Weekly Ramblings 3/25/16

 

 

First an Update:

So I decided to end the month, and at the same time celebrate the start of spring by catching a cold. It started as what I thought was a minor sore throat and shot right up into my head. Yay! In an effort to speed recovery, I skipped my planned workout for Saturday, and am making today a “zero” day as well. Lot’s of Zinc and vitamin C on the horizon for me. As well as lots of rest. I know there really is no “cure” per se, but I will do what I can to shorten its duration. I am trying to look on the bright side too, as the lack of appetite makes it easier to stick to my nutritional goals. I am not worried about a calorie deficit as I doubt I would have even gotten close to a non-deficit level.

Next up, goals

Goals are important but getting there isn’t always fun. I will always try and set specific and measurable goals. If you don’t what’s the point? And how do you know you have arrived?

I usually add an additional “incentive” for myself along with it. Something public and challenging. The first time I did this, I committed myself to doing my first Tough Mudder. What better way to keep my self on track than signing up for that? Plus I signed up as part of a team. So there was the added peer pressure associated with backing out. It worked. I dropped weight. got into much better cardiovascular shape and in the end I earned my first orange headband.

This time I set a goal to lose weight and gain strength in specific areas, but I never gave myself a “why?”. Losing weight and getting stronger should be “why” enough right? But I like to have the added pressure of a challenge to help me stay motivated. Right now, my goal is to lose a bunch of weight but maintain my muscle mass just so I don’t feel like a fat slob when I go to NYC in September for vacation. I don’t really consider myself a fat slob, but you get the point. I need something in line with that. I may do something a little more progressive than normal and possibly tied trail riding this season. My goal was to log a lot of miles on the mountain bike this year, and I think that will coincide nicely with my weight loss goals.

No matter what I will have something decided by next Sunday.

Onward to fatness America!

I heard about a recently published story on talk radio this week that really peaked my interest. The conversation started when one host asked the other to guess just what percentage of Americans are actually “in shape and healthy” according to a recent study. The answer:

3%

What? That can’t be. Probably exactly what you are telling yourself right now. Now anecdotally, if you look around at your fellow citizens, you will start to realize that, well, science may be right?

This story was found on OregonLive.com. Originally this was a published study done by the Mayo Clinic . And it’s 2.7%, NOT EVEN 3%! Take all this with a grain of salt people. I will explain further.

The study was pretty sizable. They looked at about 4800 people. That’s a good sample size. And they made some real effort to make sure it was geographically dispersed. Overall, the study looks at what  percentage of people have 4 specific key healthy lifestyle characteristics that put you at lower risk for cardio-vascular disease. So when they say “healthy”, that is what they mean. Only 4 factors? Yup. Consider that a measure of your healthy lifestyle does not need, and shouldn’t take into account family medical history. This is strictly behavior based. Even the body fat factor. Yes, I said it.

This study looked at four key factors of people with low cardio-vascular disease risk. It also quantifies in the study what level is necessary to be considered for that category. They are:

  1. Being Sufficiently Active
  2. Not smoking
  3. Healthy Eating
  4. Healthy body fat percentage

First, they looked at physical activity. Participants were given Actigraph accelerometers and told to wear them for four days. Their activity patterns were then analyzed. Researchers were looking for how many minutes of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity(MVPA). There is a lot of language in the study about how they determine activity, but the short answer is, 150 minutes of MVPA weekly. So if you engage in 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous activity a week you can check that box. If you think about that, a lot of Americans can say they do that. But how many really do?

