Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Losing Muscle Mass Associated With Type II Diabetes Risk

We've all heard about the risk of developing type II diabetes from being very overweight or obese.  It has been speculated that too little muscle mass carries a similar risk.

A study done at UCLA found a correlation between sarcopenia (loss of lean muscle mass) and insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is a key variable that is involved in the development of type II diabetes.

In a cross sectional analysis of over 14,000 study participants reduced muscle mass was associated with both the obese and non-obese. 

The researchers say that both obesity and sarcopenia are independently associated with adverse glucose metabolism; being either too skinny or too fat can negatively affect glucose metabolism.

When dieting to lose body fat, many dieters don't do enough (or any) strength training and as a consequence many lose fat (which is good), but also lose lean muscle mass.  

Bone density and muscle mass are correlated to a large degree as the physical exercise required to stimulate muscle growth can also increase bone density. Avoiding exercise will cause a decrease in lean muscle mass, and also decrease bone density. However, the exercise has to be fairly challenging to get the bone density and muscle mass benefits.  To increase bone density exercises that load bones along the length of the bone appear to make a bigger difference to bone density compared to exercises that place force across the bone.

To clarify, lifting weights with your legs while standing (squats, lunges) would place a compression force along the length of your leg bones from your hips to your heals.  Doing a seated knee extension exercise places a force across the width of only your lower leg bones and does not stimulate bones to increase density.  A seated leg press will load your leg bones the same way the standing leg exercises does.

Gaining muscle mass requires some effort, but going too hard too soon will increase risk of injury so it's best to start slow and easy, and gradually increase your muscles ability to tolerate more challenging loads.

There are numerous benefits to increasing and maintaing muscle mass:

  • Increased strength.  This makes any daily task much easier to complete, and increases your options to participate in many physical activities
  • Maintain and increase mobility while ageing.  Much of the reduced mobility as we age is associated with sarcopenia from disuse.  This is a use it or lose it thing.  Many seniors would be able to retain full mobility or a greater portion of their mobility by continuing with regular exercise, including challenging strength training exercises designed to increase lean muscle.
  • Neurogenesis.  All exercise stimulates brain cell development.
  • Increased cognition.  All exercise increases cognitive function. 
  • Reduces risk of slip and fall.  Important for seniors who are at increased risk of bone fracture, but this benefit also benefits younger populations.. who likes falling down?
  • Increased muscle mass and bone density

Studies show that those in their 60's, 70's, and even 80's and 90's still respond to and benefit from strength training, increasing both muscular strength and size, along with physical mobility.

Important to know.. between ages 65 to 75 our ability to maintain muscle mass after injury and disuse decreases.  After a muscle injury, the healed muscle usually retains most or all of it's contractile fibres.  However the ability to repair muscles reduces between ages 65 to 75 and a much larger portion of the injured muscle after healing will become non-contractile fibre tissue.  This is another reason to place a great deal of importance to regular strength training as we age.  It's best to enter our 60's and 70's with as much muscle mass as possible.  I'm not suggesting everyone become bodybuilders or go extreme as this isn't necessary for the health benefits I'm talking about here, just once or twice week of challenging strength training is enough.  Having said that, if you've decided to get into bodybuilding, keep it up;  it's not just about getting big muscles, it's about health.

Once a person has graduated though the process of starting easy, learning proper technique, and building tolerance to more difficult weight training there are many options, but a safe start is gradually building up to doing 1 to 3 sets of around 30 repetitions using a weight heavy enough to make 30ish repetitions feel like that's all you can do.  Don't start out this hard though, start with fewer repetitions and stop lifting before it feels like fatigue forces you to stop.

Starting too hard doesn't make gains come any faster in the long run because going too hard can cause extra fatigue, soreness, and injury that prevents you from doing regular exercise.  The old standard of 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps is valid for increasing muscle mass and strength, but recent research has shown that high reps also increase muscle mass to the same degree, but the lighter weight is safer to lift for those starting out.

When thinking about weight training, think about the health benefits.  This really is something we need to do on a regular basis.  When focussed too much on getting bigger or stronger we can lose our way and subject ourselves to unhealthy amounts of exercise; going too hard to chase unrealistic goals.

