By Holly Joy Berkey

After much of the country endured a very long and bitter winter, the cold has finally subsided and we now find ourselves eagerly anticipating the warmth of the summer months.  But along with the excitement of balmy summer days and the promise of sunshine and plenty of time spent outdoors, this time of year can also bring with it the jarring realization of forgotten New Year’s Resolutions, a sudden awareness of an overabundance of holiday indulging, and the overwhelming dread of “bikini season”.

Women are constantly bombarded with the pressure to fit a specific body type, especially as the warmest months of the year arrive.  It seems as though a wave of disappointment begins to wash over us as we are forced to peer back at the women on fashion magazines, smiling happily at us as they pose confidently in their tiny bikinis.  The headlines enticing us with their perfect “quick fix” to help us magically drop 10-15 pounds in just a matter of days.  And just like that our brains convince us that we are inferior, telling us that because we have not achieved the body we see before us that we have failed, and a sudden drop in self-confidence leaves us spiraling into a self-loathing depression.

Each year we repeat this cycle, and each year the pressure is on to achieve the perfect bikini body.  Unfortunately it seems that our society teaches us that little to no actual effort is required to attain long lasting results, and instead we are bombarded with ads promising that we can drop a copious amount of weight within just a few days by completing a quick workout and sticking to their prescribed diet.  This is not realistic, nor is it a healthy way to lose weight.

How many women do you know (or perhaps are you one of them?) who suddenly hit the panic button when summer suddenly arrives? Thus begins a manic flurry of massive calorie restrictions, diet pills and workout overkill guaranteed to burn out even the most determined of women.  Even though a few pounds may be initially lost, this weight reduction is fleeting, as sooner or later our bodies need proper nutrition, realistic fitness goals and a healthy approach to maintain lasting results.  The yo-yo effect can wreak havoc not only on your body, but on your self-confidence as well, as you swing back and forth between self-hatred and frantic desperation while trying to maintain a lifestyle based around deprivation.

So how do we overcome this vicious cycle and instead find ourselves approaching summer with confidence?  You may even wonder if this is even possible.  To begin with, committing to a lifestyle which combines healthy eating with a workout plan which is consistent and realistic is key.  Our bodies aren’t meant to gain and lose excessive amounts within a short period of time, but a pound or two lost a week by means of a healthy diet and exercise is much more likely to stay off in the long run.  We also need to realize that these goals take time.  Just as it takes time to gain weight (which is why we generally don’t realize the vast impact that we’ve made on our bodies until more pounds than we care to admit have crept onto our bodies), it also takes time to lose weight.  I’ve met countless women who have begun a journey towards better health, who become frustrated when results do not instantly happen, and then they give up, convinced that the desired weight loss will never occur.  It’s then that they then tend to revert to the “quick fix diets” which unfortunately will never truly deliver the results that are so desired.

But not only do women need to focus on committing to a lifestyle focused on healthy diet and exercise that is a long term investment, but also (and this is much easier said than done), we need to stop being so hard on ourselves.

I recently saw an incredibly inspiration video that had been shared in the Spartan Chicked Facebook group, and it moved me to think about how hard we as women are on ourselves, and a lot of times on each other as well.  The video hosted Tarynn Brumfitt, a woman who has struggled with body image issues for years, much like the majority of women in our society today.  As a former body builder, she realized that even with the “perfect body” she still found herself lacking confidence as to how she felt about herself.  She then went on to become a mother, which produced curves that left her feeling much less than perfect.  Upon taking on a project to ask 100 women to describe themselves in one word, she was horrified as each woman she asked replied with a self-loathing description; “Lumpy, Fat, Ugly, Average, Stumpy..” these are just a few of the replies she heard, and she began to wonder if her own daughter would someday feel the same way about her own body, refusing the see the beauty that she too possesses.  This changed something in Tarynn, and she has now committed to loving her body, no matter her shape, and began the “Embrace” movement, which is raising money for a documentary that will be centered on teaching women to learn to love their bodies.

Tarynn’s story is just one of many in which women are choosing to fight against the urge to fall into a pattern of self-hatred, fad dieting, and unrealistic workout goals.  What we as women need to do is band together to support one another in our individual objectives.  We need to encourage, love, and advocate for each other, and we need to commit to loving ourselves as well.  This isn’t easy, but it’s possible, and surrounding ourselves with other women who are devoted to this same mindset will help us be that much more successful in our own personal fitness and health goals.

