5 things I learned from my Dad

5 things I learned from my Dad

sunrise over the arizona desert

  1. Get up and Go. Pick a direction and move. Get more done before 9am than most people do all day.
  2. Have Conviction. Have an opinion. Believe in yourself. Let your beliefs guide your path.
  3. Be Friendly. Treat everyone with respect, from the guy in the penthouse to the guy opening the front door.
  4. Live Life on your terms. Life is fickle, and can end suddenly and without warning. Live life without regrets. Tell people you love, you love them. Better yet, show them.
  5. Get Outside. It's just better out there.

Happy Birthday, Dad. We all miss you.

-Chris Butterworth


men average 335 calories per day from sugar

men average 335 calories per day from sugar

From a story last month in usatoday: Adults consume 13% of calories from added sugars.

Sugar added to our food and drinks accounts for 13% of our calorie intake.

  • Men: 335 calories per day
  • Women: 239 calories per day
  • Boys: 362
  • Girls: 282

From the article:
"The latest findings are from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is considered the gold standard for evaluating food and beverage habits because the data come from in-person interviews about dietary habits. These results are from interviews with about 15,700 adults, ages 20 and older, conducted from 2005 to 2010.
About two-thirds (67%) of added sugars come from food; the other third (33%) from beverages.
"These results may underestimate the actual sugar intake because people may add sugar to cereal in the morning and to beverages such as coffee and tea," says the study's lead author Bethene Ervin, a nutritional epidemiologist with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A similar study by Ervin and colleagues, out last year, showed that kids and teens are downing about 16% of their daily calories (322 calories) from added sugars. Boys consume 362 calories a day from them; girls, 282 calories.
Added sugars include white sugar, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, molasses and other caloric sweeteners.
Added sugars include all sugars used as ingredients in prepared and processed foods and beverages, such as cakes, candy, cookies, muffins, jams, chocolates, ice cream, sodas, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, coffee, tea, flavored milk and alcoholic beverages.

This isn't anything we didn't already know (see 5 steps to reducing your caloric intake), but it is another great reminder of how easily those snacks and processed foods can be the difference between losing and gaining weight.

A couple hundred calories could be the difference between being 100 calories under budget or 100 calories over budget - either losing a pound per month, or gaining a pound a month! (200 calories' worth of food - photo essay)

Eliminate sugars; eliminate calories. This is one of the low-hanging fruits, and should be one of the first things you do on your journey to losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle.

-Chris Butterworth

5 ways planning ahead makes success easier

5 ways planning ahead makes success easier

Have you ever gotten all ready the night before, so that all you had to do in the morning was get up and go? It makes the morning so much easier, since you're not wasting time or energy thinking about what needs to be done, or what clothes to wear, or where all the pieces of your project are. Instead, you do what needs to be done, and you do it well.

If you've done this before, try making it a habit. If you haven't; give some of these a try:

1.) Working out in the morning. Spend a few minutes the night before getting ready for your workout. Lay out your clothes, shoes, and any other gear you'll need. Juice, coffee, or a piece of peanut butter toast? Have it ready to go as well. Write down exactly what route you're going to run, or what workout you're going to do. Then, when your alarm goes off, just get up and do it. No thinking required. No time constraints. No excuses. By the time your mind wakes up, you'll be halfway through the hardest part of your day!

yoga man
microsoft clipart

2.) Preparing dinner. Knowing what you're going to have for dinner tomorrow can eliminate a lot of stress if you're trying to feed a number of people. Anything you can do to pre-prep the food helps even more. Some of the easiest evenings at our house are when we've prepared food for a slow-cooked meal the night before, then simply dumped everything into the crockpot in the morning and headed off to work. We come home that night to a fully cooked meal - no effort required!

3.) Making lunch. Packing lunch the night before practically guarantees victory, at least for me. Lunch is the meal where I'm most likely to make a spur of the moment bad decision and put down far too many calories, either because I decide to join others and go out to a restaurant (big portions), or because I'm in a hurry and hit the drive-through (bad food). Having my lunch pre-made and waiting for me eliminates both of these temptations.

4.) Getting dressed (or more specifically, picking out what you'll wear.) If you're new to preparing the night before, this is a great place to get started. For me, this isn't a big time saver - I grab a shirt and a pair of pants and I'm ready. But for my wife (or anyone who puts more thought into what they wear than I do), who can easily spend five minutes looking for what to wear, this helps make the rest of her morning a lot less stressful, as those extra five minutes come in handy when it's time to get out the door.

5.) Get your To Do list in order. This one is huge for me. Having a plan of attack when I wake up in the morning is usually the difference between a proactive, getting-things-done day, and a reactive, getting-sidetracked-by-email-and-other-webstuff day.

I've learned over the years that the more of these I do, the better my days go.

Does planning ahead take a little extra time and energy in the evening? Of course. However, it isn't any extra time and energy, because you'll have to do those things anyway tomorrow. In fact, I've found doing these things ahead of time takes less time and energy that it does the next day, since you don't have multiple distractions pulling you in different directions at the same time.

So give it a try. Plan ahead for tomorrow, and let me know how it goes. And if you have some good planning ahead tips, please share in the comments below..

-Chris Butterworth


200 Calories' worth of food - photo essay

200 Calories' worth of food - photo essay

I saw a photo essay over at boredpanda.com, showing pictures of 200 calories' worth of 63 different foods, and I wanted to share some of what jumped out at me.

