MYST 175: Not Eating Enough

Dolly from LoseIt asks: “I am too often not hungry enough to eat above 1,000 calories a day and I know I should be eating at least 1,200, my budget is just over 1,400. I am not exercising per se, just usual daily stuff. What can I do to safely add those extra calories? I’m losing weight, but I want the loss to be a healthy one :-)”

That’s a great question, Dolly, and my simple answer is:

Eat Real Food!

What I mean is ignore the “low fat” and “fat-free” versions of food and eat the real version. Fat-free salad dressings are loaded with sugar, salt, and thickeners. Other foods that reduce their fat content also need to add salt, sugar and other ingredients to make them palatable. The one exception is skim milk and product made from skim (fat-free) milk. When milk is skimmed, the cream is removed and nothing is added back.

What else can you eat?

  • Instead of chicken breasts (easy to overcook and dry out) use chicken thighs. Cheaper. Tastier.
  • Whole eggs, not just egg whites. (And no “egg beaters.”)
  • Real half-and-half in your coffee, not “non-dairy creamer”.
  • Add avocados to your sandwiches and salads.
  • Eat fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) instead of white fish.
  • Chocolate is your friend, especially dark chocolate.
  • Nuts and nut butter are delicious and healthy.
  • You can use butter on your toast or baked potato. You can even use real sour cream.
  • An absolutely delicious breakfast is a bowl of seasonal berries topped with half-and-half. But when I make this, I splurge and use heavy cream.

The key with all those higher calorie foods is you MUST use care. Measure/weigh the foods and log it all. Keep to your budget, but eat your full budget. These high fat foods will also help make you feel full for longer, and let you fill your budget with foods that you love.

And Dolly, in your particular case, you need to add about 400 calories per day. My go-to evening snack is an ounce of almond and an ounce of dark chocolate. That is about 350 calories of deliciousness. I’m sure that even though you feel you are full at 1000 calories, you can find the room for a snack that is a total of two ounces (by weight.)

Picture via Pixabay, by beatrize (Chocolate Nuts) and Jill111 (Blueberries in Cream)


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Common Zero.

MYST 170: Reducing Your Cholesterol (part 2)

How to help your cholesterol numbers without medication?

Studies show that some foods, when consumed regularly over a 6-week period, can reduce our LDL, triglycerides and total cholesterol, and others can increase our HDL. Some of these studies suggest percentages of improvement. Remember that a study is not necessarily real life, so you can’t assume you will achieve those values, but it is a start. First things first:

Limit Sat Fat: Why is saturated fat so bad for your heart and blood vessels? The liver uses saturated fat to make cholesterol, so eating foods with too much saturated fat can increase cholesterol levels, especially LDL. Saturated fats are usually found in animal products such as whole milk, cream, butter, and cheese, and meats, such as beef, lamb, and pork. There are some plant-based saturated fats you should avoid too, notably palm kernel oil, coconut oil, and vegetable shortening.

Yes, that means I am telling you to stop using coconut oil. I know that some research suggests it may be different and not as bad as other saturated fats. Personally, I’ll err on the side of caution. I know saturated fats will cause problems, and that outweighs the fact that it may not cause as many problems as thought.

Now, what should you eat?

If you know you want menu ideas, just click here.

Whole grains like oatmeal barley and brown rice have lots of soluble fiber, which has been proven to lower LDL cholesterol by reducing the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream and can drop LDL up to 5%  Try switching out your regular pasta for the whole-grain version, or use brown rice instead of white. You can add dry oatmeal to your fruit smoothie for added body, but no change in flavor.

Red wine drops LDL 9-12% Red wine contains resveratrol, which may prevent damage to blood vessels by reducing the risk of blood clots.

Drinking too much alcohol can cause a host of other health issues, however; while a glass of red wine at dinner is fine, don’t overdo it. Also, wine has calories to consider. On average, wine is about 25 calories per fluid ounce (per 30mL). If you are going to drink wine, measure it every time, don’t just pour it into your goblet. A five-ounce portion will add 125 calories. If you free-pour and end up with just six ounces in your glass, that is 25 calories extra. Over a full year, that adds up to 9.125 calories, or the equivalent to 2.6 pounds!

