questionable. Basically, it’s carbs and fat with some protein. The vitamins you receive have been fortified both in the cereal and the milk. On top of that, the milk contains bovine growth hormones that could interfere with weight loss.

With restaurants, the idea is similar. Show a picture of a great looking meal on the cover or next to the food item. They tempt you through the look of the food. Of course, if you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant once, you know the food never looks like it does in the photographs. But more than this, the size of the meal is also, again, quite large and hard to judge scale. On the plus side to this, however, is that many states (including California) are now requiring nutrition guides be placed on the table. So, you can look up that oh-so-delicious-looking-meal and realize that that meal is actually 1100 calories. Yes, that’s 1100 whopping calories. Over 1/2 of the recommended calories for a 2000 calorie a day diet. Again, over half of the calories for 1 day’s meals. So, the plate may appear appetizing, but you need to dig deeper to see just how calorie dense that meal really is.

You should begin to understand why are waistlines are exploding. We can’t eat like this and expect to remain thin. But, the food industry has been slowly and steadily increasing portion sizes so that we’re to the point of gut busting, yet oblivious as to why.

Convenience and Instant Gratification

The second aspect of this thinking paradigm shift is in convenience and speed. The restaurant (and food) industries have additionally ingrained into our consciousness the need-for-speed. We have to have it now. That food should be something that’s ready in 5-7 minutes. The microwave and other innovations have also instilled this thinking. Granted, some foods don’t need to take long amounts of time to prepare. Some do. However, it’s not the speed here that’s at fault. It’s the fact that most meals that can be prepared rapidly are usually the foods with the highest calorie density (see below). So, with speed can come higher calories. The food industry has played off of our need-for-speed and produced foods that prepare rapidly, but those foods are usually overly calorically dense.

Bucking the system (and your friends, relatives and colleagues)

So, now the main aspect to weight loss is bucking the system. You don’t have a choice in this matter. The industry has so ingrained into the American consciousness that more is better that you have to forget that mantra and retool your own thinking. In addition, that now means you have to ignore your friends’, relatives’ and colleagues’ comments. What matters is your goals. If you want to lose the weight, you must look at portions and do what needs to be done to meet your goals. That means you need to think critically about what got us to the gut busting mentality and retool your own personal programming. It also means eating smaller portions and eating less calorie dense foods. However, this does not mean starving yourself. It also doesn’t mean you can’t eat the foods you like. You must eat them in smaller sizes.

I know, it’s hard to ignore friends’ and relatives’ comments. It is. But, if you are committed, you have to do this. When they ask you to eat over, accept. But, don’t eat more than what you need. Remember, you also do have ‘cheat’ meals.

Calorie density

As food engineering has progressed, prepackaged foods have become increasingly more calorie dense. Calorie density means that the manufacturers have been able to pack in more calories into smaller and smaller sizes. This also means that you cannot easily spot high calorie items simply with your eyes. You now need to weigh the foods. So, that means if you don’t have a scale in your house, you need to get one. Scales are important because weights are the only true way to measure calories. For example, 85g of chicken is 120 calories (that’s ~3 ounces). But, can you spot 85g of chicken just by looking? No. 85g of chicken is actually a small amount of chicken. It’s about 1/3 of a small-med chicken breast. That also means that a small-med chicken breast is about 360-400 calories. But, some chicken breasts are now enormous (thanks to hormones). So, here’s another example of density. Because chicken producers are now able to produce humongous chicken breasts, restaurants may even be serving these on your plate. These breasts might be 600 calories. The food scale is your friend, so weigh your foods. It’s the only way for you to be certain of how many calories are in your foods.

Cheat meals

What is a cheat meal? Simply, a cheat meal is a meal that lets you eat a ‘normal’ (ahem) sized portion. A portion that you would find in a restaurant. Yes, that 1100 calorie meal above would be considered a ‘normal’ sized meal. But, this is a once-a-week meal. This is something that should be considered a treat or a reward. Think of it as a way to eat out and make it appear like you still accept the ‘eat more’ mantra. That you blend in with your waistline bulging friends. Then, once the meal is over, you immediately go back to your regular eating schedule as normal. And yes, I realize, I haven’t gotten to what is a ‘regular meal’ answer. We’ll come to that next.

So, what is regular sized meal?

Going by the 2000 calorie-a-day guideline of the FDA, let’s examine. It’s very simple math here. 2000 / 3 = 667 calories per meal. That’s assuming you eat only 3 meals per day. If you want to add in two 100 calorie snacks per day, then let’s calculate. 2000 – 200 = 1800. 1800 / 3 = 600 per meal + 2 100 calorie snacks. So, let’s break it out:

  • Breakfast = 600
  • Snack = 100
  • Lunch = 600
  • Snack = 100
  • Dinner = 600
  • Total = 2000

Here’s a challenge, I dare you to find any chain restaurant that offers full adult meals plus desert that fits into 600 calories. It’s next to impossible. Most restaurant meals start at 800 calories and finish (including a desert) well over 1800 calories just for that one single meal. How is anyone expected to lose weight eating that amount of calorie density in one meal? Combining that with several meals around that same size and you can’t.

So, this is mostly why you need to make your own meals at home. There are some restaurants that do offer lesser calorie meals. But, you need to dig through their nutritional guides to find them. For example, Chili’s offers a Guiltless Tilapia meal that’s just 200 calories (the full meal). That’s a Tilapia fillet and a side of vegetables (broccoli and shredded carrots). That would still leave 300 calories for a dessert (if following the above meal guide).

So then, what does a 600 calorie meal look like? Here’s a web site that gives you some ideas.

Grains, Vegetables and Fruits

The only thing that breads and, specifically, wheat products offer nutritionally is 1) carbs and 2) fiber. Both carbs and fiber are readily available in fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are much more vitamin and mineral dense than breads. In general, grains of all types fall into this as well (rice, barley, rye, corn and, of course, wheat). That’s not to say not to eat grains, you can. But, you get better nutrition out of vegetables with far fewer calories. So, you can eat more vegetables and get full, yet still eating far fewer calories So, eating vegetables will give you more fiber than wheat with far fewer calories (and much less insulin response). On the other hand, fruits give about equal insulin response as wheat (because of the fruit sugars). So, always think of fruits as desert.

Weight Loss

To truly begin losing weight, you need to rethink your meals. In that goal, instead of trying to do the above 600 calorie meals, you could do 200-300 calorie meals spaced out differently. For example, you might do 6 300 calorie meals over a 6 hour period and throw in 2 100 calorie snacks where ever you feel you need them. By eating more frequently with smaller meals, you keep the body constantly processing foods and nutrition. The body burns calories to digest foods. So, you are using this food processing system to burn calories. At the same time, you need to restrict your calories to an amount just under your maintenance calorie number.

So, if your maintenance number is 2000, you might have to drop to 1700-1800 to begin losing. You might need to go to 1500. It all depends on where your number is and only you can determine that number. Once you determine the number, you can easily maintain your weight (or go back into weight loss mode) as necessary. This also means the end to ‘normal meals’. That is, meal sizes dictated by the food industry. You need to ignore that rhetoric and use a plan that actually works.

Fresh foods and density

Food designed by nature is food the way it was intended to be found and eaten. That means, when foods are eaten the closest to that foods natural state, the more healthy it is (barring pesticides, hormones and fertilizers). When foods are in their natural state, they are the least calorically dense and the most nutritionally dense. This means, you can eat more of them to satisfy your hunger and, at the same time, not go over your calorie goals. You will also meet your body’s nutritional requirements. Such foods include broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, green beans, corn on the cob, carrots, etc.

On the other hand, foods designed in factories are the farthest away from nature that they can get. These foods are devoid of nutrition and very calorically dense. These foods must be fortified (vitamins and minerals are added back to these devoid products). These foods include bread, pizza dough, Pillsbury Dough, Cookies, Cakes, Pies, Ice Cream, Cheese and processed cheese food (Velveeta).

