Archive for October, 2011

Can Marriage Make You Fat?

When Kevin and I started this blog, we really wanted to demonstrate how being in a relationship affects your weight loss, for better or worse. For some people, having a partner in crime when starting an exercise program can be encouraging and helpful. If your partner starts to lose weight, they tend to take you along with them and you both benefit. Unfortunately, the opposite can be quite true as well.

According to a study published in the Obesity Journal in 2002, just getting married or cohabitation can significantly elevate your BMI (a commonly used measure of health comparing your height and weight). Subjects in the study completed surveys about their height, weight and marital status, typical amounts of physical activity and common foods they ate. The same group of people was surveyed two years later, and the results are more than a little depressing.

A change in marriage status (getting married or getting divorced) led to a significant change in weight. Those who got married during the study had a significant increase in body weight and those who got divorced had a significant loss in body weight, which means that according to this research, marriage will indeed make you fat.

 There may be a few explanations for this phenomenon, all of which are definitely controllable. So, here are a few tips to avoid these common pitfalls of marriage pudginess.

Dangerous Dating Behavior: For people who are newly married, you can easily remember what it was like to be dating your spouse. You often did special things together on the weekends like going out to dinner, getting desert and extra popcorn at the movies. Your time together was special and therefore you probably tended to increase your caloric intake to celebrate. Now that you’re married, if you’ve kept up your dating behavior, those special reasons to eat poorly may be creeping up on you. Absolutely keep going on dates! However, try to keep track of how often you are treating yourselves with high calorie foods and try to find other ways to enjoy each other without killing your diet.

Unreasonable Portions: For all you ladies, if you eat meals regularly with your husband, you may be significantly increasing your portion size without realizing it. When we eat with someone else, we tend to subconsciously adjust our portion size to match theirs and can end up eating more food than we intended. If your partner is significantly larger than you are, that means they get more food!

Snuggle Time: Another habit of married people is to find it easier just to stay inside and lounge around the tv. Single people tend to go outdoors and join groups such as an ultimate Frisbee team or a soccer club, but married people tend to keep to themselves a bit more. This can really encroach on your daily physical activity. Make an effort to leave to love-nest of the couch and get outside! Go take a walk or play basketball! Your heart will thank you later!

Do you find that you’ve gained weight since you’ve been married? Would any of these strategies work for you?


Weekly Review: “Good Calories, Bad Calories”

Happy Wednesday! So, as promised, we are continuing with our weekly review. Usually, Kevin will be reviewing exercise plans and I will be reviewing popular diet or exercise books and the lucky winner today is “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes. Here is a link to the book on Amazon

First of all, this book is not for the feint of heart! It is thick, both literally and figuratively.  Taubes is a scientific journalist who wrote for very important journals like Science and he writes this book exactly how he would write for a scientific audience. The book is not fluffy or funny, but direct and chock full of research and important sounding citations, which is exactly why I picked it up.

The Good: Taubes is not trying to give you a meal plan or a fad diet, but rather is attempting to review all the recent literature (and some not so recent) about what actually causes weight loss and weight gain. He criticises Americans (and prominent scientists) for jumping on the popular culture bandwagon of a low-fat diet and total calorie reduction without truly reviewing the evidence. He lists multiple incidences where general claims were made and dietary recommendations created without nearly the appropriate amount of evidence to support the claims. His over-arching claim is that low-fat diets do not prevent heart disease or weight gain, but instead diets high in starch and sugar are the real culprit. There is definitely some truth to the fact that high starchy or sugary diets will increase your insulin response and that can lead to n increase in stored fat and diabetes, however Taubes goes the whole way claiming that dietary fat claims no responsibility and carbohydrates are the only evil macronutrient.

The Bad: It is interesting to read how the current dietary guidelines came about and the apparent lack of supporting evidence for a low-fat diet, however Taubes seems to be completely biased against the evidence. Each study he cites supporting the role of cholesterol or dietary fat is ripped to shreds, but most of his evidence for a high-protein, high-fat diet is no better. He shares many anecdotes and case study support and very few randomized controlled trials. He blames this on the fact that the entire medical community is brainwashed against his theory and no one will publish high-fat diet research.