Here are 4 things I noticed about 200 calories:

1.) You can eat lots of fruits and vegetables for less than 200 calories.

Apple Slices
apple slices - 200 calories

carrots - 200 calories

broccoli - 200 calories

grapes - 200 calories

2.) Simple, whole foods - without toppings and fillers, can go a long way on 200 calories.

pasta - 200 calories

turkey - 200 calories

Black beans
black beans - 200 calories

eggs - 200 calories

3.) Toppings, fillers, and sugars add up fast.

butter - 200 calories

Blackberry pie
blackberry pie - 200 calories

M & Ms
M & Ms - 200 calories

Canola oil
canola oil - 200 calories

Peanut butter
peanut butter - 200 calories

4.) Some junk food is ok, as long as you control your portion size

Snickers bar
snickers bar - 200 calories

cheeseburger - 200 calories

doritos - 200 calories

Bottom Line

To your body, 200 calories are 200 calories, regardless of what they look or taste like. They can be a fulfilling snack that lasts throughout the morning. They can be a bite of something sweet, or the extra flavor you add to something else. They can make your diet, by helping you through the cravings in-between meals. And they can break your diet, turning your meticulously crafted lunch into a budget-blowing feast.

1,600 calories a day allows you 8 servings of 200 calories: 8 pats of butter, handfuls of candy, and glasses of soda will leave you very hungry, while 8 servings of turkey and/or vegetables will fill you up.

Think before you eat; make each 200-calorie choice wisely.

-Chris Butterworth

all images pulled from boredpanda's post; see all 63 photos at "What 200 Calories Look Like".


getting enough sleep can make you feel like a superhero

getting enough sleep can make you feel like a superhero

Let's talk about sleep. Better yet, lack of sleep. Or, more to the point, exhaustion. I learned this week just how close to exhaustion I am most of the time, and it was quite an awakening. (yeah, that's a terrible pun.)

I have plenty of excuses for not sleeping enough - work, kids, hobbies, exercise, household chores, writing a blog - but they're not much different from the same excuses everyone has. We're all busy, and we make choices to do the things we feel obligated to do, or to relax and watch mindless television, rather than sleeping.

My body prefers getting 7.5 hours of sleep each night, but I rarely get that much. This means I run a little sleep deficit each day, which builds up as the week progresses, so that by Thursday and Friday I don't have as much pep, or focus, as I should. Then I count on getting some extra sleep on the weekends, just to recharge and get myself back to "normal."

Well, last week was brutal. We had a lot on our plates, and I didn't get more than 6 hours of sleep once. As expected, I was run down by Friday. Unfortunately the weekend wasn't any better, and a full night's sleep wasn't in the cards. By the time I got to Sunday, I was completely fried. Tired, sore, impatient, frustrated - just plain miserable, and not a lot of fun to be around. I knew I needed sleep, and not just one night's good rest, so I made a concerted effort to get more sleep over the next few days.

I slept 8.5 hours Sunday night, and Monday night I logged another 8 hours. Tuesday night I got a little over 7, and then I got a full 8 hours again on Wednesday night. Then it hit me:

When I woke up on Thursday morning, I felt great. Not just good, but great - Superman great. No ailments or cobwebs. Nothing but physical energy and mental clarity. This is how Peter Parker must have felt after getting bitten by a spider! Throughout the day I felt a surge of energy - I could easily handle whatever the day might throw my way, and follow it up with an awesome workout to boot.

The whole sleep-experience of the last two weeks made me realize I haven't put nearly enough emphasis on how important sleep is as part of a healthy lifestyle.

For me, personally, 8 hours of sleep every night is unrealistic. Nighttime, after the kids are asleep, is when I can get some work done, or focus on the family admin tasks. Or, on other nights, it's the only quality time my wife and I get to spend together. All of these are important, and worth giving up some sleep for. But, after what I experienced this week, getting enough sleep has moved up on my priorities list!

-Chris Butterworth

Related Post: 13 thoughts on getting a better night's sleep

images: 1.) Microsoft clipart. 2.) Man of Steel movie poster, by Warner Bros  (2013)


Fit-20 Workout - Kettlebell with Stairs

Fit-20 Workout - Kettlebell with Stairs

Last night I was going to workout upstairs, but my kettlebell was downstairs. As I carried the kettlebell up the stairs, I had an idea for a new workout...

For those of you new to the Fitness Gazette site, Fit-20 Workouts are workouts designed to give you a full-body workout, muscles and cardio, in about 20 minutes, using little or no gym equipment. Ideally you can squeeze a workout in before work, or at lunch, without squeezing your family out of the picture. Click here to see a list of past Fit-20 Workouts.

Today's Workout

  • Stairs. Carry the kettlebell up and back down a flight of stairs. Alternate which hand holds the kettlebell each trip. (Easier - alternate going up or down, not both, between each exercise; Advanced - up and down twice between each exercise, once with your right hand holding the kettlebell and once with your left.)
  • 2-handed Kettlebell Swings - 18. (Easier, do 12; Advanced, do 25)
  • Stairs
  • Kettlebell Cleans - 12 Each Hand. (Easier - 8; Advanced - 16)
  • Stairs
  • Kettlebell Snatch - 12 Each Hand. (Easier - 8; Advanced - 16)
  • Repeat for 4 cycles
  • Time yourself. Your goal the next time you do this workout should be to beat your time, and/or to do more repetitions of each exercise.

