Do you REALLY need cardio to get lean?

Do you REALLY need cardio to get lean?

It’s all diet. I have heard this explanation used frequently when an individual tries to oversimplify how they became so lean. It’s one of the more overused clichés in the industry. The men and women you see in health mags and in supplement ads built their bodies in the weight room. And when they left the weight room they had to use a heck of a lot of discipline to stay out of the kitchen as much as possible.

Besides weights, there’s one more part of their program, and it involves something that most of us don’t like to think about. That is cardio. The question becomes how much is absolutely necessary? There are a small few of us with ultra fast metabolisms who can get abs without any cardio. But for most people some form of cardio will be necessary to create the calorie deficit needed to drop the excess blubber.

The next question is how much cardio and what types should you be performing?

Endurance exercise interferes with the ability to increase or at least maintain strength and muscle mass. Without getting too technical, strength and endurance exercise develops different muscle fibres (fast and slow twitch) in different ways. The fast twitch fibres are developed through strength training. They are a lot denser and more appealing to the eye, while slow twitch fibres are developed through endurance exercise and tend to be a lot smaller in size.

When combined together, strength training and endurance work will drain a lot of glycogen from your muscles, leaving you with limited overall fuel for training. This becomes even more pronounced when you are in a calorie deficit. When you run out of fuel, your body will start to convert muscle tissue into energy to fuel your activities. This needs to be avoided. Since muscle is metabolically active, you need to hold onto as much of it as possible.

High-intensity interval training will cause a lot less interference with strength training, because the two are very similar. It alternates with short bursts of energy followed by periods of recovery. Keep this type of exercise short (under 20 minutes) because intense exercise requires recovery. More is definitely not better. Too much intense exercise can lead to fatigue and irritability. Keep these sessions down to twice a week max.

In my experience, the best form of cardio for fat burning is low intensity exercise. Plain old walking. Not very exciting. You can do it outside or on a treadmill. Anywhere between 3 to 5 sessions a week at 45-60 minutes per should get the job done. There is zero interference effect with strength training and the necessary recovery period is non-existent. The only drawback is that it is time consuming.

How to begin an exercise program and actually stick with it!

How to begin an exercise program and actually stick with it!

For years I have seen my local gym packed wall to wall with new members in January and every piece of equipment is monopolized. As February and March roll around it is still busy, but the numbers begin to dwindle. By the end of March, normalcy has returned. I no longer have to wait 5 minutes for a piece of equipment, no more circling around the underground parking lot looking for a spot and the air on the gym floor is quite a bit fresher.

This is a common struggle amongst those of us trying to get in shape. The greatest of intentions, but lousy follow through. Most of us have good intentions, but our behaviour is really what matters and it is what we are judged on. There are those that claim they don’t have willpower or that they lack the self discipline to be consistent to get in shape. Discipline is a fallacy. We make our choices based on what is most important to us and what we value most. If you love poutine more than you love the feeling of waking up in the morning full of energy and liking what you see in the mirror, then you will eat poutine. If you don’t, you will get up in the morning, prepare healthy snacks to take to work and you will find 45 minutes during the day to exercise. It is really that simple. We prioritize what we love and value most.

Once you have decided that being comfortable in your body and having optimal energy are things that you value most, here are some steps to getting you there:

1. Before you start any type of exercise program, go see your doctor, tell him or her what your intentions are and get medical clearance before you start.

2. Start walking. If it is hot, wear light clothing and a hat. If it is cold, bundle up. The benefits of walking are endless. Improved insulin sensitivity, helps to prevent dementia, boosts vitamin D levels, lowers general disease risk and it will help keep your weight in check if you do enough of it. Why do you think Europeans are so much slimmer than we North Americans? They walk everywhere.

3. Find something that you enjoy doing. If you like to swim, there are numerous outdoor pools that are open to the public in the summer months and most reputable clubs have Olympic-sized swimming pools that can be used in the winter months. If tennis is your thing, join a club, get out and meet the members and sign up to play in round robins. If you are not sure what you like, most gyms have numerous classes that you can try that are included in the membership fee. If strength training is your endeavour, make sure to get the grand tour of the gym and have the personal training staff show you how to use the equipment properly and design a program for you. Less chance of injuries and better results.

