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.
The University of Alabama ran an article of good weight loss tips that, among other things, recommended setting several smaller goals to help you lose weight instead of focusing on one big goal. That’s because smaller goals are both more manageable and provide better feedback:
“If we set lofty weight loss goals, like 10, 20 or 30-plus pounds, and we don’t make progress quickly enough, it’s too easy to get distracted and have our emotions convince us that the goal is not achievable,” said Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., director of UAB Employee Wellness.
Whitt explained that breaking down goals into smaller, more manageable short-term targets, like losing one to two pounds per week, can lead to better chances of success.
“Once those first one or two pounds are lost, you can celebrate,” Whitt added. “Then the next mini-goal can become the focus.”
This makes a lot sense for all you Weigthhackers, especially because losing 1-2 lbs a week is a lot easier for most people than losing 5+ lbs a week. And yes, I know you’re probably thinking, I just want to lose it all RIGHT NOW! But the reality is you probably didn’t put on your extra weight in just a few weeks so it would be hard to take it off that quickly.
By the way, when I set out to lose weight a few years ago I had a target of getting down to 175 lbs by my birthday in December. I didn’t actually reach that goal until January, but even though I was “a month late” I’m completely satisfied with the outcome. In fact, I decided to keep going and eventually reached a nice, trim 157 lbs. You know how long did losing that other 18 lbs took me? I honestly don’t remember, because that wasn’t important. What was important is that I finally lost the weight I wanted to, not how quickly I did it.
When researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison asked dieters to both keep a written food journal and to photograph their meals, they found something interesting. The photos were better tools than the diaries when it came to encouraging participants to select healthier meals, and they were more effective at helping people remember if they had overindulged in snacks.
According to the Telegraph:
Prof Lydia Zepeda and David Deal, the researchers who carried out the study reported in New Scientist magazine, found that written food diaries were often filled in hours after the meal and were not as powerful in creating an impression of how much food had been consumed.
“Nutritionists see diaries as recording tools. Now they should explore the role of photo diaries as intervention tools,” Prof Zepeda said.
Since all you weight hackers probably have easy-to-use cameras built into your phones, try snapping pics of all your meals to help you eat better and lose weight. And I do mean all your meals, not just the fancy ones you’re already putting on Instagram. If you don’t take a picture of everything, you’re more likely to “forget” you ate it.
Also, if you’re an iPhone user, check out The Eatery app by Massive Health. It’s a free, elegant way to take pictures of your meals, rate them, then share them with your friends. In an interesting twist, The Eatery also lets other users rate your meals anonymously, so you’ll get a crowdsourced view of how healthy your meals are. If that seems a little intimidating, just remember, you get to rate their meals too.
Gallup released an interesting poll about our perceptions of ideal weight and how they correspond to our actual weight. The poll highlights 3 things that all Weight Hackers need to be aware of:
1) As we become heavier, we think it’s okay to be heavier.
2) No matter how overweight we are, our tendency is to think our weight is “about right.”
3) We also consistently underestimate how overweight we actually are.
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Health on Today has an interesting article called Diet Soda is Doing These 7 Awful Things to Your Body and any weight hackers out there who still drink the stuff should give it a read. For instance, although it’s called “diet” soda it might actually be contributing to your weight gain:
You read that right: Diet soda doesn’t help you lose weight after all. A University of Texas Health Science Center study found that the more diet sodas a person drank, the greater their risk of becoming overweight. Downing just two or more cans a day increased waistlines by 500%. Why? Artificial sweeteners can disrupt the body’s natural ability to regulate calorie intake based on the sweetness of foods, suggested an animal study from Purdue University. That means people who consume diet foods might be more likely to overeat, because your body is being tricked into thinking it’s eating sugar, and you crave more.
It could also be adding to your belly fat and increasing your cholesterol: “According to a 2008 University of Minnesota study of almost 10,000 adults, even just one diet soda a day is linked to a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome, the group of symptoms including belly fat and high cholesterol that puts you at risk for heart disease.”
