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Aerobic and Anaerobic

10 Feb

I often hear the same question from clients, “Should I do more cardio/endurance or strength training to reach my weight loss and general fitness goals?”  It always depends on the individual, but the best answer is, you need to train using a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

What is Aerobic and Anaerobic Training?

Aerobic literally means “with oxygen.”  Oxygen is required to keep muscles in motion for a long period of time.  Muscles use oxygen to metabolize carbohydrates, protein and fat to generate energy through an aerobic or oxidative metabolic pathway.  Aerobic exercise includes activities that can be sustained for longer periods of time, such as running, jogging, swimming, cycling, or skiing.  Just as aerobic means “with oxygen,” anaerobic means “without oxygen.”  While you obviously need oxygen to perform anaerobic exercise, your muscles are not using oxygen during high intensity exercise to generate energy.  Instead, the muscles metabolize creatine phosphate and glycogen through the anaerobic metabolic pathways.  This supply is limited and therefore can only sustain short, however intense, bursts of activity.  Anaerobic exercise includes activities like sprinting and weightlifting.

Why we train using aerobic exercise.

Most of us are familiar with the benefits of aerobic exercise.  Just 20 minutes of low to moderate aerobic activity can improve your heart and lung function, blood flow, immune system, and lead to a healthier life.  Aerobic conditioning improves endurance, which enables you to train for longer periods of time at higher intensities. Moderate intensity exercise sustained for longer periods of time can result in greater energy expenditure, which contributes positively to weight loss.  It’s because of these benefits that many people opt to train only the aerobic metabolic pathway.

So why add anaerobic exercises to my training program?

Most daily activities encountered in sport, work, and life require a combination of energy pathways.  During a tennis match you may need to sprint to get to an opponent’s shot and return the ball.  To be efficient in the sport would require anaerobic training, such as sprinting drills and power training exercises.  Additionally, research has found that repeated short bouts of vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running, rowing, and jump roping, not only improves aerobic capacity but also provides greater health benefits when compared to moderate intensity exercise (Swain & Franklin, 2006).  What about everyday activities like lifting several heavy grocery bags into the back of an SUV, or getting your carry on bag into the overhead compartment on a flight?  These tasks don’t take much time but require short bursts of strength and power.  Weightlifting can make these tasks easier and safer.  So, whether your fitness goals are for greater athletic performance or improved health you can benefit from anaerobic training.

Body Fat and Hydrostatic Weighing

10 Feb

With our first of four hydrostatic weighing body composition assessments scheduled, the first taking place on Feb. 5th, some of you may be wondering the purpose for these numbers.  As stated in our Event Blast, body composition is a measurement of fat to lean mass (bones, connective tissue, muscle, organ). While bone, connective tissue and organ weight will remain constant the ratio of lean mass to fat mass can change, which is the ultimate goal.  There are numerous health benefits to decreasing body fat, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, as well as contributing to better joint health.

There is some discrepancy as to what is considered the ideal body fat percentage, but the overall consensus between heath organizations is the following 5 categories:

Essential Fat is described as the fat needed for the body to function both physically and psychologically without adverse affects.  The Athletes category describes people who routinely engage in sport activities at a high-level either professionally or as an amateur.  The Fitness or healthy levels category describes those who engage in physical activity and exercise on a regular basis.  The Average category is based on the general population.  And the Obese category describes those who run the greatest risk of potential health issues.

While decreases in body fat generally don’t occur rapidly, even a 1% decrease in body fat can have a positive impact on health. Which is why knowing your body fat percent, and where you fall on the chart, can be key to improving your health and helping you create realistic weight loss goals.  Studies have suggested creating goals that are measureable and planned have a greater likely hood for success.  Additionally, checking your goal progress with scheduled measurements for 3, 6 or 9 months will let you know if what you are doing is indeed paying off, or if your action plan needs to be re-evaluated.  If you are considering a weight loss program, get measured. Set a body composition goal and create an action plan to reduce your body fat and improve your lean mass. Your body will thank you.

Panel approves Rx diet pill

8 Dec

December 7, 2010, 4:42 pm

<!– — Updated: 4:14 pm –>

F.D.A. Panel Backs New Diet Pill


12/8/10 | Updated with more detail

A federal advisory committee on Tuesday recommended approval of what could become the first new prescription diet pill in more than a decade.

The advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration voted 13 to 7 that the benefits of the drug, Contrave, exceeded its risks. The drug was developed by Orexigen Therapeutics of San Diego.

The endorsement is the first positive sign in a long time for pharmaceutical companies trying to develop medicines to treat the nation’s epidemic of obesity.

