Monthly Archives: October 2007

Wrong Food: Organic Batter Blaster


Just because it’s organic, doesn’t make it right.

I like Sara’s rant on Healthbolt:

We are a bunch of fat and sick folks, and even kids are getting hopped up with blood pressure medications and diabetes diagnoses. We didn’t need convenient cookie dough rolls and we certainly don’t need pancake emissions. I don’t care if it’s organic and technically counts as a “grain”, something Uncle Sam wants you to eat a lot more of. I didn’t think I would ever say this, but aerosol can pancake batter might possibly be even worse than the cookie diet (in any of its chewy, crunchy and otherwise textural variations).


Making exercise a pleasure

Clissold Park in the Autumn

I know this is obvious but it is also important to remember: exercise should be pleasant and relaxing.

If you live by a or work by a park, please, get out in it and walk and run and play frisbee or kick a ball about, parks are interesting, ever changing and you even get to see the sun once in a while (very important in northern latitudes).

I have been walking about Clissold Park, our local park, a lot recently and it is lovely in the Autumn. I used to work right by Regents Park in London and I kick myself that I didn’t follow the example of my work mate Neil and take a daily lunch time stroll.

Walking around a park never feels like exercise, running on a treadmill always does.

Controlled indulgence, a sensible strategy for weight loss

I'll see your Banana Split and raise you a Coffee and White Chocolate Cheesecake

Why do we ever deprive ourselves of things we love in order to hasten our progress towards a goal?


When I first got the crazy idea to lose some weight, I was pretty fed up with my existing habits: “Dammit, I’m sick of feeling like a chub, but I can’t stop myself from drinking beers and indulging in late-night quesedilla binges. That’s it, no more beer, no more cheese, no nothing until I’ve lost these lovehandles!”

Trouble was, by the next weekend, I was back at the stove, bottle of Full Moon Pale Rye Ale in one hand, spatula in the other, cookin’ up a mean colby-cheese quesadilla, augmented with fresh salsa and sour cream.

Deprivation is definitely not the answer.

Jane Brody offers some wise advice on dieting without deprevation, an act that “feeds desire and can lead to overindulgence at the first opportunity.” Jane’s philosophy of “controlled indulgence” enabled her to drop 35 pounds and live to tell the tale. She explains how one of her favorite indulgences, ice cream, fits into the “diet”:

My approach starts with smart selection. I read the nutrition label; the only ice cream I buy provides a maximum of 150 calories a serving, and usually less, 100 to 130. Most are the slow-churned reduced-fat flavors, and some are frozen yogurt. But none are fat free or sugar free, which to me tastes ersatz.Equally important, of course, is how much to eat at any one time. One serving. Do you know what a serving of ice cream is? It is half a cup. I bought some half-cup containers and measure out my daily indulgence. And I made a rule for myself. If I start eating more than that half cup, all the ice cream has to go. Because I would rather have it around when I want it, I stick to the half cup.

The the beauty of controlled indulgence is that it is grounded on the enjoyment of food. Slow down, chew your food, and enjoy every last bit of it:

I do not count calories or make lists of everything I eat each day. In fact, I have no idea how many calories I consume on a typical day. I eat for enjoyment — foods that I like, most of which happen to be good for me, and in quantities that I find satisfying.

This slower-is-better, less-is-more approach helps explain Why French Women Don’t Get Fat.

“The French don’t traditionally wolf down a meal at their desk or while commuting in traffic,” [French chef, Laurence Hauben] said. “They sit down with family or colleagues at a table, taking the time to relax and share conversation. When you are talking, you are not eating, and because you are relaxed, the hormones released help in the assimilation of calories, unlike the stress hormones we are riddled with here, which trigger hoarding of fat. In other words, eat 800 calories while sitting at a café in Paris, and they will get spent. Eat 800 calories while sitting in your car in traffic on the freeway, and most of them will settle in your hips or gut.”

The trick to lifelong change is to embrace slowness, and enjoy more of life along the way. Losing weight isn’t the hard part; it’s the impatience that’s a real doozy.



SmarterFitter Forums_1193696791710.png

We have a shiny new forum at /forums/.

Monica and I would be really happy if you’d join us to discuss food (mmm…), fitness, life, whatever.

The best way to keep abreast of what’s going on is to subscribe to the feed for the forum in your favourite news reader: /forums/rss/

Many thanks,



Users of alli don’t mind the anal seepage


Last month, Tim wrote about the weird over-the-counter fat-blocking drug, alli, which is known to cause some socially problematic side effects, particularly bowel seepage, when taken with meals containing too much fat.

Think this matters to alli users? Data presented at the 2007 Annual Scientific Meeting of NAASO, The Obesity Society, found that people were satisfied with the product: less than 5% of patients stopped taking alli because of side effects, while many patients continue to use the drug, seepage and all.