Other terrible things it could be doing include rotting your teeth due to its high acidity, damaging your cells and causing your kidney function to decline. Not good, right?
I long ago stopped drinking beverages that are sweetened either naturally or artificially since even regular sweetener will spike your insulin and cause you to be hungry when you don’t really need food. If you simply must have a sweetened, carbonated beverage, consider getting something like a Sodastream so you can control what goes into your drink instead of letting soft drink makers decide. They’ll happily feed you massive quantities of sugar if they think it can help them sell more product.
My suggestion: Try putting chunks of fresh fruit in your Sodastream drink or even in your regular water pitcher to add a light touch of sweetener, which will help with the taste without adding to your belly fat, obesity, tooth decay, etc.
We’ve been hearing more and more about how sitting all day in front of computers and TVs is slowly killing us (which is one reason I use a treadmill desk), but now a new study has pinpointed exactly how much of our precious life is being frittered away on chairs and couches: 21.8 minutes for every hour we sit.
This New York Time article Get Up. Get Out. Don’t Sit explains how Dr. J. Lennert Veerman, a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland, was able to figure out such an exact number:
Using complex actuarial tables and adjusting for smoking, waist circumference, dietary quality, exercise habits and other variables, the scientists were next able to isolate the specific effect that the hours of sitting seemed to be having on people’s life spans.
And the findings were sobering: Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.
By comparison, smoking a single cigarette reduces life expectancy by about 11 minutes, the authors said.
Looking more broadly, they concluded that an adult who spends an average of six hours a day watching TV over the course of a lifetime can expect to live 4.8 years fewer than a person who does not watch TV.
It appears that continuous sitting has the same effect on you even if you get regular exercise during other times of the day, according to Veerman. Another recent study in the journal Diabetologia found that adults spend 50-70% of their time sitting, and the more you sit the more likely you are to develop a host of health problems.
The researchers then cross-referenced sitting time with health outcomes, and found that those people with the “highest sedentary behavior,” meaning those who sat the most, had a 112 percent increase in their relative risk of developing diabetes; a 147 percent increase in their risk for cardiovascular disease; and a 49 percent greater risk of dying prematurely — even if they regularly exercised.
You can combat “sitting disease” by doing simple things like moving the garbage in your office across the room so you have to get up to throw something out, taking more frequent water breaks, standing during phone calls and, of course, watching less TV.
Over on Mindflash they have a fascinating article about how food can make you more productive and raise your morale. In addition to providing this brain and happiness boost, the right foods can also decrease the amount of time you’re sick and cut down on accidents.
Not coincidentally, most of these are whole foods and not heavily processed products, which are also the kinds of things people trying to lose weight should be eating. And better still, they include chocolate! (Don’t rush out and start chowing down candy bars though, they mean a little bit of dark chocolate once a day, not gobs of the stuff.)
Here’s all the info summed up in an infographic:
Over on Lifehacker they have a great post called Simple Ways to Eat Less Without Noticing by scientist, nutrition expert, and self-admitted geek Darya Pino:
[T]here are some tricks you can use to slightly reduce the amount of food you eat without feeling deprived, or even really noticing.
Your brain is easily fooled by shifts in perspective. It’s also more responsive to external cues like an empty plate, than internal cues like a full stomach. Understanding these influences can show you how to tilt them in your favor.
Many of the techniques she suggests are part of the Weight Hacking system that helped me lose 65lbs, and Darya even did a great interview for my upcoming book. Some highlights of her post include:
- Using smaller plates to trick your brain into thinking the portion of food you’re eating is larger.
- Using taller, skinnier glasses, which appear to contain more liquid than shorter, thicker ones.
- Eating a protein for breakfast so you’ll feel more full throughout the day.
- Ignoring health claims on packaging, which are primarily used to make heavily processed food seem good for you even when it isn’t.
I’ll let you read the rest of her post, but suffice it to say there’s a lot of great stuff there.
