30 Day Fitness Experiment

What can you do for your body in 30 days?

New Research: The Truth About Eating Habits

Day Nine: What the Research Says

New research shows that rats exposed to lots of ‘cafeteria-style’ foods resist even strong negative associations with those foods. In order to see how surprising this resistance is, I first want to introduce “Sauce-Bearnaise Syndrome“, also known as the Garcia effect, or taste averserion.

In its most basic form, the Garcia effect is this: if you eat a food and become violently ill immediately afterwards, you develop a very strong aversion to that food. This effect is strong enough to keep people from eating foods for years (even their entire lives) after only one instance of illness. Furthermore, the bad feelings don’t need to be caused by the food itself, only associated with it in space and time.

Here’s a shorthand version of what happened in the recent study: There were a few different groups of rats. Some ate only rat food, some ate rat food but were allowed to eat a little bit of fatty foods, and the others could just eat fatty foods all the time, as much as they wanted. The scientists tried to make the rats associate eating the high-calorie foods with negative things (like being shocked).

Normally, shocking rats or flashing bright lights in their cages at or just after feeding is enough to trigger the effect. In this case, something about those rats who had been exposed to the ‘cafeteria-style’ foods prevented this conditioning from having any effect whatsoever. This is a very surprising result, showing the powerful effect of these eating habits on the rats’ behavior.

Preparing food near a wok stove.
Image via Wikipedia

Of course, rats are not people, but their systems are similar enough that this research does have implications for people who may have a similar habit of eating high-calorie, fatty foods whenever they feel like it. The negative associations of overeating lose their effect when we’re in the habit of doing it anyway.

–Guest Post by John A Johnson

Sarita Li says: Comparing overeating and high-calorie foods to cocaine makes the situation sound hopeless. But is it really? No. Bad habits can be broken, but it takes commitment and hard work. I’ve never had to deal with anything like cocaine cravings, but I have had my struggles with both food cravings and nicotine cravings. I can tell you that the food cravings were much easier to deal with than the nicotine cravings, but in the end, I learned to resist them both. So can you!

Don’t forget to enter the Healthy Heart Cookbook Giveaway!

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March 31, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

First Signs of Weight Loss

weight loss resort - Morning Beach Walk
Image by ninahale via Flickr

Day Eight: Tuesday Weigh-In

The scale said 215 this morning. The other day it said 214.5, so when I logged it in Lose-It, it tweeted “I’ve gained .05 pounds,” when really I appear to have lost 5 pounds overall. I know in the beginning of any weight loss program, you lose a lot of weight right away that’s not necessarily fat. But that’s ok, any little budge of the scale is encouraging to me!

Another thing to remember: you may be gaining muscle mass (yes, even from walking), and since muscle weighs more than fat, you may see an increase in overall weight even though your clothes are fitting better and your body is beginning to shrink.

Keep it up!

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March 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Tips to Help You Stick With Your Exercise Program

Day Seven: Keep it going!

It’s relatively easy to start an exercise program, especially when you realize you really need to change your size, shape, heart rate, whatever. The hard part is staying committed and sticking with your program until it becomes a habit.

When your exercise program consists of something as basic as walking, boredom can set in fairly quickly. Here are a few simple ways to keep it interesting:

1. Change the venue. Always walk on a treadmill? Go walk outside. Inclement weather/too many bugs/you just don’t want to? Try an indoor walking track. Many gyms have them, and they tend to be elevated, so you may even do some people watching if you’re so inclined. For the real people watching experience, try Mall walking. (It’s surprisingly entertaining.)

2. Vary your route. A change of scenery is always nice. If you’re concerned that you don’t know where you’ll end up if you go a different way, just walk your same route in the opposite direction. You’ll be amazed at how many things you’ve never noticed before.

3. Try some new terrain. Anyone who’s ever walked on the beach knows it’s completely different from any road, track, or treadmill. Not only will it provide that change of scenery, it will work your muscles in different ways than you’re used to… and that’s a good thing. No beach? Any change in terrain will do the trick: if you’re used to walking on sidewalk, try gravel, asphalt, or trail walking.

