Monthly Archives: May 2013

A week of food around the world

Facebook and Instagram have illuminated the fact we love taking photos of the food we eat.   Photographer Peter Menzel started this intriguing series of one weeks of groceries from around the world, taking traditional food photography to a much larger scale.

00175372 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldGREAT BRITAIN
00175382 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldUSA
00175392 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldAUSTRALIA
00175402 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldGERMANY
00175412 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldITALY
00175422 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldCANADA
00175432 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldFRANCE
00175442 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldJAPAN
00175452 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldCHINA
00175462 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldPOLAND
00175472 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldKUWAIT
00175482 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldMONGOLIA
00175492 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldTURKEY
00175502 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldMALI
00175512 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldINDIA
00175522 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldBHUTAN
00175532 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldCHAD
00175542 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldECUADOR
00175552 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The WorldGUATEMALA
00175562 What A Week Of Groceries Looks Like Around The World


Cholesterol Management

Reducing your Low Density Lipoprotien (LDL or “bad” cholesterol) and raising your High Density Lipoprotein (HDL or “good cholesterol) can help prevent complications in most people with diabetes as well as serve as a preventive measure for the non-diabetic populations.

What is cholesterol?  Cholesterol is a fat-like organic chemical that is an essential part of animal cell membranes and is required for our bodies proper function. Cholesterol converts into bile, which is required for fat digestion and assists in producing the bodies natural steroids as well as proper brain function.

This all sounds great, but problems can occur when your levels get too high.


Who are these good and bad guys?  HDL and LDL cholesterols are essentially the same. The difference is where they go in the body.  Lipoproteins transport cholesterol around the bloodstream so that cells can use it.

HDL takes cholesterol from the general circulation to the liver where it gets reprocessed. It removes extra cholesterol from blood vessels so they can work better.

LDL goes throughout the bloodstream, and if there’s too much of it, it gets attacked by white blood cells and turned into something called “foam cells.” These cells push cholesterol into the linings of arteries and cause plaque. Plaque narrows arteries and reduces blood flow, putting us at risk for heart attacks and strokes.
Generally, then, we want to increase HDL and decrease LDL. We may also want to reduce total cholesterol if we have too much. But how do we do that? We are often told to eat less fat to reduce cholesterol, but this can be misleading.

On the Discover Fit & Health Web site, Dr. Jerry Gordon says that only 15% of our body’s cholesterol comes from food. Eighty-five percent is produced by the cells of our body, in a process called biosynthesis.

Most of this self-made cholesterol is made from carbohydrates. Quite possibly, it’s the excess carbs that raise cholesterol.

Lets chew the fat...There are different kinds of fat. Polyunsaturated fats are found mainly in nuts, seeds, fish, and leafy greens. They lower both LDL and HDL.

Monounsaturated fats can be found in vegetable oils, dairy products, nuts, meats, and whole grains. They seem to lower LDL and sometimes raise HDL, so it seems we should surely eat more of them.

Saturated Fats come mostly from animal sources. They are fats that are solid at room temperature, like butter or meat fat. Substantial evidence has been produced stating red meat trimmed of visible fat does not raise total cholesterol or LDL levels.

Trans fats are mostly processed unsaturated fats that have hydrogen added to them. They raise LDL and lower HDL, exactly what we don’t want.

However, many studies have shown that lowering fat intake is not effective at lowering cholesterol in our blood. Other studies find that eating a low-carb diet raises HDL much better than a low-fat diet.

How can this be? Most of our cholesterol is made within the body. Insulin is a major signaler for cholesterol production. So eating insulin-stimulating foods (such as refined carbs) may raise cholesterol levels and especially LDL levels.

Why do some bodies produce more HDL and others more LDL? These balances are thought to be mostly genetic and are closely linked with diabetes. A study on people with diabetes found that bad cholesterol levels (“diabetic dyslipidemia”) are linked to insulin resistance. Many times the bad cholesterol numbers rise before the rise in blood glucose.