4. Social support might be the single greatest determinant in the success of an exercise program. Are most of your friends in good shape? Do they live active lifestyles? Or are they the sedentary type whose idea of a great weekend is lazing around on the couch watching television and stuffing their faces with starch until they slip into a carbohydrate-induced coma?

We tend to mirror those people that we spend our time with. So if your friends are low functioning, generally unmotivated individuals, chances are you are too. That is why it is so important to immerse yourself with positive like-minded individuals who value the things that you do. Look for a mentor. Somebody who is further along the path who can guide you and offer words of encouragement along the way. Whether you find them in person or via internet/social media, mentors are everywhere. You just have to seek them out.

5. “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. I have been guilty of this more times than I care to count. There are what we refer to as process goals and outcome goals. Way too often we focus on the outcome goals. An outcome goal would be: ” In 4 months I want to lose 25 lbs”. A process goal would be: ” I plan to lift weights 3 times a week and get 8 hours of sleep each night “. Process goals are the key to meeting your end goal. It is the day-to-day consistency and adherence, the sum of the parts, that leads to the desired outcome. So whether you are doing it on your own or with a personal trainer or strength coach, figure out what it is you want to accomplish in the long term and then figure out how you are going to get there. Whatever you do, stay off the hamster wheel.

The Pitfalls of Jogging – Part 3

The Pitfalls of Jogging – Part 3

To recap, the takeaways from Part 1 and 2 make the point that sprints build muscle and burn fat simultaneously. They are time efficient, have great long term health implications and can be done anywhere. Steady-state jogging on the other hand does not burn much fat, nor does it build muscle and over the long haul it will actually hinder both based on negative hormone responses. So we have left a bit of a vacuum to fill here. I have provided you with a lot of information regarding the why, but not the how. So let’s get started.

For the beginner who has little to no experience with sprints, you need to proceed slowly regardless of what mode you choose. A 4 minute warm up at an intensity of approximately 2 out of 10 is required to get your blood flowing and warm up your central nervous system for the more intense work to follow. Once you have completed the warm up, you want to be working at an intensity of 6 out of 10 for one minute. When taking into consideration what a 2 or a 6 out of 10 is, a 10 out of 10 is running for your life. You never want to work that hard. By the time you have completed the first minute you should be sufficiently fatigued and ready to catch your breath. You will retreat back down to a 2 out of 10 intensity and recover for a minute and then repeat. So you will be working at a 1:1 work to rest ratio. Continue this pattern for 6 to 8 intervals, finish with a 4 minute cool down, and try to add an extra sprint in each session until you reach 12. Once you get to that point, you will need to up the intensity

For the intermediate trainee, I have found that shorter more intense work periods followed by slightly longer recovery periods are more effective. I would favour a 1:2 work to rest ratio.  Working at 20 seconds on followed by 40 off seconds is typically very effective on a treadmill or a stationary bike. You are going to need to get your intensity up to an 8 out of 10 once you have completed a sufficient warm up. Start with 6 to 8 sprints and try to work yourself up to the point where you are performing 12 or 13. This could take some time. So you will need to be patient. Cardiovascular adaptations are initially quick, but they will slow down. Progress is not linear.

For the advanced trainee who is looking to improve athletic performance or just wants to get rid of that last bit of fat, I would favour the Tabata Protocol. It is brutally hard and equally as effective when executed properly. A Tabata session lasts for 4 minutes and consists of 20 seconds of very intense effort followed by a 10 second recovery period. Each sprint needs to be performed at a 9 out of 10 intensity level. If by the end of the 4 minutes you are not lying on the ground in a pool of sweat, then you are not working hard enough. Your body should be vibrating for hours upon completion. This protocol epitomizes the benefits of EPOC that I discussed in Part 2. If you are already fit and you want to improve your overall fitness and body composition, then this is for you.

