Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year! I think anytime is a good time to make a resolution to change your life for the better, but the New Year seems to be the most popular time.

Here are my "10 Tips to Stick to Your New Year Resolution" from last year (click on the links to read more on each one):

1. Forget "No Pain, No Gain" mantra. Instead, strive for consistency and patience.
2. Give up potatoes and rice for one month. Instead eat fruits and vegetables as side dishes.
3. Introduce fruits and vegetables for each meal.
4. Try new fruits and vegetables to find some you may like.
5. Invest in a good pair of running or walking shoes. Hold off on the gym membership for now.
6. Set a goal to compete in and complete an organized recreational event like a 5k or bike ride in the March - June time frame.
7. Re-prioritize your schedule so that exercise doesn't get pushed off the list.
8. Try one or two new activities to discover something you may not have known that you'd enjoy.
9. Join groups that meet for recreational activities.
10. Keep a food diary for 2 weeks and then use my book to figure out how to calculate your food needs.

Friday, December 22, 2006

4.2: Education: What are macronutrients?

Macronutrients are three basic building blocks our bodies need for maintenace and energy. Feeding my body the right mix of macronutrients has been one of my most helpful techniques for gaining control of my weight.

The three macronutrients are carbohydrates (or carbs), protein and fat. Each of these macronutrients have calories that can wind up on your waistline if you eat too much.

Fat has 9 calories per gram.
Carbs and Protein 4 calories per gram.
By the way, Alchohol, has 7 calories per gram in case you were wondering.

Our bodies break down these macronutrients to supply energy and to build and repair cells. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just shovel three basic building blocks into our front door and our homes automatically took those to make repairs and keep the house warm or cool? That's what our bodies do.

I grew up in the 80s, with low fat diets. I lived through the 90s and it's low carb diets. Both of those trends did damage to my waistline, because neither worked for me. Dr. Barry Sears, convinced me one evening that my body actually needs a fairly steady mix of all three macronutrients. That evening was the night that my wife bought his short, grocery counter checkout book, "A Week in the Zone". It's a very short book - just like mine - but to me made a compelling case for me to get 40% of my calories from carbs, 30% from protein and 30% from healthy fats every time I eat.

Since then I've seen other diets recommend a similar formula as the long-term eating solution - most notably, the South Beach Diet. Incidentally, diabetics are taught to control their insulin levels with the same mix of carbs, protein and fat.

Before, I use to feel like I needed to visit confessional for eating any fat. I tried to cut as much fat out of my diet as possible. I figured that was the way to stay thin. So, how did I gain weight? Turns out, the body does need fat. It's designed that way. Starving it of fat ended up causing me to eat more calories than I needed.

And that is the reason I got fat. I ate more calories than I needed. For weight loss, mathematically it doesn't really matter where the calories come from - carbs, fat, protein - if you eat too many, you will gain weight.

But, physiologically, where the calories come from can make a world of difference. When I changed my mix of calorie intake to include more fats and to balance out the mix I noticed a difference immediately. It took me longer to feel hungry after eating.

So, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT: with the right mix of macronutrients, I'm able to eat the right amount of calories to control my weight without feeling like my stomach is trying to digest itself 30-90 minutes after eating.

I don't follow the 40/30/30 advice to the gram. It's more of a guideline. And, now, I know (or my stomach knows) well when I stray too far away from that guideline.

Friday, December 15, 2006

4.1: Education: What are calories?

I'm now getting back on my roadmap to success with the second installment on education.

Have you ever look at a word that you've been using all of your life and it suddenly seems odd? Calorie was such a word for me. What exactly is a calorie?

Have you ever visited the website I love it. It contains informative articles on most subjects. Click on the following link to read a "HowStuffWorks" article by Julia Layton and learn how calories work.

How Calories Work

A calorie is a unit of measure for energy. A mile measures distance. A fluid ounce measures volume. Calories measure energy. It's easy to visualize a mile or a fluid ounce, but not so easy to visualize a calorie. Energy is abstract. We see the results of energy expenditure - motion, light, boiling water, for example. But we usually don't actually see the energy. Wow, I better stop, now 'energy' is starting to look weird.

I'll spare you anymore physics. The easiest way to view a calorie is to think that it takes about one to two calories to "keep your lights on" in your body each minute. If your in motion or exercising it can consume 5-10 calories per minute.

I'm thankful for the calorie. A lot of diet plans try to invent their own system of monitoring food intake, but why? We already have a pretty darn good system. Calorie information is readily available for almost every food we eat. Once you know how many calories you need to consume it's 2nd grade math to figure out if you're consuming the right amount.

Calorie and macronutrient (i.e. fat, protein and carb) content are the only two pieces of information I really need to monitor my food intake for weight control. I'll write more about the macronutrients down the road.

A friend of mine says that weight loss is simple - just burn more calories than you consume. I agree, that's the essence of weight loss.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Alcohol is good for you - in moderation

People always ask me what I eat. I tell them anything I want, just not a lot of it. Moderation is bliss. Add alcohol to the list of things that are beneficial in moderate amounts. According to this article up to four alcoholic beverages per day for men and two for women are linked with longer lives. More than those amounts is linked with shortened lives (hmm - car wrecks, liver disease, etc. - shocker).

I've been around statistics enough in my profession to understand that statistical studies are far from proof of cause and effect, but I can believe this. My guess is that it has something to do with the the disinfectant and blood thinning capabilities of alcohol. But who cares?

The key here is moderation and responsibility. Too much of a good thing, especially in this case, can kill you.

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Mindless Eating"

I'm taking a little break from my roadmap to success. A friend sent me some information on Professor Wansink's book, "Mindless Eating" because he said that some of the stuff Wansink said reminded me of some of things I said.

Wansink writes that in a typical day we make 200 food-related decisions and that many subtle things impact how much food we eat. For example, according to his latest blog post we tend to consume 28% more calories when eating low fat snacks because we think they're healthier.

Very interesting. I agree. Most people are unaware of the little things that drive their eating habits. For example, I notice that if I don't watch myself, I tend to eat at about the same pace and volume as those I'm with which is dangerous since I'm shorter than almost everyone and I don't need as many calories to maintain my weight.

Food intake awareness is a great skill to develop. It took practice to develop mine but quickly becomes second nature. Now it's like a little computer program that runs in the background. So, while I'm carrying on a conversation with a friend on the way to a restaurant I'm thinking of my options and try to settle on one before I get there to avoid being tempted by the bad stuff. When I get my food, I visualize the portion I want to limit myself to. As I'm eating, I stop and ask my self if I'm full. Sometime in a future post, I'll make a checklist to get you started if you're interested.

I know some are thinking, "that doesn't sound like fun, I want to enjoy my food." Believe it or not, I do that too. When I say it eventually becomes second nature, I mean it's sort of like driving a car. Most of us can drive and do something else at the same time like think about other things, carry on conversations, listen to the radio, and talk on the phone (not recommended). But, all the while you're steering, controlling speed, keeping tabs on nearby vehicles and pedestrians and navigating.

In driving, if you turn off the driving subroutine that's running in the background of your gray matter in order to focus on a phone conversation you might end up around a tree. If I turn off my eating subroutine, I'll end up in a food coma.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

4. Education: What is body fat?

I once thought that my body fat was nothing more than the fat I ingested in my diet deposited to my belly and love handles. As little as six years ago I thought that by limiting my fat intake, I would control body fat. But, lo and behold I was gaining weight even without a great deal of fat intake. I didn't understand what was happening.