Scientists breakdown eating into two categories: Homeostatic and Non-Homeostatic. Homeostatic eating means you’re consuming food because your body needs energy. Ideally we’d all eat this way: only when we need to.
Non-Homeostatic eating is when we consume food for reasons other than energy requirements, and it can be a tremendous source of excess calories for many people. In an excellent post called Why Do We Eat? A Neurobiological Perspective, researcher Stephan Guyenet explains it this way:
A common sense example is all we need to begin to understand this. The holiday season is the scenario in which Americans are most likely to overeat and gain fat. That’s not because we’re suddenly hungrier on Thanksgiving– holiday weight gain is driven almost exclusively by non-homeostatic overeating: the presence of readily accessible, delicious, energy-dense, diverse food, and social eating and drinking.
He also points out that drinking soda usually falls into this category:
Another example of non-homeostatic eating is soda consumption. People don’t choose calorie-dense soda over plain water because they’re hungry or thirsty– they choose it because they like soda.
As a weighthacker, my own weight loss became most significant and sustainable when I focused on eliminating my Non-Homeostatic eating. In fact, once I started looking for them, I was shocked at how many Non-Homeostatic eating opportunities I was subjected to on a regular basis. Here are some examples:
- Birthdays and other celebrations at work mean I’m offered free cookies and cake at times when I’m not actually hungry. Being given a delicious sweet combined with the social pressure of eating to celebrate the occasion used to mean I’d take in lots of extra calories I didn’t need. Now I politely decline.
- At restaurants, we’re all routinely offered over-sized meals, encouraging us to eat well beyond homeostatic needs. Now I’ll ask for half my meal to be boxed up to go before it’s brought to me so I’m not tempted to overeat. I’ll also either avoid pasta dishes altogether or ask that they bring me a reduced portion because restaurants love to load you up on cheap pasta to make you feel like you’ve gotten value for your money.
- I’m a regular at Starbucks where I drink unsweetened iced tea, which adds nothing to my caloric intake. But I’m pretty regularly offered free food I don’t need by friendly baristas pushing cookie and pastry samples. Also, because I’m a frequent customer they sometimes offer me broken pastries for free rather than throwing them out. I stopped taking any of these freebies.
- Beyond just the soda example above, almost any sweetened drink is Non-Homeostatic for me. I rarely drank intentionally to consume calories but rather for thirst or taste. Now I make sure I’m either not taking in calories when I drink, or I’m accounting for them in my daily energy needs if I do drink them.
You get the idea. The good thing is, once you know how Non-Homeostatic eating is impacting you, you can start avoiding it. I think most weight hackers will see a remarkable shift in their calorie consumption when they do. I certainly did.
Fundamentally, being overweight is the result of an energy imbalance in your system. When your body takes in energy by eating, it can only do two things with it: 1) Burn it as fuel 2) Store it as fat. So if you take in more energy than you burn off, you’ll increase the amount of fat you store.
Most people typically talk about taking in less energy when they want to lose weight (i.e. eating less), which makes sense. To burn off all the excess fat, you have to put your body into an energy deficit, either by cutting back on food, increasing the amount you move (i.e. exercise) or a combination of both.
Researcher James O. Hill, PhD. at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center suggests we’ve overemphasized the “eating less” part and need to make sure we’re attacking weight loss in a balanced manner if we want to succeed:
“A healthy body weight is best maintained with a higher level of physical activity than is typical today and with an energy intake that matches. We are not going to reduce obesity by focusing only on reducing food intake. Without increasing physical activity in the population we are simply promoting unsustainable levels of food restriction. This strategy hasn’t worked so far and it is not likely to work in the future. What we are really talking about is changing the message from ‘Eat Less, Move More’ to ‘Move More, Eat Smarter.'”