Foods that fall into the unsure status include Milk, Eggs, Chicken, Pork, Beef, Lamb, Veal, etc. While meats contain dense proteins and are necessary for the body, the commercial meat industry uses questionable practices to get these foods into the stores. So, unless you trust your meat supplier explicitly from farm to market, you may be getting extra things in your meats you are not really needing. That’s not to say that you can’t eat meat, let’s just say that you should limit meat consumption to only the amount needed to fulfill your daily protein requirements. As far as bovine milk, this is an calve food not designed for human consumption. See Randosity’s Milk: Does it really do a body good? for more details. Milk (and milk products, like cheese, yogurt, kefir, cream and butter) should be avoided as they are not necessary for the human diet. There is nothing in milk that cannot be had from other sources of solid foods including meats and vegetables.

Portions vs Exercise

To truly lose weight requires rethinking. It requires making yourself acutely aware of marketing practices and thinking about how manipulative these images really are. You need to determine your own calorie intake per day, but that will likely be no more than 2000 calories per day (unless you are an extremely active person like a bodybuilder, a runner, a biker, a hiker, a skier, a climber, a swimmer or a surfer). If you are not extremely exercise active, then you need to reduce your calories to fit a less active lifestyle. The bottom line is, calories in have to be less than calories expended to lose weight. The more active you are, the more you can eat. The less active, the less you can eat. It’s simple math here.

So, you need to reduce your portion sizes to accommodate a less active lifestyle. Increasing your exercise levels does not give you cause to binge, however. You still must stay below your energy expenditure to lose weight. You must equal your energy expenditure to maintain your weight. It’s very simple logic.

Permanent thinking

The hardest part is changing your thought behavior to become a permanent way of life. You can’t keep thinking ‘Oh, I only need to lose 5 pounds in 30 days’. No, instead you need to think, ‘They’re tricking me into that portion size’. So, eat a piece of cake, but eat a 50-100 calorie piece. Eat a size that fits into your daily eating schedule. As long as you adhere to portion sizes and calorie relationships that fit with your goals, you will continue on your weight lose goals. Don’t forget your cheat meal, though. You can use this as a crutch to help keep you on track. Eventually, this crutch won’t be necessary every week and you will fall into a normal eating behavior that is correct for your long term goals. You just need to give your body a chance to adapt (usually several months). And yes, your body will adapt to the correct portion sizes over time. Getting over that hump can take some time.

Let’s Recap

To affect permanent lasting weight loss, you have to understand misleading marketing materials that can lead you astray. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. You need to retool your thoughts about food and your current lifestyle for long term changes, not for a month or two. So, think about how you can affect food changes that you can live with for the rest of your life. We also learned that a real meal size is about 600 calories (for a 2000 calorie a day diet). In fact, your meal size might be smaller than this to affect weight loss. It’s also difficult to find 600 calories in restaurant meals. You may have to request substitutions in restaurant meals to reduce the calorie density. Fresh natural foods are always healthier than processed industrial foods. Processed industrial foods tend to be high calorie density foods. So, you need to rethink your thoughts on foods and the way you think about foods. If you are committed to making these thought changes and learn more about foods, you can make a permanent lasting change towards a thinner you.

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Brooke Bates: Dieting failure?

Posted in Health, health and beauty by commorancy on May 31, 2010

I had recently watched a documentary that discussed Brooke Bates. At the time, she was 12 years old when she had liposuction to remove 35 pounds of fat. She was 220 before the surgery. After the liposuction, she began to gain the weight back and opted for lap band surgery to help her slow food consumption. The one thing that I didn’t see discussed was proper food counseling for Brooke or her parents. It may have happened, but it wasn’t discussed in this film. While dieting is part of the answer, the whole answer is in getting to the bottom of the eating and ultimately teaching Brooke (and people like her) about food.

Exercise alone is not enough to prevent weight gain. Why? It’s actually simple, more calories in than expended. The FDA and food industry conspire to keep us fat. Perhaps not intentionally, but then again who knows. The issue, though is that we see commercials showing us ‘healthy portions’. Yet the packages contain 3, 4 or 5 servings. But, the package appears as though it’s one serving. In fact, much of the front of the packaging is designed to mislead you into believing the package contains only one portion. Worse, though, is that many packages are extremely perishable once opened. So, you eat it or toss it. This perishable nature of the foods leads us to eat the whole package to keep from throwing anything away. Bad move, calorically. So, these are two strikes against the food industry… first, misleading advertising practices and second, packaging foods to intentionally spoil rapidly once opened.

The reality, though, is that restaurant portions are not healthy portions. If you visit any restaurant, the portion size is usually 900-1200 calories just for a meal. One meal. Multiply that times 3 + snacks. That’s 2700-3600 calories a day in meals alone (assuming 3 similar sized meals). Add snacks and you’re likely well over 4000 calories! That’s over twice the recommended calories for an adult (let alone for a child). Prepackaged food portions don’t really fare much better if you’re not looking at Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine or other intentionally designed lower calorie meals. For example, Marie Calendar’s and Stouffer’s regular meals are exceedingly high in calories per portion.

Looking at FDA’s recommendations of at most 2000 calories a day, I’d suggest with our latest sedentary lifestyles, it needs to be lower than that. Perhaps 1500-1700 calories a day just to maintain… and then even less to lose weight without adding substantial exercise.

There is no way to maintain weight, let alone lose fat, other than to calorie restrict. And, restrict we must. That said, the food and medical industry makes that exceedingly difficult. Not only do restaurants make it difficult, but so do prepackaged foods. For kids, it’s even more difficult because of school cafeteria food and vending machines. The foods they are serving are very calorically dense and processed. That is, these foods contain far more calories than these children should be eating in a single meal. But, this information is not being taught to children. Children see the portion sizes the cafeteria offers and the knowledge is implicitly taught that this is how you’re supposed to eat and these are the foods you are supposed to eat. Sorry, but pizza, tater tots and chicken nuggets do not make for healthy meals. These are meals that should be offered as a treat, a birthday dinner or other special occasion. These are not the types of foods that need to be served every day. Yet, here we are. Children need fresh, not frozen reheated foods.

Worse, our doctors tell us to lose weight. Yet, the medical industry tells is we are unhealthy when we do calorie restrict. How is that? You want us to lose weight, yet when we do we are eating unhealthy? That doesn’t add up. The diet that McDonald’s is serving is healthier than a calorie restricted diet that helps us lose fat? These are all mixed signals. Advertisers show us and tell us one thing. The medical industry tells us another. Our doctors tell us something else. Worse, no one really helps us. We’re actually left to fend for ourselves on finding our way. Because no one can agree, most people just naturally assume that what the restaurants and packages say is the truth. Hence, we are obese because of misinformation, lack of proper information and the need for convenience. After all, it’s far easier (and cheaper in many cases) to drive through McDonald’s and pick up a meal than it is to make something from scratch.

Anyway, as far as Brooke Bates, was liposuction and then inserting a lap-band the answer for Brooke? Clearly both she and her parents thought so. What does that mean for the rest of Brooke’s life? She has still not been taught the proper information about foods. With proper food counseling and teaching proper nutrition, teaching about calories and combining that with testing resting metabolic rate, a diet could have been devised to help Brooke eat the things she likes (in much smaller quantities) and still have the body she wanted. After all, if you want to lose the weight, you have to put your mind to that goal. Not for just a day, not for a week, or a month, but for the rest of your life. Dieting isn’t as much about restricting foods as it is rethinking your outlook on foods so that food consumption becomes a lifestyle for the rest of your life. Dieting isn’t temporary. It’s a permanent way of thinking about food that must start first with rational thought and then put into action through proper food consumption. Knowledge is the key and that’s where a successful healthy food lifestyle must start.

Milk: Does it really do a body good?

Posted in Health, health and beauty, Household Tips by commorancy on May 22, 2010

Let’s consider milk for a moment. I know, we all think of the advertisements with some celebrity wearing a milk mustache. Yah, yah, whatever. It’s an ad, it takes up space. But, what does it really say about milk? I mean, really. Just because ‘insert famous celebrity here’ allegedly drinks milk, we’re supposed to too? Has that celebrity somehow become the authority on milk? No. It’s just a gimmick to make you think that because they drink milk, everyone should. Blah blah blah. It’s all rhetoric.

