Stuff I Love: Have you seen the db2 dumbbell? It's awesome

I'm now post-cataract surgery on both eyes (20/20 vision, y'all!) and able once again to workout and lift heavy things. We're also in the middle of a kitchen remodel, so getting to the gym can be tricky when people are coming in and out of the house every weekday. 

Aside from sweeping and vacuuming mountains of plaster dust and whatnot from the other rooms of the house, I've been sneaking in some workouts when and where I can. This morning it was an upper-body routine with my awesome new db2 dumbbell, which I found on Amazon. 

Here's the cool thing -- I found it because Amazon has it on sale right now for Mother's Day. Usually it's $26, but it's $14.99 for the moment, and I don't know how long that sale is going to be going on so GET THIS THING -- IT'S AWESOME.

It's like an inside-0ut dumbbell -- instead of the weight being on the ends, it's in the center, so it's like a hybrid of a dumbbell and a kettlebell.

This morning, while babysitting the dog, who is stuck in his crate so as not to annoy the workers, I grabbed the db2 and alternated bicep curls with overhead tricep curls. Then I did front arm raises and finally wood choppers. I'll probably throw in some Russian twists after I'm done with this and find some more exercises to do with the video below:

 I bought the 8-pound db2 but it comes in a bunch of sizes -- it's just that the 8-pounder is on sale right now. 

(I love that Amazon featured a hand weight for its Mother's Day sale.)

Tunes for Tuesday: My Shot, by the Cast of Hamilton

The Broadway show Hamilton is super popular in our house. Have we seen it? No, but I bought the teenager the cast album and he has it memorized by now. So in honor of the show getting a record 16 Tony nominations today, here's a White House performance of My Shot.

  image from

... and here's the teenager practicing his part of the rap battle for his musical theater class:


This is the intersection of AP US History, musical theater class and a love of the #Hamilton cast recording.

A video posted by Gail Gedan Spencer (@ggspencer) on

That New York Times story on the Biggest Loser contestants and weight regain: Hoo boy.

I think half my Facebook friends shared the link to the New York Times article on the season 8 Biggest Loser contestants and their weight.

Did you read it yet? If not, here's the upshot: We're all screwed.

OK, perhaps that was a bit of an overstatement, but the biggest takeaway is that after weight loss -- be it 10 pounds or 150 pounds, your body fights like hell to get back to your previous weight, lowering your metabolism and sending your leptin levels plunging. You are left a starving sloth.

And just to be clear, it's not the show's fault (so step off, Loser haters!)-- it happens to pretty much everyone who cuts food consumption and increases activity. 

Dr. Kevin Hall, an obesity researcher, followed the contestants for six years after the confetti rained down and found sobering news:

“It is frightening and amazing,” said Dr. Hall, an expert on metabolism at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. “I am just blown away.”

It has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. When the show began, the contestants, though hugely overweight, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight. When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes.

Researchers knew that just about anyone who deliberately loses weight — even if they start at a normal weight or even underweight — will have a slower metabolism when the diet ends. So they were not surprised to see that “The Biggest Loser” contestants had slow metabolisms when the show ended.

What shocked the researchers was what happened next: As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on. It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight.

Here's the leptin part (#sadface):

Slower metabolisms were not the only reason the contestants regained weight, though. They constantly battled hunger, cravings and binges. The investigators found at least one reason: plummeting levels of leptin. The contestants started out with normal levels of leptin. By the season’s finale, they had almost no leptin at all, which would have made them ravenous all the time. As their weight returned, their leptin levels drifted up again, but only to about half of what they had been when the season began, the researchers found, thus helping to explain their urges to eat.

Like I say when I read any of these articles, I'm not discouraged, I'm intrigued. There's no getting around science and facts, so I start Googling.

And, oh, what a load of crap is there on the Internet!

Always check your sources before you click on anything. And when you do find something reputable, make sure they're referencing real studies (footnotes FTW!). 

This morning I Googled "what increases leptin resistance" because that's the key. It's not the amount of leptin that you can increase (without increasing your body fat, and who wants that?) but your sensitivity to the leptin that you still have.

After scrolling past a bunch of unsubstantiated garbage (something to sell me, eh?) I came across this article, 23 Foods That Increase Leptin Sensitivity, on a site called Before I even read the article, I checked its "about us" page, which reads:

Anything we write and publish on is based on proper scientific research. All articles are written by either medical doctors or by premeds and medical students.


In the Medlicker article is a good, layman's-level description of leptin and what it does in the body, which you should read if you have no idea about the hormone. (HERE'S another credible article on leptin from Authority Nutrition.) But the real fun comes with the 23 foods, which include oats, lean protein, green tea, almonds, eggs, beans, lowfat yogurt and milk, and fruits and vegetables. Funny, it didn't mention diet ice cream and Snackwells. (KIDDING.)

What are the main components of these foods? Pectin, fiber (soluble and insoluble), omega-3's, zinc, calcium and protein. 

Personally, oats, almonds and Greek yogurt are a few of my "happy foods" in that they keep me full for a long time.

So what is my takeaway from the New York Times article? 

Your body tries like the dickens to put back the weight that you lose. I know -- in the past month I actually won a DietBet, which I almost never do, and the loss of those 11 pounds have left me with an almost constant gnawing in my stomach. SHUT. UP. STOMACH. So now that both my cataract surgeries are done and I can go back to the gym, my goal is to focus on strength training, because another reason why metabolism slows is the loss of muscle as you age. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so my goal is to really pump things up. 

Which can make women more hungry.

Oh, FML.

