The Surprising Reason Why Men Find Curvy Women More Attractive

September 11, 2012

It appears that men’s preference for more curvy women has quite a lot to do with the fact that curvy figures historically have possessed more of the healthy omega-3 fatry acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is essential for proper brain development in children.

An article in the August 2012 issue of Psychology Today explains that men “know” something significant about women’s bodies that women don’t.  And it all has to do with nature’s mandate to produce children with great survival skills.  In fact, women are usually more like men’s ideals than they realize, and losing weight to meet the standard set by the fashion and modeling industries may not make them any more attractive to men.

Men rate women as most attractive when they have a waist size that is 60-70% of their hip size.  To put things in perspective: The typical US undergrad has a waist that is 75% of her hip size. The average Playboy playmate is 53%, and the average fashion model is 46%. 

How does an “hourglass” figure relate to a woman’s success as a mother?  It has a lot to do with intelligence and body fat, which has everything to do with what you eat and where it comes from. 

The total amount of fat a human female carries is seven times that of other animals, and much more than men.  And the fat stored in women’s hips, butt, and legs is “protected” from weight fluctuations. Only during the last few months of pregnancy and while nursing do women start breaking down this lower-body fat, making it exclusively available to the growing fetus or infant.

Babies have an organ that is seven times larger than in other animals – the brain.  And it grows fastest in the first two years of life, and it only does so with ample supplies of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.  Guess where women’s bodies tend to stash DHA? In the hips and legs. 

American children rank 31st out of 64 nations in tests of academic ability. The highest scores are in places like Japan, where women have slender hourglass figures and have four times the amount of DHA in their blood.  American women are on average 20 pounds heavier than they were 40 years ago, and 40 pounds heavier than Japanese women of the same height.

Our modern eating habits may explain why we're packing on the pounds. With modern food processing techniques, the supply of DHA in our food supply has declined as we’ve become saturated with processed vegetable oils and animal products from animals fed grain and corn rather than grass.  As a result, in general, women’s body fat contains a lower percentage of DHA than previously in human history. However, developing babies still need the same amount.  So a woman’s body has no choice but to store more fat to ensure the proper amount of DHA is available. 

But that doesn't mean you should take drastic measures with your weight. The rise of the modern fashion model with the super-skinny, straight line body lacking curves has artificially skewed many women’s ideals of what is attractive.  The average fashion model has a general lack of curves that often leads to comparisons with the body type of a pre-teen boy.  The effect of fashion has affected women’s thinking:  Women are much less satisfied with their bodies after viewing images of super-skinny models.  However, men consistently prefer a curvier, fuller look that is nothing like the “ideal” presented by the fashion industry!

A better body that is both healthy and more attractive is – as usual – available through making better food choices.  Eating foods higher in DHA means your body needs to store less fat in order to have enough DHA. If we don’t get enough of what our bodies need, they tell us to eat more irrespective of real hunger.  

More for Sextember:

5 Ways to Prevent Facebook Drama During a Breakup

10 Dating Faux Pas

5 Signs a Date Went Badly

The Truth Behind Reality TV Fitness

August 19, 2011

Biggest-loser At a recent fitness conference in Los Angeles, I was a member of a panel discussion on "The Biggest Loser" featuring people from the show. Fitness on reality TV is often quite different from fitness in reality. And some of the highlights of the panel make that more apparent.

The panel featured experts from the fitness industry – yours truly along with Shannon Fable – and Brett, a trainer from the show. A bonus was that in the audience were Jerry and Estalla Hayes from season 7 (Jerry was the at-home winner) and Kim, the trainer from season 3.

The hot topic from the start was the announcement that former pro-tennis player Anna Kournikova would be joining the upcoming season as a trainer. She just got certified as a trainer in December and is heading straight for "The Biggest Loser".

My Take On This...

It’s a great thing, since it proves that the quality and experience of the trainers on the show isn't top priority. With cameras watching, doctors on staff, and all of the obstacles for exercise (i.e., real life) out of the way on a secluded ranch, it's the perfect environment for less-experienced trainers to get by. 