To your fitness,

-Chris Butterworth


grilled cod with potatoes and vegetables

grilled cod with potatoes and vegetables

I always hear about how healthy fish is, but truth be told, I don't eat it that often. It's one of those foods that's awesome when it's prepared perfectly, but you can ruin the whole meal if you miss by just a little bit - either under or over-cooking, or by mis-seasoning it. (unlike a burger, where you've got plenty of margin for error on either side of medium-well..) Plus, my wife isn't a big fan of having the whole house smell like fish for the rest of the day.

That being said, once in awhile I get a craving for fish, and this weekend was one of those times. I had an idea in my mind about halibut with asparagus and rice pilaf, so Collin and I went off to hunt at the local grocery store.

It turns out they don't carry fresh halibut (and if they did it would be about $25 per pound, says the fish butcher), so we settled on cod - a 3/4 pound fillet for $4. The asparagus was priced high at $4 per bushel, so we reached for fresh green beans as an alternative ($2.50). As for the rice pilaf, Collin voted for french fries, and after last month's potato debacle, I've been looking forward to my next chance with the little spuds. We agreed on home-made steak fries. (a bag of red potatoes was $3.)

grilled cod, green beans, and red potato steak fries

This time I cut the red potatoes into steak fries. I placed them in open foil with a little oil and seasoned them with Montreal Chicken, then let them cook on the grill for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. I wrapped the fish in foil with some oil, water, sea salt, lemon pepper, and a pinch of garlic powder, and set it on the grill for about 15 minutes, flipping it a couple times throughout. The green beans got an oil spray with salt and pepper, and about 10 minutes on the grill.

* Note - my son Collin eats gluten-free and casein-free (basically no wheat or dairy). We try to modify our recipes to account for this, as a show of support and because it's easier than cooking multiple meals. If this wasn't the case, the fish and green beans would have been smothered in butter! :)

The Results

Awesome - This meal turned out perfect.

grilled cod, green beans, and red potato steak fries

CalorieKing says each serving contained 326 calories. (119 fish, 123 potatoes, 44 beans, and 40 oil.) Our servings of fish and potatoes were a little larger, so we might have been closer to 500. Still, this was a dinner that was fresh, healthy, less than $10 for both of us, and well within moderate calorie guidelines. I'll make this again later in the summer for sure.

collin enjoys a fresh grilled dinner

Would you want to try this meal, or do you have any recommendations for making it better? Come back and let me know in the comments!

-Chris Butterworth


why trail running is better than regular running

why trail running is better than regular running

There's a desert wash near my house. It's about a quarter-mile wide, and runs for miles in either direction. These natural washes criss-cross the city, and carry water run-off (usually in the form of a flood) on those rare occasions when we see water falling from the sky for more than an hour or two.

desert wash in peoria az

Due to the size and use of these natural, dry riverbeds, it's very expensive for a city to develop them; they typically remain native desert, with minor enhancements for the structural safety of nearby homes and businesses. Instead, the cities use these natural corridors to build an awesome network of bicycle and walking paths. (at the top of the riverbank, obviously.)

I've been on these paths thousands of times over the years for running, biking, walking, skateboarding, riding scooters - basically anything and everything, exercise alone and recreation with my family. But a couple days ago I had a crazy idea:

What would happen if I actually ran IN the wash?

desert wash running through a neighborhood in peoria az

rocky riverbed in a desert wash in peoria az

a desert washes passes under deer valley road in peoria az

After running the wash for about 45 minutes, it was easy to make favorable observations comparing it to running on the regular sidewalk:

1.) Harder Work - easier pace. I found myself less worried about my pace and timing splits, and instead just enjoying my run. My pace was significantly slower than usual, but I could tell I was getting a good workout by how much I was sweating!

2.) Full Body Engagement. I had to adjust and plan for each step, using balance, dexterity, my core, and different muscles in my legs. (mostly to make sure I didn't break an ankle!) This was a significant departure from the repetitive, piston-like motion of legs pounding on smooth pavement. By the end of the run I felt rejuvenated and exhausted at the same time.

3.) Better Form. Small steps, feet underneath you. Easy, light, smooth, and fast - I could feel exactly what Caballo Blanco meant when he said "if you think you need 2 steps, take 3," while teaching Christopher McDougall how to run trails in the book Born to Run. "Easy. Light. Smooth. and Fast. You get the first three, and you won't have to worry about being fast." (I'm quoting from memory, so even if the quote isn't exact, I'm still giving credit with quotations.)

4.) Intense Focus makes time and distance pass quickly. I found myself focusing on the ground in front of me for a few minutes at a time. Then, I'd look up and see I had suddenly run for 5 minutes and had covered quite a bit of distance. That was so much better than the sidewalk, where I usually look ahead at the same streetlight for what seems like forever and wondering why I'm not getting anywhere.

5.) Changing Terrain. This is sort of a combination of the first 3, but the fact is every step is different. In 20 minutes' time, I ran over big river rocks, small river rocks, gravel, dirt, and sand as thick as a luxurious beach. Each surface required different muscles, and a different pace. And the surfaces changed every few minutes.

6.) Better Scenery. Short and sweet - trail running can get you further into nature, to places the rest of the joggers don't get to see.

