Sharon's Pontifications
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January 2012 Volume 2 Issue 1
In This Issue
The Parisian Paradox
The Low Down on Food Diaries
Small Asides
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Sharon 2
I know, I know, It's been a long time. Sorry! 2011 was a busy but good year. I hope you have been well and that 2011 was good to you too.

I am still training and loving every minute of it. On the Newsletter front, I have been out of it way too long. Since I can't train everyone, my words of wisdom will just have to do.

I am going to be adding more content to my website and this newsletter, including videos of best practices, methods to tell if you are doing the exercise correctly, and other wonderful little tidbits to make us all healthier. So read on for the first installment of the new year.

Welcome to spring,


The Parisian Paradox - How Do They Do It?
Breakfast in Paris You are looking at what the typical Parisian eats for breakfast. Pretty yummy, I would say! There are also baguettes for lunch and pasta for dinner. According American research, this will pack those pounds on you, and make you you torture yourself in one of those extreme training classes just so you can maintain (not lose!) your current weight. Yet when you look around Paris, there are not a lot of overweight or obese people. In fact, quite the opposite-they lean toward the slimmer side. This is what is termed as the Parisian Paradox (Warning! If you Google this, there is another Parisian paradox that has nothing to do with health). They seem to partake in behaviors that conflict with what we tell our clients, but without the consequences. How do they do it?    Well, if I could tell you that, I would be richer than the Google guys and Oprah put together.  I may not have the entire answer, but I can take a huge stab at some of our basic life style differences. 

They eat much smaller portions. Yes there are two croissants in the picture but the breakfast is for two. One American would most likely eat the entire breakfast above, and then some bacon, eggs, and hash browns. It does not take a mathematician to figure out which has fewer calories. Most fad diets work because they restrict calories; if you reduce your calories regardless of type of food you will lose weight. For instance, if, instead of those wonderful Five Guys burgers that have double patties with all the fixings and fries, you eat a single patty with no condiments and half the fries, you will have cut about 500 calories from the meal.

They walk a lot more than we do. We drive everywhere. In the US, errands, work, and socializing require us to drive. The most we walk is from our car to our destination and then back to the car, with little walking done at our location. The Parisians walk to work (an average of 1/2 mile to the metro, one way), they walk to lunch (few eat at their desk), they walk to the grocery several times a week (because their refrigerators are so small), and they walk to socialize. Even if they do have a car, they have to walk from where they parked it to where they are going, and I guarantee you that parking is nowhere near like it is here. I can't remember seeing a parking lot in Paris. Even taking the metro involves walking; the tracks are not immediately at the bottom of the stairs like here.


They do not work the same long days we do. Parisian work about three to four days a week, which leaves them more time to walk around, have coffee, shop. Think about how much time you spend at work, how much of that is sitting at a desk?  How much time in the car?  How much time when you get home watching TV?  How much time sitting on Facebook?  Now you understand why they are so upset about the two extra hours they will have to work per day...this is a complete change of lifestyle. In the past 5-8 years, Americans have increased the amount of time we sit on a daily basis, mostly because of computers and conveniences that allow us to sit more. You cannot counteract 10+ hours of sitting 7 days a week with hour long, rip tearing, calorie burning, extreme, uberworkouts..3 days a week. If we could, there would be a lot more thin people in the US. 

Stress Level. You can argue that everyone has stress, but there is stress and there is Stress. Some stress leaves us feeling like we climbed a mountain and reached that summit. Other stress leaves us feeling like we've been hit with a MAC truck. Why the difference?  I believe that when (for some strange reason) our brains think the stress is worth the effort, we feel exhausted but good. When we feel we pulled out all the stops, but got very little out of it, we feel like we got beat up. Parisians have a more laid back look on life. Yes, they worry about things, but different things. If the government has your back, so to speak, if you get seriously ill, it will be covered without breaking the bank, and that's a huge difference in lifestyle.  Children in France also have  access to higher education at a more reasonable price, which lowers stress for them and their parents. All in all, bad stress can become a huge player in the weight loss game.

In the end, I think we need to eat better quality food and less of it, stand, walk, move, work less and play more (no not on the computer or Facebook). By really working on incorporating these simple life behaviors, we might learn the secret of the Parisians. 

