Healthy weight and mathematics

Maintaining a healthy body weight is a simple matter of mathematics. If your energy intake is higher than your energy output, you’ll gain weight, and if you use more energy than you eat, you’ll lose weight.

Energy in = Energy Out

As simple as that!

Pffft – yeah, right!

Our bodies are burning energy even when we are doing nothing, and because we have not mastered the art of photosynthesis, that energy must come from food. If you eat more food and hence consume more energy than you need, you will store the excess as fatty tissue. It’s not rocket science, even if it is maths!

This not-so-tricky maths gets in the way of things! As is the case with most people, I like eating!  I’d like to be able to eat more and maintain a healthy body weight. To do this, I need to use more energy.

Is there a way I can increase my energy expenditure without noticing it?

Our energy use is divided into three components:

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. This is the energy we use merely being alive. It is the amount of energy we use when we are at rest, after just waking up and with an empty belly. It accounts for around 60% of the energy sedentary people use each day. BMR is influenced by gender, age, and body mass. Essentially the bigger you are the more energy you need to keep your body idling. The older you get, the less energy you use. (So if your a little old(er) lady like me you’re not burning up much!)
  2. Thermic Effect of Food or TEF is the extra energy we need to digest and absorb our food.  It takes energy to break down the food in our digestive system and get it into our bloodstream. TEF is a bit like a service fee. The energy in our food needs to be converted into the type of energy our body can use, and this comes at a cost. It turns out that protein needs more energy to be converted into usable energy. TEF accounts for around 10 – 15% of our average daily energy expenditure.
  3. Activity Thermogenesis (AT) is the energy used up in moving around and is further broken into two categories.
      1. Exercise-related activity thermogenesis is the energy we use in deliberate exercise such as going to the gym, running, lifting weights, etc.
      2. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT is the incidental energy we use in walking around, picking up the kettle, sitting, standing, talking, shopping, cooking, doing the housework. The stuff we usually don’t change into active wear for!

Energy expenditure

We have the power to control activity thermogenesis. Since it makes up between 25 – 30% of the energy a sedentary person uses, it is the pathway to tipping the balance in favour of weight loss or gain.

Let’s pause for a little more maths.

  1. Every day has 24 hours.
  2. Let’s say you sleep for 8 of those hours where you are running on your BMR.
  3. That leaves 16 hours for you to burn up more energy.
  4. You spend one of your 16 waking hours at the gym (or running/swimming/whatever) and the other 15 hours doing the rest of life.
  5. That means only 6% of the time is used for exercise activity thermogenesis! For most people living ordinary urban lives, we sit on our butts for most of the other 15 hours! That means for 94% of our waking hours, we are using low levels of energy.

 

Thermogensis

Can you increase the amount of energy you burn in those other 15 hours?

The solution is self-evident! You have to increase the amount of energy you expend in all activities! Be more active and less sedentary! Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!

In real life…not as easy as it sounds.

Life is busy. You can’t spend 5 hours at the gym every day. You have to go to work. You have to get to work, you have to look after your family. You have to DO life. You may not have time to increase your exercise-related activity, but you can increase the amount of energy you expend in non-exercise related activities?

How do you increase NEAT-ness in your life?

Here are a few suggestions. (some more sensible than others!)

  1. Fidget! Fidgeting wastes heaps of energy! Be careful you don’t annoy too many people though.
  2. Don’t sit when you can stand. If you work in an office, get a standing desk.
  3. Don’t stand still if you can fidget or move from side to side or jiggle around on the spot.
  4. Get your smart gadgets to buzz you if you are sitting still for too long.
  5. Walk to the next office to talk to someone rather than ring or email them.
  6. Ditch the remote control. Tape the remote to the TV, so you have to get up to change channels etc.
  7. Don’t sit in front of the telly and do nothing. If you’re going to watch telly – do something! Lie on the floor & do yoga stretches, get some hand weights or resistance bands and do a few (hundred) biceps curls while you’re bingeing on the newest must-watch show.  Alternate arms with legs and do some squats, lunges, hopping, hula hooping, etc.
  8. Don’t drive when you can walk or cycle. Pick a minimum distance and walk it. For instance, only drive if your destination is more than 3 km away.
  9. If you do have to drive, there are ways to do a sneaky car workout! It might not use much extra energy, but it’s better than nothing!
  10. Carry heavy things. Carry heavy things further.
  11. Park the car further away from the entrance when you go to the shops
  12. Get off the bus a stop earlier.
  13. Do 50 quick squats/lunges/calf raises while you’re brushing your teeth.
  14. Crank up the tunes while you’re doing the housework and dance like no-one is watching. If you’re doing the housework, probably nobody is watching! Check out these tips for exercises while cleaning. (some are a bit intense!)
  15. Play outdoors with your children/spouse/friends
  16. Take active holidays.
  17. Go for a hike rather than the movies.
  18. Choose more active leisure pursuits. Play tennis, not trivia. Go bowling.
  19. Choose a more active job! A labourer is going to use a lot more energy than an accountant!
  20. Wear fewer clothes and live in a colder climate! If you need to keep yourself warm, you’ll expend more energy.

