Cris LaBossiere

Cris LaBossiere
Strength training and mountain biking. My two favorites

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Study Celebrates International Moron Day

"Eat less, exercise more".  Harumph.  That doesn't work.  I know it doesn't work because we've been carpet bombed by that advice for decades and we're still seeing obesity stats climb. There must be elusive factors that cause weight gain.  I thought I addressed this in my previous post, but a study from Harvard published in the New England Journal of Medicine (1) shows that I'm wrong.

The study involving over 120,000 U.S. men and woman followed over 20 years has made statistical correlations with weight gain/ weigh loss and specific foods and activities.

Every four years data on the study subjects was collected. On average subjects gained 3.35 lbs over each four year study period.

Here are some of the findings

An hour of TV watching = .31 pound weight gain.  Next time I watch TV I'm going to sit on a scale.  Won't it be cool to watch my .31 pound weight gain live?  I'll do this while watching The Biggest Loser.

The strongest weight gain was associated with eating potato chips; a 1.69 lb weight gain.  OMG!  Say it ain't so.

If you ate veggies you would lose 0.22 lbs.  Exercise caused a 1.76 lb decrease in weight.  Wow, that is totally new.  Life changer.

The media response to the study (google it);  "Eat less, exercise more" is overly simplistic advice, because this study shows very discrete correlations with specific foods associated with weight loss or gain.

Yesterday was Bike to Work Day here in Winnipeg.  I like it when groups claim days to promote their cause.  Seems to be a reasonably effective way to garner attention for your cause.

Appropriately this study was released on international moron day, which appears to have been extended due to popularity.  The worlds most foremost morons get their day in the sun to demonstrate their proclivity for obtuse self contradiction.

Eating less and exercising more doesn't work, but avoiding eating bags of potato chips, sitting on your butt watching TV for hours, while also including regular exercise and consumption of veggies will cause weight loss, according to this study.

Stepping on the gas pedal with your foot does not make your car go, but depressing the gas pedal with your foot will.  See how impressively sophisticated that differentiation is?  It's like I just heard a crowd of people sigh in unison,  "Huuuuu???.. AAAAhhhh!"  Or maybe it was a, "waaa?..  D'oh!"

Only alumni from Alpha Moron Kappa have the capacity to educate the rest of us unwashed heathens.

I'm a little worked up over this.  Maybe I should tone it down a little.  After all how does being facetious help? Sometimes I feel like my head is going to implode when I hear this kind of drivel regarding healthy living.  The targeted axiom here, "eat less, exercise more" is just that, an axiom.  It's a broad generalization meant to capture the gist of how weight loss works.  "Calories in, calories out" is another.

Nobody intended these one-liners to embody the entire complexity of how to exercise and what specific foods are more or less healthy, so attacking these helpful reminders for their lack of specificity makes no sense. Further, trying to establish that eating less and exercising more are not significant parts of successful weight loss is, well, moronic.

The term "don't drink and drive" isn't meant to teach someone how to steer and brake to avoid collisions, or any specifics of how to drive or how not to get drunk, it's a one-liner that conveys a succinct message that's easy to drive home.  That's why we make axioms. Easy to get a simple and logical message across.  It's not an owners manual.

Let's heed the Harvard researchers advice:  "Eat less and exercise more" doesn't work, but "eating less and exercising more" does work.

(1) Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men — NEJM

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Anyone Can Lose Fat

Is it difficult to walk passed that popular dessert mecca that serves decadent death by chocolate?  Can we exercise enough inner determination to cull our passion for imbibing 12 ounces of succulent satisfaction at the local steak house? 

How about grandma telling us, "There are starving people in China, eat! Eat!"  Can't stifle grandma.  Or maybe we can, maybe grandma needs a challenge; "Gramma, how does me overeating help starving people in China?  And why do you have to make enough food for twenty people when we're only serving five? Do you think that might have something to do with our weight issues?"  Grannies extra servings go straight to our hearts.

You're running your finger down the menu at the local 5 star sit down and 90% of the meal choices are over 1000 calories, and every one of those calories has a telepathic connection to your salivary glands that are starting to make you drool and quiver for the mouth orgy you're about to go down on.

Are you really going to trade that for a dry, limp stick of celery?

Allow me to introduce you to the excuse many us know as well as that old high school best friend who even though there may be a continent of real-estate between you, each time you get together it's like old times, like you've never been apart.

