Tag Archives: The Great Courses

Why People Fail at Losing Weight

quote-Mark-Twain-giving-up-smoking-is-the-easiest-thing-88411I think Mark Twain’s words on quitting smoking translate perfectly to the way people handle losing weight. Most people keep doing it over and over. Yo yo dieting. Despite all the words and books written and DVDs made on weight loss and exercise, more than half of us are overweight and nearly a third of us are outright obese.

I think I know why.

I have been writing this blog more than five years now and in the course of it I have read thousands of pages on losing weight. Every day it’s the same, take off pounds fast, eat these fat burning foods. Burn those inches off your waist with these movements. And on.

In the past five years, I have learned that the battle of the bulge starts in the brain. As above, so below. To succeed at losing weight, you need to decide that you currently have some unhealthy habits and you are going to end them. Those extra pounds are a result of the unhealthy habits. But that is just the beginning. Page one…

The magic secret to losing weight and keeping it off is very simple. Not easy at first, but simple. You need to understand that losing weight is the beginning, not the end. You don’t take off those five, 10 or 15 pounds you are carrying and then your problems are solved. When you get those pounds off, you don’t quit, breathe a sigh of relief and go back to your old unhealthy ways. You don’t celebrate by going out and eating a pizza.

One of the courses I have taken since retiring is “Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well-Being at any Age” The instructor is Dr. Anthony Goodman. There are many wonderful lessons in it and if you have the time and inclination, I recommend you check it out at The Great Courses. 41yylmmgocl-_sy300_I think the most important concept I got from that course was the origin of the word diet. Dr. Goodman points out that the word diet comes from the Greek diaita – which means a manner of living or a way of life.

So, if you decide to go on a diet to lose weight, go on that kind of a diet. Change your manner of living, in particular how you relate to food and exercise.

If you go on that kind of diet, you are on the right track. Pay attention to what, and especially, how much you eat. Make sure you get your exercise as close to daily as is humanly possible. And realize that is the manner in which you will live going forward. You will not slip back into your old, careless unhealthy habits that allowed you to pack on those extra pounds in the first place. You won’t be a Mark Twain type of dieter.


Eat less; move more; live longer. Simple, but not easy, at first. I have been doing it for five years now and I think it has actually become easy because it is the way of my life. My weight has stayed in the 150 pound area since I first lost the pounds writing this blog and I haven’t put it back. You can do the same.



Filed under weight loss

How I Fight Cabin Fever in Frigid, Snowy Chicago

Cabin fever is an idiomatic term, first recorded in 1918, for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group is isolated and/or shut in a small space, with nothing to do for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations. Wikipedia

Regular readers know that this blog emanates from Chicago in the Midwestern heart of the U.S. While readership extends to over 18 countries, the majority of you dwell right here in the U.S. of A. So, many of you are suffering similar frigid weather this winter as a result of the polar vortex(es) or is the plural polar vortices, vorti? See what cabin fever does to your mind.

Here are just a few of the weather facts from Chi-town:

1. Chicago’s 59.6 inches of snow is more than six times last year’s 9.2 inches and nearly three times normal annual snowfall.
2. This is the eighth snowiest winter on record since 1884-85.
3. There have been 20 days at or below zero fahrenheit so far. This is the most since 1983-84 and winter still has more than a month to run. Only one of the past 143 years has recorded more zero days. Stats courtesy of Tom Skilling’s Chicago Weather Center blog.


The relevance of the cold along with the snow is that most of the snow that fell this winter is still on the ground. There are two foot deep mounds of snow in downtown Chicago.

So, what’s a boy to do? Bike riding is virtually out of the question. Most outdoor activity is virtually out of the question.

Here are a few of my fixes. Reading. I have read a number of really good books including three Thomas Perry novels: The Butcher’s Boy, Sleeping Dogs and The Informant. Perry is a superb novelist. These are not just thrillers, but full-fleshed novels. The Butcher’s Boy series is about a professional assassin who works for the mob. He gets stiffed by them after a job and the three novels depict in detail the ramifications of that.

I also spent much of Super Bowl Sunday watching all the SB preliminaries offered by the various networks topped off by the game itself.

Since weather conditions pretty much precluded biking, I have taken to climbing stairs in my highrise home. I started with 15 flights and have progressed to 24 flights twice a day. For details please check out my four part series of posts on this exercise starting with Stair Climbing Part One. Remember, you still need to exercise regardless of the weather conditions.

But, part of the pain of cabin fever is just being cooped up inside. You absolutely have to get out of your apartment/house.

I live 15 miles from Harrah’s Horseshoe Casino and managed a couple of visits to those hallowed halls.

A good remedy for cabin fever is just to take a walk. Actually, one of my great pleasures in winter is layering, that is wearing several layers to provide insulation against the cold. I am a big fan of Eddie Bauer outdoor wear. I have Eddie Bauer hoodies, down jackets, vented shell jackets, windbreakers, etc., not to mention long underwear. You need to bundle up when it is frigid outside, but I recommend it.

