Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Pinch of Oz

So, almost a year after getting my "Dear John" letter from my trainer, I finally bit the bullet. No, I didn't get a new trainer ... yet but I did decide to return to the bigger, more expensive gym where I first met him. And you really do get what you pay for:

Via the NYPL Digital Collections

Perhaps it's the initial giddiness of these first two weeks back in the old place (although the actual gym moved down the block, but it's still the same chain as before). The sheer happiness of finding fully equipped weight rooms, working squat racks, TRX bands, a decent amount of working cardio machines and even the semblance of regular cleaning so there's not a patina of mystery stains after using any stretching/abs/floor areas. Maybe that will wear off in a bit, but for now I can see the difference in my workout already. And that has had a positive effect on my food intake, as well.

Of course, there are a few of the regular flies in the health ointment. That huge cabinet of supplements still stands near the main entrance and the hard sell has begun. My last trainer had a reflex flinch every time we passed by that cabinet after our first session when I ripped him a new one and said if he ever tried to sell me one pill, our sessions were over. Harsh? Yes, but it worked!

But now the push is back. They even offered a welcome back goodie bag of the stuff (I declined). 

If you're running a place that pushes exercise and even nutrition as hard work (no judgements, and fun, but hard work) , why are you also then selling this "easy boost"? (It's rhetorical, I know why.)

I know this is a business model. I know this is a way to make some extra funds. But I see it as a mixed message. And yet, it's not like it's the only place trying to sell us a "cheating way to win."

I get sent lots of library links, cute tattoo videos, and of course, many links about nutrition and weight loss from a variety of my friends. Most of these are out on the usual social media memes, so I often receive them again and again.

And then Dr. Oz happened this past week. So I got a loooooot of links about it.

While I'm not surprised at the results of the hearing or the backlash around it, it does raise the question: If everyone supposedly thought Dr. Oz was a quack about these supplements, why did he still sell so many of them? My "professionals-of-another-degree-mother," the Registered Dietitians, have been weighing in on Oz's claims for quite some time, a lot of it critical towards the man. (Although there are some who use his show as their own PR sounding board). You think having some credential might be taken into account.

Yet we still all want to believe that something will be a "miracle," especially when it comes to our health and weight. One study a few years back showed that the majority of people surveyed did believe that dietary supplements would help in obesity. The numbers were higher for people who were overweight or obese. Yet results, especially those from evidence-based research, show that the efficacy and safety of these supplements is still unknown, and even the ones from "natural ingredients" have not been shown in any positive results of dieting individuals.

And these are often the same people who "eat clean" or deny certain basic food groups. They'll still take a mystery concoction that is "magic"? Is it ethical to promise a miracle, especially if you have a few initials after your name and a global audience?

There's nothing wrong with having faith that you can achieve whatever you want for your body in terms of being healthier. But I'd rather do it on my own belief that "mystery miracles" are not part of the equation.

via The Smithsonian Collection

Yeah ... no.


Laddu, Deepika, Caitlin Dow, Melanie Hingle, Cynthia Thomson, and Scott Going. “A Review of Evidence-Based Strategies to Treat Obesity in Adults.” Nutrition in Clinical Practice 26, no. 5 (October 1, 2011): 512–25. doi:10.1177/0884533611418335.

Pillitteri, Janine L., Saul Shiffman, Jeffrey M. Rohay, Andrea M. Harkins, Steven L. Burton, and Thomas A. Wadden. “Use of Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss in the United States: Results of a National Survey.” Obesity 16, no. 4 (April 1, 2008): 790–96. doi:10.1038/oby.2007.136.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sometimes a swift kick...

Definition of a bad day:

Via Getty Images

It's been a frustrating week or so, even if this is the farthest the NY Rangers have come in 20 years. Still, not the way you want to spend a weekend, seeing this happen.

But if anything, it's sort of become my new "clickable moment" or perhaps a re-ignition of my old one. It's time to take stock of what I'm doing and smack myself in the tuchas to get back on it. In a way, the past few months have been filled with a quite a few "on hold" plans and events, all unresolved, which admittedly took away from my laser-like focus of the Streamlined Ska Librarian lifestyle. And now they've all ended in a somewhat disappointing way. So, the Rangers loss is sort of the symbolic culmination of all that stuff.

You can see my blog entries dropped off, too. And while I can say that my food choices weren't always great, it was definitely the drop in intense exercise that really dragged me down. And a lot of that was due to the very cheap gym to which I belong. The final straw was going three days with some missing dumbbells, thereby preventing a decent workout. (It's hard to do chest presses with only one weight .. and the bench presses were not there). Oh, and the fact that there was no airflow in this basement gym, which led to mold and mildew growth. And the boxing bag broke. Hat trick of gym hell. 