"Healthy food is like cardboard" That's the excuse.  Feeling comfortable now?  Your friend is back.  It's ok not to choose healthy food.  I understand you want to feel rewarded, and that's what you deserve.  No.. no, settle down, I'm not going to feed you salad, I'm your friend

I'm going to feed you your favorite meal and you're going sit back with your waist almost uncomfortably tight, which is  easily resolved by a flick of the finger undoing the belt.. ahhh.. ease into the soft warm leather chair, talk about old times, laugh about the time you did that silly thing..

Nice hey?  That's how comfortable we are with overeating.

Conversely we perceive healthy eating as a steel bench at a bus stop in the rain.  And the bus is late. And you're wearing linen. 

But what if that's all wrong?  What if living healthy provides a feeling of energy and freedom previously unknown? 

Well, it does.  Don't let the nay-sayers divert you from your desire to lose weight and get healthy. 

Obesity is not about genetics. That excuse is denial based "my overeating is not to blame" escapism that appeals to those who can't face the reality that they chronically overeat, or at least have yet to come to realize that they can succeed at permeant weight loss if only they permanently changed their lifestyle.

No person, no matter what their genetics, will become overweight if they do not overeat.

Every person, no matter their cultural or genetic make up, or physical activity, will gain fat if they eat too much.

Human genetics are not changing every year resulting in greater weight gain annually around the world.

What is happening is people are eating more and are less physically active.  This results in more calories consumed than expended, which equals fat gain.

It really is this simple.

The complicated part is how we become entrained to overeat through socialization, habits, and the overall ubiquitous celebration of overeating. 

Research has shown that overeating, a lack of sleep, and eating high concentrations of fat, sugar, and salt trigger hormonal responses that cause us to feel more hungry than usual and to require more food to feel satiated.  This adds significant challenge to changing eating habits as one will feel hungry but wont actually be physically hungry, as in requiring more energy from food.  The person will only perceive hunger prompted by altered hunger stimulating hormone levels.

Part of the answer is to learn how hunger works.  Part of the answer is self discipline. 

The answer is not about finding a drug or a new diet.  The desire to "discover" the solution to fat loss is quite possibly a desperately naive avoidance of personal responsibility, or at worst a Machiavellian scheme to empty wallets. 

Why do most weight loss attempts fail in the long term? Is it because most people are genetically non-responsive to healthy living (diet and exercise)?  No.  It's because those who fail do not change their physical habits or emotional connection to food.  It's because those who fail ultimately return to their previous overeating habits.

Losing weight is possible.  You don't have to go ballistic to do it either. 

Eat less.  Exercise more.  Change your emotional connection to food so you're in love with healthy food instead of crap food.  Maybe show a little love for yourself, for your health. Expect to make plenty of mistakes.  Don't put a time limit on it, just keep at it.

It's not your genetics that keep you overweight, it's your overeating.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Recreational Trails Path To Health

Jogging, walking, cycling, and my favorite, mountainbiking.

It's great to get out of the city and hit wilderness trails for recreation and fitness. These trails are for the most part built by volunteers and clubs.

IMBA, Internation Mountain Bicycling Association, is arguably the leader in North America for building sustainable multiuse trails.

Today I'm attending a trail building class put on by IMBA and hosted by the Crow Wing Trail Association.

More info on Crow Wing Trail can be found here

For IMBA go to

I enjoy using trails but often I'll find sections of trails washed out, rutted out, or just plain unsafe trail conditions.

I want to do something to help keep up the trails I use, but I want to make sure it's done in a sustainable, safe way.

I'm also interested in helping to make multi use trails that reduce conflict between trails users.

This all ties into my desire to live a healthy lifestyle. Given the choice I would rather run or ride for fun and fitness in a wilderness trail.

If you're a regular trail user and are interested in helping with local trail upkeep, IMBA will put you in contact with local trail crews.

If you're into using trails, but not into working on them, be mindful of how a trail is used. Riding in the mud can be fun, but can rapidly erode the trail bed. Over years this part of trail becomes unusable.. for anyone.

I think IMBA does a great job of setting reasonable standards for building trails. I strongly recommend that before anyone builds or maintains a trail, get info from IMBA.

The trail building course covers how to build the correct gradient and trail bed to shed water (reducing water erosion), making the trail "flow" (fun to walk, run, ride without abrupt unsafe transitions.