Now I feel silly for ever thinking that. But, as I talk to more and more people I'm finding that it's myths like that that are prevent many people from losing weight. The purpose of this educational series is to review the things that I know now that make it much easier for me to understand how to control my weight, that I didn't know six years ago.

*The number of fat cells in your body is pretty much constant after puberty.
*Fat cells are your like your fuel tank. You body stores extra energy there to be used later when your body runs out of the energy supplied directly from your food intake.
*Your fat cells grow in size as they store more energy - that's called gaining weight.
*A gram of fat contains 9 calories. No wonder our bodies like to store energy in fat. Protein only stores 4 calories per gram. On a normal day, you burn 9 calories in about 20 minutes.
*If you continually feed your body more calories than it needs, it will eventually store some of those calories in your fat.
*Your wonderful body does covert fat in your diet more readily to fat in your belly, but extra calories from protein and carbohydrates can and will be converted body fat.
*One pound of body fat can supply your body's energy needs for about a day and a half. If you're 10 pounds overweight, you have enough energy to go without eating for 18 days (although your body would need other vital nutrients to stay alive).
*Fat was our ancestors' insurance policy against famine. They ate well when food was ample and then subsisted on their stored calories in times when external calories weren't as readily available.
*Liposuction can remove fat from one part of your body, but if you keep taking in more calories than your burn, your body will just store the extra calories in the remaining fat cells in your body leading to some weird features (e.g. trim belly, fat arms).
*The distribution of fat differs from person to person. Men tend to have fat cells in the midsection, while women have them in the breasts, buttocks and legs.
*Our body's tend to prioritize where it stores fat. For example, my body tends to store energy on my midsection and under chin first. When I reach maximum capacity in those places it tends to distribut to other parts of my body like my fingers and face. It comes off in the reverse order. For me, it drops off my face and fingers, then my mid-section and chin.

Click here for a GREAT article about fat cells in the body.

4. Education

When I was overweight, I really couldn't tell you why I was overweight. Generally I knew that I was eating too much and/or not exercising enough. But, I didn't know how to go about figuring out how much I should eat or how much I should exercise.

But, my lack of knowledge was even more basic than that. Before I educated myself, I had only a vague notion on what fat was and how it worked. I didn't know where that cut-off was between fat and thin. I didn't know exactly what a calorie was or how fat, protein and carbs worked. At one time, I actually thought that you got fat by eating fattening foods. I didn't know how body fat differed from fat in your diet. I didn't know how my body takes the food I eat everyday and breaks it down into the pieces that keep us humming.

After talking with many people, I realized that most people don't know these things either. It's a complicated subject matter, which pushes some to try to simplify it into an easily understandable system.

For me it was important to learn the fundamentals of how the body worked in order to be successful at controlling my weight. I didn't want to follow a dumbed-down system, but not understand why I was doing what I was doing.

As the answers came, I realized weight control touches on many different traditional subject matters. It spans physics, biology, chemistry, economics, psychology, statistics, finance, medicine, health with a heavy dose of math mixed in.

For the next several posts I'm going to deep dive into weight loss education. I'm going to step you through the process of how I came to understand weight - at it's base level - which helps me successfully control my weight.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cost of calories

I'm taking a short break from my road map to weight loss. Calories have become cheaper, easier to acquire and to consume over the last several thousand years. Twenty-five thousand years ago, most humans spent much of their time finding, preparing and chewing food just to meet their basic caloric needs.

Now, we can buy our daily caloric needs with income that takes minutes to earn and we can take in those calories in a few bites. I thought it might be helpful to put some numbers to this thought for illustrative purposes. I found a site to help me.

According to that link, in 1929 we spent 22.7% of our income on food in total (at home and away from home). In 2005 this figure dropped to 11.5%. WOW!!!! I know, numbers probably bore you, but for the anlytically minded (like myself) this is huge. Just 77 years ago we spent $22.70 of every $100 of income on food. Now we spend $11.50. That's a drop of $11.20. Furthermore, the percentage of income spent on food at restaurants has increased from 15% of our food budget in 1929 to 43% of our food budget in 2005.

Translating this another way, $1 today can buy about 150 calories of food, on average. That same dollar (adjusted for inflation) could only buy about 75 calories in 1929. Of course there are wide variations on the cost of calories for specific foods, but I'm talking averages here. So, today you can get your caloric needs on about $10-$15/day, whereas in 1929 it would cost you $20-$30 in today's dollars.

So...what's my point? This seems to be one of the reasons why, as a nation, we are fat. In less than 8 decades, a mere blink of the eye in human history, we've substantially improved our ability to get the calories we need to survive. Just think how much we've improved over the last several thousand years. Thousands of years ago, it's likely that calorie gathering, prep and chewing took 6-8 hours per day, whereas now it can take less than an hour. What are we doing with all that extra time?

Also, consider that we've made food more tasty and appealing. Mix cheap and easy calories, delectability and lots of free time that can be spent shoveling delectable treats into our mouths and what do you get? Fat America.

I think we've solved the problem of hunger - for the most part - in our country. Now, we need to do a better job of educating people about how to control their weight.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

3. Commitment to goal

If you've read this far then you might have recognized that you have a weight problem (#1) and you might have a desire to do something about it (#2). The next step on my roadmap to weight loss success is committing to your goal.

What's preventing you from comitting today? What's preventing you from committing right now? Nike says, Just Do It. If you aren't committing right now, make a list of all the reasons why not. Do you have any valid reasons? The only real valid excuse is that you're pregnant. Are you pregnant?

Some may want to enjoy the holidays without the guilt of straying from a diet plan. But, you'll feel the guilt when you wake up January 2 with 15 extra pounds hanging from your gut. Take this opportunity to learn how to enjoy the holidays without haivng eat large volumes of food. Savor the taste with smaller portions. Rediscover activities such as board games that you can use to connect with your family members. Get out and play a T-Day or Christmas day game of touch football. Several in my family enjoy a 5k run on T-Day morning. It has become a standing tradition that is now in its 14th year.

There are tons of other excuses to put off shedding the pounds. Let me know if you have any others and I'll give you some ideas on why it's not valid.

Ultimately delaying commitment is a sure sign that you likely won't have the follow-through when it counts.

Commit. Today.

Read my previous post on commitment.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

2. Desire to do something about it (Part II)

I left this one dangling on my previous post. Desire is a tough one. Some people have the desire, some don't. Some try to convince themselves that they have the desire, but they really don't.

How do you get the desire to lose weight? I had a couple of shocking moments that woke me up from a self-denial daze. I jumped on a scale and it showed a number I never thought I'd see. And, I noticed that people who were 5-6 inches taller than me weighed less than I did.

That was enough to light my fire of desire. And, it's stayed lit ever since. Some type of veil-lifting experience seems to be how many get the desire to lose weight.

Do any of these sound familiar?
"Life's too short to worry or obsess about what I eat."
"I enjoy my food more than I enjoy being skinny."
"I have no willpower."
"Food gives me the escape I need."

These are self-defeating statements and they become irrelevant when you have a heart attack or get diagnosed with type II diabetes or some other life altering and life threatening issue.

And, perhaps that's it. It's easy to say when your 25, 35 or even 45 that life's too short to worry about what you eat. And, while controlling your weight does improve your chances of avoiding ailments, it's not a sure thing. So, the payoff of good health simply isn't worth the immediate cost for many people.

However, I'm only 35 and I already know at least a half dozen people who were shocked into becoming very interested in their diet because of some medical treatment. A few of them were close to dying. They had their chest spread open, people were inside them working on them like they were a broken car. They had long and painful recoveries and plenty of time to think about all the damage they did to their bodies for all of those years.

