Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Causes of Obesity in the US

Posted in food and dining, Health, obesity by commorancy on April 10, 2020

buffetThere have been many people espousing different ideas around the obesity problem within the US. One I’ve recently come across is Dr. V, otherwise known as Duc C Vuong. He has a YouTube channel and attempts to impart the reason for obesity. I have other thoughts. Let’s explore.

Medical Doctor Credentials

One of the problems I have with MDs espousing their opinions, particularly on platforms like YouTube is that far too many viewers believe this advice wholeheartedly simply because this person has a degree. They don’t rationally think for themselves and use their own critical thinking skills to understand which parts of his extolling are valid and which parts are fallacy. Opinions are always opinions no matter from whom they originate.

When it comes to obesity, there are many thought rationales. One just needs to peruse the virtual book shelves at Amazon to see how many weight loss books there are, each with differing opinions on the topic. Let me dissect his special brand of thought and then talk about what I believe to be the actual reason for obesity.

In all of this, let’s keep in mind one tenet: KISS or Keep It Simple Stupid. It’s a phrase that means don’t go looking for complex answers when there’s a much simpler explanation staring you in the face.

Dr. V’s explanations are too long winded, complex and give too much credit to psychological pressures. Psychological pressures do play a part in the role of obesity, but not so substantially that you can’t get around it.

Psychology and Weight Loss

Dr. V explains that “Circle of Influence” is a big factor in obesity. What does he mean by “Circle of Influence”. These friendships are all psychological. The circle encompasses whom you choose to befriend and hang around with socially. These people can influence your social interactions and, more specifically, your eating behaviors.

This is true, but to a point. Unfortunately, Dr. V tends to give way too much credit to this aspect of peer pressure than is due. You don’t just bumble your way through life being towed along by your friends. Everyone wants to be known as a unique individual with individual likes and tastes. Yes, we are influenced by what our friends like, dislike and sometimes eat. However, we do also have our own tastes, including taste in food. Just because a friend likes sushi doesn’t mean I must also like it.

If peer pressure were the complete answer to obesity, then cutting off your friends should cause weight loss. Does it? No. Your eating habits are your own and you are responsible for how you eat. You may be influenced in some small way by what your friends are eating or the peer pressure they apply to you, but even when you are alone you’re still going to eat at your favorite restaurants in the same quantities. Is that psychological pressure? No, that’s personal habit.

In other words, blaming your obesity on your “circle of influence” is like blaming your friends for all of your problems. You can’t do this. Everyone must take responsibility for their own actions, including what they put in their mouths. No one forces you to shove food in your mouth. You do that all on your own. You can make smart choices or you can make not-so-smart choices.

Restaurant Influence on Obesity

With that said, there is one level of influence that does matter and is much larger than “circle of influence”… and it definitely matters a great deal. This influence is a restaurant menu. When you sit down to eat at a restaurant, we tend to assume the plates are mostly “set in stone”. What I mean by that is that the entrée comes to you as-is. A big part of this issue is that you have to buy the entrée sight-unseen. This means that you won’t really know how much food that plate holds is until the plate arrives from the kitchen.

This also means that it’s difficult to know how much food you will be consuming until you see the plate. Additionally, the pressure to send perfectly good plates of food back to the kitchen is also almost never considered. Most people won’t do this because they realize it will probably be thrown away and no one wants to see that happen to perfectly good food. Anyway, who would send a plate back to the kitchen because the portion size is “too big”? No one.

This is a ultimately a psychological pressure that goes back to our parents. Parents chide us for not eating all of the food on our plates. We continue to live with this stigma into adulthood. It stays with us every time we sit down to eat a meal. Restaurants prey on that. They give us excessively large plates of food knowing that patrons will typically eat every bite. This leads to obesity.

On the flip side, though, restaurants also do this because of cost to enjoyment ratio. Restaurants want to get maximum bank out of every plate served. Offering up larger portion sizes equates to a happier customer and larger per plate fees. Restaurants have no desire to decrease portion sizes to be inline with the recommended daily intake. Instead, they wish to line their banks with lots of greenbacks. To do that, they have to provide a good “bang for the buck”, so to speak. That’s exactly what restaurants do, but at the cost of serving way too much food and contributing to obesity.

