Posts Tagged With: diet

New Clinical Trial: Eat Like a Mediterranean!

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A new clinical trial gives strong scientific proof that that the so-called Mediterranean Diet is the real thing. Tasty AND cuts your risk of cardiovascular incidents by 30%!

NY Times Article

New England Journal of Medicine article

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Maintenance Plan Meets Honeymoon

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So it’s been four weeks since we left for Italy to get married and honeymoon with a brief stop in New York on the way home.

The Plan

When we left, I had dropped 15 pounds and Zanna had lost 10.

Our plan for our trip was a noble one: ease up a bit but continue he to eat less and exercise more. You can read more about the planned maintenance plan in an earlier blog post.

How We Did

On the airplane ride to Italy, we continued to log our calories using the offline version of the wonderful MyFitnessPal.com program. We quickly realized once we landed in Europe, however, that without 3G on our phones and reliable and consistent access to wireless that we wouldn’t be able to use MyFitnessPal. So we ditched it.

Now, did I mention where we were spending our wedding and honeymoon? In Italy

IMG_1376You know…The land of food and wine. The land of amazing pasta, pizza, cheese, cannoli, gelato, and wine. Also, did I mention that we were getting married there and that some wedding cake and celebrating might be involved?

And the wedding cake we had was nothing short of spectacular, by the way. For those interested, it is called millefogile, and it’s to die for even though there was no chocolate involved!

Well, I won’t say we ate like pigs. But I have to say that we quickly dropped all pretense of being on strict diets and logging our calories. That said, we did generally try and eat smart. But let me confess it here: there was a lot of pizza, pasta, wine, and cheese involved in our diets in Italy. Furthermore, I am guessing that we ate gelato at least every other day. And we had cannoli and cake a few times too. Okay, so we were slightly refined pigs.

And once we got to NY, I’d like to say with 3G access on our phones and wireless access at my parents house, that we immediately jumped back on the diet bandwagon and MyFitnessPal. Well, I’d like to say that but it would be a lie to say that. We continued to eat pizza and even had some more cannoli at a small family reception Friday night.

The Results

_1010260After 2 1/2 weeks it Italy and 1/2 week at my parents house in Long Island, we arrived home late last Saturday night. The next morning we weighed in and were shocked to discover that Zanna lost an additional pound and I had gained one pound. Wow! IOW, for all practical purposes, we maintained our amazing weight losses.

We were astounded!

How Was This Possible?

In reality, I don’t know how this was possible and why we were so lucky. But I can speculate why. So here goes it.

  1. _1000936 - Version 3We were active. We were tourists for much of the three weeks. Lots of walking and climbing stairs. Lots of time on our feet. I think this is a big one!
  2. We ate mostly unprocessed and minimally-processed food.I think this was also key. Food in Italy is basic and, for the most part with a few exceptions, we didn’t have access to processed foods.FonziesOkay, one notable exception: Zanna fainted one day after a 4-hour hike in the hills of the Cinque Terre. So over the next few days, she drank some Powerade and one day bought a bag of Fonzies. Why Fonzies? The goal was to buy some potato chips to temporarily increase her salt intake but all the regular potato chip bags were huge and the bag of Fonzies was relatively small. Anyway, it was a minor infraction in the interest of health (oddly enough) and a great source for jokes thereafter. (Fonzies, by the way, we learned are a European version of the highly-processed Cheeto.)
  3. We didn’t snack. Other than the aforementioned Fonzie incident and the occasional dessert (also ignoring the every other day gelato habit), we didn’t snack. That is, one benefit of being on vacation was that we didn’t have access to snacks unless we went out to purchase them which was uncommon.
  4. We exercised. Besides constantly moving (see #1) as part of our tourist routine, we also managed to go on power walks and runs. While not every day, we probably did 30-45 minutes of exercise at least every third day.
  5. We were in love. Okay, this probably is unrelated to the excellent record in regards to weight maintenance, but it’s cute to say that.

Listen, I was expecting a weight gain on the order of 5-7 pounds for me. So again, I was quite shocked. Of course, at the same time, I did notice that my newly purchased 32 inch waist blue jeans continued to fit me throughout the trip so perhaps it wasn’t that bad. But one pound? Remarkable.