You probably know someone like that too. If you do, have a chat with them. Ask them what it was like when they thought it was about to be over. The one's I know told me that they were scared like nothing before. They weren't ready to go. They felt foolish for being so pig-headed for years and not being smart enough to know that the day would come when it would all catch up to them. They weren't ready to go. They had grandkids that they wanted to watch grow up. They hadn't made it to the Grand Canyon yet. They had just retired and hadn't had the opportunity to find their new lives. They just wanted to feel like they still had some control over how long they're going to live.

I know several others that didn't get to experience the shock. They're gone.

Desire is a funny thing. I was lucky enough to get a major jolt to my desire long before I had an ailment do it for me. I know that I'm not 100% protected from from weight-related diseases and there are trade-offs and risks to my activities as well (e.g. just two weeks ago a woman was run over and killed on her bicycle 2 miles from my house), but I still find that it's worth it to try to stay healthy.

Of course, health isn't the only benefit that I receive. I enjoy the activities that I'm involved with. There's something about rising in the wee hourse of the morning a few times a year to get to an event that I like. When the alarms goes off, I often question what the heck I'm doing, but by the end of the day I'm satisfied. Eating well helps me enjoy those days even more.

I hope you'll find something about being healthy that'll inspire you as well and I certainly hope that you don't wait for the schock of fear to inspire you.

Friday, August 18, 2006

2. Desire to do something about it.

I've been stuck on this awhile trying to figure out how to write something that might motivate you to have a desire to do something about losing weight, but this is a tough one. This is probably the most important of all the steps, but it's also the least formulaic.

I watched Wynona Judd on Oprah make a pledge to America to kick her weight problem about two years ago. I could read it in her eyes on national TV that she really didn't have the desire to do it. I'm sure she thought that she had the desire. I'm sure she thought making the pledge to a national audience would be the cement that desire in her brain, but it didn't come through in her body language.

Oprah herself has battled weight loss and weight gain, as we all know (I do watch Oprah on the DVR often with my wife in case you're wondering). But, it seems apparent in her body language when she has the desire to keep the weight off and when she doesn't.

Desires come in all shapes and sizes. Some people desire riches, some desire fame, to be loved, to belong, to have a lake house, prestige, to hear from a friend and so forth.

Desire is strange. How much control do we have over our desires? It seems almost primal. You can see desire in the eyes of animals. One of my friends is a super-triathlete. He's a fast runner, a fast cyclist and fast swimmer. He runs marathons and has completed an Ironman distance triathlon. After knowing him for several years, he confided in me that he sometimes desires a cigarette. That surprised me.

His theory was that he smoked when he was 13-14 years old and he thought that perhaps that was a life long desire forming age. Interesting. I started thinking about it. I was riding a bicycle competitively at that age and now I really desire to ride a bike. I love running, which I didn't do a lot of when I was that age, but I don't love it as much as cycling. I'll have to research that to see if I can find anything to lend credence to his theory.

"By the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes." I didn't read the book, but I've watched the movie many times. The dark carnival sweeps into town and grants people their deepest desires, for a price of course (their souls).

Last week a TV magazine show was featured three people who had strong desires to become amputees. Two of them actually froze their legs and damaging them to the extent where their legs had to be removed. One asked, "What the hell was I thinking?" Obviously these people are extreme cases. Even they admitted that their desire was not rational or normal. But, they mentioned that their obsession started in childhood. Hmmmmm.....I'll have to give some more thought to this. This is starting to intrigue me.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

1. Recognition of Problem

It took me two years from the time I first calculated my BMI that showed I was overweight until I finally admitted or realized that I was overweight. I wasn't severely overweight, but according to the BMI, I was overweight nonetheless.

I tried to rationalize my BMI score as being an outlier. Since the BMI (Body Mass Index) is a statistical model based on a sample of humans, I figured all statistical models have outliers and I must be one of those outliers. Thinking that, though, didn't get rid of my love handles and stomach pudge.

Part of my problem was that I simply didn't want to admit that I was overweight and the other part of my problem was that I simply didn't understand the BMI. Admitting that I was overweight meant that I might have to do something about it. That meant that I might have to change my habits. That was scary.

However, had I understood the BMI, I might have had an easier time admitting I had a problem. I think the BMI turns off a lot of people because it has three basic ranges: "normal", "overweight" and "obese". Leading with those blunt categories creates a barrier for people, like myself, from understanding what it says.

I think it's because of our typical reaction to the "you are" vs. "I" communication techniques. People automatically become defensive when you tell them "you are not doing something right", in the BMI's case it's telling them that "you are fat". When we become defensive we tend to put up a barrier that protects our feelings from becoming mangled.

The "I" technique is supposed to be better. Leading constructive criticism with the "I feel bad when you react this way" softens the blow to our egos enough for us to consider our actions without putting up the barriers. If the BMI had an "I" communication, I think it would have caught my attention earlier.

The BMI's "I" communication could be: "As researchers we discovered that people with a BMI range of 25-30 have a higher risk of suffering from a weight-related illness such as Type II diabetes." That sounds better than "you are overweight (ie fat)."

Furthermore, "our studies show that the risk of suffering from a weight related illness substantially increases with a BMI score of 30 or above." That sounds much better than "you are obese (ie really fat)."

So, do you want to know your risk of suffering from a weight related illness? Then calculate your BMI. Here's how to do it (it's simple, but grab a calculator):

1. Start with your weight in pounds. Mine is 134 pounds (this morning).
2. Divide by your height in inches. Mine is 64 inches (yes, I'm short!).
3. Divide by your height in inches, again. Mine is 64 inches, again.
4. Now muliply by 703.

My BMI calculation looks like this: 134 pounds / 64 inches / 64 inches x 703 = 23.

My BMI this morning was 23.0. At my peak I was approaching 30 and for years before that I was hovering in the 25-28 range. Just for laughs, the difference between a BMI of 23 and 24 for my height is 6 pounds. So, if I weighed 139 pounds, my BMI would move up one point to 24.

What's your's?

If it is under 25, you're doing well. You have a low risk (but still some risk) of suffering from a weight related illness).

If your BMI is higher than 25 and less than 30, you have an elevated risk of suffering from a weight related illness at some point in your life (moreso while you are above 25).

If your BMI is 30 or higher, then you have an even higher risk of suffering from a weight related illness at some point in your life.

There. I made it through without saying that you are fat or really fat.

So, now you know your risk of suffering from a weight related illness. The next question is whether you have the desire to do anything about it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Road Map to Weight Loss Success

1. Recognition of problem.
2. Desire to do something about it.
3. Commitment to goal.
4. Education.
5. Learning the tricks of the trade.
6. Change habits and mindset.
7. Measure progress.
8. Deal with setbacks.
9. Continue learning.
10. Keep goal as high priority.

As I've discussed weight loss with others, I've noticed that failure tends to come when people try to do some parts of the process I outlined above, but fail to consider other parts. Over the next few posts I'm going to explore why each step is important and how it links in with the other steps.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Bicycling magazine letter follow-up

Below is a reprint of the letter I wrote to Bicycling magazine (it's a year old) along with my annotations where I think it's necessary to provide some additional context for you since you don't have the benefit of the original articles that prompted my letter (though you could read those articles by picking up a copy of the September 2005 Bicycling issue).

July 28, 2005

Steve Madden, Editor
Bicycling Magazine
135 North Sixth Street
Emmaus, PA 18098

Steve Madden:

As a long-time avid cyclist and Lemond-inspired junior racer, I so look forward to reading your rag each month. But, “Who You Calling Fat?” (9/2005) missed the mark on the BMI and propagated poor advice supporting that our body types are preprogrammed.