Photos via Pixabay by Eagletonc

High Omega-3 Fatty Acid Fish raise HDL up to 4%. Fish like salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, mackerel and river trout are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce triglycerides in the blood. Aim for 8 ounces of fish a week, and bake or grill the fish — don’t fry it — to keep it healthy. Non-fatty fish (cod, haddock, tilapia, are healthy sources of protein, and still offer some omega-3 benefit, but not as much.)

Photos via Pixabay by Meditations

Tree Nuts drops LDL up to 5%. Nuts are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, so almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, or pistachios can help reduce your LDL levels with their high levels of plant sterols. Try sprinkling them on your salad, or eat them right out of hand as a snack. Just be sure to choose the low-salt option, and keep it to about 1 ounce a day — nuts are also high in calories. For almonds, that’s about 28 almonds or 1/4 cup, and will add 180-200 calories to your daily consumption. That isn’t terrible, but you need to plan for it. (Peanuts do not have the same effect.)

Tea (especially green, but white an black are good, too—but not herbal) reduces total lipids by up to 10% Both black and green teas contain powerful antioxidants that may reduce cholesterol levels. Green tea typically contains more of these antioxidant powerhouses, as it is made from unfermented leaves and is less processed. Note: you need to drink 6-12 cups a day for this beneficial effect to occur. Remember that this will add caffeine to your day. If you are sensitive to caffeine or have high blood pressure, this may not be a good choice. I enjoy green tea with fresh ginger, and maybe just a bit of raw honey (1 teaspoon).

Fruit Pears and apples have a lot of pectin, which is a type of fiber that can lower cholesterol. So do citrus fruits like oranges and lemons. Berries are also high in fiber. I add 1/4 cup blueberries to my morning oatmeal. One study showed a daily grapefruit can reduce total cholesterol by 15%, LDL by 20% and triglycerides by 17%. Two-three kiwi fruits a day for 28 days has shown a 15% triglyceride reduction. The key here is not that you must eat the same fruit every day, but that you eat some sort of fruit every day.

Vegetables Most vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories. Let’s get specific. Which are the BEST vegetables for this goal of reducing cholesterol?

Photos via Pixabay by Jill111

Eggplant and okra contain high amounts of soluble fiber. Eggplants are also high in antioxidants. (Personal confession here: I detest okra. I’ve tried it in several different dishes, and have yet to find a reason to add this to my diet.)

Radishes Their red hue is due to anthocyanins, a group of phytochemical compounds that has been shown to reduce inflammation, insulin resistance, and bad cholesterol. In a Japanese study, rats fed radishes for three weeks showed reduced levels of bad cholesterol and insulin and a boost in good cholesterol. Use them as a salad garnish, taco-topper, or my preference:  eatinng them whole as a high-fiber, belly-filling snack. (If you want to start a garden, radishes will go from seed to ready for harvest in about three weeks.)

Onions Thanks to their bioactive sulfur-containing compounds, the culinary staple can help lower cholesterol, ward off hardening of the arteries, and help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. According to a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, onions may lower cholesterol by decreasing your body’s synthesis of the compound as well as increasing conversion of cholesterol to bile acids. Onions are easy to throw into just about anything, and I use onions in just about every meal. Just make sure to cook them first. The same study found that heat-treated onions were more effective at lowering cholesterol compared to raw onions.

Ginger has also been found to help reduce total cholesterol and LDL. Researchers attribute ginger’s health benefits to gingerols, compounds that are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial.

Legumes (Beans: black, kidney, navy, pinto, garbanzo, lentil, etc.) All are rich in soluble fiber, which binds to cholesterol in the blood and moves it out of the body. Recent studies show eating 4.5 ounces (1/2 cup) of cooked beans a day can reduce LDL levels by 5 percent. Try black bean burritos, or dip some veggies in hummus, which is made with chickpeas, for an afternoon snack.

Try this Caramelized Onion and White Bean Flatbread 

Dark Chocolate increases HDL by up to 24% (Give up the milk chocolate, as that doesn’t help cholesterol at all.)  Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are antioxidants that help lower LDL levels. Just make sure to eat in moderation, as chocolate is also high in saturated fat and sugar. You can also use dark, unsweetened cocoa powder in your cooking to get similar heart-healthy effects. (Mix with vanilla yogurt with some sweetener for a chocolate treat!) Like nuts, chocolate is a high calorie snack. An ounce will cost about 150 calories. Plan ahead!

