There is No Magic Pill

I wasn’t going to post about this, but I don’t think the person I’m referring to reads my blog, and if they do, well, it’s their own fault for doing what I’m about to discuss.

I don’t post a ton on my personal Facebook page, but when I do, it’s often in reference to races (or funny animal videos, which is the purpose of the internet).  And this includes photos of me in race gear.  For triathlons, that means spandex.  Spandex is the great equalizer.  I don’t know that anyone really looks great in spandex.  Okay, there are some people.  But the average human being doesn’t look stellar.

And you know what?  No one cares. At a triathlon, no one is judging you for how you look in your kit.  (Unless you look fabulous.  Then we’re probably envious.)  Triathlon has been great for my body image.  Yes I have some unsightly bulges that perhaps should be smaller.  But I just hauled those bulges through a tough race and I deserve all the accolades coming my way (even if they’re just in my own head).

So at some point in the not so distant past, there was a photo of me in my cute pink Team Coeur kit on my Facebook page.  My hair was a disaster and I probably had dirt on my face, but I was grinning and having a grand time.   I thought it was a good pic.

And then I got the message.

A “friend” messaged me to tell me that she had seen my pictures and wanted to offer me a deal on some great slimming wraps to help improve my shape.  She just knew that these would help me out a lot, and since there was a sale going on, it was the perfect time to buy.

Now if that’s not a hit to the self-esteem, I don’t know what is.  I’m so glad to know that people are reading my Facebook page and judging what I look like and deciding “Hey, that girl looks like she could lose some inches.  Let’s try to get her to buy some product I’m selling!”

Plus, let’s be real here.  Those things do not work.  I don’t care what anyone says.  Slimming wraps have no real effect.  Will they dehydrate you and temporarily reduce your waistline?  Sure.  But we’re talking extremely temporarily.  Like less than a day temporarily.  Like “drink a glass of water and it’s gone” temporarily.  So, you know, if you’re about to go out and do a bikini photo shoot, by all means!  These things are for you!

But if you’re looking for a true change in your body, one that lasts?  There is no magic pill.  No wrap or cream or pill is going to make you smaller.  I know, the ads are compelling.  All the before and after pictures make you want to try it out.  But it’s not worth it.  What works is hard work and dedication.

We would all love that magic pill to solve all of our problems.  But the biggest problem is that we spend all of our time hunting for it instead of working towards real solutions.


Avoiding Added Sugars

Humusak / Pixabay

Humusak / Pixabay

I was having a conversation with Betsy on Twitter yesterday about added sugars.  When you’re trying to lose weight, added sugars are a sneaky reason why you might be struggling.  Also, for your health, it’s just good to know how much sugar you’re consuming a day.

The World Health Organization recommends that a normal weight adult eat no more than 25 grams of sugar a day.  But that’s total sugar, not just added sugars.  Lots of foods have naturally occurring sugars.  Typically, those aren’t the culprit though, and they’re also an important part of your diet.  (I once did a diet that told me that the only fruit I could have was green apples because they were the lowest in sugar, and I also needed to avoid carrots.  That diet was stupid.)

The big problem is added sugars.  I’ve talked about artificial sweeteners here before, and maybe, like me, you’re good about avoiding those.  But what about all the other sneaky sugar?

Okay, so obviously sodas and candy bars have added sugar.  A lot.  A typical can of soda has over 30 grams of sugar.  And that’s just in 12 ounces!  4 grams of sugar is about one teaspoon, so you can easily see how it adds up.

Unfortunately, there are some sneaky sugars as well. If you eat a lot of reduced fat foods, you know what they add to make it taste better?  Sugar.

One (now former) staple of my diet was fat free Greek yogurt.  I won’t name a brand here, because the stats are all pretty similar.  Looking at the black cherry flavor, I was pleased to see that there were no artificial sweeteners.  Oh wait, that’s because they use sugar.  Better than an artificial sweetener, but something I should be aware of.  This flavor has 17 grams of sugar.  Now, some of that is naturally occurring.  The same brand in the plain flavor has 4 grams of sugar, so that’s from the dairy.  And yes, there are cherries in there.  But a USDA search tells me that a whole cup of cherries only has 13 grams of sugar, and there’s not a cup of cherries in my 6 ounce yogurt.  So where is the majority of that sugar coming from?  Look at the ingredients.  Evaporated cane juice.  Natural, yes, and definitely a better choice over a fake sugar, but it’s still there.