This means that restaurant goers need to wise up to this ploy. When you eat at a restaurant, it’s important to understand that the restaurant is planning to serve you way too much food. Way, way too much food. This is something everyone needs to understand. It doesn’t matter if it’s McDonald’s, Chili’s or Olive Garden. All restaurants do it (except one type which I’ll talk about in a moment). McDonald’s (and other fast food) does it through its “meal deals”. Chili’s and Olive Garden play this game through oversized sized plates and sometimes all-you-can-eat breadsticks or salad.

In recent years, some states have forced restaurants to fork over the estimated calorie content of its meals, sides and drinks. This has helped some, but some restaurants have realized the need to pull this information off of the main menu and instead offer a separate calorie menu that you must ask to see. They don’t leave this calorie version on the table. Though some restaurants do have it on the menu (particularly restaurants that have a “health conscious” bent and some fast food places), many choose not to do this and instead begrudgingly offer up a separate menu… a menu that, unfortunately, can be exceedingly difficult to read with extremely small text. Worse, in these separate menu restaurants, if you ask for one, you may be greeted with “Sorry, I can’t find one”… leaving you high and dry to know how much food you’re actually eating.

Five Star Restaurants

The exception to the above for portion sizes can be five star rated restaurants. Instead, of serving you excessive sized meals, they tend to serve much smaller portion sizes. This occurs for a number reasons. The first reason is cost. Most five star restaurants purchase their foods fresh almost every day. The second reason keeps their quality high. What at you consume at a five star restaurant is almost assuredly the highest quality ingredients possible. These ingredients are usually hand selected by the chef. Though, sometimes they are delivered from higher quality grocers. The third reason is variety. You can find more exotic type meats on the menu, such as pheasant, quail and even Japanese Wagyu.

When you order a meal at a five star restaurant, you’ll receieve a smaller portion size more inline with the calorie levels you might find on the government’s daily intake requirements. This isn’t always true, however. Many five star restaurants utilize heavy cream, wine and other ingredients to flavor the meal. This can add hidden calories. As for presentation, you can usually find your five star meal stacked as layers in the center of an excessively large plate or bowl. Potatoes on bottom, then veggies and then protein on top with some kind of fresh garnish. It’s neatly stacked on the plate to make it presentable and pretty. Some chefs plate their meals with other layouts, but this is a common chef presentation. It looks good and it keeps the rest of the plate neat and tidy.

That’s not to say that all five star restaurant portions are small, but many are. The unfortunate problem with these restaurants is that you’re likely to pay at least $100 per plate or more for your meal. While in some cases these expensive meals may offer a more healthy food choice, it’s way too pricey to eat every day for most people. It’s also not a feasible meal choice option. Even here, you have to be careful because hidden calories can still have more calories than you might expect.

Bars and Drinks

Here’s a second area where there is zero nutritional oversight by the government. Alcoholic beverage creators are not under ANY obligation to add nutrition labeling. In this day and age where the “Nutrition Facts” label is extremely important in understanding what we are eating, it is incredibly disheartening to find that wine, beer and spirit manufacturers STILL aren’t required to place a “Nutrition Facts” panel onto their products.

How is it that the alcohol industry has remained so unregulated for nutrition when it is one of the biggest sources of unlabeled calories? Let’s explore to better understand these unlabeled calories.

Red Wine

A standard bottle of Red Wine contains 750ml or a little over 25oz. You can get five standard glasses of wine from a 750ml bottle of wine. We’re talking a standard sized pour here, which is approximately 5 ounces. A 5 ounce glass of red wine has between 120 and 130 calories per glass. If you consume 2 glasses, you’ve consumed 240-260 extra calories on top of anything else you’ve consumed.

White Wine

White wines fare a little better at around 115 calories per 5 ounces.

Beer

A 12 ounce beer can contains 154 calories. A pint glass of draft ale (the standard size served in bars) is 16oz (473ml) and contains 196 calories. Drinking two, three or four of these adds up fast.

Liquor

A shot of alcohol, about 1.5oz (44ml), ranges between 96 and 115 calories depending on the specific hard spirit. This category doesn’t include specialty liqueurs like Bailey’s Irish Creme, any flavor of Schnapps, Kalúha, Midori or any other sweetened alcoholic liqueurs. That’s next.

Liqueur

A shot of Bailey’s Irish Creme (44ml) contains around 147 calories approaching the number of calories in a 12oz (355ml) can of beer. A shot of Midori, however, contains only 80 calories (less than a shot of many liquors). The range for liqueur is somewhere between 80 and well over 147 calories per shot! These sweet alcoholic beverages can really land on the waistline fast.

