Making diet and fitness fun and easy

Archive for August, 2011

Why I Don’t Do Cheat Days

I knew many people would not like this post, but I do want to stress that cheat days can be good and even necessary for some people. I choose not to do them because a) I want to be single digit body fat and b) I feel much better without them. I am NOT saying that you should not do them, what I am saying is that they are not required, and it could be beneficial not do to them.

I “Cheat” Everyday and Feel Better With Even Less Body Fat

Cheat days seem to be the most beloved topic of people starting out on the Slow-Carb diet as prescribed by Tim Ferriss in the 4 Hour Body.  People seem to live for their cheat day talking about it all week and rejoicing when it comes.  A I talked about before this was never really an issue for me.  My initial thoughts were that if I keep thinking about cheat day then I will never break the physiological hold that sugar has on me.  None the less I continued to do cheat days on Saturdays, sometimes starting early on Friday night.

I often speak to one even that seemed to be my “harajuku moment” of cheat day.  I  had 2 birthday parties to go to in one day, one at lunch one a diner.  I gorged myself on deep fried food at the first party, then ate a ton of desert at the second party.  The next day was not a pleasant one, I will spare you all the details.  Since then I have not had a full cheat day, I have also cut back and had very little gluten products.  This was huge for me as I leaned out very quickly after that.

So I did not stop cheating completely in regards to what is “allowed” on the slow carb diet.  I have fruit regularly, when I first started I cut back on it drastically and only had a little, then after I stopped cheat days I stated being more free with it, once I got on the Paleo band wagon and listened to Robb Wolf’s podcast and started lifting heavy I used it for pre/post workout energy and restoring glycogen.

I also eat way too much dark chocolate.  It is a regular nightly occurrence for me and my wife to have dark chocolate fondue with fruit, usually bananas and strawberries.  I also snack on it sometimes at work.  Recently I have dialled it back and eat it much less in an effort to get to single digit body fat.

How I Deal With Social Situations

This is probably the hardest part of eating healthy.  The peer pressure to eat cake, friends that don’t care about their diet and are fat and out of shape make fun of me for eating healthy.  And free food, who can say no to free food?  I remember it very clearly the first time I said no to free donuts at work, it was fulfilling, I felt like I accomplished something.  After that point saying no to food got easier and easier.  I rarely give in to social pressure these days.  I will have very small piece of cake every once in a while, or maybe a small scoop of ice cream.  If people pressure me too much I just tell them I am allergic to gluten and it is as easy as that.  Is it a lie? not really because gluten does make me sick.

Maintenece Mode

People on often talk about foods to add after they reach their goal, increasing sweets or adding an extra cheat day.  I am have been a bit over critical towards these people but here is my point.  That is not the point of the diet, that does not make it sustainable and you will probably put the weight back on and you will probably be unhealthy too.  Refined grains and refined sugar have been compared to tobacco or alcohol, they are addictive physically and mentally.  I think people need to start thinking of them this way in order to realize how detrimental they can be.  An alcoholic can’t have a drink for a reason, it has a domino affect.  Just like Tim talks about domino foods like almonds, refined sugar and flour are 10 times worse than almonds.

My Suggestions

Hopefully you don’t see me as being one of the over zealous, dogmatic Paleo types.  I do think that everyone is different and there is no one perfect diet.  I am pretty adamant about refined sugar and refined flour, I really don’t think there is anything positive about them.  I suggest trying breaking the physiological control of sugar, slowly.  If you need cheat days to do then thats is fine.  I just don’t see the point of lowering your sugar intake until you reach a certain weight and then start increasing it.  If you have cravings for sugar that is normal, small amount of fruit should not be an issue as long as you work on lowering the quantity.  If you are trying to get really lean and in the last mile stage then you will need to avoid fruit.  If you need a cheat day, I highly suggest keeping it gluten free as well.

See a good article on cheat day/meals by Vince Delmonte here.

What is your take on cheat days? Do you need it? Like it? Hate it? Leave a comment and let me know

Updated Progress

I have not posted a progress update for a while, I have been mostly in maintenance mode until the last couple weeks.  After reading Gary Taubes book “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It”  I was motivated to cut my carbs back even more, and I saw immediate results.

