Monthly Archives for February 2014

Archives for February 2014

Video: Don’t Screw Where You Lift.

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 10.45.50 AMIf I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: Don’t screw where you lift.

After all, a good gym is hard to find – but a hard guy is easy to find.

Check out my new video.

Is Turkey Bacon Healthier?

caramelized-bacon-2Mmmm. Bacon. Just saying the word makes my mouth water.

Of course, we all know that bacon is high in calories and unhealthy fats. As such, many people have made the switch to healthier-sounding turkey bacon. When we think turkey, we think a more nutritional alternative to fattier meats. But does this logic hold true for turkey bacon?

First, let’s look at the nutrition information. While the nutrition information varies from brand to brand, you’ll likely find a noticeable reduction in both calories and fat for turkey bacon. On the other hand, you may see an increase in sodium.

Second, let’s take a look at the ingredients. With regular pork bacon, the ingredients listing is short and recognizable. With turkey bacon, on the other hand, you’ll see a long list of unrecognizable ingredients. That’s because turkey bacon is a highly processed food. If you’re trying to eat clean, turkey bacon won’t make the cut.

Third, there’s always taste to consider. As far as I’m concerned, turkey bacon is a very weak substitute for real bacon. The flavor of turkey bacon doesn’t even come close to the real thing.

So what’s the bottom line? Is saving a few calories and grams of fat worth eating a highly processed food with less flavor? I think not. I’d stick with regular bacon – just in smaller quantities. Have a slice or two as a special treat.

After all, a little bacon can go a long way.

Study: Exercise Helps Work-Life Balance.

**EXCLUSIVE** A shirtless Kellan Lutz goes on a rigorous workout by the beach in LA - jogging along the boardwalk before showing off his skills on the ringsEveryone knows that exercise is good for your mind. And most of us know that exercise helps the brain, too. But a fascinating new study shows that exercise can help balance out conflicts in life – like the push and pull of work and family life.

The study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Human Resource Management, surveyed 476 working adults about their exercise behavior and their confidence in handling conflicts at home and in the work place. The adults worked an average of 40 hours per week, and just under a third had at least one child at home.

According to the findings, the participants who exercised regularly experienced a greater feeling of competence. This feeling of competence carried over into other areas of life, including work and home. Russell Clayton, author of the study, noted:

We found that [participants] who exercised felt good about themselves [and] that they could accomplish tough tasks…

In other words, these participants felt empowered to handle and manage the difficult situations and conflicts that most of us encounter in life.

Of course, this study isn’t hard evidence. And it doesn’t necessarily prove a cause and effect relationship between exercise, empowerment and work-life balance. Instead, it’s a good starting point… and another reason not to skip the gym today.

How To Get a Thick Neck.

man-muscular-neckSure, a strong, thick neck can look great. But it’s also a great way to help guard against injury and enhance performance.

First, it’s worth noting that proper form and supervision is an absolute must. If your necks becomes overstressed and strained, the training can be counterproductive or even dangerous. It’s important to work with a professional and to consult your physician.

If a bigger, thicker and stronger neck is one of your fitness goals, then I recommend shrugs. Though it’s a classic, time-tested exercise, many people cheat their way through it. Here’s how you perform a proper shrug:

  1. Select a pair of dumbbells that will allow you to do around 8 shrugs. If you can do 15 shrugs, it’s too light to build muscle.
  2. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand. Stand in an athletic stance with a slight bend in your knees. Your back should be straight and your abs should be engaged. Keep your shoulders back.
  3. Shrug upwards and backwards as though you were trying to simultaneously touch both shoulders to your ears. When you get to the top of the movement, try to pull your shoulders backwards an extra inch.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position in a controlled manner. Don’t bounce or let momentum help you into the next repetition.
  5. Repeat.
  6. Lastly, make sure you increase the amount of resistance you use over time. If you start with 40 pound dumbbells, go up to 45 and then 50. You need to progressively overload your muscles to increase their size and strength.

