Green Tea Challenge

I know, I know, it’s still PSL season, but hear me out on this one.

If you Google green tea, the first hit you get is “Health Benefits of Green Tea” from WebMD. The internet is pretty much riddled with reasons why green tea is great for you like the “fact” that it will lower stress levels and prevent cancer and help you lose weight and save starving goats in Africa (say what?). But jokes aside, there is a pretty solid base behind the benefits of green tea (if you’re looking for more reputable online resources, check out Medical News Today, Harvard Health Publications, University of Maryland Medical Center and this article that links out to a lot of medical journals). I don’t buy into the idea of green tea itself helping you lose weight, but coming in at a whopping 0 calories, it sure beats 200 calories of latte ridiculousness (now that I’m trying to track that sort of thing all official like… ugh).

Let’s be honest here. Green tea sucks.

[DISCLAIMER: I am really not a tea drinker. Some people (for example, every woman in my family except me) love the stuff, but I have never ever liked it. I am sorry if you already love tea. That is awesome. You can stop reading now. No! Wait! Come back! Maybe just skip down to the challenge part.]

I mean, come on, have you tasted that stuff? Just thinking about it makes my mouth pucker and dry out. Clearly you can go all rebellious and add honey or sugar or something to it, but then that defeats the purpose. But, I was fortunate enough to cross paths with my lovely Chinese co-worker (let’s call him Wu) who informed me that:

You can’t not like tea. There is a tea out there for everyone. We will find it.

This led us on a rather notable tea quest through local markets and chain retailers and even his very own secret stash of authentic Chinese tea and bricks. (Wu still says that the brick stuff is, in fact, tea, but I’m pretty skeptical.) I learned some pretty valuable lessons along the way, like the fact that white tea tastes like grass, and black tea tastes awful, and pretty much anything you can buy from the local grocery store that comes in a little bag is stale. And awful. And apparently adding things to tea like sugar or milk is blasphemy as per Wu.

Most importantly, though, I learned that jasmine green tea is “my tea”. I.e. I can drink a whole cup of it without gagging, or making faces, or yelling at Wu. Furthermore, I learned that not all jasmine tea is the same. There are some sneaky jasmine oolong teas that are NOT jasmine green teas (even if the sales person tries to convince you that you will like it), and I learned that Tetley (and Lipton and other) bagged jasmine green tea is a hoax (okay, not really, but that stuff is still pretty gnarly imo), that David’s Tea is passable in a pinch, and that Tevanna’s Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls Green Tea is actually quite good. Nothing beats the local market’s wonderfully fresh jasmine pearl green tea, but that place doesn’t have parking and since Tevanna is under the same banner as Starbucks it feels less like cheating. This whirlwind experience has left me tea happy and convinced that there is, in fact, a tea for everyone.

Which brings me back to green tea.

I have assembled a list of reasons in no particular order as to why (jasmine) green tea is a superhero awesome:

  • It is 0 calories
  • It smells really pretty
  • It is relaxing/stress relieving
  • It gives you an excuse to stand by the kettle in the coffee area at work for a 5 minute break away from your desk
  • Tea cups are totally adorable

Oh yeah, and

  • It’s totally healthy for you because:
    • It has antioxidants that help kill free radicals
    • It has EGCG

    (And both antioxidants and EGCG are linked to a bunch of great things like reducing the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, cholesterol build up, wrinkles, aardvarks (just making sure you’re paying attention…))

To encourage you to explore the benefits of this beautiful beverage, and the broad range of flavours it has to offer, I have devised the Green Tea Challenge.

Image courtesy of Google.

The Challenge: Drink a minimum of 3 cups of green tea (any type of green tea) a day for 30 days.

The Rules: No additives allowed in the tea (so no milk or honey or sugar). No substituting green tea for other types of tea. Take note of how you feel before and after 30 days of green tea.

The Point: Encourage us to integrate healthier options into our diets to feel better all round. Hopefully by the end of this challenge green tea drinking will become a healthy habit that we can continue.

[The Bonus: As a bonus challenge, replace all hot beverages with tea.]

I know these demands are pretty steep, but let’s get this partea started! I will be posting my personal thoughts on and results of this challenge come November, and will hopefully have found some serenitea and the abilitea to overcome the urge to make as many tea puns as I can. We shall just have to wait and tea. (Okay, I’m done now. Honest.)

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Calorie Chaos: Introduction

I am not that girl that obsesses over calories. No really. Well, maybe that one time. But mostly, I am pretty loose with keeping track of my eating. (Another bowl of ice cream you say? BRING IT!) Which is likely why I’m overweight to begin with. As much as knowing which PSL is the best can be useful, and setting a goal weight can be helpful, if you aren’t watching what goes into your mouth, you’re bound to keep packing on the pounds. I know most people realize this, but the key here is accepting what that really means. I’m not saying to never eat chocolate again, or stop eating pizza for a year, I’m saying that you need to accept that a) you are not eating well (because clearly if you were you would not be in this predicament in the first place) and b) if you are serious about losing weight, you will need to change (in part) what you eat.