In recent months, the same advisory committee voted against approval of two other weight-loss drugs — Qnexa from Vivus and lorcaserin from Arena Pharmaceuticals — primarily because of safety issues. Both drugs subsequently were rejected by the F.D.A. itself.


Also, the drug Meridia, from Abbott Laboratories, was taken off the market in October after a study showed it might increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. That has left only one prescription drug, Roche’s little-used Xenical, which was approved in 1999, for long-term use in losing weight.

The F.D.A. is expected to decide whether to approve Contrave by Jan. 31. It usually, though not always, follows its committees’ advice.

Contrave would be the first marketed product for Orexigen, which was founded in 2002. Takeda Pharmaceutical, the largest Japanese drug company, will market Contrave in the United States, possibly with Orexigen.

With Contrave, the big issue was that the drug had only modest effectiveness while also causing a slight increase in blood pressure and pulse rate. That could conceivably raise the risk of heart attacks and strokes, though the trials conducted by Orexigen were too small and too short to determine that.

Both the F.D.A. and the company said that a larger trial to look specifically at risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems would be conducted. The advisory committee voted 11 to 8, with one abstention, that that study could be done after the drug was approved.

Requiring such a trial before approval “would kill the development” of the drug, said Dr. William R. Hiatt, a committee member who is a professor of cardiovascular research at the University of Colorado. Such a trial is expected to involve at least 10,000 patients and could take years.

But another cardiologist on the committee, Dr. Sanjay Kaul of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said the trial should be done first.

“We need to make sure that we get it right the first time,” Dr. Kaul said. He voted against approval of Contrave, though he said he might have backed it if the drug were more effective in helping people lose weight.

In four clinical trials involving a total of about 4,500 people, those who took Contrave lost an average of 4.2 percentage points of their weight more than those taking a placebo after one year. That fell short of the standard set by the F.D.A. that a drug should produce a weight loss at least 5 percentage points greater than placebo.

However, in most of the trials, Contrave did meet a second F.D.A. requirement that twice as many patients on the drug as on placebo lose at least 5 percent of their weight. Meeting only one of the two standards is enough for approval.

“I think they made it by the hair of their chinny chin chin,” said Melanie G. Coffin, the patient representative on the committee, who voted in favor of approval. “It’s sad to see that that is as far as they could go.”

Contrave is a combination of two existing drugs that, Orexigen says, work together to quell food cravings. One of them, bupropion, is an antidepressant also known by the brand name Wellbutrin that is also sold under the name Zyban to help people quit smoking. The other, naltrexone, is approved to treat alcohol and drug addiction.

Some panel members said that since those drugs had long been used, the safety risks were fairly well understood. One is that bupropion can cause seizures. Dr. Michael A. Rogawski, a neurologist on the committee, said that because of that risk, Contrave should be used only in special circumstances.

A subtext of the meeting was whether the F.D.A. was setting the bar too high for obesity drugs. Several groups that advocate for obese people, or treat them, testified in favor of approval of Contrave. But their arguments were not so much about the drug itself as about the need for more options and about the attitude of the F.D.A.

“This panel has voted against every obesity treatment that has come before it this year,” said Theodore K. Kyle of Pittsburgh, a former industry executive who is in several advocacy groups for the obese. “I ask you to take the disease seriously and take the benefits of treatment seriously.”

Last Friday, a different F.D.A. advisory panel recommended lowering the weight requirement for weight-loss surgery involving Allergan’s stomach-restricting Lap-Band device.

But regarding Contrave, three groups — Public Citizen, the National Research Center for Women and Families and the National Women’s Health Network — urged the panel to vote against approval, saying the risks were too great and its effectiveness in weight loss too small.

People who are obese have a higher risk of death and of various diseases, like diabetes. Some studies have shown that weight loss of even 5 to 10 percent can reduce those risks.

But a concern was that the increase in blood pressure and heart rate caused by Contrave might nullify any health benefits from the weight loss.

This is what happened with Abbott’s Meridia, which was approved in 1997 despite raising blood pressure and pulse rate in clinical trials. When a big cardiovascular study was finally conducted, it found an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Trading in Orexigen’s shares was halted all day. But the panel’s positive vote buoyed the stock of other obesity drug developers, in part because it suggested they would not have to do lengthy heart safety studies before approval.

Shares of Vivus rose nearly 11 percent to close at $7.80, then shot up 13 percent more to $8.82 after hours. Arena shares rose 2 percent to $1.41 in regular trading and then nearly 11 percent more to $1.56 after hours.

