Healthy Byte: The Hype of Fads

With the rise of standing desks, office workers hope to brush off the health risks linked to prolonged sitting, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and early death. But they might do well to walk calories off instead, a new study suggests.

In one of the few studies to carefully count the calories people burn while sitting at a desk, standing, or taking a leisurely stroll, researchers found little difference between being plopped down or upright. Standing for an hour might burn off an extra nine calories or so, about the amount in a single gummy bear. Slow walking, on the other hand, incinerated 2.4 to 2.7-fold more calories than standing or sitting, respectively. If office workers fit in an hour of strolling throughout each day—tallying trips to the bathroom, walks to the printer, or strides on a treadmill desk—they could easily burn through an extra 130 calories. That’s a little more than what previous research suggests could help people keep pounds off, the authors report in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.

“If you’re looking for weight control or just solely at the energy expenditure, standing isn’t that much more beneficial than sitting,” Seth Creasy, an exercise physiologist at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study, told Ars. Of course, calorie burning isn’t the only reason people might choose a standing desk. Being upright could be beneficial for productivity or posture, Creasy said. However, more research is needed to know if those benefits are real because the studies that have been done so far have come up with mixed or inconclusive results.

For energy use, though, the literature is getting pretty clear. In past studies looking into the differences between standing and sitting, researchers found small changes in calorie burningsimilar to those Creasy and his colleagues found. With their new study, they tried to nail those calories down for good and look at more than one single activity at a time. No one gets to the office and sits, stands, or walks for eight hours straight, Creasy explained. People switch positions, take breaks, and move around, he said.

To see if there were any effects of those shifts, Creasy and colleagues set up an experiment with activity combinations. With a total of 74 healthy volunteers, the researchers randomly assigned 18 to sit at a desk with a computer for 15 minutes then stand without fidgeting for 15 minutes. Another 18 participants sat and watched television for 15 minutes and then walked. Twenty started with slow walking—at a self-selected speed of around two and half miles per hour—and then sat and watched TV. And the last 18 stood and then sat at a desk with a computer.

During each 30-minute activity combination, the researchers had the participants fitted with face masks, which basically measured their exhaust. This allowed the researchers to precisely calculate how many calories they were burning.

The researchers were curious if the order of activities changed how much energy participants used overall. For instance, perhaps starting with a walk would rev up calorie burning in subsequent sitting. But it turns out the order doesn’t matter. There was a tiny uptick, but nothing statistically or clinically significant, Creasy said. In the other combinations, the order didn’t matter either.

In general, 15 minutes of walking burned an average of 55.9 calories, sitting with a computer burned 19.63 calories, sitting and watching TV burned 18.66 calories, and standing burned 21.92 calories. There was no statistical significance between the sitting activities and standing, the researchers noted. And even if it does result in a few extra calories burned, it’s unclear if that could result in any measurable health benefit.

Raised questions

Like all studies, this one has some limitations. The study participants were healthy and mostly lean, unlike the general population and perhaps the people most interested in using a standing desk to help lose weight. But Creasy said he expects the general findings to hold up in people who are obese. The study also had people stand or sit as still as they could, so it might not capture any significant variations resulting from fidgeting or shifting around in either scenario.

The study also doesn’t address a fundamental question in the sit vs. stand debate: are the negative health effects linked to prolonged sitting caused by the sitting itself or a lack of activity? Like prolonged sitting, a lack of exercise is also linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. And earlier research has found that those who do sit for long periods but are also activedon’t face the same health risks. But other research has suggested that sitting alone can be bad, causing discomfort and poor circulation. Still, standing for long periods of time may also cause problems such as enlarged veins.

On this bigger question, “the jury is still out,” Creasy said. Researchers are looking into whether exercise can override our sedentary lifestyles, plus whether standing desks benefit productivity, comfort, and other health issues.

A few small studies have come out showing that standing desks can boost productivity, but a few others have shown that they don’t. Others are inconclusive. For instance, in a recent study on the productivity of call center workers who were assigned either standing or sitting desks, researchers found that the standers were as much as 53 percent more productive than sitters. But the study lacked baseline data of how productive each group was to start with, so the results are not conclusive. An interesting find, however, was that in surveys, the standing workers did report less back pain and discomfort than their seated counterparts.

As researchers work out which desk setup might be best, Creasy points out that moving is always a good idea. He suggests getting creative with figuring out ways to add intermittent bouts of walking into your daily routine, such as moving the printer farther down the hall or having walking meetings. He points out that benefits can be seen with just casual, slow walking. This isn’t exercise, he emphasizes.

 

Advertisements

Healthy Byte: Exercise to Get Healthy, Eating Consciously to Lose Weight

Originally Posted HERE

We’ve been conditioned to think of exercise as a key ingredient — perhaps the most important ingredient — of any weight loss effort.

You know the drill: Join the gym on January 1 if you want to reach your New Year’s weight loss goal.

But in truth, the evidence has been accumulating for years that exercise, while great for health, isn’t actually all that important for weight loss.

To learn more about why, I read through more than 60 studies (including high-quality, systematic reviews of all the best-available research) on exercise and weight loss for a recent installment of Show Me the Evidence. Here’s a quick summary of what I learned.

Exercise accounts for a small portion of daily calorie burn

One very underappreciated fact about exercise is that even when you work out, the extra calories you burn only account for a small part of your total energy expenditure.
There are three main components to energy expenditure, obesity researcher Alexxai Kravitz explained: 1) basal metabolic rate, or the energy used for basic functioning when the body is at rest; 2) the energy used to break down food; and 3) the energy used in physical activity.

Javier Zarracina / Vox

What’s important to absorb is the fact that we have very little control over our basal metabolic rate, but it’s actually our biggest energy hog. “It’s generally accepted that for most people, the basal metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 80 percent of total energy expenditure,” said Kravitz. Digesting food accounts for about 10 percent.

That leaves only 10 to 30 percent for physical activity, of which exercise is only a subset. (Remember, physical activity includes all movement, including walking around, fidgeting, et cetera.)

The implication here is that while your food intake accounts for 100 percent of the energy that goes into your body, exercise only burns off less than 10 to 30 percent of it. That’s a pretty big discrepancy, and definitely means that erasing all your dietary transgressions at the gym is a lot harder than the peddlers of gym memberships make it seem.

It’s hard to create a significant calorie deficit through exercise

Using the National Institutes of Health’s Body Weight Planner — which gives a more realistic estimation for weight loss than the old 3,500 calorie rule — mathematician and obesity researcher Kevin Hall created this model to show why adding a regular exercise program is unlikely to lead to significant weight loss.

Javier Zarracina / Vox

If a hypothetical 200-pound man added 60 minutes of medium-intensity running four days per week while keeping his calorie intake the same, and he did this for 30 days, he’d lose five pounds. “If this person decided to increase food intake or relax more to recover from the added exercise, then even less weight would be lost,” Hall added. (More on these “compensatory mechanisms” later.)

So if one is overweight or obese, and presumably trying to lose dozens of pounds, it would take an incredible amount of time, will, and effort to make a real impact through exercise alone.

Exercise can undermine weight loss in other, subtle ways

How much we eat is connected to how much we move. When we move more, we sometimes eat more too, or eat less when we’re not exercising.

One 2009 study shows that people seemed to increase their food intake after exercise — either because they thought they burned off a lot of calories or because they were hungrier. Another review of studies from 2012 found that people generally overestimated how much energy exercise burned and ate more when they worked out.

There’s also evidence to suggest that some people simply slow down after a workout, using less energy on their non-gym activities. They might decide to lie down for a rest, fidget less because they’re tired, or take the elevator instead of the stairs.

These changes are usually called “compensatory behaviors” — and they simply refer to adjustments we may unconsciously make after working out to offset the calories burned.

We need to reframe how we think about exercise

Obesity doctor Yoni Freedhoff has called for a rebranding of how we think of exercise. Exercise has staggering benefits — it just may not help much in the quest for weight loss:

By preventing cancers, improving blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar, bolstering sleep, attention, energy and mood, and doing so much more, exercise has indisputably proven itself to be the world’s best drug – better than any pharmaceutical product any physician could ever prescribe. Sadly though, exercise is not a weight loss drug, and so long as we continue to push exercise primarily (and sadly sometimes exclusively) in the name of preventing or treating adult or childhood obesity, we’ll also continue to short-change the public about the genuinely incredible health benefits of exercise, and simultaneously misinform them about the realities of long term weight management.

The evidence is now clear: Exercise is excellent for health; it’s just not that important for weight loss. So don’t expect to lose a lot of weight by ramping up physical activity alone.

As a society, we also need to stop treating a lack of exercise and diet as equally responsible for the obesity problem in this country. Public-health obesity policies should prioritize fighting the over-consumption of low-quality food and improving the food environment.

 

HEALTHY BYTE: Eat Instinctively

 NOTE: I am sorting through a year’s worth of links that I thought would be interesting reads for Healthy Byte. Although some of this information maybe old, there’s still tremendous value in the content. So I am meticulously picking & choosing articles that provides the most timeless information. Enjoy!

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Originally Posted HERE 

By: Jan Bowen

It’s not exactly a secret that there’s more to being happy with your body weight than eating a specific number of calories. Food is intricately connected to our emotions and to our sense of identity.

