Test Your Ice Cream IQ!

Monday, May 31, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Monica Gomez

Break out those spoons, bowls, and napkins! Actually, just get a few spoons, no bowls or napkins necessary. What do you know about these delicious and refreshing ice creams? Rank these from highest fat content to lowest fat content. (Serving size for all is 1/2 cup.)
  1. Häagen-Dazs® Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – 20 grams of fat. Along with those 20 grams of fat, you get 12 grams of saturated fat (and those 12 grams make up 60 percent of your Recommended Daily Allowance [RDA]).* A half-cup of this ice cream contains 310 calories (180 of them from fat). When you indulge in this dough, you'll also get 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbs, 24 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. All right, so maybe the "get a few spoons" idea isn't really that great, sadly.
  2. Baskin Robbins® Pistachio Almond – 19 grams of fat. At 9 grams of saturated fat (43 percent of the RDA), this is slightly better than the "dough". Half a cup has 290 calories (170 from fat). Other good-to-know tidbits before taking a bite: 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbs (including 1 gram of dietary fiber and 23 grams of sugar), and 7 grams of protein.
  3. Ben & Jerry's® Chocolate – 15 grams of fat. This classic flavor has 11 grams of saturated fat, or a mere 53 percent of the RDA. Its calorie count is 250, with 140 of those thigh-"friendly" calories from fat. It also contains 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbs (2 fiber grams and 22 sugar grams), and 4 grams of protein. Limit your intake, chocolate lovers.
  4. Cold Stone Creamery® Cake Batter Batter Batter – 11 grams of fat. That's a lot of Batter! With that half-cup serving, you're also getting 6 grams of saturated fat (29 percent of the RDA). You'll also serve yourself up 210 calories, 100 from fat. Batter yourself up 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium (mmm . . . salty goodness!), 27 grams of carbs (19 grams of sugar), and 3 grams of protein.
  5. Dreyer's Loaded Chocolate Chip Mint Brownie – 4 grams of fat. Ah! Your safest bet. A half cup only contains 2 grams of saturated fat—definitely better than the Dazs. It's nutritionally better at 120 calories (40 calories from fat). For a half cup, you get 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbs (no fiber and 14 grams of sugar), and 2 grams of protein. If you must indulge, choose the "mint."

By Denis Faye

So far, the American food industry has managed to escape the intense scrutiny endured by fellow dubious institutions like Big Tobacco and the health care industry. Sure, every once in a blue moon, a book like Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal or a film like Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me captures the public consciousness, but it rarely has much impact. Sure, McDonald's might be persuaded to downsize its french fry servings, but this doesn't even scratch the surface of our dysfunctional relationship with the companies that put food on our plates. You can lessen the amount of potatoes you eat all you want—there's still going to be cow manure in your hamburger.

If you rolled your eyes at that last comment, you're probably about to stop reading, so see ya later. Enjoy your corn-based chicken nuggets and 32-ounce high-fructose-corn-syrup–packed Coke®. But if the idea that the meat packing industry allows animal waste laced with E. Coli—which sickens 73,000 Americans annually—to get into the meat you feed your family horrifies you, you probably want to see Food, Inc.

Directed by Robert Kenner, Food, Inc. is basically a series of loosely woven documentary vignettes blasting holes in various aspects of the food industry, covering topics like obesity, factory farming, genetic engineering, food-borne illness, and farm and industrial worker exploitation.

Schlosser, who coproduced the film, and Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, figure prominently throughout the 90-minute film. In fact, many of the chapters are based on reports from the two journalists' successful books, so if you've read them, much of this documentary is probably old news. That said, if you've read both Fast Food Nation and Omnivore's Dilemma from cover to cover, your interest in the subject probably runs fairly deep, so it's worth checking out the film just to see the people you've read about in the flesh. For example, Pollan's book devotes several pages to Polyface Farms, a Virginia-based operation devoted to the sustainable raising of grass-fed livestock. Polyface owner/farmer Joel Salatin has a lot of screen time in Food, Inc., and his high-spirited pontificating is all the more entertaining on the big screen.

But Food, Inc. isn't just the province of Schlosser and Pollan. It serves as a primer for food industry activism in general. If a particular aspect of the movie captures your interest, there's probably another book or documentary that explores the issue in depth. If you're stunned by seed and pesticide supplier Monsanto's habit of suing independent farmers for patent infringement when their fields are accidentally overrun by the company's genetically engineered soybeans, have a look at Deborah Koons Garcia's documentary The Future of Food.

Or if the fact that the restaurant and snack industries have learned to make junk food addictive by using the perfect blends of saltiness, sweetness, and fattiness bothers you, read David A. Kessler's recent book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.

Just pick a topic and go exploring.

While there is a definite doom-and-gloom aspect to Food, Inc., it also offers solutions. The plight of food safety advocate Barbara Kowalcyk, whose toddler son Kevin died from eating E. Coli-laced meat, offers viewers a chance to contact their local representatives and push for the reintroduction of the food industry reform bill Kevin's Law.

The film's Web site, FoodIncMovie.com, offers many opportunities to get involved.

It's hard to say why the food industry isn't held as accountable as other industries. Perhaps it's not as obvious an evil as Big Tobacco. Perhaps there are more of us who prefer access to cheap, highly caloric, nutritionally void foods over healthy produce and clean meat. But if you're in the second camp and you're "hungry for change," Food, Inc. is a good place to start.

By Joe Wilkes

It's summertime, which means it's time to fire up the grill and enjoy the great outdoors. It all sounds pretty healthy, until somebody shows up with a bowl of mayonnaise and potatoes, which, without a trace of irony, will be announced as a salad. It's like calling a stick of butter a nutrition bar. A few side dishes like this, combined with some fatty hot dogs, hamburgers, potato chips, and ice cream, and bathing-suit season can become caftan season before you know it.

But if you only invite the neighbors over for celery sticks and tofu kabobs, you can count on getting the stink-eye from everyone next time you're out mowing the lawn. The secret to throwing a great barbecue is to find ways to eat healthily without making it seem like last call at fat camp. Fortunately, with so many great foods available during the summer months, it's easy to plan a menu that will include great-tasting food and let you keep your P90X®, Slim in 6®, or ChaLEAN Extreme® figure.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning your outdoor culinary excursions, so you can picnic without the pounds, still enjoy good food, and keep yourself and your family and friends healthy.
  1. Veg out. The cookout doesn't need to be a celebration of the weather being so good that the unhealthy foods we used to eat in front of the TV can now be eaten in the backyard. It's summer! The time of year when all the best fruits and vegetables are at their peak. And grilling vegetables is a great way to get tons of flavor without tons of calories. Delicious on their own or as a complement to another dish, grilled veggies are a must-have for a healthy cookout. Use them in salads, on burgers, or by themselves. Check out what's fresh at your local farmers' market.

    Good veggies for grilling include peppers, asparagus, artichokes, eggplant, zucchini, squash, scallions, and onions. Just brush them with a little olive oil, some fresh herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and you're serving something healthy that you and your guests can load up on guilt free.
  2. Herbal remedies. Only the worst chefs need to rely on fat and salt for seasoning. Now's the time to stock up on fresh basil, oregano, tarragon, dill, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, etc. Or even better, grow your own. Oftentimes, a pot of living basil from the nursery costs less than a handful of leaves from your produce section. Use fresh herbs liberally in all of your recipes, and you'll be replacing fat with flavor.
  3. Hold the mayo. Nothing lays waste to the best-laid plans for a healthy barbecue like mayonnaise. A main ingredient in picnic staples like potato salad, macaroni salad, and coleslaw, mayo loads up enough fat and calories that your only hope of weight loss is that the dishes stay out in the sun long enough to cause salmonella poisoning. Try using healthier ingredients, like yogurt or low-fat ricotta cheese, and adding fresh herbs. Instead of mayonnaise, use yogurt and fresh dill in your potato salad. Make a whole-grain pasta salad with cherry or grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and a balsamic vinaigrette.
  4. Don't be so starchy! There's no law that says every picnic "salad" needs to begin with potatoes or pasta. There are plenty of salad recipes out there that are so delicious, no one will miss their starchy, fatty counterparts. How about making that old-time favorite, three-bean salad! Or if you want something a little heartier, lentils mixed with a light vinaigrette, a little onion or garlic, some fresh herbs, and a sprinkling of feta cheese will fill you up and give you enough energy to play more than horseshoes and lawn darts later.

    Make some simple, fresh vegetable salads. Slice up some tomatoes or cucumbers, and toss them with a bit of vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and onions or garlic, and you have a refreshing side dish that will fill you up without filling you out.
  5. Know your cuts of meat. It's not just a game on Letterman. While of course substituting skinless chicken or fish for your rib eye would be the BEST nutritional decision, we know you're not made of stone. Sometimes it doesn't feel like a barbecue without the scent of grilled steak or pork in the air. But not all cuts are created equal. For beef, the best rule is to look for cuts with the word loin or round. Other great lean cuts are flank steak, skirt steak, tri-tip, and London broil. With pork, the leanest cuts are the tenderloin and loin chops.

    With both pork and beef, try to avoid anything involving the ribs (including rib eyes), which have the fattiest cuts of meat. And those baby back ribs will make you look like you're having the baby. Because of their low fat content, most of the lean cuts will need to be marinated for a couple of hours before grilling. Read on for marinade ideas.
  6. Lay off the (store-bought) sauce. One of the main ingredients in most store-bought barbecue and teriyaki sauces is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Even the most casual Beachbody reader knows how we feel about HFCS. Instead, bust out those herbs you bought or grew (see tip #2), and make some gourmet marinades and sauces that won't send your blood sugar into a tailspin. Using ingredients like fresh herbs; citrus juices; olive, sesame, and canola oils; wine; low-sodium soy sauce; and various vinegars, you can liven up your meat dishes and save the sugar for dessert. And when you're planning your marinades . . .
  7. Go global. Since the U.S. is one of the most obese nations in the world, maybe it's worth checking out what those in slimmer nations are grilling. How about a Cuban marinade for your chicken, or pork with citrus juice and garlic? Or Indian tandoori-style skinless chicken thighs marinated in yogurt and spices like turmeric, curry, or cardamom? Try making your own Japanese teriyaki with sesame oil, ginger, soy sauce, and honey, and skip the corn syrup from the store brands. Try out Greek kabobs, Korean barbecue, or Jamaican jerk-rubbed meat—whatever catches your eye or your taste buds. And throwing a barbecue with an international theme sounds a lot more appetizing than a barbecue where "we're watching our weight."
  8. Good dogs. Of course, not everyone is going to be keen on vegetables and treats from foreign lands. Kids, for example. So you're probably going to need some kind of hot dog for these less adventurous eaters. Pretty much anything can end up in a hot dog, but in most cases, hot dogs are tubes full of fatty meat and carcinogenic nitrates—yum! This is where it really pays to read the label. A regular hot dog runs over 200 calories and 18 grams of fat. A turkey frank has half of that. The fat, calorie, and sodium contents of various brands and types of dogs vary wildly, so choose carefully. For the less fussy, there are also several varieties of chicken and turkey sausages with gourmet ingredients that are delicious and low in fat and calories.
  9. Better burgers. A friend of mine who is highly phobic of meat-borne illnesses like E. Coli and mad cow disease had the great idea of asking the butcher to grind up a piece of sirloin or top round that she selected from the meat case for hamburgers. This limits your exposure to contaminants, as there's only one cow involved in the making of a steak, where there could be hundreds involved in a package of ground beef. This also allows you to control the fat content that's in your hamburger. If you have a decent food processor, you could even grind your meat at home and blend in spices, garlic, or onion to enhance the flavor.

    If all this talk of cows and contaminants has put you off beef, you might give a turkey burger a try. But again, read the label. Many packages of ground turkey contain ground-up skin and other fatty pieces, resulting in a fat and calorie content not much better than ground beef. Try looking for extra-lean or ground turkey breast. And if you're worried about the bird flu, it might be worth giving veggie burgers another try. If you haven't had one in a few years, you may remember them as I do—some sort of reconstituted cardboard patty that smelled like feet. But there have been great strides in veggie burger technology. In fact, there are a couple of brands a vegan friend of mine refuses to eat, because they taste too much like meat. Try a couple of different brands. You may be surprised.
  10. Just desserts. Well, you've behaved admirably during the rest of the barbecue, so you deserve a little summer treat. Have a little bit of ice cream (although frozen yogurt would be even better, and plain yogurt better yet!), but heap a bunch of fruit on it, instead of a dollop of fudge or a side of pie. After all, what we said about vegetables goes for fruit too. This is the time of year where you can get your hands on the best fruit, at the lowest prices. Indulge in berries, peaches, oranges, melons, and all your favorite seasonal fruits. Make a huge fruit salad, or blend fruit with yogurt and ice for a smoothie. Or for those with ambition and an ice cream maker, try making your own fruit sorbet. You may decide to skip the ice cream after all!
Hopefully, these suggestions will help make your summer barbecue a huge success. And in the worst-case scenario that you end up being forced to partake in your neighbor's annual Salute to Mayonnaise, you can always use Beachbody's 2-Day Fast Formula® to minimize the damage before the next pool party!

By Joe Wilkes

How much do you know about the sugar content of these kid snacks? Rank these from least sugar to most sugar.
  1. 1 Betty Crocker® Fruit Roll-Up. This little fruit leather snack has almost 2 teaspoons of sugar. Not that much compared to some other things, but an entire container of animal crackers has about the same amount. Also, the animal crackers aren't as liable to stick to your teeth and contribute to tooth decay. One roll-up has about 50 calories and 1 gram of fat.
  2. 1 3/4-cup serving of Cap'n Crunch® (no milk). The Cap'n brings 3 teaspoons of sugar to breakfast—meaning that about half the calories (110) from this breakfast are empty. Compare this to Cheerios®, which have less than 1 gram of sugar (less than a 1/4 teaspoon) and 2.3 grams of fiber for the same serving; that's more than twice as much fiber as the Cap'n.
  3. 1 6.8-oz. pouch of Capri Sun® Tropical Punch. This little space-age pouch contains a little more than half the liquid of a can of soda, but it doesn't skimp on the sugar. It contains 25 grams, or the equivalent of over 6 teaspoons of sugar—making all 90 of its calories pretty much empty. Ounce for ounce, it contains more sugar than most sodas.
  4. 1 package of Hostess Ho Hos® (3 cakes). These little nasties that I vainly tried to trade my apple for every day on the playground have 42 grams of sugar per serving, or 10-1/2 teaspoons. At least they have 2 grams of fiber. But you're better off sending your kid off with an apple. I eventually forgave my mom (sometime in my 20s); I'm sure your kids will forgive you too.
  5. 1 12-oz. can of orange Fanta®. It's caffeine free, but that's about all you can say for it. The can of Fanta contains 51.8 grams of sugar, or about 13 teaspoons of high fructose corn syrup. Imagine ladling 13 teaspoons of sugar into a tall glass of water with some artificial coloring. That's essentially what kids are drinking, for a total of 164 empty calories.

By Steve Edwards

There's a lot more you can do for your kid's education than locking him or her in a bulletproof SUV and waiting in a smog-choked line of other SUVs to drop him or her off at the school steps. Teaching proper eating habits and providing time for exercise will do more for your child's potential to excel than anything else.

Unfortunately, you may not get support from your school in these matters. Lack of funding and programs like the ill-named "No Child Left Behind" are making it more and more difficult for your kid to eat well and exercise properly at school, rendering your parenting decisions more vital than ever before.


A growing body needs exercise to develop properly. There's no science to dispute this, yet schools have begun to cut PE classes. This not only makes it harder for children to concentrate on classwork during the day, but it's a leading cause in the childhood obesity epidemic that's sweeping the nation. "Over the last 25 years, caloric intake in toddlers and young kids has gone up three or four percent, but the level of physical activity has dropped nearly 20 percent to 25 percent," says Ken Reed, Director of the Center for the Advancement of Physical Education.

When I was in school, I had five recess periods, and my memories are of swarms of kids charging all over our exercise fields. In a survey of parents, I found that most kids had three or less periods of PE these days. Plus, it's becoming increasingly rare to walk to school, something that provided me and most of my classmates hours of random muscle-building, calorie-burning activity 5 days per week.While there are plenty of studies that show the connection between physical fitness and academic performance, it's still a challenge for school administrators who feel they must focus on academics. One researcher, Dr. John Ratey of Harvard, does brain research on physical fitness and calls physical activity "miracle growth for the brain." Despite this, it's still an uphill battle.

"The situation isn't good and it's getting worse," says Reed. "Physical activity levels have dropped dramatically in the last 25 years and we believe there's a direct link there to childhood obesity, as well as a dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in children. It's primarily because of budget problems in schools. Also, the focus is on the educational assessment test that almost every state has due to No Child Left Behind and other factors. It's become the scorecard for administrators and teachers. The focus is on reading, writing, and arithmetic. Parents are also picking up on the state assessment scores as their scorecards on how their school's doing, so they put more pressure on schools to focus on those areas. Something's got to give, and it's usually PE, music, and art classes."


Then there's your child's diet to consider, which most likely won't be improved at school. According to statistics cited in Eric Schlosser's book, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, the worst-quality food goes to fast food restaurants, schools, and pets, in that order—a pretty scary thought when we consider that fast food restaurants and the school cafeteria make up a large percentage of what is forming the dietary pattern of our future generation.

It's easy to see the food/performance relationship in schoolkids. One example, Appleton Central Alternative High School in Appleton, Wisconsin, implemented a health-food program in 1997 and saw a dramatic increase in student performance. By removing soda and candy machines, and changing the cafeteria fare from the standard burgers, fries, etc., to salad, veggies, whole-grain breads, fresh water, and healthy recipes, they saw grades go up, truancies go down, and disciplinary matters nearly vanish.

"I don't want to say better than ever, because it's always worked," said dean of students Greg Bretthauer recently, "but we've made minor revisions, based on experience, to improve it. We've incorporated flaxseed and focused on the omega content of foods. Made fresh water even more available. We have monthly fruit smoothie days, and have really worked to incorporate more education about eating away from school—trying to get students to follow through at home. We've found the diet does play a major role in increasing the ability to concentrate."

Adds teacher Mary Bruyette, "If you've been guzzling Mountain Dew and eating chips and you're flying all over the place, I don't think you're going to pick up a whole lot in class. Now I don't have to deal with daily discipline issues; that just isn't a factor here." While there's little doubt that better food would increase scholastic performance, there's also little chance it's going to happen on a wide scale anytime soon. "Our district is so strapped for cash that all they can look at is the bottom line," states Reed Bartlett, a teacher in the Riverside, California school district. So we get cheap, low-quality food, and I don't see it changing anytime soon.

Weird science

It probably doesn't help that there's always a study out there for someone to fall back on and say things like "see, it doesn't matter what the kids eat." Case in point is the infamous "sugar study" that concluded that diet played little to no role in children's behavior.

Since I can say with 100 percent certainty that I've never had a client who wasn't affected by what he or she ate, I'm pretty sure not many people will disagree with me that food can alter the way you feel, which can alter your behavior. Yet according to Steven Pliszka, MD and professor of psychiatry at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, "The biggest myth of all is that food has any connection to behavior." Say what?

And there's more where that came from. Wesley Burks, MD, professor and chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Duke University Medical Center states, "There haven't been any good scientific studies that show that there is an adverse effect on a child or adult's behavior chronically with the ingestion of foods." Perhaps not, but there's at least one school with thousands of real-world examples of diet playing a major role on behavior. In fact, the Appleton school tried an experiment where they served nothing but sugar-laced foods, caffeinated beverages, foods prepared with palm oils, etc., like "normal schoolkids get," and it had a significant effect. According to Bretthauer, "They ran around like hyped-up squirrels, felt sick, couldn't seem to concentrate. 'Pleeease,' they said. 'Don't have another one.'"

Scary science

Your kid has a lower life expectancy than you, which is one of the most alarming statistics I've seen recently, if not in my lifetime. And that's the big-picture stuff. On a smaller scale, we see studies on the negative effects of many things associated with the daily lives of children.

Kids are drawn to bright colors, so marketers love to change the way food looks—just look at any chain restaurant's kid menu for examples. Yet eating foods with artificial colors and preservatives can cause negative behavior changes in children, according to a recent study published in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood. And that's just one. In a new review of two dozen scientific studies, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) contends that food dyes and certain foods can adversely affect children's behavior. CSPI, in a 32-page report titled "Diet, ADHD, and Behavior," charges that federal agencies, professional organizations, and the food industry ignore the growing evidence that diet affects behavior.

And with researchers like Mina Dulcan, MD, head of child and adolescent psychiatry at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, it's hard to argue. She states, "The bottom line is that too much artificial food stuff isn't good for you, but I don't think you can believe that it's going to hurt your child's behavior or learning very much." Yet in order for her statement to make sense, we would have to conclude that nothing you eat makes any difference in how your body responds. We know this to be false, making this statement—from a prominently credentialed professional—unequivocal nonsense.

It makes a lot more sense to listen to Reed, who states, "The country's decline in fitness levels, of adults and children, is negatively impacting productivity. This generation of kids is the first in 100 years to have a lower life expectancy than their parents. Fitness levels, as well as health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure, are much worse trend-wise than we've ever seen with teenagers and young children. The economic cost just in terms of health care costs is going to be dramatic. Then, when you factor in the loss in productivity, it's really going to be dramatic for our country if it's not turned around." What can you do?

Plenty. This isn't a red tape or lawmaker's issue. While those are factors, you are still the primary influence on your child's health. For one, make sure your child has plenty of opportunities to exercise. The upside to the decline of PE is the availability of affordable extracurricular sporting activities. While your doctor may tell you that you can exist on 30 minutes of exercise three times per week, that ain't going to cut if for a healthy child. Kids need exercise and movement, and a lot of it.

Get 'em out there. "Even with the diets kids are getting in schools, if the kids were more active, they'd be better off," says Reed. But you're also a major contributor to your child's diet, which begins at home. If your school won't provide healthy meals, go on strike and utilize a lunch box. And remember that schools, both public and private, respond to public demand. Politicians do too. Just because school menus are dismal, and schools are cutting PE and losing funding doesn't mean this is the way of the future. If enough people demand that it changes then it will.

Also, lobby government agencies and politicians. We live in a democracy. Take advantage of your rights.

"The Department of Health and Human Services should withdraw its printed and Internet documents that largely dismiss the effect of food ingredients on behavior. For starters, the FDA should halt distribution of a pamphlet on food additives that it co-published with an industry group, the International Food Information Council," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI. "It's high time that the government—as well as doctors—provided the public with accurate information that might help many children."

The solution is for each one of us to keep trying. One person can—and always has—made a difference. Because one turns into two, which turns into three, and pretty soon you have an army on your side demanding change. "If we could just get the soccer mom phenomenon working on physical education, we could rally parents and that would be a great advantage," says Reed.

By Denis Faye and the Beachbody® Message Boards Community

Exercise is easy. Buy a video, pick up a weight, and you're doing it. Nutrition is easy. Buy good foods, eat them, and you're doing it. So why aren't we a world of the fit and the skinny? We'll tell ya why.

Because motivation is a killer. It's one thing to know how to eat right and exercise. It's another thing entirely to actually do it.

The trick is to find your magic button—that motivator that pushes you to blast out a P90X® Ab Ripper X session when you'd rather stay in bed, that motivator that makes you eat celery when chocolate cake is so much more delicious.

If you've found your motivator, more power to you, but for those who haven't, we asked the crew members on the Message Boards about their motivators. Answers ranged from wild to wonderful to weepy to just plain weird. If you see one that you like, grab it. It's on the house.

Here are a few of them
  1. "What motivates me is the high I feel a couple hours after a really good workout. Nothing can beat that!"—JLYNNFL01

    Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, the body's natural painkillers. A nice side effect of these little hurt-masking hormones is that they can also induce euphoria, even with moderate exercise.
  2. "The thought of elastic waist bands keeps me pressing play."—Chelle Bean

    This is in no way a judgment, but the simple fact is that when you're fit, you have access to cooler clothes. And once you toss that muumuu away to make room for your skinny jeans, you won't want to go back.
  3. "I motivate myself by thinking about how wonderful it will feel to be my husband's trophy wife!"—shellyv

    Although your spouse will probably love you either way, it's always nice to make him or her drool a little. Remember, being fit makes you feel good about yourself, and when partners feel good about themselves, it makes it easier to feel good about the relationship.
  4. "Looking at my before pictures. If I ever start to feel like I don't want to exercise I just pull those gems out."—RyGuy

    Everyone seems to like their "after" picture so much more than their "before" picture. There was a lot of sweat and pain in the transition.
  5. "Even though the ex-wife did not leave because I was not ripped, I still can't wait to take my shirt off at the pool for our son's birthday and have her see all the things she is missing out on. His birthday is in August, so I have just enough time."—Puckmaster

    Here's an old quote: "Revenge is a dish best served cold." It comes from either Afghanistan or the Klingon language. We're not sure which.
  6. "Rock climbing alone isn't a key ingredient to a full life, at least not for me. Climbing with my kids, on the other hand, is another story. Spending time together, being able to keep up, starts to be even more promising. Ultimately, that is my big picture; my family, my kids, and my health are all intertwined."—Fitz62

    Being fit opens up a whole world for a parent. And technically, running around with your rugrats counts as exercise, so you get a bonus.
  7. "My 2-1/2-year-old son who asks, 'Daddy are you exercising today?' And afterwards puts my shirt in the laundry basket for me. I want to be here as long as possible for my family."—Sgpratt

    Here's an even bigger motivator when it come to exercising for the sake of your family. Not only will the quality of family time improve, but also, in the long run, you'll have lots more of it.
  8. "My daughter is my motivation. I do not want her to see me struggling with weight as I saw my mom."—Fufi28

    Here's the biggest motivator of all. Kids model their parents—the way they eat, the way they live their lives. If you live your life healthily and strongly, your kids will too.
  9. "My favorite motivational tool is to use some P90X® workouts or other exercises to create unique challenges and do them for time."—Coach Marc

    Goal-oriented people fire themselves up with, wait for it, goals. If working through 90 days of grueling exercise isn't enough for you, create mini goals during that time. Increase sets or do things faster, whatever fires you up.
  10. "I make each workout an appointment . . . and I don't like missing appointments."—Blotman

    Most people like to live up to the commitments they've made. If you make a doctor's appointment, you don't miss it, do you? Well, you're just as important as your doctor, so if you make an appointment with yourself, honor it!
  11. "WOWY keeps me accountable, I may not know a single soul personally, but just knowing thousands of other people are putting their health first keeps my conviction strong!"—Maii Beloved

    Of course, if you're just not willing to give yourself the respect required to keep those appointments, maybe you'll respect the thousands of people who track you when you use the WOWY® accountability system.
  12. "The more you work out, the more you can eat!"—j-ro

    This one is a slippery slope, but there's some truth to it. Just keep in mind that exercise isn't a license to pig out on junk because "junk in, junk out."
  13. "I enjoy seeing others' reaction when I wear a tank top. I get a kick out of them staring at the veins in my biceps."—Padstack

    It's always nice to get checked out and know that your hard work is paying off.

    Well, if you don't want to do it for yourself and you don't want to do it for your family, there's nothing wrong with doing it for the ladies, we suppose, or for the men, of course. Just don't go too crazy, Voltown.

By Steve Edwards

As a trainer and nutritionist, I frequently get asked, "What's the best thing I can eat?" Or, "What's the best food in the world?" It's also a subject that easily makes its way onto the glossy pages of the assorted magazines you peruse whilst standing in line at your local market. And there's always an answer. "One food that will change your life!" Or, "Just eat this!" It's so simple, or so they'd have you believe. "If you'd only been eating this one thing you'd be slim, healthy, and look like that supermodel on the cover." You know, something like that.

In this week's Nutrition 911 lesson, we'll take a look at the answer. So, class, just what is the best food in the world? Anyone care to answer?

No, Jack, I'm sorry. Red meat is not the right answer.

But to appease you, Carl, Stuart, and McClown over there trying to get the children's attention, let's look at red meat anyway. After all, most of us eat a lot of it, even though most modern science is showing us that eating too much will lead to health problems. Red meat is the best food choice you can make if you were only given one thing to eat. Therefore, boys, if you were living as an explorer in the 19th century, like Lewis and Clark, it would certainly be a superfood. Red meat has protein (of course), vitamins, and fat. Because you can live on fatty meat for a long time, it was prized in cultures where there were limited food options. Lean meat, which is better for us in the civilized world, wouldn't cut it for trappers who would sometimes die of "rabbit death" because their diets had insufficient fat.

In the modern world, we tend to get plenty of fat, especially the kind you get from meat. Therefore, diets high in red meat are often linked to heart disease and other assorted diseases. Red meat consumption should be limited in a modern diet. And you don't need any at all, as most of its nutrients are found in foods that don't have the same downsides. So now this ancient superfood should be far down on your personal food chain.

What was that, Moonbeam? I couldn't hear you over that guitar. Oh, spirulina.

Yes, spirulina does have a lot of nutrients and is considered a "superfood" by many, especially those who wear a lot of hemp clothing. It's an alga that is very rich in vitamins, has a lot of protein, and even contains some good fatty acids. For one food, it's awfully good. Well, at least nutrient-wise. Eating it is another matter. Its taste is, let's just say, challenging for many. But even if you can eat it as joyously as a plecostomus does, you're still missing certain vitamins, and amino and fatty acids that you need to find elsewhere. While it's a great food, it's not the answer.

You in the overalls, did you say broccoli?

More than any other, broccoli is referred to as "the best food in the world." It is healthy stuff for sure. It's loaded with vitamins, fiber, and even protein. But it lacks fat, and besides, while you can eat a ton of veggies without gaining an ounce, you can only eat so many before all of the fiber begins to have the opposite effect you desire on your digestive system. Fiber is great, to a point. It soaks up cholesterol and keeps you "regular." Too much and you'll become . . . too regular. A cyclist I know once decided to test just how much fiber he could consume. The results came while he was out on a ride, and I, for one, was glad I wasn't following him.

Yes, Siri, hempseed and flaxseed are great, but I think we should draw the line at listing combustible hemp as a possible superfood.

Leaves aside, these seeds are loaded with omega-3 and other essential fatty acids. They even have protein and vitamins, and have been linked with many assorted health benefits. But again, they only contain a portion of the nutrients you need each day. Plus, they are dense, meaning that you can't just munch on 'em all day long without consuming too many calories.

And speaking of fatty acids, fish is loaded with two very important ones, DHA and EPA, and even more protein. A superfood to a degree, it has a huge downside. We've polluted our oceans and waterways to the point that many of the things fish eat are toxic. As we rise up the food chain, we eat the fish that have more protein, more fatty acids, and more and more toxins. Whales and dolphins—fish make up nearly 100 percent of their diets—have very high levels of toxins in their fatty tissues, so much that these high levels exceed superfund cleanup standards. An altogether different problem addresses what we should do about this, but sticking to the subject, I would recommend that you somewhat limit fish consumption, unless you can get some data on fish contamination levels.

Yeah, Bugs, I know you think carrots are the be-all and end-all of nutrition. They're not bad. Loaded with carbohydrates, vitamins, and fiber, it's easy to see how you could outsmart Elmer Fudd all day, since he looks like he's been feasting on mom's apple pie in lieu of rabbit. While carrots are a great energy snack, they lack necessary protein and fats, making it unlikely that you could live on them exclusively, unless you exist in two dimensions.

No, it's the same for blueberries, Violet. They are loaded with antioxidants but are still mainly a sugary carbohydrate source. A good thing to eat, sure, but you shouldn't plan your entire diet around them.

I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but unfortunately, there is no single "best food on the planet." Your body is complex. To function properly, we need to eat from various sources. We consume trees, seeds, leaves, fruits, animals, bugs, weeds, etc., etc. And not just to get a variety of flavors. Different foods make you feel differently because they do different things to your body.

Of course, this doesn't mean that one food is as good as another. There are superfoods out there. But they're all super for one thing. Beachbody's Results and Recovery Formula is a superfood for after a hard workout but would be a terrible food if you weren't exercising. Spinach was super for Popeye, and can be for you, but it would not be the best choice right before a contest of strength with Bluto. There are different foods that are super for different circumstances.

As a society, we've learned to eat for taste. However, there was a time when we ate for performance, which is probably how we began learning what we now call the science of nutrition. Added ingredients in junk foods, like flavorings, have messed up this process, and now we have a hard time distinguishing a food's performance value by taste. We do things like adding sugar to meat that create unnatural cravings. So we need to relearn to eat for performance. Once you begin doing this, you'll retrain your body to crave the right foods for the right circumstances.

Remember that you should eat to fuel your body for what you are going to do. Superfoods are only super if you eat them at the right time to support the right activity. So today's lesson is that there is no best food on the planet. But there are perfect foods for different situations. So next time, we'll talk about nutrient timing.

By DeLane McDuffie

Oscar the Grouch was a prophet. Way back in 1969, he knew the world would eventually catch up with him and love trash too, but until then, he just stayed in his trash can on Sesame Street. Today, with the garbage flotilla floating in the Pacific and even floating junk in space, we see that he wasn't too far off. Last week, we learned that June is National Candy Month, which also makes it unofficially Candy Wrapper Month, thus kicking off littering season. See if you can rank the top 5 nations, according to Forbes Magazine, that are leading the charge to dirty up the planet.
  1. United States – b) 236 million tons of waste annually.
  2. Russian Federation – d) 207.4 million tons of waste annually.
  3. Japan – a) 52.36 million tons of waste annually.
  4. Germany – e) 48.84 million tons of waste annually.
  5. United Kingdom – c) 34.85 million tons of waste annually.
Rounding out the top 10 are Mexico (32.17 million tons), France (32.17 million tons), Italy (29.74 million tons), Spain (26.34 million tons), and Turkey (25.99 million tons).

At less than 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. produces 25 percent of the world's garbage. That averages out to just over 1,600 pounds of rubbish a year—that's per U.S. citizen!

We could start singing a sarcastic rendition of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" to celebrate this "honor," but it would only contribute to noise pollution and wouldn't fix the problem. Go green. Kermit the Frog sang, "It's not easy being green." Actually, it's easier than we think.

By Denis Faye

Every January, thousands of ambitious souls take a major step on the road to fitness and order an in-home fitness program like ChaLEAN Extreme® or P90X®. And every June, thousands of newly ripped, super-fit, would-be athletes buy themselves fancy new surfboards or top-of-the-line pro volleyballs and commit to taking up that summer sport they've always dreamed about.

Then something happens. Maybe a wave smacks them in the face and they eat fiberglass, or they dislocate their coccyx before that first volleyball set is even over. Or maybe they remember that they live in Montana, making wave riding or beach volleyball highly improbable. Either way, as the leaves turn brown and fall from the trees, the board and ball go back into hiding. Dreams of being a summer sports sensation fade away, unrealized.

But it doesn't need to be this way. Just because you're super-fit doesn't mean you need to surf monster 50-foot swells. Sure, there's nothing nobler than shooting for your dreams, but in between killer spikes, why not fill your time with less ambitious, but (almost) equally fun outdoor activities? And if you like them, you can dial them up a little.

Here are a few examples.
  1. Frisbee®. It may take a few tries to master the wrist action, but once you do, Frisbee is the ultimate take-anywhere group game.

    Dial it up: Back-and-forth tossing will improve hand-eye coordination, and if you have a crew that wants to get serious, try a little Ultimate Frisbee, which is sort of like rugby but with a plastic disk and less bruising.

    Wham-O® Classic-Style Frisbee Disc: $3.50
  2. Squirt guns. No, it's not politically correct, but have you seen squirt guns nowadays? They blast like 30 feet. So rad! A squirt-gun battle is a great way to cool off on a hot summer day, get your heart rate up, and party with your kids.

    Dial it up: Throw what semblance of civility you still have out the window and take a crack at paint guns. You might want to leave the kids at home for this one.

    Super Soaker® Vaporizer Water Blaster Twin Pack: $19.99
  3. Hacky Sack®. Another perfect take-anywhere activity that improves hand-eye coordination. You can practice alone or with friends. If you collect three sacks, you can embark on our next activity . . .

    Dial it up: Juggling isn't much easier to learn than surfing or volleyball. But you can practice anywhere and anytime. And everyone loves the guy who juggles at a party. Provided, of course, that you don't break anything.

    Hacky Sack: $3.00
  4. Hula-hoop. Great core workout. You'll look goofy but in a stylin' '50s retro way. And if it just doesn't work for you, you can always train your dog to jump through it.

    Dial it up: Get a Hula-hoop going on each arm, your waist, and your neck, then we'll talk.

    Go Go Hoop (Collapsible): $12.95
  5. Jump rope. We're not just talking double Dutch here. Jumping rope is a killer workout that will increase almost every aspect of your fitness. Plus, you can take it anywhere.

    Dial it up: Rope jumping is already dialed up, but try mixing it with push-ups for a full-body challenge.

    Valeo® Speed Jump Rope: $6.75
  6. Horseshoes. Not so great when it comes to hard cardio, but you do get a little muscle control practice, and absolutely everyone, regardless of age, can play together. It's also one of those wonderful sports that requires you to hold a cool beverage in the non-pitching hand. I think it provides ballast.

    Dial it up: There's no dialing up horseshoes!

    Halex® Classic Horseshoe Set: $24.99
  7. Bocce ball. Think of it as a treacherous version of horseshoes. You're supposed to throw your ball to get as close to the smaller ball—the jack—as possible, but once you get good at it, you can smack the other players' balls out of the way.

    Dial it up: See horseshoes.

    Spalding® Power Play Bocce Ball Set: $39.95
  8. Croquet. The third in our "Anyone Can Play" trilogy. If you have a lawn, you have an arena. It's not exactly high impact, but it's better than sitting in that lawn chair all day.

    Dial it up: See horseshoes and bocce ball. Jeez! Try to relax and enjoy yourself for once.

    Franklin® Classic Croquet Set: $69.99
  9. Badminton. Here's a competitive sport you can set up anywhere. It's light, polite, fun cardio that sharpens your hand-eye coordination—as long as you don't become a jerk about it and start slamming the birdie across the net. If you have an urge to do this, just remember your aching coccyx and how unforgiving those volleyball players were to you last summer.

    Dial it up: Tennis, anyone?

    Franklin® Classic Badminton Set: $39.99

By Steve Edwards

There are a lot of misunderstandings about the best way to reshape your body. This is because there are a lot of trainers out there who espouse different fitness philosophies. In general, the various regimens touted all have some merit. In this article, we'll take a very simple look at various training strategies, bust a myth or two, and explain why interval training is the most efficient way to change your fitness level.

We're just about to launch a program called Insanity, featuring Shaun T, which is a high-intensity conditioning program that's based on something we call MAX Interval Training. While it's the most intense workout program we've produced, it's not the first to use interval training to create fast results. In fact, every Beachbody® program uses some type of interval training.

What is interval training?

In short, you are interval training any time your workout includes a set wherein you perform at your maximum level, which is then followed by a lower-intensity set, which is then repeated to achieve a cumulative effect. An interval can be a set of curls, a dance move, or anything that tires you out over its given interval of time. The intervals can be short and hard, or long and easy, but they're all intervals, just so long as there is some cumulative effect (you get more tired as you go). All interval workouts aren't the same, though; the duration and intensity of the intervals are what define the workout.

Conversely, aerobic training is when you maintain a steady output at a low intensity level over the course of the workout. We do offer some workouts that do this, but they are generally either for recovery or for the second daily workout of a doubles program. This type of workout helps your aerobic efficiency but does very little for changing your body.

The myth of the fat-burning zone

It's impossible to approach this topic without debunking the term "fat-burning zone." You often hear uninformed trainers recommend that their clients reduce the intensity of their workouts so that their bodies will burn more fat. In reality, all these trainers are doing is lowering the overall effectiveness of their clients' programs.

Here's a quick explanation of the fat-burning zone. At an aerobic pace (see above), your body utilizes stored body fat as fuel to save its preferred fuel (stored blood glycogen) for more pressing matters. It sounds great because you're burning body fat. And while this is true, you're burning it at a very slow rate.

During higher-intensity work, your body turns to a limited supply of blood glycogen (often called blood sugar) for energy. While your body's burning glycogen during this more intense period, and not fat, it's breaking down more body tissue. Breakdown is a bad word for a good thing, because your body produces more hormones and increases its metabolism to repair this breakdown. As the tissue repairs itself, it builds more muscle so that next time you do a stressful workout it won't be so taxing. This process of adapting to intense exercise is where your body makes rapid change.

Continually building on this process is called progressive overload. By continually adapting to stress and then adding more (either with weight or speed or programs like Insanity), you increase your body's fitness so that it's actually burning body fat for fuel as you rest. Interval workouts should be a key component in every phase of your training.

Techie science made simple

Asked what separates serious and recreational athletes, author and fitness trainer Steve Ilg replied, "Intervals." But since "intervals" is an umbrella term for training that targets many different energy systems, it's quite a cryptic statement requiring further explanation. It's also pretty accurate. Recreational athletes like to train within their comfort zones. Interval training, regardless of the targeted intensity level, always forces you out of it. And you must be willing to leave your comfort zone if you want to see significant changes in your fitness level.

Interval levels can change dramatically. For example, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts are very short, sometimes only lasting seconds, and completely anaerobic. Marathon runners will often run for 1- or 2-mile intervals, which can take many minutes and are obviously somewhat aerobic. The reason for the varying intensity of intervals is to train different energy systems in the body. These are defined by terms you may have heard of, AT (anaerobic threshold), VO2/max, etc. For our purposes, you don't need to know these terms. Here's the 101 version.
  • LSD. Not the hippie drug from the 60s, but rather long slow distance. This is not an interval; it's a term you're likely to hear especially if you know or are a runner or cyclist. Its purpose is for base-level aerobic conditioning. As I said above, it's not very applicable for making significant body changes, unless you do it for a very long time. Yet many trainers still recommend it. I think this is primarily because their clients won't complain about doing 30 minutes of easy exercise.
  • Sports-specific intervals. These can be anything, like the 2-mile example above. Interval training exists for all athletic endeavors. Since it's targeted for sports performance, we won't discuss it. You'll learn plenty about it when you join a local group to train for a triathlon or something else.
  • Weight training intervals. All weight training could be considered interval training, but traditionally, you rest so long between sets that you don't get a cumulative effect. All Beachbody weight training is done interval-style, which we call circuit training. During these workouts, you move from body part to body part without much rest between sets so that the workouts don't just target muscle building but also improve your cardiovascular fitness. Power 90® and Slim in 6® are good examples of this kind of training.

    What defines these circuits is your targeted number of repetitions. A low target using more weight will create muscular hypertrophy, or growth. A higher number limits muscle growth (you get some muscle growth) and gives you more cardiovascular improvement.
  • Cardio intervals. These are what most of you probably define as interval training. First, we must define the difference between cardio and aerobic. Cardio means heart, while aerobic means oxygen. Aerobic training is most easily defined by the word "easy." It's really defined by training below your anaerobic threshold, but we're dispensing with science talk. Cardio, however, is all training that affects the heart. So it can include aerobic training but also all the high-intensity training associated with intervals.

    High-intensity cardio intervals are performed in something we call heart rate training zones. Cardio intervals target these heart rate training zones for various periods of time. When you design your own interval workouts, you must do this yourself. When you have a trainer, he or she does it for you. This is why we at Beachbody always have test groups to make sure our workouts train you in your proper zone. That way, all you need to do is follow along.
MAX Intervals 'n' stuff

In general, the longer the interval, the easier the workout. Some interval sessions have long and moderate intervals with short aerobic breaks. Others have short, difficult intervals with long aerobic breaks. What makes Insanity's MAX Interval Training unique is that it combines long, hard intervals with short breaks.

The MAX Interval system is based on HIIT, though it's not HIIT. HIIT includes very short maximal intervals, followed by short breaks. It's very intense and also effective. Its downside is that it's so intense that your body can't do it for very long. You can generally only see good progress for 2 to 3 weeks at a time using HIIT workouts until you need to transition to a different type of training.

Conversely, a more traditional approach to interval training, like Turbo Jam®, that relies on various intensities of intervals (mainly moderate) can be done for very long periods of time before you need to change workouts. Your fitness improvements won't be as drastic, but they'll be steady.

With MAX Intervals, we lowered the intensity of HIIT just enough to keep the high-intensity format but to also increase the time during which you can make rapid improvements before needing a break. The result is a high-intensity interval training system that keeps yielding results for a long time before you need a transition.

How to incorporate intervals into your workout program

Like every other aspect of fitness, your starting point should be based on your current physical condition. If you aren't very fit, you'll want to start with a very basic interval program, which will still feel hard. Workouts like Slim in 6 Start It Up! or Power 90 Sweat Cardio 1–2 are perfect introductory interval sessions. If you're in doubt, start slow. It's easier to increase your workout's intensity than to go backward.

You never want to begin with HIIT or MAX Intervals, unless you've got a solid fitness base. This style of workout is so intense that you won't even be able to finish each workout, negating the whole interval aspect. And even if you do finish, training this hard out of the gate increases the risk of injury.

Intervals are the most effective way to see quick results from a workout program. If you're not doing them, add them right away. If you're already doing intervals, perhaps it's time to step up to the next level.

Test Your Candy IQ!

Friday, May 21, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Monica Gomez
  1. How many jelly beans are produced in the U.S. each Easter? According to the National Confectioners Association (NCA), more than 16 billion jelly beans are produced each year for Easter, enough to fill a plastic Easter egg 89 feet high (or the height of a nine-story office building)! The NCA states that it takes 6 to 10 days to make a jelly bean. Next time April 22 rolls around, you can celebrate Earth Day and National Jelly Bean Day!
  2. What did "fairy floss" come to be known as in 1920? William Morrison and John C. Wharton introduced "fairy floss" at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, selling 68,655 boxes. In 1920, "fairy floss" was renamed cotton candy. Don't go "flossing" your teeth with this sweet treat, though. One cup contains approximately 336 calories and 84 grams of sugar (the main ingredient in cotton candy). This isn't exactly the fuel we'd recommend for, well, anything!
  3. When are most NECCO® Sweethearts® Conversation Hearts sold? Most of the eight billion Conversation Hearts manufactured each year are sold between January 1 and Valentine's Day, making them the #1 non-chocolate Valentine's Day candy. Originally called Motto Hearts, Conversation Hearts used to be made in myriad shapes, like postcards, watches, baseballs, and horseshoes. These shapes allowed for longer sayings. Today, Conversation Hearts are even printed in Spanish. ¡Deliciosos!
  4. How many pounds of milk are used each day by U.S. chocolate manufacturers? According to the NCA, 3.5 million pounds of whole milk are used every day to make chocolate. And it's no surprise. It would take that much to produce what American's have voted as their favorite flavor. A recent survey revealed that 52 percent of U.S. adults voted chocolate as their favorite flavor.

Book Review by Denis Faye

I've always had a hard time with food. As a kid, my kitchen was rarely stocked with salty and sugary snacks—rarely, because most of those salty and sugary snacks would be eaten before they even had a chance to be put away. A jumbo bag of Fritos® would be lucky to last an hour in our house. Gallon tubs of ice cream were routinely opened for the evening's dessert. My best friend's mother once asked him to stop bringing me over after school because I would regularly and impulsively clean out her pantry's stock of peanut butter and chocolate chips.

While I had friends who would smoke funny things and listen to Pink Floyd, I didn't do drugs; when I watched The Wall, instead of smoking those funny things, I got "high" by drinking 2 liters of Coke® and eating an entire box of Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch®.

Through my teens and into my twenties, my weight seesawed between 225 and 170. It wasn't until I moved to Australia that I finally got a handle on things. Perhaps it was the lack of exposure to the American media machine, perhaps it was because junk food is more expensive down under and fresh produce is cheaper, perhaps it was because I had fallen in with a committed pack of super-fit surfers, or perhaps I was just sick of being fat. Either way, I finally turned things around and have managed to remain relatively thin ever since.

But it's incredibly difficult. While my thinner waist is a result of raw willpower that's tested daily, I still have to resort to a few tricks. It was impossible to curb my appetite, so instead, I learned to fill up on the right things. I eat more fruits and vegetables in a day than most people eat in a week. I stay out of restaurants as much as possible, and for at least a decade, even vaguely tempting groceries did not enter my house. It's only in the last couple of years that I've been able to keep peanut butter on hand, and that's because I've learned to block its very existence out of my head.

Also, I exercise. A lot.

David Kessler's The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite

The reason I'm playing true confessions is because it was with great personal interest—perhaps even out of personal necessity—that I opened former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler's new book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.

Sometime in the 1980s, Americans starting getting fatter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1988 and 1991, the number of overweight Americans increased by 85 percent. Between 1960 and 2000, the average weight of women between the ages of 20 and 29 went from 128 to 157.

The "why" for this has been extensively covered in books like Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. We have access to more salty and sweet foods, and the portions we're served are larger. When a 500-calorie fries, 310-calorie Coke, and 540-calorie Big Mac meal is presented to you as a normal lunch, you're going to eat it.

And you're going to get fat.

Overeating: Solutions?

Unfortunately, while the problem is well documented, the solution isn't. Calling for reforms in the food service industry is lovely, but this is a billion-dollar industry; and frankly, people will continue to eat 1,350-calorie McMeals, no matter how unhealthy those meals are.

The other half of the solution—that consumers should exercise self-control—isn't all that helpful either. A few lucky ones, including me, found an escape from the Dionysian trap, but we are few. It's one thing to say you won't eat M&M'S®, but as anyone who has any issues with overeating knows, when you're at a party and you're surrounded by bowls of the little multicolored jerks, they call out to you in a collective, candy-coated chorus that's often too much to bear.

Conditioned Hypereating

That's the premise of The End of Overeating. Thanks to our culture of consumption, the drive to eat beyond our needs has skyrocketed out of control. Kessler dubs the problem "Conditioned Hypereating."

Essentially, Kessler theorizes that today's foods have been engineered to the perfect point of saltiness, fattiness, and sweetness. It just tastes so good, and it's just so accessible. Where once higher-fat ice creams were premiums and adding crushed candy bars or other extras as toppings was a novelty, these practices have now become the norm. And while all these rich foods damage the waistline, they cause majorly gratifying chemical reactions upstairs.

(Of course, I didn't need Cold Stone Creamery® or Chili's®. I learned how to "engineer" foods myself. In my junior year of high school, my favorite after-school snack was a Ruffles® and Miracle Whip® sandwich on Wonder® Bread.)

The brain's pleasure-seeking chemicals, called endorphins, are overstimulated by these foods because these foods are specifically created to cause this overstimulation. The brain remembers this stimulation, so over time when you see these foods, another chemical called dopamine is released. According to Kessler, "Dopamine drives desire through a survival-based capacity known as 'attention bias.' Defined as 'the exaggerated amount of attention that is paid to highly rewarding stimuli at the expense of other (neutral) stimuli,' attention bias allows us to pick out what matters most so we can pursue it."

In other words, in the same way the brain induces "fight or flight" responses or overwhelming maternal instincts, it urges us to eat yummy junk. Our stomachs may be full, but our brains really, really want the rush.

4 Steps to End Conditioned Hypereating

After explaining this, Kessler dedicates several chapters to admonishing the food industry for creating this situation. It's an interesting read, but it is fairly well-treaded territory. Where the book really shines is part four, "The Theory of Treatment." Here, Kessler suggests how someone suffering from Conditioned Hypereating might go about fixing it.

Basically, Kessler suggests four steps to kicking the habit.
  • The first is to become aware of the problem.
  • The second is to reverse the habit by exercising competing behaviors.
  • The third is to develop thoughts that quiet the old, problematic thoughts.
  • The fourth and final step is to seek support.
Kessler then explains how to achieve these steps with methods like planned eating, which is basically having your meals planned and sticking to that plan. This is much like the nutrition plans that come with programs like P90X® and ChaLEAN Extreme®.

As it turns out, as much as I value The End of Overeating, there's nothing in Kessler's book that I didn't already know. However, it has given me a new perspective. He's taken these facts and connected the dots in a way I hadn't seen before.

As I said, my change came largely due to willpower, but I was blessed in that I was put in a situation where that willpower could take hold. I often forget this when giving advice and simply tell people suffering from Conditioned Hypereating to just buck up and do it.

It's just not that simple, and now that I know exactly why, hopefully, it will grant me the patience and tools to help others accomplish the goals that took me so long to achieve.

To Fast or Not to Fast?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Steve Edwards

As our Nutrition 911 series transitions from drinks to food, what could be more natural than to discuss something in between, like fasting? Most people think that the simplest way to lose weight is to not eat. But if you don't eat, you'll die, which renders this "theory" ineffectual or, at best, short-lived. As we've discussed, we need nutrients to live, and we also need nutrients to transform our bodies from being overweight and out of shape to being svelte and toned paragons of fitness. So what's the deal with fasting? Is it a trend? Is it dangerous? And should you do it?

First of all, fasting isn't a trend. It's one of the oldest therapies in medicine, and its recorded practice dates back thousands of years. But these days, it's hard to peruse the magazines at your local market without being provided with myriad "trendy" fasting options promising health and spiritual enlightenment, and most importantly, weight loss. It's also pretty easy to find literature warning of the dangers of fasting. So let's have a look at its history, benefits, and potential dangers.

If you've read any historical literature, you know that fasting has been around a long time. Many of the oldest healing systems have recommended it as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, believed fasting enabled the body to heal itself. Paracelsus, another famous healer, wrote, "Fasting is the greatest remedy, the physician within." Sounds good, but what exactly is it: simply not eating, or using some sort of product you've seen pitched on TV?

By definition, anytime that you don't eat, you are fasting—hence the word "breakfast." Most therapeutic fasts last longer than one night, usually from 1 day to a few weeks. Juice or liquid fasts, while not traditional, are quite common because many of the desired results are achieved without as much stress on the body (see 2-Day Fast Formula® for one option). It's also common to begin a fast by eating cleansing foods, like veggies or soups. A modern fast is often synonymous with a cleanse, or it's a very restricted diet designed to reprogram your body. Most fasts only last a few days. Provided that you stay hydrated, the body can function without food for this long with little stress (though it may not feel like it to you, especially the first time).

Those wanting to participate in the longer and more traditional fasts should have medical supervision, or at least be certain they are in condition to undertake such a venture. While strict nutritionists rarely recommend such things, most alternative medicine practitioners, including homeopaths, naturopathic doctors, and ayurvedic doctors, are well versed at supervising and monitoring patients during fasts. Monitored fasts are almost always safe, but they should be entered and exited with care.

We'll get to the different types of fasts in a moment. First, let's look at 10 reasons why you might want to try fasting or make it part of your lifestyle.

  1. To cleanse your system. Most of us eat more than we should, take in more toxins than we'd like, and are subjected to many other things, like pollutants, that we'd rather avoid. Furthermore, most of us carry around a lot of undigested food in our systems that comes from eating more than we can process. Essentially, a fast will flush these things from your system. Yes, you'll lose weight. But more importantly, your body will run better than it did before.
  2. To change bad habits. When you don't eat, your body craves sustenance and becomes more sensitive to toxins. Most habits are based on cravings, but when you completely change how your system is running, those cravings also change. Coffee is the easiest example. During a fast, your body is too sensitive to tolerate highly acidic substances or caffeine. Coffee will often make you feel terrible during fasting, when ordinarily it has the opposite effect.
  3. To change your health. Many chronic conditions can be treated effectively with fasting, including allergies, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, headaches, heart disease, high cholesterol, low blood sugar, digestive disorders, mental illness, and obesity. Fasting is thought to be beneficial as a preventative measure to increase overall health, vitality, and resistance to disease.
  4. To reset your body clock. Fasting gives you a clean slate. Without nutrients, you become more sensitive, and sleep and other patterns change. It's an easy time to revamp your schedule and get your body clock working in your favor.
  5. To bring your body into homeostasis. This is the balance point your body prefers to be at but is rarely achieved with our hectic lives. When the intake of food is temporarily stopped, many systems of the body are given a break from the hard work of digestion. The extra energy gives the body the chance to heal and restore itself—plus burning stored calories gets rid of toxic substances in the body. Essentially, you force your body to work efficiently, and thus bring everything into balance.
  6. For increased mental clarity. Most of us probably first heard of fasting as a spiritual exercise. There are examples of it in most religious texts. It's a great tactic for mental and spiritual rejuvenation because it forces you to focus on important thoughts and frees the mind from everyday clutter. When you are deprived of nutrients, your body—in survival mode—begins to focus on things of true importance.
  7. To make changing your diet easier. When you fast, you become more sensitive to what you put into your body. It's easier to understand how nutrients affect you, and hence how bad foods make you feel worse. The easiest time to change your diet for the better is after a fast. Your body will crave healthy foods. All you need to do is give it what it wants.
  8. To get a better feel for how exercise and diet make your body work. When you take away nutrients, your body can't function as well as it did from a performance standpoint. When you add nutrients back, y ou'll feel your energy increase, and understand how exercise affects you and how your body utilizes nutrients. This understanding can be a great dietary aid. Most of us have a hard time understanding what fats, carbohydrates, and proteins do for us, but coming off a fast, you'll more easily understand their functions, especially if you are exercising.
  9. To improve fat mobilization and physical efficiency. Many physiological changes occur in the body during fasting. Your body turns to stored fat for energy, and this process becomes more efficient under the stress of a fast. Furthermore, the brain, which has high fuel requirements, still needs glucose (sugars converted from glycogen) to perform well. To obtain glucose for the brain, the body finds two sources of fuel, ketosis and muscle, so the body begins to break down muscle tissue during a fast. However, to fuel the brain, the body would need to burn around a pound of muscle a day.

    So we've developed another survival mechanism to create energy that saves important muscle mass, a process called ketosis. Via ketosis, the liver converts stored fat into ketones, which can be used by the brain, muscles, and heart as energy. Those of you versed in the Atkins diet may have a negative association with this process, but "Atkinsers" somewhat abused it. It's another survival mechanism the body has that can be developed and utilized. Where Atkins may have overdone it was by promoting it as a way of life, not a phase toward improving the body's functionality.
  10. To get a forced rest phase. Our bodies do better when we train periodizationally. This is training in phases of intensity, one of which is rest. P90X® is based on periodizational training. Since we tend to skip the rest phase because we feel like we'll regress if we don't exercise (either that or we overly embrace it to the point of not exercising), fasts force a recovery phase because you can't do hard exercise. The most exercise you should attempt is low-intensity movements, like walking, hiking, or easy yoga or stretching. During this time, the body heals its cumulative microtrauma that has resulted from exercise. When you come off a fast, your body will be slightly deconditioned. However, its capacity for conditioning will have increased. This means that once you catch up to the fitness level you were at prior to fasting, you will more easily exceed this level, instead of hitting a plateau.
What are the different types of fasts?
  • The simplest are the "beginner" fasts—Beachbody's 2-Day Fast Formula® is a beginner fast. These usually provide some liquid nutrients, like fruit and veggie juices or a shake, to make things less stressful. You still get most of the benefits of fasting, and well, you still get to look forward to some meals.
  • More complex fasts are ones like the Master Cleanse diet, which allows you to get some nutrients, though very few. With Master Cleanse, you're supposed to fast for a longer period of time than with a beginner fast, usually at least 10 days. These fasts require that you have a lot of self-knowledge. It's always recommended to begin with a shorter fast to see how it affects you.
  • Spiritual fasts are traditional and strict. They often mean going for long periods of time with no nutrients at all; you just drink water. Since their aim is more mental than fitness oriented, they're rarely—if ever—recommended by the fitness and nutrition industry.
How often you fast depends a lot on what type of fast you do. Longer fasts should not be done often, but 1-day fasts can be done regularly. An old common religious practice was to skip eating 1 day per week, which can be easily done without any associated fitness loss. So it's fairly easy to make fasting a regular part of your "diet."

To enter a fast, no matter which type it is, it's best if your diet is gradually lightened over a few days. First, heavy foods like meats and dairy products should be eliminated. Grains, nuts, and beans should then be reduced. The day before you begin, eat only easily digested foods like fruits, light salads, and soups. Likewise, you should break your fast gradually, going from lighter to heavier foods progressively. The diet after a fast should emphasize fresh, wholesome foods, which is easier because junk and convenience foods will usually make you feel awful. It's also vital that before, during, and after a fast you drink a lot of plain water. This keeps you hydrated and helps flush your system.

It's also important to note that fasting is not appropriate for everyone—especially pregnant and nursing women—and in some cases, it could be harmful. Those with health conditions should always have medical support during fasting.

Now that we've covered how not to eat, next we'll look into how we should eat, starting with the best food in the world.

Test Your Fitness IQ!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Valerie Watson

Because May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, let's test your knowledge of physical fitness devices through the ages. See if you can rank these vintage exercise products from oldest to newest.
  1. Medicine ball: 3,000 years ago. Believe it or not, the medicine ball was first used nearly 3,000 years ago in ancient Persia as an aid in physical training, and later in ancient Greece (ca. 350 BC) by Hippocrates for his patients' rehabilitation and conditioning. He's better known for the Hippocratic Oath, though, because "Do no harm" is more dignified than "Ooofff!"
  2. Pogo stick: 1919. First patented in 1919 by George Hansburg, the pogo stick has made the transition from primitive means of locomotion to children's toy to device for performing backflips and other aerial stunts and tricks (known as Stunt or Extreme Pogo).
  3. Wham-O! Hula Hoop®: 1958. Although primitive wooden hoops have been used throughout history as toys for rolling or spinning, in 1958, the familiar Wham-O! plastic model with the shoop-shoop sound was first trademarked by Richard Knerr and Arthur "Spud" Melin (no relation to Larry "Bud" Melman).
  4. Rollerblade® in-line skates: 1980. The Olson brothers of Minnesota founded the company that would become Rollerblade, Inc., in 1980. Originally intended as a way for the hockey-playing Olsons to stay in shape during the off-season, in-line skating soon became its own sport—nay, virtually its own lifestyle.

By Suzy Buglewicz

After spending several hours a day at a desk job or sitting in traffic while shuttling overscheduled kids from one activity to the next, it's tempting for families to want to spend their downtime plopped on the couch. The next time you find yourself with an hour or so of unscheduled free time, grab the kids and get moving. Research shows that families that work out together are more likely to stick with it, since they can motivate and encourage each other. And exercising as a family has multiple benefits, from being able to spend quality time with those you love and committing to an active lifestyle, to reducing stress and increasing energy levels. But you don't have to call it exercise. Here are six activities that let families play together, and promote fit and healthy lifestyles.

  1. Play in the park. Grab an assortment of balls and equipment from the garage (soccer ball, football, basketball, and baseball and gloves), along with a Frisbee® and the family dog. Pack a cooler with some water and snacks, and head to your local park with the family for an afternoon of fresh air and playtime. You'll all have so much fun that you won't even realize you're getting a workout.
  2. Go swimming. Swimming is a great way to stay in shape. It's an excellent workout for people of all ages. Depending on the time of year and where you live, you can head to your local indoor or outdoor pool for fun and affordable family playtime. Swimming helps improve balance, endurance, and posture, and it's one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise.

    Swimming regularly can also increase self-esteem in kids as they become more comfortable in the water and learn to master their strokes. Get some rings and diving sticks, and take turns diving for them. If your kids are young, sign them up for swimming lessons—they can get their lessons while you work out in the lap lanes. Be sure young kids are never left unattended, and remember the sunscreen if you're outside!
  3. Take a hike. A family hike involves a little more planning than other activities, but the benefits are well worth it. Plan the trail level and hike length around the group's abilities and experience. If it's your first family hike, start with a mostly flat trail that's no more than 1 mile round-trip (you don't want to start carrying your kids halfway through the hike). Gradually increase the length and trail difficulty with each hike.

    Bring a few lightweight backpacks with healthy snacks and water bottles. Keep the kids interested by letting them carry the trail map, and having them look for specific items, like interesting wildflowers or rock formations. Most metropolitan towns have family friendly trails offering easy to moderately difficult hiking trails. To find a trail near you, visit LocalHikes.com.
  4. Go for a bike ride. A family bike ride is a great way to get out of the house and get a workout at the same time. Cycling is also one of the best ways to tone and strengthen the upper leg and calf muscles. Turn a family bike ride into an outing by biking to a specific destination (maybe the corner ice cream shop for frozen yogurt?). Make sure everyone wears a helmet and the appropriate gear. And follow the rules of the road!
  5. Jump rope. Rope jumping dates back to 1,600 AD, when the Egyptians used vines for jumping. Nowadays, it's a great way to burn off energy, reduce stress, improve coordination and endurance, and sing your favorite rhyming songs. Jumping rope at a moderate pace can burn up to 800 calories an hour. For variety, try double Dutch, which is when a person jumps through two jump ropes at the same time. Or invite the neighbors over and have a jump-roping contest, and follow up with an assortment of healthy snacks. You just might start a new tradition.
Sidebar: More Tips for Staying Fit as a Family
  • Get a pedometer for every member of the family. The American Heart Association recommends 10,000 steps a day to stay heart-healthy. Have a family contest and see who can log the most steps in a day.
  • Invest in a family membership at your local YMCA or recreation center. That way, everyone can work out in any kind of weather; you can choose from various activities that will appeal to individual talents and interests.
  • Let the kids take turns choosing a family activity that promotes fitness, and make sure everyone participates!