It’s important to understand BMI in order to use it effectively. It is not, as Conrad Ernest suggests, a “predictor of fitness.” Rather it indicates the risk level of suffering from weight-related illnesses such as type II diabetes, based on the results of studying a sizeable population. An “overweight” BMI score of 25 – 29 simply indicates an elevated risk of suffering from a weight-related illness. The risk goes higher at the “obese” score of 30. Also, BMI formulators fudge these limits for bulky weightlifters, but not endurance athletes.

[Seth's Note: The following paragraph referenced a quote from an athlete named Tim Buese, who poo-poo'd BMI because he experienced lightheadedness at 184 pounds. I too experienced lightheadedness when I got down to a BMI of around 21-22. I solved it by adding a few pounds, but still remaining well within the normal BMI range for my height.]

Taking a closer look at Tim Buese’s numbers, at 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds he is only 8 pounds above the “normal” BMI range and 32 pounds shy of “obesity”. I imagine Tim could trim down to 195 – 200 pound range and improve his performance without the lightheadedness he had at 184 pounds (and a BMI of 23, which is on the low end of the normal range for men).

[Seth's Note: The following paragraph references a quote from Jim Glinn that perfectly embodied my attitude toward BMI before I understood and used it to my benefit.]

Also, I disagree with Jim Glinn’s notion that “body types are in many ways preprogrammed,” because it’s that exact thinking that kept me above normal on the BMI scale for years. However, once I understood BMI and a few other things I lowered my BMI below 25. I’ve maintained it at 23.5 for the past four years, without lightheadedness. Not bad, considering I once thought I was “preprogrammed” to be 10 pounds above the normal BMI range.

I wrote about my understanding of BMI and the other things I learned about healthy weight loss in a short book entitled, “A Few Bites a Day: My Weight Loss Success Story” (which is available on I also write a blog at . The unfortunate consequence of my book is that I’m not always the first up the hills on Saturday morning rides anymore.

I’ve enclosed two copies of my book, one for you and the other for Sam Wade (who was featured in the “XXXL Dreams” article). Hopefully, you’ll find it helpful. If you’d like more copies or would like for me to send directly to Sam, just drop me an e-mail at:


Seth McMenemy
Author of “A Few Bites A Day: My Weight Loss Success Story”

Friday, June 23, 2006

20/20 on 6/23/2006

20/20 this evening featured the good doctors who wrote "You: The Owner's Manual". I'm still reading the book and learning new things daily. It's a great read. My only complaint is that it's too chock full of information. I hope somewhere near the end they summarize all of their recommendations into a 1-2 pager.

On 20/20 they discussed some of the myths that they dispel in their book, one of them being that exercising too much is not good on the body, which I wrote about in an early post. First Oprah, now 20/20 - the doctors are making their rounds. Hopefully people will listen.

Bicycling Magazine and the BMI

Last year Bicycling magazine dedicated one of it's issues to weight loss. In one short article, they discussed and "dissed" the BMI (body mass index). The author's take was that it wasn't realistic and he even quoted a physical therapist (if memory serves me) as saying that we all have "pre-programmed" weights.

This article was the perfect embodiment of how I use to think of the BMI - utter denial. For those of you who don't know, the BMI is a number that you can calculate from your height and weight to determine if your weight is normal for your height or not. I go into more detail on how I came to believe in the BMI in my book. Suffice it to say now, I think the BMI is a great tool for identifying your target weight.

I was digging through my files and I found the letter that I wrote to Bicycling's editor, Steve Madden. Unfortunately, it didn't get printed and I didn't get a response. That's too bad, because I expected a magazine that I've been reading off and on for over 20 years to be more responsible in its reporting.

I was hoping that even if my letter didn't get printed, that the argument I made for the BMI in it would at least prompt the editors to dig deeper on the BMI and retract the rubbish they printed. Unfortunately, I haven't seen anything of sort since.

But, that's not surprising. Now that I think of it, I got much of my diet advice from Bicycling as a teenage bike racer. Carbs, carbs & more carbs - which isn't very good advice for the waistline, unless you're a Tour de France rider.

In Steve Madden's letter from the editor column, he has complained about the few extra pounds that he carries around his waist and his desire to shed those. Perhaps he's just at his genetic preprogrammed weight.

In my next post, I'll recount the letter I wrote.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Parade Magazine; 6/11/2006

Dr. Michael O'Shea writes a "Better Fitness" column for Parade Magazine (the magazine insert that comes in most major Sunday newspapers). His column on June 11 is the first time that I can recall where someone agreed with one of my non-conventional tips - to weigh yourself often.

"Daily weigh-ins are key to keeping weight off, according to research of Brown University Medical School. By stepping on a scale every day, 61% of people in an 18-month study managed to gain back only 5 of the average 44 pounds each had lost. (Most dieters will gain back a third of their weight within a year)."

I'm a big proponent of getting in the habit of weighing yourself daily. I do. While many diet experts seem to recommend to pay attention to how well your clothes fit rather than the scale, I think that's bunk. You should pay attention to both.

Weighing yourself daily has several benefits. First, there's no escaping reality. When the needle doesn't tell me what I want it to tell me, I first check the scale calibration. If that doesn't work, I may try to run through a couple of excuses, but I usually end up where I should - realizing that I've been letting my eating get a little out of control.

Next, you learn more about how your body weight responds to certain things. I've learned that I usually pick up two pounds of water weight after enjoying one of my favorite Mexican meals due to the high sodium content. After a couple days, that weight seems to evaporate. Likewise, I found out that I could easily lose 3 - 5 pounds on a 100 mile bike ride. Because of this, I drink much more fluids and eat more often during rides in order to stay hydrated and energized. Now I feel better at the end and I rarely allow myself to lose so much weight on one back ride.

Finally, weighing yourself daily keeps your weight control on top of your mind. Avoiding the scale just makes it too easy to avoid the whole subject of weight loss.

It is a tough habit to start, but I do believe it's essential. In order to lose weight you have to be completely honest with yourself and the scale makes it that much tougher to delude yourself, unless, of course, you are better at calibrating the needle on scale than I.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

"You: The Owners Manual" Part II

I'm finally reading "You: The Owner's Manual". It contains some interesting concepts indeed. Here's one interesting tidbit.

The good doctors speak in terms of Real Age and Calendar Age. They contend that our lifestyles make our bodies younger or older than our true calendar age. For example, the body of a 55 year old smoker is more like the body of a 65 year old non-smoker.

Regarding exercise, they contend that you receive the optimal age benefit from 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day and 1 hour (or 3 - 20 minute sessions) per week of vigorous exercise at 80% of your max heart rate (which is 80% of 220 - your calendar age).

They also contend that any more than one hour of vigorous exercise actually reduces the benefit of exercise on your Real Age. They said that a 55 year old man that followed their exercise routine would have a real age of 45. But, a 55 year old man that exercises more would have a real age of 52.

Interesting! Perhaps there is a such thing as too much exercise.

Over the years I've settled into an exercise routine that involves copious amounts of rest and moderate exercise. On average, I probably only get about 1 hour of high intensity exercise each week. I do take 2 days off a week. Perhaps I'll consider adding a short walk on those days to get in the 30 minutes of physical activity.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

50 Weight Loss Tips

A friend sent me this link to Chris Pirillo's blog that contains 50 Weight Loss Tips. It contains some really nice tips, with the first one being the crux of my weight loss success.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Few Bites a Day

Every once in awhile I'm reminded why I named my book "A Few Bites a Day". People often discover that they're overweight after years and years, sometimes decades, of gradual weight gain. They can't seem to figure out how they got to that point. They don't feel like they are big overeaters and they're probably correct.