I recently saw a great meme online that said, “How do you get a bikini body? Simple.  Put a bikini on your body.”  Several drawings of women of all shapes and sizes in bikinis were then displayed.  What a great message!  Yes, I do believe we should all strive to be as healthy as we can, but we also must realize that we are all at different stages of that journey.  Just because you may not look like a model on a magazine, does not mean that the great things that you are working toward achieving shouldn’t be celebrated!  Just don’t give up; you can do what you set out to do!

So should you rock that bikini?  Yes!  Wear it confidently!  Love the body you have, and keep working steadily toward your goals, I know you’ve got this! Spartan Chicked women are strong, confident, and dedicated, and as long as you don’t forget how beautiful you truly are, you’ll live with confidence as you continue on your journey of healthy, happy living.

~Holly Joy Berkey

www.muddymommy.com

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Michael Mendoza wasn’t always the rippling torso of sinew and muscles that he is now. One fateful day, only 30 yards into a 10k that he’d signed up for and not trained for at all – despite his lethargic attitude to life – he realized that taking his body for granted was a dangerous thing to do. His life was going to change immediately and it all began with his diet. He explains…

“Going vegan was definitely not an overnight process, which is why it bugs me that so many people think they can guilt someone into going vegan. Look, I knew that we tortured animals, but I could have really cared less. They were our food, so who cared if they were ethically treated before slaughter, right?

Vegans and animal rights activists just have way too much time on their hands! Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely an animal lover, dogs, cats, and anything on the endangered species list, but not our food supply.”

Michael explains that he got to where he is by what he calls his “Matrix Effect”. He decided to take that  pill and see just how far the rabbit hole led him. Having already started an exercise regimen with healthier foods and leaner meats, the thought of giving up meat never crossed his mind.

“I was pretty successful in losing a large amount of weight when a book called “Skinny Bastard,” made its way into my hands. I laughed at the notion of vegetarianism but read it anyways. After reading the book, I was horrified and in disbelief. I didn’t want to buy into the fact that our food supply was really tainted. I didn’t want to believe that the government could allow any of these practices to go on. I did more research and eventually adopted a vegan diet. I lost even more weight but reverted into vegetarianism. Years go by as a vegetarian and I had gained a substantial amount of weight back.”

Michael didn’t know another vegetarian or vegan (or “v*gan”, as they are commonly referred to in text) at all by this time. This eventually changed due to social media and he met many others with the same philosophy online. Noticing that many of the vegans he saw online were athletes, he decided to give it a try and go vegan. He bought the book “Thrive” by Brendain Braizer – a successful vegan triathlete – and took his advice.

“I followed his program and had this energy that I never had before. I was able to go faster and further with this new diet. I was running 10k’s and half marathons for fun! I dropped a lot of weight and was in the best shape of my life. All thanks to social media.”

“Another thing that happened was that I learned compassion for animals. I gave up leather and anything related to animal products. Being vegan does open your eyes to the fact that you really don’t need animal products to survive. Heck, being vegan is why I have all this energy.”

But there wasn’t just one tipping point or moments of clarity that Michael puts this down to. He was around 300+lbs, smoked occasionally and drank all the time. He recalls how what he consumed on a daily basis wasn’t good. “My diet was also pretty horrendous. I never ate a single meal without meat and drank at least three cans of diet cherry coke every day.”

“I was at a party and a few friends were talking about a 10K they entered. I had run a 10K for a college final once before, and I was still confident about it. I jokingly said that I was able to run a race, and everyone just laughed at me. To prove them wrong, I signed up for it.  It was a scorcher and well over 100 degrees outside. I met all my friends and we headed to the starting line. Keep in mind, I had zero training and did not prepare for this run at all. They shot that gun and we all started running like rats abandoning a ship. I had a good stride until about 30 or so yards. My lungs started to hurt, my legs started to ache, and I could barely breathe! I took a look back at the starting line and seriously thought about heading back in shame.

300 pound guy trying to run six miles? What was I thinking? I decided the shame of turning back would be too much to handle, so I pressed forward. I decided that I would finish this God forsaken race even if I had to crawl to the finish line.”

As he was bent over double, gasping for air, he was passed by a lady that was in her 70’s. The full horror of his own physical fitness was now washing over him like a cold shower. The alarms were ringing and life was slapping his face from left to right and back again. Time to wake up, Michael.

“She looked like someone that I should help cross the street and here she was passing this guy in his 20’s?! This was ridiculous! So I gave all that I had and passed her up. It was a back and forth race for miles with this lady who should have been knitting at home, not competing with me in a race that I was obviously losing! I finally gave up! She passed me and I was embarrassed. I started to hyperventilate and seriously thought I might die that day. But Like I said, I decided to finish even if I had to crawl across that damn line!”

