Personal Thoughts on Diet, Exercise, and Weight Control

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In my previous post I shared a press release reporting the results of the 2011 F as in Fat report on rates of obesity in America. In a nutshell, the trends are depressing, and a lot of great thoughts were posted in the comments section, many of which I agreed with strongly. Based upon the response to that post, I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic – let me be clear at the outset that I am neither an expert on nutrition nor a particularly shining example of someone who has an ideal diet.

Weight control is a constant battle for me. I have a moderately large framed body type that seems to build tissue very easily – this applies to both muscle, and unfortunately, fat. I have found throughout life that I build muscle very quickly when I do strength training, but I also seem to lose it quickly when I slack off. Same goes for fat. If I let my diet slip, I can pack on the pounds seemingly overnight, but if I maintain control, I can take the weight off pretty quickly as well. My suspicion is that much of this is genetic – for example, my brother is a weight lifter, and his biceps are the size of my quads!

Given my apparent physiology, I have to be very careful about balancing my food intake and exercise output in order to maintain or lose weight. I fluctuate a lot, and typically go through an annual cycle where I gain a few pounds in the winter, and take them off as I get more generally active in the summer. Last summer into early fall I reached a post high-school low of around 162 pounds (I’m 5’10”), and I attribute my Boston Qualifying performance at the Smuttynose Marathon last October in large part to the fact that I was running pretty light compared to any of my previous marathons. Much of the energy expended while running is involved in supporting and propelling body weight (74% by some estimates), and shedding pounds can make a big difference in your efficiency. Right now I weigh in around 170, which is still almost 20 pounds under what I was when I became a serious runner back in 2007 (I’ve run on and off throughout life, but never with the regularity or intensity that I do now).

For me, running has surely played a part in my ability to lose weight, particularly when I first started running big miles. However, nowadays it seems to play a bigger role in weight control, and tweaking my diet is the bigger factor when it comes to gaining or losing pounds. Running serves as a counterbalance to my dietary lapses more than anything, and has helped prevent me from reverting back my condition of 4-5 years ago.

Putting all of this into the context of the obesity epidemic that is gripping this country, the big question seems to be why we are gaining so much weight. Many are now pointing the finger at refined carbs as the big evil via their role in spiking insulin and stimulating fat deposition – if you haven’t read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes, it’s an eye-opening book. My wife is a staunch advocate of the Michael Pollan, whole-food approach to eating – I’m working through Pollan’s In Defense of Food right now, and it’s another fantastic read. She has a dietary willpower that I could only dream of – in our 15 years together I don’t think I’ve ever seen her eat a french fry or potato chip (the two biggest dietary offenders according to a recent study out of Harvard).

Personally, I think the amount of refined carbohydrate in our diet is a huge culprit, and a lot of the blame can be place in the hands of the government’s dietary recommendations from the 1970’s and subsidies provided for corn production. However, from a personal standpoint, I think it unwise to simply point the finger at carbs and not continue to emphasize that many of us simply tend to eat too much. From personal experience, my greatest successes when it comes to weight loss have been when I have actively counted my calorie intake. There’s a great app called Lose It! for the iPhone that allows you to track your intake by inputting the caloric value of everything you put in your mouth. I don’t use this regularly because I lack the discipline to keep up with it, but I find that doing it for a few days every now and then really helps to get me back on track with my intake. When you are completely honest (and I mean completely and brutally honest!) with yourself about just how much you put in your mouth, it’s amazing to find out how quickly your intake can add up. It’s very easy for me to accumulate several hundred additional daily calories by finishing off my kids’ table scraps or having a second helping at dinner, and this can quickly negate or even outstrip the several hundred calories that I might burn on a run. More than anything, portion control seems to be my bugaboo, and I constantly need to remind myself that every scrap of food I eat counts.

The national obesity epidemic is a problem with a fairly easy solution – eat less, eat better, exercise more. The problem is these things are incredibly hard to implement, and all of them take immense effort for most people. I’m pretty well convinced that lifestyle change is the answer to the question of how we combat the obesity epidemic, but how we get there on a broader scale is the challenge. Each of us can start by trying to be the best example that we can, and I finish this post with a renewed commitment to eating better – I simply can’t continue to keep relying on my running to save me from my lapses.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Great post, timely and relevant, as always.