We’re not sure why anyone would substitute a reasonable diet for a diaper. Here’s alli-manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline’s spin on it:

“The alli data we’re reviewing show that treatment effects are not a major issue for most patients taking alli because they are highly motivated by the weight loss achieved. In addition, many alli users have repeatedly told us that they view treatment effects as a positive tool to help make them aware of hidden fats in foods.

Is that really what it takes for people to understand what they’re eating?

Here at SmarterFitter, we’d rather look at a nutrition label than a pair of dirty underpants. Drugs like alli seem like a lazy approach to attaining a lifestyle that isn’t supposed to lazy at all.

If you’re thinking about trying alli, here’s my advice:

  • Save the money you’d spend and buy a food scale
  • Use the food scale with food labels or a nutrition database to understand what you’re eating and control portion sizes
  • You’ll have some money left over so buy some new underwear – it’s a great confidence boost, and you’re not likely to soil it
  • For the love of your underwear, do some exercise!

Above all, ask yourself this: would you rather have hidden fat end up on your belly or in your underpants?


100 Most Protein Rich Vegetarian Foods

Looking for vegan protein?  Check out our High Protein Vegan Foods!


The American Dietetic Association recommends that healthy individuals consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This number is even higher for athletes: endurance athletes are recommended 1.2 to 1.4 g/kg body weight, whereas resistance and strength-trained athletes may need as much as 1.6 to 1.7 g/kg body weight.

It’s difficult for vegetarians, particularly vegetarian athletes, to get the recommended amount of protein, so I’ve compiled a list of the 100 most protein rich vegetarian foods as shown in the USDA food database. By “protein rich”, I mean they have highest percentage of total calories from protein.

The following table shows the top 10.

  Food Protein (%) Calories Protein (g) Fat (g) Carbs (g)
1 Cowpeas,Leafy Tips,Ckd,Bld,Drnd,Wo/Salt 84.9% 22 4.67 0.1 2.8
2 Cowpeas,Leafy Tips,Ckd,Bld,Drnd,W/Salt 84.9% 22 4.67 0.1 2.8
3 Egg, White, Raw, Fresh 83.8% 52 10.9 0.17 0.73
4 Cheese, Cottage, Nonfat, Uncrmd, Dry, Lrg Or Sml Curd 81.3% 85 17.27 0.42 1.85
5 Seaweed, Spirulina, Dried 79.3% 290 57.47 7.72 23.9
6 Mori-Nu, Tofu, Silken, Lite Extra Firm 73.7% 38 7 0.7 1
7 Soy Sauce Made From Soy (Tamari) 70.1% 60 10.51 0.1 5.57
8 Cheese, Cottage, Lowfat, 1% Milkfat 68.8% 72 12.39 1.02 2.72
9 Mor-Nu, Tofu, Silken, Lite Firm 68.1% 37 6.3 0.8 1.1
10 Pumpkin Leaves, Raw 66.3% 19 3.15 0.4 2.33

What are “leafy cowpeas”? The cowpea plant, shown above, is a grain legume that produces the semi-popular “blackeye pea”. But it turns out the plant’s leaves are more protein-rich than its bean. There are a couple of recipes out there incorporating cowpea leaves. Trouble is, you’ll probably have to travel abroad to find the stuff.

Click through for the full list of 100 protein-packed veggie wonders!

Continue reading

Exercise and weight loss not linked…?


Ah, Sunday morning, an hour stroll around our local park first thing. Work up a bit of an appetite during the walk. Pick up a paper on the way home… something to read over breakfast. Exercise and food… mmm.

So, reading the Observer this morning I came across Gary Taubes’ nice contrarian article about exercise and weight loss. According to the article there isn’t any research linking exercise with weight loss and that basically all exercise does is make you hungry so you eat more. Now, I reckon the guy might be building up a bit of straw man here because I think most people understand that exercise alone isn’t going to do you much good unless you use it to create a calorie deficit and to do that you do need to think about what you’re eating even when you’re exercising.

What did get me thinking was his argument that the conventional model that treats the body as a “thermodynamic blackbox” (or, a calories-in, calories-out balance sheet) is naive and takes no account of how physiology and hormone levels effect fat loss/gain. In fact, it is the hormone insulin, in conjunction with an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL) which determines whether we store fuel (glucose and fatty acids) as fat or burn them for energy.