Post Script

So what has happened in the intervening week since we have made it home from our wonderful trip? Well to be totally honest, my weigh in today was 163.0. Up 1.5 pounds since we got home.

Not exactly where I want to be but within a reasonable margin of error. And this is after surviving Halloween week and the adjustment back home and back at work.

IMG_1311And I did manage to run twice and go to a spinning class once this week. Though with the constant rain and cold in Seattle, I have not ridden my bike to work since we have gotten home.

And we are both back on MyFitnessPal and I am reducing my caloric intake allowance a bit until I get back to 160 or 161 where I will move back into maintenance mode. Especially with Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner.

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Maintenance Plan

Goal achieved!Okay, so you achieved your goal, now what? It’s time for a plan to maintain your good fortune. You certainly didn’t work your way down to your current amazing weight to rocket on back to your old weight.

I know I haven’t. Yes, my wedding is right around the corner (it’s this tomorrow, October 12) and I was still at my goal weight when I took off for our wedding on the 7th but that doesn’t mean come the day after tomorrow that I start pigging out (or sooner).

bmi-chart_thumbAlthough the wedding has presented itself as a great milestone for my diet plan, in actuality, I like to think of it as a means to help motivate me, not an end in itself. The true motivator for me was my gut. That is, my spare tire of a gut—my beer belly—told me I was overweight, corroborated by the unabashedly unbiased CDC BMI calculator.

cure-for-everything_thumbIn fact, I was overweight for far too long and I finally decided I was going to do something about it thanks in part to my fortuitous reading of Timothy Caulfield’s excellent The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness.

Of course, I could always revise my goal downward and continue to try and lose weight until I was 155 or 150 pounds or lower but I have decided that, for me, at this point in my life, 160 pounds is a good compromise weight. It’s both several pounds under the high end of “normal” for my height (169 pounds), and, as important, I believe it’s also realistic. I think I have half a chance of being able to keep my weight here at 160, plus or minus 5 pounds. (If the truth is to be told, I really mean plus 5 pounds; the minus side of the equation is very unlikely!)

 

Shifting Myfitness Pal to Maintenance

So about two weeks ago, I achieved my goal and I have to say that it was hard for me to figure out what to do next. At first, I decided to continue on plan until we left for Italy for the wedding. At the same time, I started to crave extra calories and would at times convince myself it was time to “cheat” a little here and there.

Meanwhile I dipped down to a low of 158.8. At one point I looked at myself in the mirror and worried that perhaps I was getting carried away and maybe even looking a bit too thin.

Eventually, after a significant back and forth in my mind, I decided to shift into maintenance mode. So how did I actually accomplish this?

I went into the configuration settings for myfitness pal and changed the What is your goal? setting from “Lose 1 pound per week” to “Maintain my current weight” as shown here.

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Shifting Me to Maintenance

Making that change to myfitness pal was the easy part of the deal. More difficult was the realization that, although I could increase my caloric intake, the change was not a recipe (pun intended) for open eating season. My change of my goal into maintenance mode increased my daily target intake from 1450 to 1920 calories, a net increase of 470 calories.

The thing to realize is that one can easily consume 470 calories with a small dessert, plate of pasta, etc. Even a latte and a couple of pieces of banana can put you close to 470 calories. The point I am trying to make is that while this is a welcome increase in calories, it’s not a huge change.

 

Staying Serious!

This is where it’s important to realize that if you are serious about maintaining your weight at a significantly lower weight than when you started you need to permanently shift your views on eating.

While I am still coming to terms with how this will sort out—and I have to do this while getting married and honeymooning for three weeks in the land of pasta, pizza, cheese, wine, gelato, and cannoli—I am committed to making the shift in thinking.

This means eating less. Let me repeat that sobering fact: this means eating less. We humans in the Western World eat way too much. Caulfield drives this home in his chapter on diet in The Cure for Everything.

But we are also not talking starvation either—or even skipping meals. Just eating at a rate and frequency much more akin to what our creator (or evolution) intended. It’s that simple.

 

Will Exercise for Calories

Pre_flightThere is little secret, however, that may help in the maintenance game. As I’ve written about previously, when I was on the diet, I tried—and sometimes it was very difficult—to not eat the extra calories that myfitness pal awarded me when I exercised. But in maintenance mode, I don’t plan on thumbing my nose those extra calories. Again, this is not an excuse for unbridled eating. And I will still do my best to avoid what Caulfield calls the poison foods, even when exercising.

