Climbing stairs for just 2 minutes a day can help you lose weight


According to this new NPR blog post, climbing stairs for just two extra minutes a day could help you counteract the average weight gain of a pound each year that most people experience:

“If the average American adult was to climb just two more minutes of stairs per day,” [Dr. Karen] Lee explains, “we could burn enough calories to offset the average annual weight gains we see in American adults.”

In fact, climbing stairs burns more calories than jogging, so skipping the escalator or elevator could be a simple way to help you lose weight. I happen to live on the 20th floor of an apartment building and about once a week I try to walk up instead of riding the elevator. I won’t lie, at first it was pretty hard and I had to rest around floor 10 (straight out of a scene from Ghostbusters) but now I can make it to the top without resting. And I feel great afterward.

So if you’re not a stair person now, it’s a good Weight Hacking habit to cultivate.

Posted August 4, 2014 @ 4:43 pm | Tags: ,

Every single minute of exercise you do helps you lose weight


I know a lot of people who don’t bother trying to get much physical activity because they think if the don’t exercise at the gym for an hour there’s no point. But as a Weighthacker you know that things like NEAT movements and even light activities like pacing while you talk on the phone all add up.

New research from the University of Utah now confirms that literally every single minute of activity you do can help you lose weight and get fit, even if you only do it one minute at a time:

Every minute of movement counts toward the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity we’re all supposed to be getting each week. University of Utah researchers found that each minute spent engaging in some kind of moderate to vigorous physical activity was associated with lower BMI and lower weight.

The takeaway here is that doing something — anything — instead of nothing can help you. Park your car further away from the entrance at work or when you go shopping so you’ll walk a bit more. Take the stairs instead of the escalator, or walk down the platform and back while you’re waiting for the subway.

The minutes may not seem like much when you’re doing them, but science has proven that they all add up over time.

Posted September 4, 2013 @ 11:21 am | Tags: ,

These snacks can help you feel full and eat less


Snacks are a double-edged sword for many Weighthackers trying to lose weight. The wrong kind of snack can not only add empty calories to your day (and thus unwanted fat to your body), they can actually make you feel hungrier later on. But the right snacks can make you feel satiated, which means you’ll ultimately eat less and lose weight. So what are the right kinds of snacks to eat?

According to a recent presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists (yes, there are such things as food technologists) Annual Meeting and Food Expo, the snacks you want to focus on are things high in fiber like nuts and peanuts. The presentation was done by Roberta Re, Ph.D., nutrition research manager at Leatherhead Food Research in Surrey, England.

Re referenced a study in which participants who regularly consumed almonds as a mid-morning snack reported increased feelings of satiety “resulting in a reduced energy intake at lunch and dinner with no increase in overall” calorie intake.

I’m a big fan of eating snacks with nuts in them like Kind Bars or my new favorite, Health Warrior Chia Bars, which have Chia seeds in them. Chia seeds are loaded with, you guessed it, fiber.

Just be aware that you still have to watch how much of even a high-fiber snack you eat. If you just chow down on loads of almonds between meals, you’ll find yourself packing on pounds quickly because almonds have a lot of calories. A reasonable snack should be about 100-150 calories.

Pro Tip: Eat your snack with two big glasses of water. That will help you feel even more full.

Posted July 30, 2013 @ 12:37 pm | Tags:

Study: People drastically underestimate the calories in fast food


When people eat at a fast-food joint they tend to drastically underestimate the amount of calories they’re getting, a new Harvard Medical School survey found. The survey included interviews with more than 3,000 people who ate at six different fast-food chains in 2010 and 2011.

“At least two thirds of all participants underestimated the calorie content of their meals, with about a quarter underestimating the calorie content by at least 500 calories,” Harvard’s Jason Block and colleagues wrote in the British Medical Journal.

On average people thought they were eating 175 fewer calories than they actually were. To put that in perspective, if you overate that much once a day, over the course of a year you’d gain 18 extra pounds!

Ironically, people were more likely to underestimate calories when eating at Subway compared to places like McDonald’s and KFC. Researchers suspect that’s because Subway advertises itself as being a healthy food option, creating a so-called “health halo” effect. This effect leads people to think that foods with healthy labels have fewer calories than they really do, and as a consequence they eat more of them.