7.) More Calories Burned per minute. The chart below is part of a much larger chart I found on the MyCaloriesBurned website. I'm not sure if I believe everything on the chart (ie: swimming laps and kick boxing burn less than cycling..?), but at least it's an objective 3rd party saying trail running burns more than regular running.

calories burned per hour for various exercises

So get out there and give trail running a try. Then come back here and let me know what you think..

-Chris Butterworth


one thing all centenarians have in common

one thing all centenarians have in common

A Centenarian is a person who lives to or beyond 100 years. 

I read an article earlier in the week about a 105-year old woman who claims eating bacon is the reason for her longevity, and it got me to thinking...

centenarian who loves eating bacon
image from an article at vibe.com

So I did a little poking around the google, and started reading article after article about centenarians, along with looking at scores of pictures. What I found wasn't really surprising, but it was smack-you-in-the-face obvious:

Centenarians are a subset of people who are not obese.

If that sounds confusing; let me explain. Think about this:

All dogs have four legs, but not everything that has four legs is a dog. (I know - spare me the comments about your dog who was different. We rescued a three-legged dog in college - that's not the point.)
All centenarians are not obese, but not everyone who is not obese will live to be a centenarian.

from the photo essay "Happy at One Hundred: Aging Can Be Beautiful."

I gathered that most centenarians like to stay busy and active - they have hobbies they're passionate about, they read and watch movies, and they socialize with friends and family members.

I learned all different types of diet tips, which makes sense considering there are centenarians living throughout most of the world.

But for all the information I devoured, I couldn't find one picture, article, or mention of someone living to be 100 years old who was obese.

What can we learn from our centenarian society?

I write about health and fitness from a long-term perspective.

I don't care about having 6-pack abs, or being able to deadlift three times your body weight, or running a six-minute mile. I don't care whether you eat more protein, or carbs, or the right number of vegetables. None of those things has a direct correlation with living a longer, healthier life.

Carrying around too much excess weight is the only thing that has a direct impact. More fat equals more trips to the doctor, more medications, more stress on your joints, more difficulty moving around - especially as you get older, and more certainty that you won't live to be 100.

If you want a chance at a longer than average life, eat modest portions of less-processed foods, and move a little more. You don't have to look like a super model or a professional athlete to be healthy - but you do have to stay reasonably thin..

family celebrates grandpa's 102nd birthday
my boys and their cousins celebrate grandpa's 102nd birthday.

More information

7 Inspiring People Over 100 Years Old

Top 10 Oldest People Ever

Happy At One Hundred: Aging Can Be Beautiful

105 Year Old Woman Says Bacon Is Her Secret to Long Life

Wikipedia: Centenarian

-Chris Butterworth


monday motivation - the making of make it count (video)

monday motivation - the making of make it count (video)

a few weeks ago I posted a video called Make it Count, which was sort of a documentary-motivational-advertisement all rolled into one.

Recently I found a sequel shwoing why and how the video was made.

Here's the link, too, in case your rss or email strips the video.

I'm not usually moved to purchase by an advertisement, but I'm finding myself wanting a Nike fuel band. Anyone out there using one? What do you think?

Stay tuned...

-Chris Butterworth


is a 24-hour fast a good idea?

is a 24-hour fast a good idea?

Earlier this week I did a 24-hour fast. I'll be honest on this one - it wasn't entirely on purpose, and I did cheat a little bit. But, having gone through the exercise, I spent some time thinking about what I had done, and whether or not fasting could play an important role in overall health.

fasting - a plate without food
image credit: Microsoft clipart

Here's how it happened:

I ate more than I normally do for lunch, to the point where I felt really full. (and since I usually do a good job of eating moderate portions, it was easily noticeable.) Then, that evening, something came up at home, where I had to run a few errands with one of my boys. It ended up getting late, so we stopped at a Chick Fil A for dinner (one of his favorites.) I decided not to order food for myself, since I had already over-eaten at lunch, but I did eat two or three of my son's waffle fries.

By the time we got home and ready for bed, I was a little hungry, but not enough to justify making a dinner that late at night, so I just went to bed.

The next morning was one of those out-of-the-routine mornings, because I had a meeting scheduled at an odd time. I had half a glass of orange when I woke up, figuring I would eat breakfast with the boys later that morning. Unfortunately the morning got away from us, and I had to leave the house without eating. again.

I could have stopped for something on the road, or raided the office snack bins, but by this point I was 21 hours into a 24 hour fast; no way I wasn't going to see this thing through.

Lunchtime came, eventually, and I ate a modest-size lunch, thus ending my fast.

What did I learn from this fasting exercise?

I learned, or was reminded of, 4 different topics regarding how our bodies burn energy:

1.) I Did It. The word "Fasting" is intimidating. How could I possibly go without food? Well, there's breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Eat one of those three, then skip the next two, and you're done. It's not as bad as it first sounds.

2.) Calorie Reduction. If you're eating 1,500 calories per day while trying to lose weight, skipping two meals plus snacks will save you somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,100 calories. That means you can go over your 1,500 goal a couple-few times during the week, and still hit your calorie-goal for the week.

3.) Teach your body to Burn Fat. Remember that every pound of fat in your body is 3,500 calories' worth of energy just waiting to be released. Our bodies were designed to store energy (fat) in times of plenty, and burn that energy when food was scarce. However, it's easier for your body to get energy from a steady flow of carbs than it is to convert fat into energy, and our bodies were also designed to be efficient. This is why our bodies give us hunger pains - our bodies are basically saying "hey, I'm out of the easy fuel - can you throw a bagel down your neck?"

