Why You Should Care About Your Waistline

At the Wide-Body, we aren’t critical the physical shape with which people were born. Everyday athletes come in all shapes and sizes, and the Wide Body openly encourages everyone to embrace their physique. I will never have the body of a men’s fashion model, and I’m okay with that because I like the fact that my body is built for physical power. The features of sleekness and power in a body is rare, and given the chance to choose, I will choose power every time.

But there does come a time when we must address excess fat that taken up residence on the body. You should embrace your curves, but don’t embrace a pot belly that is damaging your health. How bad is that extra weight around your gut? This is what the Harvard Medical School about abdominal obesity;

Excess body fat has serious consequences for health. It’ associated with high levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides and low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. It impairs the body’s responsiveness to insulin, raising blood sugar and insulin levels. Excess body fat contributes to major causes of death and disability, including heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis, fatty liver, and depression.

Wow. That is a “Who’s who” of the leading killers in North America.

Scientists are studying this closer to better understand why fat around the abdomen is so destructive. The first thing we should do is separate fat into two categories; 1. Subcutaneous fat and 2. Visceral fat.

Subcutaneous fat is the fat that lies just beneath the skin. Reach down your, give yourself a little pinch on your “love handles” and you have found subcutaneous fat. This sort of fat pretty much looks the same throughout the body. And while this fat is not always healthy, it is not necessarily the culprit of poor health issues.

Visceral fat is the fat that is within the abdomen, surrounding the internal organs, and is a danger to the body because of lipotoxicity. As the Harvard Medical School points out;

Unlike subcutaneous fat, visceral fat cells release their metabolic products directly into the portal circulation, which carries blood straight to the liver. As a result, visceral fat cells that are enlarged and stuffed with excess triglycerides pour free fatty acids into the liver. Free fatty acids also accumulate in the pancreas, heart, and other organs. In all these locations, the free fatty acids accumulate in cells that are not engineered to store fat. The result is organ dysfunction, which produces impaired regulation of insulin, blood sugar, and cholesterol, as well as abnormal heart function.

How do you know if you may have a problem? The best way to determine if you have an issue with body fat is to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) test completed by your doctor. While the test is not perfect, it is comprehensive enough for you to begin taking actions to bring your health in line with where it should be.

BMI’s are expensive, and a simpler test is using a waist circumference test. These tests are more prone to failures because it only takes into consideration one metric, the waist, Nonetheless, it is a simple test and can give you the guidance as to whether you need to take steps to change your health.

Table: Waist Circumference and Your Risk

Waist Circomference test

If you fall within an intermediate of high risk category, schedule some time to have a frank with your family doctor about your health. The best and only way to lose visceral fat is to increase the burning of calories through exercise and to decrease the caloric intake of food.

For more information on this topic, please read this article from Harvard Medical School.

Can Cinnamon Improve Your Health?

A few years ago, I wrote an article about a study that featured some promising news about cinnamon and its ability to control blood sugars. This news was expected to be a huge boon for diabetics, people struggling to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and those wishing to lose weight. As an update to this story, all I can report at this time is that subsequent studies have not shown cinnamon to help groups of people other than diabetics. In other health related research, studies have proven inconclusive as to whether cinnamon is useful in lowering cholesterol, treating yeast infections, and HIV.

This isn’t all bad news. It is known that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties, is a power antioxidant, and anti-bacterial properties. That means cinnamon can still be used to help prevent and treat a host of ailments, including heart disease, stroke, and gastrointestinal ailments. So, don’t give up on cinnamon, because research is still being done and this powerful little spice will likely play a part in a healthier you.

Are you looking for some easy ways to add cinnamon into your diet? If you are a fan of Mediterranean cooking, you’ll recall that cinnamon is used in several North African savory dishes. Look for Moroccan recipes and you will likely find cinnamon as a featured spice.

  • Add a teaspoon to your coffee grounds before it is brewed.
  • Add a little to popcorn
  • Add a teaspoon to hearty vegetable soups and beefy stews
  • Try a sprinkle on roasted vegetables, such as hard winter squashes, sweet potatoes, and cauliflower.
  • A little on fresh fruit, such as apples, peaches, and pineapple, will enhance the natural sweetness of the fruit.

Add a little to you roasted meat seasoning and you’ll see that cinnamon is a versatile spice.

Let us all know if you have a favorite way to add cinnamon into your diet.


Whoa! Slow Down: Eating Slowly Is Good For You.

Did your mother ever tell to slow down when you ate? I know that there were times my mother considered giving me and my brother a shovel to eat with during dinner. As growing boys, it seemed like we could not get enough to eat, nor get that food down our gullets fast enough. Fortunately, for our health and dinner time decorum, my brother and I now no longer need the thousands of extra calories and we consume our food at a much slower speed. And while I think my mother was telling me to slow down because she wanted to instill good table manners in me, she was doing me a favor.
In a study released by the American Heart Association, researchers have found that people who eat too fast, are more likely to become obese and develop metabolic syndrome diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Fast eaters were 11.6% more likely to develop these diseases than slower eaters. It is believed the reason for this is that there is a time lapse between when you are “full” to when your brain registers that your appetite has been sated. So, by eating faster, the eater is more likely to consume more calories before they realize that they are full.

Metabolic syndrome conditions occur when a person has three or more of these measurements:

  • Waistline larger than 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women.
  • Triglycerides levels of 150 milligrams or more.
  • “Good” HDL cholesterol levels of less than 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women.
  • High blood pressure, with the top number at 130 or more and the bottom number at 80 or more.
  • Fasting blood sugar, or glucose, of 100 mg/dL or greater.

To read more about this study and others, take a look at this report from the American Heart Association here.

6 Foods For Your Brain

On Tuesday, I shared how greens are good for your brain (“Eat Your Greens. It’s Brain Food!“). Today I’ll share which are also good for the grey matter.

Let’s face it, keeping the brain healthy is just as important as keeping the rest of the body healthy. I doubt there is anyone who disagrees with that last sentence, but I do think many people are perplexed as to how we can keep cognitive functions clicking along at full speed. After all, we can feel our muscles getting stronger, and we can when out “guts” are well fed, but how do we know if our brains are being correctly exercised and fed? In future posts, I’ll discuss exercising the brain, but today the post is about feeding the brain.

In a Runner’s World article, six foods are given focus because of their brain protecting qualities. First item on the list is arugula, what I would consider a “stand in” for all leafy greens. (frankly, I would have chosen Swiss, but as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, “An Ode To Leafy Greens…”,  I’m a little biased) Arugula does a fantastic job of feeding the brain with loads of vitamin K, and can be easy found in grocery stores and served in restaurants.

Others on the list include:

  • Blueberries – could lower Alzheimer’s risks by 53%
  • Egg Yolks – Choline in yolks is beneficial in allowing brain cells to communicate more efficiently
  • Olive Oil – The antioxidant oleocanthal may play a part in the reduction of plaque formations in the brain
  • Salmon – The Omega 3’s in salmon help reduce inflammation and oxidation in the brain.
  • Walnuts – Like salmon, these nuts are rich in Omega 3 oils, and thus protect the brain.

For additional details on why these foods work for your brain, click on the Runner’s World link here. https://www.runnersworld.com/healthy-food/best-foods-brain-health

An Ode to Leafy Greens: Nutritional Values and How to Eat Them

photo created by the author

Yesterday’s post (Tuesday, 1/16/18, “Eat Your Greens. It’s Brain Food!”) I shared how adding a serving of leafy greens to your diet everyday is good for your brain. In today’s post, you’ll see the nutritional values for a variety of leafy greens that you’ll find in the marketplace, and some ideas of how you can consume greens other than in a salad.

For a while, kale has been written about with the title, “Super Food”. When you review the nutrition data associated with kale, “Super Food” is a title that is well deserved. But there is one problem with kale; many people don’t like the flavor. The bitter, astringent flavor of most kale is too strong for the palates of most folks. Personally, I like to add kale to a salad, but I rarely eat it alone. The question then becomes, what other leafy greens offer similar health benefits but not with the same bitter kale bite?

Nutritional values of leafy greens

Click on the table to expand it for better viewing.

I’ve been promoting the virtues Swiss chard to family and friends for years. Chard is a mild flavored green like spinach, but I believe chard has a lot more going for it than spinach. First off, chard is very easy to grow. The colorful leafy chard is very forgiving in a harsh growing environment, like where I live in Central Texas. Conversely, I have found spinach to be rather demanding, especially water consumption. Secondly, the nutritional profile of chard is outstanding. At a 100gr per serving, Swiss chard delivers 692% of the daily vitamin K needs (limits neural damage to the brain and promotes bone growth), 204% of the daily vitamin A needs (critical for good vision, bone growth, cell reproduction and cell growth, and thus supports a healthy immune system and skin), 50% of the daily vitamin C needs (powerful antioxidant that supports your immune system), 22.5% of your daily iron needs (nearly the same amount as spinach, and iron is a much needed supplement for many women) and powerful antioxidants such a beta carotene which turns into vitamin A once the phyto-nutrient is consumed. Why not swap one Super Food for another, and enjoy what you are eating.

Once you start to look at the nutritional profiles of leafy greens, I think you can make a good case as to why you should consider adding one or more of these vegetables into your diet. I suggest that you just eat one by itself, but instead mix them together like a salad because the different flavors and textures make for a satisfying meal. Personal tips: I like to add mustard greens to my salads. The sharp peppery-horseradish mustard flavor adds a punch of flavor to a mild lettuce salad. You don’t need too much to add a “wow” factor to your salad.

Here are some ideas on where to add greens into your diet:

  • Make a salad: This is obvious, and I already touched on this idea.
  • Make a sandwich or a wrap: Add mustard greens, spinach, and watercress to your next sandwich and give your next bite some extra crunch.
  • Add to soup: Hearty vegetable soups like minestrone pair well with collard greens, kale, and Swiss chard. Many Asian soup recipes pair well with bok choy and cabbages.
  • Stir-fry: Add chopped spinach, bok choy or Swiss chard to your stir fry.
  • Steamed: Steaming collard greens, mustard greens, kale or spinach until they are slightly soft.
  • Saute: Quickly saute your greens with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper.
  • In an omelet: One of my favorite ways to add greens to my diet. Saute the Swiss chard for spinach, then fold the greens into an omelet with tomatoes and little feta cheese. So good!

What are some other ways you have added greens to your diet. Please share your thoughts with the rest of us.


Eat Your Greens. It’s Brain Food!

Do you eat greens? Some people eat salads to manage their waistlines. Some eat greens because they want more fiber in their diet. Some folks, don’t think about leafy greens at all. Would you eat more greens if I told you greens are good for your brain? And that if you eat greens regularly, your brain could be younger by an average of 11 years compared to non-greens eaters.

In a study published in the magazine “Neurology”, researchers found that by increasing the daily consumption of greens by 1.3 servings a day, test subjects significantly slowed down their cognitive decline. For those who added the additional serving of leafy greens to their diet everyday slowing of cognitive decline such that their brains appeared to be 11 years YOUNGER that the test subjects who did not eat leafy green.

What is the relation of leafy greens to a younger brain? It is believed that the primary nutrients and bio-actives in leafy greens, vitamin K (phylloquinone), lutein, β-carotene, nitrate, folate, kaempferol, and α-tocopherol, play an essential part in keeping the brain healthy, and thus slowing the natural decline that comes with aging.

A healthy mind and body, in sync with each other, is a great way to live out your life.