So, take a deep breath and say this out loud with me:

I accept that I do not currently eat well and I accept that I need to eat better in order to lose weight and I accept that I will have to make changes to my diet to do so.

(Told you to take a deep breath.) There. That’s better.

Now what?

Enter the wonderful world of calories. Just like weight can be a useful way to track your progress, calories can be a great way to track what you are actually eating compared to how much you should be eating.

I’m going to get all sciencey with you here, so bear with me. Remember that whole Law of Conservation of Mass thing? Basically, mass can neither be created nor destroyed, just displaced. Which means, anything that you put into your body does not just magically disappear, it just gets reshuffled. Skipping the more complicated stuff, food is turned into calories (among other things but we are ignoring all that because it makes our heads hurt) and your body uses calories to do stuff (like make your head hurt). If you shove in more calories than your body uses, they get stored off to the side as fat (like that drawer full of random pens you have kicking around that just keeps growing and growing and really, who would ever need that many pens?) In order to lose weight, you need to make sure that the calories coming in are fewer than the calories being used (aka stop buying new pens and start using the ones you already have stashed away in your pen drawer).

If you want to delve deeper, check out the How Stuff Works’ article “When we lose weight, where does the lost weight go?”. I mean, yes this is also the website that has an article named “How zombies work” so I’m not entirely convinced of the article’s scientific accuracy, but the basic concept is there. And I mean, come on, it’s a pretty cool question to ask.

So how, exactly, do you track calories? I have no idea. But there’s an app for that! Actually, there are several apps for that.

As your beloved guinea pig, each month (or so) I will give a different calorie counting app a whirl and let you know what I liked, or didn’t like, or if I even actually stuck to using it, and I will post my reviews under the Calorie Chaos series for all of our benefits. You’re welcome.

This month’s contender will be MyFitnessPal. Boasting a ridiculous amount of add-ons and features like FB integration (um, no thank you?) and a private diary and a blog (yay blogs!), MyFitnessPal is totally free, takes about 5 minutes to set up, and will tell you, based on your height and age and weight and weight loss goal and magic, how many calories a day you should be taking in. You’re completely welcome to try it out with me this month so we can rant or rave about it together. High five! (Oh, wait, do the cool kids not do that anymore?) Fist pump! Yeah!

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Diets Busted

First off, sorry there haven’t been posts recently. I’m sure it feels longer for me than you. I have like, three of them written in my head, but unfortunately I also have a concussion and have been banned from all screens, reading, physical activity, thinking (basically life…). So, against doctor’s orders, I’m taking a break from staring at the walls and figured I would update with something simple.

I have been wanting to share with you this article. Essentially, there is no miracle diet out there *surprise*. But what I do find interesting is that all diets will produce roughly the same weight loss results provided you stick to it. Personally, I’m not one for diets because they’re not lasting. You can’t realistically sustain an no-carb no-sugar nothing green eat-while-standing-up-and-jumping-on-one-leg kind of fad diet, and the moment you stop dieting, you are guaranteed to gain back some (a lot) of the weight you lost. I think making more conscious and lasting attempts to change your daily diet will benefit you maybe a bit less now, but significantly more in the long run. Instead of seriously limiting your food intake for a few months, I think it’s more important to set goals like “pizza only once a month” for life or something.

That being said, diets can be a useful tool to jumpstart weight loss if you are feeling particularly stuck or overwhelmed. In all honesty, I tried the Slim Fast diet plan for a while once. Which is definitely not one of the healthier diets out there, trust me. But after a month or so of only drinking a sugar-laden shake for breakfast, and a sugar-laden shake for lunch, and being over-all hangry, I did lose just enough weight to make me feel more confident to lose the rest. Except, you know, a few years later and I’m still here, weighing only 2 to 3 lbs less than I did then. So take what you will from that, I suppose.

What was the craziest diet you’ve tried?

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BMI Be Gone?

Once you have hurdled the first step to weight loss, the next logical step is to figure out your weight loss goal. It is imperative that you chose something that is realistic, attainable, and specific. Don’t plan to drop your weight to 80lbs unless you’re a child or a dwarf. Don’t plan to lose 30lbs in 3 weeks, it’s just not going to happen unless you cut a leg off, which I would NOT recommend doing. Don’t plan to just “lose weight”, because without a concrete target your dedication will crumble.

I recommend shooting for a weight loss goal of 1lb per week, a healthy and sustainable weight loss, for as long as it takes to reach your target weight plus half of that. So, for example, if you want to lose 10lbs, plan on it taking at the very least 10 weeks, realistically 15 weeks (half of 10 is 5, so 10 plus 5 is 15). If you are a normal person with a desk job and a penchant for comfort food and lattes, there are definitely going to be weeks where you don’t lose anything, and likely weeks where you are going to gain weight. But don’t get too discouraged, this change is about a lifetime of skinny, not about a few weeks of being up a few pounds.

