fitness · food · habits · sports nutrition

Sam Tried for Ten: A Week in Review

The original idea? To try to eat ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day. See Sam tries for ten.

I was curious to see how I’d do with a positive eating goal and I thought I’d share my thoughts and results with you.

Short version: While initial enthusiasm helps, it might have been too ambitious a goal for a busy work week!

My report card:

Day 1: Tuesday

Vegetable stew: sweet potato, onions, peas; Side of mixed veggies: green beans, cauliflower, broccoli; banana, Bites of apple, zucchini noodles, asparagus, artichoke hearts

Score: 11/10

But it was Day 1!

Day 2: Wednesday

Orange juice, Eggplant, Okra , Zucchini noodles, Bok choy, banana

Score: 6/10

Day 3: Thursday

veggie burger, hummus, veggie ramen: mushrooms, peppers, Bok Choy

Score: 6/10

Day 4: Friday

Melon, strawberries, grapes, lettuce, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, berries, arugula

10/10

Day 5: Saturday

Orange Juice, mango, orange

Score 3/10

Day 6: Sunday

Orange juice, veggie fresh rolls with broccoli slaw and carrot sticks

Score: 3/10

Day 7: Monday

Edamame, orange, carrot sticks, red peppers, tomatoes, kale, green onions

Score: 7/10

Lessons learned:

The first day of anything new thing is great. So much motivation!

Also, I don’t do that badly on my weekdays without much effort. Thanks GoodFood. I do the vegetarian prefab meal kits three nights a week and they’re loaded with vegetables.

But weekends will take work! The main take away is that that’s where I need to put some effort in if I want to get enough fruits and vegetables.

Do you track fruits and vegetables? Do you get ten servings a day?

Carrots and artichokes,
Photo by David Vázquez on Unsplash
accessibility · fitness

Not many steps but lots of movement

I’ve been moving away from tracking steps since how much I walk is no longer completely in my control. Some days it hurts and even with my knee brace and it’s best if I don’t walk that far on those days. I don’t external prodding to walk when I shouldn’t be.

So I gave away my Garmin watch and have started using Google Fit instead.

One of my favorite things is that it tracks active, moving minutes. Yes, steps are there but they’re not the main measure. On a day like the one below I do pretty well with biking to work and my swimming lessons after work. Add some walking around campus, and I’ve more than met my daily movement goal.

So while walking might be the best exercise there is and I’m walking on the beach rather than running, I’m also trying to branch out and get lots of movement without necessarily getting lots of steps. See below. It can be done.

Is your walking limited? What do you do instead?

fitness

100 days of counting steps: Are we there yet? #VirginPulse #GlobalChallenge! #GettheWorldMoving #WesternU

It’s Day 97! And like Tracy (see her blog post on wanting this to end any time now) I’m ready for the workplace team building step counting exercise to be over. It ends on my birthday. Yippee! Happy birthday to me!

Mostly I’m frustrated because my FitBit is broken (see Should Sam buy a new FitBit? What’s your two cents?) and while it counts steps it won’t sync with the app and so I have to manually enter my steps each day. Oh the horror! I know. It’s a ridiculous thing to mind but I found when my FitBit automatically uploaded the data and automatically synced with the Global whatever challenge app, I didn’t have to think about it. Steps were tracked and occasionally I just logged in to add bike miles. For some reason needing to remember each night and see what my steps were felt so much more onerous.

What I liked about the automatic counting was that I could pay attention or not. If it felt motivational, I went with it. If it started to feel oppressive I ignored it for a few days and just did my usual thing. Given that my usual thing is still pretty active that worked okay for me.

After 100 days of counting steps, where did I land? My average is somewhere between 18,000 and 19,000 steps a day thanks to dog companions, bike riding, and not driving very much. Also I learned that living in a large house with four stories makes a difference. I get up to 4,000 without even leaving the house thanks to basement laundry and lots of roaming from room to room looking for things. Here Garmin! Here heart rate monitor strap! Sports bras, come out come out wherever you are!

By comparison the average step count among those taking part at my university is 12,548.