    Instead of commenting further on consumption and nutrition, I’ll confine my comment to a question:  is there a correlation between the growth in obesity and the use of personal computers?

    I’ve come to realize that in addition to watching what I eat, and maintaining a regular running regime, I also need to be keenly aware of how I live the non-running parts of my life, in particular, how much time I spend “seated” behind a computer, both at work and at home.

    Time “seated”, whether commuting, behind a computer or an entertainment device, is time not “moving”.  For me, regular movement helps to keep weight issues at bay, and is much easier than tracking calories.

  2. Bkinggard says:

    Great article and very good advice.
    I have been a couch potato for 20 years and had the 120 extra pounds to prove it. I was introduced to SparkPeople which is also a calorie counter and weight loss community. Once you start adding up the calories you quickly realize the battle you are constantly fighting. Since Jan 1st this year my typical caloric intake has gone from 5000 calories a day to 2000, with a whole new appreciation for fruits and veggies.
    When I started I could not walk 1 mile without feeling like I was going to pass out, but as the months went by and the pounds came off I was able to introduce jogging into my walks.
    Now I even have a few 5K’s under my belt and 85 fewer pounds to carry around. This weekend I ran 5 miles for the first time ever in my life. This would never have been possible without educating myself about what I was eating and how much I really needed to eat.
    I have signed up for a 1/2 marathon in March 2012, and if everything goes as planned, a full marathon sometime early in 2013. Possibly DisneyWorld which will be on my 40th birthday.

    Keep the articles coming Pete, you are an inspiration to many.
    P.S. You were right about the Kinvaras, what an awesome shoe.

    • Like Born to Run, one can only be inspired to go run after reading this.  I know people like you, except for one thing: they run to lose weight, but then they walk in the door and ‘treat’ themselves to a large post run snack.  They check the scales, but a pound never drops.  Looks like you did it the right way.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, and congrats on breaking the five mile
      barrier! I can remember very clearly how exhilarating it was to set new
      mileage milestones when I started to get serious back in 2007. Only a matter
      of time until you get that marathon under your belt!

  3. Richard Ayotte says:

    I’ve always believed that my weight has kept me from performing closer to my potential. I’m curious, since we’re the same height (5’10) and the same weight, I’d like to compare race times. My best 5k was 16:32 when I was about 164lbs, half marathon 1:15 at about the same weight. Those times were done when I was heel striking too and I haven’t raced since I’ve changed my form but I will race again soon, now that my Achilles and calves have adapted.

    • Pete Larson says:

      My best marathon was my 3:15 at about 163-4 pounds, but my training mileage
      was fairly low. 5K was several years back, probably when I was mid 170′s.
      Weight is just one piece of the puzzle, and inter-individual comparisons are
      probably not that meaningful. Comparing your own performances at different
      weights are much more revealing. You and I probably differ in myriad ways
      beyond weight – not sure I could ever run a 16:32 5K even if I dropped 30
      pounds!

      Pete

      • Richard Ayotte says:

        You’d be surprised. I remember calculating that my 5k time would drop about 1min for every 10lbs and the ideal weight for a 5’10″ frame is around 138lbs. There are obviously many other factors in play, job, family, age etc., but I believe that weight has the most impact on performance. Thanks for sharing.

        • Pete Larson says:

          It’s a big factor for sure, but other aspects of anatomy/physiology come
          into play as well. I would love to be back at my 150 lb weight from High
          School if for no other reason to see what my times would look like!

          • powermultisport says:

            I believe in the rule of thumb – 2 seconds per mile per
            pound.  This is pretty accurate from 5k
            to marathon.  My marathon PR?  3:08:44 – do the math.  10 lbs x 2 seconds x 26.2 = 8:44.  I’ll be 10 pounds lighter at my next sub-3
            attempt!

  4. Paul Henry says:

    On a personal level i have no problems, I get a lot of exercise and burn a fair few calories, I eat relatively healthy, sometimes my weight goes up sometimes it goes down… kinda depends on what im training for, and wether ive had enough money in my pocket to splurge on expensive foods like candy or other snack foods.

