Ms Obama and the Obesity Problem

I applaud the first lady for wanting to help America’s children, I really do.. and perhaps I am a little biased as a food scientist who works for a food manufacturing company, but I think she is really going about it the wrong way.

Browbeating food companies, and the jackboot reaction that followed is not the way to get people to eat healthier. Large companies are stepping into the line.. “We’ll reduce sugar… We’ll reduce fat.. We’ll reduce salt” and it won’t make a damn difference whatsoever.

There are no bad foods… I will say that again.. there are no bad foods. We are bad eaters. There’s nothing wrong with an occasional cheeseburger, or a handful of chips or some candy as a treat but obviously we have lost sight of portion control. Burgers and fries are huge.. Steak dinners at restaurants are 1500 calories etc etc. The answer? Force food companies to only make healthy foods? A) The food companies won’t do that and B) It won’t help.

When are people going to take responsibilities for their own actions? This generation (yes of which I am a part) has gotten into the habit of blaming everyone but themselves for EVERYTHING and it sickens me. A potato chip manufacturer is to blame for your kid being fat, not the fact that you sit them on the couch with a large bag of chips and tell them to sit there and shut up?

I am overweight, and I have struggled with it for a long time and I am finally getting it under control. Who do I have to blame for this? Myself of course. Eat Wendy’s every day for months on end using the excuse “it’s the only place open at midnight” and I defy you not to gain weight. Wendy’s is not bad… Wendy’s everyday is bad.. but it’s not Wendy’s fault.. I made bad decisions.

As someone who hopes to be a parent in the very near future, I hope not only that I continue to lose weight so I can be active and play with them but also be able to teach them, a cookie as a treat after dinner is fine, as long as you don’t sit and eat the whole box.

Will I blame the cookie company when my kids are obese? No.. I will blame myself. But armed with the knowledge I now have, I hope that day won’t come.

It sickens me to read the news stories and disturbs me even more the comments from the people who would have you believe that food additives cause cancer and MSG will make you fat. Let me tell you the honest to God truth. Those strange sounding chemicals on food labels? They all come from food. They may be chemically synthesized but they were originally discovered in a plant or animal product and it was determined that they could serve a specific function. The FDA monitors every single ingredient used by food companies and everything is labeled as GRAS or Generally Recognized As Safe, which means MULTIPLE studies have been performed and whatever the ingredient is has been deemed to be not harmful. Yes, if you eat 300X your body weight in Sacchrin on a DAILY basis, it will kill you.. but who does that? NO ONE.. no one even could. Some of the strangest sounding ones that people think are strange actually are as natural as can be. Carageenan Gum is derived from seaweed and is a natural product. That nasty artifical sweetener Corn Syrup? A byproduct of producing corn starch and is completely natural. Even MSG is produced from sugar fermentation by bacteria the same why wine, beer, soy sauce and other fermented products are made.

Sex, drugs, alcohol, salt, sugar, loud music.. anything in too large of a quantity can harm you somehow, but the key is learning moderation, not trying to change the products to where they are not harmful.

The food companies haven’t made us fat. We have made ourselves fat, and now we have to fix that problem the same way I am.. eat less, exercise more.. it’s that simple.

Smart Shopping

Along with eating healthier and losing weight, I’m also on a kick to reduce my grocery bills and save money. I used to think buying in bulk and doing one big shopping trip a month was the way to go, but the more I read online I see smaller trips can work, especially when you take advantage of weekly sales and coupons.

I’ve read so many stories about how people go to the grocery store and buy 200$ worth of groceries for 10$. Sound’s fantastic right? Well dig a little deeper and it’s not as fantastic as it seems, or at least not as realistic as it should be. If you look sometimes at what they buy, they will buy 10 of the same items that happen to be on sale and it will be an odd assortment of things like laundry detergent, frozen chicken and a bag of oranges. Not your “normal” shopping trip. Sometimes you just HAVE to get something that’s not on sale and you don’t have a coupon, like a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and other staple items. However this is not to say that you can’t use their tips to save a good amount of money, just don’t expect every single item in your cart to cost 15 cents.. not everything you need will be on sale every week, but when it is you can stock up.