I'll post photos of the course later today.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rongjia Tao "Professor Magneto" Reduces Blood Thickness With Magnatism

Remember that scene in X-Men where Magneto uses his powers to suck out all the iron from the blood of his prison guard allowing Magneto to make a tiny mass of iron used to break out of jail?

Not a sci-fan?  Or maybe you are and you're remembering how cool that scene was.

Professor and chair of physics at Temple University, Rongjia Tao, has figured out how to use the power of magnetic fields, like the Marvel Comics Magneto character.  Well, not exactly like Magneto.  Instead of using mutant abilities Tao uses science and engineering to create magnetic fields that are used to decrease the viscosity of oil in engines and pipelines.

Tao, using this technology, has been able to reduce a persons blood viscosity by 20-30 percent by subjecting subjects to a magnetic field having the same intensity as an MRI, for about one minute.

More research is needed to make everything work right, but the hope is this technology can be used for heart disease therapy.

The magnetic field polarizes red blood cells causing them to organize into short chains that flow down the centre of blood vessels, reducing the friction against the walls.

Tao is the "good" Magneto, of course.

Using Magnets to Help Prevent Heart Attacks - ScienceNewsline

Smoking keeps you thin? A tired old lie

I read with interest as well as much disdain, an article (1) on how people might be able to quit smoking without gaining weight.

The old urban myth is that smoking keeps you thin, and if you quit smoking you're sure to gain weight.

The article, published on Science sites a new study (2) that reveals a new understanding of how nicotine behaves as an appetite suppressant. Nothing against Science Daily, it's one of the most used bookmarks I have.. love the site.  Usually I defend how research drags us through the minutia of how things are presumed to work because without knowledge of facts we're doomed believe things like 'the sun orbits the earth', or 'smoking keeps you thin'.

Today though I can't help but feel akin to my friends who contend that academics don't live in the real world.

So science proves that nicotine suppresses appetite.  Must be true then; smoking keeps you thin.  Regular readers will know that I'm all about the "evidence".  Don't make things up based on myth, traditionalism, and prejudging.. show me the evidence.

Ok.  So if smoking keeps you thin how do we explain overweight smokers?

And if quitting smoking causes weight gain; how do we explain those who do not gain weight despite quitting smoking?

The answer?  The seemingly elusive matrix of variables that causes clandestine weight gain.. whaa?  I gained weight?  How did that happen?

Ahh, I know how I gained fat, I don't smoke!  Eureka! World wide obesity epidemic solved!

Yes there it is folks, science shows us the way.  The percentage of the population that smokes has decreased since the 60's.  The WHO (not the band) says that smoking among Americans has shrunk by nearly half from the 60's to the 90's, with 23% of the population smoking in 1997 (3).

 Health Canada says that the percentage of the population that smokes has fallen from around 40% in 1985 to around 21% in 2003, with 30% of those aged 20-24 as the largest smoking group.

At the same time obesity has been increasing.  According to the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey 23.% of Canadians aged 18 or older were obese (4).

Well sign me up as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee (I wouldn't presume to win, but surly I should be nominated for solving the obesity "mystery").

Fewer people are smoking and more people are overweight; and the trends match each other inversely.

I'm content.

Or am I?

Damn my curiosity.  If I weren't so curious maybe I wouldn't have tried smoking and eventually tried to quit.  Wait.. something just clicked in my brain.  I think my neuron just fired..

I didn't lose weight when I started smoking, nor did I gain weight when I quit smoking. Time for more research.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2008 tells us combining smoking and obesity kills us better than either of those alone (5).

Must be junk science.  Since smoking keeps you thin, how did these researchers find overweight people who smoke?

Maybe the world repository of facts; Google, can help.  "Overweight smoker" gave me this little You Tube gem of an overweight child in Indonesia with a two pack a day smoking habit.

Must be a hoax.  Remember; smoking keeps you thin.

My tongue is getting sore and I think my cheek is developing a permanent bulge. Overeating causes weight gain, not the absence of smoking.  There are many overweight people who smoke.  There are many who are not overweight who do not and have never smoked.

The way to not gain weight when quitting smoking is to not eat too much.

The health benefits of quitting smoking are huge and it feels great to rid of the ball and chain.  It takes some mindfulness and contemplation of healthy food choices, but for sure the fear of weight gain ought not to keep smokers from quitting.

Don't let a belief in an urban myth keep you from becoming a healthier non-smoker; ditch the darts and eat healthy, you'll love yourself for it.