A funny anecdote from Brett regarding the contestants pertained to their upping the drama during certain workouts when the cameras were on. He revealed that when you see contests crying and shouting loudly while struggling in a workout, it’s often a workout they’ve done before without the cameras on. And while they were certainly challenged when they did it previously, there was no weeping and drama – that gets added. Not really that surprising is it?

The show is great at motivating some people, yet a lot of people like to watch from a nice, safe distance. The more ridiculous elements of the show (vomiting, people shooting off treadmills, yelling, etc.) keeps it from hitting too close to home for most people and they can watch it without getting uncomfortable stirrings of a need to change anything. Every season features a new superlative…the oldest, heaviest, youngest, etc. contestants ever. This just creates a greater and greater gap between the show and reality.

Many trainers get exhausted from fielding questions from the public about what happens on the show – and this is potentially the biggest impact. If anyone out there thinks that having a trainer is or should be anything like what you see on the show, they are mistaken. In the end, you are still watching television.

Trainers in the real world face a usually more difficult challenge. With only a few hours per week (at the most), we need to get clients to take the ball and run with it! No one can do it for you, and the ability to successfully coach clients to adopt the lifestyle changes necessary for real and lasting change is what separates the great trainers form the ones who think they are.

Overall, it was a thrill to be part of such a panel that had circumspect and well-formed opinions on a topic that is often a touchstone for heated comments and arguments in the fitness industry.

And the Big Take Home is This...

TV trainers aren’t trainers in the real world. The demands of the people on television are much different than the challenges that people face in the every day - thus, the level of training is also much different. Everyone would be better off if we put less emphasis on celebrity trainers and listened to the advice of credible trainers who know what it takes to succeed in daily fitness.


More on Fitness Myths:

Top 10 False Fitness Myths

Common Weight Loss Myths

Debunking Diet Myths


Photo Source: Thinkstock/Creatas

My Teen’s a Nightmare – or Maybe Just Not Myelinated Yet

March 26, 2011

Teen-smokingAh, teenagers. Been there, done that. Do you remember being a teenager? Do you now have one of your own? Everyone falls into at least one of those two categories.It’s a universal truth that most teens are bad at decision-making. And anyone who has witnessed the “so-bad-it’s-hilarious” song and video “Friday” by Rebecca Black (getting over 55 million hits on You Tube at this writing) knows that teenage bad decisions keep coming.

On 3/28 at 10pm ET, Discovery Fit & Health will premiere My Teen's a Nightmare

Loud music, shouting, swearing, smoking and drinking -- these are just some teenage behaviors that are every parent's nightmare. But suppose you could just pack your bags and let someone else pick up the pieces? My Teen's a Nightmare gives overwrought parents the chance to do just that. Terrible teenagers are in for the shock of their lives -- their parents have left home and they're about to meet their match, teen expert Sarah Newton. Newton's moving in for four days to sort them out once and for all.

Ms. Newton has her hands full. But why?

The Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) – home of our “executive decisions” like impulse control – doesn’t fully develop until we are well into our 20’s. So teenagers are governed more by the urges and impulses of a primitive “me first” reward system that isn’t yet kept in check by the PFC.

It’s not so much that teens make bad choices as they fail to inhibit behavior that has become reflexive. They have nearly adult bodies, but not adult brains. And their brains are close enough to being developed that it can get them into a whole lot of trouble.

Why do young people make bad decisions? All the circuits are there in their brains, but they have little myelin. Think of it like this…their brains are just about ready to go, a lot of the circuitry is connected, but their brains don’t yet know which circuits to treat as more important than the others.

When we repeat something often and learn it, those circuits in the brain get covered with more and more myelin. In essence, myelin is like insulation that wraps the circuit to protect it, keep it strong, and help it fire more readily. In terms of our discussion about teenagers, myelin = wisdom.

(For more details on the brain differences between teenagers and adults, see this excellent article from "How Stuff Works." )

But there is hope. In the book The Talent Code there is a reference to research from Marvin Eisenstadt who looked into the background of great historical or famous figures. There is a long and distinguished list of high achievers in history that lost a parent when they were young.