What exactly is milk?

Milk is an infant food. It was designed for unweened babies to help them grow. After all, babies cannot eat solid food right away. So, milk is designed as an interim food until the baby reaches the point where it can be weened from milk and eat solid food. To prove this point, female animals and human women only lactate (produce milk) for a short period of time after pregnancy to feed the baby and aid its growth. How does milk aid a baby’s growth? With hormones.

So, what about cow milk, that’s ok right? Wrong. Humans are the only known animal that intentionally drink the milk from other animal species. Milk is specifically designed for growing babies. I’ll repeat that. Milk is a food designed for growing babies, not adults. As such, it contains proteins and sugars, like most foods, but it also contains hormones to help the baby grow (hormones that the baby may not yet be producing) it also contains additional ingredients that help the baby’s immune system grow. So, cow milk contains cow hormones to help calves grow. These hormones were not designed for the human body. Yet, the milk and dairy industry would have us believe that these products are ‘good’ for the human body. How can they be? They contain hormones designed for calves. So, unless humans have somehow become cows, cow milk isn’t designed for human consumption. Let alone adult human consumption.

Infant food

As I stated, milk is a food designed for infants. It is not designed nor is it necessary for adults. After we’ve been weened from milk, we should eat solid foods for nutrition. For example, would any human today consider drinking female breast milk as an adult? Granted, there are probably a few people who would (and do), but most people are likely repulsed by that thought. So, why is it that no one is repulsed by the thought of drinking cow or goat milk? I mean, these aren’t even the same species as humans. Milk from human mothers is at least designed for human consumption where cow and goat milk are not. Human breast milk has the necessary nutrients for human infants and contains the proper human hormones to stimulate growth in a human infant. So, this type of milk is designed for human consumption. Yet, you don’t find the dairy industry milking lactating human mothers for cartons of milk. No, instead we exploit the infant food from other animals.

Cows and Goats

In order for any animal to give milk, it must be kept pregnant (or at least, given hormones so the animal’s body thinks that it’s pregnant). The hormones in the pregnancy tell the animal’s body to produce milk. So, whenever you buy cow’s milk, this milk is obviously from a cow who’s pregnant. This also means there is a measure of growth hormones in the milk itself. These are natural hormones that exist in the milk to aid growth of the calves. So, milk at the store also contains these hormones. So, even if ‘organic’ milk claims to be rBGH free, the milk still contains calve hormones that naturally occur to help calves grow. Because these hormones do not aid in human growth, they are unnecessary for (and possibly harmful to) the human body.

Hormones

What are hormones? They are lock and key molecules that stimulate some specific part of an animal (or human). For example, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) stimulates cellular growth in humans. Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone (MSH) stimulates melanocytes to produce melanin in the presence of UV. These are but two hormones that drive specific body functions. Milk contains growth hormones necessary to help babies grow. So, feeding an infant cow milk instead of human milk, overlooking casein and other potential allergens, may not have the appropriate lock and key effect on a human child. So, a human baby fed cow milk instead of human milk might not grow properly in the same way as a human breast milk fed baby.

Milk does a body good?

Considering that milk is an infant food and the fact that it contains hormones to stimulate growth, adults don’t need these. Adult human bodies produce their own hormones in the necessary levels. Consider that cow hormones might, in fact, interfere with the absorption of human hormones by fitting the keyhole of human receptors. But, instead of producing the necessary stimulation to do what’s necessary in a human, it might do nothing at all. So, this bovine hormone key blocks the lock from human hormone keys and prevents the human hormone from functioning. That’s at least one potential scenario with cow hormones. It has also been theorized that these hormones may even be responsible for interfering with the functioning of the pancreas eyelet cells that produce insulin. The human body produces insulin to counter blood sugar levels. However, drinking cow milk could introduce bovine hormones that key into these locks in the pancreas and interfere with the workings of the human hormone to stimulate insulin production. This interference could result in lower or less production of insulin than is necessary for proper bodily functions. This could then leave higher blood sugar levels leading to diabetes. It might further produce altered insulin that’s ineffective at reducing blood glucose levels. There are any number of ways that bovine hormones could interfere with human body functions. So, with that in mind, it’s quite possible that milk is at least partially responsible for diabetes. Drink enough milk often enough with enough hormones and it’s possible.

Other dairy products

Milk is only part of the problem here. Cheese and other dairy products made from milk are just as problematic. For example, cheese requires gallons of milk to produce a much smaller amount of cheese. The reason is that the milk solids separate from the whey and leave the solid cheese. Because the whey liquid is pulled out, the cheese condenses into a smaller more compact space. Because cheese is, then, concentrated, so are any hormones present in the cheese. Again, milk is an infant food. Thus, it follows that because cheese is made from an infant food, it is also and still an infant food. I know this may seem contrary, but think about it for about 2 minutes logically and you will come to this same realization.

This issue exists with yogurt, kefir, butter, cream and cottage cheese (to name a few). Anything that is made from milk (and specifically cow or goat milk) is still a problematic food.

Avoiding dairy

Some advertisements claim that milk is the perfect food. Yes, it’s perfect… perfect for babies. They need this formula to help them grow. It is not perfect for adults. Adults need solid food to survive. After infancy, we need to give up milk. That’s why the mother stops producing milk. But, humans have used their knowledge and engineering skills to take the cow and keep her continually pregnant so that she’ll give off milk. Because cows produce a lot of milk, it seemed a no brainer. I’m not sure, though, who first thought up the idea of adult humans drinking cow milk or why. But, someone did and here we are today. We have an industry that is based solely on stocking grocery store shelves with something we should have long given up past infancy.

If you are concerned about health issues, you might want to consider giving up dairy products. Above and beyond the hormone issues that can interfere with the adult body, there are also allergy issues because of casein (among other ingredients). Giving up milk and milk products may help you in your own personal health goals. Certainly, the two primary substances in milk that the industry harps on is calcium and vitamin D. You can get the same amount or more calcium from eating green vegetables such as Broccoli, Spinach, Collard Greens and even Kelp (seaweed). You can get vitamin D from sunlight. There are also questions about how bio-available both the calcium and vitamin D are within milk.

Alternatives

If not cow or goat milk, what alternatives are there? There are several. Those that come to mind include soy milk, coconut milk and almond milk. I’ve tried all three and of the three I prefer almond milk for flavor and consistency. It doesn’t really taste a whole lot like cow milk, but it’s still creamy enough that for baking or cereal, it works fine. Since these milks are produced from plant products rather than other animals, it won’t contain stray animal hormones… especially not related to growing babies. As far as I know, though, you may not be able to produce cheeses from any of these milks. Although, in the process of producing almond milk, the leftovers can be turned into an almond cheese and soy produces tofu.

Are these alternatives healthier than cow milk? Well, clearly, they don’t contain unnecessary animal hormones. So, from that point of view, they probably are healthier for the human body. Overall, it’s still a processed and concentrated product. The human body really does better when foods are eaten in the proportions and concentrations found in nature instead of being condensed into highly concentrated versions.

Health Issues, let’s start with milk!

While animal milk cannot be blamed on every illness out there, no one seems to point fingers at the dairy industry at all. In fact, way too many people tout the benefits of milk and few are willing to say anything negative. We are all so ready to blame soft drink, hamburger and potato chip manufacturers for society’s ills, but what about all of the alleged food staples? Why should these foods be allowed a free ticket from health reviews? They shouldn’t. Clearly, our food sources need to be examined thoroughly from top to bottom. Yes, these examinations need to not only include potato chips, hamburgers, fries and soda, but it also needs to include eggs, cheese, dairy and also processed and canned foods.

We’ve all heard the adage, “You are what you eat” and this phrase is as true as it always was. This adage also should and does include those foods we have always considered healthy and beneficial. We need to rethink foods in a more intelligent way. Unfortunately, we have agencies like the FDA, USDA and FTC that are there to help subsidize big agro-business. After all, we can’t have those farmers out of business now can we? It’s always more important to keep business humming along than help keep people healthy, or is it?