Photos via Pixabay by TheChocolateWedsite

Spinach: This leafy green contains a large amount of lutein, a pigment found in vegetables that have been shown to protect the arteries from cholesterol accumulation. It’s recommended that you try to get at least half a cup of lutein-containing foods every day. It also is high in alpha-lipoic acid, which may reduce triglycerides 25-60%. An easy way to get there: Add half a cup (or more, I tend to use 3 cups) of spinach to your smoothie. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes and peas have a similar effects

Olive Oil: is a plant-based fat, so it’s a better choice when you’re trying to lower your “bad” cholesterol than fats that come from animals. It’s great mixed with red wine vinegar, a minced garlic clove, and a little ground pepper for a salad dressing. I like to roast my vegetables: Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil over vegetables in a snug baking dish, scatter some herbs (especially garlic), and put in a 400F degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Photos via Pixabay by CongerDesign

Avocado is not just guacamole. They have oleic acid, which helps lower the bad cholesterol in your bloodstream. Try putting a few slices on your turkey sandwich, or add them to a salad. Some small studies have suggested that regular consumption can reduce LDL 10-22%, reduce triglycerides 10-20%, and increase HDL 5-11%. Avocado is high in calories, so plan ahead in your budget.

Fresh garlic Its nutritional value and flavor have made it a kitchen staple. Garlic has been found to lower cholesterol, prevent blood clots, reduce blood pressure, and protect against infections.

Soy Products Edamame, soy milk, and tofu are high in protein and is very low in saturated fat. Eating just 25 grams a day can reduce your cholesterol by 5 to 6 percent. Snack on edamame, top off your bowl of cereal with soy milk, or use tofu instead of meat in your stir-fries.  Beyond replacing saturated fat-filled meats, research suggests that compounds called isoflavones may also work to reduce LDL cholesterol.

Kimchi is Korean fermented cabbage, but many other fermented foods can also help lower bad cholesterol levels. There is a strain of lactic acid bacteria (lactobacillus) that gives fermented foods their characteristic sour taste. A study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology found that the specific strain in kimchi was able to lower cholesterol levels by preventing cholesterol from being picked up by your bloodstream.

Flax and Chia Seeds One of the hallmarks of a balanced diet is to have a good ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s. A 1:4 ratio is ideal, but the modern American diet is more like 1:20. That leads to inflammation, which can trigger weight gain. One of the easiest ways to upgrade your diet is by sprinkling some ground chia seeds or flaxseed into your overnight oats, on top of baked goods, or mixed into your smoothies. A recent study in The Journal of Nutrition found that when patients who were susceptible to cardiovascular disease ate just 30 grams (about four tablespoons) of ground flaxseed daily, they could reduce circulating LDL cholesterol levels by 15 percent in as early as one month. You must grind flax seed to receive any benefit. The human body cannot breakdown and digest whole flax seed.

The end result?

In the previous episode, I made the assumption that your blood lipid levels were just barely into the “high” category. They are at the level where your primary care provider may consider treating with medications.

If you made all of these changes, you will see some reduction in your numbers. How much is very dependent upon many things (age, gender, genetics, and how many of these are new changes for your eating habits.)

And remember, you need to eat like this on a regular basis. What does that mean? There is no firm answer, but I’d suggest this:

  • Whole grains (oatmeal, barley) every day
  • Fruit (2 servings) every day
  • Vegetable (at least 5 servings) every day. And remember: color is important. The brighter the color, the greater the health benefit. Try to “eat the rainbow” (to steal from Skittles) and have many different vegetables.
  • Spinach daily
  • Legumes at least 4 times a week (daily is better)
  • Fatty fish twice a week. Lean meats, fish or vegetarian the remaining days.
  • Nuts, dark chocolate, and red wine at least 3 times a week. (Measure carefully and log it!)
  • Olive as your only oil.
  • Tea (at least 6 cups a day)

If you make those changes and stick with it for at least 6 weeks, you will have some positive results.

My working assumption was:

  • Total Cholesterol 240
  • LDL 160
  • HDL 40
  • Triglycerides 150

If you made all the suggested improvements, and if you only were able to achieve half of the lowest suggested improvements, your new values would be:

  • Total cholesterol 240 – 36 = 206
  • LDL 160 – 51 = 109
  • HDL 40 + 7 = 47
  • Triglycerides 150 – 70 = 80

Those new numbers are not yet in the ideal range (except triglycerides) but they are at the point where your physician would not recommend medications.