But doing the math tells a different story. You can eat 50 calories in 2-3 bites of calorie dense foods and maybe 5-7 bites of less calorie dense foods. Let's say you eat 50 more calories, on average, than you need to maintain your weight each day. That adds up to a calorie surplus of 18,000 in just one year.

A pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories, so the 18,000 calorie surplus translates into about 5 pounds per year of additional waistline or 50 pounds over the course of the decade. It's no wonder people can wake up after 2-3 decades of slight, barely detectable overeating to discover that they're overweight. The "wake-up" often happens when they look at their picture from years earlier and realize just how much bigger they are.

Also, based on these numbers, it's no wonder that a few bites a day can make the difference between losing, maintaining or gaining weight.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Yahoo! Answers

Lately I've been spending some time on the Diet & Fitness section of Yahoo! Answers. Yahoo! Answers is a new feature on Yahoo! where you post questions that you have on just about any subject and other users will answer you.

A very common question is "how do I lose weight?" I think most people realize that eating less and exercise is the best answer, but even that is too general for most. It's kind of like asking, "how do I get something to the moon?" The obvious answer is to put it on a rocket. But most people wouldn't even know where to begin in building and designing a rocket that could make it to the moon. Similarly, I believe most people don't know where to begin once they realize that "eating less and exercise" is the answer to losing weight.

The purpose of my book was to document how I ate less and exercised to lose thirty pounds. I first learned about calories - how much I burned and how much I ate. Then I learned to change my eating habits to balance out my calorie burn/intake equation. At the same time, I have a host of advice that I have found helpful in keeping my exercise from getting boring.

Much of this stuff is basic knowledge that I learned from a variety of sources and finally pieced it all together into a set of actions that worked for me. I think they should teach this stuff in school so that everyone will know the basics before they hit the real world.

Is it easy? Not always. It does require self-control. Once you know how to design and shoot the rocket to the moon, you actually have to go through the efort of building and launching it, which takes discipline and setting the right priorities.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"You: The Owner's Manual"

Oprah had a great show with Drs. Roizen and Oz. These guys seem to know their stuff. While I have had great success with the information in my book, these guys taught me a few things. I plan to get a copy of their book, "You: The Owner's Manual" soon.

For instance, they said that there's a chemical in diet soda that inhibits the "full" signal that your stomach sends to your brain. So, while you think that you're saving 100 calories, you might be stuffing an extra 100 calories because of the deadened "full" signal.

They highly recommended eating nuts such as almonds, as I do. Although, they said that roasting the nuts damages the good oils in the nuts and makes them not so good.

I recommend checking your local listings to see if you can't find this show. It's definitely worth an hour of your time. They are great at getting the point across.

Buy "You: The Owner's Manual" for $14.97 on by clicking here. Also, purchase my book, "A Few Bites a Day" for $5.99 and Dr. Barry Sears's book, "A Week in the Zone" for $7.50 and you should qualify for free shipping on You'll have a great library of health and weight loss information for less than $30. Great deal!

Friday, April 14, 2006

"Genes Predict Body Shape and Fatness"

Click here for article.

Disturbing article. I'd like to see the evidence that they can tell how fat you are by analyzing your genes. I don't buy it.

We all have a set number of fat cells that doesn't change once you are through puberty unless you lipposuction the cells out of there. What does change is the size of those fat cells. If you eat more calories than you burn then your body will store the extra calories in the form of fat in those cells. As those cells expand like water balloons so does your waistline.

I can believe that they could tell what shape you might be based on your genes, since your genes hold the blueprint for how fat cells are distributed across your body. A lot of mine are in my gut and face. Some people have them in their hips or back of their legs. Women carry more fat in their breasts than men.

But, how fat we are is determined by one thing - how many excess calories we take in. I have a hard time believing that's a function of our genes. Admittedly certain aspects of our eating habits might be genetically determined. For example, people with a slow responding "fullness sensor" may be more likely to eat more than someone with fast sensor. And, some people may be genetically predisposed to prefer certain types of food. But, for the large majority of us, I believe that our fat destiny lies squarely within our own control.

Obesity may be handed down from generation to generation, but I'm betting that learned behavior is a bigger factor than genes.

For more on how fat cells work, click here:

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"Diabetics misguided on healthy weight"

Here's an interesting article (click here) that has some parallels with the advice in my book. The article discusses how a survey of diabetics shows that they generally have misconceptions about what constitutes healthy body weight.

I think similar results could be found if the study were expanded beyond diabetics. I hear quite frequently that I need to gain weight because I just don't look healthy.

Friday, March 17, 2006

10. Keep a food diary for 2 weeks and then use my book to figure out how to calculate your food needs.

Well, we're a quarter of the way through the year and I'm finally finishing off my ten tips to stick with your New Year's Resolution. Hopefullly you're still going strong and I also hope that you have found these tips useful.

My final tip is to keep a food diary for two weeks and then use my book to figure out how to calculate your food needs. As I write this I realize that this is probably THE most important tip yet. Too bad I saved it for last. My bad.

For many people the weight problem isn't really lack of exercise, it's how much food they're putting in their mouths. While exercise helps counter overeating, keep metabolism pumping and allows you to eat a couple more bites a day it isn't as important as how much food you put in your mouth.

Most people (myself included) would really rather not know how many calories they eat. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard something like, "life's too short to worry about calories" I'd probably have about $20. But, I've learned that that attitude is simply denial. Just use that same argument on other things to see its folly. Let me try it.

Life's too short to...
...worry about saving money.
...look at the speedometer every once in awhile.
...visit the dentist.
...visit the doctor.
...worry about grades.
...worry about job performance.
...bother raising my children well.
...maintain my car.

Doesn't work, does it? Unfortunately, I know people with some of these attitudes and it hasn't paid off for them.

If you want to lose weight, you need to become intimate with your calorie intake. Does it take some of the fun out of eating? It hasn't for me. In fact, it's made eating more fun (more on that in a bit). Reality is reality. If you eat too many calories, then you eat too many calories whether you know it or not. I think it's much more useful to know than not know it.

So how has calorie counting made eating more fun, you ask? I rarely overindulge anymore and so I avoid the guilt and uncomfortable, overstuffed feeling that comes with it. I know aproximately how much food I can eat, so I savor my bites and stop when I'm supposed to. Also, stopping gives me quite a feeling of empowerment.

In order to become an expert calorie counter, I recommend simply writing down everything you eat for two weeks. There are plenty of resources available to give you the calorie counts. Just Google "calorie content" or "calorie counts" and you'll be sure to find something.

Usually, I can tell why someone is overweight by just reviewing a two day diary. The reason I recommend two weeks is that by the end of two weeks chances are high that you'll be able to make pretty good estimates of the calorie content of your food without writing it down and looking it up. Then calorie counting will be simply embedded in your brain circuitry. It'll become almost automatic.

I will warn you. If you are overweight, chances are that your calorie intake far exceeds your calorie needs if you were to just maintain a normal, healthy weight. Be prepard for a schock. I know I had one on my day or reckoning.

Finally, please buy a copy of my book (see the links to on the right). It'll teach you how to equate your calorie intake to your weight.

Good luck.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Follow up to the KC Star Magazine

I was very pleased to see my book featured in the Star Magazine and I've been pleased with the response. My hope is that those who discovered me will learn something useful.