    But thats not the problem for me… Its the growing burdon of obesity related disease on the public purse… a purse that i am obliged to keep filling.

    In Hungry on september 1st they introduced a new tax on ‘snack foods’, for me thats at least a step in the right direction. If you want to eat yourself into an oblivion of obesity then currently thats your right, but then you should at least be contributing more to the coffers that are going to have to pay for your medical bills.

  5. Barefootrunner says:

    Great post. I find my body fluctuates a lot and it does make it difficult – a constant management issue. Which reminds me, time for a run.

  6. Pete-Great post.  It is amazing that it happens to adults and it is scary the rate at which it is happening to children.  Have you heard of any effective initiatives that have lowered obesity rates in communities?  I’d be very interested to learn if there was any measurable data and what that program was doing.  Thanks for the info Pete.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Patton – wish I had an answer, but I’m far from an expert on this topic. I
      spend to much of my time reading about shoes and form!

  7. Pete, although I’m not a big runner (that would be my wife) I thoroughly enjoy your blog because of your obvious passion, and your spirit of open minded inquiry.

    I too read Taubes GCBC about 9 months ago, and it put me on a path that has transformed not just my diet, but how I look, feel and perform.  The short version is read Robb Wolfs book – the Paleo Solution.  

    The longer version is to eat clean (whole foods prepared from scratch), avoid refined carbohydrates (especially grains and legumes), sugar (because of the fructose) and industrial plant/seed oils (because of the omega-6 polyunsaturated fat).  For a nice outline read:
    link to thehealthyskeptic.org
    link to thehealthyskeptic.org
    link to thehealthyskeptic.org
    link to thehealthyskeptic.org

    Good luck with your journey.

    Dean

    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks for the info Dean – I’ll look into those links. I’ve long had an
      interest in the topics of diet and weight – could easily see it become a
      more common topic on this blog.

  8. Joshua S. Albright says:

    I agree with you assessment. I am a runner that has had very similar experiences with weight gain. I am currently a 6’2 193 pound runner that feels like I expend way too much energy trying to propel myself forward in comparison to other runners in my age group. Two years ago this past May was my two anniversary of beginning to lose weight. I was 22 and weighed 336. In 6 months I dropped 161 pounds and have struggled ever since with my desire to continue to eat like I used too. Granted I do not eat out as much and do not get the dollar menu anymore but my weakness for the like has made it difficult. As a society we are constantly bombarded with images of Burger King and McDonalds, as well as, their relatively inexpensive price in comparison to health foods. Much of this is attributed to a lack of education in terms of health and diet. If you were to ask a child today if they would rather have a lettuce wrap or a happy meal from McDonalds with a cheeseburger and fries…it simply would be astonishing to see the child chose the former.  After reading the article on the grade of obesity state by state I am saddened to think that much of the youth who are growing more obese each day are going to dramatically increase the rate at which this country his growing in size upon reaching adult age. Funding is being cut from sports programs at schools and we live in a society that allows for laziness in the individual. I remember when I was a defensive lineman in high school; I would think nothing about eating five double bacon cheeseburgers. I didn’t understand that each of those calories and fat contributed to my substantial weight gain in high school and throughout college. There truly are no short term solutions to a long term problem. Even today as fit as I feel by being a recent Boston Marathon qualifier with a 3:08:30 marathon and a 18:21 5k PR, I know that my diet based on sugar and carbs is substantially hindering me from achieving more. However, many of my friends and family think that is ridiculous the way that I exercise by saying it is unnecessary but ultimately I know I am running to avoid being that fat person and to run of my addiction to food. I feel that many do not have this ability because they feel that exercise is to hard or they never will be able to stop eating what they love. Education is key and providing motivation to exercise is what we need because it is only after that we begin to achieve some success in the goals we are striving for do we become more focused on the fact that we can reach results.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks for sharing – what an inspirational story. From 300+ pounds to a 3:08
      marathon is absolutely amazing!