What to Do When Dining Out

4 Jun

Due to consumer demand and society’s health consciousness, restaurants are feeling pressure to offer healthier food alternatives, such as more flavorful salads, low-carbohydrate meals, and low-fat dishes. Some restaurants are even going as far as providing  the calories and fat grams of their menu items for their customers. The alternative meal options and nutrient data are always helpful and should be utilized when trying to follow a healthy lifestyle.

Some restaurants are still not providing healthy food options despite the demand.  It is even more challenging when traveling to maintain health conscious diet. So,  you the consumer must try to find menu items to fit your healthy lifestyle. Here are several suggestions for eating on-the-go:

Restaurant Eating

  • Select foods that are steamed, garden fresh, broiled, boiled, baked, roasted, poached or lightly sautéed or stir-fried.
  • Avoid fried foods (so, no fried chicken, tortillas, French fries, onion rings, hamburgers, etc.). Although these items are very appetizing, they are also very calorie dense, high in fat and low in nutrients since the frying process destroys whatever was once beneficial in the food.
  • Grilled fish is always better than grilled chicken, and both are always better than grilled beef. But, be careful of dishes smothered with a sauce, based with butter or cream. Ask for either no sauce or have it on the side.
  • Take the skin off of the chicken, turkey or duck before eating it.
  • Substitute fried side-orders (i.e. French fries or potato chips) and mashed potatoes, which are usually made with cream or butter, for mixed veggies, broccoli, or green beans. If the meal already comes with vegetables, then order extra.
  • Ask the server if a restaurant’s veggies are steamed, baked and/or layered in butter and oil. Request no butter or oil be used by the chef.
  • If you find that you do not know the number of calories in a meal, then ask your server for a To-Go box or Doggy-bag. When the meal is delivered to your table, take half and save it for later. Close the container and get it out of sight. You will be much less likely to overeat if it is not in front of you.
  • Always order a salad with the dressing on the side. You will save yourself hundreds of calories if you delicately dip your fork into the dressing. Or, better yet, do not use any dressing at all. However, if you must add a little extra flavor to your salad ask for balsamic vinegar or a lemon wedge to squeeze over your salad.
  • If a dish shows up with butter, gravy, mayo or a “mayo-like” dressing on it, scrape it off.
  • For a beverage, drink water (add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime for favor), diet soda, or even 6 oz of dry white wine with seltzer (50 calories).
  • For dessert (if you must) try to avoid getting a whole dessert for yourself. Most desserts are prepared for more than one person. Share with somebody, and do not feel you need to finish it. Remember, the restaurant is not interested in your physique or your health, but rather your money. Which is more important to you?
  • Plain sherbet or gelato are much lower in calories (no sauce or fruit syrups added).
  • Instead dessert, try a latte, coffee or tea (no added sugar).

Trying to satisfy the kids appetites and maintain a healthy lifestyle can certainly be a challenge. However, flavorful, healthy options are available when you look for them. Plan your meals according to where you might be traveling, and remember when you say no to a particular food, you say yes to yourself.

Quick Thoughts

4 Mar

Read time: 20 seconds

Those who ask “What?” are in the long term rarely successful. Those who ask “What’s the reason?” are in the long term more  successful.

Those who say “just tell me what to do” never own their diet or exercise. Those who say “tell me the reason why I do this” are empowered to make healthful decisions for the rest of their lives.

Which one are you?

“Fad” or Fact: Low-carbohydrate eating and health

8 Jan

Since 1863, following the writing of William Banting’s Letter of Corpulence, physicians would advise their obese patients to avoid carbohydrates, particularly sweets, starches, and refined carbohydrates, and this would continue for the part of the twentieth century. The Stanford University School of Medicine described the diet they prescribed for obesity in 1943, and it was almost the same as the diet prescribed at Harvard Medical School in 1948, which was the same as Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago in 1950, and at Cornell Medical School and New York Hospital in 1952. The “general rules” were:

1. Do not use sugar, honey, syrup, jam, jelly, or candy.

2. Do not use fruit canned in sugar.

3. Do not use cake, cookies, pie, puddings, ice cream, or ices.

4. Do not use foods which have cornstarch or flour added such as gravy, or cream sauce.

5. So not use potatoes (sweet or Irish), macaroni, spaghetti, noodles, dried beans or peas.

6. Do not use fired foods prepared with butter, lard, oil or butter substitutes.

7. Do not use drinks such as Coca-Cola, ginger ale, pop or root beer.

8. Do not use any food not allowed on the diet and only as much as the diet allows [referring to any other food’s use].

Food as Fuel (or Fueling Obesity)

29 Dec

Read time: 2 minutes

Over the years I’ve heard the word food being replaced by the word fuel. Coaches say it. Personal trainers say it. Weight loss experts say it. “Did you get enough sleep? Did you get enough fuel?” It’s not so much a matter of changing semantics but of changing mentality.