4. Enlist some friends. Tired of your own company? Ask your friends if they’re interested in walking with you. Every time I mention that I’m getting more exercise lately, at least two people will say: “I should do that too. What do you do? Where do you do it? When do you go?” Get the word out, and somebody will show up, at least some of the time. If all else fails, take the dog. Or your friend’s dog, neighbor’s dog, whatever.

5. If you’re to the point where just walking doesn’t leave you huffing and puffing anymore (I’m not there yet), add some intervals. Sounds technical, but it’s easy. Here’s how you do it: Warm up by walking at a moderate pace. Then increase your speed (either by walking fast or by running) for one to two minutes, then drop back down to your moderate pace for another eight to ten minutes. Repeat for the duration of your walk, and then cool down. Don’t forget to stretch!

(Speaking of “don’t forget:” Don’t forget to enter the Healthy Heart giveaway on the Day Five post!)

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March 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Glycemic Index, Demystified (And a Cookbook Giveaway!)

Day Six: Let’s figure this out together.

There’s been all kinds of talk in recent years about the Glycemic Index, or GI, and what it means for your health. Well, what DOES it mean? Here’s a rundown:

The Glycemic Index is a classification system for carbohydrates. Each carb-rich food is given a number rating which represents its GI. This makes it easier for people to figure out, at a glance, which carbs are good carbs and which are… not so good. (Read my previous post “Good Carb, Bad Carb”) Basically, the lower the number, the better for your health. But what do the numbers actually mean, and which aspects of your health are affected?

The Glycemic Scale is based on the substance glucose, which is the sugar that’s measured in a person’s “blood sugar.” On the Scale, glucose is rated as 100. So, another carbohydrate that also has a rating of 100 (such as white bread) would be equal to pure glucose in terms of its effects on your blood sugar level; that is, it would spike your blood sugar level very high, very quickly. Why can this be a bad thing? Well, because regular consumption of these foods have been linked to diabetes, overweight, and even heart disease.

Have you noticed that every time we talk about things that lead to overweight, heart disease creeps into the picture? The two are very closely related. But, even if you’re not overweight, eating the wrong foods can still lead to heart disease.

This brings me to some good news: My first giveaway!

Healthy Heart CookbookI’m giving away one copy of The American Medical Association’s Healthy Heart Cookbook. This book is packed with recipes that are not only healthy, they’re delicious, too! (Yes, it is possible.) It also includes in-depth but easy to understand information about the effects of diet on your health, and a breakdown of different types of foods (i.e. carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein, salt, etc.). After reading this book, you’ll have a better understanding about the way foods work in your body, and you’ll be able to make good food choices without researching every food you come across.

Note: If you are interested in doing some research on your favorite foods, check out the searchable Glycemic Index database at http://www.glycemicindex.com.

Here are the rules for the Giveaway. There are two ways to enter, and each person can enter up to two times, once per method:
Method 1: Subscribe to the 30 Day Fitness Experiment blog by clicking on the “Subscribe in a Reader” button on the upper right-hand side of the page.
Method 2: Follow @30DayFitness on Twitter using the Twitter button, also up in the sidebar.
The next step is very important: Comment on this blog post and tell me how you entered. Also leave contact info (Your Twitter @name at least) so I can notify you if you win!

One winner will be chosen at random on Sunday, 4 April 2010. Winner will be announced via Twitter and http://30DayFitnessExperiment.wordpress.com on Monday the 5th. If prize is not claimed within 48 hours, another name will be drawn. Happy eating!

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March 28, 2010 Posted by | Book Reviews, Giveaways | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Good Carb, Bad Carb

Rice.
Image via Wikipedia

Day Five: What’s with the whole grains?

One of the important changes I’ve made is to switch from refined, simple carbohydrates (carbs) to whole grains with plenty of fiber. Why is this significant?

You may have heard that carbs are bad for you and that they make you fat. This is an overgeneralization. There ARE bad carbs out there, but there are also plenty of good ones. How can you tell the difference? According to Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), “Easily digested carbohydrates from white bread, white rice, pastries, sugared sodas, and other highly processed foods may, indeed, contribute to weight gain and interfere with weight loss. Whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and other sources of intact carbohydrates do just the opposite—they promote good health.”

