Random Thoughts – Randocity!

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.

Eat To Live or Live to Eat?

Posted in Health by commorancy on January 14, 2010

If you’ve set your New Year’s resolutions to embrace fat loss, you’re probably asking yourself this question.  Or, further, you might be asking yourself what does this question mean?  The answer is pretty straight forward.  Do you eat food to survive or do you live to eat food?  The answer may surprise you, but you have to be willing to take a hard look at yourself to uncover the answer.  Let’s explore.

Trust

In America, food is very abundant and in a lot of cases, very cheap.  From fast food that’s 99 cents for a meal to expensive dine-in meals.  It’s your choice how you wish to dine.  The main difference between cheap and expensive food is in where the food originated and how or if it’s processed.  For example, foods that come from organic farms or from farms that don’t use hormones on their livestock may be better for you than those foods that do use these chemicals (depending on the farm).  Foods not refined are also better for you.  The one question you need to ask yourself is, “How was the food produced?”  The only answer that I can offer here is to tell you to buy foods from sources that you trust.

Can you trust Safeway?  Can you trust Lucky or Albertson’s?  Can you trust the corner grocer?  Can you trust Campbell’s soup or Kellogg’s Cornflakes?  Only you can determine which stores and which brands you trust.

There are many problems when purchasing from chain grocers.  They buy from many farmers and manufacturers in such bulk that it’s difficult for them to always offer you healthy choices in foods.  So, you may need to opt for more local grocer choices. If you purchase from local farms, you may find a lot more information on how the food was raised.  Once you establish your immediate trusts, you can then find the foods that work for your dietary needs.  Note, though, that trusts change over time.  Brands get acquired or disappear from the shelves, formulations change, etc.  So, even when you’ve had a trust with a specific brand or grocer, you should re-evaluate that trust from time to time to ensure the food is living up to your quality expectations.

Does all of this really matter?

That depends on you.  If you think it matters, then it matters.  Once it does matter, then you need to seek food choices that fit your needs.  The less picky you are, the more choices you have when shopping.  But, you may also be compromising your health by being less picky.  Also, if you have health issues that must be addressed by using specific foods, food choices do matter.

Five Star Dining

Let’s start by examining the expensive dining options first.  If you choose to dine at a 5 star restaurant, along with your excessively large bill, you may find that your food seems more fresh and tasty.  You may be correct in that assessment.  Generally, 5 star restaurants buy foods from the best quality growers and grocers.  In some cases, the chefs may even personally hand pick the meats and produce they want to use.  With lesser quality restaurants, the foods may come from a commissary (a centralized store distribution facility for that restaurant chain) or from a food distribution service like Sysco.  Where the 5 star restaurant is looking for grade A+ ingredients, lesser star restaurants may opt for grade C or even D foods (because they cost less).  Depending on the type of lesser restaurant, they may even serve you pre-prepared canned foods (like Pace Picante sauce). So, what you may be served in a 2 or 3 star restaurant may be no better than what you can buy and serve yourself from Safeway.  In some cases, it may be worse.

Secondarily, when you eat at a 5 star restaurant, you should find that each and every food is fresh made from scratch.  In fact, most of these level restaurants make your food immediately when you order.  So, there’s nothing pre-prepared.  It’s all made fresh (other than the prep work to cut up veggies earlier that day).  Even the deserts are prepared and baked fresh (or should be).  That’s the difference between Chili’s (a 3 star Bistro) and a 5 star restaurant.

Does 5 star dining make the food healthier?  Not necessarily.  True, the food should be made fresh.  True, the food is probably grade A+, but that doesn’t lessen the caloric value of the food.  In fact, many 5 star restaurants prefer rich foods with a high fat content (creams, butters and oils) because they make food taste more luxurious.  So, even though you may be consuming fresh foods prepared from fresh ingredients, you are not likely eating to lose weight.  One thing, though, that you will find in 5 star restaurants are smaller portion sizes.  Where Chili’s might overload your plate with a ton of food, you may find a 5 star restaurant serving your dinner in a small portion in the center of a big plate.  Yes, it’s very pretty and presentation is a big deal in a 5 star place, but the size doesn’t necessarily lessen the amount of calories in the meal.  If you’re concerned with calories, you should always ask before you dine (preferably on the phone before making a reservation).

Commitment

In order to make fat loss a reality, you have to both want to lose fat and commit yourself to change.  Commitment is the key.  With so many food choices out there and a lot of pressure to eat tons of food (especially by friends, relatives and co-workers.. not to mention the huge portions in restaurants), you need to distance yourself from that influence.  That means you need to consider creating your own foods from scratch in the portions that fit your needs.  You can opt to use pre-prepared meals that are frozen or even foods that come from Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Lean Cuisine or Nutrisystems.  However, you can certainly lose the fat without the need for any specialty meals.  Let’s explore fat loss clinics…

Commercial Fat Loss Organizations

Companies like Jenny Craig, NutriSystems and Weight Watchers are good at what they do.  The trouble with these organizations isn’t that they help you to lose weight.  No. They definitely help you shed the pounds.  The trouble is, how do you keep the weight off once you leave their program?  None of these organizations offer proper weight management techniques after you depart.  They hook you into their ‘system’ using their packaged foods.  After you leave, they make it reasonably difficult to use external foods that are not part of their program. This is unfortunate, but it’s also a way for these systems to entice you back only to spend more money. Remember, these are commercial outfits in it to make money.  So, their goal is to get you hooked onto their program and then keep you coming back to spend more and more money.  As long as you are willing to do this, you can keep the weight off.