I know the examples that I have used (e.g., treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers) are not feasible for everyone. Never fear. These workouts can be done in your basement or outside in a park on the grass or on pavement depending on the mode you plan on using. Bodyweight exercises can be just as effective if you have limited room. Jumping jacks, seal jacks, mountain climbers, high knees and duck unders to name a few, are all excellent alternatives and will provide great results assuming you are working at a high enough intensity.

The Pitfalls of Jogging – replace it with sprint/interval training

The Pitfalls of Jogging – replace it with sprint/interval training

Last week I wanted to burst a few bubbles and get readers to critically assess the logic behind their fat loss endeavours, specifically jogging. Understanding the science and the impact that any type of exercise has on your body is crucial to reaching your desired goals.

I am a huge advocate of sprint/interval training. The benefits far outweigh the hard work you invest. Sprint training is a series of short bursts of energy followed by brief periods of recovery. Sprints can be done on grass, in the pool, on a stationary bike or a treadmill. All you need is a little bit of space. Equipment is not necessary. The options are endless as are the benefits. You just have to get out and do it.

For the jogger who has been performing long slow tedious runs, sprints will save you a lot of time. An effective sprinting session can be completed in as little as 15 minutes plus a brief two minute warm up and cool down. You might ask, “How am I going to burn as many fat calories in such a short span of time?” The secret is in the intensity. Logic would suggest that the harder you work, the greater the benefits.  And this is all true. The catch is that it is not the calories that you are burning while you are performing the exercise that count. A typical 15 minute sprint session on a treadmill may burn as few as 150 calories, but the metabolic benefits will last for the next 24 to 48 hours and your metabolism will be on fire for the following 2 to 3 hours upon completion. This is referred to as EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. It is the additional calories your body will burn after the exercise session is completed in order to return your body to the state it was in before the exercise took place. So the harder you work, the greater the benefits you will reap over the long haul.

Regardless of what process we are undergoing, our bodies are hardwired to return themselves to homeostasis (balance). In any process our body undergoes whether it be digestion, breathing or muscle repair, our bodies require energy in the form of calories to recover and repair itself. Therefore the greater the stress, the greater the metabolic benefits of the activity and the longer it will take your body to return itself back to the balance it wants. The added benefit of training harder is the potential to build new muscle. Short intense efforts call upon your fast twitch muscle fibres to get the job done. These muscle fibres are highly susceptible to fatigue, but they have the greatest potential for hypertrophy (muscle growth). A great example of this can be seen when observing the physiques of a competitive marathon runner and a competitive sprinter. Sprinters carry less body fat than their long distance counterparts and have a lot more muscle. Sprinters tend to look a lot healthier too. In summation, sprinting offers the benefits of burning fat and building muscle simultaneously. Something that jogging cannot provide.

In Part 3, I will give you specific sprint/interval workouts that you can perform at the gym, in your home or outside, weather permitting.

The Pitfalls of Jogging

The Pitfalls of Jogging

If you are currently jogging with the sincere desire for fat loss, you need to stop what you are doing and read this right now.

“I need to lose some weight. I think I am going to take up jogging”. I have heard these phrases uttered by more people over the years than I can count. Once the weather improves, joggers new and old come out in full force. Many people run for the endorphins alone and that’s fine, if it is something you enjoy doing, but it is not as beneficial as you might think.  Next time you’re driving down a residential street, take a close look at the joggers you see. Are they lean and muscular?  Not likely unless they are blessed with great genetics. For the others, the term “skinny fat” comes to mind; they have very little muscle and moderate to high amounts of fat in relation to their bodyweight. It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking that we are healthy because we look slim in the mirror and have a great score on the body mass index scale, but if we were to take an actual body fat reading of most joggers, many would carry more fat than what is considered optimal by today’s standards.