But my team’s average is over 25,000 steps a day. Over-achievers! I’m part of a team with serious triathletes all training for Iron distance events. They easily leave me in the dust with all that running, biking, and swimming. They are the three activities the challenge tracks. I like the challenge of running with the big dogs. Being the one who aspires to keep up suits my personally. I don’t think I’d be happy being the top achiever on one of these teams.

I’m glad the challenge included my six bike rally days. You can see them below. Big big days.

I was less happy with the activities I do that it didn’t count, like paddling in Algonquin.

Even the portages only sort of count. I mean, yes it counts the steps but no special credit is given for the 50 lb canoe on your shoulders! Or the balance it takes to walk with a pack through ankle deep mud.

And strength training doesn’t count either.

Neither did all the carrying of patio stones and wood flooring and hampers of laundry I move about the house.

So while it’s one aspect of fitness I did find it shifted the focus away from other things I really care about.

Sam’s short version summary review of the challenge: I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot more when my FitBit was working and I didn’t have to think about it. And I’ll be glad come my birthday when we’re done.

fitness

It’s day 1 of the 100 day workplace step counting challenge, I’m in!

Tracy has blogged about doing it again. This time I’m in too, counting steps as part of the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge. I’ve got my reservations about the trend to share health data with employers and about corporate healthism that’s part of these workplace fitness challenges. Still, I thought better to give it a go and see what it feels like from the inside rather than worrying from the outside. I don’t expect any big lifestyle changes frankly but we’ll see.

Like lots of people who exercise regularly I suspect I don’t move as much as I could when I’m not working out. I’ve got the walk to the subway these days when I’m in Toronto and bike commuting and dog walking when I’m in London, but there’s room for improvement, I’m sure.

I’m on the team NASTY WOMEN & BAD HOMBRES. My team is a bit intimidating since it’s made up of multi-sport athletes training for Ironman and half Ironman distance events. I’ll be riding a lot though so I’ll keep on the bike side of the equation.

This morning I went to the grand kick-off which was good for a healthy mid-morning snack. Apples! Birdseed bars! There was also lots of nutritional info there and I think I will focus on food tracking for the 100 days.

As you can see from the photo below, I brought my commuting bike into the event. I figured they couldn’t very well say no to my bike at a healthy movement challenge kick-off.

Anyway, I’ll report back and I’ll let you know how it goes. And as Tracy says I like counting things. Tracking doesn’t bug me at all. So who knows, it might be a good fit.

Skeptical, mildly enthusiastic, I’m in.

 

sports nutrition · weight loss

Nature doesn’t have a bar code

In Stone Soup’s 6 Reasons to NOT Count Calories there’s one that really resonates for me:. Writes Stone Soup, “Counting calories encourages you to eat packaged processed food: I was talking to a friend recently who mentioned her teenage daughter has become very interested in nutrition and has started to keep an eye on her calories. But the sad part is she’s noticed that her daughter is more likely to choose food out of a packet than something fresh because she can easily tell how many calories she’s getting from the pack.”

I first noticed this same thing when I started using My Fitness Pal for tracking.

The mobile phone app comes with a nifty bar code scanner for adding foods to your diary. It’s fun just picking up the box or package your food comes in, scanning it with your phone’s camera, and then gleaning the relevant info. But note the words “box” and “package.” It then starts to seem burdensome to log real food. Hey, apple, where’s your bar code? Okay, apples aren’t that bad. But homemade casseroles with multiple ingredients? Tricky stuff.

Generally speaking, I’m a big fan of tracking. And I’m a data geek about fitness. I like my games. I’m not in principle adverse to counting calories. I find it challenging to match my needs for adequate energy and nutrition  without paying some attention to the details of what I’m eating.

 

diets · eating · fat · overeating · weight loss

Listen to your body, yes, but with a skeptical ear….

Tracy has written lots about what works for her when it comes to food choices. Listening to her body rather than following a strict diet plan is the main piece of that. (See her post on intuitive eating.) She’s also not interested in seeking the advice of sports nutritionists (see here.) Largely she thinks our bodies know what they need and listening to our bodies is both healthier and less alienating than ‘mediated eating.’ We should eat what we want not what the latest diet plan or diet guru tells us to eat. See her post on fad diets here.