Whiskey (or Whisky depending on your part of the world)

One shot of whiskey (86 proof) contains around 105 calories. From livestrong.com:

If your whiskey or vodka is 40 percent alcohol, or labeled as 80 proof, you’ll get less than 100 calories from the 14 grams of alcohol in a 1.5-ounce shot. Having the same amount of 45 percent whiskey or vodka, which is known as 90 proof, will give you 110 calories from the nearly 16 grams of alcohol. A 50 percent whiskey or vodka liquor, or 100 proof, has closer to 125 calories from nearly 18 grams of alcohol, in that same 1.5-ounce shot.

As the proof increases, so too do the calories. If you’re unsure of the proof of what you’re drinking at a bar, ask the bartender to allow you read the bottle or ask them for the proof.

Alcohol’s Double Whammy

Unfortunately, alcoholic beverages are also a double-whammy food. If you consume fat along side your wine, that fat (and some of the alcohol) will be taken up much easier (and faster) into adipose tissue due to the presence of the alcohol itself. From vice.com:

First, less than five percent of the alcohol you drink is converted into fat. However, that doesn’t mean it has no effect on weight gain. Rather, alcohol reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy. Just two drinks of vodka and diet lemonade has been shown to cut whole body lipid oxidation—a measure of how much fat your body is burning—by more than 70 percent.

This means that the consumption of alcohol while on a diet can not only lead to halting your fat loss progress, it can actually lead to a net gain in fat with regular binging. This goes with the consumption of any alcohol, not just wine.

Alcohol changes the metabolism due to the alcohol itself and how alcohol is metabolized within the body. You’ll want to carefully consider ingesting alcohol with your meals (or even in general) if you’re concerned about controlling your weight. Overindulgence with alcohol can halt weight loss and actually put on pounds.

Restaurants and Bars

These two institutions in every day life are primarily what’s leading to obesity within America. Eating out and heading to bars are definitely everyday conveniences. One nourishes us (sometimes too much) and the other lets us blot out our everyday pains with the warm and fuzzy of alcohol, making us happy (and loopy).

Both together are what’s leading America to obesity. It’s not brain surgery or rocket science to understand this American dilemma. No one wants to blame restaurants or bars for this, but that’s exactly what we must do. They are leading American’s down the primrose path to obesity.

Psychology of Obesity

Let’s swing back around to psychology and peer pressure. It’s easy to succumb to your friend’s pressures to knock back Jello shots or chug some beer. However, you can say, “No”. If these people are truly your friends, they’ll let it slide. If they won’t, then maybe it’s time to consider new friends.

You don’t have to listen to your friends. You don’t have to chug beer, do shots or do anything you don’t want to do. Eating at restaurants isn’t always necessary and even when you do you can still make smart choices. When at the drive-thru, you don’t need to buy meal deals. If you’re at Olive Garden, ask them not to bring bread or even their bottomless salad. When you order your meal, buy from a menu that lists calories. Choose portion sizes that make sense for what you need to eat to live… keeping firmly in mind the 2000-2200 calorie recommended daily intake.

Home Cooking

Better, create and eat your meals at home. Instead of having to navigate those not-so-great menu choices and attempt to request custom meals from restaurants, eat at home. You can then make choices that fit with your body’s needs. You don’t need to make meals the size of Olive Garden. You can half (or less) the portion size and make smaller meals. This saves on your home food costs and it also means you’re eating healthier, smaller meals.

On the flip side, if you’re consuming a whole chicken in one meal, that’s way too much food. A whole cooked chicken contains between 1190 and 1400 calories for an entire single chicken. If you add onto that bread, mac and cheese, green beans and mashed potatoes, you can easily exceed 2000 calories in a single meal! That doesn’t even take into account the calories in a desert or drinks.

That’s not to say that rotisserie chicken is an unhealthy food, but it IS when eaten to excess. The key to health and maintaining a healthy body weight is eating in moderation… or, more specifically, within the US Government’s daily intake guidelines of around 2000 calories per day.

Isn’t Chinese Food Healthier?

Unfortunately, no. Many Americanized Chinese foods are breaded and fried, making them even less healthy food choices than rotisserie chicken. Breading and frying adds unnecessary calories that you should avoid. However, it is fine to indulge occasionally with these kinds of foods as a treat. Just don’t make them your everyday staple meals.

