The World According to Nick
Politics, News, Photography, and Triathlons... What don't I talk about?
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
What a Wonderful Problem To Have

Morgan Shelton on the Journal Reader Advisor Committee seems to think Milwaukee has a "Big Problem":

A new report says Wisconsin has the highest rate of obese African-Americans in the U.S. – one out of every two adults. Since most live in Milwaukee, our city has a BIG problem. Poverty and pricey healthy foods are two cited reasons. I'm calling out African-American women specifically for worrying more about sweating out their hair than caring about their bodies. Out of the handful of African-Americans at the gym, I only see a couple of women busting a sweat. The other few in matching outfits are busy "looking cute." Maybe we should start a "Wrap It Up or Braid It Up" campaign. Any takers?

Morgan does not link to the report, not does he give a clue as to the author of the report, but I'm guessing it's this one. What I found most interesting, was that poverty and high prices were the reasons for a rise in obesity. In most countries, and even in our own country not too long in the past, those two things would have led to greater hunger and starvation.  Of all the "problems" that a community can have, I can think of few better than being too fat because you are poor.

I am also curious as to why Mr. Shelton is "calling out" anyone. They are the ones who have to live with their bodies, not him. Unless of course, he is simply "offended" at having to look at fat women... which sounds more like a personal problem than anything else. Certainly, it seems counterproductive to complain about anyone who has taken the time, and money, to join a gym. Why don't you concentrate more on your own workout Morgan.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007
BMI In Pictures

Here is an interesting account on Flickr.  He (she?) has posted more than a hundred pictures of people, along with their height, weight, BMI number (body mass index) and whether that number is considered underweight, normal, overweight, obese or morbidly obese.  Go take a look at the pictures and see if their category meshes with your view of that person.  I think you'll be surprised.  Combine this with the news that actually carrying some extra pounds is healthy, and it shows the folly in trying to legislate body size.  You can calculate your own BMI at this website.

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Monday, March 05, 2007
Danger Nick Schweitzer... Danger!

When losing weight, most people set some sort of goal weight that they're trying to attain.  When they hit this, they either re-evaluate to see if they want to lose more, or they say "I'm done".  After that's happened, it's just as important to set a "danger weight" for yourself.  Usually this is the weight that you tell yourself, "I'm never going to weigh that much again."  If you hit that number, it's time to make some changes.  Mine is 190 lbs... and I hit it at the end of last year.

I know exactly why.  November and December were tough months for me, and the fact that my client was in the habit of bringing in a lot free food during that time didn't help.  Then I stepped on the scale.  Shit!  Time to get my ass back on the bike, start watching what I eat again, and stop this before it gets worse.  I also started cursing for more snow so I could ski.  Sorry guys... it was my fault we had as much as we did in January and February.

I tell people again and again that normal healthy weight loss consists of about 1 to 2 lbs per week.  That's it.  In the 8 weeks since I hit that danger number, I'm now down to 182.  Pretty much right on track I'd say.  I could be doing a bit better, but I'm not going to complain, since a lot of what I'm doing is also putting on some muscle.  When I'm at my "fighting weight" as I call it, usually at the height of training in the summer, I weigh about 175.  I'm actually hoping to lean up a bit more than that this year, so this will be a great jumping off point for me.  I'm trying to turn it into a positive.

Remember, set a number that you refuse to go above, but make it realistic.  I suggest about 10 lbs above your goal weight.  And when you hit that number... let it scare you, but then take action.  The point is to make it a number that when you hit it... you don't feel like it's already too late to do something.

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Monday, February 26, 2007
How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?

I haven't blogged about weight loss in some time, and for those who liked that series, I apologize.  MSNBC has an interesting, and very confusing article, discussing the pro's and con's of weighing yourself daily.  They come out on the size favoring daily weigh ins (which is a theory I do not subscribe to):

Several well-controlled studies found that daily weighing helps with both weight loss and the prevention of weight gain. A study from the University of Minnesota looked at the influence of the frequency of self-weighing on weight change in more than 3,000 adults enrolled in either a weight-loss trial or a weight-gain prevention trial. Higher frequency of weighing was found to be associated with greater weight loss or less weight gain over the two years of the trials.
Participants who weighed themselves daily and who learned to take quick action when their weight started to creep up did significantly better at maintaining their weight loss than a control group that received a quarterly newsletter about eating and exercise.