The Ugly: At worst, this book could be incredibly misleading. He tells stories of how many people have been on meat and cheese only diets and been happy and healthy AND lost tons of weight. He offers no long term studies about potential detrimental effects of very high protein diets or diets that completely cut out fruits and vegetables. I would imagine that someone on a meat and dairy diet would quickly become deficient in several vitamins and minerals.  Also, he doesn’t make a case for vegetable or beans as protein sources, only meats. He uses the research to say, “If your way isn’t completely proven, then my way must be correct.” Additionally, he doesn’t take into account any effect of exercise. if a person has a moderately high-carbohydrate diet, exercise can independently increase glucose uptake into the muscle and reduce the insulin response, which can decrease the severity of diabetes.

Take home message: Mostly, don’t waste your time. The no-carb diet thing has been said and done, and the best thing you can do for yourself is have a BALANCED diet. Don’t overdo the carbs, but don’t cut out fruits and veggies just because you think they are too high in carbohydrates.

Just to keep you updated…. I ran 14 miles this past Sunday! It was…. awful! My knees were aching and I was completely exhausted. 50 miles is starting to sound longer and longer….It took me 2 hours, so I am only 1 hour away from my 3 hour goal. How are you all doing on your current fitness goals?


Make this, dont buy that

We all have seen the popularity of Eat This not that diet books. Those books leave you with the misconception that eating a Big Mac instead of a Whopper will give you a 6 pack. Well, unfortunately that’s just not true. Moreover, the book fails to tell you that even though the Big Mac may be just a little bit better than the Whopper, they’re both still awful for you. So, I have decided to take it one step further ; I want you to “Make this, don’t buy that.” I am going to list some of my favorite recipes that can replace you daily crave for a treat and won’t break your wallet or give you a heart attack! So this week I have decided to address some drinks we all love!

Starbucks: Mocha Frappaccino

Instead:  5-6 ice cubes

                2 cups of fat free milk

                1 cup of coffee 5 calories

                2 table spoons of chocolate flavoring (I use protein powder and it makes an awesome morning recovery drink)

                Add all ingredients together in a blender and mix for 30-40 seconds

Naked Green Machine

Instead: 2 cups of Trop50 Juice pick your flavor

                1 small handful of spinach

                1 table spoon of green algae

                ½ cup of low fat yogurt

                Add any of these for personal flavor 5 slices of pineapple, ½ of a banana, handful of grapes, ½ apples or 1 whole kiwi add all ingredients in a blender mix for 30-40 seconds and serve I pick what ever fruit I can find on sale!

Excuses: I don’t have time

The beautiful dinner my amazing husband made!

For the next three Mondays, I’ll be doing a three part series on excuses. We’ll talk about the three most common excuses for not getting off the couch and starting your new healthy lifestyle and I’ll give you some tips on what can help you overcome those excuses. Today’s excuse is…. I don’t have time.

Taking the time to plan proper diet and exercise is probably the number one thing holding us back because it takes exactly that… planning. In order to fit exercise and healthy eating into your life, you have to do some thinking ahead, or it just won’t get done. It’s easy to come to the end of the day and realize there are still 5 things on your to-do list and exercise isn’t one of them. And, its easy to rush to work with just an energy bar in hand because you didn’t have time to prep a lunch. Things like that can really add up and they can be easy to change!

Let’s talk about diet first. If you don’t plan your meals ahead of time, you are almost always going to eat more and worse than you planned. You may think you can make it through the day on just that apple and bar you grabbed on your way out, but when 3 pm rolls around and you’re starving, those brownies in the break room are going to start looking mighty nice. However, planning weekly lunches and dinners can be time consuming and sometimes it can just be too overwhelming to get done. Here are a few things that Kevin and I have tried that make the meal planning easier and less intimidating.