It sends a primal cue that "you are not safe."

This heightens the focus in a teenage brain at a time when the brain is most receptive to learning and mastering new skills. It provides a focus and direction for all the (commonly misspent) energy of youth.

When the proper motivation is there to focus the energy, teens can learn the skills and coping mechanisms necessary to achieve greatness later on in life.

Diabetes Disaster

March 24, 2011


Childhood obesity seems to be, quite literally, surrounding us these days. On Friday, March 25 @ 8 PM, Discovery Fit & Health will premiere "Big Babies."

The global epidemic of obesity is spawning a nursery-load of super-sized newborns, stressing parents, straining hospitals, and endangering the lives of moms and babies alike. In this sensitive and personal look at a serious and worsening problem, Big Babies follows three overweight women on their anxious journeys through pregnancy, into the delivery room and home again with newborns who weigh-in at thirteen pounds and more: twice the weight of an average infant.

A few days ago, a local major newspaper published an article on type-2 diabetes (the disease formerly known as "adult-onset" diabetes.) Unfortunately, it contained a lot of misinformation, some of it coming in the form of quotes from people in executive positions of children’s obesity programs who should know better.

One example is the director of the Child/Adolescent Diabetes Program at Children’s National Medical Center who promotes the idea that...."no one caused their diabetes."

(Translation: You didn't do anything to cause diabetes; it is just something that happened to you.)

Later on in the same article we are (thankfully) hit with some facts..."adults with pre-diabetes who lost 7% of body weight reduced risk of diabetes by 58%" and "It's crucial to find these children before their condition progresses to diabetes so that it can be reversed by lifestyle changes."

(Translation: by taking action, you can prevent diabetes.)

Are we to believe that our actions have an effect on diabetes, but that our inactions don't?

Type-2 diabetes is either affected by lifestyle choices or it isn’t. It can’t be only affected by positive choices.

As long as leaders in diabetes research conceal the truth that the majority (not all) of type-2 diabetes cases are lifestyle related, we will continue to struggle with this problem. This in no way means that anyone should feel guilty about it, but the truth is that the majority (again, not all, just to be clear) of type-2 cases are mostly self-inflicted through "inactions." And that is the real shame because it means most cases are avoidable.

With newborns essentially being born obese, we need to deal with the truths of diabetes and obesity rather than worry about making people feel bad.

A Childhood Surrounded By Obesity

September 01, 2010

It's September and that means it's Childhood Obesity month.  Discovery Health is launching a week of programming titled Adventures in Parenting that includes a show directly relating to childhood obesity called "Big Kids" that airs on Sept. 16 @ 9 PM.  Be sure to check it out.

I'm kicking it off with a bit of a different perspective on childhood obesity - the view of obesity by a child surrounded by it in their family.

What's it like to grow up with obesity?  Simply put, it sucks.  But for more than the obvious reasons.

By some mix of recessive genes and an innate love of running around and playing outside whenever I could, I wasn't obese as a child, but I was still surrounded by obesity.  And it has made a lasting mark on my life.

My parents were both obese (read "800 Pounds of Parents" on my website if you want more background), and many people in my family are.  

Here's what it's like to grow up surrounded by obesity:

Get ready for LOTS of chores! 

  • The less my parents could do, the more I had to do.  I didn't mind doing my part around the house, but as soon as I was old enough, it went way beyond taking out the trash and cleaning my room.  My father especially stayed as inactive as possible and shifted a lot of the physical burden around the house to me.  
  • Everything from cutting the grass, to shoveling snow to washing the cars, to changing the TV channel for my dad was added to my "to do" list.  (This was before remote controls...)  
  • Finally, a few weeks before my father died, I had to learn how to give him an IV since he needed a drip of blood thinners administered twice a day.  Good times!

You probably think YOUR parents embarrassed YOU as a teenager!  
You have no idea...What stories I can tell.  Here's a few.