With Chinese food cooked using mostly veggies and some protein, you’ll need to determine the health of this food for yourself. If it appears to be mostly veggies with limited fat and a reasonable serving of protein, it might be an okay choice. If you want to wok cook at home yourself, you can choose your own oils, veggies and proteins in whatever quantities you are comfortable.

However, even Chinese restaurants fall into the trap of overly large portion sizes when serving to the table. Many Chinese food places even have buffets. Let’s jump right into this one…

Buffets

Chinese restaurants aren’t the only places that choose to offer large food buffet bars. You can find these in many different styles of food. For your weight and your health, you’ll want to completely avoid buffet restaurants. Not only are they not a great deal, they will most definitely inflate your waistline and they can also make you sick.

Buffet restaurants encourage overeating in all of the wrong ways. For consumers to feel that they’ve gotten their money’s worth for a $22 per person fee, you’re going to have to eat what you feel is $22 worth of food. That’s the wrong motivation for eating. You eat to satisfy hunger, not to satisfy your wallet or your guilt for spending.

Buyers remorse is heavy at buffet restaurants. Avoid this guilt entirely. If you must eat out, eat at a restaurant that hands you a menu and makes your food fresh in a kitchen.

There are other more serious health reasons for avoiding buffets to which I discuss in this past Randocity article. Suffice it to say that during winter months, avoiding buffet restaurants is your smartest and healthiest choice. Far too many people touch the serving spoons used to dish up the foods. Unless you plan to wash your hands immediately after plating your food, you’re simply asking to contract the Flu or a Cold virus or even COVID-19.

Restaurant Cleanliness

Ignoring the sanitary issues with buffets mentioned above, it’s way too easy when eating out to contract seasonal viruses even by just sitting at a restaurant table and ordering from a menu. After all, many restaurants barely even clean tables between patrons. When they do wipe down a table, they use a towel that has likely not been sanitized between uses. Think about this for a moment. Worse, when they do choose to wipe down a table, it’s just enough to get the crumbs and sticky off of it. That cloth simply moves the viruses around that were already there (or on the towel). They rarely, if ever, wipe down the seating or other surfaces around the table. Menus fare even worse. Menus are almost never sanitized.

Worse, restaurants with bars have different cleaning routines when it comes to bar glasses. While restaurants do have commercial dishwashers in the kitchen, they take way too long to run a cycle. When bars become low on glassware, the bartenders use a three water bath wash on glasses (soapy water, bleach water, rinse water). The theory is that germs can’t live through this. However, this relies on proper ratios of soap to water and bleach to water. Many restaurants don’t adhere to proper ratios in their zeal to get glasses washed quickly.

This means that your glassware can be contaminated with colds or viruses from a previous use when washed by a bartender. Why is this a problem if you’re not ordering from a bar? Because restaurants which have a bar usually have waitstaff order all drinks from the bartender for speed. This means that even though you didn’t order anything from the bar, you are likely being served in glassware cleaned by the bartender rather than from glassware washed by the dishwasher in the kitchen. This is particularly true of a restaurant during peak hours. If you’ve ever gotten a glass with lipstick on it, this is why. Nasty, right?

While getting sick at a restaurant doesn’t necessarily contribute to obesity directly, it calls out why restaurants aren’t the healthiest places to eat… even above their overly large portion sizes.

Psychology Revisited

Choosing to make your own food at home is really the only choice to reduce obesity. Of course, you also have to make the smart choice. You need to also understand the US Government’s daily recommended guidelines. From the health.gov’s What it is and What it is not information about the Dietary Guidelines:

The main purpose of the Dietary Guidelines is to inform the development of Federal food, nutrition, and health policies and programs. The primary audiences are policymakers, as well as nutrition and health professionals, not the general public.

The difficulty with this “not the general public” statement is that while the USDA and other government institutions try to enforce these guidelines on businesses by setting up such mechanisms as the Nutrition Facts panel on most food products, it has failed to impress the value of these guidelines on actual American consumers. Policymakers don’t care if their constituents become obese. They’re not going to even make obesity a talking point. That leaves only nutrition and health professionals covered. These people are typically only consulted on an ‘as needed’ basis and usually for pay. That leaves the American people in a substantial vacuum for general nutrition advice. Indeed, without this information, there is no advice at all.

Yet, if you read the guidelines, they do offer solid, constructive advice, but they have chosen not to target the general public with this information? How insane is this? Because of this, restaurants, bars and even grocery providers can run amok providing little, if any actual food guidance. It is this policy that leads all other industries by the hand. Yet, this leading hand doesn’t actually lead. It just throws the information out there without anything or anyone on the other side listening.