According to Medical News Today:
People who have a low level of physical activity have trouble achieving energy balance because they must constantly use food restriction to match energy intake to a low level of energy expenditure. Constant food restriction is difficult to maintain long-term and when it cannot be maintained, the result is positive energy balance (when the calories consumed are greater than the calories expended) and an increase in body mass, of which 60 percent to 80 percent is usually body fat. The increasing body mass elevates energy expenditure and helps reestablish energy balance. In fact, the researchers speculate that becoming obese may be the only way to achieve energy balance when living a sedentary lifestyle in a food-abundant environment.
As a weighthacker I know that moving more is an integral part of losing weight, which is why I’ve done things like switching to a treadmill desk so I can get my body moving while still doing the things I love, like surfing the Web and blogging.
When I decided to really* lose weight, I started by looking at all the things I knew I should already be doing but wasn’t. One of those things was exercise. When I was motivated, I could get myself to the gym 5 days a week. But I couldn’t sustain it. Pretty soon I’d be down to 1 day a week. Or 1 day a month. Or never.
So rather than beating myself up about it (my previous approach), this time I asked myself why I didn’t go more often? I mean, I was always happy to have gone to the gym. And I felt great when I did go. Then there’s all that pesky research that shows how exercise helps you lose weight, feel better, live longer, etc. There’s really no downside to it.
Except I hate it.
Okay, so why? For me, there were three main factors: 1) It’s inconvenient to go to a gym 2) I didn’t have time for it** 3) It’s B-O-R-I-N-G.
Being a reasonably smart geek, I decided that if I put my mind to it, I should be able to solve these problems. I figured out the solution 1) Needed to bring the gym to Craig instead of bringing Craig to the gym 2) Had to combine whatever this home gym activity would be with something else I was already doing 3) Had to be entertaining.
Since I spend approximately 1,000 hours a day on a computer, that seemed the most likely idea. I did briefly consider focusing my efforts on the TV, but since I work in the TV business I tend not to watch too much at home. And I can watch TV on the computer via Netflix, Hulu and those kinds of things, so the computer would be a two-for-one deal.
Once I decided that my home gym activity had to be built around using the computer, I looked at either using a stationary bike or a treadmill. Both had their pluses and minuses, but I thought walking would be easier. Plus I make sure to walk 10,000 steps a day, so a treadmill would fit in with an activity I was already working on.
If you do some Googling, you’ll find ways to make a treadmill desk for $39 and treadmill desks that cost more than $4,000. I worried that if i tried to do it myself, the project would get bogged down forever in some halfway-completed state, so that wasn’t an option. But I’m too much of a cheapinsky to spend $4,000 on a desk if I don’t have to.
I settled for something in the middle of the price range and only partly DIY. I bought a tread from TreadDesk, which was a steep $840 with another $150 for shipping. I bought a small GeekDesk frame for $525, which let’s me move the desk from a standing to a sitting position. And I found a local woodworker, Benton Custom, to make a custom wood top for me. That was just over $1,000, which frankly was a lot more than I intended to spend.
justified reasoned that if I spent invested that much money on a desk, I’d be more inclined to use it. And by making it really, really nice, I’d be doubly more inclined. You can see the end result in the pictures, and I absolutely love it.
I use the desk constantly, and far more than I thought I would. I started out with a goal of exercising on it 3 days a week, but I usually end up doing 5-7 days. I figured I’d walk for 30-60 minutes at a pace of 1-2mph, and instead I’m on it 45-90 minutes at 3-3.5mph. My goal of 10,000 steps a day often ends up turning into 15,000-20,000. And I’m never B-O-R-E-D!
The best part about using my treadmill desk is that it never feels like a chore, and it never feels like exercise. Most days I’ll get on and a half hour whizzes by before I’m done checking and e-mail and twitter. (You can follow me at @weighthacker and @craigengler by the way.) If I end up on a Reddit or BuzzFeed spree, it will all but guarantee a 60-minute or longer session.
Yes, it was hellishly expensive, but there are ways to do it pretty cheaply. And let’s be honest, I’ve probably spent more than that on unused gym memberships, and at least this actually works.