Jogging becomes a catabolic activity after 30 to 40 minutes—your body uses your protein stores (i.e., your muscles) as the primary source of fuel for your run. The ideal fuel source for any physical activity is carbohydrates and fat. Having less muscle means a slower metabolism and a slower metabolism means you can’t eat as much as you once did and maintain the same bodyweight. Muscle is metabolically active. For every pound of muscle you have on your body, you will burn an extra 50 calories a day just sitting on the couch watching television. Muscle needs to be fed in order to maintain its existence. Study after study has shown that as we age, those with more muscle on their frames are destined to live longer than those without. This goes for people in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Muscle is not reserved for the younger generation. It is in everyone’s best interest to have as much of it as possible.

From a historical standpoint, jogging is a man-made activity. We did not evolve jogging. We ran from our predators, chased our next meals or walked for days in nomadic tribes in search of our next destination. The human genome has changed little over the past 20,000 years and our bodies require the same types of activities. Think about the current mainstream sports and activities that we watch and/or engage in on a regular basis. Very few of them have a slow-to-medium rhythmically consistent pace. In fact, they are quite the opposite. They consist of quick bursts of energy followed by brief recovery periods.

Fat Loss at Home without Equipment

Fat Loss at Home without Equipment

I perform dozens of consults every year. The most important question that I ask is: What has held you back from exercise in the past? I have heard a ton of  different excuses, but the ones that come up the most often are lack of money, time and equipment. What if I told you that you didn’t need to spend a cent on a gym membership or purchase any equipment at all?  All you need to do is give up 3 hours of a 168 hour week by performing 3 one hour training sessions. You will burn a ton of fat and build muscle simultaneously. There is no good reason to train any longer than 45 to 60 minutes at a time. Study after study has shown that peak testosterone levels in men and women are reached at approximately 30 minutes into a session and begin to decline at the 45 minute mark. Testosterone is the primary muscle building hormone. So take advantage of that small window and get what you need done before you reach the point of diminishing returns at the 45 minute mark.

My generation grew up with bodyweight training. Gym classes in public school consisted of moving our bodies through space. Running, jumping, kicking, hurdling, climbing, skipping and throwing. Some of the best workouts I ever had were in elementary school with my Grade 5 gym teacher. He was a hard ass. I never left a single gym class without being winded and out of breath.

In order to make bodyweight training effective, you need to find exercises that recruit the maximum amount of muscle. Squats, lunges, planks, chin ups and push ups are the way to go. All these exercises work your muscles and more than one joint which means more muscle gets worked  in less time and your heart has to work that much harder to get the work done.  The lunge featured below works the hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes.

The classic push up exercise works the chest, shoulders, triceps and the upper back (to a lesser extent) at both the shoulder and elbow joints.

Try pairing these exercises using only bodyweight as resistance by performing them in sequence (back to back) for a total of 3 times each and I promise that you will be extremely fatigued and your muscles will get a great pump.

If you are not convinced, look no further than olympic gymnasts to see how effective bodyweight training can be. Their bodies are under the constant tension of their own bodyweight. They manipulate angles and levers to increase tension on the muscles to make their training more challenging. They don’t accomplish this through weights and machines. And I’ve never seen a gymnast who didn’t have a significant amount of muscle tissue on their frames.

Over the years we have been conditioned into believing that training has to be more complicated than it needs to be. Whether it is a fancy new fat burning gadget on an infomercial or a shiny new nautilus machine in a commercial gym, we assume this must be the way to go. Anything that looks that good must render results, right? Wrong. They cause more injuries, burn less calories, build little muscle and are generally a waste of time. You are sitting down and the weight is already balanced for you. So all you have to do is push or pull. Balancing your own bodyweight or the force of an object placed upon you is the foundation for strength and muscle growth. You will get better results performing 8 properly executed push ups than you ever will in a seated chest press machine. And you will burn more fat and build more muscle in less time.