Posted May 28, 2013 @ 10:56 am | Tags: ,

Interview: Darya Pino Rose talks about her new book Foodist



Darya Pino Rose is an online buddy of mine, a highly regarded nutrition blogger, and a real-life neuroscientist (or as she says, a PhDork). Her new book Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting is out and I highly recommend giving it a read. Darya shares a lot of the same weight loss philosophies that I do, which is one reason I interviewed her for my own upcoming book Weight Hacking.

Darya was kind enough to spend some time talking to me about Foodist and answering my questions about the book. Here’s how it went:

Foodist is a cool title. Er, what does it mean?

A foodist is someone who understands that the purpose of food is to make life awesome. Real food (not the overly processed fake stuff) should nourish you to health, bring you pleasure by tasting amazing, and bring you closer to friends, family and community.

A foodist is the opposite of a dieter, who is usually at war with food. My main goal with the book is to teach people how to transition from dieters to foodists. However, Foodist can help anyone, even non-dieters, learn to get healthy using real food.

What sets Foodist apart from all the other weight loss books out there?

Before becoming a foodist I tried every diet under the sun. The one thing they all had in common is that they only worked for a limited amount of time. They are also all based on restriction, which makes life more difficult and not more awesome.

One of the reasons most diets fail is because they focus on what we should and shouldn’t eat instead of why we make the decisions we make. In Foodist, I talk a lot about the brain (I have a Ph.D in neuroscience) and why it’s important to know how it works if we want to make the best food decisions. When we work with our brain instead of against it, we have a much better chance at success. Foodist is therefore more of a long-term plan to get healthy and lose weight, and is very different from the short-term suffer-parties that most diets resemble.

A few things intrigued me about the subtitle of Foodist, which is “Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting.” Let’s talk about that:

1) What do you mean by “real food”?

I love the way Michael Pollan defines “real food” in his book In Defense of Food. He says real food is anything your great grandmother would recognize as food. That means fresh food and ingredients that look and sound like they come from the earth (soil, sea or air). It excludes packaged foods filled with ingredients that were made in a lab.


Posted May 9, 2013 @ 11:32 am | Tags: ,


14-year-old McDonald’s hamburger shows no signs of decay  – This is a picture of a McDonald’s hamburger that its owner, David Whipple, says is 14 years old but that shows almost now signs of decay. And two of those years were spent forgotten in his coat pocket! Here’s the entire bizarre story, including more pictures. Whipple says he shows it to his grandchildren to ... – Craig • 1


How a guy who was hooked on takeout learned to love cooking at home  – Over on Lifehacker there’s a good post by Jeffrey Bunn on how he was able to break his addiction to takeout food and start cooking at home. He found it was easier than he expected, saved him time and also saved him a lot of money: “Simply eating takeout food for lunch each workday can ... – Craig • 0

First Reviews: HAPIfork promises to help you eat slower and lose weight


Mashable and Engadget posted the first reviews I’ve seen of the HAPIfork, an Internet-connected device that’s designed to help you eat your food more slowly. Mashable describes it this way:

The fork, which looks and feels a little like an electric toothbrush, is designed to vibrate in your mouth if you take bites too frequently. It uploads its info to an app via Bluetooth or to your laptop via USB, giving you a nice graph of the number of bites you took over time during each meal.

The concept is that the slower you eat the more full you’ll feel, and that means you’ll consume less food and therefore lose weight. It’s an idea that’s backed up by some research. So does it work?

The Mashable reviewer found that he was already eating more slowly than the HAPIfork’s default setting of 10 seconds between bites, so it wasn’t as effective as it could be. His conclusion was that “while the device works as advertised, it may require some customization on the user’s part to change any habits.”

The Engadget reviewer found it to be more effective: “I, on the other hand, felt the feedback on first bite — and second, and third. It’s a mild vibration — something like the feeling you get when your phone vibrates through a coat pocket — but it’s enough to trigger a reaction. By the time I was four bites in, I was making a conscious effort to keep the buzz at bay and, as a result, chewing significantly more before swallowing.”

The HAPIfork team is hoping to raise $100,000 via a Kickstarter campaign that’s offering the forks at $89 apiece.