Shrugs are great at training your trapezius muscle. It’s the large muscles that spans your neck, shoulders and top of your back. As it gets bigger and more developed, the girth of your neck will increase.

In addition, an exercise called neck curls can be beneficial. To perform neck curls, lie down on a bench. Face upwards, let your neck and head overhang the edge of the bench. Hold a weight plate against your forehead, and curl your neck upward. It’s like performing a crunch with your neck. Go slowly, be gentle and don’t overdo it. It’s not worth risking an injury.



Do You Want Nutrition Information on Menu Boards?

wendys2If you knew the doughnut you were about to order had 480 calories and 13 grams of saturated fat, would you still order it? Maybe. But according to a new Canadian study, maybe not.

The study, which is due to be completed this month, examined the impact of publishing nutrition information directly on menu boards. It’s a practice that you’ll already see in places like Philadelphia and New York. This is in contrast to the previous practice of providing nutrition information upon request or through the company’s website.

It’s not that any of us think doughnuts are healthy. But when we see how unhealthy that doughnut is through objective data points like calories and fat, the impact on your health becomes much harder to ignore. Moreover, it then enables us consumers to compare that doughnut to other options – like the whole-grain oatmeal with just 160 calories.

In a first wave of surveys, researchers found that adding the nutrition information to the menu board resulted in 73 fewer calories consumed. It also resulted in less sodium and fat.

Of course, this is just one small data point in one small study – and the menu nutrition information has its fair share of critics and controversies. Is it more important to show calories or fat? Total fat or just the unhealthy saturated or trans fats? How will consumers be able to interpret this information? Do people realize that the 13 grams of saturated fat in a doughnut is 65% of their recommended daily limit?

It’s not THE answer. But it could be one of many; as we all strive to create healthy lives, this could prove to be a valuable step in a very long journey.

In the comments below, I’d love to hear what you think. Would you find it helpful if restaurants labeled their menu boards with nutrition information?

There Might Be Bugs In Your Yogurt.

Dactylopius-Coccus-Image-by-University-of-Turin-ItalyFood rumors run rampant on the internet – but, every now and then, some hold a few kernels of truth. As is the case with the rumor that some yogurts contain small, crushed insects.

Say what?

It’s true. The tiny, dried insects are used as pink food coloring in some yogurts, milkshakes and other food products.

In 2012, Starbucks received a lot of heat for using the insects are coloring in their Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino mix. According to Starbucks, the switch to the insects was a move away from artificial ingredients. However, the assertion did little to pacify the chain’s vegetarian customers – or the public at large.

If you’re concerned about the insect-derived food coloring, you’ll have to check the ingredients listing. Of course, you won’t see ‘insects’ or ‘bug bits’ on the list. Instead, you’ll see the ingredient labeled as cochineal, carmine or carminic acid.

It’s worth noting that the ingredient is considered safe by the FDA. Also, keep in mind that the visceral reaction or “ewww!” factor that many of us experience when it comes to eating insects is really a product of our culture. In much of the world, insects are widely consumed for their nutritional properties and flavors.

So there may be bugs in your yogurt. But is that necessarily a bad thing?

Don’t Clean Your Plate.

Life-With-Mom-Week-14-Clean-Your-PlateWhen I was growing up, my mother taught me to clean my plate. Especially if I wanted some ice cream or cake for dessert. And so, I learned to become a human garbage disposal.

It’s not particularly surprising that I started gaining weight. And still, I kept clearing my plate. By 2nd and 3rd grade, I was severely overweight.

My mother’s “clear your plate” strategy was certainly well intentioned. But, as it turns out, it’s not particularly helpful in creating a healthy or balanced lifestyle. In fact, quite the opposite. In addition to resulting in overeating, it teaches all of us to ignore feelings of hunger or fullness.

11048180Eating everything on your plate is a dangerous game to play. That’s especially true when going out to eat.