  • You haven't been truly embarrassed as a teenager until you have to go into the bathroom and scrub your father's back in the shower because he couldn't reach it.  
  • Going out to eat was an engineering problem - my father had to strategically choose a seat that had a table not screwed down because if it were, it wouldn't have enough room for his stomach. Sometimes we'd have to move to a different table after arriving at the hostess' initial choice and discovering that it didn't accommodate his belly.
  • Seeing my father's massive boxer shorts hanging on the clothes line outside was always a cringe-worthy moment.  And, about those boxers...
  • He would often refuse to wear anything but underwear and a t-shirt while at home.  It didn't matter if I had friends coming over or not.  He'd parade around in underwear and a t-shirt.  I know, right?

Everything I know about nutrition, I wish I would've learned in kindergarten
I wasn't really taught how to eat healthfully, just how to eat.  

Everything in life is learned, and nutrition is no different.  In many cases, my parents didn't know better...they simply followed what they were taught.

  • If I would eat vegetables at all, they had to be drenched in butter or a nuclear war would ensue at the table trying to get me eating them.
  • I was made to eat "healthy" food (see above) here and there, but there was also a steady diet of soda, sugary cereals, salty chips, fast food (I just HAD to have those Star Wars Happy Meals!)
  • I celebrated every happy event with cake, ice cream, cookies, or other junk.  And we likewise often soothed skinned knees with the same stuff.  (And we wonder why as adult's we're constantly "rewarding" ourselves with some awful food or another.)
  • I reached adulthood without a clue as to what proper nutrition actually is - I've had to learn it all, and change a mountain of bad habits.  And it is hard.  Very hard.

What's my point of all this?  Obesity is when excessive weight ruins the quality of life for you and those around you.  It's not a certain amount of weight - it's when your life is negatively affected and limited by anyone's excessive weight. 

Jonathan Ross 
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
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Care and Feeding of Your Brain

May 05, 2010

All this week, Discovery Health is showcasing "Psych Week" - six days of programming centered on and devoted to mental health. Details

In light of this, I'll be highlighting the 4 critical domains that improve brain health: physical activitymental activityhealthy food, and stress management.  Yes, I'm bloggin' 'bout the brain!

Fun Brain Fact: People in a 7-year study who ate seafood at least one time every week had a 30% lower risk of dementia.

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For some time, the "African Savannah" theory of human evolution popularized by Louis Leakey has been the dominant theory. But new archeological evidence is changing the current thinking. Early human fossils have been discovered near the coast of southwest Africa that predate the ones form the savannahs.  

Homo sapiens has a coastal origin.  And this tells us some very important things about what we should eat.

Caveman_finding_lunch_lg_whtOur large brains are what make us human and helped us make it to the top of the food chain. During mammal evolution, despite abundant omega-3 in plants (in the form of ALA, or alpha-linoleic acid), all savannah mammals, including primates, lost brain size.  The only exception is us.

Over the last 200-250 thousand years, we've developed a massive cerebral cortex - the signature brain feature that sets us apart from other mammals.  And this cerebral cortex is composed mainly of the DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) form of omega-3 fat.  Our bodies can convert ALA to DHA, but they do so very poorly so this can't give us enough DHA to form the brains we have today.

The only abundant source of preformed DHA on earth is in marine life.  

There is archaeological evidence that humans ate seafood and used tools at least 160,000.

Now you know why there's been so much focus on fish oil!  Get your DHA if you want your brain to stay sharp.  

Jonathan Ross 
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
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The Learning, Memory, and Exercise Connection

May 03, 2010

All this week, Discovery Health is showcasing "Psych Week" - six days of programming centered on and devoted to mental health. Details

In light of this, I'll be highlighting the 4 critical domains that improve brain health: physical activitymental activityhealthy food, and stress management.  Yes, I'm bloggin' 'bout the brain!

Fun Brain Fact:  Memory is formed by improve memory, create associations by creating a mnemonic...or by making the experience multi-sensory.

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The science of the brain tells us that the more "richly encoded" an experience or piece of information, the more likely it will be to survive short-term memory and move into long-term memory.

