#333 Obesity Wars!

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The force is strong with this one.

Darth Vader

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Obesity Wars: A New Hope

By Steve Edwards

Fat Darth VaderWe at Beachbody® are at war against the most formidable opponent the United States has ever faced: obesity. It's killing more people a month than our two other more high-profile combatants—terror and drugs—have killed this decade. Obesity is the Darth Vader of all the dangers we'll face in our lifetimes. Smoking once ruled our universe, but a new master has taken over the dark side. Here, in the final installment of our latest trilogy on obesity, we offer a new hope of getting the force back on our side.

As usual, we begin in what appear to be ever darkening times. Just last week, a report was released showing that an obese 10-year-old kid may have the arteries of a 45-year-old. Each time we offer a solution, the obesity empire rebuffs our efforts. Earlier this year, we released Shaun T's Fit Kids™ Club. Vader laughed as our infant mortality rate skyrocketed compared to the rest of the world. We offered Kathy Smith's Project:YOU! Type 2™ and then saw the number of people who either are pre-diabetic or are already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes skyrocket to nearly a third of our population. Earlier this month, we offered 10 solutions to the epidemic (see "10 Ways to Fight Obesity" in the Related Articles section below). Last week, we're told that over half our kids are projected to be obese within a generation. Admittedly, things look bleak for the rebellion. But read on and you'll see that we don't need a Jedi to guide us in this war. The force is very powerful. And it's controlled by us.

Junk Food Pyramid

In the film Idiocracy, we're offered a glimpse at a possible future should we continue to follow our current patterns of regression. In the film, society has devolved into an anti-intellectual state completely controlled by corporate advertising interests. We're at a crossroads—we're watering our plants with a version of Gatorade, the only beverage we consume, and our plants will no longer grow. The corporate-controlled Food and Drug Administration's food pyramid features nothing but fast food, sports drinks, and mind-altering legal substances: alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. And while it's an over-the-top comedy, one can't wonder whether the most unbelievable thing in the movie is that it's set 500 years in the future. At the rate we're going, we could be living—or at least eating—this way before the end of this millennium.

Obese KidCase in point: The latest studies on obese children. At the American Heart Association's conference last week, two studies, done independently in different countries, showed that obese children had a "vascular age about 30 years older than their actual age." This, of course, greatly increases their chances for heart disease. So much so, in fact, that the American Academy for Pediatrics is now recommending cholesterol-lowering drugs for some children. "As the old saying goes, you're as old as your arteries are," said Dr. Geetha Raghuveer of Children's Hospital in Kansas City, to the Associated Press. "This is a wake-up call."

But the wake-up call needs to ring louder. How we've become so unconcerned with our health isn't a mystery. We've simply followed marketing trends, which have seen junky foods and other easily consumable items become more and more a mainstay in our diets. Gas stations and convenience stores are filled with virtually nothing but junk food and drug-filled beverages. Supermarkets are only slightly better, placing their healthy items on the fringes and filling the middle aisles with premade medleys of genetically modified corn and soy. The companies that have become successful marketing this said junk now dominate our airwaves to the point where a person dropped into an American city could easily assume that we, indeed, do live primarily on fast food, sports drinks, and mind-altering legal substances.

Our next wartime strategy is going to be to consolidate our resources and simplify. If society's attention spans are dwindling, we'll offer a simple three-point plan to unify our rebellion. With or without the help of Obi Wan, this might be our only hope.

  1. Kids BicyclingExercise. Somehow, someway, we need to find a way to exercise more. Exercise levels have fallen dramatically over the last 30 years, and our health has gone along with it. Nothing has a greater effect on our health than exercise. It's only through exercise that our bodies produce hormones at healthy levels. And if we exercise enough, it even combats an unhealthy diet.

    Unfortunately, we're doing a lot less instead of more—especially as children. It's estimated that children get somewhere between 20 percent and 25 percent less exercise than they did in the 1970s. Oddly enough, this decline is almost inverse to the rise of obesity rates among the same group.

    The solution to this might be as easy as turning off the TV. The American Journal of Public Health published a survey stating that 59 percent of children watched between 2 and 4 hours of TV and an additional 22 percent watched 5 or more hours per day—which didn't include hours in front of the computer. This is more TV than any kid I grew up with was allowed to watch. We didn't watch this much TV in a week. Children are easily bored. Take away their TV (and computer games), and there's a pretty good chance they'll end up doing something active.

  2. No SodaEliminate soft drinks (including "energy" and sports drinks). It's estimated that American teenagers are getting around 15 percent of their total calories from soft drinks. Consider that this 15 percent contains nary a useful calorie, and you can see how these drinks can be problematic.

