Category Archives: Health

2013 Goals

new yearsJust like that another year is gone and it’s time to make some new year’s resolutions. For the next month gyms all across the country will be overcrowded with people who made the resolution to get back in shape. By mid-February things will revert back to normal as over-zealous resolutionaries (best made up word so far this year!) lose their enthusiasm and return to their sedentary lifestyles. One of the nice things about having a blog is that by writing out my goals for the new year and keeping a link to them right at the top of my blog, I can’t pretend they don’t exist once my fervor has waned.

I did a pretty good job with my goals in 2012, and hopefully I can be just as successful this year. Last year my goals were mainly financial goals, with one health/fitness goal that turned out to be too difficult to measure accurately. With that in mind, I tried to expand my goals a little to cover a few more aspects of my life and make sure they’re measurable.

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Weight Loss Milestone Reached

I’m proud to report that I am now below 150 pounds! When I stepped on the scale this morning, it read 149.0. 150 was a huge milestone for me that I’ve been shooting for for pretty much my entire adult life. My weight has always hovered somewhere in the 160′s and for a long time I believed that was just the weight my body wanted to be. If you believe the weight you’re at is where mother nature intended you to be, it’s really hard to get up the motivation to do anything about it.

So a little over a year ago, I did something pretty radical: I convinced myself that I could be whatever weight I wanted (within reason, of course). I decided I wanted to be 140 pounds, so I set out on a journey to get there.

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Beware the Office Break Room

temptationsI hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! If you waddled home from dinner last night with an overstuffed belly and a tryptophan coma, you’re not alone. For many, Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday overeating season. Starting next week, your office’s break room may be filled with everyone’s leftovers, and you’ll be munching on pumpkin pie, stuffing, and turkey for the next two weeks. Then when we finally get through all of our Thanksgiving leftovers, people will start bringing in Christmas treats – cookies, candies, and gift baskets piled high with all sorts of goodies. The office becomes a danger zone for those of us trying to lose weight.

After the jump, a few tips to stay on track despite the temptations all around you.
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How I Lost Weight Eating Pizza

I had really fallen off the weight loss wagon for a couple months there. My schedule had shifted a little, so my workout routine changed and my eating habits changed. In two months I gained back 5 of the pounds I had worked so hard to shed. On Thursday the scale finally showed me the same number it displayed two months ago, when I was right on the cusp of a milestone. I’m confident that I’ll break right through the milestone this time, because now I’m focusing on portion sizes.

It started a few weeks ago, when my fiance told me that for his birthday, he wanted me to get Omaha Steaks. We’re on their mailing list, so we constantly have a coupon sitting on our counter that we never seem to use (does anybody actually pay full price for Omaha Steaks?). I picked up the coupon and ordered about two month’s worth of food. When the box arrived and I opened up a package of steaks to defrost, I was dismayed at how tiny the steaks were. My fiance said, “yea, that’s what a portion of meat is supposed to look like.”
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The Benefits of Exercise

I couple years ago I discovered a lecture on YouTube about fructose called Sugar: The Bitter Truth. It’s an hour and a half, but I promise you it is well worth the time commitment. It is the single best video I’ve ever watched. It completely changed the way I think about food. The lecture is presented by Dr. Robert Lustig, who begins with the thesis that your weight is not determined by the simplistic calories in – calories out formula that most of us have accepted as fact. Instead, he argues that there are biochemical processes going on within your body that make some kinds of calories worse than others, namely fructose.

This video is fantastic and filled with a ton of amazing information, but I want to focus on one part of it: the role of exercise (1:11:15). (This is actually an incredibly small part of the video, and a bit tangential to the main point, but very important information and quite relevant to both health and personal finance.)

The common belief is that if you eat an extra 100 calories, you have to burn an extra 100 calories or you’ll gain weight. And it’s true… mostly. But “20 minutes of jogging is one chocolate chip cookie, you can’t do it!” says Dr. Lustig. It’s true that exercise is very important for weight loss and good health, but when you look at it in such simplistic terms as calories in – calories out, it seems impossible. “One Big Mac and you’ve got to mountain bike for 10 hours,” jokes Lustig. It can be incredibly discouraging and many people give up on their exercise routines because they think they just can’t burn enough calories to make it worthwhile. That’s why Lustig highlights the other benefits of exercise, including stress reduction (helpful because stress is correlated with over-eating and obesity) and an increased metabolism (which helps you burn more calories while at rest).

Ready for the tie in to personal finance? It’s the old saying, “nobody got rich by saving.” Saving can only get you so far toward your financial goals. The real wealth building comes from earning more money, either by increasing your earned income or increasing your investment income. Calculating the effect of compound interest over a lifetime is an eye opening exercise. If you start with nothing and invest just $100/month in an account yielding 6% for 40 years, you’ll end up with approximately $200k, but you only had to contribute $48k. The rest came from interest. Your money is doing the work for you.

Exercise is making an investment in your health. You might not be able to do enough exercise to work off that Big Mac, but the residual effects of that exercise will continue to benefit your body for several hours. In the same way that your initial monetary investment builds on itself, your initial exercise increases your metabolism and reduces stress, helping your body to keep itself healthy without you having to actively do anything.

This is not a perfect analogy, of course. And the difference is what makes exercise (in my opinion) harder than building wealth. If you make one monetary investment today and then completely stop adding to it, it will continue to grow indefinitely. It’s obviously better if you consistently add to that investment yourself, but even if you don’t, it will still keep growing on its own. The benefits of exercise don’t last as long. If you exercise once and then completely stop exercising for the rest of your life, your body will not just magically keep you healthy. The effects of a workout only last for a few hours, so you do need to regularly exercise to keep those benefits.

Since I started out with a recommendation to watch a lecture about sugar, I can’t resist the urge to give a final plug for it, just in case you need more convincing to watch it. The main focus of the lecture is on fructose, and how your body processes it differently than glucose. In essence, your body is terrible at processing fructose, but thanks to the government subsidy on corn, high fructose corn syrup is in everything, making us get fatter by the year. Yes, fructose exists in nature, but as Dr. Lustig so poetically puts it, “when God made the poison, he packaged it with the antidote.” He’s talking about fiber, which is always present in natural sources of sugar, such as fruit or sugar cane. The fiber helps your body process the fructose more efficiently. But fiber reduces the shelf life of food, so all the foods that are packed full of high fructose corn syrup are also depleted of fiber. Dr. Lustig challenges you to look at the labels of packaged foods. Nearly all of them will have fructose as one of the main ingredients, but no more than a gram of fiber. That is why our country is growing fatter, and that is why I do my best to avoid high fructose corn syrup like the plague.