32724865So anything we want kept in our brains should be a rich sensory experience.  The more senses we activate during the experience, the more likely we will to hold onto accurate memories of it. Anything we experience that touches on auditory, visual, verbal, and even emotional stimuli will stay with us.  (Interestingly, the sense of smell creates the most powerful associations and thus this smell is a the most intense memory trigger.)

If you want to enjoy fitness, make it multi-sensory.  I recently created one way of doing it, but there's no boundaries or rules on how to do this, so try your own version.  Spring is here and the call of the outdoors is irresistible.  

I recently invented a fun fitness game with a Skyball - a ball that bounces surprisingly high.  Check it out: Maui Toys Skyball 2 Pack 

The game works as follows:

What you need: two or more people, a skyball, and a hard surface like a patio.

One person bounces the ball, performs any movement while the ball bounces a second time, then catches the ball before the third bounce.  

The next person duplicates whatever the first person did, then adds their own movement in similar fashion.  And so on...

With each turn, the list of movements grows so it challenges memory there's also the part about having to catch the ball. 

If you're unable to remember the order of movements (or miss one), or fail to catch the ball before the 3rd bounce after performing each movement, you're out (or the game is over if there's only two players).  

You can use any movement: a jumping jack, a jump, a toe touch, a sideways hop...whatever you like.  It's a challenge for both body and mind, and you get a little bit of a workout without realizing it!  Give it a try - I just did this the other day with my favorite 10-year old and we had a blast.

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Over many years as a trainer, I've encountered numerous people who have trouble remembering the exercises in their program - even when the number of exercises is relatively low.  I've learned to create associations as illustrated above, but even better is to create a story around the exercises.

32934594You can take a list of exercises in your workout program and create a "story." You can use something realistic such as a hike up a mountain, or something completely silly - the sillier the better for memory!

Make your fitness experience more stimulating for more senses and your mind will experience a stronger, more pleasing association with it.  

Jonathan Ross 
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
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Brain Stress - Yay or Nay?

May 01, 2010

Starting Sunday, May 2, Discovery Health kicks off "Psych Week" - six days of programming centered on and devoted to mental health. Details

In light of this, I'll be highlighting the 4 critical domains that improve brain health: physical activitymental activityhealthy food, and stress management.  Yes, I'm bloggin' 'bout the brain!

Fun Brain Fact:  Excessive stress has been shown to alter brain cells, brain structure, and brain function.

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Stress.  Such a misunderstood and hard to define concept.  I'll try to define it for you and we'll see how if affects our brains.

Is it bad or good?  Both - and it depends on a lot of factors.

Stressed_man_clamp_lg_whtThere's a woman I know who is terrified of, literally, almost everything: cats, teenagers, driving, the government, Obama, snow, excessive cold, excessive name it.  At the other end of this spectrum are the "throw caution to the wind" type of people who engage in high-risk sports and activities and they thrive on their body's response to them. 

Clearly, "stress" isn't defined the same way for everyone.  

Psychologists differentiate between negative stress (distress) and positive stress (eustress). To be negative, a stressor must have three characteristics:

  1. It must create an aroused physiological response
  2. It must be aversive (meaning, if you could reduce or avoid it, would you?)
  3. You must not feel like you are in control of the stressor

Put these three together and you have a negative stress experience.  If you found out that you had a winning lottery ticket and you're now a millionaire, you'd certainly have a strong physiological response, but it wouldn't be aversive.  This would be a form of eustress, or good stress.  Good stress can make us feel engaged, "switched-on" and connected to the world around us.  

On the other hand, I meet many people who are stressed because they "have to" do a lot of things.  There's pretty liberal use of "have to" out there, isn't there?  Do we really "need" to do all the things we scurry around doing?  We don't "have to" have our children in every activity humanly possible.  We don't "have to" have the latest gadget from Apple.  We don't have to have perfect lawns.

And it's the third negative stress criteria - control - that's the most important in terms of brain health and exercise.

