September Healthy Living: Portion Sizes, Belly Fat, Fitness @ Home and Junk Science

Plus3's monthly health tips are brought to you by Amy Bertram, a Wellness Specialist in North Carolina. Learn more about Amy on LinkedIn and on her blog. 



Well, No Wonder We Weigh More 

The graphic from Vox gives a fabulous picture of the massive growth of portion sizes in America over the past 60-plus years.


"These supersize portions are reflected in our daily calorie intake. The average American’s total caloric intake grew from 2,109 calories in 1970 to 2,568 calories in 2010. As Pew Research put it, that’s 'the equivalent of an extra steak sandwich every day.’"


The remedy? Eat in. Take your lunch. Make simple meals at home. When you do go out, split a meal, take leftovers home, or order the smallest size. We have become so accustomed to larger portions, when often a smaller serving will completely satisfy us.


Good and Bad News About Belly Fat

Bad news first. Sitting longer and moving less puts more fat on our bellies, which is the most dangerous place to store it. In a controlled experiment,  those who were inactive (averaging only 13 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise), gained more belly fat than those who were "active". Each hour of sedentary time per day was linked to an extra 1.9 quarts of abdominal fat.


Let me translate. Inactive people gained almost a half-gallon of fat (1.9 quarts) for each hour that they were sedentary.


Good news: There wasn't an increase in belly fat for "active" people (averaging 40 minutes a day of moderate exercise). (1)


Another study measured the deep belly fat (visceral fat) of two groups of people, one eating a low-carb Mediterranean lunch each day and one eating a low-fat lunch which was high in fruits, vegetables, and beans. Half of all participants exercised for an hour on three days each week. After a year and a half, both groups had lost about 6 pounds. However, the exercisers, regardless of their diet, had lost more of that unhealthy belly fat. (2)


More good news: Moving helps prevent belly fat, so yay! Incorporating standing, walking, or any type of upright movement throughout your day will help keep belly fat away.





Want to Measure Your Fitness at Home?

Why not? And now it's easier than ever. What a great place to begin a fitness journey or simply check-in to see how you are doing. The links below give very simple tools to measure four different fitness areas. Check your strength and endurance with upper body and core, aerobic fitness, and speed.


These are not for elite athletes, necessarily, but can assist anyone in tracking their health goals.


The Push-up Test (measures muscular strength and endurance: How many push-ups can you do in a minute?)

The Crunch Test (measures abdominal strength and endurance: How many crunches can you do in a minute?)

The 3-Minute Step Test (measures aerobic fitness: Check your heart rate before and after)

The 1-Mile Walk Test (measures aerobic fitness: Walk one mile as quickly as possible)


These tests are great tools to see how you are doing. If your score isn't as high as you'd hoped, that's ok! Now you have a goal, and a way to measure it. The more you move, the stronger your muscles and heart will become. Use as a great free resource. As always, check with your physician before beginning an exercise program.


Don't Fall for "Junk Science"

Fat-burning, metabolism-boosting, detoxifying, immune-boosting. Have you seen any of these "miracle" claims before? According to McGill University’s Office for Science and Society (1), many people believe what they read on food packaging, even when there is no scientific evidence. Here are some of my favorites:

  • "Fat-burning" foods: Spicy foods can increase metabolism to a very small degree, though companies are selling capsaicin supplements with the promise of miraculously melting fat away. If that were the case, then everyone who eats Tabasco sauce would be skinny.

  • "Immune-boosting" foods: Every winter my kids want to run out and buy vitamin C-boosting concoctions because they claim to increase immunity, which they very well may, but not any more than an orange without all of the additives.

  • "No Added Sugar": Fruit sugars can be considered "natural" sugar, which is not considered an "added" sugar, but can add considerable sugar and calories to your daily intake.

  • "Detoxifying": Certainly, water is the best thing to flush our systems. Fruit and vegetables, as well as anything with plenty of fiber will detoxify in a healthy way. The dangers of some of these cleansing procedures carry the risk of dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, impaired bowel function, and disruption of intestinal flora.

The bottom line is that we need to do our research. There are very few regulations surrounding claims such as these. Clean eating is as simple as eating real food. And Dr. Google is just a laptop away.



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