Noon lunch, 2:30 crash

Posted in Health, health and beauty by commorancy on February 27, 2010

Have you ever wondered why you get really sleepy around 2:30PM?  What you eat at lunch has a lot to do with it.  Most lunch menus serve you rice and/or bread with your meal.  On top of this, you’re probably eating chips, fries or other starchy foods.  You may even be eating too much.  A lot of people don’t understand this fact about starch, but starch is basically long chains of sugar.  The body knows how to easily break these chains turning them into glucose (blood sugar).  So, while starch doesn’t taste sweet, that doesn’t really matter to the body.  It processes starch just as though it were sugar.

With all of the heavy loads of starch eaten at lunch meals, the body’s reaction to that is by producing insulin to balance the high blood sugar levels.  The downer you feel at 2:30PM is the body clearing the excess blood sugar from your body, but possibly even more than this.  Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to stimulate the muscles and liver to metabolize the blood sugar thereby taking the excess blood sugar levels down.   If too much insulin is released, you may end up slightly hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) which can make you sleepy (among other symptoms).  Once the body releases glucagon, another hormone that raises blood sugar levels, the blood sugar levels should even out.

The body wants to keep blood sugar levels in check.  But, after an excessively large starchy meal, the body may overcompensate by producing too much insulin which can cause sleepiness.

The takeaway from this is that you should limit how much starch and food you eat at lunch.  You don’t need to stuff yourself to the max. You just need enough food to get you through till dinner.  You should also try to limit the starchy foods in lunch meals.  The idea is to keep the body’s blood glucose levels even throughout the day (especially if you are healthy).  Heavy spikes in blood sugar (starch consumption) overtaxes the pancreas (that creates insulin) and, in some people, may eventually lead to diabetes.  More than diabetes it is good to do this just to keep yourself feeling your best and avoid afternoon sleepiness.

For lunch meals, you can include some starch, just don’t make it the majority of your meal.  Meat and vegetables don’t raise insulin much. Potatoes, bread, pasta, cakes, cookies and candies all raise blood sugar levels, so be careful eating these meals for lunch.  If you limit your consumption of sweet and starchy foods during your lunch meal, you can avoid the sugar high and subsequent sugar low.  If you can keep your insulin levels even throughout the day, you can avoid the afternoon sleepies.

Obesity Overtaking America

Posted in Health, health and beauty, Uncategorized by commorancy on December 13, 2009

You’ve heard all about this issue in the media. But, what you may not know is that this issue is now even reaching into the military (including our armed forces in Iraq).  The Pentagon has reported that obesity has doubled since 2003 in the US Military. Here are people who are actively serving for our national security and they’re becoming obese.  I always thought that army food wasn’t that great and was designed to keep the troops’ healthy.  I guess that’s not happening.

Some people attribute stress to the obesity epidemic in the US.  But, who or what is to blame for the growing waistlines?  Clearly, people do need to take responsibility for what they eat.  On the other hand, the human body does not come with an owner’s manual.  So, these two issues combined with the media, the food industry, so-called professionals, easy access to foods and misinformation lead to the waistline growth.  Which one is to blame?  They all are.

Food Industry

I know we all want to blame and, in some cases, even sue the food industry for this issue.  In some cases, lawsuits may even be warranted.  However, each person needs to take responsibility for their body.   Unfortunately, in some situations it may not be possible to purchase and eat your own foods. You may end up being in a semi-captive situation where you eat what you are given and have no access or say in the foods that are served.  In these cases, that establishment is to blame for feeding you poor quality food choices.  This may be the situation in the military.  This situation may also follow for lower income families who need to eat, but cannot afford to purchase produce due to its higher costs.

However, when the person can purchase their own food, make their own food and then eat that food freely, that’s where self-responsibility must take place.  You can’t blame the food industry when you have choices.  Basically, as a consumer, you must take responsibility for your food choices.  But, even more than that, you need to take responsibility for your body.  You can’t push your growing waistline off onto food manufacturers because you made the choice to eat their food.  There may be other liabilities that you can call the food industry on, but it isn’t personal responsibility for your body.

Food manufacturers do, on the other hand, provide loads of misinformation on their food items, so you have to become an intelligent and informed shopper to avoid these FDA-endorsed yet very deceptive food labels.  Note that deceptively labeled food items would be a liability for the food manufacturer except for the fact that the FDA has endorsed and approved those mislabeling practices. So, while you may want to sue the food manufacturer for mislabeling, you simply cannot.  These practices are definitely legal.  But, that doesn’t make them right, helpful or help you make an informed choice.  That said, you need to understand how to read the labels and discard the useless deceptive information and to determine just how nutritious something really is for you.

Three types of macronutrients defined

Of the three types of main nutrients your body needs, these are protein, carbs and fats.  Protein consists of meats, fish, eggs and is also in other products like milk, cheese, nuts and beans.  Fats consist of oils and is in foods including butter, avocados, nuts, fish, meats and table oils.  Carbs may be the hardest to identify in foods, but consist of both starches and simple sugars.  Starches include corn, rice, wheat, barley, sorghum, rye or any other type of grain.  Simple sugars include any granulated sugar (sucrose), fruit sugars (fructose) and dextrose (included in some food items). Sugar Alcohols should also be considered a simple sugar of sorts and these include maltitol, xylitol, mannitol (or any other sugar ending in ‘ol’).  Other sugars include maltodextrin and oligofructose among others.

All sugars ultimately become glucose in the body.  So, eating that piece of bread is ultimately the same as eating a piece of candy.  The only difference between candy and bread is the amount of fiber it contains.  Most finely granulated white flour is really no better than sugar and digests with similar speed.  With white flour based foods, you might as well be eating straight sugar.  Eating ‘whole wheat’ based items may slow down the digestion some, but that’s all dependent on the amount of fiber.  Most ‘whole wheat’ items may be partially made with white flour, so be careful with that.

Basically, your plate needs to consist of proteins, fats and carbs in the proper quantities to keep the body balanced.  Too many of any one of these nutrients and your body will compensate by becoming fat or having other issues.

A Society of Grain

The grain industry has a huge hold over our food supply.  You simply look at the average American meal and you will see one thing that dominates the plate: grains.  These include primarily include corn, wheat and rice.  But, there is also barley, rye and sorghum.  These grains are then made into items such as bread, crackers, cakes, cookies, cupcakes and pasta.  Once added to the plate, these items consume at least 25-50% of our dinner plate and probably 50-100% of our snacks.

Starchy vegetables

On top of these heavily starchy grains, we add yet another starch to our plates in the form of a potato and corn.  Yes, corn is both a grain and a vegetable depending on how it’s used.  So, between the bread and the potato, our dinner plate now contains probably 50% or more starches.  If you add corn as a side dish, that’s even more starch and makes up for at least 75% of the meal.  But, starch and starchy vegetables aren’t the complete answer to obesity.. even if the low-carb diets would like you to think so.  We’ll come back to the starch and weight relationship shortly.

Vegetables

In the vegetable category which should consume at least one-third of the plate, we should be serving green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens and similar.  Other vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, soybean (green), green beans, leeks, etc.   Unfortunately, many people choose to skip this portion of the meal.  But, this portion needs to consume at least 25% of the plate (and actually, these should consume the most).  The reason they should consume the most is that they are high in fiber, low in calories and fill you up. Unfortunately, many vegetables can also cause flatulence and other intestinal issues (due to higher amounts of fiber).

Protein portion

Of the rest of our plate, we reserve the protein portion of the meal.  This includes foods such as, obviously, meats like beef, chicken, eggs, pork, turkey, fish and other seafood.   For vegetarians, there are other sources of proteins such as legumes, soy and other vegetable proteins and even milk (if lacto-vegetarian).

Beans

Legumes should be catagorized separately because they are both a starch and a protein at the same time.  So, while it’s great that they contain protein, they are also fairly starchy.  So, eating them in addition to other starches only serves to undermine any sensible weight loss approach.  So, be careful when adding beans to your plate.  Beans include white beans, kidney beans, black eyed peas, English peas, sugar snap peas, peanuts, refried beans, black beans, Lima beans, fava beans, etc.  It’s pretty easy to identify a bean on the plate just strictly due to its consistency and texture.  Beans also have one additional side effect that can be unpleasant in a lot of people: gas.  So, if you know you are intolerant of beans, be careful adding them to your plate.

