Archive for November, 2011

The Unfortunate Truth about Sitting

Sometimes it’s hard to get yourself out the door to exercise. That couch and tv just sound so much more inviting, and besides, you’re so tired from a long day of work. There are just some days when that work out isn’t going to happen. I know. 

Well, this may come as surprising news, but the way you spent your day may be even more important to your health than whether or not you squeeze in that 30 minute workout. I was first made aware of the potential health hazards of sitting at a seminar at the University of South Carolina, where I listened to a speaker discuss his latest research. He found that time spent sitting during the day was a stronger predictor of health and disease risk than time spent exercising, and those who spent 8 hours a day in a chair were potentially in serious trouble. What is especially troubling is that according to an article published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (MSSE) in 2009, leisure time physical activity does not reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) if you sit all day. Meaning, for all of you who have a desk job, getting in that 30 minutes a day may not be enough to improve your long term health.

Don’t lose hope however! There is a way to prevent this, even if you do have a desk job. All you need to do is get up and move every 30 minutes to an hour, even just to walk across the office or up a flight of stairs. Just the act of contracting your major muscle groups for a few minutes at a time can be enough to offset the effects of being sedentary all day. Here are a few tips to help you stay active in an inactive job:

1. Drink a lot of water. Not only will this keep you hydrated, but it will make sure that you have to make multiple trips to the bathroom. Even just that quick walk to the bathroom counts as physical activity, because you are standing and engaging major muscle groups.

2. Use a restroom on another floor if possible. Stairs are your new best friend in the fight to prevent heart disease, and if you work in a building with multiple floors, find a bathroom that you have to walk up a flight of stairs (or two, or three) to get to.

3. Set an alarm. You don’t want to be sitting an stationary for more than 30 minutes if at all possible, but sometimes you get wrapped up in work and forget. If you set an alarm every 30 or 60 minutes, that will remind you just to stand up and take a couple of laps around the office.

4. Stand up for lunch. The more time you can spend in a standing position, the better. Standing up forces you to contract stabilization muscles and your Vo2 (the volume of oxygen you intake to distribute to your muscles) doubles. Make it a habit to remain standing through the duration of your lunch break.

Just following these simple tips will help you reduce your risk for heart disease, AND you’ll be burning more calories during the day. Regular exercise is still important in maintaining a healthy weight, but on those days when you just can’t get yourself out the door, you can still feel good about taking the stairs at work!

Are you all interested in why sitting is bad for you? I’d be happy to write a post about the physiological mechanisms, but I didn’t want to bore you. Leave me a comment if you’d like to learn more!


Product Review: NeuroTrim

Hope you all had a wonderful thanksgiving! I was able to fly back home to Chicago and spend time with the family, which was wonderful. On our way home from the airport, Kevin and I spotted an interesting new product that we thought would be fun to review for you. Apparently it’s going to be the next big thing, so lucky you; you get the inside scoop early! Have you ever heard of neuro drinks? It’s an entire line of drinks that are supposed to be specifically created to alter your neural function to meet different needs. There’s one to make you happy (NeuroBliss), one to help you sleep (NeuroSleep) and even one to improve your sex life (NeuroGasm). Nice. We picked up the one that is supposed to help you lose weight (NeuroTrim)

The Claim: The drink claims to help reduce your appetite by supplying you with a “better” form of fiber, Amorphophallus konjac or LuraLean. They claim that this fiber will expand in your stomach or intestines because it attacts more water, therefore making you feel more full. It also claims to help you live longer because of the green tea and resveratrol. According to the directions, you need to drink one bottle before every major meal…. and of course, maintain healthy diet and exercise habits.

The Verdict: Ok, first, there is no research out there that supports this claim that I could find. Most of the products don’t have research, especially those not approved by the FDA, but still, there is nothing to support the claim that this drink will help you lose weight. I did look up the supplement Amorphophallus konjac alone and there are no studies that confirm it aides in weight loss. However, there is some research to suggest that it may reduce cholesterol levels. Here is a nice review article of the fiber if you’re interested.  The drink also has reveratrol, which has been shown to reduce oxidative damage. In mice, resveratrol is incredibly promising, but human studies so far have been a bit dissapointing. Reveratrol is the component of red wine that reduces your risk of heart disease. It certainly won’t hurt to take it, but it may not be as helpful as we once thought. The one good thing is that it is only 35 calories per bottle, so if you do decide to drink 3 of these per day, you won’t be adding a ton of calories. But, honestly, you’d be better off just having 48 ounces of water with lemon or perhaps some diluted fruit juice if you want something to fill up your stomach before you eat. It would be way cheaper, plus, the taste of this stuff is… ehhhh.

Bottom Line: As long as you can stomach a bit of caffeine (it has about 50 mg), this stuff won’t do you much harm, but you’d be better off saving your money for food you enjoy and going for a nice walk after dinner!

Have you ever tried this? Is there any diet product you’ve tried that you actually thought was effective?