Nonetheless, as long as I am exercising regularly (and hopefully vigorously) and successfully staying below 165 pounds, I will allow myself to eat the additional calories that my exercise burns.That’s my plan anyway. Wish me luck.


Postscript: It’s been a rough start to maintenance; four days into my trip. Not enough sleep or exercise, and too much stress, too much eating, and too much eating at restaurants. Plus, no scale in sight. I need to re-focus on my plan; but first the wedding.

Categories: Fitness, Life in General, Weight Loss | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Goal Achieved! Now What?

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This morning I stepped on the scale and was overjoyed to see I had surpassed my goal with a weight of 159.0 as you can see. Wow.

This begs the question “Now what?” Well after hugging Zanna I answered this question by putting on my running shoes and banging out a hilly 4 mile run.

This is no time to rest on my laurels and break out the Ben & Jerry’s. Rather, my thoughts are to continue with my current diet & exercise plan until we take off for Florence on Sunday (yay!). At some point on our trip (did I mention we were getting married on the 12th?), I will shift into maintenance mode.

For me, maintenance mode means continuing to keep a food diary but with a higher daily calorie goal for maintaining weight rather than losing. Of course, this will likely be quite challenging since we will be traveling in Italy, celebrating our wedding, and eating every meal out.

I hoping, however, that I can continue to eat smart and exercise most days.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

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My No-Diet Diet. Yes, it Really Does Work!

A little over a month ago, I took to heart what I read by Timothy Caulfield in the book The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness so I decided to embark on a diet based on Caulfield’s diet chapter. For more details on this great book, see my earlier post that goes into great detail.

And what great timing: when I came to this decision, I was about seven weeks away from my marrying my soul mate, Suzanna, in Tuscany. And if that’s not a good enough reason to lose weight, I don’t know what one is.

In this post, I discuss the diet (after a little background) and share with you my results. Hopefully, this will be of some use to you if you are struggling with your own body mass or just curious.

Me as an Adult

I was a long distance runner and skinny and short growing up. I finally stopped growing in college but remained very skinny. Somehow after college and living on very little money in graduate school, I grew up. And not just in maturity. Like many people these days, virtually overnight, I seemed to grow from about 140 pounds when I was a starving grad student to the 175-185 pounds I have consistently maintained for the last 3 decades.

On the positive side, unlike many of my peers, I have managed to maintain a BMI in the range of 25 to 27. Not great, but within striking distance of a upper range of normal: 24.9, or so I have been telling myself for the last couple of decades.

BMI Chart

Even when I was training for marathons (I’ve completed four in the past decade; and three others back in high school), I never got into the normal range except for one brief period in 2006. (Here’s a blog post I dug up from January of 2006, where I was excited that I briefly hit a 24.9 BMI.)

At the same time, I was unhappy with the gut that stared at me every day when I looked into the mirror. Now when I was marathon or triathlon training, I generally was closer to 170-175 pounds with a BMI of 26, but still the gut was there. Look for example, at this photo of me after my 3:36 marathon performance (just missing qualifying for Boston, by the way) at the Eugene Marathon in 2008. I don’t know about you, but I can see a gut there even though I had just run a marathon and had logged on average 30-45 miles per week while training for the race for about six months prior to the race.2008_Paul Euguene Marathon 030

Which leads me to the book that inspired the diet…

Back to the Book

In The Cure for Everything, backed by his review of the current research, his discussions with nutritionists and top-of-the-field fitness experts, and his first-hand dieting effort, Timothy Caulfield asserts a few basic premises that I took to heart and have formed the basis of my current diet plan:

  • Most of us are fatter and shorter than we believe we are.
  • Weight loss and fitness are different things but are often conflated. That is, you don’t lose weight by exercising. At least not by exercise alone. After denying it for years, I finally admit that this is indeed true! (Recall, the photo of me after the Eugene marathon.)
  • Most adults need to consume about 1,800 to 2,200 calories to maintain their current weight. (Kids under 12 need only about 1,400 to 1,600 calories.)
  • The only way to lose weight is to consume less calories than you burn and you undoubtedly eat too much now.
  • Certain poison foods should be avoided. These include sugary beverages, junk food, candy, and most heavily processed foods.
  • Maintaining a food diary is a good way (the best way?) to lose weight.