But just how do whole grains promote good health? Well, they have more nutrients, vitamins, and fiber than their refined counterparts. Today we’ll focus on just fiber.

There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Since neither kind of fiber can be broken down and used by your body, what’s the point? Well, insoluble fiber (the kind that doesn’t dissolve in water, and which is found in whole grains, nuts, and seeds) helps push food through your digestive system, which means Yay! No constipation! Soluble fiber (the kind found in beans, broccoli, prunes, and bananas), on the other hand, grabs hold of fat in your intestines and escorts them out of your body as waste. This actually reduces bad cholesterol! (In case you were wondering how oatmeal had anything to do with lowering cholesterol, now you know.) This process also helps control how your body uses sugars.

Remember, sugars and other refined or “white” flours (white bread, white rice, regular pasta, soda, etc.) are very easily digestible and thus will leave you hungry again right away. Eating whole grains is good for your gut, good for your waist line, and, it turns out, good for your arteries and your heart, too!

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March 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Walking, Running, Flipping and Flopping

Assorted colorful flip-flops.
Image via Wikipedia Photo by JAIRO BD

Day Four: So Many Variables!

Basic truth: Walking is good for you. Sure, there are some exceptions and limitations, but in general, walking is good/possible for most people. But what if you walk hunched over? In the wrong shoes? On the wrong kind of terrain?

Usually, I walk in New Balance running shoes. and they seem to have done wonders for my back and feet. No pain after walking a long way in those shoes. But the other day I read this LA Times article, where it was suggested that wearing flip flops could actually lessen knee pain. The more pounds I’ve packed on, the more knee pain I’ve noticed, so I decided to take a walk in my flip flops. Although flip flops are quite controversial in the world of health and fitness, I had a good walk. No knee pain here! I wouldn’t recommend running a marathon in them or anything, but…

Results so far: Even though this is only Day Four, I’ve already noticed some changes as a result of my new daily walk: Increased energy (this is probably also related to less junk food), a feeling of peace and joy (I have missed being outside every day!), AND stronger core muscles, leading to better posture. It seems as though walking with purpose reminds me to go into Pilates posture, which helps me to breath better and thus makes my walks more enjoyable/less laborious. I am really surprised that I’ve already seen improved posture/core in only four days. My tummy also seems to be pooching out (is that a word?) less as a result of stronger abs! Yay!

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March 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Putting the Science Back in "Experiment"

Day Three:

Is an experiment really an experiment without the Scientific Method? I think not. Okay, so… thinking back to the 4th grade… What are the steps?

1. Ask a question: What simple lifestyle changes can I make to improve my fitness level/ lose weight?

2. Gather information/do research: What was I doing when I was the fittest I’ve ever been? Well, I was physically active, working on my feet and/or physical labor, I drank lots of water, and I ate whole foods, not processed. sugary, pre-packaged or fast-foods.

3. Construct a hypothesis: I propose that if I switch back to eating whole foods/whole grains, drinking lots of water (at least 8 glasses/64 oz per day) and increasing my physical activity (walking 15 minutes per day), then I will see some (positive) changes in my body size and weight.

4. Collect data/Experiment to test the hypothesis: I have my beginning weight and basic measurements: 220 lbs, 45/40/48. I’m not going to test my BMI, heart rate, etc. at this point.

5. Analyze data and draw conclusions about the hypothesis: We’re not quite ready for that yet.

6. Reformulate the hypothesis and, just as important: communicate/publicize the results: In lieu of a huge piece of 3-fold display board, we are opting for a blog. How’s that for the digital age science fair?

Girl Chemist Experimenting

If you want a super-easy way to track your eating habits and caloric intake, just as a general “food diary” thing, try downloading the free “Lose It!” App for iPhone and iPod Touch. For me, it’s a great alternative to a hand-written food journal, since my iPod is always at my side, and the food lists are searchable. Type in “brown rice” and it will come up with a bunch of options, including brown rice cakes (I know, not my idea of yummy either), brown rice & vegetable bowl, etc. It’s also quite easy to set up, just enter your current weight + target weight, how much you want to lose per week, etc. Cool + easy + hard to lose in your handbag. (Unless you lose your iPhone of course.) I like it.