If you're overweight and losing weight with good nutrition practices, it's very important to add strength training to overcome the risk of sarcopenia that is associated with dieting to lose fat.

If you're conscientious about losing weight and thinking about reducing your risk to type II diabetes, unless you have sufficient muscle mass, the diet alone may not offer the protection you're looking for.

New to weight training? It's a good idea to have an assessment done by a qualified trainer and get some instruction on proper technique.

PLoS ONE: Sarcopenia Exacerbates Obesity-Associated Insulin Resistance and Dysglycemia: Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Detox and Cleansing Diets

I'll try to keep this one short.

Detox and cleansing diets are a scam.

The end.

Too bad that's not enough info to keep people from trying these silly diets.  Not that going into detail why they are a scam or don't work is going to make a dent in the popularity of detox diets, but I'll give it a shot.

The claims:

There are toxins in your body that only special detox/ cleans diets can get rid of.

These toxins make you tired, give you "brain fog", cause arthritis, and whatever long list of medical maladies the purveyor of the special diet makes for the day.

Is it true?

Can't be.  Could it be that a constantly lousy diet devoid of all the essential vitamins and minerals, as well as too many calories, poor fitness, and poor sleep cause people to feel tired and worn out?

Adress these variables (you know, eat right and exercise, get a good nights sleep), and.. don't be shocked here.. a person will instantly start feeling better.  No whacked out short term diet needed.

If a person was having an actual medical crisis where toxic levels of metabolic waste products were accumulating in the body it would mean a trip to the emergency, not going on a detox diet.

Frequently these diets also claim that the body will be too acidic and will need to be brought back into a less acidic state through eliminating fruits, nuts, grains, proteins and whatever else the scam artists arbitrarily decides to add to the list.. although they will try to make "scientific" rationalizations for these recommendations.

Trouble is there is no research that shows these diets have any detoxification affect, or any positive health affect of any kind.

Some of these diet take another approach and don't recommend a severe restriction of any normally healthy foods such as fruits and grains, but rather suggest you cut coffee, excessive alcohol, refined foods, and decrease portion sizes, and eat more veggies, nuts, grains.  This "special" diet (which is really a simple healthy diet) will "detoxify" your body and make you feel good.

No, a healthy diet will make you feel good because you are shifting from not meeting basic dietary needs to meeting dietary needs, not because of a "detox" effect.

Detox is taken care of largely by the kidneys, liver, and lungs.  If these organs were not working properly you would need a doctor, not diet, although of course anyone with an unhealthy diet will benefit from switching to a healthy diet.

These diets are short term and extremely restrictive.  They usually attract those who believe that since nothing they have tried has worked for them yet, maybe this will help.  It's the promise of hope; the hope to feel good, the hope to rid the body of these claimed toxins, the hope of something better in return for a short term effort.

The reality is most who feel they "have tried everything", have either only tried other fad diets that can't work anyway, or have not stuck to healthy habits long term.

Wikipedia has some good notes on these diets and what acidosis really is..


Master Cleanse

Sunday, May 23, 2010

2 Grams Of Ginger Per Day Reduces Muscle Pain

Previous research has shown that consuming around 500ml of tart cherry juice a few days prior to and after strenuous exercise like running a marathon or hard weight training can decrease recovery time, reduce the amount of acute strength loss normally found after fatiguing exercise, and reduce post exercise muscle soreness.

New research suggests that consuming 2 grams of raw ginger per day for 11 days will reduce post exercise muscle soreness by 25%, about the same result one may get from aspirin.

The study also looked at whether cooking the ginger would have an affect on the outcome; it didn't.

What wasn't investigated is whether or not this response is blunted over time, that is, does a person become resistant to the affect if ginger is consumed for longer periods (months instead of days).

ScienceDirect - The Journal of Pain : Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Reduces Muscle Pain Caused by Eccentric Exercise

1000 Calorie High Fat Meal Bad Idea For Those With Asthma

Actually a high fat, high calorie meal is a bad idea for anyone.  Previous studies have shown that just one high fat, high calorie meal increases artery stiffness, the level of oxidants in blood plasma, and increases the feeling of being hungry while decreasing the feeling of being full.