For accuracy sake, I'd like to clear up two inaccuracies in the Star blurb. First, I didn't gain and lose weight for years. I only gained, until figured it out. Second, rather than starting with the Zone diet, I ended with it. The Zone was the last piece of the puzzle I needed to be successful because from it I learned how to optimize my calorie intake without getting terrible hunger pains (or is pangs?).

If you'd like to receive an e-mail each time I update this blog, please send an e-mail to, subject: "few bites". Also, I promise not to share your information with anyone else.

Thanks again!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Kansas City Star Magazine

For those of you that learned about my book and blog in the Getting Started section of the Kansas City Star magazine - Welcome!

I try to post new entries once or twice a week (or whenever I have some worthy thoughts), so I hope that you will bookmark this site as a favorite and check back often. I also welcome you to post your comments and questions to my blog. If you send your e-mail address to (Subject: "Few Bites") and I'll be happy to send you an e-mail whenever I've updated my blog.

Also, I hope that you will purchase my book. There's a link to the right that'll take you to where you can purchase it online. Buy it with other books and it will help you qualify for Amazon's free shipping program. If you are local to Kansas City, the book is also available at Rainy Day Books in Fairway, By the Book in Liberty and Biscari Brothers Bicycles in Liberty. These retailers will be happy to assist you. I'm also willing to mail you a copy. The details on ordering through the mail are in the Getting Started section.

My weight loss story isn't a new, revolutionary program that'll allow you to melt the pounds off while you eat nothing buy cake and ice cream. Rather, it's a collection of most of the information that allowed me to gain control over my weight. All this information is "out there", but it took me years to collect the pieces and to connect the dots to make it a success for me. Many times I heard or read something and it simply didn't register, until much later. For example, I'm now a big believer in the BMI (body-mass index). I knew about it for several years before I dropped the weight, but I refused to believe what it was telling me.

I'm still collecting pieces and I think it's important keep weight control top of mind, which are two reasons why I write this blog. I'd love it if what I've learned can help you figure it out too. Please join me.

-Seth McMenemy

Sunday, March 05, 2006

9. Join groups that meet for recreational activities.

I've mentioned this tip several times throughout my blog. Joining or starting a group or groups that are built around some sort of exercise or activity is a great way to burn calories and keep your mind off of food.

I ride my bike on most Saturday mornings with a group of people. Over the course of the last few years, over 200 people have ridden with us at one time or another, but there's a core group of about 10 - 15 that come back week after week. I always look forward to catching up with everyone and having others to discuss cycling culture with (very few people in the general population know much it). As I've said, we meet on most Saturday mornings throughout the year - even during the winter. We also host a charity ride in May and participate with eachother in other events around the region including other organized events and weekend getaways. Not only do I derive great social benefit for having these people as my friends - as all are top-notch people that I've learned a lot from - but, it just makes it that much easier to get out and burn calories when you have friends that you want to spend time with and they just happen to share your passion for activity.

Clubs exist for all kinds of activities. They can be as informal as the group of people I ride with on Saturday mornings or much more organized and/or geared more toward competition. I know of clubs for running, road cycling, mountain biking, triathlons, kayaking, basketball, soccer, volleyball, rock climbing, skiing and so forth. And within each of these general categories there always seems to be several variations. For example, within my area of expertise - cycling - there are about a half a dozen competitive teams in my area, two major cycling clubs and numerous off-shoots of those clubs that have smaller numbers of people that are located closer together geographically.

All it takes is a little effort from you to find these out. I recommend surfing local athletic websites to find out about the clubs, meeting times and any requirements. Also ask around in your local retail establishments that specialize in your activity for such groups. They can usually point you in a good direction for your level of experience. Finally, don't forget to ask co-workers and friends. They can be founts of knowledge.

If you're still having trouble finding a group that meets your needs, start one up. Maybe you enjoy running, but there isn't a group that close enough to you to make it convenient. Just post a flyer at the local community center, ask stores to post flyers and see if you can get an announcement in the local newspaper. Set a regular time and place to meet to start your activity. Keep at it and soon others will join you. But, chances are there is already some sort of group in your area of interest already nearby. You just have to find it.

Remember, the group activity gives you extra motivation to get out and burn calories and at the same time absorbs some of the time that you may have been absorbing extra, unwanted calories, which is a double bonus for your waistline.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

8. Try one or two new activities to discover something you may not have known that you'd enjoy.

Two years ago I saw a flyer for a paddle expo to be held on a lake near my home. It sounded fun so I went and tried out an array of flat water (not whitewater) kayaks. I had such a good time that I bought one and haven't regretted it one bit. I named her Selma. Get it? Selma Kayak.

In the last two years Selma and I have been on 12-15 expeditions on nearby lakes. Not as much as I'd like, but still enough to provide much needed breaks from my typical workouts. And it gives me something else to look forward to as I dream about my summer activities in the cold (or lately - warm) of winter.

About five years ago, I decided that I was going to learn to mountain bike. For 12 weeks, I hauled my mountain bike (which had previously been used primarily on a college campus) to the trails. The first 2-3 weeks were rough, but soon I was surprising myself at the ease I rolled over difficult terrain.

If you're anything like me, then doing the same old workout routine over and over becomes boring. That's why I like to mix it up and try new things, in hopes I'll find an activity that'll give me another outlet to keep my exercise fresh.

Sometimes even slight variations to your typical routine can make a big difference. Last November I ran in my first cross country running race and had a blast. I've run many road races, but never ran cross country. I just ran my second last weekend and hope to do more.

Don't be afraid to try something new. You're bound to find something that you'll love too. Within every sport, there seems to be microcosms of variation. I'm intimately familiar with cycling. There's all sorts of cycling. For example, just within road cycling you can race, time trial, ride up moutainsides, ride across the country (see, ride across a state, go on weekly group rides, raise money for charity (, you can do ultra marathons (100-200 miles) brevets (an unsupported 100-300 miles), rondo's (300 - 500 miles), weekend tours, vacation tours, self-supported tours or simply ride around the same 20 mile circuit 2-3 times a week. And what's more, there are numerous events throughout spring, fall and summer in my region to keep me busy - and I don't even live in an area where cycling is remotely close to being mainstream.

Remember, whenever you try anything new, don't be turned off by snobby insiders. Every sport or activity has their share of these people. Just be patient and persistent and you'll be an insider others are coming to for advice before you know it. And, best of all, you'll have another physical activity in your toolkit to keep burning calories more than a mind-numbing daily ritual.

10 Ways to stick to your New Year's Resolution

Click here to read my initial post on the 10 ways that you can stick to your New Year's Resolution. I've elaborated on 7 of the 10 tips thus far in subsequent posts so far. Soon to come are more on numbers 8 through 10.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

7. Re-prioritize your schedule so that exercise doesn't get pushed off the list.

A common mistake people make when starting an exercise program is simply not making it a priority. They often stick exercise into their free-time. But, as soon as they get busy guess what's the first to drop from the lis? Yep - exercise. Then we all know what happens. It's hard to get back into the exercise routine then we start thinking about starting again at some far off, non-committal date...perhaps next January.

I am often faced with this dilemma - how to squeeze in exercise during the busy times. It's amazing how creative you can be when you really want to do something. That's why it's so important to make exercise a high, unbendable priority. I give up sleep before I give up my exercise.