He eventually finished the race in what he considers to be the worst shape of his life. Sweaty, drained of energy and feeling utterly humiliated and beaten down, it took Michael 1 hour and 52 minutes to cover the 10k. Feeling so drained, Michael had to rest for a few hours before he considered himself good enough to drive home, such was the level of his exhaustion.

“Ever since that day I knew that I needed to get into shape but never really knew how. I was so lazy and eventually lost the passion to get fit. A few months later I took a trip to Europe. My life forever changed since then.”

Some of Michael’s training would include things like uphill sand dune sprints

“In the States I was huge but there were others that were equally large around me. In Europe however, I was the biggest guy in the Continent! It didn’t take very long to realize why! My first day in Venice Italy, I went to a local shop and ordered a pizza and soda. It was such a tiny slice of pizza and the smallest soda I have ever seen! I laughed and thought I must have ordered in the over-priced tourist area!

Later on for dinner, I went to another restaurant and ordered some ravioli. Oh I was super excited! I mean, I’m in Italy eating Italian. Awesome right? Nope! Here comes the waiter with my bowl full of ravioli, 4 pieces. 4 freaking pieces! It was the Twilight Zone here!”

Reverting to type, Michael resorted to what he knew – American fast food. Going to Burger King and McDonalds, he knew he would be in familiar territory. Sadly for him, he soon found that there wasn’t a “Super Size” option for him to fall back on. He quickly understood that he would “either starve or go broke.”

“Slowly but surely I started realizing that these Europeans didn’t have tiny portion sizes, but we Americans had gigantic portion sizes. I also figured out another thing, my feet were killing me. I was walking everywhere. In California, walking was for people who didn’t have cars, not for everyone else.

I came back with a new outlook on life. There was a Starbucks about a quarter mile from my apartment that I would drive to. I never took my car again and started a portion control diet with exercise.”

In regards to training, Michael was a rudderless ship. Not really knowing what he wanted to do, or even how to do it, he was all over the place.

“I started this popular diet called “Atkins.” It was great! I got to eat tons of bacon and eggs and didn’t have to worry about anything. Well, that didn’t last long. I didn’t lose any weight and I felt horrible. I started researching different programs and eventually found one that I liked. It was superset lifting with 33% protein, 33% carbs, and 33% fats. It told me to stay away from fruits and not to do any cardio. I cheated and ate fruits and started to run.”

His vendetta was consuming him. He had a score to settle with 10K of asphalt. He wanted to be able to run a distance that he considered a man of his age should easily be able to do.

“I calculated a full 3 miles around my whole apartment block. It wasn’t easy at all but I was completely motivated. My first run was similar to that 10K I did months before. After about 30 yards in, I was done, but pushed myself to keep going. Days that I wasn’t attempting to run, I started to lift. I was way too embarrassed to hit up a local gym, so I used my apartment gym instead. Luckily we had a decent amount of weights and exercise equipment. I didn’t know what I was doing so I just followed a workout plan.”

The difference in his body wasn’t something he noticed at first. Not overly concerned with how he looked, moreover how he felt, he eventually saw that, over the months, his body was changing in a positive way.

“After months of running, months of eating healthy, and months of dropping pounds, I ran 6 miles without stopping. I didn’t even really notice that I had reached this level of “athleticism.” It was everyday work for me and I had never taken notice.”

There was a quote that I printed up and went like this, “Unless you’re giving 100% every time, you might as well stay at home. So that’s what I did, gave it my 100% every time I went out! Granted, you’re going to have good days and bad days, but I never limited myself.”

“What really made me realize the difference were the compliments from friends and family at how much weight I had lost. I honestly did not notice much changing, it was only till my friends said something that I was able to really look at old pictures of myself, and notice the change.”

But as every Spartan Racer knows, there is an area that every single person has, regardless of strength, stamina, build, body shape, age or mental fortitude. A common bond that we all share and one that we all have to push past in order to make it worthwhile – the comfort zone.

“Yes! Getting out of your comfort zone!”, Michael laughs, “the hardest thing for me was getting rid of the people who were negatively influencing me and hanging out with those who would positively influence me. You cannot get into shape if you’re hanging out with people who do nothing but drink, smoke, and eat horrible food.”

“I put friendships, nightlife and fast food on hold. I told myself that it was a temporary inconvenience and that it would be worth it in the end. Boy did it pay off. I seriously felt like a whole new person afterwards. Accepting that everything I knew about food was completely wrong was hard but necessary. Admitting being wrong about a lot of stuff was tough but was the first step to recovery. Once I accepted that I had no idea what I was doing, I was then able to move forward and learn about food and fitness.”