So yesterday, I blended up this thing in the bathroom (I know that sounds gross, but my kitchen is being remodeled and my blender is in the bathroom):

Doctor oz green smoothie drink

It's the Doctor Oz Veggie Flush, which was featured this week on his show. I like what he's doing this month. All this month, he's introducing studied, proven tips that you pick and choose, layering the ones you want on top of each other for weight loss that just might work. So far I've been incorporating a 12-hour fast and this Veggie Flush.

The 12-hour fast wasn't started for weight loss though -- my hiatal hernia was acting up something fierce last week and I figured the less I had in my stomach the better. So from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. (or 9 'til 9, 7 'til 7 -- you get the drift) I don't consume anything. The easy thing about this is for 7 to 8 hours of this fast I'm asleep, and since I've been taking Synthroid since the 1980s, I can't eat an hour after I take it in the morning so that's 1 more hour not to eat.  If I busy myself at the computer, it's pretty easy to get to 12 hours.

And the gaping maw at the top of my stomach has calmed down.

The Veggie Flush is a cucumber, two stalks of celery, 2 cups of spinach, a pear and the juice of a lemon, thinned out with a little water (I used a little coconut water). You don't juice it, you process it in the blender, so you're keeping all the fiber from the produce. I used an English cucumber so I didn't peel it -- more fiber! I let it process awhile in my NutriNinja and was impressed that all those celery strings disappeared. 

How does it taste? I liked it a lot. It tastes like a Suja Mighty Greens but thicker. I drank a third of it yesterday and had a third today, and it was even thicker today than it was yesterday. The pear lends just enough sweetness to temper the green flavor. 

The plan with it is to drink it throughout the day whenever you get the urge to eat and it's not meal or snack time. And while I'm tracking my food in My Fitness Pal, I'm not tracking the Veggie Flush because ...

Track celery calories

So, yeah, once again we come to the conclusion that losing weight is hard, keeping it off is harder, and Ben and Jerry's tastes better than celery. 

Greetings from Planet Yogurt! (Stonyfield Grassfed review)

I am a member of the Stonyfield Clean Plate Club. I received products and coupons to write this post, and all opinions are 100 percent my own.

We go through a lot of yogurt at our house, so much so that one of the produce bins has been reclaimed as the yogurt bin. It's usually filled with a variety of yogurts -- Greek, "regular," plain, fruit flavored and so on. There's usually a bottle of kefir in the fridge, too, (I'm a recent convert to plain kefir), and a quart of plain yogurt for recipes.

Got a lot of culture up in here!

Have you noticed that fat is making a comeback in the yogurt section? Hold up, dieters, it's actually a good thing. The past couple of years have seen the release of studies showing that America's fat phobia has come back to bite us in the ever-growing posterior. By taking out all the fat and replacing it with gobs of sugar, we're actually doing ourselves a disservice. The satiety that a little bit of naturally occurring fat provides works much better than sugar, which basically burns through you like jet fuel. For reference, HERE'S a study showing that people who consume full-fat dairy were actually leaner and had less cardiovascular risk than people who eat the fat-free stuff.

Let's get science geeky!

If those cows are fed 100 percent grass, instead of the corn, distillery waste and gummy worms (I AM NOT KIDDING) that many get, their milk is much higher in omega-3 fatty acids (good for lots of things) and conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. What's so great about CLA? It may help people lose body fat. Hilarious, huh? 

OK, science geek - how's the yogurt?

Stonyfield grassfed yogurt
I like to play with my food.

Stonyfield recently sent me a variety of its new 100 percent grassfed whole milk yogurts, and I'll admit, at first I was a little freaked out. We've been programmed for so long to believe that fat is the enemy that it's unsettling to see the words "whole milk" on a label. 

But soldier on I did!

The yogurts I was sent were "old school" thinner yogurt, instead of thicker Greek yogurt, so these are lower in protein than strained varieties. Looking at the plain container, it has 120 calories, 5 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbs and 7 grams of fat in a 6-ounce container. See? That's not scary at all. Grassfed is also organic, non-GMO and made without artificial hormones.

My husband's favorite combo is cereal and frozen berries topped with a container of yogurt. He appreciated the thinner texture of these yogurts as he mixed up his big bowl of yum. The flavored ones -- vanilla, strawberry and blueberry -- are 140 calories per container.

What did I do with the plain? Lemme tell ya: 

  • I subbed it for the milk and butter in boxed macaroni and cheese, and the teenager thought it was great. The tang of the yogurt gives the cheese powder some needed sharpness.
  • I used it in place of the liquid and fat in a boxed cornbread mix, giving the cornbread a little tang and moisture.
  • I mixed it with ranch dressing powder to make a super simple veggie dip. 

I know what you're thinking: Where's the smoothie recipe? Sure, you can make a smoothie with yogurt, frozen berries, crushed ice and a little stevia, but I wanted to give you some ideas you might not have thought of. But go ahead and make an awesome smoothie with it. The added fat will help with satiety, something that people often complain of when subbing a smoothie for a meal.

If you're wondering where to pick up Stonyfield grassfed yogurt, you can check the bottom of Stonyfield's product page HERE for a store locator.

Live blogging my urge to run to the kitchen

I've been thoroughly fed up with my late-night snacking, so when I felt the urge to eat come over me, I grabbed my phone instead and decided to live blog this feeling, which is...


I can't tell whether I am truly hungry or my brain is just going all Pavlovian on me. Either way, there's a gnawing in the pit of my stomach.

But the more I ignore it, the more it dissipates. It really is hard to break a lifetime habit, but I decided to embrace the "springtime renewal" of the season and really, really work on it. I broke out the Fitbook again, but I'm simply writing down what I eat. No calories, no macros. Just the food.

So did I stay out of the kitchen? No. I filled a bowl with spring mix and had a salad. 

Baby steps.