  1. Eat the same thing. This works especially well for lunches. I know it may sound boring, but packing the same lunch everyday takes all the planning and strategizing out of the equation and it just becomes a habit. You can throw in a little variety by changing small things each week that don’t require much effort. For example, if you always pack a sandwich, a piece of fruit and a protein bar, each week you can buy a different type of fruit or a new sandwich meat. This way, the packing for the week is already done and you won’t get quite so bored.
  2. Grab and go healthy. For those of us who feel just a teensy bit rushed in the morning (which is me EVERY morning), the things we tend to pack ourselves when we’re running late are the foods we can just grab and go without any more prep. I’ve found that I’ll eat healthy if I can find healthy snacks that are easy to grab. I usually go with apples, low-fat string cheese and small prepackaged bags of carrots. If you’re going for a protein or energy bar, just make sure you check the sugar content. Some of them can be worse than candy bars!
  3. Cook on the weekends. Dinner can be the most overwhelming meal to plan, and most of us tend to have more free time on the weekends. If you know it’s going to be a rough week, make the weekly meals ahead of time and put them in the freezer. When you come home, all you’ll need to do is defrost!

So, now on to exercise! This can be the most challenging to get into your daily routine. It’s hard to wake up at the crack of dawn to face a workout when you’re sleep deprived already, and going to the gym after a long day…. Well it just doesn’t always happen. What to do?

  1. Break up the exercise. Going for a 10 minute walk sounds so much more do-able than a 30 minute work-out. If you can fit in a 10 minute walk before work, 10 minutes at lunch, and 10 minutes after dinner, you can still reap all the heart healthy benefits of regular exercise without having to take a huge chunk out of your day.
  2. Consider your weekly, rather than daily, activity. Most of the research done on the benefits of exercise monitored weekly total calorie burns rather than daily exercise. So instead of worrying about how to get in activity every day, try aiming for 3 times per week and going a little longer each time. That way, you don’t have to feel guilty on your super busy days as long as you make it up later in the week. 

Let me know if any of these strategies work for you! Stay tuned for next Monday, “I don’t know what to do!”


Weekly Review: CrossFit

Hey Guys,

Kevin and I are starting a few new things this week, one of which is the weekly review. Every Wednesday, one of us will post a review of either a diet or exercise plan. Sometimes it will be books we’ve read or workouts we’ve tried, but we’ll always try to make it something interesting and relevant. This week, Kevin is reviewing the very popular new workout: CrossFit

I have always defined myself as a runner, but after 8 years in the Corps I kind of feel more like a jack-of-all-trades. Weight lifting, survival swimming, martial arts, miles of hikes with gear in excess of 75lbs were just some of the things I was used to doing every week. Having the daily demands of being a firefighter and Marine, just running fails to meet my needs no matter how hard or far, and even the daily group exercises together would never be enough to meet the physical goals I set for myself. This desire for finding the hardest, fastest most strenuous exercise led me to Cross Fit.

 Cross Fit is EXTREME, max effort exercise plan that has a daily routine that includes gymnastics, weight lifting, running, and pure old school exercises. You can find CrossFit online where a new workout is posted each day. Cross Fit has many mottos, but “mess you up” is my personal favorite and probably the most accurate. 

The Good: Every day the post a WOD or workout of the day. They have a huge pool of workouts and you can go months with out repeating. This can be a great exercise plan IF you want hard! It is an outside the box plan that will truly challenge and push you to you limits. Most of the exercises they ask you to do they have a video demonstration and have a step-by-step breakdown for the most complicated. They are becoming so popular that there are gyms that only focus on there workouts.

The Bad: You have to belong a gym to do all of the WOD’s.  Kettle bells, gymnast rings, box platforms and a pool are just some of the equipment required. Even with the videos, some of the exercises are more like human origami and figuring them out can be quite hard.

The Ugly: You need to already be at a level of high! Fitness to do the WOD’s they are not for the feint at heart.  Even the most fit people have a difficult time with this and I have seen personal trainers, marathon runners and other elite athletes succumb to rhabdomyolysis, a serious muscle condition which can be potentially life-threatening. And finally, if you are going to perform or try to perform exercises that you have never done injuries (and serious ones at that) can be quite likely, so be cautious when doing this workout and don’t bite off more than you can chew.



When someone gives you good advice, you should probably take it.