If you would like to read more about this topic, you can find the study published in Neurology here 

The LIVESTRONG site also has some additional studies done on this topic and those studies back up the latest study. Check that out here.

Don’t Let YOU give up on YOU

Here is a little fitness inspiration. The picture and associated article are from Runner’s World. What you will read is a cool little story about how 50-year-old Molly Friel just qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials! That was not a typo, and YES, she kicked butt. Read her story at Runner’s World:

Reading this article inspires me to say, “Don’t let YOU give up on YOU”. Don’t give on your health. Don’t give up on your fitness. Don’t settle for the slow slide into obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other degenerative maladies. Don’t put yourself in the position where you look back 20 years from now and say, “If I had only done a little more exercise, I could now … enjoy my retirement… travel more… explore places I have never been…. play with my grandchildren.”

At 52 years old, I completely understand the challenges of a health and fitness routine. Can getting started on a fitness routine be difficult? Yes. Can staying vigilant of health issues be tiresome? Yes. I no longer bounce when I hit the floor. When I mix up my exercise routine, my muscles are now sorer for longer than when I was younger. But, I do believe that nothing worth gaining ever comes easy, and gaining and keeping your health is worth every sore muscle. Decide today that YOU won’t give up on YOU. I’m not saying that you need to run a marathon Molly Friel, but if you want to run in her footsteps, go for it! Molly is a great example as to why we shouldn’t let age define our health or our fitness.
If you don’t have an exercise routine today, think about it over the weekend, put together some simple plans, and get started. Starting is always the hardest part. Once you are in motion, you’ll keep moving. And don’t fret if your plans are too simple. Just move, and your health will fall into place. Plus, I’ll continue to provide you with new ideas each week and after a while, you’ll find the routine that works best for you.
I’ll have write more on this topic in the following weeks. Until then, I hope you all have a fantastic weekend, I hope you can enjoy some exercise, and if you cook this week’s food recipe, let me know how the recipe turned out for you.

Five Reasons Why People Overeat

Photo created by Wide-Body

In a well-done article, Parade magazine explores five reasons people overeat. What I like about this article is that the reasons given for why people overeat is because people have formed poor habits that they are likely unaware that they have. And because these same people are unaware they have these poor habits, they are also likely to be unaware of how the poor habit is impacting their ability to stop overeating. How many of these bad habits do you have? I know there is one habit in here that I was unaware of until I read this article.

The Five Reasons Why People Overeat are:

  1. Overestimating the value of exercise. The treadmill says you burned 500 calories, so you think that it is okay to supersize your next meal. Problem, exercise machines inflate the calories burned number.
  2. Your primary social activity is eating out. Large restaurant plates, alcohol, and good friend can lead to overeating, and you may not even be aware it is happening. Try an event that is more active with your group of friends.
  3. You need more sleep. A lack of sleep messes up your hormone levels, leading you to crave more food, and thus overeat. You can keep your appetite in check by getting more sleep.
  4. You eat food labeled as “healthy”. Here is a something I never considered; Some people subconsciously associate healthy food choices with being less filling, and thus over eat the healthy choices. Who knew? Not me. Portion control doesn’t go away just because you’ve made a healthy food choice.
  5. You are not eating enough fat. “Say what? Are you saying I need to eat more fried chicken?” Eating more fat doesn’t mean eating more fried foods. In the case of fried foods, much of the fat used in the frying is saturated fat, which goes straight to your belly and hurts the heart. Instead, the fats you need in your diet are unsaturated and found in foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, salmon, and olive oil. These fats add flavor to food AND satisfy your appetite

I have to say that I learned something new, and had a couple of suspicions verified. To read more details and see the opinions of experts cited in the please click here at parade.com.

Do you find articles like this helpful? Are there actions that you’ve taken in your own life that would be helpful to other people? If so, please share them as we would like to hear from you. Either make your comments below are send me a message through the contacts page. Thank you.

Does Ibuprofen Cause Male Infertility?

picture created by Wide-Body

The headlines on January 9th were essentially screaming, “Ibuprofen Linked to Male Infertility!”. When I see headlines read like that, then I know is the time to look for the devil in the details.

The study in question was published January 8th in the journal “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, and the key highlights from the study are:

  • In a small sample group of men (n=31, ages 18-35)
  • The men ingested 1200mg of ibuprofen every day for 6 weeks
  • At the end of six weeks, the men had a 23% increase in the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH). The rise in LH was noticed after just two weeks.
  • An increase in LH is indicative of problems within the testes.

It is important to note that the study did not measure sperm production and that testosterone levels of the men in the study remained normal.

Let’s also talk about the details that are important to not overlook:

  1. A sample of 31 men is very small. In medical research, it is not unusual to start with a small sample. If there are interesting results from the small sample, the researchers can then publish their results and make a case for why they need a larger budget. Once they have funding for a larger budget, the researchers can test a large sample and prove or dismiss the results of the small sample.
  2. 1200mg of ibuprofen a day, for two weeks or more. That is a lot of ibuprofen! 1200mg is the daily recommended limit, and if an ordinary citizen is taking that much ibuprofen everyday for two weeks straight, then that person really needs to be in the care of a pain doctor.

The lesson here is that more research needs to be completed on this topic, and that unless you need to be ingesting 1200mg of ibuprofen everyday for at two weeks, you should be safe to take ibuprofen as needed.

If you would like to read more about this study, the web site Live Science has done a nice job discussing the details, here.

Texas BBQ Can Be Healthy? YES! EAT MORE BRISKET!

photo from Kreuz Market. Get there. Now!

I’ve seen a lot of crazy health and food plans (Ever heard of the “ice cream diet”? Yes, there is such a thing) so when the latest “This is healthy!” trend comes across my desk, I’m more than a little skeptical. I’m sure you can imagine my thoughts when I saw the news headlines say “Texas BBQ Brisket is healthy!”. Yep, my first reaction was, “What are you talking about, Bubba?”

It turns out that Bubba may know a thing or two about brisket eating healthy. Research conducted by the good folks at Texas A&M University has identified brisket as having high levels of oleic acid, a fatty acid sometimes known as Omega 9. What is the big deal about oleic acid? That is the same fatty acid which is helpful in boosting your HDL (good) cholesterol and lowering your LDL (bad) cholesterol. It also turns out that brisket is one of the preferred trims of beef used in ground beef, and that means your next hamburger patty may not be all that bad for you. According to Dr. Stephen Smith, Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist, “Americans consume over 50 percent of their beef as ground beef…. Ground beef is not going to kill you. When you take the beef out of fat, it reduces LDL, but also reduces HDL. Our studies have shown that fat is a very important component of beef.”

This is where I need to temper expectations and say, “all things in moderation”. If you are having a problem with your cholesterol and you want to increase your oleic acid, there are other foods, and those healthy choices (olives, avocados) are probably what your doctor would prefer you eat. There are saturated fats in beef that are not good for you in excess, hence you shouldn’t overconsume beef daily. But please, do enjoy your next Texas style BBQ brisket. I know I will, and likely at Louie Mueller’s in Taylor. Or Style Switch in Austin. Maybe at Kreuz in Lockhart. Possibly Cooper’s in Llano. Oh wait, I still need to get to Snow’s in Lexington. Oh, sorry…. I got carried away, dreaming of succulent smoked meat.

If you want to read more about the Texas A&M study, click here: https://today.agrilife.org/2016/08/19/health-benefits-beef-brisket-discussed-texas-beef-cattle-short-course/?hootPostID=1483ce6c04e6213ddea5cee7742b8726

Do you want to learn more about oleic acid? The Livestrong foundation has a nice insightful post located here: https://www.livestrong.com/article/492098-omega-3-fatty-acids-peanuts/