New research adds further understanding to the immediate deleterious affects of eating high calorie, high fat meals.

Asthma patients who ate a 1000 calorie meal (about 52% fat) consisting of fast food burgers and hash browns, had increased airway inflammation up to 4 hours after the meal.  To make this problem worse, the usefulness of Ventolin, a standard drug administered by puffer to relieve asthma symptoms did not work as well after the high fat meal.

Research from the University of Newcastle Australia was presented at the 2010 AGM for the American Thoracic Society

5 Minutes Of Exercise In The Bushes Good For The Psyche

An analysis of 10 studies involving 1252 people suggests that short periods of "green exercise" (in the presence of nature) has a positive affect on self esteem and mood.

Just 5 minutes of getting in touch with nature, even if in an urban park setting, had the highest payback in terms of time invested and the degree of benefit.  More benefit resulted from more green exposure, but the return diminished over time.  This doesn't mean that longer exercise periods in the bushes have no benefit; it means that in terms of eliciting an immediate positive response in self esteem and mood, 5 minutes will provide a great benefit.

For fitness and other health benefits, exercise lasting much longer than 5 minutes is needed.

If you're feeling a little pressure at work or wherever, you might choose to take a walk in a local park at lunch to reduce the stress.  Other research has shown that moderate to intensive exercise reduces stress (regardless of the environment), so if there is no green space park close by getting out for exercise on your lunch break will still have a very positive impact on your mental, and physical health.

What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis - Environmental Science & Technology (ACS Publications)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Emotional Eating: Undermining Success In Weight Loss

We know significantly more about the connection between the brain, our emotions, and food than we did just five years ago.

The key to weight loss is consuming fewer calories than are burned off.  Success when doing so is 100%, there are no people in any population that could possibly fail.  That's a bold statement, since of course the failure rate for long term successful weight loss is near 90 - 95%.

So is it not true then?  Is there some other variable?  Metabolism?  "I can't lose weight because of my slow metabolism".  "I'm big boned."

No, no, and no.  It is a certainty; eat less than you burn off, and fat loss will occur.

The only way fat loss could not be successful is if a person does not consume less than they burn off.

That's it.. End of story.

Or is it?

My references so far are missing something.  I've been making fact based logically derived statements. I can admit to liking the Spock character from Star Trek.. And yes I have even been accused of being a little "Spock like" myself.. is that a compliment?

Like Spock this article has thus far missed the emotional component.  To torture the Vulcan analogy, everyone knows that Spock does have emotions, buried deep below his logic front, and similarly our emotions, deep, patterned emotions that we are not always completely cognizant of, guide our eating decisions.

It's said that many will eat when happy, sad, bored, frustrated etc.  Eating can be very gratifying, and that instant gratification can seem to placate feeling a little blue.

There's more to emotional eating to simply eating to sooth the way we feel.  Research has shown our self confidence can undermine our decisions between healthy food and unhealthy food.  Those who are less confident about their knowledge of food, and less secure in their ability to make good decisions choose unhealthy more than healthy.

There are also social pressures that we abide by, also anchored in emotions.  When you serve up dinner for guests you don't want to feel that you're letting anyone down, so you're more likely to go big or go home.

Ditto for eating as a guest.  Many will feel that if they don't eat a lot of food, their host might get the impression their food isn't good enough, and you don't want to hurt your hosts feelings, so you overeat, which means hurting yourself instead.

For men more than woman, there is often more "manliness" associated with eating more.  Eat light amongst the "guys" and you will likely face ridicule. How does that make you feel?  While men are pressured to eat more, woman are pressured to eat less.  There are emotions attached to these social norms.

Comfort food.  I know all about comfort food.  You eat food because it buries some emotion.  After you're done you feel guilty.  Might as well eat more then, since you've already overdone it, overdoing it a little more isn't going to be much worse.

And what the hell, there's always tomorrow to repent and eat less.