Here are some tips to make it easier to work exercise into your busy schedule:
1. ALWAYS remember, some exercise is better than no exercise. Don't give up a potential workout session because you won't have enough time to do your full routine. Even a little exercise is better than no exercise. And, more important, it keeps you in your routine.
2. Plan your shopping trips better (like to the grocery store) so that you can reduce the frequency of those trips and free up more time for exercise.
3. Get to bed a half hour earlier and wake up earlier and squeeze in the workout before breakfast.
4. Use the gym at work over lunch or immediately before or after work. Or walk or run during lunch.
5. Commute to work on a bike. This is great if you live within 10 miles of work, because you can often make the trip quicker on a bike than by other modes of transportation. Use baby wipes to wipe the sweat off if you don't have access to a shower.
6. Half-commute. One of my friends has a nice system. He drives to work with his bike. Then he'll ride home that night and ride back the next morning, and then drive home. This works well if you work in an area where your car is safe overnight.
7. Join in with a group to exercise. I ride bikes with a group on most Saturday mornings throughout the year. We ride out to eat breakfast and then come back and usually burn more calories than we take in. This way I can combine socializing and exercising and the time on the bike flies by when others are with me.
8. Do you watch any TV shows? Do you own a TiVO or DVR? Do you read magazines? I've found that I can catch up on my TV watching and magazine reading while cranking off calories on my stationary recumbent exercycle.
9. Get your friends or family interested in your activities. I bought a tandem bicycle several years ago and converted half the time I use to spend alone on my bicycle to time I spent with my wife. When we ride, we both get good workouts and quality time together. I'm looking forward to attaching a trailer and then a trail-a-bike to the tandem for my son as he grows.
10. Play what-if for the things on your schedule to find extra time. What-if you left work early one or two days a week to get in a work-out? What-if you went for a jog during your kid's soccer practice? What-if you gave up one club or organization meeting each month for a work-out? What-if I jog or ride my bike to the gym instead of driving?

Hopefully, these tips can get you started. If you have any of your own, please post a comment or e-mail me at

However helpful these tips are, it doesn't take away from the fact that your attitude is the key to making exercise a priority. If you don't think exercise is important it won't be and it'll fall off your schedule, perhaps permamently, the next time you're in a time crunch.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Simple weight projection calculation

Many people are of the notion that weight is some pre-determined factor over which they have no control. Fortunately, they're wrong. More likely, people get settled into their eating and exercise habits and their weight is the outcome.

If the needle has been moving on you and you wonder where your "pre-determined" weight will fall-out, as an adult there's a simple way to project it. Estimate the number of calories that you consume for an average day. Subtract the number of calories that you typically burn in exercise. Now, divide that number by 10. That'll be your weight, in pounds, where you'll likely end up unless you change your eating or exercise habits.

For example, let's say Bill consumes 2,300 calories each day and does little exercise. He'll likely settle in at around 230 pounds (2,300 / 10 = 230 pounds).

This calculation varies depending on age and gender, but it is a good, simple rule of thumb. I don't recommend the calculation for pre-adults because more calories are needed for the growing bodies. Also, be careful not to overestimate how many calories that you burn in exercise. Many people do this and can't figure out why they're overweight.

Study shows that low calorie diet takes commitment

I read an article on Yahoo! over the weekend about a study performed on monkeys proves that a low calorie diet takes continuous commitment to be successful. Did we need a study to tell us this.

I will say that I think the phrase "low calorie" is misleading. If I eat the right amount of calories to maintain my weight (which is considered normal), I wouldn't consider that low calorie, I consider it "right calorie".

Saturday, February 18, 2006

6. Set a goal to compete in and complete an organized recreational

Without goals and variety, exercise can become monotonous, which decreases the liklihood that you will continue with the program. That's why it's important to compete or participate in a few events each year. Participating in events can bend your life toward exercise and away from overeating in several ways.

First, having an event on the calendar keeps you honest. Knowing that you are going to run a 5k in May or ride a century (100 mile bike ride) in September, gives you that extra motivation to log your base mileage in the short, cold days of winter.

Second, if you are anything like me, then you'll find it interesting to compete against yourself in these events. For example, I like to run a local 5k race on Thanksgiving Day each year. I keep track of times from year to year and it's interesting to see how I've improved, held steady or lost ground from year to year.

Which brings me to third way competing in events helps burn the calories and prevents calories from entering your mouth. There's more to a competition than just putting in the miles and showing up the morning of. Every year I gain more knowledge on how to prepare for such races - sometimes I learn through my own trial and error and sometimes I pick tips up from others. But, the important thing is that when I'm thinking about how to improve my times and prepare for an event, I'm not thinking about the dessert on the menu of a local restaurant, which is a double bonus for my waistline.

Finally, you'll push yourself in an event like you'll push yourself nowhere else. The energy and excitement of being around others helps pump the adrenaline and make you do things you didn't think you were capable of doing. Participating in an event is great training. Of course, one of the things you learn early in your event career is to calm that rush so you don't go bust too soon.

Now that I have you convinced to set a goal to participate, go find out what events are held in your area and set your sites on one or two for this spring and summer. Chances are there are dozens of events around your home every year. Find the local running and cycling club websites for calendars. Also, charities host many events. Ask your friends and co-workers for ideas.

Monday, January 30, 2006

5. Invest in a good pair of running or walking shoes. Hold off on the gym membership for now.

I know what you're thinking. "If I buy a gym membership or some exercise equipment, I'll stay motivated to exercise because I wouldn't want to let the money go to waste. " Believe me, you'll find excuses for letting it go to waste.

The truth of the matter is that you don't need a gym to get started. What you need is to make exercise a regular part of your life. Once you have established a routine and have proven that you can stick to it, then consider stepping up to the next level by committing to a gym.

In the meantime, go buy yourself a decent pair of running or walking shoes and hit the sidewalks near your home or work. I can't stress enough the importance of a good pair of shoes.

For years I didn't think my body was designed for running. Whenever I tried it my legs were full of aches, pain and fatigue. Then, by luck in college one day, a sporting goods store was having a sale on running shoes. Out of random chance I picked out the Asics Gel 123. I realized something pretty soon thereafter. I could run in these shoes and I didn't get the aches, pains or fatigue. I could run further and I felt great. Now, 15 years and 6,000 running miles later I'm still ache and pain free.

Over the years I've tried other brands and a cheaper Asics model three times, to my disappointment. Within two or three jogs in the other models, the old aches and pains came back. I switched back to my model and wah-lah, gone. The model is now called Asics GT-2110.

I believe everyone has a solemate (I couldn't resist), that is a shoe that will work well for them. If you haven't found your's yet, give my Asics model a try. I have a severe pronation (duck-footed: strike the outside of my heel and roll to the instep) and high arches. While most reviews of the Asics shoe don't specifically recommend it for me, it works. The gel in the sole absorbs teh shock of striking pavement, the arch structure cradles and supports my high arches and the wide and cushiony heal tread stabilizes my odd gait as my foot makes contact.

Furthermore, I can tell when the shoe is wearing out. Slowly, but surely, at about 375 - 400 miles the aches and fatigue start to work back into my muscles. I get a new pair and, again, wah-lah, those pains usually go away within one or two jogs.

I've talked with many people who have recently taken up jogging but complain of soreness. I ask them how old their shoes are and they say 4 or 5 years. Yikes. Nobody will continue to exercise through the pain. Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to a pair of nice shoes. And don't scrimp $30 or $40 on cheap pair. Remember, you're saving money from not joining a gym.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

4. Try new fruits and vegetables to find some you may like.

Again with the fruits and vegetables, you ask? Of course. Adding more f&v's to your diet can make a big difference on your waistline. F&v's aren't calorie dense and contain lots of fiber that fill you up without calories and keeps the internal plumbing in order.