One of the first questions I get asked before I start working with a new client is whether or not they need to buy a treadmill, cross trainer or a recumbent bike. My answer is “No”. There is nothing wrong with using one, but you can save thousands of dollars and get the same fat burning, heart strengthening results by performing a bodyweight routine such as the one below, called a Tabata Routine. It is short and intense, but extremely effective. By the time you are done you will be lying on the floor gasping for air. This is a great way to end your workout. Your calorie burn over the next couple of hours will sky rocket.

1. 20 Jumping Jacks

2. Rest for 10 seconds

3. Repeat for 8 cycles in total.

Better Results in Less Time

Better Results in Less Time

For many, pulling into the parking lot of your gym is a moral victory in itself. When you are out of shape, the thought of going into a gym and trying to look like you know what you are doing is pretty daunting. What should I do first? Should I stretch? Go for a run around the track? Or maybe head to the bench press and get the ball rolling. As the saying goes, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. Walking around aimlessly in a gym sampling all the equipment is not going to get you the results you want. So what should you do?

1. Before you pick up a weight, go for a run or do any type of high intensity training, you need a thorough warm up. I’m not talking about stretching. We can get to that later. You need to prime the major muscle groups that you plan on using before you start putting any type of strain on them. This is a dynamic warm up. Use movements such as wall slides, band pull aparts, inchworms, duck unders, and marching with high knees. This gets the blood flowing, clears waste from your muscles, brings fluids to your joints, and opens up your body. Research shows that warming up with dynamic stretches, which actively move your joints through a full range of motion will enhance muscular performance. A dynamic warm up should last a minimum of 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Make sure you know which exercises you plan on performing before you walk into the gym. Performing different exercises in a random order will not get you the results you are looking for. I recommend performing the exercises that require the most amount of muscle activation first. Begin with compound multi-joint movements. Squatting and deadlifting variations will require the most amount of energy and a near maximum effort, so attacking these first is the best course of action. Rowing and pressing movements (pushing and pulling) would come next, followed by isolation or assistance exercises. These are movements that work smaller muscles at only one joint.  They are typically used for bulletproofing your body from injuries and straightening out imbalances. They are best left for the end because they require the least amount of effort.

3. Track your progress. Who can possibly remember the exact number of sets, reps and exercises that they performed from one session to the next? I have a good memory, but for me to remember every variable from my last training session is not going to happen. Buy a small notebook and start charting your progress. Write down all your sets, reps and the corresponding weights for each exercise and I promise you will get stronger a lot faster.

4. Forget about how much weight Joe Schmoe or Jane Doe is moving in the rack next to you. The #1 thing you must remember is that you are only competing with yourself. There is no track, no ice rink and no baseball diamond. Just you and a piece of equipment that you are applying force to. Your goals should be to improve upon what you did in your last session and that is it. Whenever I stray from this philosophy, my progress hits a rapid decline. Don’t fall into this trap.

5. Make a point of stretching out your entire body for a minimum of 15 minutes post workout. This goes against the conventional wisdom that my generation grew up with. Stretching was always performed before an activity and not after because we thought if we stretched first we would avoid injury. When you perform any type of resistance training you are shortening the muscle, so lengthening it prior to training is not going to have the desired effect. If anything, it will hinder the potential force output that you are trying to achieve. What you should do is warm your muscles up by increasing blood flow to the muscle groups you plan on using (refer to point 1 above).

By lengthening your muscles at the end of a training session, you are improving overall circulation. When you enhance the rate of blood flow to your working muscles you also increase the rate of recovery, because your blood carries essential nutrients to help your muscles repair and grow while at the same time removing waste by-products that are no longer needed. It is also a great natural way of cooling down your body temperature and lowering your heart rate. It is not recommended that your heart rate drop suddenly from an 8 or 9 out of 10 to a 2 or 3. It should be brought down at a gradual pace.

Artificial Sweeteners- Are they really safe? Part 2

Artificial Sweeteners- Are they really safe? Part 2

Artificial sweeteners are produced in a laboratory and contain no calories or carbohydrates, so they are unable to raise your blood sugar. They are quite a bit sweeter than regular sugar, so a lot less is needed to sweeten foods and drinks.