(1) Discovery may pave way to quitting smoking without gaining weight

(2) Nicotine Decreases Food Intake Through Activation of POMC Neurons

(3) WHO Western Pacific Region - Fact sheets - Smoking Statistics

(4) Adult obesity in Canada: Measured height and weight

(5) The combined relations of adiposity and smoking on mortality

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Losing more than 15 percent of body weight significantly boosts vitamin D levels in overweight women

Losing more than 15 percent of body weight significantly boosts vitamin D levels in overweight women

Race Your Race, Not Your Warm Up

A new study (1) getting lot's of media exposure has demonstrated that traditional long warm up periods (45 to 90 minutes with several hard sprints) used by sprinters and short duration event athletes are too fatiguing and rob athletes of their best performance.

Instead a shorter gradual 15 minute warm up with one sprint at the end increased performance by about 6%.

Don't scoff at 6%, that can provide a personal best or podium finish.  Also, think of saving all that wasted time!  15 minutes of warm up compared to 90 minutes makes it much easier to manage pre-competition preparation.

(1) Less is More: Standard Warm-up Causes Fatigue and Less Warm-up Permits Greater Cycling Power Output

Strengthen Hips To Reduce Knee Pain

There are a few basic hip exercise that I prescribe to nearly everyone I train whether they are high performance athletes or first timers.  One of the first steps I take when starting with someone is an assessment of core, hip, and ankle stability and strength, and most people score low on most tests.  Indeed when I first learned of these tests over 15 years ago, I scored low on them myself.

Poor hip strength is linked to knee pain (2), and a variety of hip strengthening and movement corrective exercises will reduce or eliminate common knee pain and greatly improve athletic performance in foot speed, moving sideways, and producing power.

The trouble is some of these exercises are perceived as being tedious and unusual compared to standard strength training exercises, while the final stage of advanced exercises are hard to do both strength-wise and in terms of maintaining focus on retaining good form.  I've seen these factors result in many either dismissing the corrective exercises as too weird, taking too long to get results, or conversely many will do the rehab exercises at far too high of an intensity to be useful; overworking the person instead of gradually progressing them forward.

Within a couple months of hip and core strengthening mechanics can be corrected (3, 4) and knee pain can be greatly reduced, especially in woman, whose greater thigh bone angle and generally wider hips make them more susceptible to knee pain.

An Indiana University press release on June 3 (1), 2011 explains how stronger hips from a 2X per week (30 to 35 minutes) hip strengthening program improved running mechanics and lessened knee pain.  Click on the link below for more details.

Recently a 50 year old male athlete I've been working with won his age group in a short distance duathlon, the second duathlon he has ever entered. Paul Seier ran recreationally a few years ago but back, hip, and knee pain made the experience a literal pain in the butt.

Paul is also a competitive mountain biker, winning gold in the Manitoba Provincial Championships (2010) for his category (sport 40+ mens).

Part of what makes Paul's story compelling is that he's a regular guy with a family, runs a business with his wife, and has only so much time to exercise.  Also important to know about Paul, he previously suffered from chronic low back pain, reoccurring spasms in hip muscles, and knee pain.  All of these have been resolved through massage therapy (thanks Bryan!) and a long term progressive exercise program that incorporated the exercises referenced in the research article links below.

By following what research recommends to both reverse and prevent typical overuse injuries and pain due to poor mechanics and muscle weakness, Paul was able to enter duathlon races without any pain or suffering.  Paul reports that he can't believe how good he feels when he runs now; no pain, lot's of power, and no soreness afterwards.

It's true, your running can be pain free.  Do what Paul did, start with the basics, very gradually increase running (Paul started with only a few minutes of running once per week, and now runs on average 1 or 2 times per week, and rides his bike 1 or 2 times per week, and does basic hip strengthening exercises once per week).

A little goes a long way so long as you do it right and overcome two of the most difficult obstacles for increasing performance: the urge to exercise too hard too often, and the urge to follow traditional no-science based injury prone high-voulme, high-intensity exercise programs with no base conditioning.

Paul Seier- right, Cris LaBossiere- left

(1) ACSM: Stronger Hips Improved Running Mechanics, Lessened Knee Pain - ScienceNewsline

(2) Eccentric Hip Muscle Function in Females With and Without Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

(3) A Proximal Strengthening Program Improves Pain, Function, and Biomechanics in Women With Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

(4) The effect of real-time gait retraining on hip kinematics, pain and function in subjects with patellofemoral pain syndrome -- Noehren et al. -- British Journal of Sports Medicine