* By “really” I mean, I focused my time and resources on losing weight, I didn’t just go for a quick fix or a fad diet. I realized to lose weight I had to permanently change my life, not just hope I could magically drop all my extra pounds with some temporary change and then go back to the same way I’d be doing things.
**How did I ever “not have the time” to be healthy?!? What convenience is worth being overweight, being more likely to have chronic health problems and having a shortened life span?
Also check out: 11 gadgets that can help any geek lose weight
Sugar-laden drinks have been getting a lot of attention from health officials because they’ve been linked to things like poor diet, weight gain, obesity and diabetes. In the recent Weight of the Nation specials on HBO (they’re available free online and I recommend watching them), there was this mind-boggling quote:
“It is really important because sugary soft drinks are the No. 1 source of calories in our diets,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “We get more calories from sodas and sugary drinks than any other individual food — cake, cookies, pizza, anything.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has certainly been paying attention to all the research. And more importantly he actually plans to do something about it by limiting the sales of super-sized sodas. According to The New York Times:
The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.
Although it may seem draconian at first blush, I’m in favor of the ban because it’s far too easy to take in unwanted calories from sugary soft drinks, in part because they’re formulated to be addictive. And a huge amount of sugared drinks are marketed and sold to kids, who are notoriously ill equipped to make healthy food choices.
Serving mega-sizes of sugared drinks certainly doesn’t help. I mean, when did 16 ounces become “smaller than a common soda bottle”???
In Weighthacker’s roundup of 11 Gadgets That Can Help Any Geek Lose Weight I deliberately left off the iPad, not because it’s a bad weight loss gadget, but because it’s an awesome one. You can do so much with an iPad in terms of health and nutrition that it deserves its own entry.
Here are 7 ways I’ve been using my iPad to help me lose weight and get fit. I think you’ll find at least a few things here that can help you too. It you’ve found other ways your iPad can help lose weight, please let me know in the comments.
Note to Android and other tablet owners: A lot of these things can be done on your devices too. If you’re using a different tablet to help you lose weight, please leave examples of how in the comments to help out other geeks.
1. Track What You Eat
Keeping tabs on what you’re eating throughout the day helps you eat better and eat less, but it can also be a pain. So check out food tracking apps like MyFitnessPal, which is the reigning king of the genre. Most of them have pre-populated databases of different foods and their nutritional breakdown, so you don’t have to mess around with entering any of that data yourself. And a lot of the apps are based on existing Web-based tracking services, allowing you to effortlessly sync data between the two. Some even come with a barcode scanner for food labels.
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A survey of social media users who are focused on health and weight loss found that 74% of respondents use technology to help them lose weight, according to market research firm Lab42. Typical uses including tracking calories via Web sites and apps, listening to music at the gym, and posting their progress on social networks.
According to our latest survey, smartphones and technology are increasingly becoming an essential part of the workout process. People are using it in all sorts of ways, from downloading an email while running to sharing weight loss progress with friends. About half of the respondents (51%) reported using their smartphone in some way while working out. We were especially intrigued to discover that 74% of those surveyed said technology improved their weight loss efforts.
Lab42 created a nifty infographic to present their survey results, which has a bunch of insights that weighthackers mightl find useful. Check it out:
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This is pretty brilliant. Whenever you step on the TargetScale, it graphically displays how close you are to your target weight using snazzy light rings, making your regular weigh-in a bit like playing a video game. It also syncs to your iPhone or iPad via bluetooth and gives you a cool, futuristic display of your lbs as well as your body fat percentage, body mass index (BMI), bone mass, water mass and muscle mass.
I’m a fan because it makes tracking some of your key health indicators fun, which means you’re more likely to do it. And because the scale is freaking cool. It costs 149 Euros.
Just remember Sark’s warning from Tron: “Everything you do or learn will be imprinted on this disc. If you lose your disc, or fail to follow commands, you will be subject to immediate deresolution.” End Of Line.
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