It was time to go.

So I've bitten the bullet and rejoined the expensive gym. It is a financial sacrifice? Yes. Do I think it's worth it? Most definitely.

As I've said many times before, I know what I need to stay in Streamlined mode. And that, sadly, does cost something. Or at least  it requires more of a real gym. Some other life amenities will have to go, but that's ok, I'm willing to make that decision.

As I said in previous posts, exercise makes me happy...the inability to do said exercise does not. I have become a picky gym bunny. Who knew?

Well, I did, actually.

And already, I just feel better. Because I know I will be the intense happy guy I can be, the guy who didn't get a chance to really appear for the past 6 months. And I also know, I'm doing it for me. Not because I'm back in Retro Ska Librarian body, cuz I'm not there yet, but rather because I can see Retro mindset creeping up if I don't.And that ain't good

It brings to mind a recent post from RD Aaron Flores. (Always a dietitian work into the posts!) I'm not going to say I agree with everything he says, but the mindset is there. You have to comfortable knowing what works for you and be happy in your journey to get where you want to go health-wise.

And my taking stock meant that swift kick is upon me.

No scholarly references this time, just a shout out the Rangers. You still inspire me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Stop Saying Wheee!"

I do not know why but for someone who is very good at group activities and following rules, I've always felt really uncomfortable at enforced "enjoyment events." Summer camp sing-a-longs, any solstice drum circle and especially group exercise classes where they shout at you to enjoy yourself. They creep me all out. 

Look, I know spin classes and laughing yoga work for many people, but I just don't like them. I don't need to be told when to say "Wheee!"

(This blog entry's title actually comes from a scene from here. It's very apt to this topic).

"But, Mr. Streamlined Ska Librarian," you say, "If I enjoy it, won't I do it more?" Why, yes, small handful of blog readers, you probably will. I think it's sort of obvious that one tends to do any activity more often if one enjoys it. 

Maybe I'd have this same expression during my cardio if I had those fabulous heels to work out in. Wheee, indeed.

However, there might be another reason why enjoyable exercise works towards weight loss or weight maintenance. A recent study showed that subjects who were told they were doing a physical activity "for fun" as opposed to "for exercise", ate less afterwards. There was less of a reward aspect to their physical activity. ("I ran 60 minutes on the treadmill, so I can have 2 donuts!")

And I do find that fascinating. Especially when another recent study shows that we consistently misunderstand what is meant by "moderate exercise." And we're only misunderstanding it in one direction.

So at least if we're not getting enough vigorous exercise, we're probably eating less to compensate if we enjoy that exercise.

I do enjoy running, even if it means having to get through those initial 10 minutes of my brain saying, "You can stop now!" Once I get going, I'm very happy. I also enjoy boxing very much and yes, even heavy weight lifting.

But it doesn't mean I don't get bored with the routines and I rarely consider weight lifting to be "just for fun." However, I still like it more than many group exercise instruction. I feel less uncomfortable, which makes it more enjoyable. But I also know that it's work. I'm doing this for a reason. And being Streamlined does make me happier and more comfortable with myself. 

And sometimes you just need to be comfortable and satisfied to get towards happiness. Yet another study shows the relationship between obesity and subjective well-being. Not surprisingly, there seems to be a inverse relationship, and women suffer from low satisfaction due to obesity far more than men. But they also mention one interesting hypothesis from their results:

"Our findings demonstrate that where obesity is more prevalent, the difference in life satisfaction between the obese and nonobese is smaller for women and almost nonexistent for men. The same relationship is likely to exist over time: the emotional cost and advantage of obesity and nonobesity, respectively, may be decreasing as the prevalence of obesity increases. If future research finds evidence for this trend over time, it would offer additional insight into the causes of the exponential growth in obesity over the past 30 years: a cyclical process in which the emotional cost of obesity declines, resulting in greater prevalence, resulting in fewer emotional costs."

In other words, if we all get fat, we'll have less options to which to compare! Yay, now we can make fun of you for being bald!

But, even if we're all moving towards an inevitable obese society, it still doesn't mean you can't have fun being active in some way. And if that makes life better, then it's probably something we should all do in some way. 

Just don't say Wheee. Nobody says wheee. Nobody.


Canning, Karissa L., Ruth E. Brown, Veronica K. Jamnik, Art Salmon, Chris I. Ardern, and Jennifer L. Kuk. “Individuals Underestimate Moderate and Vigorous Intensity Physical Activity.” PLoS ONE 9, no. 5 (May 16, 2014): e97927. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097927.