Offering advice for those open to what he experienced, Michael is quick to lay out some pointers, should anyone want to follow his example.

“It is hard and boy is it tough! If it were easy, everyone would be in shape! You have to want it bad and be willing to struggle for it. Once you get to that point where you have that, “nothing is going to stop me,” mentality, you’ll be successful! Most people quit at the first sign of a struggle and wonder why their “diet” doesn’t work. If there is a wall, you climb it. If there is a ditch, you jump over it. If there is a lake, you swim across it. That’s it. That’s the secret! For every object that gets in your path, you have to overcome it. And that is how you will succeed.”

Obstacles are not there to prevent your progress. They are opportunities to show what your mind and body can do.

Sign up today and we’ll see you at the finish line.

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By Guest blogger Coach Pain DeWayne

It’s a New Year and you have decided to step up to get in the best shape of your life. To some, resolution is a new beginning.  The time is now and sacrifices will have to be made starting with the challenges ahead, it will takes 90% mental and 10% physical toughness to achieve your ultimate goal.  How to stick with your goal is to plan.

Take a pen and pad and write down your plan for the day, starting with your food intake and finishing off with a good productive training regiment NOT A ROUTINE. Routines are predictable and life isn’t.  When starting off with a food plan, it’s a process and to some, it’s very challenging, but it is not impossible to accomplish.  Remember, the workout is only the tip of the iceberg.  You must stay focus and not allow anything to throw you off track.  Fitness is a lifestyle and a journey for which you can and will accomplish.  Start off on the right path and remember, you must crawl before you walk and walk before you run.  When exercising, stick to a moderate program that is sufficient for your fitness level and try not to do what you see others do inside or outside the gym at an advanced level because what works for them may not work for you or it may not be your time to work at that level.  You are a work in progress. Beginning means to start so starts up right for example, food, limit the bad choices you make: pizza, fried chicken, chocolate chip cookies and alcohol intake.  You don’t have to necessarily deprive yourself from these choices.  Food is for us to enjoy, not to gorge.  Everything exists in a delicate balance.  Listed below are examples of good and bad nutrition:

 

Fat: Healthy fats vs. damaged fats.  Eat more healthy fats; eliminate all damaged fats

Protein: Naturally raised vs. unnaturally raised animals.  Go organic and natural for animals because these are at the top of the food chain.

Carbohydrates: Whole carbohydrates vs. refined carbohydrates. Eat more vegetables – eliminate refined grains and sugars.

 

Healthy Fats

Almonds

Flaxseed

Pecans

Sunflower seeds

Walnuts

Avocado

Good Fats

Fish – Salmon, halibut, sardines, anchovies

Eggs – organic, hormone free/antibiotic free and fed no animal by products

 

Oils

Coconut oil (best for high heat)

Olive Oil (medium heat only)

Walnut, Flaxseed, avocado oil (Do not heat)

Cod liver oil (Do not heat)

Hemp seed oil (Do not heat)

 

Good Proteins

Grass fed meat (beef, lamb)

Fish

Eggs

Poultry (Chicken & Turkey)

Carbohydrates

Lower-Glycemic Carbohydrates – High in fiber, these are always your best carbohydrate choices any time of the day. Examples: Cabbage, Celery, Cucumber, Lettuce, Broccoli, Kale, Tomatoes, Zucchini, Lemons, Strawberries, Granny Smith Applies

Moderate –Glycemic Carbohydrates – Reduce consumption of these after lunch.  Completely eliminate these carbohydrates after lunch if weight loss is a concern. Examples: Brown Rice, Pinto Beans, Sweet Potato, Squash, Steel Cut Oats, Whole Grain Breads, Ezekiel 4:9 Bread, Tangerines, Kiwi, Pears, Melons

High – Glycemic Carbohydrates – Eat these carbohydrates only during recovery from exercise.  Avoid them completely if weight loss is a concern. Examples: Banana, Honey, Grapes, Pineapples, Mango

Refined Carbohydrates – Sugars and refined grains are eliminated completely on the maximized living nutrition plans. Examples: Brown & White Sugar, Sweetened fruit juice and honey, fructose, glucose, sucrose, syrups, white rice, white flour, white pasta.

 

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While it’s clear that the fight against obesity and poor health has never had more momentum, it appears that champagne corks shouldn’t be popping just yet. Save those back slaps and knucklebumps for a moment, as things aren’t quite as rosey as we’d like to believe they are.