According to one study, portion sizes increased for every category of food except pizza between 1977 and 1996. Hamburgers increased in size by 23%. Mexican food portions are 27% larger. Sodas increased by 52%.

Another study found that today’s steaks exceed USDA serving recommendations by 144%. Not to be outdone, muffins are 233% larger. With all that in mind, clearing you plate is a recipe for disaster – and it’s no wonder that more than a third of American adults are obese.

And not clearing your plate doesn’t mean wasting food. You can certainly store food in the refrigerator or freezer and save it for subsequent meals.

It’s time to resign from the clean your plate club. Despite what your mother said, it’s okay to leave food behind. In fact, it’s a very good thing.


How To Use Partial Reps!

Though conventional wisdom holds that performing repetitions of an exercise through a full range of motion is most effective, many serious bodybuilders and lifters have taken advantage of a technique called partial reps.

As the name implies, partial reps involve moving through a limited range of motion. When performing a bench press with a full range of motion, the exerciser would start with their arms fully extended. Then, the barbell would be lowered until it touches the chest – and then the extended back out. During a partial repetition, on the other hand, the exerciser might only lower the barbell down 6 or 8 inches.

Partial reps are often used at the end of a typical set wherein the exerciser performs a given number of repetitions with a full range of motion. For example, John might be able to do five repetitions with 150 pounds of weight on the bench press with a full range of motion. At the end of the five repetitions, John couldn’t do another rep with the full range of motion. Instead of stopping, John may be able to squeeze out another four or five partial repetitions.

By employing this technique, John may help break through a stubborn plateau in his training.

Of course, strategies like partial reps, or drop sets or pyramid sets are not necessary to reach your goals; instead, they’re important tools that can certainly help in some situations. And they certainly will help to spice things up by adding some variety to your workout.

Give partial reps a try. Just remember that the vast majority of your workout should take advantage of a full range of motion – and you should never compromise form for the sake of a few partial reps.

Advice: Uncomfortable Changing In The Locker Room…

I have a rather embarrassing confession to make, and I am looking to you for advice.

I recently committed myself to getting healthy and fit this year, and recently joined an awesome gym. I love this gym, and could not be happier. (Thank you, by the way, for the wonderfully encouraging article you wrote “What Skinny People REALLY Think About Fat People At The Gym“.)

However, I find myself growing very self-conscious in the locker room. I am exceptionally out of shape, and am very embarrassed to change clothes in front of other people. It’s really intimidating being obese and going to the gym, especially in situations where you find yourself getting undressed and dressed in front of people who are much more fit than I am.

I need some advice on how to conquer my fears and anxieties until the time when I am comfortable with my body image.


57157897Dear W,

Thank you for your honest question. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up as an overweight child. And even though your situation is quite different from my own, your question immediately conjured up the same nervousness and anxiety that I felt when changing in public.

Of course, the are plenty of strategies to minimize your nudity. You could change in a bathroom or shower stall. Or you could wrap a towel around yourself. Or even wear your gym clothes under your street clothes. But all of these strategies merely treat the symptoms of a deeper issue.

Though I’m a big fan of building stronger, healthier and more loving relationships with our bodies, the reality is that it’s a journey for all of us. And each of us is at a different stage of comfortabilty. Nothing changes overnight, and there’s no reason to beat yourself up over feelings of shame or embarrassment.

Your time at the gym is a step in healing this relationship with your body. Your body craves movement and exercise, and to spend time at the gym is to give your body what it wants and deserves. In this sense, you’re not exercising because you hate your body. On the contrary, your exercising because you love your body.

I could remind you that changing in the locker room really is nothing more than changing clothes. Or that many of the other people in the locker room – even those that outwardly appear fit – are secretly struggling with their own insecurities. Or that your feelings of discomfort come from you and you alone. Or that humans come in different shapes and sizes – and that most people are too caught up in their own world to pay much attention to other people in the locker room. But the reality is that our body image issues can’t be solved in a soundbite or a single column of advice.