One other change that I did make 2 months ago was a new job that had a Gym very close, so I now am able to lift real weights at lunch time 3-4 times a week.  Lifting heavy vs bodyweight exercises is a big difference.

Here is a new picture compared to my last pictures.

December 29th, 2010

April 21, 2011 - 113 days

August 17, 2011 - 231 days

Book Review: Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It

And some drama in the Paleo community

What a good time to do a book review of Gary Taubes “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About it”.  For those of you in the 4 Hour Body community that don’t keep up with the Paleo community I will explain.  There was recently a conference at UCLA the Ancestral Health Symposium.  This was were many of the big names in the Paleo scientific community got together and gave various talks on research that they do.  One of the talks was by Stephan Guyenet.  His ideas on obesity are mostly related to reward and lepin, which is a very brief description.  After his talk he had a question and answer session where Gary Taubes came to the podium and tried to debunk Guyenet’s whole hypothesis.  This would be all fine if he wasn’t such a dick about it.

Since then Guyenet has made a couple related posts and other people in Paleo land have as well.  This also reminded me to consider opposing views when reading thing like Tabues book.  After reading the book I thought I had it all figured out and was as arrogant in my knowledge as Tabues was.  Maybe it rubbed off on me.  Now I know better.

Review of the book

I do recommend reading the book.  If you read it after reading my post you will take it all with a grain of salt but that is good.  The book is basically a dumbed down summary of his first book “Good Calories Bad Calories”.  Where GCBC was written for doctors and the scientific community WWGF was written for laymen like me and you.

A good chunk of the book discuss the history of obesity research.  This data he discusses is very intriguing and the fact that the medical community suddenly started to dismiss is for the last 30-40 years is disappointing.  He discusses many examples of communities over the last 100 years or so that had a problem with obesity.  This was before there was fast food, before there was HFC, before there was trans fat, and before a lot of the things that we tend to blame obesity on these days.  These communities where active, malnourished, and fat.  WTF?  That throws a bit of a wrench into the whole caloric deficit camp eh?

Taubes uses a few examples to debunk calories in calories out.  He does not try to dispute the 1st law of thermodynamics but explains that people often misues it and do not understand the details of it.  Those of us on slow carb (and Paleo) know calories in calories out is not an absolute truth from experience.  Specific examples he gives of calories in calories out is a study done on exercise and weight using marathon runners stating that even they gain weight over a period of time no matter how much running was done.

Changes in running distance were inversely related to changes in men’s and women’s body mass indices (BMIs)

His next example is the 20 calories a day theory that adds 2 lbs per year.  Simple math, but 20 calories over our daily expenditure is minimal.  His argument for this point is a bit of a reach though and doesn’t take into account a million different variables.

He then begins to discuss his hypothesis that the energy we exert is dictated by our diet and body fat, not the other way around.  He uses some animal examples to try and make his point here, and while I do agree with his hypothesis, I think his argument is missing some vital details.

One thing that Taubes touches on briefly is what happens during pregnancy, and early childhood.  I think this may be a pretty big issue.  My parents were pretty lean when they had me, and I am sure a lot of you have pictures of you parents when they were younger and 30-50 lbs lighter too.  I was also a very active kid, I played every sport you could imagine and still play a couple to keep active and be social.  For those of you that have parents that where obese during pregnancy, and where not as active as kids there is probably a big difference between you and me in terms of fat loss.

There are many other details that he covers and logic that he uses to prove his point is speculative but does make sense.  There are many people opposed to what Taubes says for different reasons.  Some are from the low-fat/calories in calories out camp, others debate Taubes emphasis on carbohydrates and insulin (such as Guyenet).   I was recently reminded of the dumb ass that did the Twinkie diet and lost weight.  This is suppose to somehow prove that calories in calories out matter, although the calorie calculations do not add up.  Stephan Guyenet actually has a blog post discussing this.  The ironic thing is that the first 1/2 of the post describes things the same way Tabues does, right up until the word leptin.