I went to Harris Teeter this morning to pick up a few things that I had coupons for (they are doing triple coupons up to 99 cents this week) and a good sale on some chicken. For the first time I saved more than I spent, and I did get one item for free and some for darn near free.

Here’s the good deals I got on this trip.

Packs of boneless skinless chicken breasts (healthy but expensive at 4.99 a pound) were on sale for buy 1 get 2 free. Craziness.

For three packs the regular price would have been $26.89 (5.39 lbs at $4.99 a pound)
I paid $8.95 (5.39 lbs at $ Savings = $17.94

Two packs of Kraft Sharp Cheese (8 oz blocks) – Regular price 3.19 each or $6.38
They were on sale buy one get one free so I paid 3.19 for both, and had a $1 off 2 packs coupon for a total of 2.19 for 2 8oz blocks or 1.08 each. Savings = $4.19

Oscar Mayer Bacon – Reg Price 5.49. On sale for 2/8$ (or 4.00 for one). Plus a 75 cent off coupon that tripled to 2.25. I paid 1.75. Savings = $3.74

McCormick Paprika for my Mac and Cheese, same thing the block cheese was for. Regular price 2.19. I had a .75 off coupon that tripled to 2.25 = FREE. (In reality the coupon only multiplied to 1.44 to make up the 2.19, so it was still free, but it didn’t take off the extra 6 cents. Some people post that you can get 2$ off an item that costs 1$ and it will take a dollar off your total bill, this doesn’t seem to be the case at Harris Teeter. Will have to check this at other stores.)

I also got some nature valley granola bars, boxes of hamburger helper, macaroni noodles and bounce dryer sheets that I used triple coupons or were on sale. But the chicken, the free cheese, the free paprika and the bacon are where I saved the big money.

Total spent: $25.03
Total saved: $36.28

Saved 59.17%

Not too shabby.

Still Waters 5K

Not a real 5K… but the name for my walking loop around my (very small) neighborhood.

Using the map program on where I track my walking, I figured out the loop around my neighborhood is 0.8 miles. 4 laps around is 3.2 miles, or about the distance of a 5K. At least I have a distance I can do when I’m practicing for events.

Today I did 3 laps around in 43 minutes.. which worked out to 14 minutes the first two laps and 15 minutes for the third lap. I use my cellphone as a timer so it’s only whole minutes, but it had just turned to 12:27 when I finished (I started at 11:44) so it was probably more like 42 minutes and some seconds.

If I had gone the 4th lap at 15 minutes that would have been 3.2 miles in 58 minutes which is right in line for my “normal” pace at a 5k.

Thursday I did two laps around, with some short stints of jogging and did the two laps in 28 minutes (first lap 15 minutes, second lap 13 minutes).

I’m trying to work my way up to actually RUN a 5K, but I know I need to lose a lot more weight to do that.

In two weeks (April 3rd) I will be participating in the Lillies Friend’s Got Friends 5K to benefit Neural Blastoma research. If I can I’m going to try to jog some parts of it and improve my time.. Wish me luck!

Not all condiments are evil?

File this under the “I never really looked at that” tab. This is one of those things you notice when you start paying more attention to what you eat. This however is a good one rather than an “oh my god i ate what???”

Sauces like ketchup and barbecue sauce has always been portrayed as being sugar laden. I was kinda surprised when I looked at the label. And Mayo is pure fat right?

Ketchup (mine is Food Lion brand, I would think other brands would be similar if not identical) has a serving size of 1 tablespoon (17g). It has only 15 calories per serving! And it has zero fat. It had 4 grams of carbohydrates and yes, all 4 grams are from sugar, but that’s only 1% of your RDA.

Barbecue sauce (mine is Bullseye Original, again I think most would be similar) has a 2 tablespoon serving size (36g) and has 50 calories per serving. It also has 0 fat. Now this recipe of barbecue sauce uses molasses, and it is a “sweet” sauce in the Kansas City Style. It contains 13 g carbs (4% of RDA) and 11 g sugar. But two tablespoons is a pretty big dollop, and I probably put about that much (or less) on the grilled chicken I just made, and it’s still only 50 Cal.