But how do you go about deciding what your target weight should be?

Often, this is when people turn to the body mass index (BMI). In the simplest terms, BMI is a height to weight ratio. First determined by the mathematician Adolphe Quetelet in the 1800s (yeah, totally relevant, right?), BMI was designed to determine the most ideal adult proportions. It has been tweaked a bit over the years, but roughly, a BMI of 30 and up indicates that you are obese, 25 to 29.9 indicates that you are overweight, 18.5 to 24.9 indicates that you are average (or “ideal”), and less than 18.5 indicates that you are underweight. For the mathematically inclined, you can calculate your own BMI by using the following formula:

BMI= weight(kg)/(height(m))2

OR

BMI= [weight(lb)/(height(in))2 ]x 703

For the non-mathematically inclined (myself included), a 2 second Google search will give you thousands of BMI calculators, like this one, where all you need is your height and weight. There are also countless BMI charts that neatly map out height and weight into colour coded bands of obese, overweight, average, and underweight. This seems beautifully convenient, right? But BMI has come under fire quite a bit for not taking into account individual body types. My family doctor, Dr. O, politely explained that everyone has a different frame and a different bone structure, so a weight to height ratio (or BMI) is not always the most accurate judge of health. Someone with broader shoulders or denser bones will come in heavier than someone with a narrow or frail build, but still be medically healthier. But if you can’t count on BMI, what can you use to determine an ideal weight?

According to Dr. O, the most important ratio to keep in mind is the waist to hip ratio (WHR). Although commonly considered a measure of attractiveness, WHR is also generally considered a more accurate indication of health risk/obesity. Women under 0.80 and men under 0.95 are considered low risk, women between 0.81 and 0.85 and men between 0.96 and 1.0 are considered moderate risk and women over 0.85 or men over 1.0 are considered high risk. From a more aesthetic perspective, attractive (or “ideal”) women trend between 0.60 and 0.70. Calculating your WHR is significantly less complicated than calculating your BMI. Measure the circumference of your waist (the narrowest point, often between your last rib and your belly button) and your hips (the widest point across your hips and buttocks) in inches. Divide your waist by your hips, and voilà!

But even the ever cautious Dr. O turned to BMI to tell me (less politely this time) that I am overweight, coming in at the higher end of the overweight spectrum with a BMI of 27.4. Her ultimate advice to determining a target weight?

If your pants are too big, that’s a good thing. You’re on the right track. 

Which does not exactly serve the purposes of this blog. I find that achieving a set weight is a lot more of a tangible concept than, say, losing a set number of inches off your waist, or getting into a specific pant size. (Although I have this super cute pair of size 8 jeans that I would LOVE to wear again…) And since my WHR is within the low risk range (a lovely 0.77, which means that I have successfully gained weight evenly enough across my body to maintain a reasonable WHR), in order to determine my ultimate weight loss goal, I cautiously considered the BMI chart. For someone who is 5’10” like myself, the BMI chart gives me an average range of 130 to 170lbs. Now, when I was at my skinniest (that is to say, when I was still 16 and an A cup), I weighed a solid 170lbs. Give or take. My memory is pretty rusty. So, as much as I may dream of being only 130lbs, I highly doubt I could ever realistically sustain that weight. So let’s stick with 170lbs as a goal, plus or minus 5lbs (plus or minus a now C cup). According to the BMI chart, that would put me at the very top end of the “average” range.

A more uncouth weight loss measure is your mirror. As much as we all want to fit into an ideal range or ratio or box, everyone is different. The only person that can really say if you are skinny is yourself. So strip down, spread your arms out, and take a good long look in the mirror. Turn to the side. Repeat. If you are happy with your weight, go away. If you are not so happy with your weight, try to picture what you would want to look like. Guesstimate how much gut would have to disappear for that to happen. Keep in mind where your frame ends and your weight begins, since you’re stuck with the bones and build you’ve got. For a point of reference, every pant size is approximately 10lbs. This may not be completely accurate, but it is the best gauge. As you begin to, and continue to, lose weight, return to the mirror and check your progress. Readjust your goals as required.

Taking into consideration my BMI, WHR, and –most importantly– my mirror, I would like to lose 20lbs, which will take a whopping 30 weeks (7 and a half months). Provided I actually manage to lose 1lb a week. (Although, to be honest I’m not entirely convinced I will be successful at that.) That’s not so bad…right?

So, for all intents and purposes, weight can be a very useful tool to track progress, and helpful at outlining ultimate fitness goals, but don’t become obsessed with the number in your head, or the often not-so-realistic number dictated by BMI. So what if you don’t quite hit your target weight? It’s just a number. As long as you have found something that is sustainable and comfortable, I would recommend you stick with it. Not everyone is built for flamingo-like thigh gaps or 12inch waists. Be honest with yourself, take your build into consideration when calculating your BMI, and be willing to change your goals as you go along.

thighgaps

Based on the above, how long is it going to take you to reach your target weight?

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