And the mentality that food should be viewed only as fuel for the body is what’s probably wrong with the American diet today. Seeing food as fuel encourages a feeding habit removed of joy, appreciation and celebration, turning it into a mindless act. It teaches us to eat on the clock, rather than on the true needs of the body.

The problem is that our body doesn’t have just a single fuel gage to tell us when our tank is empty, but many physical and emotional gauges that trick us into thinking that we need more fuel. For so long we’ve been fueling ourselves by social or dietary rules that we’ve forgotten what physical hunger actually feels like.

So we’re pressured into eating the so-called “most important meal of the day.” We panic about forgetting that light snack between breakfast and lunch. We consider ourselves reckless when we skip lunch. And, darn it, we kill all of our effort in the gym if we don’t fuel up within half an hour after the workout.

At work we stock the desk with nuts and jerky, in the car we stuff the glove compartment with protein bars, and in the fridge we line the shelf with fudge-flavored yogurt. Just in case, we say, worried that a temporary hunger pang is the end of our metabolism.

So: Fuel, fuel, fuel!

What kind of ethics do we express when we eat food without joy or appreciation when others must starve? How do our bodies compare to those of the French and Spaniards, who sit down to celebrate the flavors of each meal? What if we actually seek to identify all the flavors of each bite on our plate, instead of shoveling it down mindlessly like the way we pump fuel into our cars? Would our careful and deliberate enjoyment of food allow us a higher quality of food intake, without going overboard on low-quality food with an amalgamation of disassociated flavors?

I believe that sitting down (with family and friends) to a meal is the best thing that we as a nation can do, socially, mentally, gustatorily, and physically. While eating, we ought to focus on the immense flavors of duck confit with fresh tangerine marmalade. We ought to search for the subtle sea salt hidden behind the delicate sweetness of caramelized sea scallops, and share the flavor with a glass of Bordeaux Blanc and see what dances on the taste buds. Or even venture with all our senses into the deep intricacies of a Chicago Deep Dish.

The reality is that many of us don’t have the time to sit down to a slow meal, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that we think we still must eat simply because it’s mealtime. So we fuel up mindlessly, even when the body has plenty in reserve (glycogen stores, fat stores, protein stores, etc.). We end up throwing calories into the body, but with lost opportunity to experience the joy that should accompany food.

Perhaps it’s time for us to let go of the fear and guilt of missing a meal, and allow ourselves the opportunity to learn how to eat less frequently. Maybe we should go longer between meals without letting the myth of “a slowed metabolism” interfere. It’s time to raise the importance of each meal, and place a greater focus on quality over quantity.

Perhaps it’s time to remove the fuel out of food, and put the food back into food, and really, truly enjoy eating again.

On Counting Calories

14 Nov

Read time: 2 minutes

The energy balance equation, based on the Law of Energy Conservation, is utter nonsense when applied to a dynamic, open system like the human body.

How is it that whole population can follow such advice as counting calories without further inquiry into whether this is even a natural practice? Did grandma do it? Did our ancestors do it? Did all hominids in the past several thousand years do it? Do lean, healthy, disease-free cultures do it? And how is it that we count calories yet still struggle immensely with weight loss?

We are told to eat less and exercise more to create a negative energy balance, and to lower our cholesterol. And if that doesn’t work, then staple our stomach, or get on drugs for the rest of our lives, to control our weight and to lower our cholesterol. How is it that a critical mass occur in our nation to feed the profits of Big Pharma and their lobbyists, without an equal proportion of challenge?

And how long can we run on a treadmill and pump iron to cause a “negative energy balance,” when even a healthy meal that night can turn the whole mathematical effort upside-down? And much to everyone’s dismay, the human body is smart enough that, when billions of its tiny cells become starved with this negative energy balance, it will trigger the evolutionary-based hormonal signaling to the brain that it is time to eat and nothing will stop the act — not tricks, not will-power, not medical intervention.

Then we’re screwed. “Fell off the wagon again,” we say with self-defeat.

Perhaps it’s time to abandon a mathematical equation that studies (extending back to last century) have repeatedly demonstrated to be “a diet method of long-term failure,” and to likely do more harm than good.

But then what?

Well, to start, remove the stuff that our bodies weren’t designed to metabolize — grain-based carbohydrates and refined sugar. As I’ve written elsewhere, and as many far more intelligent authors and scientists have written about, grain-based carbohydrates and sugar cause insulin resistance that leads to the divergence of calories into fat cells, and immobilization once there. Even on a reduced-calorie diet, if processed carbohydrates and sugar are still present, the body still suffers from the same scenario… except now it’s starving even more.