The Overseas Development Institute recently said one in three people worldwide was now overweight and urged governments to do more to influence diets. 

In the UK, 64% of adults are classed as being overweight or obese.

The report predicts a “huge increase” in heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.

Globally, the percentage of adults who were overweight or obese – classed as having a body mass index greater than 25 - grew from 23% to 34% between 1980 and 2008.

Spartan Race has been pushing for Americans and indeed those around the world to live healthier and exercise more.

Consider signing up for our FOD . With our Food Of The Day, you will be emailed a different food/recipe that you may like to consider each and every day.

Likewise our WOD – workout of the day – will give you a routine to go through that will not only keep you in shape, but will prepare you for your next Spartan Race. Our WODs are designed to target elements of our races which, when done regularly, will see you attack obstacles with greater strength and confidence.

Sign up your children (ages 4-13) for Spartan Kids so that they can share the pleasure of experiencing what the adults get to enjoy.

Of course, the regular Spartan Race is still waiting for you adults aged 14 and over. Let’s get together and push that obesity percentage down. Sign up your friends and family and have today be the first day of the rest of your lives!

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by Harmony Heffron

Blueberries recently made the news when companies were discovered putting fake ‘blueberries’ in their products.  Though you now have to be careful to avoid purchasing counterfeit blueberry products, there are plenty of reasons to add this wonder food to your diet.

Rich in antioxidants, blueberries may even prevent some types of diseases, including cancer. A study by the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center reports that blueberries may lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases and reduce fat in the stomach area. High in vitamins A, B complex, C, and E, these berries can keep your body healthy and help your immune system to function well.

Since fresh berries are only available a few months a year, frozen blueberries are a great alternative. They make a fabulous, nutrient-rich addition to health shakes. Just throw them in the blender with everything else!

If you buy fresh berries, check the color. The more blue they are, the more antioxidants they have in them.

Check out our Food Of The Day for more help with eating.

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by Jess Murden

Some people say it’s a texture thing; other people say it’s the green coloring that deters them.  I say, get over it and start stocking up on avocado.  This weird-looking fruit actually provides some of the most essential nutrients that our body needs on a daily basis.

Avocados are native to Mexico, with the first evidence of avocado use dating back to 10,000 BC in a cave near Puebla, Mexico (reference to the Paleo Diet connection).  They tend to have a pear shape and are therefore sometimes referred to as an alligator pear.  The avocado is considered a fruit because it is a large berry that contains a large seed.  Avocados mature on trees but ripen off of the tree.

The average avocado tree produces roughly 500 avocados annually.  Thank the lucky caveman drawings for this because CrossFitters and Paleo Diet advocates alone eat enough avocados to keep the market on the up swing.  So let’s side track to the nutritional benefits.  Avocados are of the good fat family; meaning they are the kind of fat that a person should include in their diet.  Roughly 75% of an avocado’s calories come from fat (monosaturated fat, however; the kind of fat that has positive affects on health, such as lowering cholesterol).  They are also sodium and cholesterol free.

Avocados naturally contain the following vitamins:

Vitamin K – known as a clotting vitamin; it helps the body’s blood clot.

 

Vitamin E – acts as an antioxidant; it is also necessary for the formation of red blood cells.

 

Vitamin C – used in the growth and repair of tissues; it is also an antioxidant.

Vitamin B6 – helps the immune system produce antibodies; it also helps maintain normal nerve function.

Potassium – essential for the proper function of cells, tissues and organs; it is necessary for building muscle.

Avocado Fun Facts:

The word ‘avocado’ comes from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl, meaning testicle, a reference to the shape of the fruit.

Avocados were known by the Aztecs as the fertility fruit.

San Diego County is the avocado capital of the U.S.

Avocados contain more potassium than bananas

Avocados have the highest protein content of any fruit.

If you would like to receive a Food Of The Day, join our FOD mailing list be clicking here.

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Dr. Jeff Godin, Ph.D., CSCS, & Spartan Coach

What if there was a disease that afflicted 36% of the population in the United States of America, roughly about 78 million people? What if this disease was strongly related to other debilitating and life-halting diseases such as heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and diabetes? Which Hollywood celebrity would start a foundation to crush this horrible disease?

The disease is obesity. On June 18th, 2013 the American Medical Association officially declared obesity a disease. This means that it will become a physician’s professional obligation to treat patients with obesity, the same way they would treat other diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. The optimist in me says that this will create a healthy discussion between the patient and physician on the health implications of obesity and physicians will prescribe a healthy diet and exercise as the primary mode of treatment. The cynic in me says that treatment will include prescriptive medications instead of encouraging preventative measures.