Fruits and Nuts

Fruits should be considered a sugar (carb) combined with fiber.  So, when adding these in, understand that they add to your total calorie intake as well as your sugar intake for the day.  Nuts are considered both a protein and a starch.  So, again, add them into your total protein and carb intake for the day.  Fruits, like vegetables, are far lower in calories than nuts.  So, you can add more fruits to your diet (assuming you aren’t carb intolerant or diabetic) and reduce your calorie intake.  Nuts, on the other hand, are high in calories.  So, eating lots of nuts can add a lot more to your calorie intake than you think.

Dairy

Dairy products (cheese, milk, milk-based products) can be reasonably high in both calories and carbs (lactose), so be careful when adding lots of dairy to your diet.  Yes, diary does contain calcium and vitamin D (fortified), but you should try to find other ways to add calcium and D to your diet than through dairy.

Junk Foods & Soda

When trying to readjust your diet to be more healthy, you really have to get rid of these from your diet.  Junk foods are those that add calories without substance.  They may make you ‘feel’ good while you’re eating them, but the sugar high that you get and the subsequent weight gain isn’t wanted.  So, avoid junk foods.  Junk foods include potato chips, pretzels, bread (more than one piece per meal), crackers, Triscuit, Wheat Thins, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, rolls, biscuits or anything basically that uses refined white flour.  Refined white flour needs to be removed from any healthy diet.  Junk food also includes straight sugar based candies like hard candies and candy bars.  It also includes pies and ice cream. If you need baked goods, then make them from nuts, coconut or other alternative flours than refined white and wheat flours.  Note that whole wheat flour isn’t.  If the flour is ground to a powder, then it is not whole.  This is yet another label that mislabels the food.  Anything that’s ground to a powder consistency is refined to the point where it takes no digestive processing.  Note that I also include Pizza and Hamburgers in the junk food category because the food contains 40% or more refined wheat based flours.

As for commercial sodas, avoid them.  If you must drink sodas and want to be frugal, buy a SodaStream carbonator and carbonate your own water.  A SodaStream will save you money over time and prevent you from having to carry home heavy bottles of soda water.  If you can afford the costs and want to deal with carrying heavy bottles home, buy soda water in liter bottles.  Then, use your own sweeteners (like Stevia) and flavorings (like Vanilla) to create your own homemade sodas.  This avoids the acidic issues of commercially produced sodas and it also avoids the unnecessary preservatives and additives that are placed into commercial soda flavorings.  It also avoids the added sugars and potentially unhealthy lab created sweeteners.

Resting body caloric needs

The number one issue when it comes to weight gain or loss is how much to eat.  The suggested daily calorie allotment on the Nutrition Facts label of foods usually shows a 2000 calorie a day and sometimes a 2500 calorie a day value. This labeling implies that this is the number of calories YOU should be eating.  In fact, this assumption is incorrect. You cannot know how many calories per day that your body needs unless you get evaluated by using a device that measures your resting caloric needs.  One such Resting Metabolic measuring device is called the BodyGem.  This device measures several things at once through a mouthpiece where you sit and breathe.  As the devices are quite expensive, they can be found at better health clubs like 24 Hour Fitness.  As part of getting a membership, 24 Hour Fitness will measure your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) with the BodyGem. For example, my resting body caloric needs were tested at 1700 calories per day.  Even more than this, you need to understand what that number represents.  Is that the number at which the body will stay in equilibrium (i..e, no gain and no loss)?  Or, is that the number at which the body will gain or lose weight?  This information was not made clear to me.  So, getting yourself tested is only half of the battle.  You need to make sure you understand what that number represents.

Calorie?

Many people just assume that people know what a calorie represents.  In fact, most people don’t.  One calorie is the amount of food it takes to raise one liter of water one degree when that food is burned.  So, they burn the food in a controlled environment and then determine the how many calories the food is based on how much it raises the water temperature.  Note, however, that burning food is not an identical process the body uses to convert the food into energy.  Burning something is a combustion chemical process.  The body doesn’t use combustion to convert the food into energy. Instead, it relies on lock and key chemicals (solvents) to dissolve the molecular bonds of the foods. Thus, a calorie is only a representative measure of how the body works.  It’s symbolic and is allegedly equivalent enough that it works.  So, we’ve all taken for granted the calorie and what it represents when it may, in fact, not be as accurate as we would like.  For the sake of argument, however, we will assume that the calorie as measured is accurate for the purposes of this article.

Unrealistic labeling

Unfortunately, the FDA and the food industry are both working together to keep the public misinformed.  It’s unfortunate, but the food labels are really not there to help consumers.  The Nutrition Facts label is probably the only label on the package that you can trust as far as sheer numbers go.  So, what is inaccurate about the labeling?  Well, let’s start with the numbers of servings.  Realistic labeling for a small package of chips should state 1 serving per package.  Instead, many food manufacturers break down what should be a single serving into multiple servings.  So, you might find that single serving package stated as 2.5 servings.  So, the entire nutrition facts will only show you the amounts for 1 sub-serving of that bag of chips (which is about 1/3 of the package).  Ok, so who’s going to eat 1/3 of a package and put it away? For many reasons, this labeling idea is stupid.  First, it’s a single serving package and should be treated and labeled that way. Second, no one will store 2/3 of the package for later consumption as it will be stale in only a few hours.  But, the casual consumer might not look at the number of servings and assume that they ate 80 calories when they, in fact, just ate ~240 calories.

The numbers of servings issue is but one on the label.  In addition to the above, the Nutrition Facts lists total Daily Value (DV%) based on a 2000 or 2500 calorie per day diet.  Again, you need to know if your body gains or loses fat based on those assumptions.  If your body gains at 2000 per day, then you shouldn’t be using those DV values as a guide.  You will need to calculate your own Daily Values for yourself based on the Nutrition Facts panel.

Other mislabeling issues include the front of the package.  Again, based on the number of servings they put into the Nutrition Facts panel, they can then say ’80 Calories Per Serving’ on the front of the package.  This then makes the consumer assume that because it appears to be a single serving package that the entire package contains 80 calories. Again, mislabeling at its finest.

What it comes down to is read the Nutrition Facts label closely and read two pieces of information: Numbers of Servings and Calories Per Serving.  Then multiply that out in your head to find out how many REAL calories are in that package.  Remember: Numbers of Servings * Calories Per Servings = Total Calories in package.  Always determine this before you put that food into your cart.  What you think may look like 80 calories may end up being 500 calories.

Eating Out

With laws being enacted in many states requiring restaurants to put nutritional information on the menu, you can now see that Pepper Encrusted New York Strip with Penne Pasta and Spinach is 1500 calories.  1500 calories!  That’s nearly my entire daily allotment of calories in one meal!  Combine that with their 800 calorie desert and you’re well over your daily recommended intake with one single meal!  That doesn’t even take into account breakfast and lunch you ate earlier.

Weight Loss

It’s simple, to lose weight you need a calorie deficit.  That means that you take in less calories than your body expends in a day.  With a calorie deficit, the body reaches into its fat stores to provide energy.  This means you can’t eat that 2300 calorie meal combined with breakfast and lunch and expect to lose weight.  It won’t happen.  In fact, that’s the recipe for weight gain.  This will, over time, add pounds to the hips and give you the spare tire that you don’t want.  It makes you buy bigger clothes and feel bad about yourself.  But, the food industry feeds other industries including the health industry, the insurance industry, the hospitals and on the other side, the food industry itself, the restaurant industry and even the clothing industry (as you get bigger).  So, eating more and gaining more weight gives you incentive to spend more money on health and weight related issues (including gym memberships, supplements, weight loss fads, diet supplements and so on).

The simple truth about weight loss: you lose weight through a calorie deficit.  You have to eat less than your body expends.  Yes, this means you need to remain hungrier than you’ve ever been.  But, hungry means your body is losing weight.  You can’t lose weight without being hungry at times.  But, the desperate hunger you feel initially will subside over time as your body pulls from the fat stores and gets used to less calories.