Last year at this time I was training in the mornings for a mid-length triathlon, and I would workout for 2.5 hours without eating first. I would drink a juice-water mix and eat a little apple sauce while on my 90 minute bike ride, then run a 10K with a small water bottle. During this time, my body got very efficient at using fat as a fuel source, and for the first time in my life I wasn't getting hypoglycemic-type symptoms if I went an extra hour or two without eating a snack.

We could all survive on water alone for quite some time, if we were stranded on a deserted island. Skipping a couple meals isn't the same thing, but it kind of is..

4.) Brad Pilon's "Eat Stop Eat". This whole exercise reminded me of Brad's blog, where he's spent a great deal of time and energy honing the craft of "intermittent fasting". I'd recommend this as a good resource if you want to explore this topic further.

In Summary

Can a 24-hour fast be part of your healthy lifestyle? Sure. I think there's something to be gained from letting your body function in its natural state.

Am I going to make intermittent fasting part of my weekly routine? Probably not. I may skip a meal now and then, and I might even challenge myself to another one-day fast once in awhile, but I don't see this becoming part of my weekly routine.

Can you be healthy without fasting? Of course. Just eat good food in moderate portions, and get some active and passive exercise.

Are you going to try a 24-hour fast, or have you ever? Let me know how it went.

-Chris Butterworth


gaining determination from setbacks

gaining determination from setbacks

A couple weeks ago, when it was my turn to cook dinner, I had a great idea - I wanted a fresh and flavorful dinner, and I wanted it grilled.

We had chicken sausage in the freezer (a package each of hot and sweet), and we had potatoes in the pantry. I stopped on the way home for some fresh green beans and asparagus. Mmmm, this was going to be a perfect spring-time dinner.

grilling sausage, potatoes, and fresh vegetables

I quartered the potatoes (so they would cook a little faster), and wrapped each one in foil with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Then I put them on the grill to start cooking.

After about 15 minutes I added the chicken sausage to the grill, figuring they would need about 25-30 minutes, and the potatoes, having the 15 minute head start, would be done at the same time.

While the potatoes and sausage were cooking, I prepared the vegetables. My younger son can be a little picky, so I cut the ends off the green beans. This should avoid any comments about "not wanting to eat sticks." My oldest son can't eat dairy, so I didn't use butter. I seasoned the beans and asparagus with the same olive oil and seasonings as the potatoes, and put them on the grill when the sausage had about ten minutes left to cook.

By now my mouth was watering, as I imagined how awesome this would taste.

Finally everything was ready, so I turned down the grill and brought the food in to eat.

That's when dinner went sideways..

Turns out the potatoes weren't done; they needed another 10-15 minutes. By now everybody was hungry and ready to eat, so we had to make the best of things while I put the potatoes back on the grill. The sausage got wrapped on a plate with foil, and the vegetables went into the oven to stay warm.

Ten minutes later I went out to check on the potatoes, and the grill had gone out. Apparently this was my grill's way of telling me I hadn't refilled the propane tank recently. Oops. In a span of 20 minutes I had gone from "everybody get ready for an awesome dinner", to "damage control time", to "full on improvisation mode."

The sausage was good, and the vegetables were great. I salvaged enough potatoes for the kids to eat. Then we hit the pantry for chips, pita bread, and whatever else we could find to round out our plates.

This was not my finest hour as a cook. But, just like anything else that doesn't go perfectly (like a skipped workout or a bad day of eating), it's just one day. Live and learn, right? And do better tomorrow.

For me, personally - that picture above has been staring at me, taunting me. I'll make this same meal again in a month or two, with a full tank of propane and more patience on the potatoes. Sometimes a setback just makes us more determined to get it right. I might even add some corn on the cob next time. Mmmmm, I'm getting hungry again.

-Chris Butterworth


craving soda in the summer

craving soda in the summer

Summer is just around the corner. At least it is if you live in Phoenix, where our 3 weeks of spring goes by in the blink of an eye, before giving way to five months of walking-on-the-sun heat. (I can't complain, though - I'm one of those crazy people who likes the hot..)

Think I'm exaggerating? Here we were a week ago:

74 degrees in peoria az
images clipped from weather.com

And here's what's coming up this weekend:

98 degrees in peoria az

This post might be a bit early for those of you still digging your car out of the snow, but your summer is coming soon...

Summer Cravings

I've already noticed my cravings changing, and I know they'll get worse as it heats up: soda, and fruit.

During the winter I can easily get by on one Diet Coke per day, or less. There are many times when I'll get to the end of the day and realize I didn't have a single soda. Or, I might have half a diet soda after dinner, just because I need something to put my bourbon in. (why can't I just learn to drink it on the rocks?) I drink plenty of liquids - coffee, water, unsweetened tea, water with a splash of fruit juice - but I rarely have an all out craving for soda.

Once the weather changes, though, look out!

cans of dr pepper, coke, and diet coke

I want a Dr Pepper first thing in the morning. I want a Coke at about 10:30. Give me a Diet Coke with lunch, and another one in the mid-afternoon. And I'd like to pour a Coke with dinner..

Mix in some grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, and a pear, and I could easily add 500-1,000 calories to my daily consumption. Uh oh.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not anti-fruit. Nor am I anti having a soda once in awhile. Remember, I'm going after being healthy (the 90%), but not necessarily being perfect (the last 10%). But they do contain calories, and calories add up. These extra snacks need to be accounted for, either by reducing the calories consumed at meals or other snacks, or by increasing the amount of active and passive fitness.