Look at that! You made simple changes to what you eat, you avoided a disease that is dangerous, all without medications!

If you want me to send you a menu (with recipes, instructions, nutritional data and a shopping list) that will help you get started on your low cholesterol lifestyle, click here! The menu will have three breakfasts, three lunches, three main dishes, seven side dishes and three snacks. That is enough for a full week of eating!



Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Common Zero.

MYST 169: Reducing your Cholesterol (part 1)

All right, we are all trying to lose weight and get healthy. We use the scale to gauge our progress, as well as using the fit of our clothes as another marker of success.

We also may notice that your blood pressure drops. Maybe your diabetes becomes controlled. Maybe your strength and endurance show improvement.

But what about cholesterol? What is happening to that? Is it still building up in the blood vessels around your heart, putting you at risk of a heart attack? Is it starting to clog your carotid arteries, which could bring a stroke? Is it blocking arteries in your legs, causing pain when you walk?

You probably have no symptoms of a heart attack or stroke or even peripheral vascular disease. Not yet. But the problem is that when you have overt symptoms, the damage is being done and the risk is suddenly great.

What’s Normal?

Total cholesterol HDL cholesterol LDL cholesterol Triglycerides
Good Less than 200 40 or higher Less than 100 Less than 149
Borderline 200–239 n/a 130–159 150–199
High 240 or higher n/a 160 or higher 200 or higher
Low n/a less than 40 n/a n/a

Note: HDL over 40 is good, but studies suggest that HDL more than 60 acts in a cardio-protective fashion. Your HDL goal should be >60.

I’m not going to be pessimistic and assume it’s far beyond normal. Let’s assume that all of your cholesterol numbers are just at the beginning of high. Your total cholesterol is 240, your HDL is 40, your LDL is 160, and your triglycerides are 200. All those numbers are borderline high. Not bad. Not yet.

How can we change these numbers?

The way people process cholesterol differs. Some people appear to be more vulnerable to cholesterol-rich diets. Research is beginning to show that your genetic makeup – not diet – is the driving force behind cholesterol levels, says cardiologist Steven Nissen, MD. Of the Cleveland Clinic

The body creates cholesterol in amounts much larger than what you can eat, Dr. Nissen says. So avoiding foods that are high in cholesterol won’t affect your blood cholesterol levels very much.

“About 85 percent of the cholesterol in the circulation is manufactured by the body in the liver,” he says. “It isn’t coming directly from the cholesterol that you eat.”

Cholesterol isn’t evil

But to fully explain cholesterol, you need to realize that it’s also vital to your health and well-being. Although we measure cholesterol production in the blood, it’s found in every cell in the body. Cholesterol is a waxy, whitish-yellow fat and a crucial building block in cell membranes. It’s also used to make vitamin D, hormones (including testosterone and estrogen), and fat-dissolving bile acids. In fact, cholesterol production is so important that your liver and intestines make about 80% of the cholesterol you need to stay healthy. Only about 20% comes from the foods you eat.

If you eat only 200 to 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day (one egg yolk has about 200 mg), your liver will produce an additional 800 milligrams per day from raw materials such as fat, sugars, and proteins.

Since cholesterol is a fat, it can’t travel alone in the bloodstream. It would end up as useless globs (imagine bacon fat floating in a pot of water). To get around this problem, the body packages cholesterol and other lipids into minuscule protein-covered particles that mix easily with blood. These tiny particles, called lipoproteins (lipid plus protein), move cholesterol and other fats throughout the body.

Cholesterol and other lipids circulate in the bloodstream in several different forms. Of these, the one that gets the most attention is low-density lipoprotein— better known as LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. But lipoproteins come in a range of shapes and sizes, and each type has its own tasks. They also morph from one form into another. These are the five main types:

Triglycerides (fatty acids from your food) are made in the digestive system and so are influenced by what you eat.

Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles also carry triglycerides to tissues. But they are made by the liver. As the body’s cells extract fatty acids from VLDLs, the particles turn into LDL particles.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles are even richer in pure cholesterol since most of the triglycerides and proteins they carried are gone. LDL is known as “bad” cholesterol because it delivers cholesterol to tissues and is strongly associated with the buildup of artery-clogging plaque.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) particles are called “good” cholesterol because they remove cholesterol from circulation and from artery walls and return it to the liver for excretion. These are also particles that have more protein than cholesterol, which is why they are able to gather the LDL and pull it back to the liver.

Photo via Unsplash, by Edgar Castrejon

Things outside of your control that also can affect cholesterol levels include:

Age and Gender. As women and men get older, their cholesterol levels rise. Before the age of menopause, women have lower total cholesterol levels than men of the same age. After the age of menopause, women’s LDL levels tend to rise.

Heredity. Your genes partly determine how much cholesterol your body makes. High blood cholesterol can run in families.

These are things you can do something about:

Weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL and total cholesterol levels, as well as raise your HDL and lower your triglyceride levels.

Physical Activity. Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should aim to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.

Food. It used to be thought that dietary cholesterol is the primary cause of elevated blood cholesterol, and for some people who are genetically predisposed to that, it is a problem. However, most people are affected very little by the cholesterol in their food. The problem is the saturated fat food that you eat makes your blood cholesterol level rise. Saturated fat is the main problem. Reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level, while other foods can help pull cholesterol out of your body, and prevent cholesterol building blocks from being absorbed.

To lower total cholesterol:

  • Eliminate trans-fats and reduce saturated fats as much as possible.
  • Use oils high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats
  • Vegetables, especially brightly colored. Try to eat the color spectrum–the darker the color the healthier.
  • Reduce/avoid refined sugars and simple starches.

Great. We hear that all the time. But what specific foods should we add to our diet? What do we need to reduce or eliminate?

Come back next week for the specific foods you need to make sure are in prominent in your weekly menus.


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Common Zero.

MYST 163 Medical Conditions

These conditions do not make you fat. But they are great excuses you might use!

Photo via Pixabay, by Maialisa

Quick! Take this one question quiz. Which is the correct answer (there is only one correct answer)

I’m overweight because:

a) I take medications that make me fat.

b) I have an underactive thyroid.

c) I have a medical condition.

d) because I eat too much.

(Spoiler: If you believe a, b, or c is the primary reason you are overweight, you are only fooling yourself.)

These don’t make you fat.

Photo via Pixabay, by Quimono 


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Common Zero.


MYST 160 Words Have Power

This episode is not really about a specific weight-loss technique, but more of a philosophical discussion of some of the attitudes that surround the people who are on this journey (and those who should be on this journey but are not.)

I think I need to cover something that has been bothering me (and others on LoseIt.)

Words. Actually, not just any words. Adjectives.

Adjectives are, according to the dictionary: a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages and typically serving as a modifier of a noun to denote a quality of the thing named, to indicate its quantity or extent, or to specify a thing as distinct from something else. (I will be giving the definitions for a few more words later in this episode.) An adjective modifies another noun.

Okay, so what adjectives do we commonly see in our weight-loss journey?

  • Obese. (I’ve actually seen one person say “the ‘o’ word” instead of obese. Seriously.)
  • Chubby.
  • Plump.
  • Rotund.
  • Portly.
  • Big-boned. (More on this phrase in a little bit.)
  • Large-framed.
  • Fluffy.
  • Pudgy.
  • BBW

And all those words are are used in place of one other word. Who among you cringes every time you look in a mirror?  When you cringe, do you think to yourself “I’m so fat.” (It’s okay. We are all adults. We can–and will–use the “f” word here.)

Go to any weight loss site and use the word “fat” in any way other than “I only eat low-fat chicken breasts”. Go on. I dare you. If you refer to yourself or someone else as “fat”, you will get a storm of angry comments, telling you that you have a bad self-esteem or are being mean and derisive to others.

Words Have Attitudes

Why do we say that using the word “fat” shows a “bad self-esteem” or demonstrates being “mean”? It’s because the word “fat” has been applied to us in the past. And we hated it. Why do we give that word more power than it deserves? It is a simple descriptor. And some people react badly to other words, such as obese. However, few people react to “chubby” or “portly”, and many people rationalize their body size with the phrase “big bones” and they have no problem with it.

(The phrase “big bones” will probably be a future episode, because when a person has both a BMI and body fat percentage greater than 30, it has nothing to do with their bones. But again, that’s a future episode.)