5 Quick Tips

 With Thanksgiving coming up, I though you all might like some quick easy tips to get through the holiday season and not feel too guilty about your feast this thursday! I think we all want a quick fix when it comes to diet and weight loss, which is why those crazy diets like grapefruit or squash soup fads are so popular.  We would all like a remedy that’s so simple. Well unfortunately nothing is that easy, but I scoured the internet and have come up with five simple techniques that can aid in living a healthy life style.  Now I will warn you, these are not all original ideas, but they are ones that I have found helpful in my own life. If you have any tips of your own feel free to leave a comment!  I would love to hear them.


1. Buy natural varieties of peanut butter and pour off some of the oil sitting on top. Each serving will have 20 fewer calories and 2 to 3 fewer grams of fat. It’s a small difference that’ll add up to a couple of pounds per year. —Amelia Winslow, personal chef in Los Angeles and founder of the healthy food blog Eating Made Easy


2. “Cutting out after-dinner snacking is a quick way to help you shed 5 pounds in a week. At night, we’re usually scaring down junky foods in front of the TV—and it’s easy to consume a meal’s worth of calories, plus belly-bloating sodium. If you’re typically hungry before bed, it might mean you’re eating dinner too early, so push it back. Snack on fruit at 3 p.m. Then at 5 p.m., have a snack bar. At 7:30, you’ll be ready for dinner, and you’ll be eating late enough to stay full for the rest of the evening.” —Heather Bauer, RD, author of Bread Is the Devil: Win the Weight Loss Battle by Taking Control of Your Diet Demons

3. “Downsize your wine glass to cut calories. Wine glasses today are giant goblets, so it’s easy to pour 6 ounces, or one-and-a-half servings, without noticing. That means those two glasses a night might actually be closer to three (almost half a bottle!), adding up to 300 calories. Instead of drinking this way every day, have a regular-size 4-ounce glass a couple of times a week. You could drop more than 20 pounds this year.” —Tim Church, MD, director of preventive medicine research at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana


4. “Make sure you’re the last one to start eating and also the last person to finish. I do this, and it helps me slow down and chew my food properly instead of inhaling what’s on my plate—and more. Eat this way and you’ll take in fewer calories at your meals.” —JJ Virgin, PhD, author of Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy: The 5-Step Plan to Sleek, Strong, and Sculpted Arms


5. “Stop eating when you’re at a 5 or 6 on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is famished and 10 is Thanksgiving full). When you stop at 5 or 6, chances are 20 minutes later; you’ll feel like a 7 or 8. This tactic is great for parties and vacations—and could save you lots of calories per meal.” —Ellie Krieger, RD, host of Cooking Channel’s Healthy Appetite and author of Comfort Food Fix.

 Happy Thanksgiving!


Weekly Review: Skinny B*tch

Sorry this weekly review is running a few days late! Hopefully we will get back on track by next Wednesday for Kevin’s review of the weekly exercise plan. Anyway, on to the Review!

Skinny B*tch

Before I make any other comments about this book, let me first say that this is by far the most brilliant marketing scheme for a diet book I have ever seen. When you look at the cover, you see a drawing of a skinny, sexy woman; that mean girl you were always jealous of in high school and you get yourself ready for some tough love to become that person you always dreamt about. Who would have thought that this book is actually a strict vegan diet, and the authors are only concerned with you eating a natural, healthy diet and barely even consider whether that diet will cause you to lose weight?  Most people would never pick up a book about being a vegan, but millions of American women wanted to know how to be a Skinny B*tch. Brilliant.

The Good: Alright, so now let’s actually get into the content. Basically, this book is advocating a pretty standard vegan diet. They suggest a diet high in fruits and veggies and whole grain with absolutely no animal products whatsoever. This means not only no meat or fish, but no milk, eggs or cheese as well. Becoming a vegan isn’t all bad. If you know what you’re doing, this diet can actually be quite healthy; you’ll be getting plenty of fruits and vegetables, which means plenty of nutrients, vitamins and minerals and you’ll be eliminating excess saturated fat and processed foods. You do need to make sure that if you want to become a vegetarian or a vegan that you eat healthy choices and get a variety of vegetables and protein sources. Try to eat all the colors of the rainbow in fruits and veggies each week and try multiple sources of protein such as beans, lentils, soy and tofu.

The Bad: There is absolutely no evidence that this diet will cause you do lose weight. None.  It greatly depends on what your current diet is and how many calories you intake on a vegan diet. It’s going to be hard to balance out protein and carbohydrates with a vegan diet and you may end up increasing your total calorie intake just because you aren’t full after your meals. The key there is to consume some healthy fats along with your fruits and veggies such as avocados, nuts and olive oil. Now, if you eat Big Macs three times a day, then this diet certainly could help you lose weight, and it will definitely reduce your risk of chronic disease, but if you’re reasonably healthy already and trying to lose that last 10 pounds, this may not be the diet for you.