Posted @ 12:51 pm | Tags: ,

Two pieces of technology that helped a GeekDad lose weight  – Over on’s site GeekDad, Ryan Carlson talks about how using MyFitnessPal and the BodyMedia LINK has helped him live a healthier life. “Between my on-body monitoring device and calorie counting App I’ve been able to be more aware of my intake and activity (an inactivity). This awareness has led to changes in my habits because ... – Craig • 0

How using the ‘pistachio effect’ can help you eat less


The otherwise innocuous pistachio shell is a great example of the counterintuitive way human beings consume food. While we think the amount of food we eat is driven primarily by hunger, that’s rarely the case. In reality, the amount of food we consume is usually dictated by the food environment around us.

For instance, research has repeatedly shown that we’ll eat more food regardless of how hungry we are if more food is put in front of us. And a study called “The Effect of Pistachio Shells As a Visual Cue In Reducing Caloric Consumption” demonstrates that simply seeing the remains of our food can have an impact on how much we’ll eat. Here’s how it worked:

The subjects were told they were going to evaluate a variety of brands of pistachios and were surveyed at the end of each day to determine their fullness and satisfaction. The subjects were offered pistachios on their desks for an 8-h period on two separate days and were able to consume the pistachios at their leisure during that time. Subjects began each day with a sixteen ounce bowl filled with four ounces of pistachios in the shell. They were also provided with a second sixteen ounce bowl, in which they were instructed to place the empty shells from the pistachios they consumed. Every 2 h throughout the day pistachios were added in two ounce increments. In condition one, the shells remained in the bowls until the end of the day, whereas in condition two, the shell bowls were emptied every 2 h throughout the day.

At the end of the day both groups reported being equally full and satisfied by their allotment of pistachios. However, the group that kept the empty shells in front of them ate 18 percent fewer pistachios than the other group. The study concluded that having a visual cue of how much they’d eaten (in the form of empty shells) is what made the difference.

This coincides with a similar study at Cornell University where two groups of people were given chicken wings to eat. For one group, the discarded bones from consumed wings were removed from the table right away, while in the other group the bones were left on the table in plain view. By the end of the meal the second group had eaten 27 percent fewer wings.

“The results suggest that people restrict their consumption when evidence of food consumed is available to signal how much food they have eaten,” said Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing and of Applied Economics at Cornell.

In practical terms, you can apply the “pistachio effect” to other things as well. If you’re eating food that comes in a wrapper, don’t throw the empty wrappers away until after you’re done eating so they’ll help you keep track of how much you’ve eaten. At big social settings where there might be lots of hours d’oeuvre offerings, don’t clean your plate to make room for more goodies. And if you’re eating food buffet style, don’t get a fresh plate to go back for seconds. Keep your original plate with you to remind yourself of what you’ve already had. The result is that you’ll eat less but still feel satisfied.

Posted April 2, 2013 @ 12:55 pm | Tags: ,,

Use this simple trick to make a standing desk when you’re traveling



A friend of mine just texted me this picture of the DIY standing desk he’s using while traveling in England. It’s a simple but easy trick to make you’re life a little healthier when you’re on the road.

Posted March 29, 2013 @ 10:57 am | Tags:

Labels that equate calories to walking distance help people eat less



A fascinating new survey conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine showed that when the number of calories for menu items was translated into physical activity, people made better eating decisions. To put that in plain English, when people saw they’d have to walk 2.6 miles to burn off the burger they were ordering, they ordered less food.

In the survey researchers tested four label options: one listed just the food item, one listed the food and the number of calories it contained, one listed food, calories and the equivalent walking distance for the those calories, and the last one listed food, calories and the amount of walking time the calories equaled (see image above). Here’s what happened:

People who viewed the menu without nutritional information ordered a meal totaling 1,020 calories, on average, significantly more than the average 826 calories ordered by those who viewed menus that included information about walking-distance. Study participants ordered meals adding up to averages of 927 calories and 916 calories from menus with only calorie information or calorie information plus minutes walking, respectively, although the differences between these two totals were not statistically significant.

The researchers next want to translate this survey into a real world setting to see what kind of results they’d achieve. This is similar to a red, yellow green labeling system that was successfully tested a while back that also helped people eat better.