Why is it so hard to talk to people about obesity? Every time I teach it in class, I have to walk on egg shells. Even in the professional setting, if you tell someone they are obese they react as if it was a racial slur. I was called by an irate mother that accused me of ruining her daughter’s self-esteem by noting that her BMI and body fat percentage placed her in the obese category. Hopefully, classifying obesity as a disease will eliminate some of the awkwardness that comes with discussing it. It will be seen for what it is… a clinical diagnosis, not a personal attack. No one gets their feelings hurt when the doctor tells them that the hideous mole on their back should be removed and biopsied to see if it is cancerous. I understand that obesity is more than simply a physical problem, but until it can be discussed openly, and attacked vigorously, it will always remain as the elephant in the room and we will never make progress towards finding obesity’s root cause.

The best treatment for obesity is a Spartan Lifestyle, one that is founded on a healthy diet and loaded with physical activity. The Spartan Lifestyle includes a diet that is mostly plant based, that includes an abundance of vegetables and fruits, very moderate in grains and animal food products. It is a diet that eliminates processed foods, added sugars, and trans fats. A Spartan Lifestyle includes meals that are prepared from fresh foods, not ones that come from a box. For fluid, Spartans drink water, not sugary, over caffeinated beverages. You can get access to healthy and nutritious recipes by subscribing to our daily “Food of the Day” emails. They are FREE and provide recipes to help get you started and keep you fueled in a healthy way. Subscribe HERE.

Physical activity doesn’t require a fancy gym, or shiny plates, or cardio equipment. It does require a commitment of 60 minutes a day, which still leaves 1,380 minutes to sleep, work, and relax. It starts with motivation, if a BMI of 30 and all the excess baggage associated with it isn’t enough motivation; there are 1,000,000 trainers and coaches out there that are willing to help the right person find it.  Similar to our Food of the Day (FOD), Spartan Race offers FREE workouts WODs each day to keep you moving and active, and to prepare you for your Spartan Races.  Subscribe HERE

Spartan Race wants to lead the charge in crushing obesity. Do we really need a physician to treat obesity? Why not nip it in the bud before it gets to that point? Let’s rip 78 million people off of their couches and get them to follow the Spartan Lifestyle!

Who wants to join us in this crusade?

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Corinne Kohlen

by Corinne Kohlen, Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician
Spartan Pro Team Member

The American Medical Association (AMA) voted Tuesday, June 18, to classify obesity as a disease. This decision has come after much controversy and years of debate.

Currently obesity is defined by using Body Mass Index or BMI. BMI is a ratio of one’s weight to height and for most people* correlates with their amount of body fat. A BMI of 18.5 -24.9 is classified as “normal weight” while a BMI above 30 is classified as obese. It is estimated that 1 in 3 Americans has a BMI over 30. That translates to 78 million adults and 12 million children who are obese, and now according to the AMA have a “disease”.

The vote was against the recommendations of the Counsel of Science and Public Health who believes BMI as a measure of obesity is flawed. They feel that a BMI of 30 is a very arbitrary threshold; People with a BMI of 30 can be very healthy and muscular while many people at a “normal” BMI may have multiple metabolic issues. There is also concern that once diagnosed with a “disease” people may become overly reliant on medication and surgery as a solution to obesity and neglect to focus on lifestyle and behavioral changes.
The AMA was joined by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American College of Cardiology to classify obesity as a disease. Supporters of the vote site multiple reasons for their decision. They believe classifying obesity as a disease will reduce the stigma associated with the condition and make it easier for physicians and patients to talk about. It may also help get the attention of insurers and researchers and increase reimbursement and availability of counseling, treatments, surgery, prevention, and drugs to treat obesity.

The AMA denies that obesity is simply the result of overeating and under activity. “The suggestion that obesity is not a disease but rather a consequence of a chosen lifestyle exemplified by overeating and/or inactivity is equivalent to suggestion that lung cancer is not a disease because it was brought about by individual choice to smoke cigarettes.”

As one can imagine this decision and statement has created much controversy. The AMA feels this decision will only better the treatment and care of the obese, and will open up opportunities to more people for care. Currently Medicare does not pay for obesity related drugs, or dietitian counseling regarding obesity.

For many it is difficult to not blame diet and lifestyle for the rise in obesity. With portions being supersized, foods packed with saturated fat, processed sugars, and loaded in calories, and people becoming more and more sedentary it seems a logical correlation. With the addition of just 500 calories a day one will gain a pound a week. For some these calories “sneak” in with their morning blended coffee drink, with their side of fries or potato chips, or with their soda or sweet tea.