The Ugly: The writers of this book make some pretty outstanding claims in order to make a point and have done really sloppy research to back it up. Their list of references is poorly done and when I kept flipping to the back of the book to figure out how they made these wild accusations, most of their sources were secondary sources like newspaper or magazine articles. They had very few actual peer review research references which seriously diminishes the validity of their claims. If you are interested in the actual research about either weight loss or the effects of different nutrients on the body, let me know and I can direct you to some well controlled, legitimate research.

So, overall, if you’d like to become healthier and think you might be able to handle becoming a vegetarian or a vegan, this book may be for you. However, be prepared to be yelled at. A lot. The theme of this book is “tough love” and they call you all sorts of names that I won’t repeat here. If you’re just looking for a new weight loss plan, though, this book probably isn’t for you.

Have any of you ever read this book or tried becoming a vegan?


Make it an adventure

My wife and I are more like the average person than you might think. We don’t always wake up wanting to go on a 10 mile run or just drink fresh fruit smoothies and do yoga all day. Like everyone else, our motivation comes and goes in waves and sometimes doing the right thing for our bodies and health is really hard. I think the best solution we have come up with is that we just simply plan exercise into our weekend adventures.  When you have a hard time slogging through the week, it’s so liberating to have something fun to look forward to on the weekend, and it’s a great excuse to get in some extra exercise and vitamin D. My wife and I loved to go hiking when we lived in South Carolina.  We would regularly take a short road trip up the mountains and think nothing of going on 2 hour plus hike through the forest. We found hidden waterfalls and rock formations and didn’t even think about how many calories we were burning.  Another one of our favorite weekend adventures is boogie boarding. Here in South Padre Island TX, it is not uncommon to find 5-10 foot waves and fighting through the surf for an hour will leave you plenty exhausted but also quite refreshed from enjoyment.

If you can make your exercise fun, it will be the thing you look forward to all week instead of something you dread doing. Most of you may not live close to the beach or the mountains, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative about finding fun things to do together. It doesn’t really have to be that big of an event; just taking the dog for a 30-minute walk after dinner to watch the sunset or playing a game of tennis. Anything you can find to work in your daily or weekly routine will increase your physical activity and it’s an easy way to spend some quality time with your partner.


Sometimes, you don’t need to talk about it….

I know I’m a little young to be doling out marriage advice, so when Kevin and I started this blog, we sought out the advice of older couples who had been married quite a while and interviewed them about their communication and health habits. Today I want to introduce you to our first couple, R and S, and their journey through trying to improve their health and marriage.

Both R and S are in their mid-fifties and S has been gradually improving her diet and exercise over the last few years. She was diagnosed with osteopenia (the precursor to osteoporosis) and has been doing everything possible to avoid additional bone loss including eating better diet and getting more physical activity. R, on the other hand, has been working more and more as the years go by and has recently changed his commute to work from a 30 minute bike ride to a 45 minute drive. He has less time for physical activity and doesn’t always eat the best diet. S is becoming worried not only about his waistline, but about his health as well. She knows that a lack of physical activity and weight gain increases his risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

When I asked her about sitting down with her husband and having a conversation, she balked. “I wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings!” she said. She went on to explain that she really feels that making the choice to lose weight needed to be her husband’s decision and she didn’t want to pressure him.  Instead, she keeps healthy foods around the house and invites him along when she does yard work or takes a walk after dinner.

Recently, R decided to start a weight loss program. He became concerned about his growing waistline and didn’t like the idea that he had to buy a larger pants size. He mostly has been focusing on decreasing his caloric intake, but tries to get some exercise at least three times a week. I was very interested in what caused this change. He said that he knew he was gaining weight and was concerned about his health, and he was definitely able to take the hint from his wife; she would go for jogs, prepare healthy meals, and share her successes. He knew how important health was to her, and when he saw the positive changes she made, he knew he wanted the same. When I asked him how he would respond if she had directly confronted him, he said, “Oh, I would have felt guilty, not offended.”

It seems that for these two, non-verbal communication was just as effective as sitting down and having a conversation. I know that it can be challenging to get your spouse or partner to change their habits, and for some, direct confrontation may not be the best option. I think this is a great example of how modeling the change you want to see in your spouse can have a positive effect. Sometimes just being a good role model is all you need to do!

Have you ever done this for your spouse?

Make this, Dont buy that!

The last installment of this, I tackled some of my favorite drinks. This week I have chosen to address my absolute favorite meal:  a burger and French fries. There is something just American about this combination of red meat and potatoes, and I know I couldn’t live the rest of my life without eating a burger. Knowing what effects this diet can have on my body, I have come up with this healthier alternative recipe.  Enjoy!

  • 3 pounds ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onion
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together and grill to your own desired temperature.  Add any toppings you choose just know that adding cheese will increase the fat content. In my own I add a little sliced jalapeño for spice.


For the potatoes I simply slice them as thin as possible put a light coat of olive oil on them and cover them with some seasoning, anything will do. I prefer Montreal steak seasoning to add to the flavor. Put them on a cookie sheet and place in oven at 400 for about 15-20 minutes and enjoy. I try to add a side salad of spinach for more color and a beer!





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