    We don't need any sugar in our diets, but we get a lot of it. When we find sugars in nature, they're generally wrapped around other nutrients that minimize their negative effects and actuate their positive effects. In candy and, especially, beverages, sugar's negative effects are enhanced by the formulations because they are designed to perform more like drugs than nutrients. This effect, commonly known as a sugar rush, does a lot more harm than when we experience a sugar crash. This rush and crash effect is one of the conditions that leads to type 2 diabetes—the world's fastest growing illness.

    Energy and sports drinks can be effective for sports. Unfortunately, they are rarely used for these activities anymore. In fact, they are commonly used for exactly the opposite—to give us an artificial high that we once induced by actually exercising.

  3. Person VotingEffect change in local government. Our ancestors went through a lot of trouble to set up a government under that moniker "of the people, for the people, and by the people." We've let their hard work fall by the wayside, as we've become victims of the new American cry "of the corporation, by the lobbyist, and for the shareholders." But corporations, in reality, still work for us. And making changes is less daunting than it seems.

    When deregulation began in earnest back in the late 1960s, the United States sat among the top of the statistical world in education, health care, infant mortality rates, and life expectancy. We've been steadily declining. In all of those categories, we now rate near the bottom of what we refer to as "first-world" countries. This has happened while the top 1 percent of our country has become exceedingly rich and our middle class has all but disappeared. Our society became lazy and complacent about our world status. Now our statistical leadership among modern nations has been relegated to the obesity epidemic.

    Fortunately, our government still reacts to our bidding. Individuals can—and do—effect change in the way we do business. We have many examples of Beachbody members who have promoted effective change on the health of their local communities. Your school's lunch program, the effectiveness of that school's recess periods and afterschool recreation opportunities, and even the type of foods carried by your local market are all controlled by you.

    Our government wasn't set up to tell us what to do. It was set up for us to tell it what we want. By accepting policies and reacting to marketing schemes that lower our quality of life, we've been acquiescing to a doctrine that doesn't have our health in mind. And all we really need to do to change it is to realize we've been duped and demand something different.

    Farmers' MarketYou don't need to run for office to effect change. Steps as simple as taking interest in what your local market sells, that your community offers a farmers' market, that your schools serve decent food, that recess is not only offered in school but is enforced are all simple steps that lead to real results. Because the obesity epidemic isn't a plague, it doesn't require doctors, politicians, or Jedi Knights to change it. It only requires simple alterations that anyone can make to his or her everyday life. Anyone can eat better, exercise more, lose weight, and get healthy. And anyone can inspire others to do the same. And, like the force, when our collective individual minds change, we effect change across the world.

Related Articles
"10 Ways to Fight Obesity"
"Are You at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes?"
"7 Tips for Healthy Lunches Kids Will Love"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Monday, November 24th, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Steve EdwardsIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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8 Fitness Myths

By Joe Wilkes

Can you turn fat into muscle? Is the morning the best time to exercise? Will you get cramps if you drink too much water when you exercise? Can those ab machines on TV get rid of your potbelly? Spend time surfing the Internet for fitness information and, pretty soon, your head will explode from reading all the contradictions and misinformation about the best strategies to get fit. Here are some of the more popular myths and old wives' tales that have been propagated over the years.

Body Builder, Water, and Workout Machine

  1. Turbo Jam®You can turn fat into muscle. This is completely false. Muscle and fat are two entirely different substances. Muscle is a fibrous, contractible tissue that can only be built through exercise—via a break-down-and-rebuild process. Fat is adipose tissue that can be converted into energy in the service of building muscle, but the tissue itself can't be transformed into muscle tissue. So if you are an out-of-shape 200 pounds, you're not going to look like a young Schwarzenegger just by lifting weights. You'll have to do a lot of Turbo Jam®-style cardio to burn the fat off before anyone can see how ripped you've gotten—which leads us to...

  2. Hip Hop Abs®You can turn a potbelly into a six-pack just by doing crunches. Any insomniac has seen those late-night commercials that promise miracles with rollers, chairs, crunchers, and various other contraptions. They all promise a Brad Pitt six-pack in just minutes a day. But if you're starting with a Homer Simpson beer gut, it's going to take more than rocking back and forth a few minutes in a modified lawn chair every day to see any results. No matter how steely your ab muscles are, if they're covered in inches of fat, no one is going to be able to appreciate them. That's why programs like Hip Hop Abs® combine a healthy amount of cardio with the ab work. You can read more on this in "Getting to the Core of Your Ab Routine" in the Related Articles section below. If you don't burn the fat, you'll never see the muscle.

  3. SaladYou can lose weight just by dieting. This is technically true. If you don't eat or eat less, you will lose weight—initially. But you will plateau quickly, and your body will readjust its metabolism to survive on fewer calories, making it even more difficult to lose weight. If you really want to move the needle on the bathroom scale in a meaningful way, it's going to take diet and exercise. Even light to moderate levels of exercise on a regular basis help a lot. Physical activity not only burns calories, it also helps build muscle and increase your metabolism, both of which turn your body into a more efficient calorie-burning machine—even while it's at rest. Plus, there are numerous other health benefits that you gain, from cardiovascular improvement to mood elevation. And people who are fit look a lot hotter than sallow, starved people.