There is one key state of perception that can unwind all of this: how we view the reward and risk values associated with food.

No matter what environmental or historical circumstances, a large part of overcoming emotional eating is to first recognize how we value food now, and work cognitively on changing this for the better.

If we see an unhealthy serving size or unhealthy food as rewarding and satisfying, a diet that restricts this food will leave a person seeing the healthy "diet" food as something that interferes with the reward of the unhealthy food.  Chances are it won't be long before one returns to the old way of eating, since the new way is seen as punishment, or at least restrictive, and the old way of eating is very rewarding.

Turns out it could take around 20 weeks of practicing associating new values to food choices before our brain begins to normalize the modifided emotional response to food choices.

Two weeks on a diet?  Just enough time to get frustrated and give in to the old established and comfortable eating patterns.  Really what we need to do is work diligently for many, many weeks, with the idea that we are making a permanent change in the way we eat, and the way we feel about eating.

We need to recognize what triggers us to eat too much, then cognitively process that we have the power to put down (or not pick up) the food we don't need.  Succeeding at this makes us feel really good.

How our emotions affect our eating decisions is often a taboo subject and most focus on the numbers: calories in/ out.  If the underlying emotions that guide our eating decisions are not addressed and worked on, we'll always return to old eating habits.

Ask yourself this when you are about to eat:  Will this help me live? (is the food nutritious)

And this:  Am I wanting this food to satisfy and emotional need?

If we can change our unbalanced reward/ satisfaction associations with food we'll be in a better position to make permanent changes to our weight.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Public Health Agency of Canada recommends 3 modes of exercise

What do the experts say? - Canada's Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living - Public Health Agency of Canada

"There are 3 types of activities you need to do to keep your body healthy: endurance activitiesflexibility activities, and strength activities. Do a variety from each group to get the most health benefits."

Although the info provided is still basic in nature, this is a lot better than what most are used to hearing or reading from Health Canada which amounts to "exercise most days of the week".

That's great, but what exercise, how much of each, and why?  While this info, to the credit of Health Canada, has been published in one way or another by Health Canada, one usually has to dig for it through a plethora of really boring and totally vague literature and link after confusing link.

If you're new to exercise the links I've put hear are worth a read.  If you're ready to add a little more intensity then consider that studies continue to show that once you have a good base smaller doses of intense exercise are very beneficial. 

Take note that most go too hard too soon, eager to capture the reward from high intensity training. The outcome?  Quick fitness gains initially followed by repetitive strain injury and fitness plateau. 

The less fit you are the less exercise you need to get your body to respond so if this is you relax.. you don't need to bust a gut to improve, like many boot camp style fitness gurus would have you believe. 

Start easy, don't make it hurt, and don't do so much it makes you tired.  Yes, this will be enough to make your body get more fit.. it's also a safer and more enjoyable way to start, and no, you don't have to do it every day.  I don't "workout" every day, though I do "move" every day (walking, cycling (commuting).

For those of you looking to maximize your exercise adding intensity is often better, but not always better than adding more time.

Only two times per week weight training is needed to make significant muscle mass and strength gains, and one could easily become recreationally competitive in any sport with only 3 to 6 hours per week of sport specific exercise sessions, and yes this include endurance athletes like those looking at marathon and half marathon.

Whatever you're doing though, make sure you have a mix of flexibility, strength, and endurance activities.  We need this combination to properly maintain and improve balanced fitness. 

Heinz reduces sodium in its famous ketchup

Finally!  Consumer pressure and public health awareness is working. Food companies are responding to recent demands to reduce sodium content of processed foods.

Cdn. Heinz recipe stays, U.S. changes | Canada | News | Toronto Sun

Read the article in the link above.

US ketchup gets reduced sodium but Canada does not.

US drops from 190mg to 160mg sodium/ TBSP.

The Canadian version is already lower than the new US formula coming in at 140mg sodium per TBSP.

What the hell?  This is newsworthy?  Obviously I think it is because I'm writing about it, but not for the same reasons others are.

This stinks.  Are you kidding me?  A 30mg decrease is supposed to do what exactly?