The purpose of this tip is to encourage you to spend some time in the produce and frozen vegetable sections of your grocery store searching for different options that you may not have tried because the more f&v options you have available to you the more likely you are to eat them.

The staples of my f&v diet are apples (red delicious, braeburn, granny smith, etc.), bananas, pears, blueberries, raspberries, marionberries, broccoli, spinach, green beans (although, technically I think that's a legume) and brussel sprouts. But, I'm always on the lookout for something new. I'll go for carrots, melons and onions occassionally. I love the taste of grilled onion with a little oil or butter. I'm still trying to figure out the pomengranite (sp?).

Costco sells of big back of a frozen berry mix that I love. The berries are always big and juicy. I find that rinsing them in a strainer before throwing them on my cereal thaws them out enough to eat.

I also love fried plantains. Don't eat these banana-looking fruit raw. Slice them lengthwise and brown in a pan with a little dab of oil. They make a great side.

Brussell sprouts are strong flavored by themselves, but make a great complement to most any meat. A little brush of butter will soften the flavor somewhat.

Sweet potatoes are also a healthier alternative to russets and are easy to cook. I might eat a few slices of plain baked sweet potato with as a side dish.

These are just some ideas for new things to try. Trying something different isn't that tough. Once a week or once every two weeks pick up a new fruit or vegetable and try it out. Break out of the rut of getting the same old thing every time you go to the store. Over the course of several months, you will surely find a few things that you like well enough to add to your regular diet.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

3. Introduce fruits and vegetables for each meal.

Of course, this tip goes hand in hand with the #2. Give up starchy carbs for fruits and vegetables. But, here I'll explore more ideas on how to introduce fruits and vegetables (f&v) at every meal.

To many people, f&v's are irrelevant. Somewhere in our teens we seem to lose the habit of eating f&v's and find it difficult to pick it back up. Other snacks are easier. You just have to pop open a bag for chips and fries are standard side fare with most restaurant meals.

I've found that adding f&v's to every meal isn't much extra work and I prefer the varied taste and texture to the standard starchy sides. F&v's are good for you. They're packed with vitamins that the body needs and contain fiber that helps keep the internal plumbing clean. Plus, it's really tough to eat enough f&v's, even when they're doused with butter and grilled, to gain weight. Why? Because they aren't calorie dense and contain lots of fiber that doesn't get digested and turned into calories. F&v's are a great way to get your fill without consuming large quantities of calories.

Here are some ideas on incorporating f&v's into your regular diet.
Breakfast - If you are a cereal eater, sweeten your cereal with a sliced banana or berries rather than granulated sugar. Peeling and slicing a banana takes about 30 seconds. I keep a bag of frozen blueberries or berry mix (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) in the freezer. I put a handful in a strainer and rinse and plop on my cereal. If you don't eat cereal, it's easy enough to slice any fruit for a side or rinse frozen berries for a side cup to whatever you eat.

Lunch - I typically slice an apple and eat it along with my sandwich. There are many varieties of apples and I can usually find some that are in season from somewhere in the world most times of the year. Pears also make a nice side. Both apples and pears are great flavor complements to a meat and cheese sandwich.

Dinner - Steam broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots or peas or mixture. Douse with a little butter or oil for added flavor. Also, try roasting vegetables - onions and peppers are especially good. Brush with butter or olive and oil and grill, sautee or broil in the oven until some of the sugars in the v's carmelize. Try sauteeing some mushrooms or spinach in a pan with a little bit of oil. All of these are easy to prepare and tasteful and much more nutritious and weight conscious than sides or rice or potatoes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

2. Give up potatoes and rice for one month. Instead eat fruits and vegetables as side dishes.

I'm sure you're thinking, yeeesh, this guy is crazy, how can I live with my fries and potato chips? You'd be surprised. I gave up rice and potatoes for a month when I first started losing weight. I can't tell you exactly what happened physiologically, but when I tried fries or chips later, they just didn't taste the same. Something changed in me. It was like the curtain was lifted on the Wizard of Oz. Fries tasted like salty, grease sponges and chips were the hardened version of the same thing.

During that month I had switched out chips and fries as side dishes for fruits and vegetables. Instead of having chips with my sandwich at lunch, I ate an apple (still do). Instead of having fries with the burger or chicken sandwich at Chili's, I ordered the grilled vegetables.

What I found is fruits and vegetables add a new dimension and flavor balance to a meal, kind of like matching wine with food. And any spuds or rice-based side dish is just cheap filler.

Think about it. Restaurants want to make it look like they're giving you a great value. And, in the U.S. that means getting a large volume of food for the money. They'd go broke piling the plates high with good food. But potatoes and rice are cheap. They can heap that stuff for pennies per plate and make huge margins. And, we just eat it all up. I shouldn't have to tell you that one heap of fries that comes with most fast food and casual dining meals probably contains at least half, if not more, of our daily caloric needs.

So, now, I always look for the vegetable alternative when I eat out, not only because I want to maintain my weight but also because I like it.

Give it a try. You can do without potatoes and rice for one short month. And, if you kick that habit like I did you've just removed one big obstacle that kept you from acheiving your New Years resolution in the past.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

1. Forget "No Pain, No Gain" mantra. Instead, strive for consistency and patience.

Many people jump into their New Year exercise program with TOO much fervor. The "no pain, no gain" mantra has conditioned people to think that a work-out session isn't useful unless it hurts. Don't fall for that!

I've learned over the years that loads of low to moderate intensity workouts have better long-term benefits. Why? First, I'm much more inclined to workout. I don't mind a moderate workout. In fact, I rather like it. It's refreshing and makes me feel more alive. When I was younger, I tried to workout hard every time. But, I didn't look forward to such strenuous exercise and I would eventually find excuses not to work out. So, rule #1, doing something, even if it is low to moderate is much better than doing nothing (unless you are resting by design).

Second, tough workouts weaken your immune system and this isn't a good time of year to do that. People often get sick after pushing their body hard. And, if you're sick, then you aren't working out. Refer to rule #1.

Finally, strenuous workouts also mean your pushing your body to the limit, which strains on your joints, muscles and bones and can lead to injury. And, when you're injured your...what?..that's right, you're not working out. Again, refer to rule #1.

I recommend exercising 3 - 5 days each week. If you are exercising five days a week, then I recommend one day be an "active rest" day where you workout for about 2/3rd your normal time at put out very little effort.

Just having the patience to workout at moderate levels and to get your rest in and striving to be consistent so that you don't miss many workouts will have you in much better shape by March or April. Once you've established that fitness base, you'll be ready to start ramping up your intensity ever so slightly.

My workout goal is to burn calories and maintain my fitness and I've found patience and consistency are the best way for me to meet that goal.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

10 Ways to Stick to Your New Year Resolution

Getting in shape is likely one of the most popular New Year resolutions ever. Here are ten ways to help you keep up with your resolution this year. I'll write about each one in more detail in future entries.

1. Forget "No Pain, No Gain" mantra. Instead, strive for consistency and patience.
2. Give up potatoes and rice for one month. Instead eat fruits and vegetables as side dishes.
3. Introduce fruits and vegetables for each meal.
4. Try new fruits and vegetables to find some you may like.
5. Invest in a good pair of running or walking shoes. Hold off on the gym membership for now.
6. Set a goal to compete in and complete an organized recreational event like a 5k or bike ride in the March - June time frame.
7. Re-prioritize your schedule so that exercise doesn't get pushed off the list.
8. Try one or two new activities to discover something you may not have known that you'd enjoy.
9. Join groups that meet for recreational activities.
10. Keep a food diary for 2 weeks and then use my book to figure out how to calculate your food needs.