Comparing Apples to Bacon, or When Healthy Lifestyles Become “Diets”

Calories in/out rant ahead. Be prepared.* Good morning, friends! And Merry Belated Christmas! I’m sorry that I haven’t been by the blog in a week…I can only hope that you haven’t either–after all, this is the time of year to be spending away from your computer screens and spending time with your friends, family, and loved ones. It’s strange to be away from the blog for so long–or what feels like so long, anyway. I’ve been doing a ton of writing, but, unfortunately, none of it for myself. Between the writing I do at work (who knew it was possible to go 8am – 6pm without putting down a pen or moving away from the keyboard while writing about a single topic?), the writing I do for freelance projects (hooray for commuting on the train sans wifi), and the transcription I do for the Relentless Roger & The Caveman Doctor podcast (which you should immediately go download and listen to if you haven’t already….I’ll wait. Aaaaaaand we’re back.), I haven’t actually had the time to analyze, synthesize, and write down my thoughts on any topic that truly hits home at the In My Skinny Genes blog. But here we are…just a week away from New Year’s, and everyone’s making resolutions about weight loss, exercise, and control. At the same time, there’s been a lot of chatter in the Paleo-blogosphere about low carb vs. calorie restriction for weight loss, and I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at what’s been going on: As some of you may be aware, the inimitable Jimmy Moore of the Livin’ La...

A Day in the Life of Calories In < Calories Out

A typical day of “calories in < calories out:” Wake up at 4:30 am after about 5-6 hours of sleep. Raises my ghrelin (the hunger stimulating hormone) and lowers my leptin (the satiety stimulating hormone). Lower leptin means lower endorphins.  Coffee with artificial low-fat creamer. Raises my cortisol, stimulates insulin response.  Get to the gym by 5 am. Take an hour long spin class. Physical stress of intense endurance workout raises my cortisol, artificially increases my endorphins.  Down a protein shake (dairy proteins, lactose, and artificial sugar). Stimulate insulin response with lactose and artificial sugar, irritate gut with dairy proteins.  Get to my job, which stresses me out (because I hate my job, because I have a big project on deadline, because I hate my coworkers/my boss/my direct reports, whatever). Cortisol stays raised.  Stomach starts growling at 10 am. Have a Greek yogurt with berries on the bottom. Stimulates another insulin spike, more dairy proteins for the gut. Starving by noon. Have a big salad with tofu, low-fat dressing, and a piece of whole grain bread. Snack on a banana. More gut irritation from soy (lectins and phytates and phytoestrogens, oh my!), bread (gluten, wheat germ agglutinin, etc. Another insulin spike from influx of glucose and fructose from both the low-fat dressing (added sugars to make up for the lack of fat, for taste purposes) and the banana. Promote hormone dysregulation with phytoestrogens in soy.  Start yawning around 1 pm. Desperate to stay awake. Another cup of coffee. Cortisol stays raised, body/mind still physically exhausted.  Starving again by 3 pm. Forage in purse of 100-calorie pack of cookies with...

The Math of Mealtime

If you have ever been on a diet, every started a new fitness regimen, done your first “couch to 5K” or started restricting one or more food groups for the sake of getting a six-pack, then you know it doesn’t, ultimately, work. Even those of us who maintain weight loss/muscle gain through any sort of extreme change a) know in the back of our minds that it’s not sustainable without restriction/over exercise and b) start to indulge in thoughts of guilt and shame over things we come to believe are cheats, slip ups, and undeserved days off. The problem is that we’re looking at weight loss/muscle gain through the lens of aesthetics masquerading as health. When I wanted to “get healthy” by “eating clean,” I really meant that I wanted to “get thin” and “have a six-pack.” And please don’t pretend that any of you are above conflating healthy with some fitspirational ideal. It’s such a deeply ingrained part of society now, that I think it’s just a natural impulse to feel this way. (In fact, one of my blog’s commenters pointed out how the message in the Eat-Clean Diet books is really all about saggy skin, love handles, and cellulite, not optimal performance and vibrant health, as they claim…) As early as the 80s, Joan Jacobs Brumberg, the author of Fasting Girls, noted that “a ‘narcissism based on health’ is not essentially different from one based on beauty. In fact, spokespersons for the new credo of female fitness espouse the same principles of vanity, self-sacrifice, and physical and spiritual transformation that characterized the beauty zealots of the early...

“But You Still Have To Go To The Gym”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1qc7VlGk1w] This commercial makes me so angry–it embodies pretty much everything that’s wrong with the state of fitness and nutrition in our country today. There are so many things wrong with commercial that it’s almost hard to find a place to start. So I’ll do my best to focus on the main reason why this seemingly innocuous Cheerios commercial makes my blood boil. Looking past the fact that I no longer agree with the contention that the whole grains in Cheerios are part of a “heart healthy breakfast,” the majority of my ire today comes from the last line: “But you still have to go to the gym.”+ Now, as a certified personal trainer and an incurable gym rat, I’m happy that General Mills is suggesting that fitness is an important part of anyone’s “heart health” and “weight loss” regime; however there’s a more insidious message behind the commercial, and it contains that ugly, 7-letter “C-word.” Calories. (If I never have to hear the word again, it will be too soon.) The crux of this commercial’s message is: no matter how healthily you eat, if you don’t burn it off, you’ll get fat. (And Cheerios carries disordered food messages throughout much of its marketing strategy. Dr. Deah Schwartz, a Health At Every Size blogger, did a great post on the disordered implications of its “more whole grains, less you” message on Peanut Butter Cheerios boxes). Here’s the thing: calories in vs. calories out does work. But only for so long. It goes something like this: I start eating well and working out. I eliminate processed foods but don’t change...

The “C” Word

I have added a new “bad” word to my vocabulary. Forget the f-word, forget the four-letter c-word: this is a 7-letter c-word, and it’s the most heinous, stupid, useless wastes of breath I think I have ever wasted time uttering: “Calorie.” In fact, I am sick of hearing that word used, because I think we, as a culture, completely abuse it without having any actual understanding of what it actually means. Over the course of the next few posts, I’m going to explain how potentially ruinous the “calories-in/calories-out” mindset is, so prepare to have your minds blown (and your sanity restored): From the moment I met ED, I had a niggling suspicion in the back of my mind that part of my miraculous weight loss was due not just to the fact that I was eating less, but also to the fact that I was exercising more. The summer between 8th and 9th grade was spent not only eating soy-free (a.k.a. apples and peanut butter), but also biking back and forth to the gym every day, spending an hour doing some asinine combination of light weights and cardio, and then doing “toning” and “core” exercises on my bedroom floor each night. And, for a long time, that formula worked. After my 9th grade knee surgery, I started increasing my caloric intake while sitting on my rear and healing, so I, of course, gained weight. As soon as my knee would allow it, I joined the cross country team and began doing long, slow (very slow) endurance runs. As my competitive nature kicked in and my leg grew stronger, I...