When your meal already has over 1000 mg of sodium in it before adding ketchup, dropping your ketchup contribution of sodium to that meal by maybe 100mg sodium total (if one were to put around 3 TBSP of ketchup on their fried whatevers) is paltry. 

It's like saying, "instead of death by a thousand cuts I will be most generous and grant you.. death by 900 cuts!" (cue diabolical laugh). 

Now mind you if make your own oven fries and don't smother them in salt (every shake of the salt shaker is about 155mg sodium), and you don't go nuts with the ketchup, then there's not a sodium problem with ketchup.

Daily sodium levels: we need around 1400mg for normal healthy function and can tolerate up to 2300-2400mg/ day. 1 teaspoon of salt has 2325mg sodium.

Endurance athletes can lose 1000 - 2000mg of sodium per hour so clearly the daily sodium needs for endurance exercise is greater than the common 1400 mg/ day.  But this sodium replacement is needed during the endurance event rather than from super high doses in foods before and after.. so no.. just because you might be a jogger or cyclist doesn't mean todays high sodium foods are justified.. 

Cheesy Advice

We've heard about probiotics in yogurt possibly helping beneficial gut bacteria grow keeping bad gut bugs in check and helping our immune system stay strong.  From what I've read we still need more research before we can have confidence in retail food products having enough live active cultures to provide a health benefit, so don't be so convinced that every package out there that says "probiotics" on the label will be of any real benefit to you.

That aside should we get the right dose, probiotics do have positive affect on our health.

A recent study in Finland compared certain immune system responses to cheese with probiotics to cheese with no probiotics.

We should look at this study with a degree of cautious optimism as one of the co-investiagtors is Danisco Finland, a company that makes the probiotic culture used in the cheese for the study..  I would like to see independent verification myself, nonetheless.. here are the results..

Four weeks of probiotic cheese increased levels of Natural Killer Cells in the study group of elderly care home residence (21 female, 10 male, age 72 to 103).  I love that name. "Natural KILLER cells". Isn't it great to know we have cells in our bodies that naturally kill tumour cells and viruses? 

The caveat? 

Last line of the abstract:

"It remains to be determined whether this enhancement correlates with a beneficial effect on the health of the elderly population."

Why did I write this short article?

I read with interest an article on the same study that sounded great. Probiotics increase NK cells in the study group.  Is this the breakthrough we've been looking for? To find out I read the actual study.  Pssshhhhh..  that's the sound of air being let out of the preverbal tire.

No breakthrough yet. When we start showing actual measurable health benefits from commercial products with added probiotics that will be great. Until then, use caution when reading label claims about health benefits from probiotics added to foods.

The article that prompted me to read the study..

Cheese -- acting as 'carrier' for probiotic bacteria -- found to improve immune response of elderly

FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2010 Feb 11. [Epub ahead of print]

Probiotics and immunosenescence: cheese as a carrier.

Functional Foods Forum, University of Turku, Turku, Finland.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Baby Food Diet: Does it work?

As heard on The Drive with Karen Black on CJOB 680 am radio. Go to CJOB's audio vault, click on May 11, 3 pm, then fast forward about 40 minutes to catch my interview.


Come on now be honest with yourself..  Do you really think such a goofy idea will "work"?  And just what does "work" mean?

Lose weight?  So seriously.. the best way to lose body fat is to eat baby food.  What is the connection between body fat and baby food?

There isn't any.

Like any fad diet the "plan" always has some apparently unique quality that finely once and for all will make it easy for the  masses to lose weight.

Are we overweight because we don't eat baby food, or because in general we eat too much and don't exercise enough?

You know the answer.  We don't need to eat baby food to lose weight, we need to consume fewer calories than we burn off.

While there is not official baby food diet a popular version is consuming 14 servings of baby food during the day, and one "healthy adult meal" (whatever that is) for dinner.

One serving of baby food is around 30 to 60 calories.

14X30 to 60 = 420 to 840 calories. Who knows what the content of the "healthy adult meal" is, but if we go by what fad diets usually promote, the total calories for the day will be 600 to 1000 calories per day.