First of all, I think that is a bad comparative survey.  The more interesting survey would have been to add a third group (besides the control) which weighed themselves weekly, which is what I personally recommend.  Why weekly instead of daily you ask?  Well, at the very end of the article on MSNBC, they give some important information which I think contradicts the daily weigh-in advice, but they fail to draw the correct conclusions about it:

Don't even think about weighing yourself more than once a day — the numbers will simply reflect what you just ate and your fluid balance.
If you are trying to lose weight, look for a general downward trend of 1 to 2 pounds per week with some fluctuations. Remember that fluctuations of several pounds from day to day are normal.

Think about that.  Over a week you can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds as part of a trend.  But during that week, your weight can fluctuate daily by several pounds up or down!  So comparing today's weight to yesterday's weight can be pretty meaningless, especially for women who's weight can fluctuate vastly due to normal body cycles more than men.

But then why does the study seem to justify daily weigh-ins?  The only reason I can think of is that it keeps you in a weight loss mindset.  Your daily weights are still meaningless, but it keeps you thinking about your weight constantly.  I'm sure this helps with weight loss, but I'd like to see comparative numbers to a weekly weigh-in schedule.  Daily weigh-ins used in this way could lead to unhealthy expectations for weight loss, and unhealthy eating habits.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007
New York's Obsession with Obesity Grinds City to a Halt

Alright, here's one more quick story for ya'll...

NEW YORK - Sick subway passengers, most of them dieters who faint from dizziness, are among the top causes of train delays, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

After track work and signal problems, ill passengers rated among the main reasons for subway disruptions between October 2005 and October 2006, according to an analysis of MTA statistics, AM New York reported Tuesday.

I'm sure that New York's recent ban on trans-fat, in effect telling everyone how out of shape and overweight they are, isn't helping on bit either.  Who needs Cosmo to tell women they're fat, when city restaurant officials can tell them the same thing for free.

Not that I should need to tell you this, but starving yourself to lose weight is not the way to do it folks.  And turning yourself into a skeleton is not sexy.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006
There's Truth To It

Ann Althouse makes an interesting conjecture:

I simply do not believe that the so-called health side is really composed of people who are solicitous about everyone else's health. I can't prove it, but my intuition is that all the strength on the "health" side of this war comes not from people who really care whether other people are healthy, but from people who don't like having to see fat people. They are concerned about their own aesthetic pleasures, and they think fat is ugly.

Having formerly been a fat person, I think she's right.  I saw it in the looks of a lot of people, and I still see it the eyes of some when they look at people who are fat.  It's a hard look to forget.  I have a friend who refuses to shop at Walmart, not because she's a liberal who thinks that Walmart is an evil corporation that destroys communities (though she is liberal), but because she can't stand watching fat people go up and down the aisles there buying huge bags of potato chips and gallons of ice cream.

Just wait til they come after tattoo parlors.

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Monday, November 13, 2006
Go Out In The Cold

I haven't blogged in the Losing Weight category lately, and feel kind of bad about it.  But I just got back in from taking a walk around downtown, and was reminded of when I first started my weight loss regime years ago.  I actually started in the fall, and first lost weight simply by walking about two miles a day, all through winter.

Maybe people complain about gaining a little weight during the winter, mostly because of bad holiday eating, and also tending to stay indoors more.  But there's no reason it has to be that way.  Go out in the cold, and do something... anything.  Just don't bundle up excessively.  There's a couple reasons for this.

First of all, if you can feel a little chilly, your body will actually expend more calories maintaining your body temperature.  If you bundle up so that you're totally toasty warm when you're outside, your body doesn't have to work that hard, which runs counter to your weight loss goals.