How to Fight the Cravings?

Realizing you're having these cravings is one thing. Stopping yourself from acting on them is something else entirely. Here are some of my techniques for fighting off these cravings:

1.) Food Journal. When I write it down, and I know I'll have to look at it for the rest of the day, I tend to have a better chance of not pulling the trigger. (or the pop-top.) This is especially true for the 2nd or 3rd opportunity - I'm not a big fan of failing, and seeing that failure on paper really gets me motivated to not fail.

2.) Chewing Gum or Breath Mints. If I can stall myself for five minutes, and my taste buds get something else to work on, I can usually pass through the craving without action.

3.) Smaller Size. Sometimes a couple sips is enough, as long as the rest of the can isn't sitting there taunting me. If I pour myself a small cup, and then throw out the rest, I'm usually good to go.

4.) Drink Ice Water. I push myself to drink a lot of ice water during the summer, which helps on a few different fronts. A) I'm not as thirsty when I'm fully hydrated. B) If I tell myself I can have a soda once I finish my glass of ice water, but drinking that glass of ice water takes awhile, my craving might pass on its own. C) If my body burns 50-100 calories per day just by warming itself back up, that's a little bit of an offset without me having to do anything extra.

5.) Will Power. Good old fashioned willpower. Sometimes I have to be my own parent, and just say "no, you can't have a soda right now."

That's it. I know I won't be perfect, but I also know I can't give in to every craving I have throughout the summer. A little moderation, a little willpower, a little extra exercise, and a little forgiveness when I fail, and I'll get through the summer just fine.

What do you crave during the summer? And how do you stop yourself from overindulging?

-Chris Butterworth


do allergies cramp your workout style?

do allergies cramp your workout style?

palo verde tree in full bloom
one of many allergy trees outside my office.

The spring bloom is in full swing - lots of pretty colors everywhere I look. Unfortunately, that also means I'm spending way too much time sneezing and reaching for a kleenex. (on the bright side, that's lots of extra ab-work, right?)

The strange thing is, my allergies have actually gotten less severe over the years, compared with many of my friends who never had them as kids but now they get knocked out for a few weeks each year. Regardless, though, there are a few days each spring when my body simply does NOT want to do a workout.

Here are some of the tricks I've used to beat back the allergy excuse:

Workout in the morning. Sometimes the longer the day goes, the worse my allergies get, to the point that all I want to do at night is take a benadryl and go to bed! This is especially true after a few days of pushing hard without enough sleep - once my body gets run down, it's all over. If I wait for a nighttime workout, and then start to feel sneezy and cloudy during the day, I've just set myself up for failure.

Workout indoors. As much as I hate treadmills, sometimes getting away from the wind and the pollen is enough to allow me to get up to speed.

Slow Down. I know I'm not going to break a PR on a day that's windy, dusty, pollen-y, and sneezy. So what - I don't need to break a record just to have a good workout. On top of that, I don't want to push my lungs to the point where I'm wheezing and gasping for air - pollen-filled air.

Cool Shower. A cool shower goes a long way towards calming my body down once the allergy symptoms have kicked in. Taking a shower after the workout is obvious, but I've even taken a shower before my workout, just to clear my head.

Just Go! Getting started is usually the hardest part of the workout, and I find that once I get going and my adrenaline kicks in, I don't even need the snot rag in my pocket. Or, I may have to slow down and take a few breaks along the way, just to blow my nose. It's not the end of the world (and who am I trying to impress? My wife already loves me, and hopefully she's not watching!)

Take a day off. Can't win 'em all - sometimes I actually listen to what my body is telling me, and I take a break. Missing a few workouts isn't going to make a bit of difference in the long run. Just gotta be careful not to form any new lazy-bad habits.


What tips and tricks have you used to stay in shape while fighting off allergy season?

-Chris Butterworth


friday motivation - make it count (video)

friday motivation - make it count (video)

Filmmaker Casey Neistat travels around the world in 10 days, and shows us what it means (to him) to "Make it Count."

Here's a link to the video, in case it doesn't embed in your rss feed.

I love this video - it's a great combination of scenery, exercise, motivational quotes, and doing something exciting and out of the ordinary. And it makes me want to Make it Count more in my own life (and film myself more!)

Have you ever done anything as crazy as this?

-Chris Butterworth


why the Boston Marathon?

why the Boston Marathon?

I had a post queued up for yesterday's Boston Marathon. I wanted to write a tribute to the Hoyts - the most inspirational father-son combo I've ever heard of. I wanted to write a more detailed follow-up story to the post I wrote about them 5 years ago ("Get Over It".)

bombs explode at the finish line of the Boston Marathon

But I can't; not today. Instead I'm left to wade through my emotions over yesterday's senseless bombings.

Why would someone do such a thing?

A marathon is a race, sure. But there are only a handful of people in the world who have a chance of winning. For everybody else, especially those taking longer than 4 hours to finish (when the bombs went off), the race is about achievement - personal triumph, overcoming challenges, celebration of loved ones. Why would someone choose to punish this group of people?

I'm shocked by it.

The images and video are shocking. The image in my mind is even worse. The instant change from triumphant joy to tragic pain is beyond unfair. Have you ever seen a child playing - running and laughing, when they suddenly fall down or run into something, and you can see their whole body and face change from joy to pain? This is like that, times ten thousand. Or ten million.