The problem with this and all fad diets is that the diet is yet another diversion away from what healthy eating and healthy weight loss really is.  A person is likely to get caught up in the hype and the promise of hope and not spend too much time contemplating how to be healthy, but rather how to lose weight rapidly.

How's that working for Canadians?  Not so well as we become more overweight year after year.

Risks of ultra low calorie diets and rapid weight loss include:

  • Low energy and irritability 
  • Not meeting daily minimum requirements of essential vitamins and minerals
  • Dehydration, lose of important lean muscle mass and bone mass
  • Reduced white blood cell count and compromised immune system
  • Continued emotional turmoil connected to food, weight, and body image

Some of the pro baby food people stress the point that baby food is pure and healthy.  This creates a false dilemma, one of the more popular manipulative tactics used by fad diet promoters.

Stressing that baby food is pure and full of vitamins makes it sound like other food is not, leaving you with the only real option.. the baby food diet.

The reality is fruits, veggies, and grains are nutrient dense. Further more.. think about it.. what is baby food made from?  Mashed up fruits and veggies.  So eating a mashed up mix from a jar will make you lose fat but eating an orange is not going to help you?

The baby food diet is also promoted as a short term cleansing diet that gets rid of toxins.  What toxins?  How was this measured? (it wasn't).

Normal healthy eating, such as a salad with almonds, blueberries, spinach, strawberries, chic peas, and broccoli is good tasting and easy to make.  Don't need baby food as an adult.

The baby food diet gets a thumbs down.. two thumbs down and a sad baby face!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Losing Weight With The iPhone

I've got 83 apps on my iPhone including all the usual grocery list, GPS, flashlight, and other typical apps.

I thought I would download a few free diet and exercise apps to review.  After downloading quite a few free apps that are real stinkers you lower your standards for what to expect from a free app.

The first app definitely lived up to this low standard.

Eat This Not That from Mens Health Magazine

The game version of the app disappoints.  Although this app when released hit #1 on iTunes, it isn't worth the price.. which is free.

Using a quiz format your dietary intelligence is tested by prompting you to choose between two food choices, determining which of the two is better for you.

With few exceptions the comparisons you are presented with are all junk food.  So really you're left deciding which of the choices is less unhealthy.  It's a burgers vrs burgers and donuts versus cheese cake thing.

The whole game reads like repeated adds for fast food meals that pose as real food choices.

Two thumbs down.  Don't waste your time.

Lose It! by FitNow

This free app is continually one of the most downloaded apps on itunes.  As it should be.  It can run as a stand alone on the iPhone without an internet connection, or you can sign up for a free account online that allows you to connect with friends for extra support in your weight loss goals, and also adds weekly reminder and other extras.  I didn't see that much use in the extras and found the app by its self to be excellent.

With a very robust food database including brand name foods, you can enter everything you eat and the app does the rest showing you totals for calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, total fat, cholesteral, sodium, fibre, saturated fat, fibre and sugars.

Enter your weight and goal weight, foods you eat in the day, and exercise, and the app will tell estimate how many calories you have consumed so far and how much you have left in your calorie "budget".

Nothing motivates like success so seeing positive progress really helps you stick to healthy habits.

No iPhone?  While I'm sure Apple would love it if nearly everyone had an iPhone, that isn't going to happen.  There are many excellent websites that describe how to eat healthy and exercise including this one and my original site:

For figuring out how many calories you need go to my guide on everything you needed to know about calories.

One of my favorite websites for learning about healthy eating is Worlds Healthiest Foods.  This site has an extensive list of what they categorize as the "worlds healthiest foods" which among other criteria presents foods that have the highest amounts of vitamins and minerals with lower calories.

Of course you can go old school and simply use a pen a paper to record what you are eating and how much you exercise, but of course since you're reading this online chances are you have access to a computer and the internet to use the above mentioned sites.

However you keep records, it's worth every moment.  Despite most people initially lamenting doing anything as arduous as keeping a daily log, everyone who does it gets better results for weight loss and sticking to a healthy lifestyle.