That’s pretty much it; most everything else is noise when it comes to weight loss including how much carbs, protein, or fat you eat or what time of day you eat it.

And if you think this is all just a bunch of assertions from some random person, think again. While I won’t go into the details here (this post is long enough), Caulfield backs up his assertions with numerous references to research studies and interviews with nutritionists and physical fitness experts.

Start of the Diet

At the start of my diet on August 25, I weighed myself, and just to make sure, I also had Suzanna measure my height using a wall, a pencil, and a level. My weight on that day, first thing in the morning, was 174.6 pounds and my BMI was 25.8 as calculated on the US Centers for Disease Control BMI calculator page. Notice the mention of OVERWEIGHT!

bmi1

Also, the circumference of my body at the belly button: 37 inches.

The Diet: What to Do

I have good news and bad news about this diet. First, the bad news…

    • The bad news:there is no magic.
    • The good news: there is no magic.

It’s all quite simple. Here is what I did…

  • I pointed my browser to myfitnesspal.com and created an account. I entered my current weight (174.6), height, gender, my goal weight (165), a few details about my job (sedentary) and amount of exercise I planned to do, and how quickly I wanted to lose weight (I put in one pound per week). Based on my inputs, my fitness pal suggested a basal number of calories I needed to maintain my weight (it was around 1900-2000 calories) and a suggested daily goal of 1500 calories to lose weight.
  • I also downloaded the iPhone version of my fitness pal and use it regularly.(There are also versions for Android and the Windows Phone.)
  • I started logging my calories—everything I put into my mouth—in the my fitness pal food diary.
  • I continued to exercise 5-6 days per week. Most days this was 60-120 minutes of exercise. My exercise included biking to work most days, weight lifting, running, brisk walking, and use of the elliptical trainer.
  • Note: to get the most benefit from exercise, it’s important to do it vigorously. Low intensity exercise doesn’t make you fit and won’t help much with the weight loss either though I will admit it’s better than sitting on your butt!
  • One more important thing: my fitness pal will tell you that you can eat extra calories that it calculates based on your exercise. I did my best (with a few exceptions) to ignore those extra calories and stick to the 1500 calories.

Maintaining a food diary on my fitness pal or some other online log or even on paper costs nothing. The diet itself costs nothing but does require a healthy dose of diligence and persistence. At the most, you might need to purchase a few measuring cups and spoons that will come in handy. A kitchen scale may come in handy too but we did fine for a number of weeks without one although we did purchase one recently.

The Results

On Sept 18, after about 3 1/2 weeks, I had lost 9.6 pounds, and achieved my goal weight of 165 and my belly button measurement was 34.5 inches. I was speechless. Not really, I was telling everyone of my success.

So I updated my goal weight to 160.

A snapshot of my progess on the my fitness pal iPhone app

Now, on Sept 29, after only 5 weeks, I have lost 13.6 pounds. This morning I weighed in at 161.0 pounds and now am only a pound away from my goal weight! Not bad, not bad at all! My belly button measurement is 33.5 inches and my BMI is 23.8, significantly under the upper limit of normal!

bmi2


The astute reader will note that my weight loss velocity was only set to one pound per week when I first configured my fitness pal yet I lost on average 2-3 pounds per week. And I wasn’t hugely obese to begin with so that can’t explain my accelerated weight loss. This is all true. I attribute the quicker results to working out hard 5-6 days per week and—and I think this is important—not eating the extra calories that my fitness pal awarded me. Sure, you may need to increase your calories if you do a 3 hour bike ride or a 2 hour run, but for most lesser exercise routines, you simply don’t need to compensate by eating more. And if you are able to do this, you should be rewarded handsomely!


How I Did It

I did it because I stuck to the plan.