Should high LDL and high glucose be treated as part of the same disorder? Writing on Diabetes Self-Management, dietitian Amy Campbell MS, RD, CDE, gave several ways to bring high cholesterol levels down. You can read them all here, but the short course is:

• Eat a high fiber diet (+25 grams a day)   From both soluble and insoluble sources, although with soluble fiber you have to watch what it does to your glucose levels.

• Taking roughly 15 mg a day of niacin (vitamin B3) — and perhaps as much as 2,000 mg a day, if prescribed — can help. It does have side effects, like severe flushing of the skin in some people.

•Red Yeast Rice has been shown to lower LDL and may act like a low-dose statin drug. It is available online and at health food stores and Asian food stores. (As always, speak with your doctor before taking this or any other supplement.)

• Exercise can raise HDL quite a bit.

•Quitting Smoking has raised HDL in several studies, even when there was weight gain. It had no effect on LDL, though.

According to articles on AARP and other sites,foods that lower cholesterol and improve heart health include avocado, lentils, edamame (green soybeans), nuts, olive oil, pears, green and black tea, garlic, and onions.

In general, a diet low in refined carbs and high in unsaturated fats seems to work for most people. A low-fat diet does not seem the best way to lower cholesterol, according to several studies, which are summarized on this Paleo diet web site.

Hey Chris…What’s a refined carb again?   Glad you asked.  A refined carb is what happens when whole plants are processed and stripped of everything but the highly digestible carbohydrate (starch or sugar). This concentrate is broken down by the body very quickly, generally causing a high rise in blood sugar (glycemic response). It also usually removes the fiber and most of the nutrients in the food.

Refined carbohydrates include anything that is white (save for milk and eggs), anything we call sugar, anything we call starch and generally anything  “flaked, puffed or shredded.”

The bottom line is that bad cholesterol seems caused more by insulin resistance than fat consumption. Focus on a diet that lowers your blood glucose, and your cholesterol will probably follow. Has that been your experience?

“I’m losing inches! (but not pounds!)”

UPDATE 4-13-2014: The below blog has been one of the most popular entries on My Trainer Chris.  I’ve expanded on this topic here:

The day arrives where you decide that you want to get in shape, drop the excess body fat and generally try to live a healthier life.   You exercise, eat the right foods in the right amounts (OK, most of the time you do) and you do your level best to stay motivated and positive about your new lifestyle choices.

Congratulations!  You are awesome.  You make each day your own and are taking back your life.

Like every other person starting out on a new fitness plan, you often consult a device that becomes the alpha and omega of your progress.


When I say often, I really mean “Wayyyyyyyy too much.”

The scale only knows one thing: “How much does that thing on top of me weigh?”  First, let us presuppose the scale is accurate to the half-pound.  It will read ###.50 and you really are ###.50.

What the scale does not take into account is (1) How much is fat mass vs. lean mass?  (2) How much is the bone, organ or fluid content contributing? (3) How much is food that hasn’t passed through the digestive system?

So the scale only provides a small glimpse of the overall you.  Ideally you have more than one source of data to see your progress.  In my current practice I use the following (1) Scale Weight (at my gym for official readings, the clients home scale for unofficial checkups) (2) OMRON Bio-Impedence Bodyfat Reader (not my favorite, but is required by my employer) (3) Girth Measurements (4) Skinfold Calipers and my highly unscientific, yet brutally honest  (5) Favorite clothes test.


How can a person somehow lose inches off their body, yet somehow remain near the same body weight?  For some people (including some trainers) this seemingly does not compute.  The old line ” Bro…a pound of muscle weighs MORE than a pound of fat.” is illogical simply because a pound is a pound.  The fact is, a pound of muscle takes up less volume than a pound of fat.  Imagine if I filled a garbage bag with a pound of steaks and another with a pound of marshmallow fluff…which bag would appear bigger?  (Stop with the “Beefy vs Fluffy” jokes….I just caught the humor in my comparison.)


Now if the above image was too gross for you, allow me to put it this way….