Calories per day

This is yet another misnomer.  We think of our bodies in terms of a 24 hour period and how many calories we shove into it during this period.  This is wrong.  The body doesn’t know the concept of a day (or a 24 hour period).  The body utilizes a continuous cycle of processing.  When you eat, you interrupt the fat loss process by adding external calories.  Once those calories are finished being processed by the body, the body can then go back to utilizing internal calories from its own stores.   This means smarter eating.  When you do eat, eat foods that process completely to give maximum nutrition and then allow the body to go back to processing internal stores. This means smaller meals more often to reduce food processing times.  Large meals keep your body processing external foods far longer.  With a larger meal, there is a large likelyhood that your large meal will still be processing once you start your next meal.  So, your body never gets into fat loss mode between meals.

Instead, you need to think of your body as a constant processing machine.  It doesn’t recognize a 24 hour day.  It continually processes.  So, you need to think about eating foods not in a 24 hour period but on a continuous basis.  So, about every 2 waking hours you should eat a small meal.  That’s the necessary amount of time it takes to process the small meal. You do not need to eat while sleeping.  In fact, the sleep fasting period lets your body burn fat. However, if you go too long between meals, the body may go into survival mode and conserve.  Adding a small meal keeps the body aware that it is receiving external fuel and helps prevent survival conservation mode.  Note that the body’s conservation mechanism can help you lose weight (as well as gain it), so you need to understand how to manage that by eating small meals.

Lower Calorie Foods

By reading the Nutrition Facts panel closely (including numbers of servings) you can accurately determine if that food fits within your calorie requirements.  For example, you can eat that cookie if you want.  But, if you’re looking at 200-300 calories per meal, that 160 calorie cookie is over half of that meal.  You can do it, but you need to readjust your meal intake accordingly.

Eating Out Continued

Once you get into eating smaller meals more often, you may find that eating out is a thing of the past. It’s almost impossible to find restaurants that will serve you a 200-300 calorie meal.  Most average meals in restaurants are around 800-1200 per meal.  You can limit this by leaving food on the plate, but that’s a waste of money.  If you’re with friends, they may think you’re odd not eating an entire meal.  I find it simpler to make meals for myself at home.   On the other hand, you do need a cheat meal occasionally to keep the body off-guard and kick it out of survival conservation mode.  So, your cheat meal should be a ‘standard’ meal you will find at a restaurant, in addition to your 200-300 calorie per meal meals every 2 hours. You should add a cheat meal no more than once per week.

Starch and Weight

Because starch is a big staple on our plates, we must acknowledge the role it plays in our health.  We cannot deny that starchy foods are a contributor to our obesity.  Most starchy foods are combined with fat and that’s a recipe for fat storage.  The reason, starchy foods raise blood insulin levels and insulin is a carrier to bring the fat into our cells for storage.  So, the more insulin the body produces, the more likely you are to store fat.  When combined with an overly large calorie meal, these body processes are perfectly aligned to store the fat in our cells.  Because we continue to eat the same way day in and out, we do not give our bodies a chance to release the fat.  So, more and more storage of fat is added and never removed.  Thus, we get fatter and fatter to the point of obesity.  As a result of this, we need to put starch into perspective.  This means, reducing the amount of starches you eat at a meal and reduce their overall importance in the meal itself.

Losing Fat?

If you’re committed to losing the fat, you need to understand the body’s food and survival mechanisms, food labeling, foods that work for you and nutrition.  Our bodies were designed to be hunters and gatherers.  That means we eat meals when we find foods in the wild.  Once we find them (or hunt them), we would basically eat smaller meals more often rather than sitting down for a big meal.  We would also expend our energy engaging in food search. The body’s internal processes have not changed since the days of the hunters and gatherers.  But, our meals and energy uses have.   We now eat more calories in one sitting than ever in human existence.  We sit on couches watching TV, web surfing and playing video games.  The body just can’t cope with the excessive calories and, thus, adds the fat to the stores for future famine.  In fact, eating too many calories triggers the body’s survival conservation mode by storing the fat for famine situations.  The famine situation never comes, so we get fatter and fatter.  Just as not eating enough food can trigger storage conservation, so does eating too much.

There is a middle ground where you need to eat small meals to keep the body’s food processing active, but not enough food to kick in fat storage mode.  This is the balance in eating that you need to observe.  The balance is in calories that you eat, but not always what you eat.  The specific foods that you eat fills in the blanks for vitamins and minerals.  Limited calorie intake prevents fat storage and encourages fat store release.  Note that as our foods have become more calorie dense, they have been lacking in vitamins and minerals.  So, you may find that you need to add supplements for vitamins and minerals.  I recommend individual vitamins in gelatin capsules versus packed tablets containing recommended Daily Values (which could be inaccurate).

On a final note, once you get to your target body shape and weight, you will need to find your equilibrium mode to maintain that weight.  To do this, increase your calorie intake for each meal and eventually you will find that equilibrium. You will also need to eat more food the more active you become.  If you drastically increase your daily activity, you will need to compensate for that activity by increasing food intake to prevent, again, survival conservation mode (among other health issues that could arise).

Disclaimer:  This information is not intended to be used to as a diagnosis, to diagnose or as a diet.  It is strictly to be used for information purposes.  You will need to find your own way to lose the weight.  These suggestions may work to help you understand the body’s processes, but you will need to choose the foods that keep you healthy and let you lose the fat.  Everybody’s body is different, so this information may not work for you.  You should also consult with a doctor before launching any calorie restricted diet to determine any pre-existing conditions prior to dieting. This information is provided as is.  All risk of use of this information is assumed by the reader.  This information is copyright 2009 Randosity.  All rights reserved.

Getting a virus: Clearing it up faster

Posted in Health, health and beauty by commorancy on October 25, 2009

I’ve recently discussed what I do to help prevent the cold and flu virus, that one is the longer of these two articles.  So, this one will be much shorter.  If you do get a cold, the flu or even a throat infection, you can help reduce the symptoms by using a simple remedy: Zinc.  But, not just any zinc.  I personally use Zicam.  The reason I use Zicam is the formulations available.  While the zinc tablets work, they taste nasty and only coat your throat.  This can work, but I find that the other Zicam formulations work much better.

Gel Swabs

The Zicam gel swabs are my favorite to use.  The way this works is to swab the inside if your nostrils and then close the nostrils just briefly after swabbing.   Apparently, as I understand how this works, the zinc in Zicam kills viruses on contact and, at the same time, prevents new viruses from taking hold.  Since the viruses apparently start and multiply in the nasal cavity, the application of zinc coats your nasal passages and prevents the virus from taking hold and building full colonies.  So, the theory goes, the symptoms are reduced and the length of infection shortened.  For me, this works.

Reduction in symptoms

Whenever I get sick with a virus, I find that using zinc (Zicam variety) reduces sore throats from 5-7 days to about 2-3 days.  So, without zinc, the cold may last 2 weeks.  With Zicam, I find that my colds are over in about 7-9 days.  For me, the symptoms of the cold are greatly reduced as well.

Other zinc formulations

You may get similar results with the lozenges, but I prefer the Zicam formulations.  If another company begins making a similar formulation to the gel swabs, I may try those out. Right now it appears that Zicam is the only brand with this formulation.  I will say that I have also tried Zicam’s nasal spray and throat spray.  For the same reason that I don’t like the lozenges, I don’t like the throat spray (it tastes nasty).  As far as the nasal spray formulation, I don’t like spraying this up inside my nose due to irritation.  So, I stick with the swabs which simply coats the opening to your nose and doesn’t have taste or irritation problems.  Apparently, though, the gel does move up into the nose through breathing, but I don’t seem to feel it like I do with the spray.

So, for prevention, follow my previous article.  But, once you get sick, try using the Zicam gel swabs (or a knock off if you can find one) and see how well they work for you.  If they do nothing, don’t buy them again. But, if they reduce the severity of the symptoms, as I expect they will, then I find that it’s well worth the $12 for a box.