Secondly, remember that you don't have to sweat to burn calories.  Sweating is your body's natural response when your body temperature is too high.  But if you can make your body work to increase your temperature because it's a little too low, you'll also be burning calories.  Sweating in winter isn't very good for you either, since the perspiration in your skin in the cold weather can contribute to hypothermia.  There is some reason to believe that keeping your house temperature a little bit on the cool side will also help in this regard, as well as save you some money on your heating bill.

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Monday, October 16, 2006
You Fat Idiot!

Maybe there's some truth to all those playground insults after all:

The new five-year study of more than 2,200 adults claims to have found a link between obesity and the decline in a person's cognitive function. The research, conducted by French scientists, which is published in this month's Neurology journal, involved men and women aged between 32 and 62 taking four mental ability tests that were then repeated five years later.

The researchers found that people with a Body Mass Index – a measure of body fat – of 20 or less could recall 56 per cent of words in a vocabulary test, while those who were obese, with a BMI of 30 or higher, could remember only 44 per cent.

The fatter subjects also showed a higher rate of cognitive decline when they were retested five years later: their recall dropped to 37.5 per cent, whereas those with a healthy weight retained their level of recall.

Of course since I've lost significant weight, I don't particularly notice any increase in my intelligence.  Of course that could mean that I was so brilliant before, that the minor increase in intelligence that weight loss brought was marginal in comparison... but I find that rather unlikely.

It could also be that being obese doesn't make you stupid... but rather that stupid people are more likely to become and remain obese... unable to understand that consequences of their weight gain to their long term health.


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Friday, August 18, 2006
Make Less, Don't Eat Less

One of the weight loss suggestions I hear most often from people is "leave something left on your plate".  In other words, don't eat everything you serve yourself.  Realistically however, this is a very hard thing to do.  It actually will make your diet once again feel like deprivation, when really, if you do it right, it shouldn't.  Instinctively we want to clean our plates, and there is really no reason you shouldn't.

Instead, don't make quite as much for yourself.  Buy smaller cuts of meat, or make smaller servings of pasta.  In fact, if possible, try substituting larger quantities for smaller quantities of higher quality items that will maximize your enjoyment, and then eat everything on your plate.  Psychologically you'll feel like you haven't deprived yourself, and the result will be the same, you've eaten less.  Another interesting suggestion comes from this study:

Want to lose weight? Try eating off smaller plates. A new study shows that using smaller bowls and spoons may curb the amount of food eaten.

"People could try using the size of their bowls and possibly serving spoons to help them better control how much they consume," write researchers in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"Those interested in losing weight should use smaller bowls and spoons, while those needing to gain weight - such as the undernourished or aged - could be encouraged to use larger ones," add Dr. Brian Wansink, of Cornell University, and colleagues.

Also, eat slower.  Really enjoy what you're eating, and take your time doing it.  This is also important because it takes time (about 20 minutes) for your stomach to signal your brain that you're full.  By eating slower, you're less likely to stuff yourself.  Also, wait before having any sort of dessert.  If you eat dessert right after dinner, then you probably don't know you're full yet and once again you'll feel stuffed afterwards, instead of satisfied.  By waiting a certain amount of time, you might actually decide you don't need it because you'll feel full.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Weight Loss Tip #4

Change up your routine.

This is more than just in dieting... it's also for exercising.  And for those of you who are already fit, but trying to train for something... this tip works well for you too.  It's all too easy to get stuck in a rut.  When I started running, I had laid out a really nice 5K running route along the Menomonee River Parkway near where I live.  As I wasn't a very strong runner at the time, I started to get side stitches at different points and would usually stop to walk at one particular point in the run.  After while, no matter what I did, I always seemed to be burned out by that point and needed to walk for a time.  It was really frustrating, since I thought I was getting more fit.