  9. RunningPT12 says:

    Pete, have you had a chance to look at Taubes’ newer book (Why We Get Fat)? It’s apparently a easier-to-read version of GCBC, with an update on research since GCBC was published.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Kent -

      Haven’t gotten that one yet. GCBC was pretty dense, but very informative.
      Wish I had more time to read everything that I want to read!

  10. 660068322 says:

    I’d like a bit of discussion on the idea of tracking and managing calories.  I find that using the tools to track daily calories is too hard..  especially when you’re making your own meals.  Unless you buy a scale and measure food exactly in each recipe, I feel it’s hard to be accurate in counting calories.  Additionally, I get the idea that many people (myself included) simply don’t have the motivation or willpower to input so much data into some site every day.

    I’ve recently been thinking about an easier way to keep track of calories, as well as help keep on track with a food budget and meal planning.  My idea (I’m pretty sure it’s not original) is to figure out how many calories you should be taking in per week, as well as the balance of fats/carbs/protein, and figuring out what to buy for a week to meet this goal.  My reasoning is, it’s easier to think generally about the kind of foods you like, and then say “okay, to meet these goals i’ll need six pounds of chicken, two heads of lettuce, four sweet potatoes, 1 cup olive oil, etc”, then just throw the food together in meals and try to spread it out evenly, combining things however you like. 

    advantages:

    1) easier input whole food items into tracking sites, rather than try to figure out what fractions of things were used in a certain meal.  in fact it eliminates inputting per meal entirely.

    2) easier to plan and stick to a budget.

    3) easier to avoid temptations to eat other things, because you’ll have enough food around to make something.

    4) it’s easy to make a few big dishes and eat the leftovers all week and still be on track.

    5) on days where you’re more hungry, you can eat more without having to figure out how much and of what you can eat.  On days when you’re not as hungry you can eat less without worrying about making up for it later (which is good if you’re trying to build lean muscle for example).

    disadvantages:

    1) you need to be aware that it’s best to try to split your food intake and protein/fat/carb balance evenly every day..  with this plan it might be too easy to binge one day with all your fat and carbs.

    2) if you end up going out to eat or something, or you break down and have some snacks, it will throw off your weekly plan.

    Still, I think this may work better for people like me, and I plan to implement this soon to try it.

    • 660068322 says:

      After posting this, I started to go about attempting to create a food list based on this idea.  It’s a bit more complicated than I thought, but only because there really aren’t any good tools for this out there.  Maybe I’ll create one eventually.  Anyway, all the hard work is upfront, and once you have a general template with foods you like to eat, it would be easy to create variations.

      I first started by determining that I want to eat 2000 calories a day.  Simply multiply by the number of days you want to do this for, in my case, seven.  So that’s 14000 calories per week.  I decided I want to try to eat a 40/30/30% protein/carbs/fat ratio.  Nutrition labels break down information by calories, and grams ofprotein, carbs, and fat, so the next step is to figure out how many grams of each macronutrient you need.  There are 4 calories in a gram of protein or carbs, and 9 in a gram of fat.  So, I multiplied the percentage of the nutrient by the total calories I need to consume to get the amount of calories of that nutrient I need, and then divide by the calories per gram to get the grams I need to eat.  For fat, this was (30% * 14000 / 9) ~= 467g.  I determined I need to eat 1400g protein and 1050g carbs.

      So now I knew what I need to eat.  The problem is figuring out what to eat.  The whole point of this is to be able to think generally, without specific recipes.  So I thought of some general things I enjoy- stir fries, grilled chicken, salads, turkey sandwiches, peanut butter english muffins, oatmeal, fruit, pasta, spicy rice and bean dishes.  It’s definitely worth noting here that it’s one thing to break up the nutrient balances you need.  It’s another to make sure you’re eating healthy food.  It’s also worth noting that once you start actually looking at trying to meet a calorie goal with only healthy food, that it’s actually pretty hard.  Natural foods simply aren’t as calorie dense as processed foods.