If it’s biology, and not a lack of willpower, that explains why exercise fails so many of us as a weight-loss tool, then we can still find reason for optimism. Since insulin is the primary hormone affecting the activity of LPL on our cells, it’s not surprising that insulin is the primary regulator of how fat we get. ‘Fat is mobilised [from fat tissue] when insulin secretion diminishes,’ the American Medical Association Council on Foods and Nutrition explained back in 1974, before this fact, too, was deemed irrelevant to the question of why we gain weight or the means to lose it. Because insulin determines fat accumulation, it’s quite possible that we get fat not because we eat too much or exercise too little, but because we secrete too much insulin or because our insulin levels remain elevated far longer than might be ideal.

Simple carbohydrates increase insulin levels. Fewer slices of toast and jam with breakfast then. And more poached eggs? So, not all calories are created equal and eating slow carbs matters [not recommending that diet, just think it is an interesting thought experiment].

There is no doubt that exercise has health benefits but it isn’t going to get you lean by itself. Think about the type of calories you’re getting: percentages of fat, protein, carbs and try to keep your eating in check when you are exercising.


Coming Soon: SmarterFitter Forum

After the Seinfeldian Chain was Lifehacked, we received lots of e-mails, comments and suggestions from wonderful people who started chains of their own (thanks, peeps!). This got us thinking: hey, wouldn’t these discussions work really well in a forum?

Well, it’s been a while, but we’re finally getting around to making this idea a reality.

This got us thinking some more: What makes a successful forum?

I’ve been looking around at some top notch forums out there, and they seem to share a few fundamental qualities:


It’s that little flame
that light’s a fire
under your ass.

– Princeton, Avenue Q

All successful forums have a clear purpose. Our purpose is to create a community to discuss all things relating to Things like…

  • User progress on the Seinfeldian Chain
  • Responses to the blog
  • Use of the Food Diary
  • The pros and cons of BMI
  • General health and fitness stuff
  • Geeky stuff about web development


People join a forum because they can’t find the same community discussion elsewhere. It will be challenging to differentiate SmarterFitter’s forum from t he rest of the health and fitness forums out there. So what’s our niche?

We want to help people be fit and happy using their brains rather than diets. And we have a website of tools to help people along the way. My goal is for the forum to be frequented by smart lovely people who are also using other parts of the site. Then again, maybe we’ll make such a great forum that people will want to use it to discuss other things – that’s OK, toO!

Good design

It amazes me that there are so many high-traffic yet ugly forums out there. So I guess this isn’t a criteria of a successful forum, but it should be, and we’re gong to push that envelope. We will create a forum that’s easy to use and easy on the eyes (no flashing ads!). We’re going with bbPress for its simple interface and easy integration with WordPress.

Spam Protecton

We’re also going with bbPress for its wicked Akismet spam protection.

Active Moderators

This is where Tim and I come in to post new topics, respond to existing topics, look out for trolls and spammers, and probably spend a lot of time talking to ourselves for a while.

Critical Mass

The forum needs to be active enough that people keep coming back for more. We will achieve this by

  • Posting a new topic daily
  • Posting topics that are worth talking about
  • Responding to posts quickly
  • Making it interesting

I know it’s going to take a while to get there, but Tim and I are used to being the first people to show up at a party.

Get Hard Without Weights or the Gym

Several months ago I quit the gym (fitness should be free, right?). While I can still get all the cardio I want from cycling and swimming, I do feel like I miss out on resistance exercise. So how do I get a good strength training workout without a room full of barbells and free weights?

Pick the Brain just posted a strength-training workout that you can do at home without weights with a link to a training program. The workout is based around pull-ups, push-ups and squats.

Now I’m faced with a common problem: there’s no way in hell I can do a pull-up. So how do I workout my back without free weights or a barbell? Any suggestions?


12 Foods You Should Buy Organic

Big yummy pile of applesGo organic! Reduce the toxic load! Build healthy soil! Avoid pesticides!

Yeah, there are plenty of reasons to go organic. But for most of us, those reasons don’t hold a candle to practicality when we’re making a decision at the grocery store. Let’s face it: organic food is almost always expensive, sometimes hard to get, and often just plain ugly! The good news is we can make educated choices about when to buy organic, and when to stick with the cheap stuff.

The Environmental Working Group has an excellent guide which ranks non-organic foods by pesticide loads. The following are their “Dirty Dozen”, the 12 most frequently contaminated foods, as well as the “Cleanest 12”:

“Dirty Dozen”

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Pears
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes

“Cleanest 12”

  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli

A full list is available on their website, as well as a printable wallet guide.

In addition to fruit and veg, the NY Times has a list of five easy ways to go organic that won’t break the bank. The list includes my favorite, peanut butter, as well as milk and ketchup.


About 75 percent of tomato consumption is in the form of processed tomatoes, including juice, tomato paste and ketchup. Notably, recent research has shown organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup.

Well, now I want a veggie burger. Made with organic soy. Topped with non-organic onion. But hold the lettuce (I can’t afford it).