Why do we give all those words so much more power than words like:

  • Tall. Short. Squat. Lanky.
  • Tanned. Pale. Freckled. Pimply.
  • Happy. Sad. Angry. Manic. Depressed.
  • Old. Young. Middle aged. Juvenile.
  • Blonde. Brunette. Ginger.
  • Sexy. Homely. Plain. Pretty.
  • Rural. Suburban. Inner city.
  • Wealthy. Impoverished. Middle class.
  • Democratic. Republican. Independent.
  • Conservative. Liberal. (Okay, these last eight have a lot of power and meaning, too.)

Here is why. (I know this because I’ve heard people say it.) People see someone who is overweight, and they frequently will automatically infer that other characteristics are also present, characteristics that have nothing to do with weight. What characteristics am I talking about? How many times have you heard someone say about an overweight person—particularly one that they don’t know—“He must be lazy to get so fat” or “She must be ignorant—that’s why she is so big.”

Have YOU ever thought or said things similar? I’ll be honest. I have. I won’t deny it. When I see a very large person riding a cart through the grocery store, and they are filling their cart with less than healthy foods, I do judge them. I know—it’s not right. But as a person who is working so damn hard to drop my weight, measuring and logging everything, it annoys me to see people who give the appearance of being oblivious to the situation. Do I know their total situation? Not at all. But that doesn’t stop that small and petty part of me inside from thinking those thoughts.

Really, how does being fat make a person dumb or lazy? It doesn’t, but that is why we hate those words. Those words carry added meaning. And we KNOW what other people think. We know those added meanings. Because we have them ourselves.

Let’s change the situation.

Imagine a person sees someone with a different skin color, nationality, sexual orientation or language. What would we say if that person said, “There’s another dumb one.” Or “She’s too lazy.” Or “They are evil.”

What adjective would describe that person? Bigot? Racist? About the nicest adjective is “Prejudiced.” But another would be small-minded. Another would be wrong.

And yet, we have those same attitudes toward those who are obese. Even worse, we have the same attitude toward ourselves when we look in a mirror. We use every possible term to describe ourselves except fat. We give that word power over us.

Now let’s bring up another argument about the word “fat”. I’ve seen people on LoseIt and elsewhere absolutely preach that “fat” is a thing, not a descriptor. One of the arguments I hear is “We ARE NOT fat.. Instead, we HAVE fat. It’s the same as saying we HAVE fingernails, but we ARE NOT fingernails”. And while the fingernail statement is true, it’s a specious argument (per the dictionary, a specious argument is one that is  superficially plausible, but actually wrong). Why is it wrong?

“Fingernail” is ONLY a noun. It is not a verb. It is not a adjective.

In the dictionary, fat is a noun (a natural oily substance occurring in animal bodies, especially when deposited as a layer under the skin or around certain organs) and an adjective (of a person or animal having a large amount of excess flesh) and even an archaic verb (to make or become fat.)

By trying to deny the word fat (and similar words) we are giving it far more power than it deserves. This actually demonstrates that we ourselves (here I am speaking for many people who are overweight) are bigoted against ourselves. We act as if we deny the word, the definition will not apply to us. Another word for that is “denial”.

What’s the answer?

I honestly don’t know. But I remember as a child growing up in the 60’s it was common to use a term for African-Americans that is rarely uttered in public now. And there is a verb, based on a word that means “to make slow”, which was used as a noun to describe people with developmental delays. That word is rarely used now. And I don’t think people continue to tell jokes about people with Polish ancestry. It’s been a long time since I heard one–although that may have only been a North Central Wisconsin regionalism. I’m sure in other parts of the country, there were other ethnic groups who were the target of bad jokes. (And there probably still are.)

Maybe over time, we (again, speaking as a person who is still in the Obese category) will stop taking offence at the word “fat” when used as an adjective. For that to happen, I think we need to do two things simultaneously. The first is to get over the word. The word itself is never going to go away. I think we need to deal with it. Replacing it with different words doesn’t change the fact that we need to lose weight.

But more importantly, we all need to understand that being overweight is a complicated condition, one that integrates mental, emotional and physical health disorders. I don’t think too many comedians are making fun of diabetics, cancer patients, or the blind. Let’s ignore the baggage with the words fat and obese, and focus on the real problem. We need to point out the prejudice towards the obese when we see it, and make it clear that obesity should be treated like any medical condition. It’s something that’s real, and devastating, and treatable, but not something on which to base a joke.