Even though I've been doing this for over two decades, I still keep an exercise and diet journal.  Actually I don't keep a diet log consistently.  A few times each year I'll record what I eat for a couple weeks, and wouldn't you know it, I always find things I can improve and places I snuck in too much food.

A weight loss and exercise log motivates like nothing else.  When I see my weights and reps increasing in the gym, and my cardio improving, it feels very rewarding.  When I see them go down, it's still rewarding.. it simply means it's time to rest for a few days to recover from fatigue.

If you see a few weeks without weight loss when on a weight loss plan, don't panic, it's ok not to lose weight every single week.  Simply add a little more exercise and cut a few more calories and you'll be back on track.  No records?  Don't count on dependable results.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mega Calorie Meals - Regulate Restaurants? Or Consumers Self Regulate?

I really stirred the pot guesting on the Charles Adler show. 

Go to for the podcast synopsis of the show Click on the April 30th link in the podcast window

The topic was whether reducing unhealthy huge food portions at restaurants was a shared responsibility where restaurants get rid of extreme calorie bomb meals and consumers also self regulate by choosing not order such obesogenic meals.

I expected to get a lot of negative feedback as overeating is a national treasure to be preserved at all costs.  I knew that many would cry, "food police!", and give the common anti regulation banter, "we're all responsible adults and can make our own decisions". 

OK, let's look at that.  Well over 50% of the population is overweight.  You only become overweight by eating too much. As a result there is a marked increase in the conditions that are caused or exacerbated by being overweight.. cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, sleep apnea are some of the most prevalent.

I'm looking for the self regulating "responsible adults" in those statistics.  I don't see it.

If most of us were truly exercising self responsibility with eating then this would not be a topic.  The reason it is a topic is because most people overeat most of the time, despite knowing it is a poor choice.

Should restaurants have legal limitations on portion sizes?  Should there be specific limits on the total amount of calories in a meal?  Total fat and sodium as well?

I personally don't like the idea of a nanny state so overly invasive government regulations are not something I welcome.  I do agree with and desire reasonable laws and regulations that make life better for us.

Restaurants operate under reasonable regulations right now.   There are reasonable laws concerning food safety and food preparation cleanliness area. But wait.. isn't it "common sense" to properly clean dishes before serving your customers food on those plates?  Do we really need something so simple to be regulated?  Nobody is so stupid and irresponsible that they would not properly clean dishes before putting food on them, right?

Do you really believe that?

Isn't it true that if there were no regulations concerning restaurant cleanliness that we would see a lot more problems than we see now, even with regulations in place?

Just because so called "common sense" exists, doesn't mean that all people all the time apply common sense. 

So what about food portions.  What is too much?

If we know that we need about 1500 mg of sodium and 2000 calories for the whole day (more of course if you exercise a lot), then how could it make sense to willfully prepare a meal that has over 1500 mg of sodium in one meal?  If you need 2000 calories for the day, what is the point in eating 1000 to 2000 calories at one time?

There is no legitimate reason.  One might argue that their opinion is a legitimate reason.  If someones personal opinion is that they can eat as much as they want, then therefore overeating is justified.  When I hear the "it's my right to overeat, leave me alone" argument I see denial and nothing more than bombastic words.

If someone said the moon is made of cheese, does that justify that idea?  One may have the "right" to their own opinion, but having an opinion does not automatically make one right or justify ones actions.

I've already gone on too long about the philosophical component of this topic though. Back to the facts.

Overeating is unhealthy.  It's a fact that gigantically huge portions of food full of fat and incredulously high sodium levels are common fair in most restaurants. 

It's the extremes that I am concerned about.  I say get rid of the extremes.  If restaurants can't get their act together and serve plates that aren't obviously excessively high in calories, fat, and sodium, then unfortunately regulation might be the only option left.

Now I understand that if a 1000 calorie cap is put on meals, what's to stop a person from going on a restaurant crawl and eating multiple 1000 calorie meals at multiple restaurants (as Charles Adler aptly pointed out).  Yes, that happens now, and might increase if such regulations were put into effect, but I don't think it would really that wide spread.  I think that overall there would definitely be a positive effect.

But regulation is the last straw for me.