Then I ran the exact same course, but in the opposite direction.  Suddenly I was able to run the entire thing without any problems.  Same course, same distance, just the other way around the circuit.  Whether you know it or not, you can become very psychologically dependent on many different routines you don't even know you have.  So take some time to identify them and change them.  Giving your body an extra little shock can spur on new weight loss, and can help break up what seems to be a dreary and sometimes frustrating routine.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Weight Loss Tip #3

Don't deprive yourself of things.  Simply substitute what you want for something else.

Human beings are creatures of habits.  Whether its always getting the same things at Starbucks every morning, or having x number of sodas per day, or any other number of dietary habits you have... we all have them, and they're very hard to break.  Breaking bad habits is probably one of the most difficult parts of weight loss.  The solution to this problem is very simple.  Don't try to break those habits at all... simply modify them slowly over time.

Do you get a venti latte every morning?  Do you know how many calories are in that?  Switch to a skim latte instead.  Do you drink regular soda?  Switch to diet.  Do you have a bowl of ice cream for dessert every night?  Buy some grapes or other fresh fruit to have instead.

Know what your snacking habits are.  Do you like sweet or salt?  Switch out fruit for candy, or choose pretzels over chips to satisfy your urges.  Are you a chocolate nut that can't be satisfied simply by switching to fruit?  Then buy higher quality, more expensive chocolate to eat instead of that crap from a vending machine.  It will satisfy the urge, and you'll eat less of it.  Besides... a rich quality dark chocolate is infinitely better than any cheap Hershey's bar.

Also... beware of "low carb" or "low fat" alternatives to your favorite foods.  Read those labels!  Often times sugar is replaced with fat in low carb foods, and visa versa in low fat foods.  Some of those low carb or low fat foods actually have more calories overall than their standard counterparts.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006
Weight Loss Tip #2

One of the critical aspects of a weight loss plan is tracking that weight loss.  It allows you to look and see whether what you're doing is starting to work, or has stopped working.  However, in order to be really useful, those numbers need to be comparable.  So, here is my next weight loss tip.

Pick a day, and a time to weigh yourself, and stick to it.

I say pick a day, because that means you're only doing it once a week.  You'll drive yourself insane for no good reason if you try to weigh yourself more often than that.  A good weight loss plan will involve losing an average of 1 to 3 pounds a week.  You're not going to notice much day by day.

I say pick a time, because your weight will vary during the day.  I generally weigh myself in the morning, because that's when your water weight and other factors are most consistent.  And since you tend to gain a little weight over the course of the day, you're most psychologically reassuring numbers will be early in the morning.

And for the women out there who are trying to lose weight... try to track things in terms of your menstrual cycle as well.  If you gain a little weight because you're retaining water... don't hold that against yourself.  Know how your body works, and take that into account when tracking your weight loss.

By weighing yourself at the same time and day every week, your numbers are more useful, because you've eliminated other variables that affect your current weight.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Weight Loss Tip #1

Along with the long winded speeches about weight loss, I really did intend to also give helpful advice too.  Here is the first tip.

Find a not so good friend to see from time to time, and make it a point to remain not so good friends with them.

One of the most frustrating parts of losing weight is when the people you see all the time, your friends, family and coworkers, don't see it, or point it out.  You may see the pounds dropping when you step on the scale, but none of that matters if you don't get the "Wow" effect from people around you.

The reason why people close to you won't notice the differences is simple.  We remember people as we last saw them.  Since weight loss is a very slow process, you may only drop one or two pounds a week.  Since your family and coworkers see you every day, they really don't notice the small changes, and tend not to remember you as you were a month or two ago, but only as they saw you yesterday.

That's why you need a friend who you don't see very often.  Make it a point to have lunch with them every couple of months.  When they see you after that amount of time, they'll say, "Wow... how much weight have you lost?!  You look great!"  It's one of the biggest highs someone losing weight can get.  Then when you order, make sure to order something really healthy (even if you haven't been doing great about what you've been eating lately).  They'll marvel at how good you are, even ordering at a restaurant.