      In the end I decided to come up with some numbers for the foods I was thinking of based on my experiences of what I know I can handle.  For example, it might be tempting for me to say “i’m going to eat a pound of dried black beans this week”, but the problem is, I know that’s way too much for me to eat.  On the other hand, I could eat a salad at every meal practically.  I figured I’d create a spreadsheet and choose some numbers I thought were realistic about what I can handle eating.  I used LiveStrong.com‘s daily plate application to convert the standard servings you can look up into more sensible amounts.  For example, I typed in chicken breasts, and said I ate 5 pounds.  This gave me the calories and nutrient breakdown for the amount of chicken I’ll try to eat in the week.

      For my spreadsheet I made a google document spreadsheet.  I figured this way I can access and modify the sheet from anywhere.  Rather than explain the spreadsheet I’ve made it public.. check it out here:

      https://spreadsheets.google.co

      It’s still a work in progress, but as I have time I’ll add more.

    • A Reader says:

      Interesting idea!  It reminds me of the section in the book “NOLS Cookery” about long term food planning based on desired caloric intake.  There are charts of how much of your diet to devote to different food groups/ingredients, but you don’t plan specific meals out ahead of time.

      I wouldn’t follow it exactly, since the book is designed specifically for backcountry camping trips and focuses on lightweight nonperishable foods.  Still, the information it does provide might help you design your own front-country version of the plan.

  11. There reason people eat so much is that they are not getting enough nutrition from the food they are eating. Eat the right foods and you will probably never have to count calories. I lost over thirty lbs and never counted a single calorie. I simply started to eliminate foods with very low nutritional value (grains and sugars) and started to eat foods with high nutritional value (meat and vegetables). If you have to count calories you are  eating the wrong foods. It really is that simple.

    • Richard Ayotte says:

      Gosh, I wish it was that simple. Even if you only eat the most nutritious food, you can still gain weight.

      • Pete Larson says:

        I think what works best will vary for different people. I’d by no means
        advocate that people count calories for the rest of their lives, I don’t
        even do that myself. But, to do it for a few days does give great
        perspective on just how easy it is to overshoot your limits. Eating better
        is also key, as is exercise. It’s just not as simple as it might seem…if
        it was we wouldn’t be talking about it so much.

      • flammon,

        Ken’s experience is common. At some point the amount of calories you consume will count towards fattening, but there are other more influential factors at play.

        Foods that raise insulin levels (grains and sugar) have a powerful effect on fattening, (a) because the presence of insulin promotes fat accumulation and retards the release of fat for use as fuel, and (b) insulin signals hunger to our brain and therefore drives us to eat more.

        Protein and fat on the other hand signal satiety which is why lower carbohydrate and sugar free ‘diets’ tend to control calories naturally through our appetites working like they should (imagine that!).

        Regards
        Dean

  12. Groan, eyeroll.  Ye olde fearsome obesity epidemic again.  It’s always especially discouraging to see someone with a science background (who knows how to find and read complete study reports and is intellectually equipped to cast a skeptical eye toward the conclusions drawn by popular news reports after reading abstracts and institutional press releases) parroting about an obesity epidemic.

    “I constantly need to remind myself that every scrap of food I eat counts.”
    That strikes me as an awful way to live and absolutely terrible advice.  I cannot understand why people believe that focusing to the point of obsession and worry about what they eat will result in a lessening of whatever problems they have with food.  It is so odd to me that you care about a 10-pound fluctuation as if that’s some important health indicator, but seem unconcerned about whether it’s ‘healthy’ to use a phone app to obsessively track every calorie consumed or burned.

    I do not know what makes some people eat more than they need or want, but saying that it’s about willpower or discipline is not supported by any science I’ve seen.

    Unfortunately, I think dietary self-flagellation is a pretty common theme for running bloggers…it’s also how I know when it’s time for me to stop reading.

    • Some of us are not naturally thin on the Western diet/lifestyle, and the only way we can maintain thinness and marathon times around 3 hours is by a little obsessive-compulsive behavior. I have friends that are naturally thin, even on the Western diet. They don’t get hungry. Not like me. I imagine you’re one of those turds. Good for you. Speak for yourself.