The same lady at 155 lbs?  These types of images are used to sell weight loss products and I greet them with skepticism.  Note the obvious differences in lighting, posture, the quality and fit of the clothing, the facial expressions and hairstyle, the seeming forced protrusion and inhalation of the stomach.  Many before and after images are taken on the same day.  In the case of fat loss products using bodybuilders as models, the “after” photo could be an image of the bodybuilder in-season at a single digit body fat while the before could be them off-season when they are bulking themselves up.

Trainers: Yes, this has happened to me….several times as a matter of fact.  Your clients work their butt off, you put together a great program, they comply fully in both the diet and exercise components and you still get  a low weight loss number.  It can be frustrating.

My suggestions are as follows:  If your client has lost inches, but not pounds they are, or at least partly have experienced better energy levels, improved kinesthetic awareness and coordination, strength and cardio improvements, new found confidence and in some cases better morale.  If enough inches have come off, they are, or will soon be buying new clothes or altering their old clothes for a better fit.

Remind the client that it is the reduction of bodyfat, not body weight nor BMI is the first matter of importance.  Bodyfat and circumference of the waistline are both indicators of health risks,

Furthermore remind them that only the client (and trainer if applicable) see what the scale says, EVERYONE see’s what the inches say.

Chris vs. The Meathead Trainer

I wrote a few lines in yesterdays blog titled “I love being your personal trainer”  regarding  some meathead trainer quotes I came across.  Even though I have had these quotes for more than a month, I still cannot shake how much those words bother me.

If anything, I should be thankful.  Those words inspire me to be better in my profession.        I decided that posting a fair and balanced blog on the subject couldn’t hurt and might even provide a therapeutic outlet.   For those visiting my page for the first time, the meathead trainer is an actual trainer working for a commercial gym.  The quotes in bold below are his thoughts on personal training and based on my recollected observations are quite accurate in his practice.

Meathead Quote #1:  “Working out isn’t fun”   

My take:  It isn’t always fun.  Matter of fact, there are times when working out plain sucks, but this is temporary.  It is hard work and if your trainer is doing their job properly it will  continue to be challenging as you progress in ability.  CrossFit isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, yet they seem to have fun.  Tough Mudder, Spartan Race et al certainly aren’t easy yet they have fun too.  I’m sorry, but I can’t quite grasp why you CAN’T have some fun while working out.

Meathead Quote #2: “You can use the same workouts for everyone.”

My take: Where do I start on this one? Short answer, this is taking the word “personal” out of “personal training.”

Am I to understand a 20 year old male with the goal of gaining muscle mass, a 35 year old housewife wanting to drop 15 lbs of bodyfat and a 60 year old male with a history of shoulder injuries can all share the same workout routine?  If this is true then all credentialing agencies and exercise science graduates need to take note.

The machine shoulder press is/was one of the staples in his singular program, allow me to breakdown this down….

For the 20 year old muscle gain client:  The machine shoulder press isolates strictly to a singular area of the body.  Overhead pressing a barbell would be a far better choice for this client for overall strength gains and muscular development.

For the 35 year old weight loss client:  Isolation techniques such as the machine shoulder press are simply not metabolically expensive.  A Squat to Barbell overhead press will recruit far more muscles at a lighter weight than a machine shoulder press.

For the 60 year old bad shoulder client:  Raising a load overhead is not wise when dealing with clients with shoulder dysfunctions.  Furthermore, a machine presents a two-dimensional fixed path of travel while the client needs joint health and range of motion improvement in a three-dimensional path.

Why the machine shoulder press over a dumbbell or barbell? My guess is because it doesn’t require spotting and needs very little instruction.

Meathead Quote #3:  I’m blunt and straight forward with people. I’ll tell them they are fat, unhealthy and out of shape.”

My Take: Being blunt and straight forward are not entirely bad things, but having a degree of tact is important in client relationships.  I actually have no problems using the words fat, out of shape or unhealthy, I have a problem in the context of how they are used.