We hear this same idea from others too. According to Amber at Go Kaleo, we should listen to our bodies and let them guide us.

Our bodies are not the enemies. I like that as a slogan. The thing is I’m convinced my body is not my enemy. But I’m also not convinced it’s always my best friend either.

That said, I’m not as angry at my body as eat, drink, and run is. I’m not as amusing either. She explains why she doesn’t listen to her body in these terms:

“Because my body is kind of a little bitch.  Yep, this body is all about guarding its own shortsighted interests.  Go for a run, body?  Noooo…I asked the legs, they’d rather take a rest day! Eat some of that broccoli?  Noooo…taste buds want ice cream instead! Get out of bed and go to work?  Oh…I consulted the epidermis and it says that these warm covers feel just fine, so we’re staying put, KTHXBAI.” 

Go read the rest here. It’s very funny.

Mostly I’m in agreement with the intuitive eating idea, especially the claims that we need to make peace with food and end restrictive dieting.  I think self trust matters for women’s autonomy. Casting aside the advice of experts is liberating.

These experts tend to target women with their advice and treat us as incompetent idiots. They create incompetence and then sell products to fix the problem.

Like the woman centred childbirth movement–if you feel like walking around in labour, walk around– the intuitive eating approach teaches women that we know what’s best for our own health.

Shut out the outside noise–whether the noise is fast food advertising or nutritional advice from experts–slow down and feed your self when you’re hungry, stop before you’re full, and eat foods that appeal to you.

What’s great about trusting your body, especially for women, is its radical potential. And as I’ve said, I think lots about this is right but here I want to raise some doubts about intuitive eating, at least as it applies to my life.

The worries I have been be divided into two categories, the internal and the external.

First, let’s look at the internal issues with intuitive approaches to eating.

Our bodies often want things that aren’t the best for us. That seems obvious to me and there is an easy explanation of why this is so. In evolutionary terms death by starvation was a much more likely bad outcome than the health risk of being overweight, especially prior to childbirth years. We are creatures geared for feast and famine times living in an environment of all feast, all the time. We’re not wrong or mistaken to want to eat whenever food presents itself. Until very recently in human history that desire would have served us very well.

Our bodies also aren’t unitary desiring machines either. There are conflicts between well being for different bits of our bodies. What’s good for our brain may not be so good for our thighs. Our brain’s desire for sugar is fascinating and it’s in clear conflict with what’s best for us overall. See “Why our brains love sugar and why our bodies don’t,” here, in Psychology Today.

It seems to me to be a very romantic view of embodiment to think our bodies know what’s best. I’ve written before about the variety of ways that our bodies undercut our best efforts. See this post about our bodies scheming against our weight loss efforts.

Second, let’s look at the external factors. There is no ‘what I want’ separate from my environment. I crave cupcakes, when I crave cupcakes, because I’m in a cupcake heavy time and place. There are many places and times where I might have lived where I’d never crave cupcakes. Would I have wanted something else? Sure. I don’t crave or eat meat but in much of the world not eating meat wouldn’t be an option and probably I’d come to desire it.

On a smaller scale now this is true about the environment I create for myself. I don’t like potato chips very much and I don’t buy them or bring them into my house. But if they’re there I come perversely to want them. Our desire for food isn’t separate from our environment. And I think this is especially true for food that’s designed, like cigarettes, to be addictive. I’m looking forward to reading Salt, Sugar, Fat reviewed here in the Guardian.

My next post in habits and environmental cues looks at how we might intervene and help ourselves make better choices.

Here’s what intuitive approaches get right. We don’t do as badly as we imagine we’d do if all food is available and nothing is off limits. And I think it’s right that lots of over eating stems from restricting our diets. Certain foods are held up to be both magically bad and desirable. And highly restrictive diets are destructive for just this reason.

But, for me at least, intuitive eating isn’t perfect either. After days without vegetables I come to crave them it’s true. But I doubt that left to my own desires I’d come to want enough green things. I also think that in small amounts we might eat more than we need in some cases and less in others. My own examples come from sports performance, not eating enough when I’m racing and eating too much on days when I do long slow rides. My appetite isn’t a reliable guide to what I need to eat to perform well.