Our meals should nourish not only our physical body, but also sustain us emotionally and spiritually, helping us live the fullest life possible. Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? Sure. But by the time we’ve reached our early teens, we’ve often forgotten how to determine what real hunger is.

In fact, most of us, fortunate enough to never experience true physical hunger, have only experienced emotional hunger.

We’ve complicated our food, turning it into a source of conflict rather than contentment, or even — joy.

There IS a way to get back to enjoying meals as an easy, guilt-free experience again. To do so, you must ‘trust your gut’ by eating instinctively (not impulsively). This is the secret to never worrying about your weight again.

Your gut already has all the answers you need. In fact, scientists tell us there is a secondary brain in our belly, containing over one hundred million neurons of intelligence! So use that gut wisdom to help you eat well! Those gut hunches you experience aren’t just your imagination. They’re literally your body’s attempt to advise you. So, listen to it!

1. Pay attention to how you feel about food.

Focus first on ways you’re emotional eating. Diet books often focus on this as the key to permanent weight loss, and it’s definitely a large percentage of the equation. Burying our feelings via overeating or eating unhealthy foods only adds pounds and guilt.

Trusting your gut at this level means paying attention to what you’re feeling in the momentbefore you reach for the food you want to overeat. If you pause and listen, your stomach will tell you what you’re feeling.

If hearing that wisdom feels too difficult — your emotions (and all of that ice cream you spoon down) are drowning out your gut talk. Try this: After you eat something you regret, consider what you ate. Doreen Virtue, in her book Constant Craving:  What Your Food Cravings Mean and How to Overcome Them tells us that often, the type of food we eat is a clue to the emotions we’re trying to stuff.

Sometimes ice cream helps us self-medicate feelings of depression. Crunchy, salty chips tend to soothe us when we’re feeling anxious and stressed. And that slice of pie might be a substitute for the bit of encouragement you really wanted.

Notice the feelings you felt when you craved a specific food, the correlation might surprise you. Until you address the underlying issue that’s bothering you, the unhealthy eating habit won’t stop.

2. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry for something else.

If you’re handling your emotions in a healthy way and your appetite still isn’t satisfied, figure out what you’re really hungry for in life that goes beyond emotions. In what areas of your life do you lack fulfillment? Sometimes, overeating is connected to an urge to fill a void of happiness or deep-seated purpose.

Your enteric nervous system clues you in to your emotions, which is possibly why it is often considered the home seat of wisdom. You “know it at a gut level” if you pay attention. Once you identify what’s missing, don’t try to fill that emptiness with food. It won’t work.

You’ll never find peace until you forgo emotional eating and start living the life you’re meant to live.

3. Let your intuition guide what you eat.

Your body has infinite intelligence. In fact, there is individual knowledge contained within each cell of your body. It will tell you what it needs — if you listen to it. When you explore intuitive eating, your body will tell you when it’s hungry and when it’s full. Your gut will tell you what type of food your body requires and how much it needs to adequately feel nourished.

Pay attention to your body’s requests as you decide which of the many food choices are best for you. We are each biochemically unique, with distinctly individual needs. Allow your highly-tuned body-mind unit to tell you when it needs re-calibration. If you start craving nutritious foods, it’s a signal from your body that it needs the specific nutrients from that food.

 Craving beets? Maybe your blood pressure needs normalizing, or your liver needs extra support. Eggplant sounds irresistible? Maybe your brain power needs a few extra antioxidants.

Does the idea of trusting your gut to tell you what to eat sound crazy? It’s not. Try eating instinctively for six months to a year and you’ll notice your body — and health — responding in the most positive way.

Eating instinctively is an approach to food, not a diet.

When you tune into what your body is saying and give it what it needs, you will never worry about your weight again.

Healthy Byte: Make Nice with Food

healthy foods and a tape measureTake a mindful approach to healthy eating | iStock.com

Maintaining a healthy weight can be difficult, and eating right is sometimes an uphill battle. So, it’s often tempting to take the easy way out, succumbing to microwaveable meals and fast food fare. But ending your war against food is possible, and in taking a more mindful approach what goes into your body, and how, you may discover a healthier way to shed pounds.


The Cheat Sheet: What are healthier alternatives to overeating?

Dr. Susan Albers: Mindful eating is key to ending overeating. It squashes emotional eating and helps you to eat just what you need — not more. Basically, being mindful means having more control over your actions, particularly around food.

CS: How can a person combat overeating if they’ve struggled with it their whole life?

SA: First, you have to rewire your mindset to stop dieting. This is often easier said than done because it’s so ingrained in our culture. A dieting mindset gets you into either or situations — either I’m on a diet or I’m off. Mindful eating isn’t so black and white, which helps people sidestep the sense of failure or giving up. It’s also losing the guilt and starving.

Dr. Susan Albers holding an apple

CS: If someone is a stress eater, how can they overcome the temptation to eat, and instead use other ways to deal with stress?

SA: Think about the 2 Rs — reboot and relax. Basically, when we are stressed, we are looking for a way to unwind. Studies show that food only comforts us for about three minute, and then the positive feelings fade. Relaxation techniques help you to relax and unwind. This includes things that I’ve included in my book, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, like self-massage, yoga techniques, aromatherapy, etc.

Rebooting your mindset can be a little more challenging. The book includes ways of turning around negative thinking, which keeps you stuck. Being able to remain positive, see the silver lining, and rebound makes food less tempting. We eat to escape feelings. Mindfulness helps you cope with them as they are until they pass — and they will pass.

CS: How can people be more mindful about the food they’re putting into their bodies?

SA: If you don’t know where to start, start with what I call the 5 Ss of Mindful Eating. Sit down, slowly chew, savor each bite, simplify your environment by putting treats out of sight, and smile between bites so you have a moment to check in to ask yourself if you are truly satisfied. These all change how vs. what you eat. So many plans focus on the what to eat. We need to learn the how.

inspiring-diet.jpg

CS: How realistic is it to begin a healthier diet?

SA: You don’t have to change anything. Just slip more mindfulness into what you are already doing. This is often a simple mind shift that takes no more than a second. Make every choice a conscious choice instead of mindlessly eating out of habit or what I call the JBITS syndrome — just because it is there. Connect to all the actions around eating from picking up your fork to feeling your back against the chair to savoring the texture of each bite.

CS: How can a person’s daily routine be affected, positively or negatively, by their eating habits?

SA: Some habits and routines are positive. You just do it without any emotion or thought. For example, when you brush your teeth there is no emotional struggle or question. You just do it. Routine eating habits can take out some of the emotion, difficulty, and taxing nature of making a decision. In other words, you just eat the banana like you do every afternoon without any emotional struggle. Habit is negative when you do it without thought or connection to the experience. Sitting on the couch and mindlessly eating chips each night takes out the enjoyment of the experience and can get you in a deep rut.


There you go, just one more reason to drop the diet mindset and start thinking about mindful eating. So, yes, you can totally still have those potato chips. Just make sure you enjoy every bite knowing you can have them again instead of feeling like you need to plow through the entire bag. You’ll be healthier, and happier, for it.

 

Originally Posted HERE

HB Sig

Healthy Byte: ‘Starvation Mode’ the Myth

close-up on a man's stomach as he rubs itCould this man be experiencing starvation mode? | iStock.com

If you eat healthy, count every calorie, keep track of your nutrients, and work out day in and day out, then you’re probably expecting your body to get lean and strong in no time. So, if you find yourself hitting a weight-loss plateau without cheating on your diet or slacking on your exercise routine, you may assume you’ve hit starvation mode. This phenomenon, according to Livestrong, affects anyone who eats below their recommended daily caloric intake and makes weight loss nearly impossible. But is there any truth to this claim? It’s time to dispel myth from reality.

This is what starvation mode in dieting is said to be — a complete halt in weight loss when you’ve gone too far with your extreme dieting. Here’s the truth: While your body will have a response to cutting calories, it won’t be strong enough to completely prevent you from losing weight.

healthy foods and a tape measure

Healthy fresh produce for weight loss | iStock.com

In truth, The Washington Post explains metabolism will slow when you’re cutting calories. This is your body’s natural response to a significant change in your diet and your routine, but this doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, this slowing of your metabolic rate doesn’t even happen within the first six to eight months of extreme dieting, which is when most people find that they hit their first plateau and look toward starvation mode as a reason. It takes years and years of severe calorie restriction for your metabolism to completely offset a reduction in calories.

The idea that you won’t lose weight when your caloric intake is too restricted is completely dispelled when looking at The Minnesota Starvation Experiment outlined by the American Psychological Association. In World War II, men were worked to physical extremes and were given less than 1,600 calories to eat a day, resulting in extreme hunger, gaunt bodies, and malnutrition. They were rehabilitated back to full health by being fed a proper number calories, but nowhere in this study did they find the men stopped losing weight because they were eating too little. In fact, all of the participants lost about 25% of their body weight.

If you’re at the point in your diet where you’re unable to lose weight further, A Workout Routine suggests this may be because your body simply isn’t burning as many calories as it did when you weighed more. When your body weight decreases, you burn fewer calories in general, meaning the diet that worked for you when you were 50 pounds heavier may not be working so well for you anymore.