You can’t teach people how to eat when this information isn’t targeted towards the correct audience.

Schools

This situation get worse before it gets better. Schools simply don’t teach children proper food and nutrition choices. Some schools have limited student access to poorer food choices such as candy bars, soda, chips and deserts. That’s more about preventing those food choices than explaining how these foods can be used in a proper diet. It’s easier to withhold the foods rather than explain proper food choices.

Worse, many public schools don’t even offer nutrition programs as part of the curriculum. Sure, they offer home economics, but these classes don’t impart nutrition. They impart the knowledge of how to operate a home, including cooking.

Schools, in fact, also play a large part in America’s obesity. This is partly because of the lack of curriculum, but also because of bad cafeteria food choices during lunch. School lunches can be some of the worst teachers of food choices. Instead of teaching children the proper way to consume food and teach a child the proper relationship with food, they teach children to eat their poorly conceived cafeteria food choices in 15 minutes or less, by feeding them poor quality nutrition. Pizza and Salisbury Steak aren’t great nutritional choices.

If schools aren’t there to teach a children a proper relationship with food, then who is? Clearly, the parents won’t do this at home because they naturally assume the school is doing this. Yet, schools don’t do this either. So, in effect, no one teaches children the value of nutrition and proper food choices.

Even when attending college, this situation doesn’t improve. I don’t know of many universities that require nutrition classes as part of a generalized degree program. Certain health degrees (kinesiology) may require such nutrition classes as part of that degree, but degrees outside of health programs almost never require this. This further contributes to obesity.

Compounded Information Creates Obesity

All of the above compounds to create a situation where people become obese without understanding why. We’re not taught by our parents or by any schools about how to handle our diets. We’re left to fend for ourselves. This firmly allows psychological peer pressure to take hold and influence bad food choices, but more than that, restaurants and bars are also to blame. People are led astray by restaurants because of their large portion sizes. Many of us begin to believe that the portion sizes served by restaurants are actually the correct food sizes. Instead, we are being taught improperly.

Still, we must all assume the consequences of our own decisions. Only we can feed ourselves. Only we can stop the insanity, as Susan Powter once said. While her delivery of this nutrition information was way over the top, her message was no less valid. We must choose to change ourselves. We must choose to change our relationship with food. We must choose to say, “No” when an 1800 calorie plate is dropped in front of us. We must read food packages with a critical eye. We must understand when manufacturers are trying to pull the wool over our eyes with their silly portion sizes on “Nutrition Facts”.

This doesn’t mean you can’t eat a candy bar, eat a piece of cake or drink a beer occasionally. But, these should be only occasional treats eaten no more often than once a week. Less, if possible.

Food Lifestyle Changes

More than this, we must learn how to change our relationship with food. We must eat to satisfy, not until stuffed. There is a difference. We’re not turkeys being prepped for Thanksgiving meals. We’re people who need nutrition to sustain our energy levels.

To that end, to lose the weight and gain a healthy waistline, this must start in the kitchen, not in the gym. You can’t lose weight by running on a treadmill if you eat more calories than you burn from running. Exercise improves the body’s circulatory system, but it cannot lose weight unless you have a calorie deficit in the body.

This only occurs when you have the proper intake of food. In fact, you can restrict your food intake and still lose weight without entering a gym. The body still burns calories by sitting in a chair typing on a computer. However, the body burns less calories than when running on a treadmill.

Here’s a chron.com article that illustrates how exercise can fail weight loss efforts:

In one hour a 160-pound person can burn 204 calories walking at 2 mph and 314 calories with walking at 3.5 mph. … A 160-pound person can burn 606 calories by running at a 5 mph pace or 861 calories by running at an 8 mph pace for one hour.

Let’s examine the above closely. While this information describes a 160 pound person example, this weight isn’t the norm in today’s world. Even thought this article chooses to ignore the obesity issue and further illustrates its point with an impossibly low weight for most people, this information is no less important to understand. An hour of jogging at 5 mph burns ONLY 606 calories. That’s approximately HALF of the amount of calories in Chili’s Molten Chocolate Cake desert which has a whopping 1160 calories. Even if you increase the exertion to an 8 mph pace, at the increased 861 calories burned, you still burn way less than Chili’s chocolate cake desert!