The bottom line is, just move MORE and move more often.


Just for the record, sitting is NOT the new smoking. Research shows that the increase in mortality brought about by an excessively sedentary life is around 10%. The increase in mortality due to smoking is approximately 80%. So while both are bad for you, sitting is healthy compared to smoking!

Source:

Levin J.A. Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Nutrition Reviews Vol 26 No 1 pp S82-S97

 

 

 

Soup Season: Winter, a time for great soups.

I am getting excited because we have entered soup season! Who doesn’t love a good heart-warming (or is it gut-warming)  soup? I enjoy both creamy and chunky versions.

Soups have so many advantages:

  1. They are a great way of using up those close to expired vegetables lurking in the bottom of your fridge.
  2. They are economical and can make ingredients go a long way
  3. They are usually easy to prepare, but that, of course, will depend on the recipes that you choose.
  4. They are versatile and flexible. How many varieties are there? Google “soup recipes” and you get 672,000,000 hits! No doubt there are lots of double-ups but still, that’s a lot of soup.
  5. They are filling, especially with some nice crusty bread
  6. You can freeze them for later.
  7. You can add in all sorts of good for your gut ingredients.

I make lots of soup in winter. Lots! I always have the image of the Seinfeld episode with the Soup Nazi in my mind as I cook. I hear that fellow yell out “No soup for you!” but change it to “Yes! Soup for You!” A few years ago I even had the idea of doing a new blog based entirely on soup! I still might do that. It was provisionally entitled Sunday Soup Sessions.

Here are a couple of my favourites.

Harira (Moroccan lamb, tomato and lentil soup)

Lots and lots of good things in this soup. I am not sure if it would work so well without the meat.

Lamb Soup
Those Moroccans sure know how to make a good soup!

 

Orange Vegetable Soup

I make up my own recipes and it’s a bit hard to give the precise list of ingredients for these.

A case in point is this pumpkin, sweet potato and carrot soup spiced with ginger and turmeric.

Screen Shot 2020-05-13 at 12.02.31

The ingredients and method could be roughly translated as

Ingredients
  • Pumpkin – as much as you have depending on how much you want to make – cut into cubes
  • Sweet potato (orange variety) –  about half the amount of pumpkin – cut into cubes
  • Carrots – about the same as the sweet potato – cut into chunks
  • Stock and water – I would have used chicken stock but vegetable stock would be fine. How much…well that depends on how many vegetables you are using! At least a litre.
  • Tumeric – powdered or fresh, grated
  • Ginger –  fresh grated
  • Onion – at least 2 – sliced
  • Garlic – 1 tablespoon-ish
  • Olive oil
  • Lime juice to serve.
  • Feta cheese for garnish
Method
  1. Fry the onions and garlic in the oil till soft
  2. Add the turmeric and ginger and saute for 1 – 2 minutes.
  3. Add the veggies
  4. Stir around in the oil to coat and saute for 2 – 3 minutes
  5. Add enough stock to partially cover the veggies
  6. Put the lid on and simmer until the vegetables are tender. (maybe 30 minutes?)
  7. Use a stick blender to blend in the pot, adding more stock/water as needed to get the right consistency. Or transfer really carefully to your jug blender/mouli thingy and blend till smooth.
  8. Adjust seasoning
  9. Serve with lemon or lime juice and garnishes as you like.

Have you got any soup season recipes to share?

 

Bowel cancer and the dreaded colonoscopy.

If you live in Australia, you will get at least one 50th birthday present – guaranteed! Your bowel cancer testing kit will turn up in the mail! I put my first “gift” on the shelf and left it there for the next two years until I got another one at 52. I chucked the first one out and replaced it on the shelf with the new kit. After a few more weeks, I decided that it was probably a good idea to just get it over and done with.

There was no reason to delay, and I am not sure what my aversion to doing it was. I am not the squeamish type, and I KNOW early detection is essential. My tests at 54 and 56 were both negative, but this time round, one of my samples came back positive.

My GP and I discussed my risk factors and decided that I could afford the wait to get a place at the local public hospital rather than paying for a private hospital.  I filed my papers and went on the waiting list. Now 5 months after the results and 2 months since my specialist appointment, I have my date for the “procedure”.

The positive result surprised me. My family has no history of cancer. Plenty of other things like Type 1 diabetes, heart disease, narcolepsy, dementia, haemochromatosis but no cancer!

I have always been a healthy eater, and over the last 2 years have been actively creating a healthy gut by feeding my gut bugs plenty of plant-based food, exercising, reducing my alcohol intake and reducing stress. My gut should be singing with good health!

Given I have yet to have the test, my gut may be very healthy indeed! What follows is a blow by blow real-time account. Don’t be prudish, this is what being older than 50 is all about! I am grateful I live somewhere with good free healthcare!

 

Preparing for your colonoscopy

There is a two-day preparation process. The aim is to clear out your bowel so that the colonoscope can see what’s inside your large intestine with an unobstructed view. The hospital or your doctor will give you some laxatives and tell you when to take them.

Two days before the  procedure

Today is white day. My diet is usually a rainbow of plant-based foods. This made the list of allowable foods very unpalatable and alien. You can only eat white or yellow food. No seeds, no fibre, no colour! Only dairy products, boiled eggs, white fish, boiled chicken, boiled potatoes, stewed apple. Ewwwww!  All washed down with plenty of fluids. As I ate my white rice with boiled eggs, I apologised to my gut bugs. Sorry fellas! You’ll be going hungry too! No fibre left over for you to munch on today! I got some yellow Gatorade in readiness for tomorrow.

At least I’m not hungry!

The day before the procedure.

NO SOLID FOOD today!

Only clear liquids. Tea without milk, coffee without milk, clear apple juice, Gatorade that’s it! I started to feel light-headed by 12:30. MAN! I was hungry!

Since my procedure is set for the morning, my first dose of PicoPrep is scheduled for 2 PM. I took the afternoon off work because I had been told some horror stories about the rapidity of onset. The Picoprep didn’t taste too bad. It was gritty and akin to drinking chalk, but it had little flavour. I sculled it down in one go and sat down to wait.

And I waited!

…. And waited!

As a good scientist, I took notes of my observations. Nothing happened till about 17:30. Two trips to the loo but things seemed “normal”. This is not too bad, I thought to myself. I waited some more and then the shit did hit the fan! Perhaps not the literal fan, but you get my drift!

18:50

19:01

19:03

19:05

Gosh, I feel like I am going to turn inside out.

My second dose of Picoprep is due at 20:00. Could there be anything left? This time it was harder to swallow. The novelty had well and truly worn off. I stopped feeling hungry, and I felt a little shaky.

After midnight it’s Nil by Mouth!

Day of the procedure

I slept better than anticipated, although, I needed to dash to the bathroom a couple of times.

Ten minutes after arrival, I was taken into the admissions area where my blood pressure, temperature, pulse rate and oxygen saturation were checked after answering the usual questions of name, date of birth and why I was there. The nurse and I had a chat about whether or not we had met before because she said I looked familiar.

colonoscopy 2Within 30 minutes, the anesthetist came and inserted a cannula in my hand and asked the same questions again.

Thirty minutes after that, I was taken into the procedure room, and the sedative was given through the cannula and an oxygen mask applied. The next thing I know, I was being shaken gently by the nurse, asking if I was OK, back in the recovery area. I could have gone to the moon and back for all I knew!

No pain, no discomfort, only a little temporary disorientation. Once my vitals were re-checked, I was moved from the bed to a comfy recliner where I was given some food and a cup of tea. My goodness that plain cheese sandwich tasted good!

The doctor who performed the procedure told me he had removed two polyps, and that I had a few diverticula, but nothing really to worry about.  I will meet with the gastroenterologist in three weeks for the follow-up.

colonoscopy 1Another 40 minutes later my brother had dropped me home, and it’s all over.   I’ll do as instructed and take it easy for the rest of the day, no driving, no making important decisions, no cooking(??). So here I am, in front of my computer chatting with you folks!

Playing Dr Google

Of course, I played Dr Google leading up to the event. I found this video from an American source helpful and the Cancer Health NSW site is terrific.

 

This friendly chap tells you how to do the poo test

 

If detected early bowel cancer can be treated in up to 90% of cases. 


Talking about poo and having a flexible tube inside your intestines may not be a sexy subject to talk about, but neither is dying from bowel cancer. If you have access to early detection tools like the one offered in Australia, take it up.

Enjoy your birthday gift!

 

MARCH 2020 UPDATE: I had my follow-up with the gastroenterologist yesterday. During the procedure they removed 4 polyps (not 2). All but one were of no concern. The fourth one was of a type that can become malignant but is VERY slow to develop. I have to go and and have another colonoscopy in three years….so no rush!