      • Pete Larson says:

        Thanks Aaron. I’ll add that though 10 pound fluctuations may not mean much
        for my overall health, they mean a lot from a mental standpoint, and they
        are huge for running performance. I would not have made it to Boston last
        Fall if I was running at 170+, I’m fairly sure of that. I met qualification
        by less than a minute.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Just sharing my thoughts and experience. If you want to stop reading, I’m
      not going to lose any sleep over it…

  13. Gary Wilson says:

    In seeking causes, one must try to get to the bottom of the matter. When it comes to nutrition, that is the soil fertility in which the food grows. The soil scientist, William Albrecht, was pointing out in the 1940′s through the 1960′s that measuring agricultural progress simply by increasing yields per acre was a mistake. In his papers, he explained the consequence in obtaining the increases in yields was increased carbohydrate and decreased protein content in the food. To fatten an animal, you feed it food with high carbohydrate with decreased protein (feed corn to cattle). The animal keeps eating in an attempt to meet its protein needs. It gets fat.
    When you go to a grocery store, how do you buy the “right” food to eat if it is all produced for higher yield at the expense of nutrition?

  14. Allan Carter says:

    I feel strongly that correctly identifying the problem is the first step in solving it which is why I grind my teeth every time I hear reference to the “obesity crisis”. I feel strongly that what we have is a fitness crisis, not an obesity crisis. Why is this important? Obesity is a symptom of a lack of fitness. By focusing on obesity the nation isn’t focusing on what it needs to be focused on. It is focused on a negative instead of focusing on a positive course of action that we can work on. If we can get the nation moving toward adopting a fitter lifestyle it triggers a whole series of positive consequences one of which may happen to be less obesity. But even if it doesn’t, studies have shown that many of the negative health consequences often associated with obesity are actually more strongly correlated with low fitness. This is shown when they study fit people who are overweight who do not suffer many of the problems of overweight people who are unfit.

    Anyway, I’ve been down the same path. Focusing on fitness ought to be our national health policy. The positive health consequences would naturally follow. It’s awfully tough to eat crappy food when you are working out every day and trying to improve your fitness.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Interesting perspective, the positive spin does make sense. Personally, I
      think the total picture must be kept in mind though. There are lots of very
      high level runners with pretty awful diets, but they can get away with it
      better than somebody runnign a few miles a week. Proper diet and fitness are
      both important, and both need to be emphasized.

  15. steves yok says:

    Weight Control is main to the body fitness and there control of the hormone of the body.

    weight loss diet

  16. Goatlips says:

    My warm weather weight training is going well:

    55min x 3 – Mon;Wed;Fri

        with

    5 miles running x 3 – Tue;Thur;Sat

    I’ve lost half a stone in a week! I am 10st 7lb at 5ft 11in, and officially THE WORST BODYBUILDER EVER!!!!!1

    …To counter this, I’ve taken to eating 1kg meals out of a fruit bowl! :P

    On Sundays, like a god, I rest. -_-

    NB: This is a non-sustainable regime. After 6 months of this last year I started getting weaker at weights and slower at running (<8min/mile went to >9min/mile). I’ve started this up again and I’ll see how long I last (already feel exhausted after 2wks – you try running a day after Dead Lifts or Squats!).

  17. Mark U. says:

    I’m glad that of late you’ve seized on this important topic! Your reference to the ‘F as in Fat’ report and your personal
    experience losing and maintaining weight loss through running inspired
    me to similarly post to runinamerica.com my 50+ lb.
    weight loss 12 years ago and the vital role of running
    since. As you’re getting a lot of great input by other runners if
    you’d like to use the Runners Round Table to facilitate a discussion on-topic I’d be happy to
    facilitate your timekeeper.

  18. Elizabeth Lembeck says:

    Great post, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Sometimes it helps to hear from real people and not nutritional experts, etc. I haven’t heard of that app  before. Do you put in your exercise and daily activity too or just the food/drinks you have?

     I will have to check out Good Calories, Bad Calories thanks!