I'm not surprised.

I've wondered about something like this for years, ever since the Twin Towers on 9/11. Anytime I'm at a sporting event - Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Coyotes, Spring Training baseball - or a crowded office building, or even a jam-packed shopping mall at Christmas-time, I wonder if this is the time some douchebag terrorist is going to take advantage of a large group of innocent people.

Times have changed.

Crowded places become potential target zones. Random schools are outlets for troubled teens' wrath. It's no longer safe to let your kids play outside by themselves..

This is bullshit. My heart and thoughts go out to the victims in yesterdays bombing attack. But my anger is going much further. I want justice, and I want vengeance. I want punishment - swift and severe - for people who do bad things to others.

Sure I'm going down a slippery slope. Where do we draw the line? Rapists? Hang 'em! Armed robbery? Put 'em away! Burglary? White collar crime? DUI?

I don't have the answers - not today. Mostly I have anger, sorrow, and frustration. I'm going to spend some time today thinking about yesterday's events and the people involved. And I'm going to make a concerted effort to enjoy my own life, and my family, that much more, because.. You never know...

-Chris Butterworth


one move to fix your body - another dumb article

one move to fix your body - another dumb article

Get Long, Lean Legs Like Ballerina Misty Copeland
from self.com

ballerina misty copeland

From the article:

"Not only is the girl ridiculously talented and uber graceful, she's also got a strong physique and hot bod to boot. "It's one of the few art forms that you have to start at such a young age. It really takes years to shape and mold the body," says Copeland, who took her first ballet class on a Boys & Girls Club basketball court.
Since some of us may not be able to dedicate years to the craft, Copeland gives us a for-dummies-style guide to the first building block of ballet: the Plie. "The technique creates these long, lean muscles so you're incredibly strong but in a delicate way," she says. "Something as simple as the plie will strengthen your quads, inner thighs, and calf muscles." One move to ballerina legs? Done.

The article then goes on to describe the details and how to do the "Pile in First Position" move.

Really? Because I don't buy it.

1.) Let's start with the obvious. Misty Copeland is a soloist with the American Balet Theatre, and has been training long hours for at least 15 years. This puts her well into the 10,000 Hours category, described in Malcom Gladwell's book Outliers. (the theory being it takes 10,000 hours of training in a particular field to become a world class expert in that field.)

From Misty's own words in the article, "It's one of the few art forms that you have to start at such a young age. It really takes years to shape and mold the body..."

And yet, according to Self, you can knock out a few Pile moves and have legs like Misty's by next week. Awesome - my wife will be stoked!

2.) Next, let's step back and consider her diet and nutrition. Misty Copeland is a professional ballerina, whose physical body is her key for success. I'm willing to bet she eats very well - not just in the "less calories than you burn" way that's good enough for 90% of us, but in the "maximize the exact benefit of nutritional makeup from every bite" way used by the top 1% performers.

To put it more simply, those legs weren't built on cheeseburgers and pizza.

3.) Let's also consider genetics. We all come in different sizes - tall, short, thick, thin, and everything in-between. It would be impossible for some people to have legs like Misty, regardless of how many years they spent doing first position piles.

Most of us would be better served to work on the things we have the most control over: eating smaller portions, eating less processed food, and exercising more. That's a simple combination to make the most of whatever genes your parents gave you.

Bottom Line

Come on, Self. You have to do better. Nobody is going to get legs like Misty Copeland from doing one simple move. Why not use your platform to promote ideas for body shaping and lifestyle maintenance people can actually use?

Whatever. Maybe we'll have more luck Getting Scarlett Johansson's Superhero Bod in One Move...

scarlett johansson

-Chris Butterworth


does drinking ice water help lose weight?

does drinking ice water help lose weight?

Every few years I hear something about how easy it is to lose weight by drinking ice water, or how drinking cold water burns more calories. Can this really be true?

32 ounce cup of ice water

Well, according to the folks at lifehack, drinking a half gallon of cold water will cause your body to burn 116 calories of energy in order to reheat itself back to "normal" temperature. So, if you drink 64 ounces of cold water every day, you would burn 3,480 calories per month, which is almost the exact amount required to lose 1 pound of fat.

This may not be the best, or fastest, way to lose weight, but it could be another arrow in your quiver - along with eating smaller portions and active and passive fitness - for lasting, long-term, lifestyle changes.

Additional Thoughts

  • Drinking at least 64 ounces of water a day is a healthy habit, whether it's ice cold or not. It keeps your body hydrated, which helps your body flush out any toxins, and it'll reduce your want/need to quench your thirst with a sugary soda!
  • Drinking ice water is hard to do if you work in an office with an over zealous air conditioning unit.
  • If you drink your ice water quickly, and there's ice left in the cup, you didn't drink your entire allotment of ounces.
  • If you drink your ice water really quickly, you'll get a brain freeze!
  • Personally, I don't like living on the margins. If I'm trying to lose weight (or if I'm helping somebody else), I want to know that I'm eating fewer calories than my base metabolic rate. That way weight loss is guaranteed. Any additional calories I burn from exercising or drinking cold water become bonus calories, which just helps me lose weight faster.

ice cubes
image credit - microsoft clipart

Can drinking ice water help you lose weight? Sure.

Is drinking ice water the secret to easy weight loss without worrying about anything else (the magic weight loss pill)? Of course not.