But then, when that person says "You know, we should really do this more often"... you need to stay strong.  You can lie to them, and say that we should... but then make it a point not to see them for another couple of months again until you need a weight loss pick me up.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006
You Are Here

You see the signs wherever you go. A large map will show you where everything is, with a big shiny star somewhere that says "You Are Here". You've decided that you want to lose weight... so you know where you want to be. But in order to get there, you need to know where you are now. And more importantly then where you are, is the question... "How did you get here?" Weight gain doesn't magically happen. For as much as people are keen to blame genetics these days, weight gain is more because of behavior than anything else. Sure, people can be more or less predisposed to being overweight... but if you've decided that your current weight is all because of genes, then what makes you think you can lose it?

Before you start trying to lose weight, its important to take a good measure of where things stand today. Most people do this by standing on a scale and writing down how much they weigh. That's not enough. You need to examine your lifestyle. What and how much are you eating? Do you exercise? How often? These are things that you will need to change in order to lose weight. And I actually do mean change. You don't want to end up looking at this same map in 2, 5 or 10 years, seeing that "You Are Here" is still where you were.

Different people will choose to do this in different ways. I never wrote down any of my observations in a journal... which as I look back on it, seems strange given that I'm a blogger. Granted, I wasn't blogging at the time, but I must have been predisposed to it even then. To be honest though, I'm not sure writing down your observations is necessary, or even a good idea. I know plenty of people journal their weight loss, and I can certainly see the benefit in it. But I can also see the downside to it.

Journaling weight loss can help crystallize progress in your mind, and act as a long term reminder of what you've done, which will encourage you in the long term. Once you've been doing this for a few months, it can often times be easy to forget what you did in the beginning, and how far you've come. However, weight loss is filled with times when you will plateau, or even gain some weight. Having to journal these things can be very hard to do. For some, having to write them down will act as a motivation to not let it happen again (even though it will, and that's OK). For others though, having to confront a perceived short term weakness, in a very real and personal way by writing it down, will do more harm than good. Some people will tend to concentrate on those failings, and not be able to get away from them. Many times I think its best not to journal them because then its easier for you to get past them, and concentrate on getting back to what works again.

I'm not going to lie to you... taking stock of what you are, and owning up to the choices that you make every day isn't always easy... but its damned important. You are here... but you don't want to be any more. Remember, you can learn just as much from your mistakes as your successes. So take a look around, and figure out what here looks like, so you will know what not to do any more.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Needing vs. Wanting to Lose Weight

I don't consider myself to be any sort of weight loss guru... but I will say that I'm pretty damn good at predicting whether someone will lose weight when I hear what they're planning to do.  When you talk to them about it, you begin to pick up clues here and there that make you say "This person will succeed", or "This person won't lose a pound and will probably gain a few."

One of the indicators I use is listening to their reasons for losing weight.  I usually hear one of two phrases from people.  It's either "I really need to lose weight" or "I want to lose weight".  In my experience, people who need to lose weight rarely do.  People who want to lose weight are much more successful.

There are all sorts of things that people need, but that doesn't mean we want them.  And in general, people are very bad at doing things they need to if they don't want to as well.  People who need to lose weight generally think that because someone else told them so.  Either it was a doctor, spouse, friends, or maybe family.  However, people who say they need to lose weight more than likely haven't convinced themselves of that fact.  So they embark on a weight loss plan for someone else... and are thus doomed to failure.

Weight loss is a personal struggle.  Yes, it is very important to have support from other people.  But in the end, its about every day choices that you are going to have to make.  So you have to be doing it for personal reasons.  You have to want to lose weight.

One of the worst things you can do is try to lose weight for the wrong reasons.  I know many people will disagree with me on this (no weight loss plan is every misguided by some reasoning), but I feel strongly about it.  The reason I say this, is because many times a failed weight loss plan ends up with net weight gain, and it also makes the person less likely to try again since they've failed once before.

So before you try to lose weight, stop and think about why you're doing it.  Do you want to lose weight, or does someone else want you to lose weight.  If its the latter, and not the former, then you need to think about why that is.

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