These are the most common types of artificial sweeteners you will find:

Aspartame is found in brands such as Equal and Nutrasweet. It is approximately 200 times sweeter than table sugar and is currently the most widely used artificial sweetener there is. It’s created by combining aspartic acid and phenylalanine (two separate amino acids). Sucralose is found in Splenda. It is typically used in low calorie foods such as gum, candy and pop. It is very hard for the body to break sucralose down, so you are able to ingest it without the added calories. Acesulfame potassium is very similar to aspartame as it’s 200 times sweeter than sugar and as with sucralose, it is not absorbed well by the body. This sweetener is typically combined with another sweetener, because of its strong after-taste. It is typically found in sugar-free beverages. Saccharin is the original artificial sweetener. It is somewhere between 200 and 700 times sweeter than table sugar. Its most common use is as a coffee/tea sweetener (Sweet’n Low).

On the surface, artificial sweeteners seem like a great idea. They are calorie-free, they don’t spike your blood sugar, and many aren’t absorbed by the body. Sounds like a win-win, right? Not quite … there is a lot more to the story. While artificial sweeteners appear to provide an innocuous way to satisfy your sugar needs, what you may not know is that they are loaded with all kinds of dangerous side effects that should make you think twice before loading up on them at the grocery store. The primary complaints are headaches, vomiting, nausea, dizziness and stomach pain. These are the more acute symptoms; the serious problems come from long term use.

Most people switch over to artificial sweeteners because they want to limit their sugar intake and lose some weight, but the truth is that they can actually make you crave sweets even more. There are a number of studies linking artificial sweeteners to weight gain. That probably sounds odd, because artificial sweeteners are calorie free. Sugar activates a food reward circuit in you brain. So when you eat sugar, this pathway is activated in the same way as other pleasurable activities. Artificial sweeteners don’t activate this pathway in the same manner that sugar does. Without this form of satisfaction, the search for food is triggered. It activates cravings, increasing intake, and leads to weight gain.

Artificial sweeteners have been shown to be highly addictive. When consumed regularly, you can actually develop a dependence on sweeteners by resetting your taste buds. Once your taste buds become accustomed to artificial sweeteners, it can be much more challenging to reduce your intake or to stop eating them altogether.

High intake of artificial sweeteners can do a great deal of damage to your digestive system by altering your gut microbiota. The healthy bacteria in your gut has a major effect on your entire body. In a study performed with mice, researchers gave water that contained three artificial sweeteners and compared them to mice drinking regular water or sugar water. They found that the mice given the artificial sweeteners developed glucose intolerance, a condition that can lead to metabolic syndrome and eventual diabetes. The theory behind this is that the artificial sweeteners caused harm to the metabolism of the mice, inducing glucose intolerance and negative modification of their intestinal bacteria.

There are a number of healthier and safer alternatives to artificial sweeteners that will satisfy your sweet tooth without causing you any harm. Maple syrup, raw honey, stevia and xylitol are your best bets. All in moderation of course.

Artificial Sweeteners – Are they really safe? Part 1

Artificial Sweeteners – Are they really safe? Part 1

I recall back in the 80’s going to my friend’s house and watching his mother drink one can of pop after another. I asked her if she was concerned about all the sugar she was drinking (I was 12). Then she showed me the can. It said sugar-free Diet Pepsi. I remember thinking what an ingenious idea it was to make a soft drink without sugar. That was until I tried it myself. The aftertaste was horrendous. What I was tasting was aspartame. A man-made chemical that was designed to mimic the taste of sugar, called an artificial sweetener.

They’re everywhere now, because artificial sweeteners have become almost as widely used as regular table sugar. And from diet drinks to reduced-sugar snack foods, artificial sweeteners have found their way into our food supply. When was the last time you were at a coffee shop or a restaurant and didn’t see the signature pink and yellow packets of artificial sweeteners sitting next to the sugar shaker?