What I did right…

  • I logged everything I ingested. My fitness pal makes this incredibly easy with a large database of existing foods contributed by its users. It has lots of name brand, restaurant, and generic foods. But it also allows you to add your own.
  • I got used to eating less. And eating out less!
  • I got used to measuring things. Almost everything unless it was pre-packaged.
  • Bear in mind that working with 1,500 calories is sometimes challenging and wasn’t exactly easy but if you set your mind to it, it can be done.
  • Sometimes I let myself go over my limit. I wasn’t perfect although those were usually days where I had somewhat of a buffer because of exercise. However, I did not get in the habit of using up my “extra exercise calories” buffer.
  • I generally would work out by running and/or doing weight training 3-4 days a week and would also bike to and from work most week days in addition to this exercise. On those days when I both biked to work and worked out before work, that would mean 1.5 – 2 hours of exercise. I’m sure this helped.
  • The majority of my calorie consumption was devoted to fruits and vegetables, whole grains, non-fat milk (in my café latte) and plain Greek yogurt.
  • Things currently not on my diet (with just a few exceptions): bread and cold cereal. Note: I love bread and used to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich almost every day for lunch but this is currently not on the menu for me. I certainly could fit it in, I just choose not to.
  • Treats included small amounts of dark chocolate (as in 1-3 squares), an occasional glass of wine or beer, and popcorn.

It’s worth emphasizing, that when you have fewer calories to work with, you need to make smart choices. And these decisions will be different for different people. I choose to have a latte (sometimes two) most days but this costs me 135 calories a pop. Others (especially those not addicted to lattes) will choose a different way to spend those 135 calories.

The important thing is to stay on track and emphasize whole foods over processed junk with artificial sweeteners and other phony ingredients. Oh, and you need to lay off the salt too!

 


Aside: although I won’t reveal her details here, Suzanna has been quite successful too.


A Typical Day

Here are some reports straight off out of my fitness pal to give you a sense of a typical day for me…

The first one is from Sept 14th. Notice how I log everything. For breakfast, I had oatmeal with lots of fresh fruit, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds and a grande-size latte.

For lunch it’s Fage (please don’t ask me how to pronounce it!) Total Zero Greek yogurt with fruit and slivered almonds (a half a tablespoon). Also, a couple of pieces of dark chocolate.

Dinner in this case was estimated. Probably for a meal out though I don’t recall exactly. Finally, I must have had some sort of snack that was estimated as well. Sometimes, an estimate is all you got but it’s best to be as honest as possible. Notice I was over my target by only 10 calories!

Sept 14 Food

Here’s another example day: the September 7th food diary…

Eggs for breakfast; I entered a custom recipe into my fitness pal which added up the calories for me.

Lunch was Greek yogurt (again).

We had a guest over for dinner and ate wild salmon and quinoa. Plus two glasses of wine.

I snacked on sliced jicama, carrots, and 2 tablespoons of hummus while at work. Plus a peach and then later in the evening some pretzels. I was over my 1,500 calorie goal, this time by 194 calories, but again, I was pretty darn close.

Sept 7 food

Here’s another day—actually it’s from today. Cooked rye flakes (a lot like oatmeal) for breakfast with the usual fruit and seeds and a latte.

Lunch was a little unusual in that it was mostly veggies and hummus plus a square of chocolate.

Dinner was out at a Thai restaurant but we kept it smart. I had half of a lightly dressed salad and only a 1/4 of a tofu-based curry dish with a bit of rice (we took home half the curry dish instead of eating the whole thing).

And some fruit, dark chocolate, and coffee for snacks.

Sept 29

Here’s an example of an exercise routine at the health club. Running on the treadmill for 33 minutes followed by some weights work from last week.

Sept 24 Exercise

Dealing with Challenges

Not every day goes smoothly. There are challenges. Some of the challenges we met were caused by back-packing, travelling, and eating out at restaurants. There are the times where someone brings brownies to work. And of course, there are always days where you just want to eat and eat!

Something I do that really helps is to pre-measure meals and snacks into containers (often setup the night before) and bring those containers along with me.  I do this for my lunch at work and we did this for our recent trip to San Francisco and when we went back packing on the Olympic Peninsula  And don’t forget the snacks! The more you can do to prevent breaking down and buying a cookie or a bag of chips at work or the airport, the better! I bring snacks to work almost every weekday (in addition to lunch) consisting of things like a couple of pieces of fruit, a small serving of nuts, a dried fig or two, carrots and celery with 1 or 2 tablespoons of hummus, or a square or two of chocolate.

Getting a cup of coffee helps me too. Of course, there’s also tea and you can’t knock a good old glass of water or sparkling mineral water. And, if I’m having an especially tough day at work, I will buy myself a second latte later in the day and perhaps a banana or an apple.