At the end of the day, all of us are at the gym because we have a goal. Goals, by their very definition, are the object of our ambition. They’re something to which we reach, work and strive. It’s not always easy and often times it means pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. It’s all part of the ride. Just don’t give any of the challenges you face the power to prevent you from creating the life you’ve always wanted. And the life that you deserve.


P.S. In the comments below, share how you’ve dealt with locker room embarrassment.

Is The Paleo Diet Healthy?

Why-You-Should-Always-Opt-For-The-Paleo-Diet-1Does eating like a caveman really do a body good? According to the Paleo Diet, yes. According to experts, no.

By eating like our distant, hunter-gatherer ancestors, the Paleo Diet promises a healthier lifestyle, leaner bodies and fewer health problems. But can the Paleo Diet really deliver on that promise?

To go Paleo, it means eating lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and olive oil, eggs, nuts and seeds. It’s basically those foods to which our ancestors had access. Not on the diet would be dairy, refined sugar, beans, potatoes, salt, refined oils and other foods that weren’t readily available or are otherwise manufactured. It also means no bread, including whole wheat. Peanuts are also not on the list.

For a lot of people, the idea of giving up cheese, yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, peanut butter, bread, hummus, soy, sweet potatoes or alcohol is unimaginable. And thus, one of the weakness of this diet is exposed; it’s unsustainable. Even though some “open meals” of cheating are allowed depending on your stage with the diet, it’s truly a dramatic dietary change – and one that most people will find unsustainable.

Of course, just because a diet is unsustainable for most people doesn’t make it intrinsically unhealthy.

However, a diet devoid of whole grains and legumes can increase the risk for certain nutritional deficiencies like B vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. Because we know that whole grains and legumes are nutritional and are associated with health benefits, what’s the advantage in removing them – especially if it makes a diet exponentially more difficult to sustain long-term? Though it’s technically possible to make up the nutrients in other Paleo-friendly foods, it’s certainly improbably for the average dieter. And it results in lots of effort for no gain.

It’s for these reasons that the Paleo Diet was actually ranked last on the “Best Diets Overall” list in 2014. Of the 32 popular diets evaluated by nutrition experts, the Paleo Diet came in… number 32.

Bottom line: While reducing salt, fatty meats, refined sugars and processed foods is a great step in creating a healthier lifestyle, there are easier and more sustainable ways to do it without eliminating other healthy foods.

For more information about healthy eating, check out Davey Wavey’s Insanely Easy Guide to Eating Smarter.

Are Americans About To Get… Skinnier?

fat-americaHere’s a headline that you probably didn’t expect: Americans may be on the verge of getting… skinnier.

That is, according to a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that found Americans ate 118 fewer calories per day in 2009 and 2010 compared to four years earlier. The study also found that Americans are consuming more home-cooked meals and eating less in restaurants.

Of course, there’s also lots of fine print.

For one, fewer calories consumed doesn’t necessarily mean that Americans will lose weight. Weight loss occurs when we eat fewer calories than we burn – and this study is looking at only one end of the equation. We’d also need to look at the daily calorie expenditure of Americans to get a clearer picture.

Second, obesity rates are still very high. In 2009 and 2010, 36% of Americans were obese compared to just 15% in 1980. But after decades of increases, the rate has held level through 2012. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has started to see a decline in some childhood obesity rates.

Third, according to the researchers, it appears that the economy was a factor. A decrease in restaurant eating and calorie consumption may be more the result of less money rather than healthier habits.

Nonetheless, these small but substantive shifts may be the result of greater public awareness and pressure on food manufacturers and the restaurant industry to make healthier options more readily available. If this is true, we may actually start to see a decline in obesity rates moving forward through the next decade. It’s too early to tell and we’ve got a long way to go, but these indicators are certainly optimistic.