In the late 1960's, Martin Seligman coined the term "learned helplessness" as a result of some experiments he had done.  He gave dogs a consistent electric shock for days.  The dogs hated it, of course, and they couldn't do anything to stop it.  Then, he put them in a metal cage that was half-electrified, half normal.  The dogs were placed on the electrified side and when the switch was thrown, they just laid there and took it.  All they had to do was go to the other side of the cage. But they did nothing.  From the first round of shocks, they learned that any effort they made to stop the unpleasantness was going to have no effect.

And now it's clear how chronic stress can affect one big part of brain function - our sense of control and our willingness to make an effort to improve our situation.

Man_at_the_end_of_the_line_lg_whtAfter dealing with the stress of being overweight, obese, or out of shape for so long, many people lose the will to fight it any longer.  They give up their sense that their efforts at change can have any positive effect on the outcome of their health.  And so they feel lost and hopeless that real change or improvement is ever possible.

And this has a powerfully negative effect on not just their body, but their brain.  When hope is lost, brain chemicals get released that "take the fight" out of you.  The brain "learns" to stop fighting back against the stress of being unhealthy.  We can see the powerful downward spiral this creates all around us.

The trick is in realizing that you do have control over your health - even if you think you don't. Wherever you are on the health spectrum, however challenging the situation you're dealing with, there are things to do that can move you toward health.  Move in the direction of health a little each day.  My mom lost 170 pounds, but it took her 7 years.  She did it at her own pace while maintaining a sense that it was still possible for her to change.  

With fitness, learned helplessness manifests itself in all the things you hear people say they "can't" do.  But you can "learn competence" again by staying vigilant against negative thoughts, having a realistic view of the stressors in your life, changing the ones you can and reducing or minimizing the impact of the ones you can't.  And perhaps most importantly, realize that many of the things we "have to" do are things we want to do.

Jonathan Ross 
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
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Fat Brain, Fit Brain

April 29, 2010

Next week, Discovery Health kicks off "Psych Week" - a week of programming centered on and devoted to mental health. Details

In light of this, I'll be highlighting the 4 critical domains that improve brain health:  physical activity, mental activity, healthy food, and stress management.  Yes, I'm bloggin' 'bout the brain!

Fun Brain Fact:  Your brain is the fattest organ in your body - it can consist of at least 60% fat.

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In "Brain Rules" author John Medina brilliantly summarizes the connection between exercise and brain health:

Our brains are "designed to solve problems related to
survival, in an unstable outdoor environment while in nearly constant motion."

My how times have changed...

Today, survival is not a physical struggle, we're rarely outdoors, and we move less and less.  We've gotten far away from what made our brains what they are.

Specifically, exercise helps regulate 3 neurotransmitters that are associated with mental health: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.  (A neurotransmitter is simply a brain chemical that keeps the brain in top shape and helps the brain get the body doing what it needs to do.)

Many psychiatrists now recommend a regimen of physical activity in addition to their normal therapy.  And in one experiment, rigorous exercise completely replaced antidepressants, and the study participants showed significant improvements in their depression levels.

But, you probably already know this.  It's cute how many people need studies to prove something before they take action.  All you have to do is stay tuned into your body and your mind's response to moving it.

Woman_sitting_on_top_of_the_world_lg_whtThe next time you're finished an invigorating walk, playing tag with the kids, enjoying a leisurely bike ride, finishing up some nice work on the garden, or doing any physical activity that engages both body and mind (even it isn't an "exercise" intensity), take a moment to note how you feel in your own body.  

I've never, ever, heard of anyone experiencing a worsening mental state after engaging in physical activity (note again that I'm not even talking about exercise.)

How does exercise work it's "magic" on our mind?

A fully working brain uses lots of energy.  This means that your brain needs a greatly improved blood delivery system.  Exercise stimulates blood vessels to create nitric oxide.  This increases blood volume in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus (main memory center of the brain, in case you're wondering.)  It also stimulates BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), a protein that helps brain cells multiply and function effectively.

Now you have some science to explain what your body already feels and your brain already knows intuitively.  

This is why I've said for years that any form of fitness is "mind-body" fitness, not just yoga and Pilates.  It is impossible to perform any physical activity and remove its effect on our brain.

As Medina mentions in "Brain Rules", we can make a "species-wide athletic comeback, all we have to do is move." 