On the flipside of things obesity can be prevented and even reversed by focusing on portion control, appropriate daily calories, and an active lifestyle. It seems almost too simple but daily exercise and mindful eating can help maintain healthy body weight and prevent obesity.

What do you think? Should obesity be classified as a disease? Will classifying obesity as a disease help or hurt in our fight against obesity?

Time for you to get fit?  Sign up for our FREE Food of the Day (FOD) to help you get started.

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By Maurya Scanlon

Historically, Spartan women were quite possibly the toughest women on the planet.  After all, it takes a warrior to raise one.  Today, that tough, fighting spirit still drives women to achieve amazing feats.  Rose Marie Jarry has used the strength and courage characteristic of a Spartan woman not only on our courses but also in her business-life.  I recently had the pleasure of conversing with this amazing woman: the founder of Kronobar.

Jarry has been an athlete almost her entire life.  “For many years I competed nationally in Track and Field running the 400m and 800m. Competition also gives me an excuse to take care of my body; I only eat healthy… It keeps me feeling young!” she shared.  That competitive spirit and passion for health and fitness carried over into her adult life and are what inspired her to train for and race Spartan Races.  She has “[run] about 11 Spartan Races to date! And [she’s] completed the Spartan trifecta: the sprint, the super and the beast.”  It’s no surprise that someone so active and dedicated to racing and being fit would create a product geared towards athletes.

Jarry, an artistic woman with a passion for flavor, studied “gastronomy at a well-known school in Montreal.”  It’s no surprise, then, that Kronobar started out in her own kitchen.  “At first I just wanted to make a nutritious snack for my own training…I needed something tasty and healthy, but couldn’t find anything on the market that satisfied me.” At that, Jarry decided to make her own recovery snacks.  “I made a few flavors and gave some to my friends, who asked if I could make more. It was once several gyms and sports shops in the area started asking for bars that I realized I had something special.”  Kronobar took off from there!  I asked her if she noticed any similarities in her attitudes towards business and racing.  She replied, “What I love about racing is that you keep pushing your limits and realizing that you’re capable of way more than you expected. When I apply that same mentality to my company, good things tend to happen.”  Good things like awesome partnerships!

Kronobar became a partner with Spartan Race when it sponsored the second ever race in Mont-Tremblant.  Jarry explained, “It was a total success, so we’ve been partners ever since! ..But to be honest, it wasn’t a business decision to partner-up. It was mostly that I wanted to run (and win) the race; which I did. And then I caught Spartan fever!”  We can’t blame her!  The partnership continues providing opportunities for racers such as the “Krono challenge” for all the Canadian Spartan Races.”  This challenge, she explained, is another way for her to race.  “Any female competitor who beats me will get free Kronobars and a bunch of other prizes. We also have a guy running on the Krono team, so if any male competitor beats him, they’re also eligible for the prizes.”  She added with a little laugh, “Last year no one beat me, so I’m hoping for more competition this year!”

That sounds like a challenge to me, Spartans!  I encourage each of you to take the opportunity to be a part of the Krono Challenge in the Canadian 2012 season.  Jarry and her team will challenge you to have the race of your life, after which you can indulge on a delicious Kronobar!

by Dan Camp

Most of the time, we are given advice on what to EAT but forget that there are many types of drinks out there (and I’m not talking about just alcohol) that can blow your daily calories out of the water!  It starts with soda…but ends up being a variety of other drinks that may not even cause our radar to go off, and some which may even seem “healthy.”  If you Google “worst drinks in America” you can probably find a million different countdowns that go blow-by-blow what the highest calorie, highest sugar drinks are, but instead of worrying about a specific brand of this and that, I’m going to just give you an overview of the “types” of drinks you want to avoid.

Soda
sodaWe all know it’s not good for you, but why?  First of all – sugar.  A 20 oz. bottle of most sodas have over 60g of sugar, which is about 15 teaspoons of sugar!  And we usually drink the whole 20 oz. bottle let’s be honest.  Also, watch out for “black” sodas which have phosphoric acid in them.  Phosphoric acid can clean rust off of a car engine, can wash a 100 year old penny and make it look like new, and will therefore eat away at the enamel of your teeth not to mention what it does on the inside!

Diet Sodas aren’t much better, as they mostly use aspartame, and artificial sweetener.  Studies show people gain weight from diet soda, perhaps because the body is confused at the sweet taste but no true sugar delivery and therefore craves sugar more and possibly stores food differently.  Another problem with diet sodas in particular is that their pH is nearly identical to the pH of the stomach, so they can cause acid reflux.

Energy Drinks
Again, sugar is the biggest culprit here, but also effectiveness.  Anything with 50+g of sugar you have to wonder what kind of energy is this really providing?  A short burst, like a Roman candle, followed by a crash.  Your body can’t take in all that sugar and utilize it fast enough before it begins to be stored as fat.

Other ingredients in energy drinks tend to be caffeine and taurine.  Taurine is an organic acid, found in some meats, but realistically the amounts of taurine in any energy drink is not enough to actually impact biology in any way, and most studies show it doesn’t have much of an effect on energy levels.  Likewise, caffeine is fine in moderation, but you might as well get it from a cup of coffee as a natural stimulant.

beerBeer
“Beer is evidence that God loves us and wants us to be happy” – Ben Franklin.  Yes, I have to agree.  However, with beer you have a double whammy, because not only does alcohol carry empty calories, but beer is made with hops and barley and carries starchy carbs as well.  In some ways, knowing this you might as well go for a quality beer instead of drinking Bud Light all the time, even though the B Light obviously has fewer calories  – I’d rather have a beer with quality ingredients, it’s almost like thinking of it as the difference between white bread and a hearty whole grain bread with seeds on it.
Beer is about moderation, it’s easy to double your dinner’s calories by having several beers with it, so just be careful!

Milk Shakes
Milk Shakes are probably the highest calorie single entity among all pieces of food and cups of liquid in the world.  The reason they are so thick and sweet is that the sugar used is Maltose – which are two molecules of glucose bonded with one another.  Add high % milk fat, and you have one tasty treat – that can cost you an entire day of calories within 10 minutes.

For example, the PB&C shake, 24 oz. size, at Coldstone Creamery has 2010 (yes, I didn’t accidentally add a 0 there!), 68g of Saturated Fat and 153g of sugar in it.  That’s basically 10 tbsp. of butter mixed with 40 tsp. of sugar and for many Americans, a day’s worth of calories!  Just be wary, they taste delicious and you can gulp ‘em right down, but you are destroying your diet with one of these.  I don’t care about my “Don’t let a bad day turn into a bad habit” sentence, if your day includes one of these shakes, you don’t have to worry about it becoming a habit, you’ve already done the damage!

Now, it takes a certain kind of person to order a 24 oz. shake, but the fact that one exists is preposterous!  And a 16 oz. shake of the same flavor…well do that math, it’s still about 1350 calories.

Coffee Drinks
Starbucks drinks – they are a common luxury.  But not only will they rob yourWorst-Chocolaty-Coffee-Drink pocketbook, but they will destroy your diet.  However, you can be smart.  I personally love plain, black coffee, I guess I am just lucky, but that is what I always order at Starbucks.  Avoid the drinks that have multiple pumps of sugary syrup and whole milk.  Also, avoid the coffee drinks you can buy at the grocery store as they, too, are loaded with sugar.  There are healthy treats at Starbucks: for example a skim cappuccino is a delicious beverage!  And you know what, adding a tsp. of sugar to a coffee is not the end of the world, and in fact it is better than adding an artificial sweetener.

Sports Drinks
Sports drinks are basically all about the “when.”  For athletes, replenishing the body with a high carbohydrate beverage with some electrolytes like sodium and potassium has been studied and shows a better impact in performance and recovery.  But many sports drinks use high fructose corn syrup as their sweetener.  If you are looking for a recovery drink, having 10g of protein is a nice touch, and also look for a sugar source that is glucose and/or maltodextrin instead of fructose.  Fructose takes longer to absorb and be utilized and is primarily digested in the liver and can cause bloating during physical activity.  So a sports drink is ok at the end of a workout, but rarely, if ever, needed any other time of the day.

My best advice to you – be label smart!  Note that 4g of sugar = 1 tsp. of sugar, so calculate, even just for the visualization of it, how many teaspoons of sugar you are ingesting with your drink!  While sugar is the main culprit, as you see above there are many other reasons these drinks are not good for you.  When in doubt, have your cup of coffee in the morning and drink water throughout the day, you can’t go wrong!

nuvision_action_image_storefront_3_461789[Editor’s Note:  Dan Camp is a certified STRIDE Instructor and a certified Sports Nutrition Consultant who has raced with Spartan in Staten Island.  Dan Camp’s posts from http://fitasylum.com/ will regularly be making an appearance on the Spartan Blog.]

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