So what or who do we believe, everyone seems to have different opinions and Guyenet actaullys says “The mechanism by which this occurs is not totally clear, but it has nothing to do with removing the supposed suppressive effect of insulin on fat release from fat cells.” I do know from personal experience going slow carb to Paleo to really low carb I cut quite a bit of fat each time I lowered my carb intake.  Something I also finding myself say regularly on forms etc is that calories in calories out matter, but there the current methods to calculate them are so inaccurate they are useless.  One last thing to remember from Robb Wolf’s book (The Paleo Solution) is that there is no such thing as a essential carbohydrate, we can easily break down fat or protein in to glucose for energy, so we are engineered to not eat need carbs.

Here are videos from the Ancestral Health Symposium.

Here is the video of Taubes and Guyenet.

Update: Here is a decent study on exercise and fat loss which I have talked about a couple times before.  Sample size was 1847 which is pretty good.

Conclusion: Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise programs of 6-12 months induce a modest reduction in weight and waist circumference in overweight and obese populations. Our results show that isolated aerobic exercise is not an effective weight loss therapy in these patients. Isolated aerobic exercise provides modest benefits to blood pressure and lipid levels and may still be an effective weight loss therapy in conjunction with diets.

How Exercise Does and Does Not Affect Fat Loss Updated

I previously wrote a post about exercise and fat loss referencing an article in Time Magazine.  In it I state my opinion of fat loss as

  • Everyone responds to exercise differently.
  • A deficit in energy is required.
  • Most affect is indirect
  • Exercise matters enough that it should be customized based on your body type

After reading Gary Taubes book “Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It” my opinion has changed dramatically.  First I would like to add some things that I now believe as well as update previous things that I stated in my last post.

New thoughts:

  • It is all about hormones
  • Excess fat will make you want to be sedentary while being lean will make you want to be active
  • Body composition is a terrible indicator of fitness level
  • Exercise will cause you to eat more to maintain an energy balance

It is all about hormones

This is something that Taubes talks about a lot, but seems to talk about insulin a lot more than any other hormones, which I will discuss in my review of the book.  The one thing that I took from this is that hormones control everything, and we can control our hormones via diet and exercise.  Hence why I think exercise is mostly indirect.

Excess fat will make you want to be sedentary while muscle will make you want to be active

This is an obvious over simplification, but I think it needs to be said because it is an odd catch 22.  This also would explain why as people gain weight and get fat they tend to stay on a linear progression in that direction and tend to do less.  This is probably the main reason why I think regular exercise is important to lose fat, to break that cycle and become more active.  For those of us that are gym rats we know the feeling of not going to the gym for a few days or a week we get antsy.

Body composition is a terrible indicator of fitness level

Now I don’t feel so bad some people bigger than me passed me during the 1/2 marathon I ran.  I always knew this was the case, but after reading the book it became so obvious.  Metabolic training (what most people call cardio) is good for many things, but fat loss it is not.

Exercise will cause you to eat more to maintain an energy balance

This was one of the main concepts in the Time Magazine article as well.  This is one concept that I agree with but don’t.  The thing I think people disregard is what food people eat more of.  If you have good carbs to refill muscle glycogen it is much different than carbs that fill liver glycogen.

Everyone responds to exercise differently

I still think this is true for the most part, but exercise without eating correctly is detrimental.

A deficit in energy is required

I am not so sure about this any more.  I previously thought this was the case after reading a lot of Lyle Mcdonald and Martin Berkhan but with the studies that Gary Taubes talked about it has been proven that people can become obese on a very low calorie diet.  What is required is less carbohydrates which I will discuss in another post.

Most affect is indirect

I now think this is even more extreme that all affects of exercise are indirect for fat loss.  Physiological affects are huge, so are hormonal affects (mostly testosterone) and insulin sensitivity of muscle and fat cells as mentioned above.

Exercise matters enough that it should be customized based on your body type

I really don’t know about this statement any more.  With the affects being so indirect is there really a point to doing HIIT or long durations of cardio?  The one thing I know for sure is that strength training or “Lifting Heavy Things” as Mark Sisson likes to say, is probably the best thing to do for fat loss.  Routines probably only need to be customized for your performance goals.

Here is a video of Gary Taubes debating exercise with Dr. Oz

Who do you agree with?