When using their food offerings, they use points systems or exchanges.  That’s great, as long as you are eating foods where you can easily determine those numbers.  If you start eating whole real foods from the store or a restaurant, you may not easily be able to determine points.  So, you’re stuck.  When you can’t determine the values, you don’t.  Because you can’t, you can’t easily determine how much of it you should be eating.  You then slip back into eating ‘real food’. So, it ends up in a vicious cycle that leads to fat gain.  This is the cycle that you want to avoid.  You need to understand foods at a more basic level that can be applied to any meal, not just those meals created by Jenny Craig.

Of course, this is not meant to berate these programs.  They are good at what they do.  If you have the means and are willing to stick with their programs, then you can lose the weight and keep it off.  But, you also need to determine a way to ween yourself from their program and use home made foods as a substitute or even meals at a restaurant and still keep the weight off.  How do you do that?

Knowledge

You need to empower yourself by understanding foods, understand how they act on the body and understand how to easily identify healthier foods from unhealthy foods.  So, what exactly does ‘healthy food’ mean?  That’s a really good question, let’s explore…

Healthy Foods

What is a healthy food?  We hear the term ‘healthy foods’ all the time.  As an example, a study has said that drinking Welch’s grape juice is healthy for you because the dark purple juice is now classed as an antioxidant.  So, there are now claims you need to drink more.  But, is grape juice really that healthy?  Antioxidants may be important to help cleanse the body of toxins, but grape juice is also concentrated and processed. Anything that is processed is not as healthy as the whole real thing.  For example, eating dark red table grapes provides the same antioxidant properties as drinking concentrated grape juice.  Additionally, eating the whole fruit provides you with fiber.  Note, however, that fruit is primarily sugar (fructose and sucrose) and fiber.  Processed juice is devoid of fiber, so the sugar in juice is digested almost immediately. Eating table grapes requires less immediate insulin release due to the time it takes to process the sugar out of the fiber.  Drinking grape juice, on the other hand, is akin to drinking a soft drink.  Granted, the soft drink has no antioxidant properties, but the sugar high is the same drinking both drinks.

Secondarily, is all grape juice created equal?  This goes back to the issue of trust.  Some juices are sweetened only with the juice from the fruit.  Others add additional sugars or sweeten with concentrated mixtures of sugars from the fruit.  So, they might extract a juice concentrated version and then extract a second version that’s a concentrated sweetener version.  They then mix the juice concentrate version with the sugar version to make the whole batch sweeter.  They can say it is 100% real grape juice, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t play games to get it sweeter.  Again, trust.  You need to trust how a company processes their foods.

Eating whole grapes does the same trick as drinking the juice.  However, when eating the whole fruit, you are less likely to eat as much (the fiber fills you up).  Because the fiber fills you, you are also less likely to eat as many calories in one sitting than you would drinking a glass of fiberless juice.  Reducing calories below the RMR is the key to losing fat, so that’s the goal here.

So, which is healthy in this example?  Clearly, vitamins and minerals are important.  You get the most vitamins and minerals by eating the whole fruit rather than concentrated and processed foods.  Many vitamins and minerals are destroyed during processing. This is why so many processed foods must be fortified (they add external vitamins) to make up for the destroyed vitamins and minerals.  In this case, eating the whole grape is more healthy than drinking heavily concentrated and processed juice.  This goes for any foods that are processed.

Steps Removed From Nature

Think of healthy foods in terms of how far they are removed from their natural state.  Clearly, a grape is the most natural state of this fruit.  Therefore, it is the most healthy form of this fruit.  As it is processed, each step away from its most basic natural state makes it one step less healthy for the human body.   So, the steps might look something like the following:

grape -> grape juice fresh squeezed -> grape juice boiled down (concentrated) -> grape juice syrup / grape juice sugars -> grape juice powder (dried) or flavoring ->  grape jelly fruit snacks or grape popsicles

So, the fruit starts first and everything else is derived from some processing step after the initial fruit.  For each step after the initial fruit, that reduces the healthy nature of the food.  For each step removed from nature, then, that determines how less healthy it is for the human body.

Food Processing

What exactly is food processing?  At home you think of a Cuisinart for food processing.  However, processing foods in manufacturing is a way to concentrate the foods into usable constituent components (sugars, starches, salts, flavorings, etc).  The idea is to take an initial natural food and distill it down into its constituent components for later reintegration into another food product.  For example, Pringles chips are made from potatoes.  But, they aren’t whole potatoes.  Instead, they are made from ground and processed potatoes (and other ingredients), then they use a special process to form the chip into that familiar Pringles shape and bake it in place.  While the potato may have started whole, once it’s in a chip form coated with salt, it is no longer whole and is now removed from nature at least 2, 3 or more times.

(To be continued in Part II: Eat to Live)

Disclaimer:  This information is not intended to be used 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 2010 Randosity.  All rights reserved.

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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