Wadsworth, Tim, and Philip M. Pendergast. “Obesity (Sometimes) Matters The Importance of Context in the Relationship between Obesity and Life Satisfaction.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 55, no. 2 (June 1, 2014): 196–214. doi:10.1177/0022146514533347.

Werle, Carolina O. C., Brian Wansink, and Collin R. Payne. “Is It Fun or Exercise? The Framing of Physical Activity Biases Subsequent Snacking.” Marketing Letters, May 15, 2014, 1–12. doi:10.1007/s11002-014-9301-6.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

That diet is bananas!

First, if I may:


OK, now where were we...

A browse through some of my recent cookbooks acquisitions brought this little ditty to light:

via The Buffet Cookbook
This is not something met with my usual lip smacking culinary fantasy. However, it seems this was a fairly common recipe in mid-century cookbooks. And I was intrigued. Instead of getting immediately creative, I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter (except I halved it). The result?

Ummmm...no. Granted, my dinner guest thought it was delicious. I thought it tasted like, well, bananas mashed into beef. Blerk.

This might have been good with some sort of curry or jerk spice. Something tangy-spicy to interact with the bananas.

To me, it was a failure. Even if the blog reviews of this recipe were saying it was amazing.You can't believe everything you read.

Which is why this particular article in the NY Times made me a little nervous, at least by it's headline. Men losing 11 pounds in only 4 days? If you look at the full study, overweight men were given severe caloric restriction (360 cal/day!) combined with intense exercise, then continuing increase exercise for another week. And surprise, these men lost a lot weight. And they seemed to have kept it off after a year. But even the scientists confirmed that this needs more observation and it may not be ideal for those without the initiative.
But also, there was a only a handful of men in the study, so this cannot be considered a universal solution, just yet.

Also, looking at it in perspective, when I started my Streamlined lifestyle change, I worked out with my first trainer that if I cut my intake to 2700 cal/day, but increased my exercise, I could maintain my goal of a one lb. of weight loss per week.

Now that was already a huge calorie drop for me. Doing a quick and dirty calorie count on Retro Ska Librarian meals, I was probably taking in 4000-6000 cal/day. Way more than any recommended daily allowance. So coming down to 2700 was already a shift, never mind that it also meant I should be engaging in "intensive exercise" at least 5 days a week (otherwise weight loss would have been only do to even less calories).  I cannot imagine handling 360 cal/day. That's not even a bagel or a beer.

So while this is an eyebrow raising study, do we see it fitting into a healthy lifestyle change? I'm sure someone will try to bank on that! 

"The Danish Starvation Diet! Eat like a Little Mermaid!"

But what makes it more difficult could be our overall diet. A brief written for JAMA has two doctors saying it is the way we store fuel in fat cells that can actually prevent us form properly losing weight. Coming back to the theory that it's not how much you eat, but what you eat. 

I'm not sure how I feel about this theory, and it is just that at the moment, a theory. Taken at it's basics, yes, it is healthier when you count calories to try to eat healthier foods (I suppose 2700 cal/day of frosting tubs would have not have been very smart of me to do).

But will this idea throw more people into the arms of "quick fix" diets and pills, as they feel they are "doomed" by their fat cells? Frank Bruni, fellow former pudgy guy, does see it as a problem that we all fall into:

"And the vogue for painstakingly tailored eating regimens and dieting techniques is to some extent a distraction from that, a dangerous one, because it promotes the idea that basic nature and fundamental biology can somehow be gamed, cheated, transcended."

There is no cheat. There is no extreme way of doing this. And I can no longer buy into any special diet.

It is highly possible that my fat cells have been so overworked that weight loss for me might be harder. But I did do it, without denying myself anything out of the ordinary. However, maybe those "trigger" foods are what these doctors are talking about.  I don't know, I just know what worked and it wasn't advertised on TV.

In any case, there is no easy answer. Never was. Never will be. You want a miracle, look at those beautiful NY Rangers! It took 20 years, but they finally hit their goal! (OK, ouch...)


4 Days, 11 Pounds. (n.d.). Well. Retrieved May 23, 2014, from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/4-days-11-pounds/

Bruni, Frank. “Diet Lures and Diet Lies.” The New York Times, May 26, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/27/opinion/bruni-diet-lures-and-diet-lies.html.

Calbet, J. a. L., Ponce-González, J. G., Pérez-Suárez, I., de la Calle Herrero, J., & Holmberg, H.-C. (2014). A time-efficient reduction of fat mass in 4 days with exercise and caloric restriction. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/sms.12194

Ludwig DS, & Friedman MI. (2014). Increasing adiposity: Consequence or cause of overeating? JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.4133