Check out Cold Weather Exercise Tips and A Cold Weather Exercise Tip for more.

A couple of years ago when the blizzard hit Chicago, I wrote – A walk after the blizzard of 2011.

I have mentioned the courses I take from The Great Courses. I don’t know how many posts I have written based on ideas from these courses.

Listening to lectures from the following: The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works How the Stay Fit as you Age and Secrets of Sleep Science: From Dreams to Disorders to name a few, helped fight that closed in feeling. I have mentioned these courses repeatedly throughout the four years of writing this blog and recommend them highly.

Almost last but not least, I have been writing blog posts. Hope you were able to find something useful.

Finally, don’t let cabin fever get you down and start bingeing on junk food and letting your exercise habits go down the drain. Eat less; move more will get you there. Don’t let the weather knock you off your scheduled workouts. You don’t want to get into a negative spiral that will damage you physically as well as emotionally.

Those are a few of the arrows in my quiver for fighting cabin fever. Feel free to share some of whatever you are doing to keep your sanity this frosty season.



Filed under biking, cabin fever, Exercise, Weight

Is It Best To Eat 3 Meals a Day or Are More Smaller Ones Better?

“Scientific studies have shown that eating multiple small meals instead of three large ones results in less unwanted weight gain, and a smoother transition of energy output and use during exercise. When we eat this way we experience fewer valleys and peaks between meals and fewer episodes of hunger to drive us to overeating,” according to Dr. Anthony Goodman, who received his BA from Harvard and MD from Cornell. He teaches “The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness,” a course offered by The Great Courses, which I am currently taking.

Sam Ellyn, writing on the Livestrong site, agrees, “Eating more often doesn’t mean eating more; in fact, you may end up eating less. The less time you have between meals, the less likely you’ll be to overeat. Eating more often also keeps your metabolism up. Eating three meals and two snacks a day is an effective way to stay healthy and manage your weight.”

He points out that Katherine Zeratsky at MayoClinic.com says when our body doesn’t get food for long periods it can lead to a physiologic response that promotes fat storage. Eating every few hours helps keep your blood sugar levels steady, avoiding spikes that can lead to weight gain.
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Filed under calories, Exercise, healthy eating, how many meals a day?, Weight

What is the Number One Fitness Myth?

Of all the claims and counter claims surrounding health and fitness, the number one fitness myth is that healthy diets and lifelong exercise guarantee that we can live long and healthy lives.  So says Dr. Anthony Goodman, who received his BA from Harvard and MD from Cornell. He teaches “The Myths of Nutrition and Fitness,” a course offered by The Great Courses, which I am currently taking.

Dr. Goodman also teaches the Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well-Being at Any Age course which I took earlier this year and posted several useful items to the blog at the time. One of them is Sleep Habits Affect Weight Loss Results. Besides his professional credentials, he is also a lifelong athlete who surfs and rides a bicycle at the age of 71. In college, he competed in and won international rowing contests.

He offers the example of Winston Churchill who lived a long and productive life while smoking, drinking and being largely sedentary. In his later years he was obese by any measurement. Nonetheless, he lived to the ripe old age of 90 and enjoyed mental clarity all his life.
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Filed under aging, Exercise, Number One Fitness Myth, Weight

What About Belly Fat – Central Obesity?

Belly fat, also called central obesity, is the fat around the waistline. It is more dangerous than fat located elsewhere in the body, Wikipedia said.

There is a very strong correlation between cardiovascular heart disease and central obesity, according to Professor Anthony Goodman, in the Great Courses course Lifelong Health.

In addition, central obesity increases risk of the following maladies: -type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, many cancers, stroke, sleep apnea, high trigliceride levels and low levels of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol).

A U.S. study in the May 2010 Annals of Neurology that examined over 700 adults found evidence to suggest higher volumes of visceral fat, regardless of overall weight, were associated with smaller brain volumes and increased risk of dementia, according to Wikipedia.

So, how much is too much belly fat? It is generally accepted that a waist measurement above 40 inches significantly increases one’s risk. There are some variances due to height and body type. If in doubt ask your medical practitioner.
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Filed under brain, calories, Exercise, healthy eating, men's health, Weight

More on Enjoying Exercise

Awhile back I wrote “Exercise -You Need to Like It” stating that you would get much more benefit from your workout if you liked doing it. I quoted from the course guidebook that accompanies the Course on Stress from The Great Courses that I was taking at the time.

I based the item on the following statement, “Last, you have got to like doing it. If a personal trainer is forcing you to exercise, you do not get anywhere near as much of the health benefits.”

Upon further reflection, I thought that while strong and provocative, the statement could use some further support or documentation. What exactly would be taking place in your mind and body that would cause you to get more benefit from the workout?

I emailed The Great Courses and they passed on my question to the teacher, Professor Robert M. Sapolsky. Dr. Sapolsky holds the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professorship of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, where he is also Professor of Biology, Neurology, and Neurosurgery in Stanford’s School of Medicine. He is also a research associate at the Institute of Primate Research, operated by the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi.
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Filed under calories, Exercise, men and healthy eating