  4. WalkingIf you don't exercise every day, you might as well not exercise at all. This comes from the same flawed, excuse-driven logic dieters use when they decide that because they cheated at lunch, they might as well order a pizza for dinner. While some form of daily exercise is ideal, studies have shown tremendous benefits even with as little exercise as a 30-minute brisk walk three times a week. Even if you fall off the wagon, put in that Beachbody® video or walk around the block a few times. Before too long, you'll be craving exercise more than that burrito you thought you wanted.

  5. Sweaty PersonMore sweat, more weight loss. Most good workouts will make you sweat, but the amount you sweat isn't necessarily the test of a good workout. Everyone sweats differently. And all sweat does is cool your body off with water (see "The Sweatiest Thing" in the Related Articles section below for more on perspiring). What you get from sweating isn't fat dripping off your body. If it were, you'd be leaving a big oil stain on the floor after you worked out. Sweating just causes you to lose water weight. It's the activity itself that causes your body to burn stored fat for energy.

  6. P90X® Results and Recovery FormulaDrinking water during exercise can cause cramping. In fact, the opposite is true. You're much more likely to cramp if you're under-hydrated, so for the best results when exercising, it's a good idea to drink water before you start your workout. That way, you're beginning your workout with a full tank. As you work out, you should keep a bottle of water handy, particularly if it's a long or an especially rigorous workout. After working out, you should treat your body to a big glass of water to replenish your fluids, and, if you've been extra good, maybe some P90X® Results and Recovery Formula for maximum replenishment.

  7. Working OutThe best time to exercise is in the morning. A lot of people find that they prefer getting their workout out of the way first thing in the morning, and often feel that it gives them an energy boost for the rest of the day. But a good workout any time of day is just as good for you; although, you may not get the best results if you're overly tired. But if you're someone who likes to burn the midnight oil, you can burn fat just as effectively then as you can at sunrise.

  8. ChaLEAN Extreme™Swimming is effective for weight loss. Swimming is great for building lean muscle, increasing cardiovascular endurance, and other benefits. But because the water supports so much of your body weight, swimming has been found to be less effective than land-based aerobic activity for weight loss, since the effort it takes to carry your body around on land does a lot more for fat burning. Swimming's still a great thing to add to your fitness regimen, though. Having a variety of exercises, like Chalene Johnson's upcoming ChaLEAN Extreme™ or Shaun T's Rockin' Body®, will decrease your boredom and increase your overall results.

Related Articles
"Getting to the Core of Your Ab Routine"
"The Sweatiest Thing"
"What Does It Mean to Be 'Fat'?"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this Monday, November 24th, at 7:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM PT in the Beachbody Chatroom!

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Food Myths IQ!

By Joe Wilkes

True or False?

  1. Lima BeansTrue: Raw lima beans are poisonous. Lima beans contain cyanide compounds that can cause illness or even death if the beans are eaten uncooked. The cooking process turns the cyanide into a harmless gas. Fortunately, most strains of lima beans available in the U.S. have been bred to contain super-low levels of cyanide. But if you're in another country and you begin craving raw lima beans, watch out!

  2. False: Swimming too soon after eating causes cramps. Although the saying has been repeated so often by paranoid poolside parents that it is presumed to be a medical fact, there is no substantiated evidence proving that swimming after eating causes the kinds of cramps that fearful moms and dads purport will cause drowning of the young 'uns. Of course, cramping is possible with any activity, but having food in your system is unlikely to make a difference.

  3. HoneyTrue: Honey does not spoil. Honey is "cured" by bees to the point that it has a very stable pH level and has an extraordinarily long shelf life. Honey has even been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, and it's still edible! In part, this is because honey's low moisture content prevents bacterial or fungal growth.

  4. True: Cashew shells are dangerous. You may have noticed that cashews, unlike peanuts, are never sold in their shells. This is because cashew shells are coated with a naturally occurring oil that is extremely caustic to human skin. Contact with cashew shells can quickly cause burning and blistering. In fact, the oil is toxic enough to be included as a common ingredient in insecticides.

  5. Gumball MachineFalse: Swallowed chewing gum takes years to pass through the body. This is another one probably concocted by worried parents who wanted to discourage their children from swallowing their gum—out of fear that their children would choke. While swallowed gum is a choking hazard, the notion that habitual gum swallowers are just a gumball or two away from a gruesome pink intestinal blockage is false. Depending on what the chewing gum is made of, it will either be dissolved by stomach acid or pass out whole through the digestive system. Yum!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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