Second, researchers looked at smoking status. Now they didn’t just ask “do you smoke?”. They tested each persons serum cotinine levels by testing saliva. So no hiding there. My only beef with how they did this, is the level they used for men to consider them smokers. First, the threshold level they used for men is 50% of what they used for women. Men’s serum cotinine level above 1.78 considered them a “smoker”, while for women it was 4.47. That’s levels that are 200% higher for women. That makes absolutely no sense. Cotinine level is not relative to body weight. If a man and a woman smoke the same number of cigarettes daily, they should have similar serum levels. I looked at some other cotinine studies and found that routine exposure to second-hand smoke can cause you to have cotinine levels as high as . Which is generally the low-end cut off. Which takes non-smoking women who are exposed to second hand smoke out of play for the study, but not men. So you could have some bias and over-counting in this category. Second hand smoke exposure is bad, and an most likely put you at risk, but surely not the same level as actually smoking. Smoking is o the decline in America, so the percentage of people who  have this healthy trait is only expected to improve.

Third is healthy eating. It’s actually second in line in the study itself, so take that into account if you follow the link and read it. They used USDA indicators of dietary quality (which makes me immediately suspect because we all remember the flip-flopping food pyramid, and the fact that what they consider healthy is based on which industry pays them the most money). Each person in the study gave two 24 hour recall assessments, in other words they basically listed out what they ate in the previous 24 hours for researchers. For each person, the two periods were combined. Each participant was given a Healthy Eating Index (HEI) score based o those USDA requirements. The maximum score  possible was 100. The higher the score, the closer your adherence to a “healthy” diet. Researcher considered the 60% HEI to be the cut-off. So HEI’s of 61 and above were considered “healthy”. It seems logical at face value, and it sort of is. My issue is with their dietary requirements. There is no such thing. Yes, you need certain amounts of protein , fat and carbs along with micro nutrients to be healthy. But there is nothing that dictates where this has to come from. That is an invention of he food-industry subsidized government. For the sake of argument, let’s say the USDA’s HEI scale is properly weighted where it should be and is correct.   It’s sort of believable if you look at what most people eat. Just look  in carts when you walk around the grocery store.

Last up is number 4. Body fat percentage. Researchers used whole-body x-rays to determine body fat percentage. Something that it s not usually done. Impressive. Even though they had to “guess” with 21% of participants based on similar types, because there was no X-ray data available for them. So really, they x-rayed 89% of the research sample and took a SWAG at the rest. The benefit to using x-ray instead of pinch testing or tape  measurements, is that it truly takes into account lean muscle mass. You can be “skinny fat” and beat most measurements. But you can’t hide what you really have on the inside.

The results? The good news is 71% of subjects did not smoke. Think of what that number would have been 20 years ago? And where it will be 20 years , even 10 years from now. 39.7% consumed a healthy diet (according to the lobbyists). 9.6% had a normal body fat percentage. This part is the most disturbing of all. I can’t look at someone and tell they smoke, or what they eat, or how much cardio they do. But body fat percentage is pretty obvious, no matter what you wear. 49.6% of the sample do not get enough physical activity.

There are various percentages of people who exhibit 1, 2 and 3 of the four characteristics but in the end, only 2.7 of us are supposedly healthy. At first, I thought this number was waaaaayyyyyy of. But now that I think about it I start to change my mind. Increasingly sedentary lifestyle, increased fast food consumption, increased junk food consumption, lack of exercise and god knows what else I messed are all going to start to add up. I bet that even though smoking goes down (which increases the number of people who can say they have that healthy attribute), the number as a whole will continue to creep down.

My prediction is that the gap between those who are healthy and those who aren’t will widen. Just like we see with the income gap between middle and lower class. As we increase our dependence on mobility assisting devices instead of mobility we will get fatter. We insist that being fat (morbidly obese) can be a fabulous lifestyle and we further legitimize unhealthy behavior. We use made-up concepts such as “fat shaming” to keep others form helping us be accountable, which we are apparently not able to do on our own. We continue to use gimmicks and yo-yo dieting instead of activity and healthy lifestyles to “quick fix” ourselves. Surgery and pills instead of discipline and exercise.

Why wouldn’t then number go down? Read the article ro the study if you get a chance. Then look around. It may not be as crazy as it seems at first.

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