As you know, I am training for this absolutely crazy race in January and I’m trying to cover 50 miles in 24 hours. In order to train for this, I am increasing my weekly long runs by a few miles each week until I can run 25-30 miles at a time. Right now, I’m at 10. So, since this is the first time I have ever done anything like this, I sought out the advice of my friend who’s done several 50 mile+ races already.  I was wondering how often she eats/drinks during a run, since I never run long enough to need additional sustenance. She wisely advised me to take in some carbohydrates about every hour or so. Did I listen?…

Let me give you a little inside look as to why she would give me this advice. When we exercise, our bodies either use carbohydrates or fats for energy. Carbohydrates, or glucose, are the easy energy. Your body is great at breaking down simple sugars which are stored both in your muscles and in your blood stream. The harder you work out, the more your body relies on sugar for energy. Because everything in life is a trade-off, these easy to break down, readily available sugars do have a draw back; you can only store so much and you don’t get much bang for your buck.  Sugar is metabolically expensive and heavy to store, so your body would much rather use fats for fuel. Fat gives you a great bang for your buck as far as energy production. Even the leanest person literally has days worth of stored energy from fat.  But, because fat is so valuable to your body (all that energy!), it takes a lot to convince your body to use it up. Fats take a long time to be released from adipose tissue (stored fat), then they need to be taken up by the muscle and oxidized, or broken down before they can be used. It’s a long, slow process, but one that is vital to long distance running. Plus, in order to use fats, you have to be exercising at a light-to-moderate intensity. Fats just don’t break down quickly enough to give you energy for intense exercise.  However, the longer you train, the better your body becomes at breaking down fats and using them for energy.

If you are like me and just starting out, your body is still used to using carbs for energy and you can run out quickly! If you don’t supplement your running with some kind of carbohydrate intake, your blood glucose will drop quickly and the longer you exercise, the worse you feel. Which is exactly what happened to me this weekend. I knew I should have taken some kind of sports drink of power gel or something, but no, I figured I could handle it. After running just over an hour, I felt AWFUL!!! My body had run out of carbs to burn and since I now was relying on fats for energy, I had to slow waaaayy down. By the time 75 minutes rolled around, I was nearly walking and was definitely second-guessing my ability to complete this crazy race in just a few months. Not easily deterred, I swallowed my pride and realized had I just listened to my friend’s advice, I probably would have been fine. Sunday night I went out for another go; this time I brought my friend Powerade with me, and what do you know… I ran a great 85 minutes! Hooray!

So, lesson learned. Someone who has completed more endurance runs than I have probably knows a whole lot more about them than I do!

Stay tuned for next week! I’ll talk to you a little more about what fuels we use when exercising and why all those cardio machines and personal trainers keep talking about your “fat burning zone”


Try a Race!

Everyone wants to be healthier, lose weight, and get on a regular exercise program. Progress with a goal like that is often hard to measure and keep up with. The best method I have found to reach goals of working out regularly or eating healthy is to find a race or physical challenge, some measureable goal that I have to work towards. First, you have to pay money to enter a race, and since we all hate wasting money that helps keep you on track with a workout program. It also holds you accountable towards reaching your goal. You know that race day is coming and if you don’t get your butt in gear in time, you won’t be able to finish. Second, once you commit to training for a race, you start to worry about things like proper diet and hydration. It doesn’t seem like such a burden to eat well and take care of yourself because you’re doing it for a race, not because you “have to.”

Moreover, choosing a large public event like a race gives you a feeling of belonging to something larger than yourself, which in turn often drives you to complete a training regiment and helps you to not feel so alone in your decision to be healthy. If you decide to do a race or other large event, you may be able to find a training group to hold you accountable. It is also easy to find a training group if you can find an event that is large enough, and training with a group always lends a hand to meeting a goal, with positive peer pressure and a sense of involvement. Finally, there is the feeling of accomplishment you get when you finish a challenging race or event. That rewarding feeling often leads to bigger goals, which in turn helps you become more and more healthy. I know it can be intimidating to enter a road race or other competition, but just set the bar low the first time. If you’ve never raced before, try a 5k and don’t worry about your time; just try to finish. You might be surprised at how much you are able to accomplish. Once you’ve done it once, you will know how much you are capable of and you can set a higher goal next time.

I plan to enter a race in the near future and I will keep you all posted on how my training is going. Tomorrow, Sara will update us on her crazy training for the 24 hour race in January. What are you training for?


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