Odds are the clients knows they are fat, unhealthy or out of shape and they WANT to change things.  They wouldn’t have joined a gym and hired a trainer if this wasn’t the case. Bluntly reminding them about it is, in my opinion, a form of shaming that could be defined as bullying behavior.

Honestly, is telling a young woman (who is fat, or at least thinks she is fat) ever a good thing?   Is telling a non-athlete they are weak or out of shape helping matters any?  Words like this have a profound effect on people.

True story:  A few months ago I served as a trainer for a free orientation.  The prospective client was a tall 20 year old lady that was long and lean.  She happened to wearing a sauna suit jacket “to get rid of her belly fat” …..this girl weighed less than 120 pounds. She wanted to lose the belly fat because her boyfriend since high school keeps calling her a fata$$.

This quickly darkened my mood.  I told her to invite him to the gym to come workout with me.   I may be the builder of bodies, but my patience for bullies is zero and I can quickly turn into the breaker of wills.

Clients:  If your trainer is shaming you, this could be a means to get you into upgrading your personal training packages or is simply because the trainer is a jerk. Either way, fire that person and find someone that actually cares. There are plenty of trainers out there that do.

Yes, I have spoken bluntly with clients before and I am certain I will again someday.   I have also spoken bluntly to my clients in a positive way.  The effects of positive bluntness also have a profound effect on people.

I love being your personal trainer!

I love my career as a personal trainer. Not everyone can say they love their career with sincerity.

I must really love it because I just drove an hour round trip for a single client, not because I need the money or am desperate for clients, but because I really enjoy what I do.   This is not to say that my career is without drawbacks, but I truly believe I found my calling in life.  


I get to see my clients results first hand.  This has spanned improvements in athletic performance, initial and sustained weight loss, body composition changes, functional movement and postural corrections, dietary habits, self-confidence, morale and my personal favorites, reduction / elimination of physical therapy needs and being able to physically enjoy life away from the gym.

I get a joy out of seeing client results from other trainers as well.  I think it’s cool to see people succeed, especially considering how hard it can be to earn your life back.


I work in a equal opportunity field.  Women have the same earning potential as their male counterparts and based on my observations are viewed with the same level of professional respect.  

Female clients: You are expected to do work, sweat (that’s right I wrote SWEAT) and grunt every now and then like your male counterparts. Male  clients:  Yes, I will correct your form and tell you to work your hips and glutes.  



Even long days seem to go by pretty quickly.  Having a diverse clientele base I find myself switching gears and using a wide variety of workout programs throughout the day.  Many clients are well suited for the kindly, positively supportive and gentlemanly Dr Jekyll trainer. There are however, a few clients that NEED the loud, demanding, squat and burpee loving Mr. Hyde trainer. 

Since I’ve touched on equal opportunity and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, allow me to make a connection:  Guys: Don’t kid yourself, a Mrs. Hyde trainer is nothing you want to mess with.  That perky 105 lb woman will scare your body into a coma if you try any sexist monkey business…..after you recover from your attitudinal / loudmouth induced coma you might find out she turned you over to a German Volume training loving trainer (whom if your lucky is not semi-evolved) for a special “guest trainer” session.  



 I take personal joy trying to dispel the myth that all personal trainers are meatheads. The meathead stereotype exists for a good reason as there is still an abundance of “trainers” fitting the stereotype. 

I recently came into possession of some meathead trainer quotes:

“Working out should not be fun”  

“I am blunt with people, I call them fat, lazy and weak.” 

“You can use the same workout for every client.”  

I’m not making that up.  Those are real quotes from a paid trainer who is quite the fountain of misinformation.  I keep those quotes in my clipboard to remind myself to be more to my clients than those guys.


I must really love my career because I spend and hour or more reading material related to exercise science daily and never tire of it.  Perhaps I should contact the powers that be at Merriam-Websters and AP Style guide with a new entry:

ABUNDUNCE “Ah-bun-duhns”

Noun:  A overly sufficient supply or quantity of dunces.