Let’s stop tolerating that.


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Common Zero


MYST 158: Evolution

Quick quiz:

You are starving–literally. Which food do you choose:


Photo via by silviarita

Our brains are hardwired to prefer the taste of sweet and salt, and fat (which is now being suggested as the sixth taste–sweet, salt, sour, bitter and umami.)

If you go back to evolutionary history, our bodies craved one thing over all others: calories

Calories meant survival. And way back in those days, lack of food was not because the local c-store was closed. Famines killed. Our bodies became built to store calories (as fat) to prevent future famine-related deaths. Those with the bodies better-suited to store fat were able to pass those genes on to future generations. Those with “skinny genes” (sorry–a bad pun) died early and were unable to pass on defective genes.

We are evolutionarily designed to get fat.

The problem is that in most of the developed world, famines are no longer an issue and we really don’t need to be searching for extra calories to store as fat.

So how does that connect to ice cream and pizza?

A half-cup of Ben and Jerry’s Choc Chip Cookie Dough ice cream has 270 calories. Now, our cave-dude likely had no access to ice cream, so let’s think about something that he could get: animal fat. Which of those three foods would be the fastest to give him the daily calories (let’s assume 2500 calories a day):

Lima beans cooked: 11.5 cups
Kale, raw: 74.5 cups
Honey: 2.4 cups
Animal fat: 1.3 cups

Animal fat and honey (or anything very sweet) packs a lot of calories in each bite. When you needed to hunt, gather, and fight for every bite, you wanted it to count. Our bodies are built over the millions of year to crave and love sweets and fats. (We also love salts, because salt would make our bodies hold water to stay hydrated during the long hunts. Because back then, the only Camelbaks found were actually on camels.)

To lose weight, we need to force our bodies to do the very thing that allowed us to survive. That’s why it is so darn hard to lose weight and even harder to keep it off. We are not fighting our own personal natures. We are fighting against nature.


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over

work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Comm

MYST 157: Weight Loss is Wrong

First things first:

Calories In/ Calories Out (CI/CO) works and it works for everyone. It’s just that there are two problems with assuming that CI/CO is the be-all and end-all of weight loss.

  1. Measuring metabolic rate is much more complex than any calculator on the internet.
  2. There are other factors that affect weight loss and fat burning (which are very different and will be talked about later.)

What some people just don’t get is that it is all CI/CO. I don’t care if you believe that you are that special someone who has a metabolism that is half of the rest of the world. Your weight is still ruled by CI/CO (you just need much less CI, because you have such a low CO.) Or it might be that you use steroids or other enhancers in your quest for muscle-building. CI/CO is still the rule (except, in this case, your CO is so high that you need more CI.)

In both situations, CI/CO is what rules your weight loss potential. But the average online metabolism calculator will likely give you a calorie budget that is wildly inaccurate, which means you will not lose weight as you think you will. It’s the equation that is faulty, not CI/CO.

Photo via by DCortexPhotography

And it is not the type of calories that you consume.

I don’t know how many calories you burn on a daily average, but let’s assume you burn 3250 calories a day. If you ate 5000 calories of meat (just meat, you pick the animal) you will gain weight. The excess 1750 calories of meat will cause a ½ pound (approximate) gain of fat.

If you ate 5000 calories of veggies and fruit, you’d gain approximately the same ½ pound of fat.

If you ate 5000 calories of table sugar (6.5 cups), you’d still gain approximately the same ½ pound of fat.

Photo via by SkyAngel

I’ve never seen any proof that suggests otherwise. Yes, my religion is science. Show me the data—peer-reviewed, double-blinded, control groups, and a large population tested—and I’ll believe it. Tell me your gym coach told you so, and I’ll smile politely.

But there is another factor that clouds the issue. People here talk about CI/CO and weight gain/loss when it would be much more accurate to equate CI/CO with FAT gain/loss.

Weight changes can be fat, but more commonly—and especially with large and rapid changes—that weight is mostly water. Water retention and expulsion is different from CI/CO. When you consider water weight, that brings in many other factors—and everyone out there who thinks that they are completely uncontrolled by CI/CO might be completely controlled by those factors.