And if you have to go over, try and minimize the damage. And once in a while, you are going to blow it; forgive yourself, get over it, and set out to work harder the next day to stay on plan.

My Maintenance Plans

With two weeks to go before our wedding, I am a mere pound away from my revised goal weight. I am pretty sure I will attain my goal but even if I miss it by a pound or three (I could always gain weight between now and then), I will still have been successful. Still, I’ve worked hard enough and have come this far, that I doubt I will slip backwards at this point.

Once I attain my goal, it will be time to maintain my weight! My maintenance plan is simple: continue to try and stay under 2,000 calories and, when I over-indulge, compensate by eating less at other meals and exercising more. And don’t beat myself up for the occasional misstep.

Exercise plans to be a big part of my maintenance plan. And it’s important to me not just for maintaining weight. I have a strong desire to maintain a high degree of fitness for health reasons too. And because I enjoy being fit!

I’m sure our three weeks in Italy celebrating our wedding and honeymoon will be a challenge but we will hopefully make wise choices and walk, hike, and exercise a lot to make up for some of the indiscretions that are likely to happen.

Let me be honest: I can’t predict what will happen on my honeymoon, or what will happen next month or next year. I admit that I am venturing into new unchartered territory as I circle around my target of 160 pounds.

But I also know that following this dead-simple, gimmick-free diet and exercise plan has given me new hope and makes me realize that even if I have temporary setbacks, it shouldn’t be that hard to get myself back on track.

And just maybe by putting my story out in the open in the blogosphere, it might just help me stay on track even more!

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Simplify, Simplify

This is a great post about the need to move away from processed crap and towards whole foods!

theyearofthewarrior

“Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

–Hippocrates

After secreting the third 100 calorie pack into the bedroom and knocking it back like a shot of  tequila I realized that I had a problem. It was 9pm and I was so hungry that I had gone into a frenzy pacing back and forth across the house. I was feeling guilty and bargaining with myself.

“Okay, so I’ll have one more pack of cookies and then go to bed and then get up early and run and run and run and then it won’t matter.”

It was pathetic really.

These frantic negotiations had been happening every night in August from the time I recovered from my first bout of illness at the beginning of the month until the time I came down with the flu at the end of the month. Since June I’d been on a 1500…

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Coming Soon: Paul’s No Fuss, No Gimmick Diet Plan


I am working on post where I share my dead-simple, gimmick-free, evidence-based diet plan and why I think it could work for you.

Stay tuned…

Update…

Since originally posting this, some additional posts…

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Steal …Err… Buy This Book!

Abbie_hoffman_steal_this_bookWhen I was a kid, there was a subversive counter-culture book with the crazy title Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman. While I would never endorse stealing – it goes against my ethics – one of my siblings obtained (hopefully purchased or borrowed from a friend rather than committing the act endorsed by the book’s title) a copy. I have to say I was intrigued by the subversive writings in the book where one could learn how to shoplift, make Molotov cocktails and similar illegal and immoral acts.

cure-for-everythingAnyway, for some strange reason, I thought of that legendary counter-culture tome, when coming across the book I just finished reading, Timothy Caulfield’s The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness. Bear in mind, The Cure for Everything is not counter-culture and does not espouse anything remotely illegal or immoral. Still, I think everyone with even the most remote interest in health, fitness, or weight loss should get a copy of this book; but please don’t steal it because the author deserves every dollar for writing this wonderful book.

So why the ringing endorsement of this non-fiction work? Because in this book, Dr. Caulfield, a professor of health law and policy at the University of Alberta, manages to take a balanced, scientific, but decidedly non-academic, look at health, fitness, weight loss, medicine (both western and alternative), genomics, the corporate food and fitness industries, and the pharmaceutical industry. Furthermore, on each of the subjects, Caulfield also manages to share his personal experiences, all the while, reminding his audience that his personal experience should carry less weight than the results of the clinical trials and other research he discusses.

Dr. Caulfield takes nothing for granted and unlike the vast majority of books and websites on the subjects of health, fitness, and diet, he takes no point of view other than applying healthy skepticism and the scientific method to the analysis of these immensely important issues.

In this post, I hope to share the essence of this very-readable book.