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March 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Putting the Science Back in “Experiment”

Day Three:

Is an experiment really an experiment without the Scientific Method? I think not. Okay, so… thinking back to the 4th grade… What are the steps?

1. Ask a question: What simple lifestyle changes can I make to improve my fitness level/ lose weight?

2. Gather information/do research: What was I doing when I was the fittest I’ve ever been? Well, I was physically active, working on my feet and/or physical labor, I drank lots of water, and I ate whole foods, not processed. sugary, pre-packaged or fast-foods.

3. Construct a hypothesis: I propose that if I switch back to eating whole foods/whole grains, drinking lots of water (at least 8 glasses/64 oz per day) and increasing my physical activity (walking 15 minutes per day), then I will see some (positive) changes in my body size and weight.

4. Collect data/Experiment to test the hypothesis: I have my beginning weight and basic measurements: 220 lbs, 45/40/48. I’m not going to test my BMI, heart rate, etc. at this point.

5. Analyze data and draw conclusions about the hypothesis: We’re not quite ready for that yet.

6. Reformulate the hypothesis and, just as important: communicate/publicize the results: In lieu of a huge piece of 3-fold display board, we are opting for a blog. How’s that for the digital age science fair?

Girl Chemist Experimenting

If you want a super-easy way to track your eating habits and caloric intake, just as a general “food diary” thing, try downloading the free “Lose It!” App for iPhone and iPod Touch. For me, it’s a great alternative to a hand-written food journal, since my iPod is always at my side, and the food lists are searchable. Type in “brown rice” and it will come up with a bunch of options, including brown rice cakes (I know, not my idea of yummy either), brown rice & vegetable bowl, etc. It’s also quite easy to set up, just enter your current weight + target weight, how much you want to lose per week, etc. Cool + easy + hard to lose in your handbag. (Unless you lose your iPhone of course.) I like it.

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March 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day Two: Measurements and Motivation

OK, so I’ve admitted I weigh 220 pounds. But what do those 220 pounds mean for me? I pulled out my tape measure so I’ll have something besides a scale tracking my progress, and here’s what it said:

Fell in the Mud

Good 'Ol Ouiatenon Mud.

Waist: 40″
Hips: 48″
Bust: 45″
Thigh: 31″
Bicep: 15″

They say “Clothes make the man,” or woman in this case, but do you really want to go clothes shopping and stare at yourself in that little, ill-lit mirror as you try to find SOMETHING that will make you feel good? In the summer of 2006, when I was a size 5, that was easy. Not so now.

My clothing size is about 1X right now, or 16W – 18W, but I haven’t gone shopping lately and plus sizes don’t fit me well. They hang all wrong on my pear-shaped body. I have a feeling that, if I keep walking, my clothes will start to fit better even if the scale hasn’t budged.

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

30 Day Experiment

Yesterday I stepped onto my bathroom scale for the first time in a long time, and I was SHOCKED to see it stop at 220. That’s right, 220 pounds. 100 kilos. Yikes.

Something has got to change.

Fruits and VeggiesI asked for advice from the Twitterverse, and got some good reminders from some good friends: Start walking. Keep walking. Drink lots of water. Eat fruits & veggies.

At this point, weighing over 200 pounds at 5’6″, these tiny changes have the potential to make a HUGE difference. Just how huge? I’ll never know until I track it! So today, 23 March 2010, is day one. Over the next 29 days, I’m committed to drinking lots of water, eating fresh foods and whole grains, cutting out unnecessary fats and refined sugars, and walking for at least 15 minutes per day. I’m giving myself a cheat day each week, just like the Body for Life program, but I know once I get away from the sugars, fast food, and empty carbs, my cravings for those things will diminish. They always do. For these first 30 days, I’m not incorporating any exercise program besides my daily neighborhood walks.

Want to see what changes are possible? I dare you to join me!

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March 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments