the optimal amount of exercise

We finally have the truth.

If you've read my writing for any length of time, you'll see a few recurring themes about how much to exercise:

  • Generally speaking, it's important to get up and move around - being healthy assumes at least a little bit of fitness.
  • Diet is more important than exercise - it takes an almost un-doable amount of exercise to out-run you're poor eating choices. For example, running for an hour burns about 900 calories (give or take), while a single chicken burrito from Chipotle can cost you over 1,000 calories!
  • There's not a perfect amount of exercise - some is better than none, and consistent is better than inconsistent, but don't get caught up in the arms race of "most fittest". Breaking a sweat for 15-20 minutes a couple-few times a week goes a long way towards being healthy.
  • Fit and healthy doesn't guaranty longevity, but being overweight virtually guarantees you won't get there. (I've never found evidence of an obese centenarian.)

Interestingly, I read an article last week on FiveThirtyEight (a stats-nerd's dream website - those of you not familiar with it should check it out.) where they looked at the statistical differences among people who walk-jog-run different distances and at different speeds.

It's a long, deep, intensive article (and still worth reading!), but here's FiveThirtyEight's conclusion (emphasis mine):

"If we take this research at face value, we learn a few things. First, some exercise reduces your risk of death. Second, the optimal walking/jogging exercise is light to moderate jogging. The optimal speed is between 5 and 7 mph, and if you do 25 minutes about three times a week, you're all set. Nothing in the data suggests that running more - farther, or faster - will do more to lower your risk of death."

Wow! Statistical evidence, compiled by people far smarter than myself, who agree that exercise is connected to longevity, and that the arms race to most fittest isn't necessary. That's great news all the way around.

Eat a moderate amount of real food and get a moderate amount of exercise, and you'll have the statistical advantage of being healthy in your favor!

- Chris Butterworth


home made reusable ice packs

Sometimes you need an ice-pack.

Maybe your muscles are more sore than normal. Maybe you tweaked your hamstring or twisted your ankle. Maybe you have kids running around the house and want something on hand better than a bag of peas - just in case..

Here's the trick:

Mix 3 parts water with 1 part rubbing alcohol, and leave it in the freezer for when you need it.

The alcohol allows the bag to stay at very cold temperatures without freezing all the way. (or, if your freezer is super-cold and the bag freezes completely, it'll turn to slush pretty quickly at room temperature.) This lets the bag mold perfectly to your body, which makes it more effective than a bag of ice. (more surface area touching your body equals more cold.)

That's it. Simple as pie, and more effective than any other ice pack I've ever used.

Extra Tips

  • Triple-Bag - I poured the mixture into a zip lock bag, and then "triple bagged" it to avoid any potential leakage onto the couch. We bring the bags with us in a cooler to soccer practices and games, and they have yet to spring a leak. (double bonus - they keep our drinks cold in the cooler while they're waiting to be used.)
  • Multiple Sizes - I have a few sandwich bag sized ice packs, and a one-gallon sized monster ice pack. Any size ziplock bag is fair game for an ice-pack bag.
  • Works Great in a Cooler - Now that you have a super cold, leak-free, re-usable ice bag, why not use them in your cooler to keep your food fresh, cold, and dry?
  • Don't place ice packs directly on your skin - I'm not a doctor, but I've read that the extreme cold directly on your skin can do more harm than good. (google more details if you'd like.) Put the ice over your clothing, or place a towel between the ice pack and your skin.

Giving Credit - my wife picked this trick up from the internet about a year ago; I can't find the original source. (but I know I wasn't creative enough to think of this!)

Hopefully you won't need these anytime soon. But it doesn't hurt to have a couple good ice packs on hand for when you do...

- Chris Butterworth


my diet starts next week

Have you ever heard someone talk about next week's diet, while gleefully shoving another piece of cake down their neck?

It's one thing to choose a future dated starting point because you want to get your ducks in a row before you start. Maybe you're spending time this week:
  • Researching calorie counts of the foods you eat most often.
  • Researching ideas and building a menu of foods you should be eating, or re-calibrating portion sizes of foods you already eat.
  • Tracking your current eating habits, to be more aware of potential pitfalls.
  • Clearing your pantry of the worst offenders and shopping for better alternatives.
  • Taking the first step forward with a 1, 2, 3 workout program.

It's another thing entirely if you're treating your future diet like a death sentence, and you need to get as much "living" in while you can. This sets you up for failure before you even start:
  • The 3-5 pounds you're going to gain this week is just that much more weight you'll need to take off later.
  • By making a big deal out of each glorious dessert, you're strengthening your desire for "bad" foods, which will make it that much harder to put them down later.
  • You're treating the upcoming diet as a temporary diet, rather than a long-term modification of eating habits to a more healthy lifestyle.

Treating a diet like a diet - like die with an extra t on the end of it - is a mindset doomed for failure. If that's your gameplan, save yourself the complaining and just forget about it.

You'll be successful when you can embrace a new, healthier lifestyle - one that you're planning on keeping for the rest of your life. Think slow and steady, small changes, and an overall healthier and fitter you. And then get started - whether that's today or next week doesn't matter.

- Chris Butterworth


the scale tells the truth, and the scale lies

When you're trying to lose weight, or even when you're trying to maintain your current weight, one option is to weigh yourself regularly, so you can see the progress you're making towards your goal.

The Scale Tells the Truth

Regardless of what what nutrition plan you're on, or how much exercise you did, or how hard you're trying - the scale tells you how much you weigh, and that number is a fact. The scale is the final arbiter of measuring your success. Whatever the scale says, goes. You're either successful, or your not.

Ultimately, if you're consuming fewer calories than you're burning, you will lose weight and the number on the scale will be smaller over time. Week after week, month after month - one of the great pleasures is to watch the scale honor your efforts by rewarding you with smaller numbers.

The Scale Lies

HOWEVER, if you weigh yourself everyday, you may see large fluctuations in the numbers that seem completely random - in no way related to the work you did yesterday.

You ate perfectly yesterday and worked out for 30 minutes? This morning the scale is up 1 lb.

You ate ok yesterday, but not great? Today the scale is down 1 lb.

You binged on a big dinner yesterday and skipped your workout? The scale shows no change.

My Scale

I step on the scale every morning, first thing. I wake up, hit the restroom, and step on the scale. This way my body is always in the same state - no extra food or fluids, no sweating, no change in clothing weight - just me at the beginning of the day. And my weight fluctuates 2-3 lbs over the course of a week!

my bathroom scale, ordered earlier this year from amazon.com

I'm in maintenance mode right now - I'm exercising a few times a week and I'm not trying to gain or lose weight, and yet my weight fluctuates from one day to the next. This used to bother me, because in my mind I wanted to weigh X pounds, and I rarely seem to land on X. I'll be a pound over X on one day, and then 0.4 lbs under X the next day, but almost never X.

So I've gotten used to living within a range of X-ish, and I'm satisfied as long as I'm within that range. When I'm near the low end of the range for a couple days in a row, I give myself permission to eat a little bigger. Whenever I bounce to the top end of the range, I double-down and eat smaller for a couple days.

But over the long term, week after week, I keep the number within that range, daily fluctuations and all.


The scale might fluctuate over a range of a few pounds from day to day, to the point where you might question your diet and exercise regime. Don't get discouraged, and don't change you're approach. If you're patient, and continue to do good work, the scale will reward you on a weekly and monthly basis.

Count your calories. Pay attention to what you eat. Eat real foods in moderation. Move your body with active and passive exercise. And watch the scale over the long term; it'll tell you the truth.

- Chris Butterworth


Mexican food - ordering small against peer pressure

We ate out for Mexican food this weekend. Ah, Mexican food - one of my favorites, but I don't think there's a more gluttonous menu out there! Eating out at a Mexican food restaurant can be a big setback; it's one of those meals where you can get to 3,000 calories without trying too hard.

image clipped from Ajo Al's website.

But I had a plan. I ate small for breakfast and lunch, saving myself some extra calories in my daily budget. And I knew we'd be cooking at home the next couple days, so I'd be able to eat smaller and healthier portions as a follow-up if necessary.

I also planned to order small, knowing there's always plenty of food on the table anyway, in case I needed a little extra. I ordered a shredded beef taco with a side of beans, estimating 300-400 calories for the taco and 150-200 for the beans. Add in the chips and salsa before the meal and whatever I sampled from my wife's and kids' plates, and sticking with water to drink, and I shouldn't be too far past 1,000 calories for the meal.

  • Dieting Note - If you limit yourself to 10-12 chips w/ salsa, then eat the beef taco w/ beans, you can walk away from the meal at about 600-700 calories - totally doable even when dieting, as long as you budget for it within your day. Just make sure to avoid the dips and heavy sauces (guacamole, sour cream, queso dip, baja sauce), combo plates, and sugary drinks (sodas, margaritas).

The hardest part about the whole meal was not succumbing to peer pressure when ordering. I ordered an a la cart beef taco w/ a side of beans, and everyone at the table (including the waitress) looked at me like I had a 3rd eye. "Is that all you're going to eat?" was the common question.

I wavered, just for a moment, thinking about how good the tacos would be and whether I should order a 2nd, or maybe add a chicken enchilada (covered in sauce) to the plate. Nope - my order was good, and I was sticking to it. Funny looks or not.

Make a good plan, and stick to it - even under peer pressure, and you'll be successful.

- Chris Butterworth


irony and healthy thoughts at the grocery store

Garfield was my favorite comic when I was a kid. I remember one particular strip where that lazy, gluttonous, overweight feline came across a box of diet chocolate candy and thinks to himself, "Hmmm, not bad. A couple more boxes of these and I'll be skinny as a rail."

That's not exactly how it works, but I frequently hear and see people act this way.

Yesterday I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work, and came across two women who were making a pastime out of gossiping about what was in various shoppers' carts after they had passed by. But you know what they say about people who live in glass houses...

These women, to their credit, had carts full of healthy foods. Mostly meats, fruits, vegetables, and unsweetened drinks, from what I could see. The irony, though, was the women themselves. Each was significantly overweight, and neither looked like they could get up a flight of stairs without taking a break half-way.

The whole episode was odd, and got me to thinking:

Getting healthy is a process: Maybe these women had already lost a lot of weight, and they're well on their way to their goal weight. They could be so tuned in to what they are eating that it really bugs them to see others eating poorly. Maybe.

Weight is the first marker of healthy: We can argue about one type of food being healthier than another, but we can't argue with this: One thing all centenarians have in common. People live into their 100s with a wide range of diets, but nobody gets to that age by being obese.

Eating healthy opens your eyes: It's true that once you become aware of exactly what you're eating, you start to notice just how many bad choices are available - they're everywhere you look!

Be nice: People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, and when you point your finger there are three fingers pointed back at you. Be nice. Be friendly. Be respectful. It's just better that way.

- Chris Butterworth


Nike introduces Flyease

Nike gets 5 stars for this one.

Today marks the release of the Nike Flyease - a new kind of shoe, and the first time I can remember being impressed by a shoe company doing something good. Really good. Something which will impact people's lives in a meaningful way.

Check out the full story on Huffington Post - the fact that a high school student with cerebral palsy helped to initiate the project, and then become part of it, is simply awesome.

I've always loved Nike's slogans and marketing pieces, but I've been critical of Nike (the company) for years.

I don't like that they changed (created) the running shoe industry into what it is today, brainwashing people into believing they need expensive hi-tech running shoes in order to run properly, when the company doesn't have a single study showing this to be true.

I don't like that they changed the common expectation that sports shoes should cost well over $100 per pair. Once Air Jordans gained momentum in the 1980s, the price tags moved up permanently.

And I don't like that over the last few years, as there's been push-back from the running community towards more minimalist shoes, Nike has responded by offering a running shoe which they marketed along the lines of "as close to being barefoot as possible", for $140. Last time I checked, my bare feet didn't cost that much.

Today, with the release of the Flyease, I'm standing in Nike's corner.

Teenagers and young adults with special needs (and their parents) face challenges every day from things you wouldn't even think about. A person may be smart, motivated, friendly, and have a lot to offer the world, but if that person's fingers don't work as well as yours and mine, he'll have to make choices:
  • Do I wear the elastic waist pants that I can pull up and down by myself, because independence is a big deal? Or do I wear the "normal" pants (and need help with the button and zipper), because looking different from everybody else sucks?
  • Do I wear slip-on shoes so I can be independent? Or should I wear "regular" sneakers like all the other kids, except I can't tie them myself?
  • And on and on. People want to fit in with their friends and peers, regardless of the challenges they face.

Nike is working to give people shoes that can be both - cool shoes like everyone else is wearing that are also easy to open and close. Kudos to Nike.

Hopefully I'll be able to pick up a pair online this morning for my son before they sell out. Wish me luck..

- Chris Butterworth


fruit juicee - orange apple banana

I've been drinking a fruit juicee most mornings lately, ever since I received a Magic Bullet as a birthday gift last month. I say juicee rather than smoothie, because I'm not adding any milk, yogurt, granola, or anything else to the recipe. This is nothing but fruit and juice, pure and simple:


  • Orange Juice - 8 oz
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Apple (cored, with or without the skin. Using the skin provides more fiber and antioxidants, but it also makes the consistency/texture of the juicee a little thicker.)
  • Ice (optional) - just a bit


  • Put all the ingredients into a Magic Bullet cup
  • Screw on the blade cap
  • Blend until juicee'd
  • Enjoy

Nutritional Information

  • The juicee will have approximately 300-350 calories, depending on the size of the banana and apple.
    • 110 calories Simply Orange orange juice (I switch between Simply Orange, Tropicana, and Minute Maid - whichever is on sale.)
    • 121 medium banana (per calorieking.com)
    • 93 medium apple (per calorieking.com)
  • I've been replacing my morning bowl of cereal with a juicee, so the trade-off is about equal, only I'm adding Mother Nature's real food and I'm removing grocery-store-boxed-food-with-unpronounceable-ingredients from my mornings.

Give this Orange Apple Banana Fruit Juicee a try and let me know what you think..

- Chris Butterworth

Promotional Disclosure - This is not a product review of nor am I receiving any payments from Magic Bullet. I simply use their product almost everyday. The links to Magic Bullet in this article are, however, associated with my amazon account.


knowing when to stop eating

If you're bummed after eating your last bite, because your food tasted so good and you wish there was more to eat, that's good.

If you push your plate away while saying you can't eat another bite, that's bad.

Even better is to learn to understand how much food your body really needs, and to be able to *feel* when you've eaten enough.

1,400 - 1,500 calories per day (while losing weight) isn't a lot, and it's really not a lot when eating restaurant food. Being able to eat a small portion, and to end the meal while it still tastes great (or to have a smaller portion served) is the key to weight loss victory.

Eating slowly and chewing your food really well helps. So does walking away from the table once you've eaten your 500 calorie meal.

- Chris Butterworth


MLS - give me something to cheer for

I've been reading lately about the MLS's (Major League Soccer) connundrum regarding attendance and tv ratings.

The MLS has a vibrant fan base who attend games en masse. They have multiple franchises who average more attendance per game than many MLB teams, and league-wide their attendance numbers are on par with those of the NBA and NHL.

Major League Soccer also has a fan demographics that bodes well for their future - it's extremely popular with fans under 34 years old, hispanics and other non-white Americans, and its fanbase has a higher average income than most other sports.

Yet, despite all this fervent support, their TV ratings are dreadful. They're being lapped by every other American sport, as well as by English soccer.

And I'm part of their problem. I'm an ardent soccer fan - I play soccer, my son plays soccer, we talk soccer, we play soccer video games, and we watch soccer on tv. We just don't watch MLS games.

I can't speak for everybody else, but here are three reasons why I haven't watched more than a couple of MLS games on tv:

1.) Nobody to root for

Phoenix doesn't have a team, so who do I root for?

LA Galaxy? I've spent 4 decades hating the Lakers and Dodgers. Now I'm supposed to cheer for LA..? Nope.

Seattle Sounders? With the current Cardinals - Seahawks rivalry, and the history between UA and UW, WSU, and Gonzaga? Nope.

Portland Timbers? I'm still mad at the Trailblazers' knocking the Suns off in the early 90's. Nope.

Houston Dynamo? Another Texas team? No thanks.

If MLS had a franchise in Phoenix, I'd watch every game and pay front row attention to the league. But as it stands today, I don't have a rooting interest in any of the teams, and the league is kind of an afterthought.

2.) Inconsistent tv times

My week is too busy to hunt for the game times & channels, and then rearrange my plans around it. I might find some interest if there was a game time that became part of my weekly routine, but I don't have enough interest to hunt and search.

3.) Inconsistent tv teams

Trying to learn the players of every team on a sporadic basis is too hard. It would be better if I could see the same team consistently; I could learn their players quickly, and those of its opponents over time.

This builds on #s  1 and 2 above. If I don't have a rooting interest, and I'm not watching a lot of games, I'm not developing a familiarity with many of the players, which makes it even less interesting to watch.

The English Premier League, on the other hand, signed a deal with NBC two years ago, and we've become fluent in the whole league over that time.

We don't have reasons *not* to root for any particular team, so my son and I each picked a couple teams to keep our eyes on.

The games are on tv every Saturday morning like clockwork. We either watch them live if we're home, or we record them and watch them later in the day when there isn't anything else going on.

And because we can watch the same teams over and over again (since ALL games are broadcast), we quickly learned the various players, coaches, and styles - not just of our own teams but of the teams throughout the league.


The MLS is doing a lot of things right, and its long-term future looks bright. But if they can't get a soccer loving fan in the country's 7th biggest market to watch any of their games, they have plenty of room for improvement.

- Chris Butterworth


US wins Women's World Cup

Congratulations to the US Women's National Team, who scripted a perfect ending to the Independence Day weekend by avenging their bitter shoot-out loss to Japan in 2011's championship game in a big way - blowing the game open early in route to a 5-2 whooping.

This was a terrific example for all of us - of what's possible with dedication to a goal. Long term, hard work, consistency, discipline, laser focus, day after day...

It led the USWNT to be World Champions. What can it do for you?

- Chris Butterworth


tasty pork and vegetable stew

My wife & I made this fresh and healthy stew for dinner last week. Preparation took a little more time and effort than I would normally prefer, but the end result was awesome - absolutely delicious, and it made enough to serve a great meal and a couple days' worth of leftovers!

Pictured here as leftovers, because I rarely remember to take pictures while cooking!

Ingredients List
  • 2 lbs boneless pork chops
  • 3 large russet potatoes
  • 3 bell peppers of different colors. (we used red, yellow, and orange.)
  • 6 stalks of celery
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1/2 yellow onion (you can use more; I don't really love onions tho.)
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 can (14 oz) low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • vegetable oil

  • Cube the pork into bite-sized pieces
  • Peel and cube the potatoes into similar sized pieces.
  • Mix the sauces and spices into a bowl and stir until well mixed.
  • Brown the pork in a large pot, with a little bit of oil; set aside once browned.
  • Brown the potatoes in the same pot until they're just a little bit crispy on the outside.
  • While the potatoes are browning, slice the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
  • When the potatoes get a bit crispy, toss the vegetables into the pot with the potatoes. Add another splash of oil if needed.
  • Cook the vegetables for 5-8 minutes or until they start to get soft.
  • Add the pork and sauces to the pot with the vegetables. Bring it all to a boil, then let it simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serving and Nutritional Information
  • Makes 8 servings
  • 378 calories per serving (estimated using the LoseIt app)
  • Protein - Carbs - Fat Breakdown: Yes, it has all of them. I don't keep track of how many grams of each I eat; I'm more concerned about eating reasonably sized portions of real food, and this definitely fits that bill.
  • Total cost: approx $20, depending on the varying prices of the ingredients and how much of the sauces and spices you already have on hand..

Let me know what you think if you try this one, or if you have a different recipe you'd like to share. Otherwise, happy eating!

- Chris Butterworth


the 1, 2, 3 getting started plan

With today being the first of the month, and the first day of the 2nd half of the year, I thought I'd share a simple idea to get started down the road to fitness. Here's a simple routine to get off the couch and work lots of different muscle groups in a short amount of time:

Push-ups, Sit-ups, Squats

  • July 1st - do one of each. That's it, just one.
  • July 2nd - do two of each.
  • July 3rd - do three of each.
  • and so on.
  • Each day, add one more of each exercise to what you did yesterday - you'll do the same number of each exercise as the day of the month.
  • It doesn't matter if you do them all in one set, so long as you do them all on that day. For example, on the 20th:
    • do 20 in a row, all in one set. Or,
    • do as many as you can, take a short rest, and then continue. Take as many breaks as needed to get to 20. Or,
    • do 10 in the morning and 10 in the evening.
    • As long as you 20 of each exercise on the 20th, you're on target!

The first few days may seem easy. That's OK - half of the battle is mental, and simply getting motivated to do the exercises is just as important as the physical exercises themselves. You're changing habits and building routines, which isn't easy in and of itself. Just relax and keep at it - it'll get physically demanding soon enough.

By the end of the month you'll be doing 31 push-ups, 31 sit-ups, and 31 squats in a single day. (and you will have done 496 of each during the course of the month!) This will be a great starting point to build from next month.

Remember - the goal is long-term health and fitness. You're not going to completely change your body this month; you're simply making forward progress down the path of creating a better you. Six months from now, a year from now, 5 years from now - it won't matter whether you started with 1 push-up or with 100; if you exercise consistently you'll be "fit".

Now go get after it!

- Chris Butterworth


links I like - 07-31-12

links I like - 07-31-12

This was another interesting week for reading - I'm happy there are so many blogs and websites worth reading out there. You'll notice a heavy slant towards the minimalist-barefoot camp this week; I didn't plan it that way - it's just how it worked out.. Please read on, and enjoy.

Caveman vs Podiatrist, via Christopher McDougall. This is a 6:47 video you simply have to watch. Not only does it sum up the "minimal vs padded" running shoe argument, but it clearly shows the changing of the medical community's thought process. My guess is a decade from now you'll see "walking barefoot" prescribed more than "custom fit othotics"..

Adventure Report - Grand Canyon, via Barefoot in Arizona. This is a terrific report/review/how-to guide from his weekend trip down the Grand Canyon, along with some amazing photos. I haven't hiked the Canyon in 30+ years, but this post made me itch for another trip...

Meet Tune Footwear: Barefoot-Friendly Dress Shoes, via BirthdayShoes.com. I've been looking for a quality zero-drop dress shoe for 2+ years, and it looks like an answer isn't too far away. If you're in the same boat, click through and take the 1-minute survey at the end of this post, where the manufacturer is looking for feedback on colors and styles.

So What Are Grains? by KnowMyBody.com. Cade does a really good job of making a complex topic seem less like a chemistry lecture and more like a regular guy explaining something. It's interesting information, and it's useful information, which you can digest (bad pun intended), modify if necessary, and apply to your own nutrition plan.

The Truth About Food Additives - Infographic, via NaturallyEngineered.com. This little infographic might be a big eye opener for some people. I didn't cross reference or double check the sources, so I'm not going to vouch for the accuracy of every detail. But it reminds me of a basic concept of healthy eating - If you can't pronounce the ingredients, you probably shouldn't eat them!

Have a great week!

-Chris Butterworth


should grains be part of a healthy diet?

should grains be part of a healthy diet?

Common wisdom says grains are good for you. Think about it - what comes to mind when you hear about a "whole grain muffin" or "7 grain bread"? You know they're healthy; you just hope they taste good too, right?

Internet wisdom says otherwise. (while there are plenty of crackpots out there on the interwebs, it's also the place where forward-thinkers have a forum, and it pays to watch trends develop before they become mainstream..)

There are multiple websites out there dedicated to a life without grains. Nerd Fitness and Marks Daily Apple are two of my favorites. Read these, and you'll read terrific websites authored by smart people, with a boatload of good information.

Last week I read a series of articles, written by Cade over at Know My Body, which made me take a 2nd look at grains. A long, hard, careful look at why I eat them and what's their place in my diet.

Are grains healthy?

Here's a better question - can you eat grains and be healthy?

Let's define healthy.

My short answer is yes, depending on how you define healthy. I define healthy as being at the right weight for your frame, which allows your body to function efficiently, and to have your blood pressure, cholesterol, and resting heart rate within "healthy" ranges.

I know multiple people who have lost weight and moved their blood test results into "good" numbers, while still eating grains of all types - wheat, rice, corn..

Moderation is Key

You won't make it to healthy if you can't stick to your plan, and you won't stick to your plan if it calls for excessive behavior.

Our bodies are designed to use the fuel we eat and dispose of any toxins. Unfortunately, most people eat so many extra calories, and so many toxins, that their bodies are constantly in overdrive and can't keep up. Scale back the calories, and the rest will follow. Maybe some foods are better for you than others? Doesn't matter - your body will process them all if you give it some space to work with.

Know YOUR Body

Some people are highly sensitive to wheat. Others can't tolerate dairy. My oldest son can eat a little bit of corn (chips, tortillas, cereal), but too much corn gives him problems.

Each grain is different, and your body may work better with some grains than others. Heck, maybe 20 years of eating poorly has broken down some of your body's resistance to various compounds - now it's time to remove those compounds.

Calories Rule

Ultimately, calories rule. Eat fewer than you need, and your body will release fat to be used for energy. Eat too many, and your body will store the excess as fat. (the science can get a lot more complicated, but this is 90% of the discussion, which should be enough to get us to healthy.)

The funny thing about calories is that, once you start paying attention to them, you'll find your body likes the healthy calories better. 1,600 calories of Cheetos and Coke will leave you feeling run down and starving, while the same amount of calories from meats, nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables will be plenty to get you through the day.

Efficiency Comes with a Cost

Maybe it would be more healthy to eliminate grains completely. Maybe. But that extra health comes with a cost - your willingness to completely re-shape your diet. For many people, that cost can be the difference between success and failure.

If success is the end goal, I'd rather get there than not, even if it takes me a little longer than somebody else.

Biking a Mountain

Let's say you're at the bottom of a long, steep mountain road. Your goal lies at the top of that mountain, and all you've got to work with is your bicycle.

photo of Long's Peak in Estes Park, Colorado

I would pull my trusty Schwinn Ranger out of the garage and start pedaling. This is the off-the-rack mountain bike I bought at Target a few years ago, and it's what I use to ride all over the neighborhood with my kids. It has 18 gears, the lowest being so low I pedal one cycle and only go about a foot forward.

I could make it up that mountain, but it'll take me all day long - a full day of brutal effort.

image courtesy of schwinnbikes.com

What would happen if I upgraded to a top-of-the-line road bike? This Trek Speed Concept 9.9 might be the fastest thing on the road these days. It weighs about a third of my Schwinn, and is built from the ground up with efficiency in mind. I bet I could cut my riding time in half on this bad boy.

image courtesy of trekbikes.com

Now suppose I only had access to an old beach cruiser..? I don't think there's any way possible to get to the top of that mountain on that bike - simply not gonna happen.

beach cruiser as seen on bikesdirect.com

Wrapping Up

The top of the mountain symbolizes health & weight loss, which can seem like an uphill battle sometimes.

My Schwinn mountain bike represents one possible means to get to the top. Might not be the fastest, or the easiest. But once I'm up there, none of that matters. Same thing with health - being healthy and maintaining your weight is a long-term process; 5 years from now you won't care whether it took 3 months or 6 months to lose your initial 20 pounds - you'll be at the same point either way.

The Trek represents an all out lifestyle change. It costs almost $10,000 - a significant price. This is similar to the time and mental energy cost of committing to a hard-core workout plan or ultra-restrictive diet. Sure I can get to the top of the mountain faster, but for many people the $10 grand isn't worth it.

Beach Cruiser symbolizes the Standard American Diet (SAD) and Exercise Program. Simply put, it's impossible to get to the top of the mountain without a willingness to make some modest changes.

In the end, there are lots of different ways to summit your health and weight loss mountain. Personally, I look for the most efficient, biggest bang for the buck road to travel. Moderate exercise and sensible calories is enough to make it to the top, without having to turn my life upside-down.

I'm sure there are people willing to exercise more and eat less, but the view from the top is the same either way!

-Chris Butterworth


Fit-20 Workout 07-30-12

Fit-20 Workout 07-30-12

* Note - This is the final Fit-20 Workout in the 26-workout set. If you've been doing these, congratulations - you made it through a full round of short-but-intense workouts! I'm going to focus my attention more on the diet and nutrition side of the equation for the next couple months, but that doesn't mean you can't continue to workout. You can click here to see a list of all 26 Fit-20 Workouts. If you start at the beginning and do 3 per week, it will take you 2 months to get through the set. (and for anyone who's repeating, I'd be interested to hear how much better/faster/stronger you are the 2nd time through!)

For those new to the blog, the Fit-20 concept is simple: 20 minutes, wherever you are, with little or no equipment needed, so you can squeeze a full-body workout into your day without skipping sleep, skipping work, or skipping out on your family.

Today's Workout

Warm up (2-5 min) - wake your body up and get ready to go using whatever works best for you. Running in place, jogging, shadow boxing, dancing, jumping jacks - anything you want.


For time (or stop at 20 minutes, whichever comes first):

1.) Run 1/4 Mile

2.) 4 Rounds of:

3.) Run 1/4 Mile

Remember, Intensity matters - push yourself as hard as you can while staying safe.

How'd you do? Remember to log your results when you're done. Did you complete the circuit? How fast? Did you stop at 20 minutes? How far did you get? Write it down, so you'll have a benchmark to shoot for next time.

-Chris Butterworth


are you addicted to sugar?

are you addicted to sugar?

Author Damian Thompson thinks you are. In fact, he thinks 40% of Americans are addicted to sugar, making it the number one eating problem we face.

Thompson has a new book out titled "The Fix: How Addiction is Invading Our Lives and Taking Over Your World." I haven't yet read the book, but I'm going to quote him through an article at VancouverSun.com, "Why cupcakes are the new cocaine - ‘Sugar is our number one eating problem - I think 40 per cent of the population has some sort of addiction to it'.

are you addicted to sugar?

From the article:

Year after year, the West’s love affair with sugar intensifies. But we pay very little attention to our compulsive attitude to the stuff. This is partly because we don’t like to think about it - and partly because we’ve been misled into thinking that our consumption of saturated fat lies at the heart of obesity and eating disorders.

Increasing numbers of doctors think sugar does more harm to our arteries and our waistlines than fat. So does the restaurateur Henry Dimbleby, who runs the award-winning Leon chain of restaurants.

“Sugar is our number one eating problem - I think 40 per cent of the population has some sort of addiction to it,” he says.

“Watch what happens in an office when somebody walks in carrying a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. There’s a general squealing sound and everyone rushes over excitedly. You’d think someone had just arrived at a party with a few grams of coke. People descend on it in the same way.”

He then goes on to talk about the science of sugar, as well as some examples of sugar-goods in social settings..

We’ve known for years that refined sugar is also implicated in damaging the liver and kidneys and is the main cause of the worldwide spread of Type 2 diabetes.

Evidence published by Princeton scientists in 2008 demonstrates that rats can get addicted to sugar in the same way that they get addicted to cocaine and amphetamines. In contrast, there’s no such damning data in the case of fat. You may have a deep love of Kentucky Fried Chicken and get fat as a result, but you’re less likely to eat it until you feel sick.

Think back to the last office party you attended, and what was left over afterwards. I wonder if there has ever been an office “do” in which people had to clear away half-eaten boxes of chocolates — but didn’t need to throw away any sandwiches because they’d all been wolfed down.

I doubt it. Cake is occasionally unfinished because it’s filling. Even then, however, it tends to be saved for later rather than discarded, unlike the poor sandwiches. Super-sugary doughnuts, however, never make it to the end of the party. It would be interesting to know what proportion of sweet as opposed to savoury food ends up in the world’s bins.

Next the article talks about the food industry's introduction of new sugar-carrying devices: mini-bites, and the ever-more-ridiculous people get in their attempts to make up reasons why they need to stop by the desk at the office with the jar of mini-bites on it. (Of course I need to photocopy this blank piece of paper, and I'll take the long way to the copy machine so I can say hi to Suzy. Oh and what's this - Suzy has yummy snacks at her desk? How lucky for me!)

Should we worry? Yes — for several reasons. Cupcakes and mini-bites don’t just play havoc with our blood sugar levels: they reinforce the sense, very strong among hard-pressed urban professionals, that life is only bearable if we reward ourselves with endless “treats”. Yet we also feel guilty when we reward ourselves.

Where once people responded unconsciously to food cues, they now make conscious decisions not to respond, thereby feeling virtuous and deprived at the same time. And nobody can keep that up for long.

Should we be worried? Is the author right?

From personal experience, I've cut back the vast majority of my sugar intake - from as much as I could find, down to an occasional cookie or glass of lemonade. I strive for moderation, not perfection, so I don't feel guilty when I share a dessert or pour myself an after dinner drink..

That being said, I still walk by the Bucket-O-Red Vines at my office about 20 times a day. You know, the bucket that used to supply me with a couple handfuls of delicious licorice at a time. I'm happy to say I haven't reached for a single red vine since sometime back in February. But, I do hear the occasional call of the Siren, followed by a vision of eating the whole bucket at once!

Whatcha gonna do - I'm a recovering sugar-aholic.

-Chris Butterworth


Fit-20 Workout 07-27-12

Fit-20 Workout 07-27-12

The Fit-20 concept is simple: 20 minutes, wherever you are, with little or no equipment needed, so you can squeeze a full-body workout into your day without skipping sleep, skipping work, or skipping out on your family.

Today's Workout

Warm up (2-5 min) - wake your body up and get ready to go using whatever works best for you. Running in place, jogging, shadow boxing, dancing, jumping jacks - anything you want.


4 Rounds, for time (or stop at 20 minutes, whichever comes first), of:
Remember, Intensity matters - push yourself as hard as you can while staying safe.

How'd you do? Remember to log your results, so you'll have a benchmark to shoot for next time.

-Chris Butterworth


sitting, walking, running, sprinting - turning up the intensity

sitting, walking, running, sprinting - turning up the intensity

Picture this - you get home from work, change into your casual clothes, and let out a big sigh. Feels good to not be cooped up in an office. (even better if your coop is a cubicle.) Dinner is on the horizon, but you have 20-30 minutes of "you" time before you really have anything to do. And you have options...

1.) Sitting. You plop down on the couch and unwind with SportsCenter, the local news, or maybe even the Kardashians. (God help us.) Finding the remote, kicking up your feet, and occasionally flicking your thumb help you burn through about 5 calories. While your mind may get a chance to zone out, you certainly didn't do your body any favors with this choice.