Sugars are everywhere.  Salad dressings.  Peanut butter (even the natural kind sometimes).  Marinades and sauces.  Breads.  Even spaghetti sauce often has sugar added.  Now, I’m not saying you need to avoid all these things.  I just think we need to be aware of them.   It’s easy to be watching calories and think that you’re eating healthy and totally miss just how much sugar you’re ingesting.

For now, I’m just paying attention to added sugars and not worrying about fruit sugars.  It means reading labels at the grocery store.  It’s something I should have been doing all along.  I’m not sitting down and writing out how many grams of sugar I’m consuming every day, I’m just paying attention.

I’ve actually replaced my fat free yogurt with a full fat plain greek yogurt sprinkled with some low sugar granola.  It tastes like I’m eating cheesecake.  Definitely a decadent treat and much more filling than my previous low fat option.

And it’s definitely not an all or nothing deal either.  Desserts will never be totally off the menu for me.  But I’ve decided that if I’m going to blow my sugar goal, I’m going to make sure it’s worth it.  I’m not just going to eat any old cupcakes.  Just the really good ones.

But how does this fit into fitness and fueling on the run?  For me, it really doesn’t.  I worry about sugars in my regular diet.  When I’m on a two hour run, those sugars don’t get factored in.  Ideally they’re burning right off.  I don’t know if it’s true, but I treat my daily diet and my workout fuel as two different worlds at this point.

Do you pay attention to added sugars in your diet?  Found anything surprising?


Artificial Sweeteners – Good Diet Aid?

Humusak / Pixabay

Artificial sweeteners.  They’re everywhere.  Pink and blue and yellow packets can be found in with the sugar packets on the restaurant table.  Low calorie foods contain artificial sweeteners to keep you from packing on the pounds.  Diet sodas and other low calorie drinks are loaded with artificial sweeteners.

There’s so much information out there about artificial sweeteners.  Some reports say that they cause health problems.  Others say they still cause an insulin response and can lead you to continue to crave sweet things rather than satisfying your craving.  Still others indicate that artificial sweeteners can cause your body to store fat.

I’m not a biologist.  I don’t know if any of this is true.  A few years ago, I gave up my daily Diet Coke in favor of sparkling water from my SodaStream.  I’m sure you’re thinking I’m going to talk about the major difference I felt in my health.  I can’t say I noticed anything huge, but I’m probably better hydrated and I don’t miss the Diet Coke.  I still have one from time to time for the caffeine kick, but I’m starting to think that maybe avoiding the artificial sweeteners might be the way to go, especially since I do notice that when I have something sweet, I continue to crave sweetness.

Some people swear by Stevia because it’s natural.  Again, I can’t tell from the information out there whether or not it’s actually a good substitute for sugar.  So if I NEED sweeteners, I’m going for the real thing – sugar and honey.  But since those are higher calorie, it’s only going to be in serious moderation.

I’m going to experiment with other foods and see if I can tell if artificial sweeteners are affecting me.  It’s never bad to be reading labels.  I’m going to swap my yogurt for plain yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit tossed in.  I’m going to read labels on granola bars and cereals.  I don’t plan to be perfect about this, but I think it will be an interesting experiment.

Have you given up artificial sweeteners?  Have you noticed a difference in your health?

HAES and Fatlogic

The Health at Every Size Movement has been around for a while.  I always thought it meant that it didn’t matter what your body size was, you could go out and be active.  You don’t have to be thin and fit to show up at the gym.  Like this video that I love.

Apparently, though, HAES has morphed into something very different.  HAES (or at least a very vocal subset of it) seems to now say that your size doesn’t matter, and what you eat doesn’t matter.  If you don’t have weight related illnesses (diabetes, etc), you don’t have to exercise and you can eat what you want.  Your body will find its proper “set point” for weight and that’s what you will weigh.  And if a doctor tells you to lose weight, get a new doctor.

This is crazy.  (Well, okay, if you go to your doctor for a complaint and your doctor ignores you in favor of telling you to lose weight, then yes, find a new doctor.  But if your doctor says “Here are some physical therapy exercises you can do to strengthen your knees, and losing weight will also help,” you should probably listen.)  People need movement for their health.  I believe the common wisdom right now is 30 minutes of activity (such as walking) for health, 60 for weight loss.  Even people who have mobility issues are encouraged to do some form of activity for their general health.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  While a lot of people I know got into running and triathlon with the hope of losing weight, plenty of people are out there and not worried about losing weight.  That’s allowed, because you know what?  You’re active, and that’s good for your heart and your lungs and your bones and that’s awesome.

