Tag Archives: food

50 Pounds Lighter: Why, When, and How?

Almost a decade ago, I weighed 50 pounds more than I do today.  I knew I did not feel comfortable at that weight, but everyone told me I looked healthy.  Hence, I was not too concerned.  The day that changed that was the day a nutrition expert came to our church to give a talk.  After the talk, she used her fancy gadget to measure my body fat percent.  I was 5 pounds of fatabout 20% fat.  Then I did the math.  20 % of 210 pounds is 42 pounds.  I had 42 pounds of fat.  Have you ever seen what 5 pounds of fat looks like?  Here is a picture.  Each of the hosts are holding 5 pounds of fat.  I was carrying more than 8 of those blobs on my body!

This info was too much for me.  Something had to be done.  I did a little exercise now and then.  I would run 3 miles every week or two.  I would jump on the trampoline with my kids.  I knew however that you exercising is not the most effective way to lose weight.  It can be done, but you have to be willing to make the increase in exercise be a permanent one.  Besides, research shows that changing your diet is more effective than changing your exercise for successful, permanent weight loss.

Remember This:
If you want to lose weight, exercise is not the right place to start.
Your diet has a much larger impact on your weight than your exercise.

Lifestyle Change 1:  Changing How Much I Ate

I knew that I had to change my diet.  I had watched many people failing at dieting in the past.  The thing that most of them had in common was that they made changes that were too drastic to be able to maintain.  I decided that I would start out by only changing one variable:  how much I ate.  I decided NOT to change what I ate, figuring that I could change that after this part had worked.  Hence, I did not stop eating fast foods and the other things that dieticians disdain.  No, I just cut back on my calories for the day.

I did not starve myself.  I know that that cues the body to store fat, which is the opposite of my goal.  I set up a little spreadsheet with and schedule of how many calories to eat during each part of the day.  I did not cut out nay meals or snacks, just consumed fewer calories at each stage throughout the day than before.  I was also determined to not deprive myself of my ice cream.  I saved an allotted number of calories for the ice cream that I always had in the evening.  I did not have as much as before, but I had some.

No depriving.  No skipping meals.  I merely cut back about 300 calories a day for several months.  I lost 20 pounds through this method and it never came back.  It was a lifestyle change.

Lifestyle Change 2:  Regular Running

I had leveled off at around 190 pounds and maintained that weight +/- 5 pounds for several years.  The second stage of weight loss occurred when I started running again.  I had taken about 24 years off of regular running, so any increase in mileage would make a difference.  I went from maybe 3 miles a week to around 25 miles per week.  Over the next several months, I gradually lost weight until I leveled off at around 180 pounds.  I was thirty pounds lighter after these two lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle Change 3:  Changing What I ate

The third lifestyle change was not my choice.  I was sick for 6 months and eventually we guessed the problem: gluten intolerance.  The transition to gluten-free living was quite difficult.  I had to give up real bread (gluten-free bread is NOT the same).  Especially at the beginning stages, my GI system was quite frail.  I had to eat simple whole foods as much as possible.  I had to avoid red meat for a few months.  I still do not each it very often.  I gave up all dairy products for the first few months too.  My diet revolved mostly around plant-based foods:  legumes, fruits, & veggies.  During this time, I ended up losing about 20 more pounds and leveled out at about 160 pounds.  Although I have added some foods back in, I maintained most of the changes in what I eat.  as a result, I remain leveled off at 160 pounds +/5 pounds.

So there you have it.

  • Exercise accounts for only about 20% of my permanent weight loss.
  • Changes in how much I eat account for 40% of my weight loss.
  • Changes in which foods I choose to eat account for 40% of my weight loss.

None of these changes were exercises in starvation.  None of these changes were radical shifts in how much I worked out.  They were relatively mild.  My weight loss journey took several years.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

wise running logo 7_25_12



Whether to Eat Before or After Running (or other exercise)


Is it better to eat before or after exercising?
How soon after eating is it okay to run?

P. Mark’s Answer:

You can eat before or after.  It depends on what your eating and how long it takes to digest.  Typically, your body takes about 3 hours to fully digest a large meal.  A small meal can be digested in as little as 2 hours.

The consequence of this: if you eat a meal of any size, you should wait at least 2 hours before challenging your body.  If the exercise is extremely light and easy for your body, it might be just fine.  Anything beyond that requires serious resources from your body.

Problem 1:  Your body fluids can’t be in two places at once.  Extra blood gets routed to the area of your gastrointestinal system so that it can absorb and deliver the incoming nutrition.  Digestion also diverts some of the water in your system to that process.  These combine to yield a significantly lower flow of blood to your muscles.  If you go fast enough that your body prioritizes the exercise over digestion, then you have other problems.  You could feel some cramping in your GI system.