-Chris Butterworth


does golf count as exercise?

does golf count as exercise?

I spent a few hours at Scottsdale Silverado Golf Club yesterday, at a charity golf tournament benefiting NMTSA and ACT School.

scottsdale silverado golf club - view from the clubhouse
view of the 18th green from the clubhouse balcony.

My wife was there helping run the tournament. My boys were offering water to golfers on the course. And I was tasked with... well, not much of anything. I think you could call it networking, but I was pretty much hanging out at the clubhouse and chatting people up. This gave me a unique vantage point to watch the comings and goings of various foursomes throughout the afternoon.

Some thoughts on golfing:

  • What a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
  • Being outdoors, in the fresh air, surrounded by beautifully manicured grass and trees, is refreshing - almost therapeutic.
  • People were generally friendly, and in a good mood.
  • It's kind of a mini-vacation - a few hours away from the hectic grind of the rest of the week.

Some thoughts on golfing as exercise:

  • Most of the distance is covered by golf cart, so the golfers don't get to do much walking.
  • I watched about 1/5th of the golfers light up and smoke. (not something I generally associate with exercise.)
  • About half of the golfers enjoyed the over-sized cans of beer the clubhouse served - before their round, after their round, and/or bringing a few with them to imbibe during their round. (not to mention how many ice cold beverages the girl driving around in the refreshment cart sold.)
  • Many of the foursomes had lunch at the clubhouse, which looked delicious but definitely not low calorie.
  • The golfers came in all shapes, sizes, and ages. And while I want to give them the benefit of "golf as exercise", it did not look anything like what you would see at a triathlon event.
  • I watched more than a couple golfers get winded from climbing the stairs to the clubhouse!

My final thoughts on golfing:

  • Golf is definitely NOT an exercise sport. Many of the golfers I saw consumed far more calories than they burned by playing. Add smoking to the equation, and their health was going in the wrong direction.
  • Golf is a time commitment. Get ready to play, drive to the course, hit balls on the range, practice putting, play a round of golf, unwind in the clubhouse, and then drive home - this can be a 5-6 hour block of time. You could do just about anything else and get more exercise than golf gives you.
  • All that being said, spending an afternoon at the golf course is a great way to unwind.

me and the boys at silverado golf club
me and the boys.

-Chris Butterworth


energy drinks changing labels to avoid FDA scrutiny

energy drinks changing labels to avoid FDA scrutiny

I wrote about energy drinks last year - see "are energy drinks bad for you?" I thought this was an interesting follow-up. From the consumeraffairs website:

energy drinks - monster, red bull, full throttle, rock star

Regulators and health advocates have been pouring scalding criticism on high-caffeine energy drinks the last few years following reports of death and illness unofficially attributed to the potent drinks.
But now the energy drinks are fighting back. Monster Beverage, makers of Monster Energy, and Rockstar Energy are changing their labels and product descriptions to wriggle out from under the jurisidiction of the Food and Drug Administration.
Henceforth, Monster and Rockstar drinks will be marketed as beverages rather than dietary supplements. Among the advantages of the change -- the companies will not be obligated to inform the feds when they learn of deaths and injuries attributed to their products.
Monster will also be disclosing its caffeine content for the first time and the results may surprise some critics. According to the company, a 16-ounce can of Monster's leading drinks contain 140 to 160 milligrams of caffeine, less than half the 330 mg found in a 16-ounce cup of Starbucks coffee.
The moves come as criticism of the drinks grows. Earlier this week, a group of 18 doctors and researchers urged the FDA to do more to protect adolescents and children from the possible risks of high caffeine consumption.

The article goes on to discuss the energy drinks' side of the debate, basically saying (and I'm paraphrasing) they don't believe their products are causing the deaths, they haven't seen proof, yadda yadda yadda.


Maybe energy drinks are killing people; maybe they aren't. Maybe they're partially responsible - just one of several factors involved. Either way, it's difficult to argue they're good for you. The best argument they can make is that they aren't involved in people's deaths.

The fact that they're changing their labeling tells me all I need to know. I'd feel better about them if they showed me their peer reviewed studies showing they were safe. Or if they showed me why, specifically, they weren't responsible in these deaths. Changing their labels is like saying "Get out of my face; I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and there's nothing you can do about it."

java monster mean bean energy drink

Should adults drink them? I think you can make a better choice. Here are 4 points from "are energy drinks bad for you?":

  • They have lots of sugar; I usually recommend cutting as much pure sugar out of your diet as possible.
  • They have additional ingredients which amplify the effects of caffeine, which may wreak havoc with your sleep, eating habits, or mood, if you're sensitive to caffeine.
  • They are high in calories; I'm generally against drinking your calories, especially if you're trying to lose weight.
  • And most importantly, they can rot your teeth.

Should teenagers drink them? I don't want my boys drinking them! For all of the above reasons, plus:
  • Teenagers tend towards excess rather than moderation. One can could easily become a 2-3 can per day habit.
  • Teenagers will drink these much faster than most people drink a cup of coffee, which would be like a caffeine-bomb in their body.
  • Teenagers will drink these with all sorts of crazy food-drink-activity combinations - candy, alcohol, during strenuous activity.. They'll find ways we haven't even thought of to put additional stress on their body.

Bottom Line - lay off the energy drinks. New label or not, there's no compelling reason to drink them.

-Chris Butterworth