Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fat Head

I recently watched Fat Head which is a documentary that challenges the premise and science behind the movie Supersize Me. This film stars Tom Naughton as he takes the challenge of eating nothing but fast food for 30 days and he actually ends up losing 12  pounds.

I enjoyed Super Size Me and thought it was very entertaining, but Fat Head is on a crusade to not only discredit, but make fun of Morgan Spurlock. Despite the personal attacks on Spurlock which I didn't care for, I still think this movie had some valid points and it was very enlightening. It criticizes the BMI index, the CDC, The CSPI, the food pyramid, lobbyists, and government regulation and intervention just to name a few.

Tom Naughton is the director and star of this film. He is supposed to be a comedian, but he didn't come across as being very funny. Fat Head is a very low budget production which detracts a little from it's message. I also had a problem with him only eating 100 grams of carbs per day since that is certainly not indicative of a full time fast food diet. He goes on a rant about how good animal products and saturated fats are for us and by the end of this movie I felt like he was promoting the Atkins diet.

Despite the many things I didn't like about this movie, I still thought it raised some valid questions and concerns about the obesity epidemic. I also liked how it puts the responsibility for one's health on the individual as opposed to government or the fast food industry. I don't think a 30 day eating experiment involving one person qualifies as good science, but the concept is interesting. Whether you agree with this documentary or not, I think it is informative and makes some good points so I recommend it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Battle of the Diet Philosophies

I was recently watching some nutrition videos on YouTube, and I came across a panel of doctors who were speaking at a conference. These doctors and nutritionists were experts on the topic of nutrition, and I found it interesting that many of them not only contradicted each other but completely disagreed as to what the healthiest diet is. I'd like to briefly address some different nutritional philosophies and give my own opinion on them.

Let me preface my comments by saying I think most weight loss "diets" that are supposed to be a quick fix are a joke. When I use the word diet below I am instead talking about basic eating philosophies. I am not trying to bash any of the following eating ideologies. The average American eats a highly processed, high calorie diet and eats too much, so when I see people trying to improve their nutrition by following any program, my hat is off to them. Please don't take offense with any of my insights or opinions.

High-carb diet- I think starchy carbs like potatoes and white rice can be a problem for people trying to lose weight. If someone is a marathon runner, endurance athlete, or very active, they can certainly handle eating more starchy carbs than a sedentary person who sits in front of a computer 8 hours a day. I've recently realized that I have overeaten bread, cereal, and pasta for most of my life.

Vegetarian/Vegan- I think vegetarians are less likely to develop cancer, diabetes, and heart disease than the general public. I am not a vegetarian but have warmed up this philosophy over the last several years. It is not very common to see an overweight vegetarian.

Paleo-I like the natural aspect of this diet, but I think it can get a little extreme when it comes to avoiding any kind of grains. My other concern is that meat and protein is emphasized so heavily. I appreciate the fact that they try to eat natural, unprocessed food to fuel their bodies.

Raw Foods-I've seen cases of raw diets reversing the effects and severity of many diseases. Raw enthusiasts claim cooking your food kills the enzymes. A raw diet provides plenty of fiber, but the down side is it can be a real challenge to eat raw plants for every meal; however, I think most Americans would benefit quite a bit by moving in this direction by possibly having one raw meal a day. 

My opinion- The world of nutrition can be confusing and even the experts don't always agree with each other. I think as a general rule, most people would be healthier if they ate more plant-based foods, especially more raw fruits and vegetables. I'm not against meat or animal products, but I think most people eat too much of them. Eating more nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and unprocessed foods is also a good idea.

I'm not a disciple of any particular diet. I try to take the good from each of these eating philosophies. The key is to develop long term healthy eating habits that are customized to you so they will be sustainable. You need to adapt your diet according to your lifestyle, needs, goals, and preferences. Remember the importance of moderation, balance, and variety so you don't get too extreme when it comes to your nutrition.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Most Neglected Muscles

It seems that some muscles get all the attention. Pecs, biceps, and abs are always hogging the spotlight and are usually the favorite kids while the step child muscles get neglected. Many people emphasize their "mirror muscles" when training but forget about the ones they don't see as often.

I'm not a bodybuilder, but one of the things I admire about the sport is the attention they give to detail, balance, and symmetry. Occasionally I will see a guy at the gym with a massive upper body, but he looks like a stork from the waist down since he doesn't care about working his lower body.

That may be an extreme example, but it is probably more common for people to neglect exercising muscles just out of ignorance. Here is a list of muscles that could stand more attention from most people (including myself.)

Back (especially the lower back)

Remember when you work out, it is important to work the agonist and it's antagonist muscle. Failure to do so can create muscle imbalances which can set you up for injury. Take some time to evaluate your lifting routine. Are there entire body parts you ignore? Are you working opposing muscle groups? If you can keep from neglecting certain muscle groups, then you will be stronger and have a more balanced physique.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Thou Shalt Not Kid Thyself

As I have worked with clients over the years,  I have noticed something which is detrimental to getting results. It is when people sort of go through the motions but are not really honest with their efforts. The 11th commandment is "Thou shalt not kid thyself."

Some times we feel we are eating right and exercising like we should but we are just not getting the results we want. Many times this is because we have a warped sense of reality. I have also been guilty of this myself. Here are some examples from my own life.

When Wendy's came out with their new french fries that have the skins on and use sea salt, I've tried justifying that the additional fiber and seasoning makes them much healthier so they shouldn't be so bad to eat. NOT!

Sometimes when I step on the scale and see that my weight has gone up, I will think to tell myself  "It's probably just muscle weight" rather than acknowledging the overeating that took place over the past few days.

Sometimes I will ease up on my exercise regimen to the point that it resembles more of a warm up than it does a workout, yet I still tell myself that I exercised that day even though I slacked off.

When we complain about how we are doing everything right, but just not getting results, I think we need to take a closer look to see if that is really the case, or if we are just trying to fool ourselves. Studies have shown that most people overestimate their activity levels and underestimating their calorie intake. As a result, they see themselves as victims or exceptions since the law of thermodynamic just doesn't seem to apply to them like it does everyone else.

I am not trying to beat anyone up. I just want to point out that if you are not making progress and think you are doing everything right, you may want to take a more honest and accurate look at your efforts to improve your health. I know I always benefit when I take a more objective look at my efforts.