The fact is that grain-based carbohydrates affect different people differently, and some people have a greater propensity than others to become sick and/or overweight when consuming them. But, no matter how our body responds to grain-based carbohydrates, it just makes sense to eliminate the stuff entirely, or at least minimize it; grains contain higher amounts of anti-nutrients, even after cooking and heating, and we’re all healthier with their removal or reduction from the diet. (There is absolutely no nutrient that grains can provide that you can’t get far more of from vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats.)

Let’s stop the non-sense calorie counting, and start enjoying real, natural food, and live free of numbers!

Words and Phrases I Wish Would Die a Fiery Death

7 May


Workout? We work out a math problem. We work out an embedded splinter. We work out a bad constipation. We work out a rocky marriage. But what the hell do we workout with a dumbbell? Why not just call it exercise—because that’s what it is. Exercise. And if I had my choice, this word, too, would also die a fiery death. Exercise merely describes our need to fill the void left by the sedentary lifestyle created by office chairs, automobiles, couches, and televisions. We—the proverbial we, that is—sit around all day so we have to invent gyms and dumbbells to regain our loss of physical activity, that natural element so critical for healthy gene expression.


Low Carbs

This sounds like a motor vehicle emission bill that was passed to lower the smog in our air—the one that chokes us while we’re out, er, working out. Makes no sense that we resort to the term low carbs to describe an eating habit. If we’re eating what our mothers told us to eat more of (vegetables and fresh fruits, instead of breads, pasta, commodity grains and processed foods), then we are, by default, eating a low-carbohydrate diet. Our ancestors (not the Mayflower ones but the much earlier Nomads/cave-dwelling ones) didn’t bake cakes, cut breads, or fry potatoes, nor did they process grains, corn and chemicals over the campfire. And they certainly didn’t add refined sugar into their coffee. Which really sucks because they had no idea what they were missing; but too bad for us, because we’re stuck with their DNA. Eat more vegetables and fresh fruits, and we don’t have to worry about confusing our discourse between eating and vehicle emission.


I Ate so Much that I need to Exercise it Off

We need to exercise for many physiological reasons, but to undo the mistake of eating poorly or excessively is encroaching bulimia—exercise bulimia. Dietary correction is not a reason for exercise, yet I see it all the time. People take exercise to excess to undo what their foods did to them. Of course, for some, lots and lots of exercise makes them feel good–they enjoy it, they say, makes them feel high.  Fair.  But I’ll bet you just as many, if not more, take it to excess upon exercise bulimia.  I’d guess that many possess deep psychological issues that require therapy (not my area), but I also wonder how many just don’t know they can optimize their body composition through truly eating well, instead of through maniacal exercising.

Why not just eat healthy foods like lots of vegetables and fresh fruits and some nuts and seeds and some quality meats, to begin with, and avoid excessive wear and tear and deleterious effects on the body through excessive exercise? Of course, it’s easier said than done. I’ll concede that it is far harder to make good food choices and sane portion control than to exercise the body into oblivion. Good food choices will control body composition far better than exercise, and certainly way healthier than exercising a million times a week.  I know, eating healthy all the time is not so easy.  But there it is.

Then there are those who train for sporting goals (weightlifting, marathon, triathlon, bodybuilding), but, good grief, don’t confuse that with health.


I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment.

The Secret to Success

27 Apr

The conversation goes something like this, “I’m trying to lose weight. I think my diet is generally pretty good, I’m exercising at least 2x/week at moderate intensity but I’m not losing weight. What can I do?” This is a direct quote from hundreds, probably thousands, of sources on a daily basis. Macronutrient (carbs, protein, fat) targets are recommended. Percentages from specific sources are encourage (90% fats from unsaturated sources; 60% carbs from veggies . . .that kind of thing).

The conversation continues . . . “I have neither the time nor the inclination to weigh, measure and journal my food. These recommendations don’t offer me the solution I need.” Simple answer, look for the remaining excesses in your diet (salad dressing, cheese, bread on your sandwich . . .the list goes on and on) and cut them out/replace them with something that fits better – unsaturated oil for dressing (olive oil, sesame oil) in limited quantity or no dressing; fruit with breakfast or as dessert; veggies, preferably those with low glycemic index, for snack (buy prewashed/cut). Exercise: increase frequency, increase duration on some days, increase intensity on other days. Consistency and variety in both diet and exercise are the key to success.

The conversation ends . . . “Doesn’t sound like much fun.” Answer, “Fun is having the body you want, not something you eat.”