Posted March 19, 2013 @ 10:48 am | Tags: ,

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Posted March 4, 2013 @ 11:54 am | Tags: ,,

Why scientists who formulate fast food won’t actually eat fast food


While researching his new book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Michael Moss made an interesting discovery: Many of the scientists and executives who create fast food won’t eat it themselves. Why? Because they know how unhealthy it is.

Here’s a telling excerpt from an interview Moss just did with Heathland describing what he found out:

 Were you surprised by how many scientists and food company executives avoid their own products?

It was everything from a former top scientist at Kraft saying he used to maintain his weight by jogging, and then he blew out his knee and couldn’t exercise, his solution was to avoid sugar and all caloric drinks, including all the Kool-Aid and sugary drinks that Kraft makes. It ranged from him to the former top scientist at Frito Lay. I spent days at his house going over documents relating to his efforts at Frito Lay to push the company to cut back on salt. He served me plain, cooked oatmeal and raw asparagus for lunch. We toured his kitchen, and he did not have one single processed food product in his cupboards or refrigerator.

The scientists and executives were pretty honest about their roles in creating unhealthy food. Did you get the impression they felt guilty about their products?

One reason they don’t eat their own products, is that they know better. They know about the addictive properties of sugar, salt and fat. As insiders, they know too much. I think a lot of them have come to feel badly. But not blaming themselves necessarily, because the older ones invented a number of these products back in the days when dependency on them was much lower. In the 70s and the 80s for example, we were eating more home cooked meals from scratch and eating more mindfully. As society evolved and we became more dependent on these conveniences, these people came to see their work with real misgivings. The inventor of the Lunchables, Bob Drane, wishes mightily that the nutritional aspects of that product could’ve been made better. He is still hoping it will be made better. They came to have regrets about their work in the context of the health effects their products seem to have that go hand-in-hand with society’s increasing demand of their products.

Posted February 26, 2013 @ 1:04 pm | Tags: ,

Scientists compare soda to a ‘ruthlessly efficient bioweapon’


The health advocacy organization Center for Science in the Public Interest is petitioning the FDA to limit the amount of sugar in soft drinks “to safe levels consistent with authoritative recommendations.” Its position is that the quantity of sugar manufacturers put in soft drinks has become so large that it’s basically poisoning people.

“As currently formulated, Coke, Pepsi, and other sugar-based drinks are unsafe for regular human consumption,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.  “Like a slow-acting but ruthlessly efficient bioweapon, sugar drinks cause obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  The FDA should require the beverage industry to re-engineer their sugary products over several years, making them safer for people to consume, and less conducive to disease.”

Yes, that sounds extreme when you first read it (and if you’ve seen statements by the CSPI before you’ll notice they like to use a little shock value to draw attention to health issues). However, their point is actually a valid one. As Yale’s Dr. David Katz has pointed out, sugar is one of many substance where the “dose makes the poison.”

The notion that sugar is a “poison” was established when a lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig espousing that view went viral.

While the construction of alarming tables and figures demonstrating the calamitous effects of sugar (and specifically, fructose — Dr. Lustig’s particular nemesis) can be defended with legitimate science, it is nonetheless something of a distortion. Even more calamitous pathways could be mapped out for oxygen, which in excess is not just highly toxic, but lethal in rather short order. Oxygen, per se, is not poison of course. The dose makes the poison.

So, too, for sugar — including fructose. Our excessive consumption of it is the poison.

Basically what Katz and the CSPI are saying is that a modest amount of sugar isn’t going to harm anyone, but many people are currently eating (or drinking) way too much of it. The CSPI illustrates this by pointing out that while the American Heart Association recommends that women take in no more than 6 grams of added sugar a day and men no more than 9 grams, one sweetened 20-ounce soda contains 15 grams of sugar, far more than either recommendation. And that’s causing all sorts of health problems.

The bottom line for Weighthackers is that, because food companies are loading up their products with sugar so they can sell more of them and not because they’re good for you, it’s up to you to be aware of what’s in the things you’re eating and drinking. If you like soda, consider getting something like a Sodastream so you, not Coke or Pepsi, can decide what goes in your drink. That way you can keep your sugar intake under bioweapon levels.

Posted February 19, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

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