Problem 2:  Heavy jostling leads to poor digestion.   It is too difficult for the nutrition to be absorbed effectively when it is swishing around.  Hence, you are getting less from your food.  This also requires that diversion of fluids to remain in effect longer.

Possible Results:  Poor Performance, cramps, &/or indigestion.  At the very least, it slows you down a little and you may have wasted some valuable nutrition.

What you CAN eat before a run or other exercise:  A small amount of simple carbohydrates can be eaten (or drank) within one hour of exercise.  That is what energy gels are designed to do: provide a blend of simple sugars and slightly more complex sugars to be used immediately by the body.

Remember This!

If you have been eating relatively healthy and in sufficient quantity,
your body has a supply of energy waiting to be used!

Glycogen is a complex sugar that is stored in your muscles and liver.  This is the fuel that marathoners have in mind when “carb-loading” the week before the marathon.  They are topping off that supply to have as much energy as possible available on race day.  If you are eating well on a regular basis, you have a supply of energy.  How much?  A person weighing 150 lbs can carry anywhere from 800 to 2000 calories.  The more healthy carbs you eat, the more glycogen you are able to store.

Hydration is just as critical, if not more so.  A body without a full supply of water will not operate well.  The tougher your workout, the more water you will need.  Work on hydration on an ongoing basis throughout the day, starting with 16 ounces of water when you wake up!

My Personal Habit:

When I am training for a marathon, I will not eat 2-3 hours before one of my key workouts for the week.  I do, however, consume calories immediately before as well as throughout my run!  Specifically, I consume the fuel that I will consume during the marathon.  Since you absolutely must consume calories during a marathon, this method of consuming calories during my workout prepares my body to run fast while processing small amounts of easy-to-digest fuel.

When I am not in marathon training, I am more likely to just follow the 2 hour rule.  Since nearly all of my runs are shorter than 10 miles, I know my body stores enough glycogen to fuel any run – because I am eating right.  :)

AFTER any challenging run, I fuel up with high quality carbs and some protein as soon as I can.  This is the ideal time to replenish the glycogen supply and start healing those muscles.

Eat well & enjoy the run!


The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99


Eating with Purpose

If you ask any health professional, they will tel you just about the same thing.  Eat whole, natural, healthy foods.  My chiropractor tells me to eat things the way they appear in nature – fresh off the tree or vine, straight out of the ground, or freshly cut and ready to cook.  “If it has been chopped, blended, or otherwise mutilated, then it is not longer good for you,” he always says.

Unfortunately, that is not the way I tend to eat.  I want convenience.  My “healthy” snacks and foods include protein bars, energy bars, gel packs, sugar-free pudding, and some granola.  All of these things are quite the opposite of what my chiropractor wants me to eat.  They are all prepackaged and highly processed.   I try to make up for it with multi-vitamins and other supplements, but I am sure that this is less than ideal.

Compared to many of my friends and family, my snacks really are healthy.  They tend to be lower sugar and lower calories than most.  Still… if an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then I ought to be at the doctor’s office at least once a week.  Why is it so difficult to eat the right thing?

I justify my lack of fresh fruits and vegetables by pointing out that I live an unpredictable lifestyle.  I usually do not know what I want to eat until it is time to eat.  That means that fresh foods often go bad before I get around to wanting them.  This is not a productive outlook, of course.  It is important for everyone to eat with purpose.  Yes, you should enjoy what you eat.  Many fruits and vegetables are quite yummy after all.

So here is a note to myself and any other runners with poor eating habits and mindsets:

If you want to get the maximum enjoyment out of running, you must eat with purpose.  Choose delicious, satisfying foods that will get you ready to run with vigor and endurance.

While there are many different philosophies out there, I am going to propose that we stick to one that sounds the most balanced.  You should get about 50 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 25 percent from fat, and 15 percent from protein.  You should be a little flexible with this, however.  The longer your run, the more carbs you will require.

What does that look like on your plate?  Here are some great food choices for runners (or anyone else for that matter).  All of these foods are tasty, satisfying and take little or no preparation:

Black Beans
Dark Chocolate
Frozen Stir-fry Vegetables
Frozen Mixed Berries
Low-fat Yogurt
Mixed Salad Greens
Sweet Potato
Whole-Grain Bread
Whole-Grain Cereal with Protein
Whole-grain Pasta

My list comes from an article on Runner’s World, but the truth is that these are some of the same foods listed as healthy on web sites of all sorts.  They are just good foods, full of nutrients and energy for the active runner.  :)

Good luck on changing your habits.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Please tell us what changes you are making.  What works for you?



“Train hard, race easy, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor