What (or who) defines “healthy”?

Before I get to the what, I do want to briefly address the who part of the question. In part, you determine what is healthy, as do your health professionals, and society plays its sometimes skewed role in defining health. Society exerts its influence particularly in media and advertising determining how the body is viewed. Beauty is frequently equated with health. Do I need to say that that is not true? Your health professionals determine healthy by levels of reduced risk for disease and occasionally by outdated ideas like BMI. Why is BMI outdated? It is strictly a height versus weight chart. It does not take into consideration muscle mass. Finally, you determine how you define healthy by how you feel and think about your weight and size. This is ultimately why I want to help you achieve YOUR “fine”.

Health professionals would tend to say that your BMI should be between 18.5 to 24.9. If you are lucky enough to have a physician who understands that muscle mass should be counted, then according to the American Heart Association it should be recommended for men to be between 6 & 20% body fat and for women, 13 & 25% body fat. And just as beauty does not equate to health, neither does clothes size. It is possible to be the size you desire and not be healthy. It is possible to be underfat or overfat while still being the size you desire. Underfat means that your body fat percentage is lower than recommended which can lead to a number of health concerns. It is also possible to be your desired size/weight and be overfat, meaning that your body fat percentage is higher than recomended leading to higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, etc., even if you are only 115 pounds if 30% of that is fat your are at elevated risk! Your resting heart rate should be between 60 & 100 bpm, with lower being better because it means your heart isn’t working as hard. Your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are vital to know. The fifth number that I think you would want to know is your fasting blood sugar, just to make sure you are not pre-diabetic or diabetic.

Society, which should read as media, advertising, food industry, and diet industry, will tell you often and loudly what healthy is. The food industry, especially fast food and heavily processed foods are not interested in your health. They are interested in making money. For the most part “food” companies are like drug dealers, they don’t care if you die from their products because there is someone in line behind you to take your place. So, am I saying don’t eat out? No. But I am saying that if you eat out every meal and/or from pre-made store bought meals do not be surprised when you are overweight or overfat, and have high blood pressure, high resting heart rate, and/or high cholesterol. And it is possible to make healthier choices when eating out. Fast food places just don’t make it easy to find or choose the healthy choices in most cases. Restaurants are easier but still not easy. Chemists work to make flavorings for chips, gummie snacks, and candies stronger and therefore more desirable than the real thing. We begin to crave the stronger flavor and the real flavor for some people becomes less satisfying. The diet industry is as bad. “You can lose weight without changing your diet or exercising!” Can anyone say “phen-phen”? The diet industry can be in such a hurry to get the next new miracle drug out on the market they don’t bother to wait long enough to see if it will kill you! If you don’t change your diet and don’t exercise, any weight you might lose on the diet pill/supplement will be gained back when you stop taking said pill/supplement.

What is healthy? For me, it is having a reasonable body fat percentage, being strong enough to do what you like to do without becoming exhausted, you like how you look and how your clothes fit. You want to be in a category of reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, etc. Be happy! Reduce your stress. Share your life with friends and family. Pursue interests and hobbies with enthusiasm. Love yourself and others. Be Fine…let me help you.

Get your groove on.


National Cheeseburger Day…smh

Here we go again…National Cheeseburger Day, a day about the fat and lazy celebrating the road to being fat and lazy. Just like National Fried Chicken Day(please see my post about this horror day), we are celebrating the quick, easy, more seductive choice. Well, more seductive until one day you look in the mirror and realize you are 400 quarter pound hamburger patties overweight. Trust me, I’ve looked in the mirror, there ain’t nothing seductive about plastering those patties around your gut. And yet, we celebrate National Cheeseburger Day. Foursquare compiled a list of top 10 burger joints visited so far today. There were pictures…I didn’t want to frighten the faint of heart so I have not included a link. Even I, who has participated in more than my fair share of culinary debauchery, was disgusted by some of the monstrosities offered up for consumption.

I love beef. It is an excellent source of protein. It tastes great. Here are some of my own suggestions: go lean, 90-93% lean for ground beef, mix in onions or even a drizzle of olive oil to keep it juicy; by organic, avoid beef with growth hormones and antibiotics. Oh yeah, choose cuts of beef at your butcher shop and have them grind it into hamburger for you, you avoid “pink slime” that way. Finally, your bun has a huge impact on he nutritional value of your cheeseburger. You need to go with a whole grain bun. NO WHITE BREAD! It lacks nutrients, fiber, and has a high glycemic index. Put the 99ยข pack of store brand white buns down, find a whole grain regular bun or to cut another 20-40 calories from your burger, go with a slim or thin bun that are generally just 100 calories.

I want to include two links though. Both are informational. The first is a link to an “Eat This, Not That” site on the 15 worst cheeseburgers offered in restaurants. http://eatthis.menshealth.com/slideshow/15-worst-burgers

The second link is both a best and worst list compiled by Health magazine. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20504336,00.html

The “C” Word

Yeah, we’re talking about the most dreaded “c” word in the English language…the calorie. What is it? How is it measured? What do we do with it? What happens if we consume too many? How will we know if we have consumed to many? Aaaaahhhhh, the horror!

First of all, a calorie is actually a kilocalorie. What?!?!? When you see that your favorite gum has 5 calories, it means that it actually has anywhere from 4500 to 5499 calories and would raise 1 kilogram of water by about 5 degrees Celsius by burning. In case you didn’t know, our stomachs and small intestines do not burn our food by combustion, but by acids, enzymes, and bacteria breaking the chemical bonds of the molecules in our food to extract the energy we refer to as calories. Whew! That’s a lot to digest.

I just skimmed the September 2013 issue of Scientific American. There is an article on pages 57-59 by Rob Dunn titled “Everything You Know About Calories Is Wrong”. It is interesting, and wrongly titled. Not everything you know is wrong. If you eat too many calories your body will store those extra calories in our fat cells. You already knew this. There are approximately 9 calories in a gram of fat, and 4 each in a gram of protein or carbohydrates. By the way, 7 calories in a gram of ethyl alcohol, try not to get too drunk too often. It’s bad for your liver and waistline. And you probably already knew that fats, carbohydrates, and proteins are macronutrients and their respective caloric values.

What Dunn does say is that the current means by which caloric value is determined is antiquated and that while better formulas are being worked on the actual caloric value of a food is a very difficult thing to measure. Is it a processed food or is it a whole food? Is it raw or cooked? Has the plant developed a mechanism to make its seeds or nuts more difficult to digest? How acidic is your stomach? Do you have an adequate number of enzymes to help break down molecules? And, then what sizes are the colonies of bacteria in your digestive tract? All of these factors and more effect the actual number of calories you consume.

When I sit down with a client to discuss weight loss, basal metabolic rate (BMR) is a consideration in how many calories are to be consumed. So are activity level and exercise intensity. Weight loss is still burning more calories than you consume. So when a caloric value is determined to help the client lose weight. I caution my client to weigh once a week in the same way every time. After 2-3 weeks we will have a better idea as to whether that caloric intake is too little, too much or just right. Why can it take 3 weeks? The client will have kept a very accurate food journal and exercise diary. By comparing the calories consumed versus the calories burned we will know how much weight “should” have been lost versus the actual weight difference. If the expected is less than the actual then my client can add a few extra calories to the intake. If the expected is more than the actual, well, more calorie cuts will be necessary. If the expected and the actual are the same, then we got lucky or did something wrong the first time around.

We still know that burning 3500 kilocalories results in the loss of 1 pound. Wow! That is a lot! That means on average a 500 kilocalorie deficit must be created each day to lose 1 pound per week. Deficits are best created by cutting intake (diet) and increasing output (exercise). You can choose just one method, but that is much harder to accomplish.

My point is that your intake and output are not exact. The calories are an estimate, that is why I don’t recommend frequent weigh-ins. Once a week to make sure you are staying where you want to be or losing what you need to lose. Adjustments can be made accordingly if your weight isn’t where it needs to be.

Finally, weight is only one part of your overall health. In my opinion it is at best the fifth most important number you need to know. First would be body fat percentage. Men need to keep it under 20% (6-13% for those who want to be athletic) and women need to keep it under 25% (13-20% for those who want to be athletic). Second is blood pressure. Third is cholesterol. And fourth is heart rate. Again that is my opinion. Your doctor may have other numbers that you individually need to be more concerned about.

Work on your body fat percentage and you will find your right weight. Remember, I want to help you achieve your “fine”. If you have questions, please ask me. Until next time…