2.) Walking. What if you get outside instead, and go for a 20 minute walk? Your body gets to move, to feel a different position and use different muscles from what you've been doing all day. Your eyes and ears pick up on the surroundings, and your mind gets cleared in a different, better way. You get back to the house before too long, but in the meantime you've burned 100-150 calories, and your mind and body are refreshed and upbeat. 

3.) Running. Forget the walk - instead you grab your shoes (or sandals) and head out the door for a run. You run fast - 2 miles if you're starting out, 2.5 miles at a pretty good clip, 3 miles if you're really cooking - fast enough that you're spent when the run is over. You get back to the house, but it takes you another 20 minutes to stop sweating. That's ok, though, because you feel great! You burned through 250-300 calories while running, plus another 150 or so while your body cooled off. Your full of adrenaline and endorphins, so you're in a good mood - tired, but happy and proud of yourself. You'll feel the effects of your run tomorrow too; your sore legs can act as a reminder that your body is using even more calories while it rebuilds your leg muscles!

4.) Sprinting. You go outside and run 100 yard sprints, over and over again. Sprint out 100 yards; walk back to the starting line. You can do the first couple one right after the other, but after a few of them you add a few seconds of resting between them. Sprint out, hard as you possibly can. Walk back, huffing and puffing. Stand at the starting line and wait a few seconds while you get psyched up for the next one. Repeat. You lose count of how many you've done, but it's been 15 minutes and you simply can't do any more, so you stop. You go inside, and feel the same benefits as you did from running. The difference is that tomorrow you'll feel your upper body being rebuilt as well. You burned even more calories, you pushed yourself harder, and you used more muscle groups, than any of the other three options. This was a great use of 15-20 minutes.


5.) Fit-20 Workout (Cross-Fit). Choose any 20-minute workout from the Fit-20 list and knock it out. These workouts hit your entire body - you're building muscle, burning fat, and giving your heart and lungs a cardio blast, all at the same time. Efficient and wonderful.

Bottom Line

There are two points I want to take away from this post:
  1. Anything is better than nothing. It all starts with getting up and moving.
  2. Intensity matters. But intensity is a relative term, different for each of us depending on our abilities. One person may be able to run an 8-minute mile without breaking a sweat, while another guy feels like he's going to explode at a 10-minute mile pace. (Newsflash - the 10-minute guy is getting a better workout.) Regardless of where you are on the fitness spectrum, you get better results if you're willing to push yourself.

Just do it.

-Chris Butterworth


a calorie is a calorie, part 2

a calorie is a calorie, part 2

Yesterday I wrote a post titled "a calorie is a calorie, mostly", in which I cited, quoted, and commented on an article written by David Katz about the concept that the calorie is a scientific unit of measurement - no different than a fathom or league (or mile, or pound.)

After I wrote my article, I read a piece by Brad Pilon called Confront your Assumptions. Brad's article introduces some additional information and ideas which make the entire topic worth investigating further..

Brad agrees that a calorie is a calorie, regardless of where it comes from, since a calorie is a specific unit of measurement. This is akin to saying a mile is a mile, regardless of where you are in the world.

However, he (correctly) points out that not all calories are made up of the same macro-nutrients. (ie: proteins vs fats vs carbs, and all their various forms).

This is like saying the makeup of every mile is not the same. For example, if it's an uphill walk from Point A to Point B, then it's a downhill walk from Point B to Point A. Travelling from Point A to Point B will be more difficult, slower, and require more energy than travelling from Point B to Point A - even though they are both exactly one mile.

Going back to the macro-nutrients, your body will operate most efficiently if you give it the calories it needs, when it needs them, made of the right combination of macro-nutrients. This is important, no - critical, for the 1% of our population whose livelihood depends on their body working at maximum efficiency (top level athletes, mostly).

For the rest of us 99% ers, it's more important to get the right balance of calories in vs calories out, and let our bodies do what they were designed to do - consume, process, store, and burn calories for energy. Burning more than you consume will cause weight loss; consuming more than your burn will cause weight gain.

The rest of Brad's article discusses the sometimes faulty assumptions we make when analyzing a diet or exercise program, especially when marketers help paint our assumptions. And he makes some good points, especially with the photos he included.

Critical thinking
  • Does a calorie really equal a calorie?
  • Does the person in the advertisement really use the program being advertised?
  • Did the person in the advertisement really get to look that way because of the program being advertised?
  • Are the Before and After pictures completely untouched?
  • Could the person in the Before and After pictures have achieved these results using any other method? (was it the method used, or the person's dedication, which caused the changes?)

Bottom Line

It seems to me that we (the internet community) get really worked up about the things which have a true impact on a very small percentage of the population. Our ancestors - from our grandparents all the way back to our prehistoric relatives - never cared about carbs vs protein. They just ate - enough to fuel up for tomorrow's work, but not in excess.

For the vast majority of us, a calorie is a calorie.

-Chris Butterworth