Food Diaries
Does a Body Good? Or Just a Big Pain?
back bend
Cat & Food

Ahhhhh, the mere thought of a food diary makes me shudder (as it does most of my clients). Why, we ask ourselves, does this one tiny list drive me crazy. This little list is going to bring to light all the little lies we told ourselves when we ate something that we knew was not the best choice. When you write down exactly what you eat for one week, one of two things happen; 1) you eat really, really well, due to the fact that I (or a mean friend) gets a hold of it and publishes it to Facebook, 2) you see how many calories you really did consume on a day to day basis. Monday went well, but Tuesday was a party and you decided to have the pommes frites, the chocolate flourless cake, the puff pastry, and brie and crab infused salmon. Not to mention the two glasses of wine to go with this tasty, beautiful dish. So at this point, we stop the food diary and plan on starting it the following Monday.

Food diaries are proving to be a good thing, unless you feel like a failure every time you read what you ate and beat yourself up. The purpose of keeping track of what you are eating is to see where you can cut back, but not to limit all your pleasures of the palate. Denying yourself food has also proven to be a dead end street; deny, deny, and deny, then you go crazy and overeat till the cows come home (which is a really long time because I don't have any cows). We do more damage when the dam breaks after denying ourselves our favorite foods; after food denial people will eat four times as much of a food item than if they just cheated in the first place.

There are many food diaries available online; some extremely easy to use, others more time consuming. The online food diary you will like depends on how much information you want about what you eat. They run the gamut of calories, to breakdowns of proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals. Start with your end goal in mind; if you are just trying to eat less calories or lose some weight, the simpler the diary the better. In fact, it might just take some paper and pencil; it does not take a genius to figure out that if you are having three cokes a day, then cutting out two of them will decrease caloric intake substantially. (To note, two sodas are about 220 calories a day, which adds up to 1540 calories a week. That is half way to the 3500 calories you need to cut out to lose one pound, and that was with just cutting out two sodas a day.)

If you have a medical condition, you might be on a specialized diet, so a food diary one that tracks salt, minerals, or cholesterol would be a better one to choose. Remember, your food diary should fit your lifestyle; it should not make you annoyed or frustrated to fill it out. I like a diary that allows you to enter your own foods using the nutritional information available on all packaging,. This not only makes it easy to fill out a favorites list of foods you currently eat, it makes you look at exactly what is in the food itself, which will help you make better choices in the future. Check out your cereal box; even the good ones like Kashi have quite a bit of carbohydrates (hello sugar) in them.

All in all, if you want to address a weight issue, you have to tackle what you eat. Keeping a food diary is the best way to go about it, so it does a body good.
Small Asides
Uncle Fester
This is the way to travel: 
The Crown Plaza in Copenhagen offers a free meal to guests who provide energy for the hotel by riding a special bike attached to a generator. Hopefully this will catch on and those of us that pay high fees to work in a gym while traveling will be able to workout in the hotel and get discounts. Kudos to whoever thought of this.  

Washington DC in the Positive:   
According to Men's Health, Washington, DC, is one of the fittest cities in the United States. Based on the amount of Type 2 diabetes, money spent on junk food, and inactivity levels, DC ranked third in the nation. See what reading my newsletter has done for this area! Just think what I can do for the world if you pass it on.   

The Truth about those funky looking shoes:

Many people have been asking me about the MBT, Sketchers, and Reebok Easy-Tone shoes...do they really do what they claim?  The answer is twofold; no they do not help you lose weight or tone your backside, no matter what Joe Montana says. However, there are some studies have indicated that the shoes could help promote balance between front and back, but only if an imbalance exists in the first place. This imbalance usually exists in people who wear heels more than 60% of the time, lean forward, or walk on your toes. Because the majority of your weight is leaning forward (so are all your tight muscles), the round bottom shoes cause you to shift weight into your heels and back, which in turn helps your balance. You spend a lot of money on the shoes, which will fix only one problem, or spend the money on a trainer who can plan out an entire workout program to hit all your weak areas. My money is the trainer, naturally.

One of my resolutions this year it to keep up with the newsletter, so keep an eye out for them.

In Health and Fitness,
Sharon Bourke
Grand Poobah
Life Energy Fitness LLC