What I would rather see is restaurant owners own up and confess.. "yes, we understand that since a human being only needs 1500 mg of sodium for the whole day it doesn't make sense to put all that in one bowl of soup, so we're not doing that anymore."

Good luck on that one, but nonetheless that would be better than regulation.

So what about the individual?  Certainly the buck stops here.  After all the advertising, mouth watering menu pictures, and prompting from servers and friends you're dining with, that food won't enter a persons mouth unless they put it there.

So how do we get the majority of Canadians to eat less?  To order meals that are healthy?

If this happened, restaurants would go out of business with current obesogenic menu's.

We would see a very rapid change to healthy foods being served.

Ask yourself this every time you eat: 


If most of us did that and followed through with healthy eating, we will save billions of dollars as a nation in health care costs, and everyone would feel a hell of a lot better.

And no, I've never heard of someone complaining about losing fat, being more fit, being healthier, and having more energy. 

Binge Eating- Mental Disorder Or Simply Poor Nutrition Habits

Anorexia and Bulimia are bonafide mental disorders that require medical attention to treat.  

Google Dictionary:

Anorexia or anorexia nervosa is an illness in which a person has an overwhelming fear of becoming fat, and so refuses to eat enough and becomes thinner and thinner.

Bulimia or bulimia nervosa is an illness in which a person has a very great fear of becoming fat, and so they make themselves vomit after eating.

Binge eating disorder (BED) is a recognized eating disorder, but falls short of making the grade to be defined as psychiatric illness. That may change though if the disorder's status is changed in the next revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the holy grail of diagnostics for psychiatrists world wide.

Some academics argue that if BED is categorized as a full blown mental illness more money will become available for research and treatment, but opponents say this might prompt an over diagnosis and those with really bad eating habits but not a mental disorder might be pegged as such and prescribed medication that isn't needed.

What are signs of binge eating?  Here's a list from Wikipedia:
Binge eating disorder - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • Periodically does not exercise control over consumption of food.
  • Eats an unusually large amount of food at one time, far more than a normal person would eat in the same amount of time.
  • Eats much more quickly during binge episodes than during normal eating episodes.
  • Eats until physically uncomfortable and nauseated due to the amount of food just consumed.
  • Eats when depressed or bored.
  • Eats large amounts of food even when not really hungry.
  • Usually eats alone during binge eating episodes, in order to avoid discovery of the disorder.
  • Often eats alone during periods of normal eating, owing to feelings of embarrassment about food.
  • Feels disgusted, depressed, or guilty after binge eating.
  • Rapid weight gain, and/or sudden onset of obesity.

So what is an unusually large amount of food?  With common serving sizes so huge what do we use as the standard for comparison? Eating until "uncomfortably full" is part of the description of binge eating, but how do you define that?  Many people eat until they are stuffed, but they're used to it so it doesn't really feel uncomfortable.  In fact many will feel more comforted by a stuffed feeling.

If we look at common meals that we make ourselves and restaurant meals as well, then simply consuming these meals would make the vast majority of the population binge eaters, using volume of food as the marker.

But binge eating disorder is more complicated than simple habitual overeating. The feeling of fullness goes to extreme and would make a person feel nauseated.

How do we avoid setting the table for binge eating:

Develop a healthy relationship with food.. If you feel uncertain about how much to eat, or see overeating as a way of celebrating or dealing with emotions, see if some introspective self talk can help you change this.

If you feel profound anxiety and guilt where eating is concerned it's time to talk to your doctor about it.

Eat for nutrition and health first.  Ask yourself this, "is this food helping me live?"

Eat portion sizes that satisfy nutritional needs and adapt to that amount.  For most this will mean a fair reduction in portion sizes and a "recalibration" of what amount of food constitutes a satisfying serving.. take time to adapt to this as at first it's likely to feel like it isn't enough.

Typically portion sizes are too large if your plate is heaping, if you have more than one plate, and if the total amount of food is more than what would fit into your hands when held together in a bowl shape.

Rhino Fitness - Article - Daily Caloric Requirements  Go here to calculate your daily caloric needs.