We know that sugar is harmful. In excess it can be deadly, causing all kinds of problems from heart disease, diabetes to cancer. The idea of removing sugar from your diet entirely and replacing it with something that tastes sweet but is sugar-free sounds like excellent logic, but is it?  The vast majority of research has come to the conclusion that artificial sweeteners are equally as bad for you as table sugar. And there are some sweeteners that are probably worse!

Before I get into what artificial sweeteners are, it is equally important to understand what sugars are. Sugars come in many forms. Cane sugar, brown sugar, lactose, fructose, etc. What is important is that each one is a type of carbohydrate that ultimately breaks down into glucose inside your body. Its purpose is to supply your body with energy and raise your blood sugar. Every type of sugar has a caloric value, which is why the idea of filling your body with too much of it is a bad idea.

Low calorie sweeteners are a form of sugar alcohol. You will find them in chocolate bars, ice cream, gum, etc.  Some of the most common ones are xylitol and sorbitol. Food manufacturers like to use them because they only contain about half the calories of regular sugar and they don’t produce a dramatic spike in blood sugar, which is very appealing to consumers.  Xylitol is a good choice because it comes from plant fibres. Alternatively, sorbitol is derived from corn, which is a common allergen, pro-inflammatory, and 88% of the time it’s genetically modified. So that is one you should stay away from.

Next week I’ll get into artificial (zero calorie) sweeteners … how they are made, why you should avoid them, and some healthier alternatives.

Why being Fat is NOT okay………

Why being Fat is NOT okay………

Every week there is a new catch phrase on the Internet, usually with a hashtag attached to it. I rarely know what they mean and I don’t really care. Lately, I have been seeing the term “fat shaming” popping up a lot on social media. I didn’t know what it meant either. So I decided to read about it a bit.

I’ve never been fat. I’ve never been called fat and I have no idea what it feels like to be fat. What I do have experience with is being extremely underweight. In my younger years not a day went by where somebody didn’t feel the need to point that fact out to me. So it is safe to say my body image was not optimal as a youth. Kids are mean; there is no getting around it. Most of us are all so self-centered and insecure that we feel the need to point out and criticize anything we see that strays from the accepted norms. It makes us feel good. That is how we are wired as human beings. Sad, but true.

After reading some of these articles I had to ask myself the question, “Is it okay to be fat?” My immediate response was “absolutely not.” There is nothing at all that is healthy about obesity. It is bad for you in every conceivable manner, from a cardiovascular standpoint to cerebral, to endocrine and soft tissue. When we see an obese child, you can bet their parents say, “It’s okay, you are beautiful on the inside and that is what counts” or “Eat whatever you like and learn to love yourself”. I am not saying that fat people are ugly or that fat people should be teased and scorned. Quite the contrary. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. The former is entirely subjective and to ridicule someone for the latter is morally wrong and reprehensible.

I save my judgement and disapproval for the parents of obese children. They are solely responsible for allowing their children to stuff their faces with highly processed crap and permitting them to sit around on their backsides staring at a computer screen for hours on end. It is a form of child abuse. This is the type of behaviour that carries on into adulthood and continues throughout one’s entire life.

What we need to be doing is educating and supporting our children. We support them through education, not by giving them a “there there” followed by a pat on the back. Teaching them how to live a healthier and more active lifestyle means being a good role model. We all learn behaviour through example. One of the most powerful ways to encourage your child to be active and eat well is to do it yourself. Set a good example by going for a walk or bike ride instead of staring at the boob tube or surfing the Internet. Playing ball in the park or swimming with your children reinforces that being active is fun and it is a great way to bond with your children.

As a parent, you are entirely in control of what and how much goes into your child’s mouth when they are on your watch. A good rule of thumb when preparing meals for your child is to start with small servings and let your child ask for more if they’re still hungry. Make a point of serving their food on child size plates.  It is not necessary to make your child finish everything on the plate or eat more than they want to. Encourage your child to eat slowly and keep their meal times consistent.

Regardless of your genetics, culture or income, obesity is preventable. Don’t try and convince yourself otherwise