Social impacts on Body Composition: A real-life example from NYC

Social impacts on Body Composition: A real-life example from NYC

2014 is winding to a close and I’ve had the best year of my life. I married my dream girl, had the trip of a lifetime; romancing in Paris and embracing the holy land from a brand new perspective, and celebrated so many big occasions like my sister’s wedding, my sister-in-law’s Bat Mitzvah, and my brother-in-law’s graduation. There were feasts to be had and I enjoyed every second of it quite mindlessly.

My most recent life experience has been packing up my life in Seattle and starting a new one with my wife and dog in New York. I’ve always been keenly aware of my surroundings including the way people look, sound, eat, dress, and live in different places. The New York lifestyle is very different from anywhere else I’ve lived and doesn’t exist anywhere else in the USA. It’s much more European and has an International feel because of the diversity and constant stream of tourists from all corners of the world. I had a revelation over the weekend while walking through Central Park on my way to the grocery store.

I never fully appreciated the external effects on health and body composition. I have reaped the benefits of living in New York over the last month and a half, and currently am at my 8th grade bodyweight. Your surroundings include the people, the lay of the land, and the pace of life. All of these things have a profound impact on body composition. I’ll do my best to explain with real-life examples.

The people you surround yourself with can be both a boon or a burden to your body composition goals. My approach to weight loss, muscle gain, recomposition, whatever has been sustainable and balanced to allow individuals to maintain a social life and their sanity. Losing weight is EASY in a vacuum, as you simply eat fewer calories than you burn. Real-life is not so simple because we have social obligations, parties, vacations, and other fun things that can derail a diet or prevent it from getting off the ground.

My weekends have typically been pretty routine here as I start off by taking my dog on a long walk, head home for a few lazy cups of coffee with my wife, and then walk to brunch. Brunch is a thing here…everybody does it and it usually involves fantastic food and bloody mary’s or mimosas. The difference is that brunch spans several hours but conversation and slowly sipped drinks replace endless food because it’s expensive and not as readily available!

Another big difference that I’ve noticed in the city is the lack of fast food, the higher prices for food, and generally smaller portions. Access to food has created a big obesity problem for our country and has led to so many health initiatives that Michelle Obama’s school lunch program seems like a good idea compared to others.

I went to college in Oklahoma, paid $275 a month for rent, and could drive my car at $2.20 a gallon a mile away to grab McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Taco Bueno, Cain’s chicken, KFC, Little Caesar’s, or even frozen custard for about $5. The access to certain foods makes it very easy to eat highly caloric and low nutrient meals in certain parts of the country, while in New York it’s really not possible.

The final difference is probably a theme of this article. Everyone walks here! Nobody has a car and the only seated transportation is on a bus or subway that involves walking up and down stairs. I probably take an extra 5,000 steps and burn upwards of 300 extra calories every day just by walking through the park with my dog, going grocery shopping, or just exploring this amazing city.

Selling my car was an incredible release of anxiety as I waved goodbye to traffic, insurance premiums, and expensive gas. An unforeseen benefit was getting to walk everywhere in New York!

How can the three examples be put into action during a body transformation? It’s very important to create an environment that’s conducive for your success.

Surround yourself with positive and supportive people who might have experience with weight loss or muscle gain as they’d be happy to guide you and share their secrets. Think about hiring a coach (*hint hint*)!

Incorporate your diet breaks and cheat meals into your social life. Pick out restaurants that don’t have all-you-can eat chips and salsa, loaves of bread, or bottomless hush puppies.

You don’t have to move away from your fast-food infested hometown, stop hanging out with the guy who eats pizza three times a week, or break up your long-term relationship with fried chicken, but you should be aware that the frequency and easy access can be damaging to a weight loss program.

Exercise is obviously part of any weight loss or body recomposition program. Additionally, it helps to increase your non-exercise physical activity (NEPA). Walk places you usually drive, walk to get your morning coffee, or take the stairs instead of the elevator the 4 flights to your apartment.

How to have a happy and healthy European haul

Bon voyage, bonjour, bienvenue, and most importantly bon apetit!  European vacations have so much to offer including rich history, beautiful architecture, unique cultures, and most importantly, an extremely diverse cuisine!  If you’re a foodie, you’re stoked for your upcoming trip across the pond.  With great food comes great risks to your belt-line so if you’re inclined to conserving your physique, I’ve got some great tips.

Vacationers headed for the Mediterranean beaches in late Spring and Summer are better off preparing for Europe beforehand.  A 12-week diet will give you plenty of time and allow you to save plenty of money in preparation for your trip.  I wrote a piece on my blog about saving money, time, and energy during a diet.

Culturally dense Europe provides a new adventure around every corner.  People of all different walks of life and backgrounds have coexisted for centuries on the city streets.  The best way to immerse yourself in the culture is to head out of your hostel or B&B for a walk.  Walking tours are a fantastic way to soak up your surroundings while burning a few calories.

Fuel up for your morning walk by stopping at a cafe and grabbing a European breakfast, which is usually quite simple.  Cafe au lait, cappuccino, latte and a small pastry will provide you with plenty of caffeine and carbohydrates (energy).  A simple breakfast of around 300-400 calories will be plenty for several hours of exploration.  Large breakfasts can cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin which lead to the inevitable crash during digestion.  You wouldn’t want to end up back in your hotel bed napping the day away with so much scenery!

The cuisine is just too good to skimp on meals all day, every day, so you’ll have earned a great dinner with your daytime strolls and light, European breakfast and snacks.  Long, lively dinners are the norm amongst the locals in the restaurants.  American travelers are ushered in from the streets and treated like family in the best spots and you’ll get the 5-course treatment.  I suggest sipping a glass of vino while you wait for your food to avoid the bread basket binge.  A main course of learn protein like chicken, turkey, fish, or lamb will keep you fuller than a high carbohydrate meal such as pasta, potatoes, or polenta.  Should you have room for dessert, go for it since you’re on vacation and the gelato is out of this world good in Italy!

The discos and night clubs are popular amongst locals and American travelers alike.  Fast paced, European house music is the perfect nightcap for you to literally “dance your ass off!”  Two hours on the dance floor can burn up to 1,000 calories and offset the day’s delicious meals and evening drinks.  Limit that bar tab to four drinks and you’ll feel much better the night of, and the morning after.  Low blood sugar after a night of heavy drinking causes severe hunger pangs that could lead to a poor diet of junk!

The combination of walking, watching your early calorie intake, and limiting your alcohol will do wonders for your physique and mood on your upcoming European trip.  Even the exercise obsessed will be satisfied using the hotel gym or even hotel room.  Check out the plethora of workouts available on the web here!

Dispelling dogma – Myth #10: Never skip breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day

Dispelling dogma – Myth #10: Never skip breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day

You’ve heard this one a million times from doctors, nutritionists, ‘experts’ wearing white lab coats and glasses on infomercials, and even physical trainers.  “Skipping breakfast is the reason you are overweight.”  “You should never skip breakfast because you’re going to overeat later in the day.”  “Without a healthy breakfast, you’ll DIE!!!!!1!”

Newsflash folks, there is no magic bullet for building a lean, muscular physique, and eating breakfast falls into that category of not-a-magic-bullet.  How awesome would it be to enjoy a stack of pancakes, a couple scrambled eggs, some fruit and yogurt, a tall glass of OJ, coffee, and then watch the pounds magically melt away like the cheese on your piping hot eggs?  That sounds magnificent and I swear I can smell that buttery syrup coming from some far off place.  While this is possible…it requires a caloric deficit over the entire day and week, not ADDING calories to your daily routine.

In the above breakfast day-dream, you would have a small amount of room for food the rest of the day.  Would you prefer to follow your doctor’s orders and have breakfast every day but then eat like a bird and go to bed hungry every night?  I realize I’m being overly hyperbolic in my example of pancakes, eggs, etc, but the point is a lot of people don’t eat breakfast and have gained weight, so it makes no sense to add another meal to their day.  Another meal is added calories.  The message you need to drill into your head is the overall daily and weekly calories will matter, end of story.  It’s science…

Eating early in the day isn’t going to “jump-start your metabolism” or “make you feel more alert” or “give you an edge on the competition” any more than a steamy cup of coffee.  Your body is too smart to let you shrivel and die without any food in your stomach…energy sources come from stored fat or even the meal from the day before!

Food will lead to a temporary spike in your blood sugar but you’ll also have to digest a big breakfast which can make you feel sluggish.  If you’re like me and prefer to get every second of sleep in the morning before you head out on your AM commute, don’t be afraid to wait until brunch or lunch to have your first meal.  I’m the most productive early in the day while the office is quiet.  I practice something called Intermittent Fasting, an art perfected by Martin Berkhan (the guy is RIPPED) and adopted by many people in the fitness and nutrition industry.

The other side of the coin for you early birds is to enjoy your breakfast, but keep in mind your overall daily calorie intake.  If you like eating more early and light late, then that’s totally fine.  You’ve found your sustainable sweet spot!