What I’m seeing a lot of lately, and what I hate, are young girls, frequently teenagers, who are tired of feeling bad about their weight.  Instead of making a positive change, they discover HAES and start spewing what is known as fatlogic.  For example, all the stuff you hear about Marilyn Monroe wearing a size 12 or 14 or 16 dress.  She was beautiful and a bigger woman, so we need to change our mindset, obviously.

First off, anyone who has sewn anything knows that pattern sizes are nothing like store sizes.  Secondly, sizes have changed significantly since Marilyn’s days.  Third, I don’t know about anyone else, but I have clothes in a wide variety of sizes in my closet that all fit me.  Finally, we have seen photos of Marilyn Monroe.  She was a real person.  We know that she was 5’5″, weighed around 120 pounds and her measurements were 35-23-35.  (Source)  (For reference, I just measured my thigh and it is, in fact, larger than her waist was.  That’s depressing.)   Marilyn Monroe was decidedly not fat.  Curvy, yes, but certainly not fat.

I’m guilty of falling into the fatlogic trap myself from time to time.  We all have days where we are down on ourselves for one reason or another, and it’s too easy to blame a slow metabolism or tell myself that I deserve that cupcake. Or I just remind myself that muscle weighs more than fat (which isn’t actually true – a pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat, it just takes up less space).  But those are all just excuses that I’m using.

I’m not saying that we should be down on our bodies.  We should be proud of our bodies for what they can do!  They may not look like the body you see in the magazines, but that’s okay.

But we also need to take care of our bodies.  We need to move.  Sitting at a desk all day and then coming home and eating a too-big dinner while sitting on the couch watching tv and then going to bed and repeating this day after day is not good for you.  Now, it’s not an all or nothing proposition.  You don’t have to go from couch potato to Ironman.  (In fact, I would recommend against that particular plan.)  But hey, maybe get up and move a bit more.  Add some veggies to your plate at dinner.  Drop one soda a day for a glass of water.  Put good things into your body and you will feel better.

Personally, I need to be better about the “I just did X, so now I deserve Y.”  I’ve gotten good at not treating food as a treat or as a comfort after a bad week, but after a hard workout, I sometimes think I have earned a high calorie meal.  Except that one meal becomes two and then I’ve eaten way more calories than I burned.  Better than being sedentary, I suppose, but I can do better.

It’s tough, because the last thing I want to do is make a young girl feel like she’s a lesser person because of her size.  But at the same time, I want to see her succeed and not worry about her size.  And I want her to be healthy.  So many of us have found something great in fitness, be it running or triathlon or yoga or so many other sports.  Maybe that’s what we should be encouraging instead of simply encouraging acceptance.

People are beautiful at any size, but we have to be careful to not be too accepting of weight and weight gain.  I have fought my weight forever, but that doesn’t mean I should just give up and stop fighting it.  I don’t know about you, but I want to live a long, healthy life.  And what I do now will play a big role in how that life plays out.

Bloodwork and Heredity

When you write a post about health and nutrition, it’s kind of fun to see who comes out of the woodwork.  It’s kind of nice to know I’m not the only (yikes) mid-30-something with cholesterol issues not controlled by diet and exercise.  And Mom reminded me that I’ve probably inherited it through my father and his father.  Thanks, Dad.  You can’t give me the long legs or sweet metabolism, but you give me the crappy cholesterol.  Oh well, I guess I can’t be perfect.

After posting, I realized that I did have access to some old cholesterol numbers, thanks to my blog.  I wrote about my cholesterol test back in 2012.  Really, I should be keeping track of these numbers better, but those are the only numbers I have available.

The bad news?  My numbers weren’t good then either.

The good news?  All the markers are very slightly improved.  Not enough to make me think that diet and exercise is going to fix everything, but it is reassuring to know that things haven’t gotten significantly worse either.

I like having the numbers in front of me. So many times, doctors just say “Your levels are fine,” or “this needs work,” but I like to be able to quantify things.  I understand why doctors don’t give out the numbers all the time.  They don’t need people going and asking Dr. Google about their health.  (Spoiler alert: you think it’s a papercut, but you ask Dr. Google and it’s probably cancer.)

I know plenty of people who don’t get annual physicals and never have their bloodwork run so take this as a reminder to have those tests done!  I live a healthy enough life and I end up with stupidly unhealthy bloodwork anyway.  It’s better to know and take precautionary measures.  And getting a physical isn’t that bad.  I promise.