On Fitness and Weight Loss

In the first chapter of the book, Caulfield makes an important assertion that I, for one, never believed:

You don’t lose weight from exercise. At least not from exercise alone.

For decades I chose to disagree with this fact, thinking if I just exercised regularly, I would be of normal weight. Now you need to understand that I’ve never been obese and have always considered myself athletic.

That said, I have cursed my mid-section for some time. In fact, while training for marathons (I ran my last one 4 years ago and have completed 7 in my life), I was still unable to eliminate my pudgy gut. Talk about frustrating. Furthermore, according to the standard BMI calculations, I was indeed overweight (though never by more than 10-15 pounds) for at least 3 decades.

On the subject of diets, Caulfield asserts that the only way to lose weight is to take in less calories, and the exact approach you take is immaterial. In fact, he goes onto share his personal experience by going on a diet for the book. (Interestingly, Caulfield, like me is an athletic middle-aged adult, although with a much better BMI than mine.)

His diet approach is incredibly simple and one I have followed with almost equal success:

  • Maintain a food diary.
  • Cut back on calories. Smaller portions. Get used to eating less because you probably eat too much now.
  • Eliminate poison foods. That is, “foods that are high in calories and so truly devoid of nutritional value that they simply are not worth eating. This list includes “junk food, fast food, highly processed products, and sugary beverages.”

Aside: I maintain a food & exercise diary on myfitnesspal.com. They have a great web-based tool as well as apps for all major smart phones, including iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone. I highly recommend using myfitnesspal.


On The Food Industry

According to Caulfield, the food industry likes us to eat. They pin the blame for obesity on personal responsibility and physical inactivity. So go ahead, eat that Big Mac and down it with a couple of Coca Colas. And then go ahead and exercise, because that will keep the pounds off and cure obesity. Never mind the fact that exercise alone doesn’t keep the weight off. But then if eating well was the answer, the food industry wouldn’t make money.

That’s why the food industry, including Coca-Cola, regularly sponsors athletic events.

On Exercise and Fitness

Exercise, while it won’t help you to lose much weight, is the recipe to fitness. But despite what you may have heard, low-intensity exercise doesn’t make you fit. You need to crank up the intensity to achieve fitness. High intensity interval training is best.

The author is especially fond of resistance (weight) training, claiming you will get the most bang for the buck with resistance training. Again, not wimpy weight training, but you need to work the weights hard and push yourself to the edge. IOW, “no pain, no gain” is true!

One more thing: spot toning is a fallacy. To get six-pack abs, you need to reduce your body fat to the point where your abdominal muscles are exposed so there is no layer of abdominal fat between your skin and you ab muscles. Oh, and for the most part, stretching is a waste of time.

And while exercise alone won’t help you lose much weight, it is helpful to maintain weight loss.

On Alternative Medicine

The vast majority of alternative medicine is based on faith and the placebo effect. Not the scientific method. Of special note, homeopathy is a croc. I mean the whole idea is to take drugs and dilute them to some ridiculously diluted potion and then have faith that it will cure your malady. Horse-pucky says Caulfield (I may have paraphrased him).


Aside: I had an overuse injury to the ball of my left foot several years ago caused by marathon training. A co-worker acquaintance at the time who had studied homeopathy at Bastyr University decided she would treat me. So for a number of weeks I took these homeopathic concoctions. They didn’t work; she finally gave up.


Big Pharma

And just in case you thought that Caulfield only has negative things to say about alternative medicine, he also has a mouthful for western medicine as well, especially the untoward influence of Big Pharma (the pharmaceutical industry).

Big Pharma influences research in big ways (amazingly, just like Big Food; surprise!) according to Caulfield. How, you ask? “In every way imaginable,” according to the author. By funding and not funding research, by ghostwriting articles, by underwriting medical conferences that are friendly to the company’s products, and by providing free samples to your family practitioner or specialist physician, just to name a few.

Caulfield (and I) believe that many scientists in the research community are fighting back against the influence of Big Pharma money but it’s a difficult battle.

The solution: independence. That is, don’t allow pharmaceutical companies to directly fund research. Like in the old days when the NIH (National Institutes of Health) were fully funded.

Steal This Book!

Not really, but go out and get yourself a copy of this book, either in print or electronic form!

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