Sunscreens vs Natural Tanning

Posted in fun in the sun, health and beauty, tanning by commorancy on May 25, 2009

Every year at this time, the zealots come out of the woodwork promoting sunscreens. After all, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry.  The truth is, no one has any idea of long term toxicity risks with regards to the use of sunscreen chemicals. Worse, people slather them all over their bodies without thought to the fact that your skin is the largest organ on your body. Is it worth the long term exposure and unknown health risks with the use of Parsol 1789, Mexoryl or Methoxcinnimate (or any other chemicals)? Unless you have a form of albinism or vitaligo, you should attempt to utilize the skin’s natural tanning properties over the use of chemicals in sunscreens. The natural sunscreen that appears in the skin is melanin. Melanin is much more broad spectrum than any lab created chemical at blocking the various wavelengths of UV (other than UVC, which doesn’t reach Earth).

UVA and UVB

Sunscreens protect you mainly from UVB (think of the B to mean ‘Burn’).  These rays are shorter wavelengths and only penetrate shallow skin surface layers.  These are the layers that lead to burning.  UVA is a much longer wavelength and is associated with deeper skin level exposure (and is thought to aid in premature aging).  Sunscreens have limited ability to protect you from UVA.  Note that the Sun’s natural mix of UVA and UVB (that reaches the earth) is up to 5% UVB and 95% UVA.  However, during some times of the year, the UVB can slightly higher than 5% (where the UV index is at its highest).  These are the times where burning is very easy.

Bad Burns

The use of sunscreen chemicals can promote a bad burn. The reasoning is very clear. When you use these chemicals to block the sun, these chemicals prevent tanning. So, the one time you forget the sunscreen, improperly apply it or forget to reapply it, you will likely get a very bad burn. Even though many dermatologists recommend and endorse the use of sunscreens, utilizing the skin’s own tanning properties helps prevent a bad burn. Melanin works 24/7 and doesn’t need reapplication every hour or two. Although, a natural tan does wear off over several weeks if you don’t keep the tan going.  On the other hand, sunscreens require frequent reapplication (probably every hour, especially if you’re in water or are sweating).  The UVA chemicals actually break down rapidly (as quickly as 30 minutes depending on brand, quality and body chemistry) once applied, so you need to reapply a lot more often than you think to maintain UVA protection. The UVB chemicals also break down, but much more slowly. Having active UVB protection without UVA isn’t that helpful, though. So, you need to reapply.

The point, however, is that you want to avoid a bad burn at all costs.  You want to tan and not burn.  Thus, the use of sunscreens does not promote natural tanning and promotes forgetting to reapply which can then lead to accidental burns after the chemicals have stopped working.  Remember that sunscreens give no warning when they have worn off. Worse, you won’t know your skin is burned until 3-6 hours after sun exposure.

Vacation and Tanning

If you will be traveling to a sunny destination, it is better to build up a natural base tan than constantly applying sunscreen every hour. You can build your tan slowly and steadily outdoors or you can do it in a tanning bed. Nothing ruins a vacation more than a bad burn, however. Having a base tan allows you to be outdoors without worrying about getting a bad burn. Yes, you can still get burned even with a tan, so you should always be cautious.  But, having a base tan reduces your chance of a bad burn substantially over forgetting to apply sunscreen.

Beginning your Tan

To obtain a base tan, start the tanning process at least 6 weeks out from when you leave to go on vacation.  You can do this outdoors or in a tanning bed.  Note, however, that tanning beds are concentrated, but also timed.  So, for example, 12 minutes in a high pressure bed is equivalent to about 2 hours outdoors.  So, if you can only do about 15 minutes outdoors in midday sun, then you should start at about 6 minutes in a 12 minute bed.  You would think to start at about 2-3 minutes, but 6 minutes isn’t enough to burn you in a bed in one session.  Needless to say, always discuss tanning bed times with your salon professional.

Another note about tanning in a tanning bed.  DO NOT USE SPF SUNSCREEN WHEN TANNING IN A TANNING BED! This is emphasized because it wastes your money.  Yes, you can use low SPF to aid tanning outdoors only, but never use SPF in a bed.  Even though a tanning bed mimics the UV from the sun, it isn’t the sun.   It is also time controlled.. and this is very important to understand.  Time controlled means that you do not need to worry about accidentally getting too much exposure.  The maximum you can get in one session is equivalent to 2 hours outdoors at maximum bed time.  Because the time is controlled and there’s little risk of a burn, there is no need for sunscreen.  Further, using a sunscreen in a bed is a waste of money.  If you spend $10-$40 per session, using SPF sunscreen completely prevents the rays from tanning you.  So, you will have spent your money for nothing, literally. When using tanning beds, you are paying for access to the UV. SPF lotions prevent that UV from tanning you. Don’t do this unless you really like throwing your money away.

Reading your Skin

Understand that a burn is red and melanin is also red (initially.. and oxidises to brown).  So, which is a burn and which is melanin?  If there’s heat, redness and/or discomfort (followed by peeling), then it’s a burn.  If you see redness only without any heat or discomfort, then that’s melanin.  Controlled tanning will allow you to build up a base tan without peeling.  If you peel, then you’ve 1) burned your skin and 2) lost your tanning efforts.  You want to gain color slowly to prevent burning and peeling.

Lotions

When tanning in a tanning bed or outdoors, using a high quality tanning lotion is important.  A lotion hydrates your skin before, during and after UV exposure.  So, always use a lotion as sun exposure is very dehydrating.  Tanning bed lotions can be used outdoors.  However, most outdoor lotions cannot be used in a tanning bed (it can cause reactions with the acrylic surfaces).  So, if you want to combine bed tanning and outdoor tanning, buy a lotion that works in a bed and also use it outdoors.  Again, make sure the lotion does not have any sunscreen at all.  You can buy a sunscreen lotion if you really need it for outdoor use.

There are various lotions on the market from various vendors.  The one thing I will caution you about is that some tanning bed lotions can be very expensive and, yet, completely ineffective.  You want to find a lotion that works for you and that provides results.  However, don’t be fooled by ‘Triple Bronzing Formulas’ or ‘Quadruple Bronzing Formulas’.  These are buzzwords that mean they have added either 1) color or 2) self-tanners (yes, like the ones you can get at the drug store).  If you want to see how you are progressing naturally, make sure to NOT buy any lotion with a self-tanner.  This may mean you have to buy the lotion from the Internet (which are cheaper this way anyway) than buying it from the salon.

You will need to read the label for self-tanners.  The two common self-tanners are dihydroxyacetone and erythrulose.  So, if you find these ingredients in the lotion, put it back on the shelf and find something else.  You may find that your salon does not carry any lotions without self-tanners.  The reason that salons carry ‘Bronzing formulas’ is that these lotions give immediate color (or, at least, within 4 hours).  This immediate gratification supposedly brings back the customers.  However, don’t be fooled.  You want a real base tan, not a self-tanner tan.  So, skip self-tanner bronzer lotions and find a lotion without self-tanners.

Here are a couple of manufacturers that make lotions without self-tanners:  Designer Skin (Intrigue and a select others) and Hoss Sauce (Dark, Super Dark and Ultra Dark).  I personally have found Hoss Sauce to be more effective than Designer Skin, but your mileage may vary.  There are some lotions that also offer tingle, hot or cold sensations when you are tanning.  Avoid these until you have a base tan.  Otherwise, these may interfere your tanning or increase your chances of a burn.

Note: Self-tanner color offers no protection from UVA or UVB.  Don’t be fooled by the color from a self-tanner.  It offers no protection from the sun and, again, can encourage a bad burn.  When trying to obtain a base tan, always use a lotion without self-tanners!