Just like we always used to.

Jonathan Ross 
Discovery Health Fitness Expert
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Tables Turned - Erik and Michele Chopin Interview Me - Part 5

March 10, 2010

After digging deep with Erik Chopin, season 3 winner of The Biggest Loser, and his wife Michele, they graciously answered my questions for "More Confessions..." the extra content to support "Confessions of a Reality Show Loser," Erik's recent show that aired on Discovery Health.  Now, I've given them a chance to turn the tables and ask me a bunch of questions.  You don't want to miss the great questions they asked me, and the information in my answers will help you as well. 

(If you missed my blog series with Erik - you shouldn't have missed this.  Here's the first one in the "More Confessions..." series and is the place to start to get caught up!)

In each of the posts in this series, I'll post one question each from Erik and Michele along with my answer to their question.

Erik Asks: Are heart rate monitors or the like really necessary to measure the effectiveness of workouts?

That depends.  Are you a numbers guy?  Or are you more instinctive and “know” when you had a good workout. 

Heart rate monitors can be very helpful in measuring the intensity of a workout, with a few caveats.

1 – anyone taking medications that affect heart rate (such as many beta-blockers or ACE-inhibitors for high blood pressure) eliminate the option of using heart rate as an intensity tracking tool.

2 – you have to know what you’re tracking.  The “max heart rate” concept is flawed enough to be useless, but it’s all some people have and is easy to calculate.  (But I maintain that if it’s easy to calculate but so inaccurate as to be useless or even harmful, then it’s not really best to use it.  Better to have no information than information that might lead you off course.)

In your case, the best way to use them would be by calculating what is called your “ventilatory threshold.”  (VT1) This is the heart rate at which you can’t speak continuously through a breath hold.  Essentially, the test for this involves wearing a heart rate monitor while steadily increasing exercise intensity and periodically attempting to speak continuously for 30 seconds, and requires a second person to administer the test. 

Once you know the VT1 heart rate, you’d spend your cardio time doing intervals just above and just below that heart rate.


Michele Asks

Does exercise really give you more energy? Is it best to try and do in the morning or will it keep you awake if you go at night after dinner? I think of it like coffee, Im all reved up in the night if I do it too late and if I dont get in the am I am beating myself up about it trying to squeeze in the time. Viscous cycle.

It doesn’t so much give you energy as it increases your capacity for producing and using energy.  It makes the cells of your body better at producing energy when necessary, your motor signals more coordinated and efficient, and with better body awareness, you move more smoothly through your day.  All this has one result: It’s not so much that you have more energy, but that the same tasks in your day seem easier because your body is more capable.

Morning, evening, whatever works for you.  Everyone is different as to the “best” time to exercise and there is no one answer that works for all of humanity.  Everything else is personal, why should this be any different.  Some people find it evens them out and they can go to sleep shortly after exercise while others can’t imagine doing it at any other time than first thing in the morning. 

My advice to you:  Remove the emotions from exercise.  Understand that you will thrive if you do it and you’ll just get by if you don’t.  Whatever the best time is for you – morning, afternoon, or evening – organize your life so that you can exercise at the time that is best for you.  (For example, for me early morning workouts are unthinkable – I do best around mid-day so I’ve organized my schedule to allow that.  There are isolated times when I have to alter that and workout in the evening or – god forbid – in the early morning.  But the mainstay of my workouts are at the time that works best for me.)


Jonathan Ross 
Discovery Health Fitness Expert

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Jonathan Ross — fitness expert for Discovery Fit & Health and creator of Aion Fitness — was voted Exercise TV's "Top Trainer" and named in Men's Journal magazine's list of Top 100 Trainers in America. His personal experiences with obesity — "800 pounds of parents" — directly inspired his fitness career. His ability to bring fitness to those who need it the most has made him a two-time Personal Trainer of the Year Award-Winner (ACE and IDEA). His book, Abs Revealed, is filled with cutting-edge exercises in a modern, intelligent approach to abdominal training. His leadership and fresh perspectives on fitness earn him praise as a frequent go-to source of credible fitness information.


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