Mayo on the other hand, by comparison has a 1 tablespoon serving (14g, note slightly smaller than the ketchup serving) and 100 calories per serving and 100 calories from fat. Mayo is evil.. it’s like squirting lard in your mouth right? That’s what some health books would have you believe but now that I look at the label I’m not so sure. Am I saying Mayo is healthy? No, but out of the 11 grams of fat (17% RDA) only 1.5 of it is saturated fat. It doesn’t give the Mono or Poly Unsat levels on this label, but the ingredients are soybean oil and eggs. Soybeans and eggs contain good fat profiles. Should you eat a whole jar? of course not.. but a thin spread on a ham sandwich is not going to kill you. Of course I would still watch out for mayo at places like McDonald’s (not that you would eat there on a diet anyway) because if its oozing out the sides when you take a bite its way too much.

The ketchup really blew me away.. only 15 calories? That’s the equivalent of a (non-sugar free) stick of gum. So add a little flavor to your meals without being afraid of blowing your diet. It helps somewhat bland food like skinless grilled chicken taste great and still be very low-fat.

Yogurt is good for you right?

My breakfast this morning was a cup of yoplait yogurt that I picked up at the grocery store yesterday. Sale and a coupon made them around 40 cents each. Yogurt is healthy.. calcium, vitamins, good bacteria.. what a healthy way to start your day right?

Well apparently that depends on what you are trying to keep out of your diet. The top of the nutrition facts for my Yoplait Original Strawberry Banana yogurt looked great.. 170 Calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 1 g saturated fat. The bottom of the list, not so much.. 33 grams of carbohydrates and 27 grams of sugar.. holy cow! The cup of yogurt is 6 ounces. Since a pound is 454 grams, that’s approximately 28 grams per ounce, or 6 ounces is 170 grams. 16% of the cup of yogurt is sugar. Not quite as healthy as I expected. Another reason why it pays to read the WHOLE label. I looked at calories and fat in the store, but didn’t notice the sugar till I got home.

Challenge update: Weighed this morning at 304. 2 pounds of weight loss this week, for 11 pounds total and 3.49% since the challenge started (At 315). The weight loss is coming slower now then when I started at 345 and dropped 30 pounds in 2 months, but that weight was from sitting around doing nothing, and I knew once I found a job some of that would melt right off just from getting around moving again. I’m gonna have to push hard to get below 300 pounds, but if I do it will be the lightest I’ve weighed in about 10 years. On Biggest Loser they always talk about these limits like hitting a brick wall, and most of it is mental. But these guys have always been above 300, or above 400.. etc.. for years.. and when they finally break through it changes their whole outlook on life. Trust me, I will be celebrating when I hit under 300. The easy part of just cutting calories and losing 5 pounds a week is over. Now the work begins.

And of course my treadmill decided to die on me yesterday, just when I was gonna start walking. Yesterday it was thundering and raining, but today looks good so maybe I’ll walk outside.

TV Graveyard

So this post is not food or weight loss related, but what good is a blog if you can’t write about stuff that interests you right?

2009 was a great and horrible year for television. I was hooked by several great new series only to see them canceled. Once again the driveling, drooling masses would rather watch utterly fake “reality” shows, and the 2% of us who want to watch intelligent thought provoking TV get dumped on.

Kings: NBC – 1 season.

This show was an very interesting modern (or near-future) version of a biblical story. The king of a large country (King Silas, who represents King David) makes a young soldier into a national hero, only to try to ruin him once he gets too popular. What was most disappointing about this show was NBC promoted the heck out of it, only to kill it before it even had a chance. The premiere was on a thursday night, the following weeks episode was on friday, then 2 weeks without shows and so on.. they kept jumping it around.. no wonder no one tuned in.

My Own Worst Enemy: NBC – 9 episodes

Christian Slater as a guy who has two distinct personalities in his head that can be switched back and forth. One is a blue collar family guy, the other is a secret agent. How awesome is that? Interesting concept, the two identities learn about each other and start fighting for control. This one got cut off in the middle and just left hanging. Was a neat show, but I guess campy sci fi is not for everyone.