    Liz-CoolProducts

  19. Kristen Faughnan says:

    I get sad when I read articles like this but at the same time I feel grateful that I completely changed my life for the better 7-8 years and 130 lbs ago. Even though I have lost the weight and am very active, I still have to watch what I eat and when I tell people this,  it always seems to blows their mind. (I do this routinely by weighing once a week and when I see the scale start to creep up on the 5lb window I shoot to keep myself in, I revert back to the very tools that got me here like food journals and weeding out the obvious extra, thorns in the side like holiday food, etc.) For some reason, and I have NO clue why, but many people assume that b/c I have lost the weight I no longer have to watch what I eat but the reality is I do, that the maintaining weight loss is actually harder then losing weight and that I will live with this as long as I am alive.

    Truth be told, I have no idea why my natural inclination to handle stress, sadness and general malaise with life is to WANT to inhale an entire bakery section and I may never know why I work this way but what I do know is that I don’t do it anymore because I know it doesn’t solve anything and if I have a bad day, I just wake up and start over. I think for many people they get very caught up in the guilt of having a bad day and lapse back into the bad habits they were trying to teach themselves to avoid and in the end, they just stop caring. I wish more people had enough interest in caring about their health because really,your health is an extension of how you feel about yourself.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Kristen,

      I’m the same way – I have a weight window, and once I start to creep above
      it on the scale, I kick in what works and usually can get myself back under
      control. It’s a constant battle, but the fact that I love to run means that
      I don’t ahve to constantly obsess about food either. I know very well when
      I’m letting things slip and I need to reel my diet back in. Your story and
      dedication to better health are an inspiration!

  20. Alex Beecher says:

    Taubes is valuable, insofar as he demolishes the “fat is evil” dogma that’s plagued dietary wisdom for decades. But his carbophobia is no more well informed than the bias he tears down. And the paleo diet is a shocking example of the extremes people will look to for magic bullets. Granted, it’s cleverly packaged in just enough pseudo-science to seduce the willing, but it’s insubstantial beyond that glossy coating. Grains are a perfectly viable food source, and there is no reason to exclude them from a balanced diet. Focus on getting a reasonable amount of each macronutrient from mostly whole food sources, keep total consumption in check, and weight loss just happens. Add exercise, and you can’t help but improve your body composition.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Yes, and I agree with Pollan when he says in In Defense of Food that Taubes
      is guilty of the same level of nutritional demonization that he criticizes
      in the low fat movement. Carbs are not evil, but a diet composed
      overwhelmingly of processed carbs is really pretty awful. Personally, I no
      longer pay much attention to the fat content of my food, nor do I avoid
      carbs above all else. In an ideal world, Pollan’s approach appeals to me the
      most – eat reasonable amounts of mostly whole foods and avoid heavily
      processed garbage. Paleo has a lot that intrigues me as an evolutionary
      biologist, but since we’ll never know for sure exactly what our ancestors
      ate, it can easily be taken to far.

      • In somewhat a defense of Taubes, he doesn’t demonize carbs so much as the “establishment” that vigorously pushes them and tells us to eat them to the exclusion of fat. Carb-insulin response varies for each person, I have been low-carb and now paleo for a few months now and have lost 15 pounds, while adding considerable muscle from Crossfit training. I don’t think that it is extreme to cut carbs down to 15-20g a day, as you can still eat plenty of great food without them and, for me, lose considerable weight in the process.

        I was just glad to read this post and find some mention of the carb-insulin theory, as opposed to the usual “Eat less, exercise more”. Keep up the great work Pete.

        • Pete Larson says:

          Thanks! Don’t get me wrong, I thought Taubes did an excellent job in his
          book. I just sometimes worry that people will come away with the message
          that all carbs are evil and should never be touched. When it comes to diet,
          people are far to likely to take things to an extreme and then fail
          miserably because the diet they pursue is not sustainable for them. The
          biggest thing that GCBC did for me is remove my fear of eating fat. I’d take
          a steak over a bag of chips any day! It has also led me to be much more
          conscious of my carb intake, though I do still have my weak moments…

    • Alex,

      A Paleo approach to diet is neither low-carb (necessarily) nor is it an attempt at a magic bullet.  

      Not many would argue against a diet that consists of fruit, vegetables (including starchy), nuts and lean meats, and is prepared from scratch (rather than out of a box or tin).  This is what a Paleo ‘diet’ comes down to.