  1. Natural hormones fluctuations in bothmen and women. Hormone changes greatly influence water retention.
  2. Stress levels (which also alter the hormone levels)
  3. High (or low) sodium diets
  4. Alcohol (This affects the liver, which pulls in water to dilute and break down the alcohol.)
  5. Medications
  6. Health conditions, especially any that involve the heart, kidneys or liver
  7. Allergies, especially sensitivity to carbohydrates.

All of those factors change a person’s hydration status, which is another way of saying it changes their weight. More water within the tissues means more weight. But none of those change a person’s fat stores, which is what people really want to reduce.

Let’s talk briefly about carbs. It is not that carbs necessarily make you gain more fat stores, but they can make you gain weight. This is why some people say that when they stop eating carbs they are able to lose weight faster. Carb metabolism requires extra water in the biochemical process.

When you consume carbohydrates, your body converts them to glycogen, which is then stored in the muscles for energy. For every gram of glycogen stored, you gain approximately 2.7 grams of water (that is about ½ teaspoon). This water retention occurs because your kidneys hold on to sodium in response to carbohydrate consumption. Your body reacts to the higher sodium levels by storing more water to keep the sodium-blood concentration at a healthy level. Eat fewer carbs and your body excretes the extra water. But that is a WEIGHT loss, not a FAT loss, and that is where people are confused.

It’s relatively easy to drop a lot of weight fast. Eat mostly protein and fat which require less water to break down. This explains why those members of what I call the keto-cult experience rapid weight loss. Their body is dumping extra water that is no longer needed. That makes the scale move, but it is not necessarily fat loss. There are other methods to reduce the body’s water level. Both wrestlers and boxers will take specific actions to dump weight a couple days before the meet. They will drop 10-15 pounds in less than 2 days so that when they weigh in, they are in a lower weight class (and yet have all the muscle of the larger weight class.) Then after they weigh in, they try to rehydrate.


Let’s look at marathon runners. They are the exact opposite. What do marathoners do the night before the race? They gorge on pasta the night before the race. Pasta = carbs = more water retention for metabolism (and the sauce will be sodium-heavy, too), which will increase their running endurance. During the race, their body will use up all the stored water as the muscles work hard, and their skin sweats to keep them as cool as possible.

If people could change their mindset from “I’m going to lose weight” to “I’m going to lose fat” then maybe—slowly—the idea of CI/CO would be more accepted as the reality. But even if people have that way of thinking, most do not have the proper method of measuring fat content. Those scales that measure fat are grossly inaccurate, as they are dependent upon the correct hydration status. If a person is even a little dehydrated (as they are in the morning, when their body weight is the lowest) the sensors notice poor electrical conduction and determine the person has a high body fat percentage (fat is a poor electrical conductor.) If they get on the scale at night, when they are fully hydrated from eating and drinking all day, the scale will sense good electrical conduction, and therefore a lower body fat percentage. But the scale will also show a huge increase in weight (overall weight, not increased fat stores) and no one wants to see a number like that. If you really want to determine body fat, you can purchase calipers to measure fat stores (but that takes training and practice.)


Body Fat Caliper

Note: Image Above is found on Amazon here. The image belongs to PURENJOY, and I do not receive any compensation for sharing this link (it is not an affiliate link.)


So, what is the bottom line?

Stop worrying about weight. Focus on fat reduction through the proper consumption of food. I don’t care what you eat—carbs, protein or fats—but I do care about how much you eat. Experiment with your calorie budget. Pick a budget that you think will work for you, and eat it for a month. If you lost the weight you predicted, you are set. If you lost too much, or not enough, now you have evidence that your budget needs to go up or down. But that evidence only applies to you, and it is still a demonstration and CI/CO.

It is all CI/CO.


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over

work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Commons Zero.

MYST 126: Why We Become Overweight

Being overweight–obese–fat–is caused by eating more calories than we burn. But that is a bit simplistic. There are many more factors that make our problem more difficult to fight. In this episode, part 1 of a 2 part show, we talk about the factors beyond the dinner plate that make our troubles worse. Part 2 will be a discussion of how to reduce the effect of these factors.

Is this part of your daily routine?
Is this part of your daily routine?

Photos via by Freestocks.


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. And you can read his really nice, contemplative blog. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Commons Zero.