Tanning Beds

When tanning at a salon, you will find many different tanning beds.  The least expensive beds (sometimes $6-8 a session) are the least effective beds at tanning.  They should have a ratio of 5% UVB to 95% UVA (just like the sun).  However, you may find these beds aren’t that effective.  There can be many reasons for this.  Cleanliness in a salon is very important.  Bulb age is also important.  Many tanning salons have these beds booked every open hour of the salon.  These bulbs, then, get a lot of use.  Many salon owners try to cut costs by not replacing the bulbs as often as they should.  If you find that you get nothing out of a bed, the two main reasons are that 1) the acrylic is dirty and 2) the bulbs are old.  When I say the acrylic is dirty, I’m not talking about the part where you lay.  I’m talking about the underside of it.  These acrylic surfaces must be removed about once a week and thoroughly cleaned on both sides.  The bulbs themselves should also be wiped down to prevent any buildup on the bulb.  Doing this frequently increases the tanning capability of the bed to what it should be.

Many salons pride themselves on thoroughly cleaning the bed surface, but how often do they remove the acrylics and clean the underside?  Not often in many cases.  Yes, even the ‘expensive salons’ as well.  So, you should ask the salesperson how often the underside gets cleaned.

As far as tanning capacity, on the high end beds (high pressure beds), it is not uncommon to find up to 18000-20000 watts in the bed.  The low end beds might provide around 9000-11000 watts.  The difference in wattage (and UV output) is substantial.  The high pressure beds, then, will probably run between 8-12 minutes for the maximum time of that bed per session.  Low pressure beds might run between 20-30 minutes.  So, if time is important to you, the higher pressure beds get you in and out faster.

Note, never tan in a bed and then immediately lay out or stay outside for extended time without sunscreen. You are asking for a bad burn.  Do not do this.  If you tan in a bed and then end up outdoors in the sun the same day, wear some sunscreen outdoors.  Or, better, don’t tan in a bed on the day you plan on being outdoors.

Tricks for tanning in a bed

When trying to get your base tan in a tanning bed, you will need to move around in the bed.  Don’t lay absolutely still.  For example, lay on your back for a bit, then lay on one side, then the other, raise your arms, etc.  Doing this will give you a much more even tan than lying perfectly still.  If you stay still, you will get telltale bed marks on certain places like your shoulder blades and between your buttocks (where the acrylic touches).  Moving around prevents these marks.  You might even turn over and lay on your stomach for a while (even in a bed where you don’t need to turn).  You can also use a standup tanning booth to avoid these issues.

How long does it take?

This question can really only be answered by the salon operator after they have assessed your skin type.  Once they determine your skin type, they can tell you what you need to do in order to progress.  However, you need to read your skin after you have tanned at a salon to know if you are going too fast.  If, after a session, you have no color or redness by the next day, then you may be progressing too slowly.  However, if you are red, hot and having discomfort, you are moving too fast (burned).  If you do get a burn from a bed or outdoors, do not tan until the burn has gone away (takes several days).

For the lightest skins, it may take between 6-9 weeks to build a minimal base tan.  For medium skin tones, you can probably see a base tan in 3-6 weeks.  For dark tones, you probably already have a base tan, but if you are a lighter skinned, it may take 2-3 weeks in a bed.  As a side note, dark tones can still get darker.  Melanin works the same way in all people who can produce melanin.

Again, these are only estimates.  You should always discuss your skin type with the salon owner to set up a proper regimen that works for you.

Melanin Colors

This portion is to set expectations on how your skin may look tanned.  Note, there are two different types or melanin (pigment): 1) pheomelanin (reds and yellows) and 2) eumelanin (dark browns).  The darkness of color depends on which types of melanin your body produces and the concentration of each type. Lighter skinned people tend to produce more pheomelanin (reds and yellows) and less eumelanin (dark shades).  This mix gives the redish and yellowish copper or ‘golden’ colors. Darker skinned and olive toned people tend to produce much more eumelanin and with less  pheomelanin.  This color becomes much darker brown to black.   Darkest toned people tend to produce nearly all eumelanin and in high concentrations. So, depending on your body’s type of melanocytes, your body may produce a range between both of these types of melanin.  You’ll just need assess your tone after you’ve tanned.  This also means that, depending on your skin type and melanin mix, you may not be able to turn very dark brown (if that’s what you are wanting).   Or, alternatively, you may find that you get darker much faster than you thought.

You can gauge your skin’s tone by your hair color.  The darker your hair, the more eumelanin your skin is likely able to produce.  Melanin is also used to produce hair color.  So, red haired people will likely produce more pheomelanin.  You can see this color in the freckles of many red haired people.  Blonds are likely to produce much more pheomelanin than eumelanin (blond would be the yellow melanin).  Black haired people should be able to produce the darkest brown eumelanin tones.  Note that hair color should only be used as a guide as some dark haired people may only produce a lighter ‘golden’  tan.

Melanin of all types will eventually oxidise to a brown color from its initial color and deepen the color of the tan.  This oxidation will make the familiar brownish tones (yes, even the reds and yellows will oxidise).

Other Benefits

Getting UV exposure to your skin also helps maintain health with Vitamin D.  Sunscreens prevent the creation of Vitamin D as UV is blocked.  So, getting some UV exposure aids in stimulating the creation of beneficial vitamins.  So, before you immediately put on that sunscreen, leave it off for a small amount of time to get your vitamin D.  Put it on later to prevent the burning.

Suntans, Skin Types and Hormones

Some people feel that a suntan looks bad and prefer not to have a tan.  Again, that thinking promotes a bad burn when you do need to be outdoors.  Some people may think this way because they haven’t previously been able to tan.  Some skin types (type I) can’t readily tan.  For Type 1 and Type 2 skins, there is a product that may soon be on the market to help.  It is a peptide (melanocyte stimulating hormone) that stimulates the melanocytes to produce melanin in individuals who do not have this hormone or where the hormone is ineffective.  For many people, this simulated hormone works and allows people to tan in the sun or in a tanning bed when they previously couldn’t get a tan. Of course, this hormone only works if the melanocytes are functioning properly.  By having a base tan, this prevents burns and also helps reduce premature aging by blocking UVA.  Note, however, that you must get sun exposure to obtain a tan even with the use of this hormone.  It does not tan you without sun exposure.   So, the use of the hormone still requires UV exposure to obtain the initial tan.

Overall, sunscreens may not be long term healthy for your skin.   Getting a tan requires some sun damage to obtain the tan.  But, the melanin helps reduce the risk of burns and other related issues.  It’s up to you to choose what you want to do, but nothing in life is without risks.  Know that a tan is a natural skin process.  Placing chemicals on your skin is not natural.  Even though you cannot see or feel any damage by using sunscreen chemicals, that doesn’t mean no damage exists.  When you get a sunburn, you feel it and know the skin is damaged.  With sunscreen, there’s just no way to know if something you get later in life was related to earlier years of using large amounts of sunscreen.  It’s your choice, however.

Skin Cancer and Burning

Yes, I know, we’ve all heard the rhetoric:  Exposure to UV causes cancer.   I’ll leave this one for you to decide.  But, I will say is this.  Tanning beds produce UV.  The Sun produces UV.   UV is UV is UV.  It doesn’t matter whether it comes from the Sun or from a flourescent bulb in a tanning bed, it’s still UV.   But, as I stated above, the difference between a tanning bed and laying outdoors: one is controlled, one isn’t.  Again, it’s for you to decide which to choose.  But, because of varying conditions with laying outdoors, you could end up burned and not know it for several hours.  On the other hand, a salon will assess your skin and put you in a bed that’s timed based on your skin tone and type.  So, they are trying to keep you from getting burned in a Salon.  The Sun is not controlled or timed to shut off.  This means, if you lay out longer than you had wanted or get caught up in an activity, you can easily forget and burn yourself.  Burning is definitely damage to the skin and it is theorized that this damage leads to cancer… so you want to avoid a burn at all costs.

UPDATE: World Health Oganization (WHO) lists sunbeds (specifically) and all UV exposure as fully carcinogenic at all wavelengths (highest risk)

A new study conducted with mice, that I’ve yet to read, has classified sunbeds specifically and all UV exposure as the highest risk of causing skin cancer.  I’m not sure what prompted this change in view, other than a single study, but they have made this change.  Clearly, one study is not enough to make this determiniation, but that is exactly what the World Health Organization is doing.  There must be some subtext here that’s prompting this change.  Perhaps the sunscreen industry is losing more money to people choosing to tan rather than slather on the sunscreen.

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