Defying Gravity: ABC – 7 Episodes

This was an awesome show, but it never had a chance. I can’t remember what it was up against, but it shared a time-slot with one of the huge shows on another network. Starring Ron Livingston (of Office Space and Band of Brothers) the premise was a long distance space mission where the astronauts would spend something like 14 years on the ship. Right when they find out there is some sort of “creature” on the ship that’s controlling everything they pull the plug…… zap… You can watch the full first season (the last 5 episodes that didn’t air) on DVD but why bother? It won’t resolve anything and it won’t continue. Very disappointed.

Trauma: NBC – One season?

I had heard this show was canceled but a new episode came on last night. Here’s the blurb about it from

“This San Francisco-based drama revolves around a group of brave first responders. The ensemble cast features Derek Luke, Cliff Curtis, Anastasia Griffith, Kevin Rankin, Aimee Garcia, Billy Lush, Jamey Sheridan, and Taylor Kinney. The show struggled in the ratings from the start and NBC initially decided not to order any episodes beyond the initial 13 installments. They later changed their minds and ordered more. There‚Äôs a slim chance that there will be a second season but ratings will have to rise significantly.”

Sounds like this one could finish it’s first season and then be finished. It’s a pretty good show.. I imagine with all the car crashes and fires it’s a pretty expensive show to produce. When I first heard it got canceled I wasn’t surprised.

Shows I’m watching now that I hope don’t get canceled:

White Collar: USA

This is a cool show about a con man who gets out of prison to help the FBI, uses his tricks to catch other con men and perhaps still run a few cons himself. Tonight is the season finale of season one.. lets hope it comes back.

Flash Forward: ABC

Returning Thursday the 18th after being off for a while, this great show featuring Joseph Fiennes and Courtney B Vance about trying to solve a mystery where the entire planet blackouts and sees the future. Really great “current day” science fiction. Really hope this one sticks around. Great cast, awesome story.

Fringe: Fox

More sci-fi aliens and parallel dimensions, but still a pretty good show. Some episodes are weirder than others but I like it. Just went off for it’s mid season break. I expect it to be back, not sure when. The older scatterbrained, but genius “mad scientist” character really makes it.

Justified: FX

This show premires next week and it looks good. Starring Timothy Olyphant (A Man Apart, Gone in Sixty Seconds) as a lawman of some description (US Marshal maybe?) who returns to his small, crime ridden home town for some good old fashioned style justice. I’ve only seen the commericals on FX while watching “Archer” but it looks like a good show.

Sons Of Anarchy: FX

Don’t know when this will be back on but I can’t wait. This Motorcycle gang show is awesome, that’s all I have to say about that.

It seems like there were more than 3 shows I watched last year that got canceled but I can’t remember what they were.

Challenge Update

Two weeks into the weigh to win challenge and I’ve dropped 9 pounds. From 315 to 306. The interesting thing is how it’s come off. The first week of the challenge, I didn’t eat as well as I should, and was honestly expecting to gain weight. I managed a meager 2 pound drop down to 313. The second week I ate better, and really felt like I was gonna lose this week, but was still shocked when I stepped on the scale this morning to see it read 306. A 7 pound loss. That’s the most I’ve ever lost in one week. Part of my goal for this challenge was to drop under 300 pounds and now I’m almost there. I don’t expect another 7 pound loss, but in 2 weeks I could be there.

I want to share a recipe and get some opinions on it. I found this in Food Network magazine, and it’s labeled as a “Low Fat Cheesecake” but while it is reduced, I’m not sure I would consider it low.

9 Whole Low Fat Cinnamon Graham Crackers
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 8-ounce packages Neufchatel Cream Cheese (this is the 30% reduced fat cream cheese)
2 8-ounce packages fat free Cream Cheese (I’ve never seen this)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
2 large eggs, plus 3 egg whites
2 table spoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon zest

Here’s the nutrition facts (says it serves 14, which is a pretty small slice)
229 Calories, 11g fat (7g Sat), 61 mg Cholesterol, 319 mg Sodium, 24g Carbs, 0g Fiber, 11g Protein.

The article says it shaved 289 calories, and 21g fat off the average slice, so that would have been 32g of fat and 518 Calories. The Calorie reduction is major, over 50% less, but 11g of fat is still kinda high, but it is way better then 32. Obviously not something you could eat everyday, but a nice indulgence.

What do you think?

  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.