If you visit Chili’s and eat a meal including that cake desert, you’re still taking in more calories than you’ve burned in exercise. This example is exactly why you can’t rely on cardio exercises to make up for those extra calories you consumed at a restaurant. You would have to double or even triple the amount of gym effort to come close to burning enough calories to justify eating that desert. This is why so many people become disenchanted with gyms and why gym workouts don’t seem to work. It’s because people assume exercise burns way more calories per hour than it actually does. This is why the next section is more important… and it also shows you how you can skip this gym fallacy.

Weight Loss Begins in the Kitchen

Randocity has already written an extensive article on this very topic. I urge you to read this article if you’re interested in this one. What I will say here, in short, is that your relationship to food begins in the kitchen, not in the gym. You can’t lose weight at the gym unless you’ve gotten your food intake under control.

Even fitness centers themselves do not impress the importance of this when looking to sign up new members. They want to teach you the importance of supplements, pills and their equipment… basically, everything that they sell in their store. They want you to buy their junk, not to learn how to manage your weight. Even personal trainers are not versed in this. They will teach you how to do cardio, run you through quick condensed workouts and utilize other techniques, but they will not at all examine your food intake. In fact, none of them really want to talk about this when at the gym. You are firmly left to your own food devices.

Not once when I had a personal trainer did they ask me to supply them with what I was eating regularly. It’s more about making you buy new supplements and gear, but they offer nothing to ensure you’re meeting your weight goals through proper food choices.

The point here is that you can’t rely on fitness businesses that rely on taking your money. You must, instead, rely on yourself and your own accumulated knowledge. You must be curious to learn how the body works, how it burns food and how it gains weight. Once you understand these body functions can you make the proper association with food, understand food choices and buy and consume the proper amounts of food to lose weight and/or maintain your current weight.

Until you make the choice to invest time into understanding your health, you can’t make this choice. No one is going to do this for you. No, not even the government (see above). The government seeks to regulate business and income, not make sure its citizens are healthy. That’s crystal clear. You must help you to succeed. You must choose not to put that fried chicken in your mouth. You must choose to eat foods in the proper amounts. What you choose to eat daily is really up to you as long as you keep the caloric intake at the proper level. You don’t want to eat 2000 calories of nothing but Oreo cookies. This is where you need to be more smart about consuming foods in moderation.

Bariatric Surgery

No, you don’t need a lap band. You don’t need to have your intestines shortened. You don’t need your stomach stapled. You can lose weight by eating properly. The only thing that bariatric surgery does is FORCE you to eat less. The entire point to these procedures is to force you to reduce the amounts of food to be consumed and processed at a single meal. This is exactly the same as eating less. You don’t need a procedure to force you to eat less. You can do this on your own.

You just need to make up your mind towards this goal. In fact, making the choice without surgery means you can maintain it. Surgery means that you will eventually slip back to your old ways. These surgical techniques are temporary until you stretch out the stomach or intestines and which allows you to go back to eating large quantities again. Your body will work around the procedure eventually making it impossible to remain being forced to eat less forever.

If you make the concerted choice to stop eating as much and begin making healthier food choices on your own, you can keep the weight off on a permanent basis. Surgery is a temporary fix unless you also make the choice to also eat less even when that surgery’s temporary nature wears off (and it will). Many people don’t understand the temporary aspect of bariatric surgery.

Overall

In life, we have choices. That’s really all we have in life. The ability to make choices for ourselves. That’s the freedom we own. We can buy and wear the clothes we want. We can eat the foods we want. We can drive the car we like. These are some of the choices that we get in life.

Food choices only seem complicated because everyone makes it appear hard. It’s not hard at all once you have the goal number in your head. That goal number is 2000-2200 calories. Stick to that number and you can maintain your weight. Below this number and you can lose weight. It’s actually one of the simplest things to understand about the body.

Sure, you can blame your friends, you can blame restaurants and you can even blame the government for your weight. And yes, they do play a part in it. However, it is you and your food choices that matter. You can choose to lose the weight. You can choose to do the right thing for your body. It all starts in the kitchen… not in the gym. The gym makes you the body more fit, the kitchen helps you lose weight.

COVID-19 and Stay-At-Home

Now that we’re all stuck at home eating food we must make ourselves, this is the perfect opportunity to jump into making smart choices for yourself (and maybe even your family). It’s time to rethink your food choices and food lifestyle. If anything, this time teaches us that restaurant food isn’t truly necessary. We can eat at home from foods we make ourselves and we can consume the proper amount of food that can help us lose excess weight.

Now it’s up to you!

Good Luck!

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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.

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