Okay, what can we do? I think small changes in behavior and in our environment can make a difference. What sort of changes? These will be the topic of my next blog post.

Note it may turn out that for you, even small restrictions bring to mind the full on serious restrictions of heavy duty during, the way that tracking and nutrition counseling affected Tracy. If that’s right then I agree it’s best to stick with intuitive eating as a way of recovering from a history of dieting.

But as I’ve said in a few blog posts, it’s part of my goal to get leaner and to improve my nutrition. I’ll be listening to my body too but with a critical ear and strategizing about ways to get it what it wants while still meeting my goals and changing my eating habits.

Further reading:

When listening to your body doesn’t work, Part 1

When listening to your body doesn’t work, Part 2

(Mark’s Daily Apple)

Nia Shanks: Ditch the diet rules, listen to your body for optimal health

The most effective diet: listening to your body

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diets · sports nutrition

Chewdaism and vibrating forks

HAPIfork by HAPILabsChewdaism is the theory that chewing food slowly and thoroughly delivers health benefits.

I first encountered this idea while reading AJ Jacobs’ Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection. It’s one of the healthy ideas he tries out during his year long experiment with improved exercise and nutrition habits.

Chewdaism is obviously a portmanteau (a combination of two words and their meanings) of the words “chew” and “Judaism” though there isn’t any connection that I can see between the idea and Jewish dietary laws.

According to Jacobs, Chewdaism is a kind of food mindfulness. The central tenet of Chewdaism, is that chewing your food 100 times  before swallowing it makes you healthier. Jacobs aimed for just 50 chews and found even that a challenge. He describes a night where his family abandoned him at the table, and left him chewing away into the wee hours.

“They say chewing will cure stomachaches, improve energy, clear the mind, cut down on gas, and strengthen the bones,” Jacobs writes. “Those claims are overblown. But chewing does offer two advantages: You can wring more nutrition out of your food. And more important, chewing makes you thinner, as it forces you to eat more slowly.”

Eating slowly and paying attention to your food, mindful eating as they say, seems obviously to be a good idea. But how to tell if you’re eating slowly enough? Don’t worry. There’s now a fork that monitors your eating speed.

Food tracking which Tracy and I have both blogged about here may turn out to be small potatoes as far the Panopticon goes, given the new food health and nutrition apps and gadgets that are on the way. You can log your steps with a pedometer, of course but new versions of Google on your android phone estimate how far you’ve walked and biked based on the movement of your phone.

“Google Now continues to try and improve our daily lives one little step at a time, and the latest addition seems to be doing just that. Some users are reporting this card now appearing when they open up Google Now, which reports on the distances you walked and cycled in the last couple of months, with a comparison of the two. Pretty nifty, and while not quite at the same level as an actual pedometer, those of you who like to keep active will no doubt find it useful.  How accurate it actually is — especially for the cycling — remains to be seen. Presumably this relies on having your location data, so turning this off should disable it if you’re not too keen.” Read more here, Google slips a walking and cycling tracking card into Google Now.

But back to the smart fork, pictured below. The vibrating fork doesn’t count your chews exactly but it does vibrate if you eat too quickly. Luckily, I don’t eat M and Ms or ice cream with a fork. From the article HapiFork Vibrates if You Eat Too Fast:

“The fork is, well, a fork. But inside it has a capacitive sensor that knows how long it has been since you have taken your last bite. Say you take a bite of that piece of fish, chew it and then go for another bite within 10 seconds. The fork will know that and gently vibrate to tell you have been eating too fast.

The fork also pairs with HapiLab’s iPhone app so you can see how long your meals are, how long you are pausing between bites and even track the number of times you bring the fork to your mouth. The app will also let you track your food intake”

I find myself thinking they could just have it give you mild electric shocks too while they’re at it. Slow mindful eating is good but this seems a bit much monitoring even by my standards. And I like good tracking!

Read more about Chewdaism and about vibrating forks:
Chewdaism: Chew Your Food! on the blog The Jew and the Carrot