      As far as grains and legumes go, well, there is some good (modern, scientific) evidence to avoid them.  Mostly it comes down to the anti-nutrients they contain and the inflammatory and fattening effects they have.  We can survive on grains, but tend not to thrive. See link to thehealthyskeptic.org… for more on this.

      Paleo is less a diet and more a framework that suggests we are not genetically well adapted to the modern foods we eat (Western diet high in refined carbs, sugar and processed foods).  Its not about some form of ‘caveman food re-enactment’, rather the idea that our ancestral diet (combined with modern science) can act as a guide to health and wellness.  Again Chris Kresser puts it nicely link to thehealthyskeptic.org

      Regards
      Dean

  21. onelungrunner says:

    I find that adding food is a great start to a ‘diet’. You jus need to start with one thing. I’ve done it with adding a yogurt to lunch. Eventually you add in enough healthy food that you stop eating some of the other stuff without much pain/oppression involved. It probably helps be your own grocery shopper too and getting in the HABIT of buying those additional foods, looking at improving the quality of them and then expanding the list of additions. 

    I absolutely agree with getting people away from grains with the exception of sprouted ones.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Yogurt came out pretty well in the chip/french fry study I referenced in
      this post! I’m a sucker for Greek yogurt with honey.

  22. Keith Peters says:

    I’m pretty much the same – put the weight on easily, but can take it off fairly easily when I put my mind to it. I’m 5’11″ and currently in the high 180′s. But that’s down from 234 a few years ago. Shooting for around 170 as a maintainable weight. Dieting alone helped a bit. Then running helped a bit. But watching what I eat combined with running has been magic.

    Like you, what works best for me is ruthlessly counting calories. I use a similar app, MyFitnessPal. It has a large database of foods, so it’s easy to enter what you’ve eaten. It’s such a huge eye opener – “whoa! that package of 2 cookies has more calories than my lunch!” or “That smallish frozen pizza is a day and a half’s worth of what I should be eating in calories.”

    • Pete Larson says:

      Even if you don’t count calories on a daily basis, I think just being
      calorie aware is huge. Portion control is usually all that it takes to get
      my weight under control, and finishing my kids’ meals is one f the first
      thing I need to remind myself to stop doing. I find it so hard to throw away
      good food…

    • Pete Larson says:

      Yes, amazing isn’t it. I realized quickly how easy it was to exceed 1000
      calories in a meal just by putting too much food on my plate.

  23. steves yok says:

    It is very important to do both aerobics and strength training exercises. Aerobic exercises can help your heart and lungs stronger strengths and helps your body use oxygen more efficiently,

  24. I think the main reason that obesity is such a big problem is because America is a developed country, and so the availability of food is just so much, and its very cheap. Take a twenty minute drive down the street and you’re sure to pass by at least one McDonald’s, Burger King, or KFC, who all serve cheap fast food. The reason obesity is much lower and almost nonexistent in developing/underdeveloped countries is because food is much harder to come by, and it is expensive, so the majority of the population can’t buy as much as we do here.

    I think the solution is to just have less food in the house to begin with. If you limit yourself to eating home-cooked meals only, and then limit the amount of food in the house to begin with, then you won’t eat as much. 

    Also, exercise should be a lot more greatly emphasized; exercise as if your life depends on it, because it does. It should be done with the same mindset in that everyone needs to sleep; it is that vital. If we think back to early man, we know that they used persistence hunting to get their food. The body has adapted to function properly only when you do exercise; you actually need to do it to survive, just like you need to sleep to survive. I never understood people who say, “Yeah, I need to start an exercise program, but I just haven’t got the time.” That’s like saying you know you need to sleep, but you just haven’t got the time.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Yes, exercise needs to be viewed as an essential part of the day. Our
      ancestors didn’t spend their days on the couch watching television!

  25. Losing weight can be frustrating sometimes. Many are finding it hard because they are not yet prepared to eat less that usual or avoid their favorite foods. That is why discipline is necessary when going on a diet. Also keeping the body fit is important as well as taking in healthy foods.
    ————-
    Den
    expert on The Diet Solution ProgramScam

  26. Great post!  I agree wholeheartedly with everything you’ve said, and will continue to (try to) integrate better eating and exercise habits.

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